COLONIE — Town crews, volunteers and elected and appointed officials came together at the Mohawk River Park and Pool on Earth Day to spruce up the well-used trails between the Latham Lassies fields, the town pool and the Mohawk River.
“The maintenance requirements for some of the trails have been difficult to keep up with the town resources so we are looking to basically adopt the facility, or at least help the town with the maintenance,” said Peter Weykamp, who said two groups were represented at the effort on Saturday, April 23, a group of mountain bikers and the Friends of Colonie Town Park Trails.
The two groups are interconnected, have many of the same members and both share a common goal: to make the trail system at the park off Route 9 as safe and as fun for all users, whether they are hikers, dog walkers or mountain bikers.
“One thing we would really like to do is promote the trials in here and for people to enjoy. It is unique in Colonie because of the terrain here. There is not a lot of public land in town with this type of terrain — you have some good up and downs and some rocks. It’s not just a flat trail,” Weykamp said.
The trail system includes 4.5 miles of single track trails and 2.5 miles of double track. As the names imply, the single track trails are narrower, between 24-36 inches, and riders generally cannot ride side by side.
While the data is far from scientific, the number of mountain bikers using the park spiked during COVID-19 as people were looking for different types of outdoor recreation. According to Trailforks, a cycling app, in 2016 about 200 people recorded their ride through the trails at the Colonie Town Park and four years later 1,043 recorded rides. The number dropped to 723 last year and so far this year, 16 riders used the app.
An obvious hole in the data’s accuracy is not all mountain bikers record their rides using the app and hikers and dog walkers do not need to sign in like at trailheads in state parks. But, over the course of an hour during a sunny, spring Sunday morning, the trails were used by at least six dog walkers, three mountain bikers and a few hikers.
Earlier this year, the Friends of Colonie Town Park Trails made a pitch to the Conservation Advisory Council to help maintain the trails. Maintenance in the group’s mind includes clearing fallen trees, brushing back vegetation, restoring and maintaining proper trail width, removing pet waste and other garbage and building some bridges and other structures over washed out areas or areas that are swampy.
The cross country teams of Shaker and Colonie used to use the park for their home meets but have since shifted to The Crossings because the trails have been years without any proper maintenance and they just got to be too rough for the student runners.
This is the first year the Conservation Advisory Council has gotten involved with the Earth Day celebration and Chairwoman Zainab Magdon-Ismail was on hand on Saturday to lend a hand.
“This is our first foray into this and the idea is to take a look at what we can do and put in some safety mechanisms,” she said, adding the trails should be graded as to difficulty so users can have an idea what to expect when they enter the woods.
Jeff Madden, a Town Board member who serves a liaison with the town Parks and Recreation Department said he was out there with the employees last week to scout out where the washouts were and where the crew could be the most help.
“We are trying to work with some folks who use the trails for biking and we are trying to make the trails safer and more accessible,” he said. “It is Earth Day, and it is a celebration of getting out into the community and doing some work for the environment so that is what we are doing.”
Town crews were on hand to handle chainsaws and other heavy duty work and were happy to see residents come out and lend a hand for the parks that, in a very real way, belongs to them
“It’s nice we need some extra help out here,” said Pete Austin. “It’s been a fun day. It’s nice and warm and we are coming out of winter and we’ve met some nice people who are willing to lend a hand.”
Other plans for what is arguably the town’s signature park — with its many pavilions, swimming pool, dog park, bike path, playground, tennis courts, access to the river and home to the Latham Lassies — is to again make the boat launch usable and to replace some tennis courts with a pickleball courts.
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