While the big news in New York State is that there is no money for anything, there are flickers of light in all that darkness. For more than 20 years, the city of Rochester and Monroe County have built a network of trails that place the Genesee River and Lake Ontario as water-centric centerpieces with public access in mind.
An extraordinary amount of attention and roughly $8 million have been spent in the area creating nearly 10 brand new miles of pathways for all citizens of every athletic ability to obtain healthier and more enjoyable lives. In some cases linking to existing trails, these new miles add to an ever-increasing universe for safe exercise out of doors.
Think nature, think vistas, views, and wildlife areas accessible to everybody on environmentally conscious routes that are as suitable for baby carriages and wheelchairs as they are for serious bicyclists.
Good Footing for
During the past five years the Spencerport, N.Y.-based Crane-Hogan Structural Systems has completed three multi-use trail projects. Called multi-use trails, these safe escapes for people of all ages and all levels of health and fitness, are generally flat surfaces of asphalt, and 12-ft. (3. m) wide so there’s lots of room for all modes of transport, as long it doesn’t have a motor. These trails are built along natural waterways including the Genesee River and Lake Ontario, plus wetlands, swamps, and creeks with the attendant wildlife, including bald eagles.
Though pedestrian and bicycle based, these trails must be constructed to be vehicle worthy for safety’s sake in case of emergencies.
A Missing Link
George Perucki of Crane-Hogan has been project manager on all three trails, including the most recent 3.3-mi. (5.3 km), Lake Ontario State Parkway Multi-Use Trail, which generally runs parallel to the also famously scenic Lake Ontario State Parkway. It also helps people link to the path that parallels Route 390.
The project represents 2.8 mi. (4.5 km) of all new construction. The new trail parallels the north side of the parkway beginning at the existing 390 bike path on the west side of Route 390. It extends 3.3 mi. to the Genesee Riverway Trail on River Street in Charlotte.
This particular spot at the Port of Rochester offers lots of things to do — restaurants, and even a vintage, working carousel and historic lighthouse with tours and a gift shop.
The project, done in partnership with the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the local community is considered by NYSDOT to be part of the “transportation infrastructure.”
While the Parks Department owns the actual land, the county maintains the trail. Recognizing infrastructure is in part the result of a survey that cited a need for safe places for people to recreate without encountering their common enemy to enjoying the outdoors — the automobile. Richard DeSarra, president of the Rochester Bicycle Club, said he believes that the death of a state trooper who was killed biking along the parkway several years ago, as well as other serious accidents on the roadside, led to the development of this particular trail.
The cost was $1.9 million and the official ribbon cutting took place in December 2009. The ceremony was attended by politicians, workers, engineers, bicycle fans and friends.
Asked if he encountered any serious problems, Perucki said they had a hard time keeping people off the trail while they were building it.
But Perucki added that the crew also enjoyed the quiet solitude of their work, which was mostly done in winter. In early spring they watched trout spawn in the creeks. Almost every spot on the trail has some scenic element, including reflections off the waves on Lake Ontario at the trailhead in the Port of Rochester.
“Basically we went from point A to point B,” said Perucki of the trail planning. The existing land was natural and covered with trees and brush, which they carved through using backhoes and bulldozers. Terry Tree Service of Rochester took the trees for recycling. Recycled concrete was used along with #2 crushed stone for the fill. A 4-in. (10 cm)-thick layer of asphalt provides the near perfect surface. Maintenance should be low with resealing applied maybe every 10 years.
As the path progressed, they chose to avoid some specimen trees of significant size —maple, oak, and pine — and go around them instead of taking them down.
“Putting in two bridges was necessary,” said Perucki of the spans over Slater Creek and Round Pond Creek. “Both bridges are galvanized steel made by a company in Wisconsin.”
One 50-ft. (15.2 m) span came intact, while the other 112-ft. (34 m) bridge was assembled from two pieces on site. Both were put in place by a crane operator and equipment from Clark Rigging, headquartered near Niagara Falls.
