BETHLEHEM — A local cyclist club has been “reined in” after concerns its efforts to clear a future bike path on town property was straying off course.
At least since this summer, local cyclists have congregated to survey an untamed portion of town property for the prospect of building a mountain bike trail off of Wright Lane in Delmar.
The nearly 86-acre lot is owned by the Town of Bethlehem. A fraction of it, approximately eight acres, is used by the town’s highway department to deposit excess snow and dirt.
Much of the rest of the land is a pocket forest of vine-choked trees surrounded by urban sprawl.
Wright Lane is a short spur that juts off North Street. It’s a portion of town relatively severed by the Delaware and Hudson railroad that once ran through town. The homes dotted along North Street are some of the oldest in the hamlet. But, as the road runs farther from Four Corners, it appears more rural.
Bicycling has developed into a popular hobby over the past several years. Capital MTB, a local group of cyclists, boasts an online membership of more than 1,000 people on Facebook.
The online community often advertises group rides throughout the area, including North Bethlehem and Wright Lane.
One member commented on Wright Lane’s potential but that the trail needed more traffic in order to firm the path.
A local resident brought the increased activity at Wright Lane to the town board’s attention at its Nov. 13 meeting.
Steve Peterson expressed concerns that the group was working on behalf of the town without proper authority, and with disregard to historical preservation.
One rustic wood bridge was pictured on an online post, while another post expressed gratitude to someone depositing material to build possibly another one.
Peterson said such bridges over tributaries feeding into the Normanskill River could violate state environmental laws. Implying that the cyclists were working improperly for the town, Peterson mocked the supervisor’s common message to bridge the divide between both parties. “Is this the bridge you were talking about,” Peterson asked.
The Town Board expressed ignorance of the bike trails. Jim Foster said he was made aware of the trails just a few days before the meeting.
The exchange took place during the meeting’s public comments section. As a practice, the town councilmen refrain from comments and don’t usually answer questions during this section.
In an interview with The Spotlight, Town Supervisor David VanLuven called the cyclist group “passionate” and likened it to any of the several organizations across town that volunteer to help the community.
He said, the same group also maintains and polices fellow cyclists at the North Bethlehem town park.
The apparent construction activity, he said, has been “reined in.”
Most of the online comments referenced in this article have since been deleted.
Town residents are not prohibited from walking upon the Wright Lane property.
Yellow makeshift arrows point visitors to the opening of the trail. The building material for a possible bridge, however, remains in a heap near the treeline since it was referenced online in October.
VanLuven said he sees the property opening into another town park, taking advantage of its close proximity to the county’s bike trail.
He also sees it as a way of falling in line with the town’s overall interest in preserving open land. Today, however, it is not a town park. VanLuven said there is no timeline as to when residents can expect for it to open as one.