River Walk project presented in Amsterdam



By 2016, the northern shoreline of the Mohawk River in Amsterdam may be fully functional again --much as it was when it was the city's main source of transportation years ago.

The River Walk project, still in the development phase, aims to create a 10-foot-wide, flood-resistant path along the river from Guy Park Manor to Riverlink Park. From the manor's end, the stretch may lead occupants over Lock 11 and toward the Canalway Trail bike path. Or, continuing to the park's end, people could walk to the South Side paths, connected by the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook pedestrian bridge.

The plan proposes a plethora of recreational possibilities along the shoreline such as fishing, picnicking, kayaking and even highlights some areas for potential beaches.

Project managers of engineering firm Barton & Loguidice presented their findings of a year-long feasibility study to the public Wednesday night. They were awarded a $25,00 grant from the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council, and the city picked up another $15,000 in funding.

Though the city's 2003 Comprehensive Plan deemed the area suitable for walking, Barton & Loguidice's study has outlined challenging areas where the shoreline is poor and eroding. Some areas also have a very steep slope.

The presentation detailed several shoreline stabilization possibilities, ranging from planting vegetative stalks to increase brush, to building stone walls to outline the bank.

Thaddeus M. Kolankowski, Jr., a senior project landscape architect at the firm, said their goal is to implement harder techniques where necessary but to always reach for low-maintenance solutions where feasible.

About 20 community members attended a public informational meeting Wednesday night.

Robert von Hasseln, Amsterdam's director of community and economic development, who opened the presentation, said public participation is extremely important and has boosted projects in the past.

"Public participation is not just required of the law, it also is sometimes the best way to get it done," von Hasseln said.

People shared concerns about the noise emanating from passing trains and asked whether the path will be handicap-accessible. New technology allows the noise to be channeled in a certain direction, but those gripes should be reserved for a CSX public meeting, Kolankowski said.

Kolankowski said he can't think of any reason why the path wouldn't be handicap-accessible.

Though a majority of the attending community members seemed receptive, some still had questions by the end -- one being 5th Ward Alderman Richard Leggiero. The walking path will steer through his ward.

"Show me the money," Leggiero said. "You can say anything you want, but at the end, how is this going to benefit the city? I want it in writing."

He said he also questions the safety of the path -- wondering who will be liable in the case of an accident.

"Right now, all I'm worried about are the city's finances," Leggiero said.

Von Hasseln said the city has a good relationship with the state Department of State, and like a recently obtained historical report of City Hall, Amsterdam may be eligible for matching funds.

Irene Collins, an Amsterdam resident and former candidate for city controller, said that's what she's looking for, the matching funds.

"Where are the funds for this project?" Collins asked. "We need those matching funds."

One person asked if city residents would really have a say in whether this project continues and whether they get to vote on it.

The Common Council must approve the project, but city residents can contact their designated alderman and attend public meetings to offer their opinions. At the end of the event, participants were handed comment cards due Dec. 4. The responses from those will be included in final report.

The next public meeting will be a Design Opportunity Workshop in January where participants can discuss the methods used to stabilize the shorelines and offer ideas for recreation along the path.