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Amsterdam considers riverwalk along north shore of Mohawk

Wednesday, November 13, 2013
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— The Mohawk River’s northern shoreline in Amsterdam could support a 10-foot-wide walking path leading from Riverlink Park to historic Guy Park Manor about 2 1/2 miles to the west.

From there, a path over the Erie Canal’s Lock 11 dam could lead visitors to the Canalway Trail bike path. From there, guests could walk or bike to the city’s South Side, and then take in views of the river from the city’s new pedestrian bridge, the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook.

Project managers from the city’s consulting firm Barton & Loguidice outlined a variety of possibilities Wednesday during the public unveiling of research into creating a riverwalk in Amsterdam — the newest idea to continue the city’s work embracing its access to the Mohawk River.

About 20 people attended the meeting at City Hall for an overview of a $40,000 feasibility study funded by the state Department of State and the city.

During their study, architects learned they aren’t the first to consider a walking path along the river there — they found fire pits and evidence of existing walking paths in several sections of this stretch of the shoreline.

Thaddeus M. Kolankowski Jr., a senior project landscape architect at the firm, outlined the steps taken so far, including a review of existing studies such as the state Department of Transportation’s review of alternatives for relocating the current Amtrak station that sits on the city’s western edge.

The city’s Comprehensive Plan in 2003 identified the shoreline as suitable for a walking path, as did the city’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan in 1992.

The existing landscape presents challenges in some areas, such as a stretch west of the Chuctanunda Creek’s outlet, which has a steep slope.

But some areas also present opportunities to help strengthen the shoreline itself, which the Mohawk River continues to erode, Kolankowski said.

Although the Mohawk River isn’t classified to allow for swimming, two areas consultants walked open up into beaches — ideal locations for fishing or launching kayaks and canoes.

Kolankowski said there are a variety of methods by which the shoreline could be stabilized to protect from erosion, ranging from planting vegetation to installing more-pronounced stone walls. But as planning proceeds, he said, one goal should be to limit the amount of maintenance that will be needed.

“We want to find the lowest-maintenance solutions where we can,” Kolankowski said.

It’s likely some of the path will require some fencing to keep people off of the railroad right of way, but a fence could be shrouded by vegetation, he said.

Any trail work will need to be done with a focus on flood-proof construction, making sure floodwater can drain away after a flood, he said.

Residents at the meeting voiced a few concerns, such as accessibility for the handicapped and what materials would be used to build the walking path itself. Pavement or crushed stone with strengthening fillers would both ensure accessibility, Kolankowski said.

Concern over noise from the railroad tracks — along which both CSX freight trains and Amtrak passenger trains roar through the city — also was raised. Robert von Hasseln, the city’s community and economic development director, said there’s new train warning technology that might be considered — horns or sirens installed at crossings that refine the sound’s direction and lessen its impact.

Amsterdam resident Phil Lyford said he believes the riverwalk concept is worth exploring, as it could draw people to the city.

“People want to come to a place and do something that is fun,” he said.

He said hundreds of people attended concerts this summer at Riverlink Park, just to the east of the study area.

Fourth Ward Alderwoman-elect Diane Hatzenbuhler said she is most concerned with the bottom line.

“It’s going to cost a lot of money,” she said.

City resident Jean Karutis said she believes people are increasingly engaging in healthy activities like biking and running, and exploring more opportunities like that would be good for the city’s future.

“I think it’s a great idea,” she said.

The consultants will continue the study, leading up to a January workshop at which residents will be invited to share their thoughts and ideas..

 
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