COLONIE: Town looks to blaze trails

Town planners are calling for public input to begin developing a townwide biking and hiking path and sidewalk comprehensive plan.

Multi-use trails and sidewalks were listed as one of several priorities in a 2005 townwide comprehensive plan. Planners want to begin phasing in developers, state and county government, as well as federal dollars, to begin expanding neighborhood connections.

What are our priorities? Do we want to get kids to school safely? Do we want to get people out of their cars? asked Kelly Mateja, town planner. "It's a lot of global issues that boil down to land-use decisions we make at the local level."

Instead of putting a plan into action from the top down, planners and town leaders want the help of the residents who have been making use of existing trails or sidewalks. They also want to know of the shortcuts, easements and trails used by residents over the years.

The goal is to map, develop and potentially put money earmarked for pedestrian programs into such trails and expand them. Neighboring communities are in talks or have begun implementing such plans, said Denise Sheehan, planning and economic Development department director.

"The theme of our comprehensive plan was about connecting our communities. This (plan) builds on that theme as far as how we can best connect our neighborhoods," she said.

It's beyond just connecting sidewalks. Sometimes sidewalks are not the best choice, she said. It literally is a plan for connectors for alternative transportation, such as walking, biking, hiking, cross-country skiing and roller blading, said Sheehan.

What such access and alternate routes boils down to is quality-of-life issues. It is about getting people out of their cars and on their feet, said Mateja.

Locally, the plan could address traffic and infrastructure issues and allow an independent senior population to walk to appointments. Globally, it could have an impact on issues such as global warming, energy conservation and obesity.

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