Greenway Trails for a Green Future
On the cusp of the New York State Parks’ Centennial in 2024, Parks & Trails New York envisions a fully realized network of linear greenspace–accessible to all New Yorkers and functioning as a driver for equity, public health, and the economy–connecting New York State for the next 100 years and beyond.
Ensuring our state’s regulations support the expansion and the safe, convenient use of our greenway trail network by all New Yorkers
In 2017, New York State announced the creation of the 750-mile Empire State Trail (EST), connecting Buffalo to Albany and the Canadian border to NYC. The $200 million in state funding leveraged an additional $100 million in additional funding to close gaps in existing trails, construct new trails, and extend other trails, and provided signage marking existing trails as part of the EST and necessary enhancements including trailheads, informational signage, and other amenities for trail users. Despite this investment, EST remains far from reaching its full potential as a world-class recreational, economic, and transportation asset. Large sections are unsafe and unfinished, and key connections are lacking. The trail currently reaches only 24 of New York State’s 62 cities. A third of the EST is on-road, without physical separation from fast moving cars and trucks. The trail currently fails to reach Long Island, key parts of New York City, and dozens of nearby upstate cities and parks.
While additional funding is critical to meeting this need, policy and regulation changes are also needed to ensure that trail users can have a safe, enjoyable, high-quality experience on New York’s greenway trails. Funding for expansion must be met with additional support for ensuring that greenway trail networks are well-maintained to consistent standards. Meanwhile, additional regulatory changes can explore the opportunities to extend greenway networks along existing utility corridors, to overcome natural and man-made barriers in extending greenway, and to provide the state and local governments with the flexibility to direct transportation funding to meet residents’ demands for additional greenway infrastructure. These changes can be made in advance of hoped-for future allocations of funding for expanding the state’s greenway network, ensuring that New Yorkers are getting the greatest value for their investments.
Pass the Greenway Trails for a Green Future Act
In Fall 2023, PTNY spurred the introduction of a new package of legislation that would greatly enhance trail user safety and spur the development of new greenway trails across New York State. This package consists of three bills that enhance trail user safety and four bills that would remove regulatory barriers, create incentives, and explore other opportunities to expand New York’s network of greenway trails to serve all New Yorkers.
Trail User Safety & Experience
- Right-of-Way for All Trail Users in Crosswalks | A8272 (Fahy) /S8210 (Cooney) - Clarify that bicyclists using a crosswalk have the same right-of-way protections afforded to pedestrians. By treating all trail users consistently, confusion and safety risks for bicyclists will be reduced.
- Empire State Trail Detour Requirements | A8274 (Fahy)/S7807 (Serrano) - Require the establishment of safe detour routes during temporary closures of sections of the Empire State Trail. New York State welcomes thousands of visitors from around the world for long distance, multi-day trips on the Empire State Trail. This bill ensures that trail users are provided safe alternative routes to continue their trips when the trail must be closed for safety or construction.
- Greenway Trail Design Standards | A8301 (Fahy)/S7806 (Serrano) - Direct OPRHP to promulgate uniform design standards for all new greenway trails established under its jurisdiction to ensure a consistent, simple, high-quality trail user experience across our statewide trail network.
Trail Network Expansion & Connections
- Power Line Trails | A8311 (Fahy) /S7891 (Harckham) - Encourage the development of recreational multi-use trails in NYS’s vast network of electric utility corridors by allowing utility providers to enter into written agreements for the construction and maintenance of power line trails. The legislation would also require utility providers to provide informational resources and to notify municipalities about the potential to build a trail in the corridor when planning for the expansion or construction of transmission lines. This bill will set the stage to expand the state’s network of greenway trails by focusing on New York State’s plans for billions of dollars in investment to update existing, and construct new, transmission lines.
- CHIPS Funding Formula Update | A8273 (Fahy) /S7890 (Harckham) - Allow funding from New York’s Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) program provided to local governments for transportation purposes to be used to build greenway trails and updates the formula for the Local Highway Inventory that is used to calculate CHIPS allocations to include greenway trail mileage. Identified as a priority in the 2021 Statewide Greenway Trails Plan, this bill removes a disincentive for the removal of motorized traffic lanes and increases critical funding for building and maintaining greenway trails.
- Recreational Use Statute | A6004 (Barrett)/S2701 (Harckham) - Encourage the development of rails-with-trails, power line trails, and other greenway trails by clarifying the liability of property owners who allow the public to access their land for recreational purposes. Protects property owners who allow recreational access to their property from actions resulting in harm or death, removing a critical barrier to trail creation.
- Bicycle & Pedestrian Access on Bridges | A8300 (Fahy) - Direct the NYS Bridge, Thruway and other Public Authorities to promote bicyclist and pedestrian access on bridges statewide and to consider the impact of capital projects on bicyclist and pedestrian access. Across New York State, bridges over water bodies, other roadways or railroads are often barriers to pedestrian and bicycle access, rather than connections. This bill will assess significant gaps and barriers in statewide bicycle/pedestrian networks to enhance connectivity.