On Thursday, New York State Assemblymember Patricia Fahy (D-Albany) introduced a package of legislation known as the “Greenway Trails For A Green Future” aimed at modernizing New York’s greenway and multi-use trail system, while improving cyclist and pedestrian safety and growing the tourism and outdoor recreation industries.
Senator Pete Harckham (D-Peekskill) and Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-Dutchess/Columbia) are also sponsoring a bill included in the package.
These bills hope to enhance trail user safety, create more funding streams for trail maintenance, and encourage greenway trail development across New York State. The package leverages and builds on the 750-mile Empire State Trail and Statewide Greenway Trails Plan.
The latest report from the State Comptroller estimated that the outdoor recreation industry provides $21.1 billion in economic activity and supports more than 241,000 jobs with $13.1 billion in compensation.
New York ranks fourth in the nation in terms of its actual amount of GDP generated by outdoor recreation and tourism. In 2022, an estimated 4.75 million people traveled on the 750-mile Empire State Trail.
Bills included as part of the “Greenway Trails For A Green Future” package:
Right-of-Way for All Trail Users in Crosswalks: Clarifies that bicyclists on multi-use trails have the same right-of-way as pedestrians when crossing a roadway within a crosswalk.
Empire State Trail Detour Requirements: Requires the establishment of safe detour routes during temporary closures of sections of the Empire State Trail.
Power Line Trails: Encourages the development of recreational multi-use trails in NYS’s vast network of electric utility corridors. The bill allows utility providers to enter into written agreements for the construction and maintenance of power line trails. It also requires utility providers to provide informational resources and notify municipalities when planning for the expansion or construction of transmission lines about the potential to build a trail in the corridor at the same time. This bill sets the stage to expand the state’s network of greenway trails by focusing on New York State’s plans for billions of dollars in investment to update existing, and construct new, transmission lines.
CHIPS Funding Formula Update: Revises the formula for the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) program to include bicycle lane and greenway trail mileage; allows CHIPS program funds to be used to build or maintain bicycle lanes and greenway trails. Identified as a priority in the 2021 Statewide Greenway Trails Plan, this bill removes incentives for municipalities to build more motorized traffic lanes and increases funding for building and maintaining greenway trails.
Bicycle & Pedestrian Access on Bridges
Directs the NYS Bridge and Thruway Authorities to promote bicyclist and pedestrian access on bridges statewide and to consider the impact of capital projects on bicyclist and pedestrian access. Across New York State, bridges over water bodies or other roadways are often barriers to pedestrian and bicycle access, rather than connections. This bill is expected to assess significant gaps and barriers in statewide bicycle/pedestrian networks to enhance connectivity.
Greenway Trail Design Standards
Directs the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation to promulgate uniform design standards for all new greenway trails established under its jurisdiction to ensure a consistent, high-quality trail user experience across our statewide trail network.
Recreational Use Statute | S2701 (Harckham)/A6004 (Barrett)
Encourages the development of rails-with-trails, power line trails, and other greenway trails by clarifying the liability of property owners who allow the public to access their land for recreational purposes. Protects property owners who allow recreational access to their property from actions resulting in harm or death, removing a critical barrier to trail creation.