The Town of Warwick is moving forward with a plan to extend hiking trails to connect the Appalachian Trail (AT) to Cascade Park and then the county park with $500,000 earmarked by the federal government more than a decade ago.
The preliminary plan and environmental study were accepted within the past year, according to Warwick Supervisor Michael Sweeton.
In addition, the town plans to mark a 9.6-mile bike loop on Prices Switch, Newport Bridge, Waterbury, Dekay, Covered Bridge and Ryerson Roads that would connect to bike paths coming into Warwick from neighboring Vernon, N.J.
Go back in time
The town began the project around 2006, Sweeton said. The idea was to connect the AT to Cascade Park and on to the county park via hiking trails, using a $500,000 Congressional earmark.
Being a federal project, there was a 13-step, very detailed process to be followed to a tee. If not, the money would have to be returned, even if it has already been spent.
The state Department of Transportation Local Projects Unit was processing the federal money.
The town got its preliminary approval and moved into the preliminary design stage. They hired Lochner Engineering to do the preliminary scoping to determine just how to connect the trails.
What they found was that the town needed an easement over at least one piece of private property. They spent up to two years approaching the landowners but no one was interested.
Time passed. The engineers laid out their designs. Five years in and they still weren’t close to a solution with neighboring landowners.
One piece of property was donated to the town, but there was still another needed.
So they let the project lay dormant for several years.
“It takes an inordinate amount of time and a lot of money to proceed,” said Sweeton. “I couldn’t see a path to see it happen.”
Back to current day
Then two years ago the town learned from the Local Projects Unit of New York State DOT that these Congressional earmarks have a life span of about 10 years. They were given an extension and started to look again at the prospective project.
“We knew the county had acquired a piece of property through taxes that was adjacent to the trail,” Sweeton said.
And that did it.
“Suddenly, we could get from the Appalachian Trail to Cascade Park and on to the county park.”
The engineers secured preliminary plan approval and completed the environmental study. The hiking path will include a rustic, environmentally friendly bridge over the Long House Creek.
“This is in keeping with our Comprehensive Plan,” said Sweeton. “It instructs us that residents want recreational opportunities to enjoy in the town.”
The town hosted a public meeting at the end of February where the engineers answered questions from residents. Sweeton said about 25 people attended.
This is a matching fund grant, with a small portion coming from the town. The federal government is providing $500,000 with the town portion totaling $25,000, all of which will come from parkland funds.
The construction contract will be out to bid by July or August, with bids received by the end of September.
Sweeton added that he hopes to get construction started as soon as possible, weather permitting, so that the clearing of the trails can be done through the winter and be completed by early spring 2020 to avoid disturbing rattle snakes and bats’ environments.
The bridge construction, he added, might be done in early spring 2020 with a little luck and good weather.
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