BLAZING A TRAIL FOR ALBANY'S `PATROON PATH'

DINA CAPPIELLO Staff writer
Section: CAPITAL REGION,  Page: B1

Date: Thursday, March 28, 2002

It would pass by six Interstate 90 exits, duck beneath highway overpasses and squeeze in the tight spaces separating public from private land. But an eight-mile-long path linking the Corning Preserve and the Albany Pine Bush through the city of Albany is feasible despite significant obstacles, according to the state Department of Transportation.


The trail, announced by Gov. George E. Pataki and Mayor Jerry Jennings in January 2001, would be a paved 10-foot-wide greenway following Colonie Street under Interstate 787 through city streets to Tivoli Park, where it would cross the railroad tracks, then loosely follow the I-90 corridor to Rensselaer Lake, west of Fuller Road.


The cost -- which would cover grading work and up to a half-dozen bridges -- would be $7 million to $8 million.


``It's real, real money. But we didn't find anything to preclude it from happening,'' said Mark Silo, a regional design engineer for the DOT, which scouted out the path over several days last summer.


Patching together old railroad lines, county sewer access roads, and all-terrain vehicle trails, Silo managed to design a path between the Hudson River and the Albany Pine Bush Preserve.


Along the route, bikers, hikers, and even in-line skaters would pass interchanges and the Three Mile Water Works, once the city's water supply.


``I expected to go out and find obstacles and all that. But I found a lot of possibilities,'' said Silo.


Called the ``Patroon Path'' because at times it follows the Patroon Creek, the trail is part of a larger long-term vision to build a green belt around the city. One piece -- a trail from the city golf course to Normans Kill Farm -- is already complete.


``Conceptually, I think everyone is in support of the idea,'' said General Services Commissioner Willard Bruce. But as of now, the project is nothing but a map of aerial photos taped together and an oversize road map with a drawn line representing the possible path.


The state Department of Environmental Conservation does not know where it will find the money but is looking at options. Environmental advocates who have pushed for better access to the river and city's green spaces from Arbor Hill and other communities said federal money might be obtained.


Besides a path, the project could require money for land purchases, environmental testing and future maintenance, Silo said.


While the governor remains committed to the project, the trail is but one piece of an overall effort to clean the Patroon Creek watershed, according to the DEC. ``We are looking to preserve it first and expand opportunities with the ultimate goal of building the greenway,'' said Peter Constantakes, a DEC spokesman.