County skips buying land for rail trail

The Leader-Herald

FONDA – Montgomery County supervisors have decided to hold off on the purchase of land for a recreational trail project in Mohawk.

Paul H. Clayburn, the Department of Public Works Commissioner negotiated an agreement to purchase land in the town from Fulton Railroad Properties Inc. for $62,000, but the resolution was tabled at the Board of Supervisors meeting last week.

The paved rail trail, along the line of the former Fonda, Johnstown & Gloversville rail line, would have run for three miles, from Route 5 at the Fonda village limit, across the Cayadutta Creek, crossing the Common and Old Trail roads and ending by the Walmart Distribution Center in Johnstown, close to the rail trail that runs through Fulton County.

The trail would have allowed pedestrians, bicyclists and snowmobilers to access the Erie Canalway Trail.

The trail is a $1.4 million project that would be federally funded through grants that were awarded three years ago.

Clayburn was waiting for the board to approve the project at last Tuesday’s meeting, but they held off after being addressed by Johnstown resident Bob Subik, who said he served as city attorney for 12 years.

Subik said he doesn’t think the project would be a smart decision for Montgomery County, saying in Fulton County, the trail is rarely used and unsafe.

“Montgomery County could find a better place to spend their money,” he said. “The traffic on the trail is minimal, not to mention it’s had a lot of crime, it isn’t patrolled and it’s unlit. It’s just not a good idea.”

Subik, who is the town attorney in Root and Palatine, said he also had a personal interest in the Fulton Railroad Properties’ land, because he wants to see trains on the tracks again.

“If we lose that corridor, we’ll never get it back when there’s a proposal to sell the land to extend the rail trail system,” he said.

Subik said he does not think rail trail projects are effective ways to make profit because they aren’t appealing to tourists.

“Other trails lead to lakes. They lead to a destination places, like a hotel or something. This is not the case in Fulton County; it doesn’t go anywhere except for old industrial buildings,” he said.

When the industrial park was built near the town of Mohawk line, conditions were written in the agreement that said if the rail service resumed, Johnstown would have to oblige, he said.

Subik said he doesn’t think Fulton County residents are aware of the effects the rail trail project would have. He was asking the board to not ratify the resolution and/or do additional research on the project.

He also noted that Johnstown decided to not be involved in extending its end of the rail trail – a project being undertaken by Fulton County government.

“Apparently the city of Johnstown isn’t very serious about the extension of this rail trail,” he said, citing a Leader-Herald article.

Minden Supervisor Thomas Quackenbush said Subik “enlightened” the board and moved to table the resolution. The General Services Committee will re-examine the purchase proposal when it meets Sept. 17.

Board Chairman John Thayer of Root said the county should “at least give Fulton County the chance to discuss it.”