By Dave Warner

Parks & Trails New York staff and a representative from the Canal Corporation briefed community members on the Empire State Trail Town Program during a workshop on Monday night. The next morning, several local cyclists took to the City streets and the trail to discuss some of the existing challenges and opportunities.

Dylan Carey, with Parks & Trails, stated, “Little Falls has really shown a commitment, dedication, and interest in exploring what’s possible with the trail. I think there’s a lot of potential. Little Falls has a unique location along the trail. It’s very much a trail-side community, and I think there’s been a lot of interest in exploring how best to tell that unique story and heritage that the community has and building off of that.”

Carey said that the community has two paths forward after these meetings. “There’s the formal path of what we will do through the program. PTNY will review everything people are discussing and the information we’ve gathered and develop an action agenda.”

He said the report will include a list of recommendations and different measures the community can take to make itself more welcoming to trail users. “It will include a list of funding opportunities to pursue and some of the short-term and long-term recommendations. It’s going to be a valuable asset for the community to have.”

“The reality is, the community is building a network of people who are passionate about the trail, and they’re looking at ways to connect and work together and really develop as a community – to seize the trail as a focal point of what makes Little Falls special,” he stated.

Carey said that a true benefit of the Trail Town Program was the community-building aspect. “The development of the Trail Town Community is an asset for the community.”

Sasha Del Peral, Canal Corporation’s trail manager, said, “I’m here because Canal Corporation is committed to helping communities connect to the canalway and its trail network. We want to build that connection as best as possible, and with our work through Parks & Trails sponsorship money that we give them, they can use their grass-roots advocacy to help communities develop an action plan that brings them more traffic.”

She stated that all of the effort is focused on making Little Falls a destination for cyclists, paddlers, and others on the trail. “What’s good for the trail is also good for the waterway, so I see this as a dual benefit program.”

Del Peral also said that improving the corridors and connection areas in Little Falls is vital.

Another key item she thought was: “How do we make people not in Little Falls know that it exists so they want to come here? How do we use this program to amplify what you’ve already done?”

“Can Parks & Trails do some promotion? Can Canal Corporation? Can we help fund a grant here? These are the building blocks, and this will all culminate in an action plan that outlines what it will take to make Little Falls a Trail Town,” she stated.

Del Peral said, “In Little Falls, we don’t have a lot of property ownership on the trail, so it’s really up to the community here to implement that plan.”

Mayor Deborah Kaufman stated, “Seeing our city through the eyes of our Trail Town representatives was like visiting Little Falls for the first time. They had so many great ideas and a fresh perspective on what is possible with a few well-placed enhancements. We have such a great opportunity for increased tourism and economic development as a trailway community. It’s very exciting!”