The Putnam Examiner

Legislators Address Trailway Woes

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By Dave Hoffman

Reports of vandalism and encampments along the Putnam County Trailway prompted a Nov. 12 discussion at the County Legislature’s Physical Services Committee meeting, which focused on challenges in finding the resources to address safety and maintenance issues.

A combination of drone footage and resident feedback alerted legislators to the damage.

“We sent a drone out this morning, and we put it up and I sent some pictures off to see exactly what is going on,” said Sgt. William Meyer of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department. “There is some graffiti; there are some encampments – there is one encampment by the high bridge. We basically want to increase some patrols out there at different times, especially at night.”

Southeast Town Councilwoman Lynne Eckhardt shared a letter from one of her constituents enumerating several problems along a portion of the trail, including broken fencing, benches that have been destroyed and are surrounded by trash, areas with no grooming, a lack of signage reminding people that the path is closed after dark, graffiti, and evidence of quads, mopeds and motorcycles using the path.

Eckhardt said residents have complained that the path is used 24/7, and there is evidence of alcohol use. Wooden posts that are used to prevent cars on the trail have been hacked by axes, and large items such as a couch and sewing machine have been dropped off of a bridge that crosses the path, she said.

Lawmakers cited a lack of resources as an obstacle to addressing the concerns.

“We’re recognizing certain increases in the amount of work in order to keep these bike paths in decent condition,” said Putnam Highway Commissioner Fred Pena. “I know (Deputy Parks Commissioner) Chris Ruthvan has mentioned to me on several occasions the costs involved with keeping these paths clean. That’s normal maintenance. Now we’re talking about criminal maintenance, which is really getting out of hand – well beyond our capabilities on any reasonable day without additional resources to do so.

“I don’t think it was ever contemplated the amount of work that it really does take to maintain these bike paths,” he continued. “It’s really small roadway systems, but it’s park systems, as well, and it’s thousands of acres that go on.”

Suggestions included drawing from other organizations to put more manpower on the paths for maintenance, asking for community involvement by encouraging residents to call in when illegal activity is happening, and asking for assistance from each town that the path travels through.

Residents who find graffiti are encouraged to contact the county at 845-225-4300. “Kids, when they tag things, make their own tags – they make their own signature, their own style,” said Meyer. “We get to learn that. We get to know who’s doing the graffiti.”

These concerns come at a time when the county is ready to add another 3 miles to the 12-mile-long trailway. Additionally, the State of New York is planning to add an additional 8 to 10 miles of bike path through the county as part of the Empire State Trail, which will eventually connect New York City and Canada.

Legislator Ginny Nacerino, R-Patterson, said she is concerned that these new trails will further strain the ability of the county to meet these pressing safety and maintenance demands.

“As these paths age and there is no O&M (operations and maintenance) plan in place, that becomes problematic in the future, as well,” she said. “I don’t think the state has incorporated any O&M into this initiative.”

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