Elizabethtown gets grant for bike trail connections

ELIZABETHTOWN — This Essex County town was awarded a $250,000 infrastructure grant from the Northern Border Regional Commission Tuesday to aid efforts to build and upgrade its recreation economy.

One project the grants are earmarked for is a bike path plan to connect trail systems — like the town-owned Blueberry Trails to downtown, and a local school’s trails to a larger trail system — with funds for signage, instructive kiosks and a public pavilion.

“We were thrilled to receive this news,” town board member Jeff Allott said in a press release. “It’s a significant sign of support that our efforts here are getting noticed and that our momentum is building.”

“Elizabethtown has been quietly building first-rate trails for years,” said Aaron Woolf, an owner of the historic Deer’s Head Inn and a former Congress candidate who helped spearhead the effort with Allott. “By connecting them to our downtown economy, we can capitalize on those investments. The enthusiasm for biking is really putting E’town on the map in a new and exciting way.”

“The recreation economy is a win-win for our town, providing benefits for both residents and visitors alike,” town Supervisor Noel Merrihew said. “We couldn’t be more grateful for the support.”

The grant provides funding to help connect the newly consolidated Boquet Valley Central School — a combination of the Elizabethtown-Lewis and Westport districts — to nearly 1,400 acres of trails, building upon its unique mountain biking program.

“Being able to get the students out on trail in a forty minute P.E. period is a game changer,” BVCS Athletic Director Paul Beuhler said.

In preparing the application for the competitive grant process, Allott and Woolf counted on bipartisan support from the congressional delegation.

“Senator Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) wrote an enthusiastic letter on our behalf, as did Congresswoman Stefanik (R-NY21),” Allott said. “It’s great to have a bipartisan nod from our representatives in this polarized climate.”

The town was also supported in its submission by the Northern Forest Center, a regional innovation and investment partner focused on connecting people and economy to the forested landscape.

NBRC received 152 applications this year for the State Economic and Infrastructure Development grant, requesting more than $43 million in total. NBRC chose 45 applications, funding only 28% of all applications. A total of just under $14 million was awarded for federal fiscal year 2019 in this program.

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