Johnstown drops plans for Rail Trail work

JOHNSTOWN – The city has decided not to improve or extend its Rail Trail system this year.

The Common Council decided this week to drop a planned engineering agreement and discontinue its planned Rail Trail Improvement Program this year because there’s no guarantee the city will receive a piece of Fulton County’s federal trail funding.

“We’re on hold right now,” City Engineer Chandra Cotter said Wednesday.

The Common Council was set to consider approving a $64,907 agreement to hire Greenman-Pedersen Inc. of Albany to do design work to improve the city’s Rail Trail system. The city had planned to use leftover federal money from a grant Fulton County received years ago.

The city has wanted to do rehabilitation on its existing trail and to look at drainage issues along the trail, sign improvements, adding crosswalks and extending the trail south from Johnstown to the Montgomery County border.

The county has about $220,000 available in trail grant funding through the state Department of Transportation, which the city would have to pay a $50,000 local share for.

But Mayor Sarah Slingerland told the council Monday night at City Hall that notification came from county Planning Director James Mraz that money for the city’s project may not be available. She said the trail funding may be needed for work along the northern planned section of the trail.

“We wouldn’t necessarily be guaranteed we would get reimbursement for the [city] design phase,” Slingerland said.

Actual construction work to extend the Rail Trail hasn’t been done in Fulton County for six or seven years. The original trail project was initiated in the late 1980s and early 1990s after the closing of the FJ&G Railroad. The plan turned the railroad route into a recreational trail, giving walkers, cyclists, joggers and skaters a place to take in local scenery, including views of the Cayadutta Creek.

The original plan called for 18 miles of trail, but the goal of having one end of the trail extend north into the town of Mayfield has fallen short.

The resolution the council explored Monday would have required work to be completed in the city by Sept. 30, 2014.

Mraz said the Fulton County Board of Supervisors’ Buildings and Grounds-Highway Committee a few months ago discussed “restarting efforts” to extend the planned Rail Trail north. It would be extended about five miles from Dennie’s Crossing in the town of Johnstown to County Highway 155 in the town of Mayfield.

“That section of the old railroad was purchased by private property owners way back when,” Mraz said.

The property owners were reluctant to sell their right-of-way to the county when other parts of the trail were being developed. But now, Mraz said, the county intends to use some of the grant funding to pursue that.

“It’s all part of the trail,” he said.

Mraz said the county Planning Department didn’t want both entities with current initiatives – the county and city of Johnstown – to use up all of the reimbursement funding.

In a recent report to the Buildings and Grounds-Highway Committee, Mraz said all people owning property along the undeveloped stretch of the FJ&G Railroad right-of-way have been contacted regarding their potential interest in selling to the county for the development of the trail.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at