Assemblymember Fahy Introduces ‘Greenway Trails For A Green Future’ Package to Modernize New York Trail System

Assemblymember Fahy Introduces ‘Greenway Trails For A Green Future’ Package to Modernize New York Trail System

Legislative package addresses trail detours, pedestrian and cyclist safety, and grows trail system

ALBANY, NY (Nov. 16) – Today, Assemblymember Patricia Fahy (D—Albany) introduced a package of legislation known as the ‘Greenway Trails For A Green Future’ aimed at modernizing New York’s greenway and multi-use trail system, while improving cyclist and pedestrian safety and growing the tourism and outdoor recreation industries. Senator Pete Harckham and Assemblymember Didi Barrett also sponsor a bill included in the package.

The latest report from the State Comptroller estimates that the outdoor recreation industry provides $21.1 billion in economic activity and supports more than 241,000 jobs with $13.1 billion in compensation. In 2022 alone, more than 4.75 million people traveled on the 750-mile Empire State Trail, bringing millions of dollars in economic benefit to upstate communities. New York ranks fourth in the nation in terms of its actual amount of GDP generated by outdoor recreation and tourism, a figure that will only continue to grow by expanding the reach and quality of New York’s greenway trail network.

Together, these bills are poised to enhance trail user safety, create more funding streams for trail maintenance, and encourage greenway trail development across New York State. The package will functionally grow New York’s outdoor recreation and tourism industry, leveraging and building on nation-leading achievements like the 750-mile Empire State Trail and Statewide Greenway Trails Plan.

“From the Adirondacks to the Catskills and from Montauk to Niagara Falls, New York State has no shortage of natural wonders that drive the millions who visit every year, and we must capitalize on that,” said Assemblymember Patricia Fahy (D—Albany). “We have an opportunity to grow New York’s trail system, boost our outdoor recreation economy, and improve trail safety with the Greenway Trails For A Green Future package. I look forward to working on these pieces of legislation with my colleagues to ensure that we continue to attract visitors, grow jobs and boost local economies in communities across the state, and make New York’s trail system the pinnacle of not just the northeast, but the nation more broadly.”

Bills included as part of the Greenway Trails For A Green Future package:

  • Right-of-Way for All Trail Users in Crosswalks

    • Clarifies that bicyclists on multi-use trails have the same right-of-way as pedestrians when crossing a roadway within a crosswalk, reducing confusion and ensuring all trail users can safely cross roadways.

  • Empire State Trail Detour Requirements

    • Requires the establishment of safe detour routes during temporary closures of sections of the Empire State Trail. New York State welcomes thousands of visitors from around the world who come to cycle end-to-end on the Empire State Trail. This bill ensures that these visitors are provided safe alternative routes to continue their trips when the trail must be closed for safety or construction.

  • Power Line Trails

    • Encourages the development of recreational multi-use trails in NYS’s vast network of electric utility corridors. The bill allows utility providers to enter into written agreements for the construction and maintenance of power line trails. It also requires utility providers to provide informational resources and notify municipalities when planning for the expansion or construction of transmission lines about the potential to build a trail in the corridor at the same time. This bill sets the stage to expand the state’s network of greenway trails by focusing on New York State’s plans for billions of dollars in investment to update existing, and construct new, transmission lines.

  • CHIPS Funding Formula Update

    • Revises the formula for the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) program to include bicycle lane and greenway trail mileage; allows CHIPS program funds to be used to build or maintain bicycle lanes and greenway trails. Identified as a priority in the 2021 Statewide Greenway Trails Plan, this bill removes perverse incentives for municipalities to build more motorized traffic lanes and increases critical funding for building and maintaining greenway trails.

  • Bicycle & Pedestrian Access on Bridges

    • Directs the NYS Bridge and Thruway Authorities to promote bicyclist and pedestrian access on bridges statewide and to consider the impact of capital projects on bicyclist and pedestrian access. Across New York State, bridges over water bodies or other roadways are often barriers to pedestrian and bicycle access, rather than connections. This bill will assess significant gaps and barriers in statewide bicycle/pedestrian networks to enhance connectivity.

  • Greenway Trail Design Standards

    • Directs the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation to promulgate uniform design standards for all new greenway trails established under its jurisdiction to ensure a consistent, high-quality trail user experience across our statewide trail network.

  • Recreational Use Statute | S2701 (Harckham)/A6004 (Barrett)

    • Encourages the development of rails-with-trails, power line trails, and other greenway trails by clarifying the liability of property owners who allow the public to access their land for recreational purposes. Protects property owners who allow recreational access to their property from actions resulting in harm or death, removing a critical barrier to trail creation.

 “Individually, each of these bills represents a tangible breakthrough for the millions who want safer, greener and more healthful ways to travel around New York State. Together, this visionary package of legislation will unlock the true transformative power of greenway trails for our environment, economy, and communities,” said Paul Steely White, Parks & Trails New York Executive Director. “When passed, these bills will put greenway trails and bike lanes right up there with county roads and highways, baking safe, people-first project design into the state and local planning firmament.”

“Greenways and trailways are so important, especially in New York State, which is rich in green space for all to enjoy,” said Senator Pete Harckham, Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee. “Investing in their expansion, including making it easier for such pathways to be built and assuring the safety of walkers and cyclists, is important, not only for recreation purposes, but for tourism, which is such a key generator of revenue for our State.”

