Manning said the idea for pursuing the Smart Growth grant came from the need for a recreational trail. Without wanting to financially burden residents, he began to research other options for funding. Manning wrote the grant proposal to the state, explaining the positive effects the project would have on the community, as well as visitors to the area.
The project, “Wheelerville Trails,” will be designed to focus on expanding recreational opportunities in the town, with a particular emphasis on mountain biking. There is a need to compensate for limited trail infrastructure in the southern Adirondacks, Manning said. The next step is for the town to approve the next phase of the plan.
“If the town chooses to accept the Smart Growth funds in the form of a 100 percent reimbursement grant, we will be contracting with Wilderness Property Management Inc. of Wevertown, for $6,000,” Manning said. “They expect to have the project completed within one year. This phase of the project will consist of planning, feasibility and risk assessment and design for trails on town-owned lands.”
In addition to mountain biking, Manning said the trails would be able to be utilized year-round for hiking, trail running, cross country skiing and snowshoeing. If the plan moves forward, the trails would most likely be maintained by a group of community volunteers, or through stewardship efforts of a local bike club.
“Should the project move forward, I believe it will be possible to work with local riders and groups like the Adirondack Velo Club to maintain these trails, thereby minimizing the maintenance required by the town,” Manning said. “Wheelerville Trails would consist of a variety of levels of technical difficulty thereby attracting riders of all levels of skill.”
In 1961, town of Caroga officials agreed to acquire the lands being considered for the Wheelerville Trails project in an effort to increase the amount of lands available for recreational use. Manning explained the trail symbolizes the forward direction the town is taking to continue to tap into its’ natural beauty and resources. He said the development of the trail will protect the character of the area.
“The Wheelerville Trails project is the development of a clear path forward in better providing unique recreational resources to residents and visitors of the town of Caroga,” Manning said. “The development of a plan for a unique trail system will become a draw for recreational tourism. The study of the project seeks to protect the integrity of the Adirondack Park and the natural aesthetic and environmental quality of the town of Caroga; and the development of a project the fosters healthy lifestyle choices and promotes a positive quality of life.”
Currently, the project remains in the assessment phase, with the goal being to assess the feasibility of a multi-use trail system on town-owned lands. They will also look at the possibility of connecting this trail system with both the Town Center and other trail systems that are under consideration in the immediate area.
“The goal is to start small, provide a unique, high quality recreational resource, learn how to maintain and deliver this resource and expand slowly over time,” said Manning.
The assessment will look at having between 5 and 7 miles of bike and walking trails able to accommodate all skill levels. The town of Caroga passed a resolution back in March approving the recreational assessment proposal from Wilderness Property Management LLC., or WPM, for the amount not to exceed $6,000. The town also approved the submission for the 2016 Smart Growth Implementation Grant in an effort to fund the planning phase. The plans to work with representatives from WPM to review their findings, design and recommendations.
Smart Growth grants aim to help identify locally-led priorities for community development, leverage surrounding natural areas for public enjoyment, and collaborate on initiatives throughout the Catskill and Adirondack Parks.