“It was a little nerve wracking,” said Leslie Mackaravitz, lead engineer, MURK Coordinator, Region 4 Construction Division, Department of Transportation. “Equipment that large cannot be routed through Rochester’s downtown.”
Small cross culverts and drainage pipes were installed or upgraded as needed. Native plantings and architectural features such as wooden fences, retaining walls and decorative stones mined years ago in nearby Medina were incorporated into the design.
The overall goal was to create a multi-use pathway that fits into the existing user-friendly landscape by taking advantage of wooded areas, views of surrounding bodies of waters and wetlands. The project includes trail marker signs, new crosswalks, and repaired fences.
“Our landscape department was actually the lead agency on the project, which is somewhat unusual in DOT,” Mackaravitz said. “We were out there in January (2007) packing down the snow, looking for routes to follow. It’s a very wet area; we had to get all the permits to build over waterways.”
The actual landscaping is just beginning to bloom with lots of native, non-invasive species including rhododendron, red bud trees, forsythia, oaks, pine trees and other bushes along the trail.
“We all cared a lot about what it looks like,” said Mackaravitz. “Everybody did a fine job.”
One especially bright spot was something NYSDOT calls “value engineering,” whereby a project is reduced in cost and the savings are shared, in part, with the contractor. One such incident occurred while building the multi-use trail.
“Value engineering encourages improved ingenuity and problem solving that includes controlling costs,” said Mackaravitz. “The third bridge called for on this project was modified to become a twin culvert instead. I was very excited about it during our project because it saved the state about $80,000, and it still meets our requirements.”
“Crane-Hogan has a great crew,” said Mackaravitz. “They already had a good sense of how it should be.”
Another unique area includes a very large, special boulder, which will be inscribed to honor Melissa Rowe, a dynamic NYSDOT employee assigned to the project who died in an accident elsewhere while the trail was being built.
Two Other Multi-Use Trail Projects
The uses for multi-use trails are as varied as the people who enjoy them. The construction of two other nature-inspired pathways won Crane-Hogan some awards.
Perucki explained, “In fall 2006 the city of Rochester invested $4.6 million to improve the Genesee Riverway Trail. The 1.6-mile project from just south of Turning Point Park north to Petten Street included a three-quarter-mile bridge that provides access over the basin.”
In a feature story for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle Rochester City Councilman Robert Stevenson called the project’s environment, “raw nature,” yet within the city limits.
In just one section, a dirt footpath becomes a boardwalk stretching over a portion of the Genesee River called Turning Basin.
Ed Doherty, the city’s commissioner of environmental services at that time, said the uniqueness of the project, with its bridge that would have to be built from a barge, reduced the usual number of competitive bids. He added, “Not as many of our local contractors had access to the particular equipment that was needed to do this.”
Another obstacle was land acquisition. The city spent an additional $430,000 to buy 4.3 acres (1.74 ha) plus two permanent easements for drainage through a nearby marina.
In spite of all of the challenges, there are bald eagles and blue herons and fresh air for all the people who love the trail and want to get outdoors.
In fall 2007, George Perucki of Crane-Hogan was project manager on an improved pathway from the Irondequoit Bay Outlet Park to the O’Rorke Bridge. Called the Irondequoit Lakeside Multi-Use Trail, the 4.7-mi. (7.6 km) stretch includes a 13-ft. (4 m)-wide asphalt trail through the northern part of Durand-Eastman Park along Lake Ontario and over a timber bridge over Tamarack Swamp. The project received $1.2 million in federal funding and $705,000 from Monroe County. Irondequoit contributed $460,000 worth of in-kind services for trail construction.
As in all multi-use trails, any plans for traveling on them for more than a few miles means being able to follow signs leading onto roads and sidewalks to make the necessary links to pedestrian-only thoroughfares.
Richard DeSarra, president of the Rochester Bicycle Club, said that this year, for the first time, the city of Rochester is planning to create a master bike plan. He added, “The whole northeast corridor is just catching up. It might take 20 to 30 years, but there will be a good urban cycle system to enjoy.
“The future for all of us who enjoy the outdoors, near our homes, is very bright.”
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