By JEFF MEYERS
PLATTSBURGH — It's official.
The Saranac River Trail — a paved path stretching from George Angell Drive near Plattsburgh High School to the Saranac Street Bridge — was christened Monday evening, completing Phase 1 of an effort to create improved walking and bicycling access across the city.
"This is a good decision all around," national fitness expert Mark Fenton said of the plan to move forward with an access trail paralleling the Saranac River. "I have the great privilege of traveling the country to celebrate working projects like this. This is that wonderful moment when it all comes together.
Several dozen people listened while Fenton praised the efforts of everyone involved in creating a system that not only allows people easier access to regular physical activity but also provides a social venue for the community in general.
The Saranac River Trail is well connected to other areas of activity, including parks, schools, downtown and neighborhoods, which Fenton noted was a major draw for such recreation areas. It is also well connected to the city's sidewalks and bike paths and will become a place where people gather to enjoy what the community has to offer, he said.
He praised the economic, environmental and overall health benefits the trail will provide for the community.
City of Plattsburgh Mayor Pro Tem Jim Calnon thanked the city departments that helped with the project and called the trail an example of "money well spent," though he noted that much of the work was done with grant money.
Plattsburgh State Provost James Liszka called the trail a "great source of recreation for citizens and visitors" and said he could not wait, as an avid biker, to use the trail as it continues to grow out into neighboring towns.
STARTED IN 2010
Initial work on the trail began in late summer 2010 when workers completed a paved section along Seltzer Avenue between South Catherine Street and Broad Street.
In 2011, workers concentrated on the section between George Angell Drive and Seltzer, where the paved trail crosses through property owned by Plattsburgh State, including the large field behind Memorial Hall.
Work was also completed on the trail paralleling Pine Street, which was repaved and transformed into a one-way road for vehicular traffic.
Efforts to create a walking/cycling trail began long before that, however, as a group of volunteers and agency representatives started looking at the options for an extended trail system along the Saranac River.
"We're thrilled about the launch of the Saranac River Trail today," said Victoria Zinser Duley, a volunteer and former committee chair. "The trail is providing a great community resource in itself, but we are also celebrating the wholehearted efforts from many partners and what can come in the future.
"The groundwork is in place now to see an expanded Saranac River Trail and county-wide trail system develop."
Zinser Duley added special praise for the work City Engineer Kevin Farrington did to help the trail come to fruition.
Current Committee Chair Luke Cyphers agreed, adding that the efforts of the government and community working together kept the process moving forward.
"Sen. Betty Little secured funding through the State Legislature for a feasibility study in 2005 that literally gave us a map for the trail," he said. "From there, the city worked to secure state transportation grants to cover the majority of costs of the project."
Cyphers also praised the efforts of Plattsburgh State, Mayor Donald Kasprzak and the Common Council for supporting the project.
"So the next step is to get people out enjoying Phase 1 of the trail," Cyphers said. "But we want people to understand this is just Phase 1. The ultimate goal is to extend the trail from the city waterfront all the way to the Town of Saranac."
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