November 22, 2008

I have enjoyed many sections of the Auburn Trail.  I think the narrow character meets the needs of most users.  Last Saturday, two friends and I negotiated the three thousand undeveloped feet in question.  After trying to envision how the character of this area would change by continuation of the trail, we walked up and back the same distance on Railroad Mills Road.  Only three cars went by us, all at a reasonable rate of speed.
Looking back at the terrain it appears the road alignment is better than the  proposed trail alignment.  I would therefore suggest, that if the intent of connecting the trail is to provide a transportation corridor, I propose that people exit the trail and use Railroad Mills Road. People interested in nature and passive recreation can enjoy this area via the Audubon Nature Club.  People who are in a hurry, on a bike for instance, could traverse this area by simply using the road surface.  The resources that would have been spent here, could then be applied somewhere else on the Auburn Trail.  This suggestion might make the majority of the people happy.
Many long trails have brief road walks around special environmental or difficult areas.  Most users do not find this to be objectionable.

Hiker and Trail Builder

November 22, 2008

I am very concerned about the possible loss of habitat and unique flora and fauna in the Railroad Mills section of the Auburn Trail if the trail widening proposal takes place.   Please, consider limiting the trail development to a three foot width or less as the nature of this gem would be comprised, if not lost, if turned into a roadway. 
A couple of times a year, I hike on the Auburn Trail and have always found that the narrow sections to be more than adequate. I find the narrow sections quite wonderful as they retain the wild character that is so desirable to the passive recreation population when we select a hiking destination.
Adirondack Mountain Club Member

November 22, 2008

I would like to urge you not to put down a six foot wide crushed stone path on the Auburn Trail Extension in the Railroad Mills Spcial Environmental Area: even a three foot path would be unnecessary in my opinion. I would like to see just that short stretch left alone, as it is, with signage explaining its value.
 When I was on the trail recently, a bike rider came along, and he said something about being eager to have the trail completed. When asked why, he told of the difficulty of getting his bike down and then up the steep washed out bank at the colapsed culvert at Irondequoit Creek several hundred feet back. 
 He then characterized the completed portion of the trail as good for riding, but said that this section that we were in, the Railroad Mills nature area, was quite different, very peaceful and quiet, allowing one to feel much closer to nature. He saw it as a different experience from riding on the 10' wide trail, and said he wouldn't mind the widened trail being interrupted by this intimate nature path for the brief 3,000 feet it runs.
 As a member of the new Bicycle Trail Committee of the Town of Brighton, I certainly think the drop-offs at the Creek crossing need to be fixed. But I think it is entirely acceptable to let the trail as is in the Railroad Mills area. It fills a unique ecological niche, with turtles digging nests right on the trail, birds and butterflies finding their specific host and foraging foods, amphibians finding upland after breeding in the adjacent
wetlands.It would be a brief but interesting diversion for bikers, and even wheelchairs could manage this short distance, the trail being stable and well packed, with good traction provided by the hardy grasses growing alongside the narrow foot path.
 Hoping that Victor does all it can to preserve this unique and valuable ecosystem, I am thanking you for your careful stewardship.

Member Bicycle Trail Committee of the Town of Brighton

November 21, 2008

          The purpose of this correspondence is to express my concern regarding expansion proposed for this trail.  While rails to trails overall is a meritorious program this effort appears to have serious flaws in design and process. In particular:

Concern over the widening of trail in sensitive ecological areas to six or more feet is clearly justified. Such a wide trail will encourage ATV trespass, result in increased disturbance to birds and other wildlife and adversely impact the ability of a user group, birders, to pursue their avocation. My understanding is that a section of about 3000 feet is the primary concern of birders and other naturalists. It is inappropriate not to adjust design on such a small sectors to the recommendations of this important and growing stakeholder group.

Before establishing my own business ,I was land Steward in the Central/Western Chapter of the Nature Conservancy for many years. As such I was familiar with areas like Bentley Woods and other sites in and near Victor. I had a number of interactions with the Victor Tails Club in the 1990s. I am sure that reasonable people in that organization will understand the imperative of adjusting trail width to protect sensitive resources and provide opportunities for birders and other naturalists to enjoy their use of the trail.

During my tenure with the Nature Conservancy I had the pleasure of professional interactions with Mr. Steve Daniel. Steve is a fine Plant Ecologist and Naturalist. It would be prudent for town government and state/federal agencies to take his advice regarding the two state rare plant populations found on this site and other ecological matters. Failing to do so would be a blatant disregard of one principal of trail design i.e. using sound scientific data as part of the effort, In my thirty plus year career, I have designed many hiking trails for the Nature Conservancy and other organizations. It is essential to protect extant ecological resources at all trail sites during creation or expansion.

A brief review of the Auburn Trail process to this point causes me concern. It appears that the process may not be fully inclusionary and has been directed toward a pre-determined goal driven by one or more privileged user groups. I hope that this impression is mistaken because if not the result may be bad public policy subject to Article 78 challenge. I respectfully suggest that the town board and agencies adjust this rather small section of trail to a three-foot wide primitive portion. This compromise will apparently preserve the plant resources of concern and recreational opportunities of nature oriented user groups. Such a compromise is good public policy and creates a collegial atmosphere where no stakeholders are disenfranchised.
Thank you for considering my views on this matter and best wishes for the holiday season.

