YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Plans to build another hiking trail in Yorktown have been delayed after residents expressed concerns over the proximity of the trail to their homes and the unsavory element they say it could potentially attract.
Supervisor Michael Grace expressed surprise over the objections, saying the town was told the Yorktown Trail Town Committee had reached out to the neighbors along the trail and “there was no objection” to it.
Residents who attended the town board’s June 5 meeting said a notice they received in the mail a few weeks ago was the first time they’d heard of the plan. Committee members told Yorktown News there were previous notices dating as far back as October 2016.
Known as the Mohansic Trailway, the new trail would follow the town-owned abandoned railroad spur from Route 118 opposite Downing Drive to Baldwin Road near French Hill School. If finished, it would connect FDR Park’s existing trails to the community’s business district with 600 feet of boardwalk and three bridges. It has been a topic of discussion at televised meetings and work sessions since last year.
Volunteers have already begun sections of the project in FDR Park, but certain requirements need to be met before they can begin work on the land belonging to the town. After the residents spoke against the idea, Grace withdrew a request for a required wetland permit application. Jane Daniels, president of Friends of FDR Park and secretary of Yorktown Trail Town Committee, said that would set the project back by a few months.
Some homeowners questioned whether the town even needed an additional trail. Others said the proposed trail triggers fears of transients wandering the trail and breaking into their homes or kidnapping their children. For others, the connected trailway would be a dream-come-true.
“Ninety-nine percent of the users that will be using the trail, I’m sure, have great intentions, but you can’t stop the one percent of the wrongdoers out there,” resident Anthony Pili said, “whether it is litter, vandalism, potential robbery or worse—child abduction.”
Susan Siegel, a member of the trail committee, said the residents received notices with contact information and just one resident responded with positive feedback.
Grace said he didn’t believe the miscommunication was deliberate, but that whatever communication occurred between the trail committee and the residents was ineffective.
Pili and other residents with similar concerns said they would support the project more if there was a fence, or barrier.
It was pointed out by Siegel that there is a 100-foot-wide wetland buffering the properties on White Birch Drive from the proposed trail, and that the homes are not visible, additionally, the vegetation has thorns.
Richard and Laura Castellano live near the entrance to the FDR State Park side of the trail on Baldwin Road. Richard, a Vietnam combat veteran, said he values the solitude of the residential area, but would be open to the idea if there was a fence. He added that his car had been robbed once, and he believes it’s because of his home’s proximity to the North County Trailway.
Laura said they can hear young people on the trail at night and that they leave “loaded out of their minds.”
“We have enough trails in this town,” she said. “We pay a lot of taxes; we have beautiful trails. We don’t need another trail.”
She and other residents also said they believe underage drinking is prevalent due to a lack of age-appropriate venues available for youths.
Daniels said the Friends of FDR is working with police to correct any underage drinking, and that many residents will call town police when the state park has jurisdiction.
Currently, the area for the proposed trailway sees little activity, Daniels said, and once it picks up traffic she expects the underage drinking in that area to cease.
“If you have people walking on the trailway, the kids are not going back there to drink beer,” she said. “They want to drink beer in private.”
Mark Kotkin said that his neighbors’ concerns are genuine, but he doesn’t believe this addition to Yorktown trails would exacerbate any of the issues they mentioned.
“There is a park right off the end of Strang [Boulevard] and I know people who live right next to that park, where there are trails and they don’t have any problems,” he said. “You’re going to have a problem no matter what you do. Will this make it worse? I don’t think so.”
He also said he currently uses the trails and has to drive his car to the entrances of certain pathways in order to use his bike, so Kotkin said he favors the proposal.
“It’s my dream that I could take my bike from FDR all the way to Yorktown; [to] stop off at some of the stores or just go on the trail,” he said. “So, it would be a value added for people like me to have that particular trail.”
Bill Kellner of the Tree Conservation Advisory Commission said Kotkin likely wouldn’t be the only person to use the trail to visit shops. Other New York State communities that have similar connectivity among trails see increased visitation to their towns and businesses.
Speaking to Daniels’ point regarding the impact on underage drinking in the area, Kellner said boardwalks in the town of New Castle haven’t had any problems since more people started using the paths. Those boardwalks are under the auspices of the Saw Mill River Audubon, of which he is a board member.
Kellner also said the impact to the wetlands would be minimal and temporary, and that the Tree Conservation Advisory Commission supports the project.
“This is a great way to connect people with nature, especially when you have a wheelchair accessible trail,” he said. “It’s [connecting people] with nature who might not ordinarily have the opportunity.”