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New Castle officials have requested the support of the Chappaqua School District for the ChapLine, a 1.5-mile pedestrian and bike path connecting downtown with Chappaqua Crossing to help bolster funding for the proposed project.
Supervisor Lisa Katz said at the joint Aug. 9 Town Board-Board of Education joint meeting that the town hopes to move forward with the long-proposed ChapLine but would be unable to fund the entire expenses from its coffers. In 2020, the project was estimated to cost about $10 million, but recent high inflation is likely to escalate that figure.
The town is looking for grants and state and federal funds to help offset as much of the expense as possible. Letters of support from community organizations, including the school district and business groups, and residents could be critical in order to tap into funding.
“It is a way that we can get hundreds and hundreds of residents as a way to get people to walk and connect these two business (areas) as well as kids can walk to school that way,” Katz said of the ChapLine.
For those who use Metro-North, it would also encourage residents, particularly at Chappaqua Crossing, Lawrence Farms East and along Roaring Brook Road, to walk to the train station instead of driving their cars and adding to congestion, she said.
As originally proposed, the ChapLine, a 10-foot-wide path, would have followed the county sewer trunk line that runs partially through the woods from near Roaring Brook Road on the northern end and the Chestnut Oaks condominium complex on North Greeley Avenue. It would feature signage, bollard lighting that would illuminate the path for people to walk on after dark and security cameras.
There would be a parking area for about 20 cars near its northern terminus. At the southern end, there are about 20 spaces of public parking on Bischoff Avenue and 13 spaces along North Greeley Avenue. Under the current plans, another 33-vehicle parking area would permit 24 spaces for the general public with nine reserved for Chestnut Oaks resident.
Leigh Jones, a landscape architect for Barton & Loguidice, an engineering and planning firm that produced the original design as well as an alternative that now avoids wetlands and private property, said timing is critical for the town to line up its support. She recommended officials contact their state and federal representatives and attract letters of support so when there are opportunities for funding, the community is ready to act.
The federal Connecting America’s Active Transportation System Act would provide $2.5 billion for trails nationwide, Jones said. New York State would be in line to receive $100 million. The legislation was approved by the House of Representatives and is gaining traction in the Senate.
There are also other sources of funding that can become available without much advance notice.
“There are grant opportunities coming out all the time at the federal and state levels,” said Jones, who noted that most funding sources have some level of local match. “A lot of them are focused on trails and safer routes to school and all sorts of things like that.”
New Castle has already received $500,000 from the state Department of Conservation Climate Smart Communities Grant last year that could be placed toward the project.
School officials said the ChapLine would be an excellent addition for the district and its students, but the primary concern is safety. The ChapLine would pass within 10 to 20 feet of the school district’s property line at Horace Greeley High School near the northern portion of the trail.
Many of the school sports teams’ members could use the path instead of running on Route 117, which the cross country team frequently does to train. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Christine Ackerman said it could also be used for physical education classes and the district is forming a mountain bike program.
“So we just need to think about it, what it should look like for us, so if we are going to support the project, we feel like it’s safe during the school day for us, so it doesn’t become an additional area we need to be worried about,” Ackerman said.
Board President Jane Shepardson said the district will soon begin another safety and security audit of its buildings and would want to include the ChapLine in the evaluation. The board needs to be certain that it would pose no dangers before signing off on a letter.
It was not mentioned when that audit might be completed.
Questions about how well-used the ChapLine would be were raised by school board member Hilary Grasso. Without access points along the way, it would force pedestrians and bikers to enter or exit only at either end. Grasso added that the attractive part of the project would be for middle school and high school students to safely walk to classes.
Katz said residents at Lawrence Farms South could chose to have public access points along the way if they wish.
But the major goal is to find the money to do the work.
“I’d like to fund all of it” through outside funding,” Katz said. “There are significant opportunities, especially Trails to Rails, so if we could fund all of it, I would love that.”
The ChapLine was first proposed by Chappaqua resident Dan Googel about eight years ago and had the support of then-supervisor Robert Greenstein.
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/