Cuomo pitches 750-mile hiking, biking trail plan

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (Photo provided by the governor's office)

ALBANY — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing to complete and connect two greenway trails crisscrossing the state from Manhattan to Canada and from Albany to Buffalo to create a 750-mile paved biking and hiking route that will be marketed as a national tourist destination.

“We want to build the largest multi-use trail in the nation,” said the Democratic governor at a state of the state speech Tuesday in Westchester County. Cuomo proposed spending $200 million over three years to pave 350 miles of gaps in the existing greenways and connect them to create what he calls the Empire State Trail.

The trail will incorporate the existing Erie Canalway and the Hudson River Valley Greenway. State Bike Route 9 that runs along Lake Champlain to Canada would complete the trail from Manhattan. It is expected to bring millions of dollars in revenue to the surrounding communities each year.

The Erie Canalway is nearly 80 percent complete; the Hudson River Greenway nearly 50 percent. The state already owns most of the land needed to complete the project.

“The trail is great as it is, but closing those gaps will make it so much better,” said Erie Canalway spokeswoman Jean Mckay, who has cycled the trail end-to-end three times. “If you’re riding with your kids across the state, it feels a little scary when you have to go on the road for a couple of miles.”

“I think greenways are absolutely wonderful, whether you’re a runner, walker, biker or pushing a baby carriage,” said Dick Beamish of Saranac Lake, who has bicycled with his wife on rail trails and greenways in San Francisco, Virginia, Vermont and Albany. “They’re a great way to promote health and well-being as well as help local economies.”

Beamish, a retired news magazine publisher, is an advocate for a new 34-mile rail-trail the state is creating in the Adirondacks between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid.