By ALISSA SCOTT
At one time, the Mohawk River was essential for survival in Amsterdam.
A project that aims to build public trails along the waterfront may begin to take advantage of the resource again.
"You couldn't even take a covered wagon with freight to Albany," said city grant writer Nick Zabawsky, a member of the project steering committee. "There were no roads. The river was everything."
Wednesday night, the committee members, project consultants and state representatives will host a River Walk Feasibility Study public information meeting at City Hall. During the meeting -- the first open to the public -- community members will be given an overview of the project and the opportunity to offer input on design and riverside attractions.
The river walk would be an approximately 1.5-mile path along the northern bank of the Mohawk River from Guy Park Manor to Riverlink Park. It will connect the park with the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook (commonly known as the pedestrian bridge), Guy Park Manor and Lock 11.
According to a presentation for the event, the project, sponsored by the state Department of State Environmental Protection Fund under the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program and the city, intends to identify new waterfront access facilities, links to existing facilities, expand waterfront recreation opportunities and support downtown revitalization.
Engineering firm Barton & Loguidice was awarded a $25,000 grant during a Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development funding program to study the geography and potential of the area.
Zabawsky said the meeting is to have a preliminary discussion about the firm's findings -- locations for proposed improvements, identification of property ownership and the need for easements or purchases, the results of field surveys and cost estimates. Though Zabawsky said he has no idea what the entire project will cost, it will be "very expensive" and probably paid for by grants.
Some improvements to be considered are: expanding view sheds, small boat launching sites, "daylighting," or opening up the covered portions of the lower Chuctanunda Creek, creating picnic areas, and installing signs about natural and local history.
The study mapped out the sections of the path with eroded shorelines. It also found several possible techniques for stabilization and rated them by construction cost, maintenance cost and adaptability. Zabawsky said he expects the engineers will suggest their preferred approaches based on funding availability.
He said the other big challenge is property ownership. As of now, one of the major reasons the waterfront can't be taken advantage of is because much of the land belongs to CSX.
The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the Common Council chamber at City Hall, located at 61 Church St.
The project is expected to be complete by 2016, with funding finalized by 2014 and construction bidding set by 2015.