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Watertown hopes for state funding for trail projects

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The city is seeking some state funding for two biking and hiking trails that someday could connect to the rest of Watertown’s system along the Black River.

Over the last couple of decades, the city has completed almost 2 miles of trails. It hopes eventually to have a continuous trail system that would run mostly along the river.

The Watertown City Council agreed informally to apply for funding for an 875-foot-long bike trail along Huntington Street, as well as money for design work to connect Veterans Memorial Riverwalk with Whitewater Park about a half-mile away.

The city then would have to arrange for funding to pay for the actual construction of the pedestrian/bike path, Senior Planner Michael A. Lumbis said.

Both are long-anticipated projects that the city’s Riverfront Committee has been wanting to complete.

The committee, which oversees the trail system, recently urged council members to go after state funding for the trail projects after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced $60 million in commitments to promote tourism and recreational activities upstate.

The proposed projects would be funded from programs through the Department of State and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Under the proposed Huntington Street project, the trail would be adjacent to the city wastewater treatment plant and begin at the Route 3 sidewalk bridge to the eastern end of Waterworks Park. The cost of the project would be about $140,000.

“It would also bolster the state’s plans to connect the Black River Trail on Ridge Road into the city,” Mr. Lumbis said. “The state has been planning to do that for quite some time.”

The city would be entitled to 75 percent of the cost in funding from the Parks Office if the city declares the property along the road parkland. Otherwise, it would receive 50 percent, Mr. Lumbis said.

If the city receives funding for the other project, the $25,000 would pay for survey work and subsurface investigations, as well as preliminary and final designs. The city would be eligible for 50 percent funding for the total cost of the project through the Department of State’s Environmental Protection Fund Waterfront Revitalization program.

To help fund the two projects, the city could use $57,000 it still has in the 2013-14 budget from last fiscal year’s Black River Fund, Mr. Lumbis said. The applications are due Aug. 12 through the Consolidated Funding Process.

Despite the city’s informal commitment, Councilman Jeffrey M. Smith said he would like proof the trails are used by the public. While the city does not track such data, rafting trips attract an estimated 40,000 people a year, according to local officials.

Almost all of the city’s trail system is on the river’s south side. The trails mainly snake through the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, Veterans Memorial Riverwalk, Factory Square and the Marble Street, Whitewater and Waterworks parks.

Last year, more trails were added in Marble Street Park and Bicentennial Park, along the river at the fairgrounds. They were added when overall park improvements were completed there. The first set of trails was completed in Waterworks Park, across from Huntington Heights, during the 1980s.

So far, the city has completed 21 projects along the river.

Council members decided not to seek funding for two other projects: building an overlook at the end of Edmund Street and connecting trails at the fairgrounds with recent improvements in Bicentennial Park.

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