By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
One of the best bike tours on the planet is in our own backyard: the annual Parks & Trails NY Cycle the Erie Canal ride, eight-days, 400-miles and 400 years of history, from Buffalo to Albany, a fully supported biking and camping trip (you can even hire Comfy Campers to set up your tent).
The ride raises money and awareness for advocacy for new trail development and this year’s ride will highlight new trails that take the riders off the roadway – this year, cyclists will ride a new stretch west of Lockport in the town of Pendleton and a gorgeous new trail between Amsterdam and Pattersonville (so you no longer bike on the highway). Some 550 riders are expected this year, its 21st annual Cycle the Erie ride, taking place , July 7-14; Parks & Trails NY is still accepting registrations ($925/adult, 6-17 $545, 5-and under $280, ptny.org)
The organization’s key focus now is to build upon the state’s plan for 750-miles of off-road recreational trails – the 360-mile long Erie Canalway, plus Empire State Trail, north-south mixed-use, off-road trail system that will fully connect New York City to Canada.
The plans are already in place for the Empire State Trail to be completed by the end of 2020. In 2019, PTNY launched Trails Across New York Campaign, to build off the momentum of the Empire State Trail’s planned completion in 2020 and support ways to turn the statewide trail system into a true network, connecting local trails with the main spine of the Empire State Trail, including Long Island, “and cementing New York’s position as the nation’s leader in multi-use trails.”
Legislation is currently pending in the NYS Assembly (A. 5035B) (S.4416B has already passed the NYS Senate) would create a statewide multi-use trails plan. This important bill would direct the state to come up with a blueprint for future trails development, helping to turn our local trails across the state into a unified network of trails with major spines and connecting routes, ensuring all parts of the state have access to quality outdoor active recreation on trails.
The Senate version has already passed; the Assembly version is in Ways & Means, which directs the State Parks department to strategize and prioritize filling in the trail gaps. Though it was considered possible for the Assembly to pass its version by the June 19th close of session, if it languishes to the next session, progress will not be lost. Parks & Trails was urging people to contact their state legislator to ask them to cosponsor the legislation and to make sure that the legislation is brought up for a vote before the legislature adjourns for the year.
“Trails Across New York envisions a future in which all New Yorkers will be located only minutes from a trail and ideally will be able to access that trail easily and safely by walking or bicycling. Throughout the state, trails, bicycle boulevards, and Complete Streets will be acknowledged as essential and mainstream elements of community infrastructure, much as utility lines and sidewalks are thought of today.”
PTNY notes that New York State’s trail-rich and trail-friendly reputation will attract visitors from across the nation and abroad to experience the historic communities and varied and beautiful landscapes accessible through the state’s trail network.
Trails offer a wide range of benefits, including stimulating local economies, PTNY notes. The Erie Canalway Trail alone has an estimated annual impact of more than $250 million, and has created close to 3,500 jobs. New York’s outdoor recreation economy annually generates $41.8 billion in consumer spending and supports 313,000 jobs.
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