“Supporting and expanding safe access to alternative modes of transportation is crucial to reaching our Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) goals,” said Assemblymember Didi Barrett, Chair of the Assembly’s Energy Committee. “My Rails-with-Trails legislation breaks down barriers to creating trails alongside existing railroad right-of-ways, increasing access to these underutilized lands and allowing the public to safely enjoy our state’s natural beauty and viewsheds. I thank Assemblymember Fahy for her efforts on this legislative package and look forward to passing these impactful bills in the upcoming legislative session.”

“An investment in recreational facilities and green spaces means investing in health, wellness and economic development. Albany County’s Rail Trail alone is a resource for more than 10,000 visitors during an average week, helping to support our local businesses and strengthen the community. I’m happy to support this package of bills from Assembly Member Fahy that will improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists alike across New York, while also expanding recreational trail miles through an updated CHIPS funding formula, the development of power line trails and more,” said Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy.

“This package of bills is a further step toward a greener, more attractive and economically advanced future. One of the most appealing attributes of the areas inside and outside Albany County are the beautiful, natural wonders that delight both visitors and residents,” said Chairman of the Albany County Legislature Andrew Joyce. “In today’s climate, we must be diligent and laser focused on preserving the trail systems and greenways. This initiative contributes to the county’s and the state’s larger goal, as we work to set the greenest example in the nation. I thank Assemblymember Fahy and environmentally conscious partners for their work.”

“The vast trail system in NYS and specifically here in Albany County is a vital component for tourism attraction, as well as a key to satisfaction of living and working in the Albany region,” says Jill Delaney, President & CEO, Discover Albany. “Our organization, along with our sister counties here in the Capital-Saratoga Tourism Region, is investing significant dollars courtesy of the NYS EDA Tourism Sub Award Grant in attracting both foreign and domestic travelers to explore the myriad of outdoor assets that already help to drive visitation to our area. We are thrilled to see this package of trails-related legislation that will serve to strengthen these key assets.”

“New York’s outdoor recreation economy brings in thousands of visitors each year while boosting our state and local economies,” said Mark Eagan, President and CEO of the Capital Region Chamber. “What’s good for hikers, bikers, and trail enthusiasts is good for business, and this trails package stands to boost and enhance New York’s tourism and recreation industries. The Capital Region Chamber is supportive of Assemblymember Patricia Fahy’s efforts to modernize our trail system, improve safety, and continue to attract residents and visitors alike to enjoy New York’s abundant natural resources and recreation opportunities.”

“New Yorkers ride bikes for many different reasons – for fun, for transportation, for the environment, for work, and for exercise, just to name a few. The Greenway Trails For A Green Future package of bills will move New York towards a future where riders and walkers of all kinds are included in state and local planning, and where all New Yorkers can benefit from the economic, health, and environmental benefits of active transportation” said Anne Savage, Executive Director of New York Bicycling Coalition.

“The Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association (HVRTA) is excited to be partnering with New York State Parks as we accelerate the expansion of the footprint of our existing 26 miles of trail into the Village of Chatham. That will be the northern termination point of our rails-to-trails initiative and will result in a total of 46 miles of continuous paved trail to be used by and enjoyed by bikers; runners, and walkers. Assemblymember Fahy’s legislation underscores the importance of NYS trails both as a recreation facility, but also as an important economic development asset for the communities that we connect together. The HVRTA is thrilled about the future that this legislation will help create for trail development across New York State” said Phil Meeks, Chairman of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association.

“While our greenways are of vital importance to the health and recreation of the Capital Region residents, they are also essential for safe, off-road transportation.  With new cars costing over $12,000 per year many of our neighbors cannot afford motor vehicles or choose bicycling over indebtedness” said Ed Brennan, President of the Albany Bicycling Coalition.

“These are common-sense bills that will allow our governments to seize opportunities and improve how New Yorkers get around. All of the bills will positively impact New Yorkers, and we are especially excited about the changes the CHIPS Funding Formula Update and Bicycle & Pedestrian Access on Bridges bills will bring to active transportation users in cities across the state. Capital Streets is a proud supporter of the Greenway Trails for a Green Future package and we thank Assemblymember Fahy for her leadership on addressing these issues” said James Rath, Executive Director of Capital Streets.

Said Andrew Williams, Deputy Director of State Policy for the New York League of Conservation Voters: “If we are serious about reducing air pollution and tackling the climate crisis, then we need to do more to get people out of their gas-guzzling cars, which means more trails, more transparency, and better safety guidelines for our cyclists and pedestrians. Assemblymember Fahy’s legislative package will not only accomplish that, it will also shore up the recreational tourism industry, a major revenue generator for the state and for local communities. When smart environmental policy and good economics line up, everyone wins.”

“Expanding access to outdoor spaces would benefit New Yorkers of all ages and abilities and would further New York’s commitment – as the first state to join the World Health Organization/AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities – to making all regions more livable,” said Robyn Haberman, Associate State Director of Community Engagement for AARP New York. “AARP New York thanks Assemblymember Fahy for proposing legislation to move toward that goal. Outdoor recreational opportunities promote social inclusion and leisure activities while benefiting the environment and encouraging an active lifestyle that improves people’s physical and mental health.”

Author: Harlem Valley News