Avian Ecologist and  President of the Onondaga Audubon Society

November 21, 2008

The Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area is a unique natural area nestled in a rapidly growing community.  As such, it should be protected.   The current plan of widening the trail to a 6’ width with 2’ shoulders destroys the aesthetic features of this area and places a variety of plants and animals at risk.  The compromise plan, which proposes a 3’ width,  is preferable for protection of this resource, and the ideal strategy to provide optimum protection yet access to the variety of trail uses is to leave it as is, with no widening from its current footprint. 

Assistant Professor, Biology
Monroe Community College

November 21, 2008

Rochester Butterfly Club
Comments on and to be included with the Draft Design Report, Auburn Trail Extension PIN 4760.35

Page IV-8, IV.B.1.e. point (1)  “Social Groups Benefited or Harmed” of the draft design document states that “no identified social groups would be significantly benefited or harmed.”
The Rochester Butterfly Club does not agree with this statement as it relates to the section between Railroad Mills Road and the collapsed culvert.
If the proposed plans go through, and the trail is widened to 6’ stone dust, the Rochester Butterfly Club has stated that we will no longer have any reason to visit this special area for field trips or butterfly study.
We made this statement after careful consideration of the butterflies that we see along that section of the trail, and the plants they use that are growing in the meadow habitat right along the corridor. We based the statement on many hours of fieldwork at this site, along with a study of the butterfly records that represent many thousands of sightings from 14 years of data collected by our members at butterfly sites around the Rochester area.
Our reasons for this statement are because of the impacts this proposal will have on both butterflies and butterfly watchers.
Impact on Butterflies: In their design document Victor states that their proposal will result in a loss of over 60% of the meadow habitat that the trail runs through. Since meadows are the main habitat for most butterflies, this is a very significant loss of habitat. For most of the trail length, this will leave just a two foot wide strip of vegetation between the stone dust trail and the surrounding woody vegetation. This does not provide sufficient habitat for butterflies.
Impact on Butterfly Watchers: The removal of over 60% of the meadow habitat will mean many fewer butterflies up close, compared with the excellent viewing opportunities currently along this part of the trail. In addition to this, the projected speed of 15 mph for bicycles that is stated in the draft design document will mean that if any butterflies still venture near the trail they will be disturbed and fly away. This will make any remaining butterfly watching and photography a difficult and frustrating experience, hence we anticipate that if the 6’ proposal goes ahead, this will no longer be a suitable site for our field trips or butterfly watching.
Over the past few years, our area has lost several excellent butterfly sites as a result of human activities such as intensive mowing, herbicide application and a failed wetland mitigation project that wiped out an entire field. Invasive plants have taken their toll by degrading many formerly good butterfly sites.  We very much hope that this special place will not be added to the list of sites directly damaged by human activity.
Please help us in our endeavors to preserve places for our butterflies for the future.

November 21, 2008

We support the proposal to limit the Auburn Trail through the 3000 foot section of the Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area to 3 feet wide. This portion of the Auburn Trail has incredible diversity by virtue of its geology and hydrology. It contains a wide variety of plant species providing both food and shelter for birds, butterflies and insects. Further widening will disturb and degrade the valuable grassy portion of the trail.
It is imperative we preserve small areas of great natural diversity that have evolved over time. RRMSEA should be a nature classroom for generations to follow. Please evaluate and acknowledge the environmental impact of a wider trail through this 3000 feet.

November 21, 2008

The Many Voices of the Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area (RRMSEA)
We are walkers and birders, bicyclists and photographers, skiers, butterfly watchers, artists, educators and naturalists. We are neighbors and visitors from both nearby and farther away. We are the young and old, able and not so much anymore. We are groups, families, couples and single folk. These are the people who use the trail and all have one thread in common: A deep appreciation and respect for nature and the value of such a natural - environmentally diverse - location such as RRMSEA to both individual and community.
Letters from these trail users in support of minimal or even no change to the trail submitted through the website are well written, impassioned and unique to the writer.  Their reasons for visiting RRMSEA are as diverse as their hobbies and yet their uniting theme is their passionate desire to protect this special natural place. It clearly has meaning – natural aesthetic value if you will – far beyond the environmental issues that are also of concern.
The Coalition, although made up of five local organizations, really advocates for this much larger group of people – as evidenced by the outpouring of comments through the website, letters, petitions, feedback on the Auburn Trail website, and attendance at meetings. And these comments reflect only a few of the greater, but silent majority.
The trail as it exists now is used by all of these users, including bicyclists. It is safe and users pass each other without incident. At the risk of mentioning the tricky issue of ADA- accessibility, one wheel chair user prefers the trail be left alone and 4 writers expressed concern about pushing wheelchairs in stone dust. ADA-accessibility should not be used against a minimal width trail, when their individual opinions as users are also divided.
A wider, stone dust trail as proposed would allow bicyclists to pass each other at higher speeds. What other benefits will a wider trail bring that this trail does not already offer to its current users? In fact, comments from current users indicate that the proposed wider trail would deter many of them from the very experiences they value in their visits to this unique area.
A diverse, large, and growing number of concerned trail users wish minimal change to RRMSEA.   It is incumbent on the Planners to give this many voices due consideration.

Board Member, Rochester Birding Association

November 19, 2008

        As a user of the Auburn Trail, and familiar with it over some years, I am writing to discuss the proposal to widen this environmentally sensitive area from Powder Mill Park through the Burroughs Audubon Nature Sanctuary across Railroad Mills Road to Fishers Road, Fishers.  This stretch is one of the last complete stretches of wilderness to be found along
Irondequoit Creek through marsh and fen, wood and meadow.  There is great diversity along this footpath, specifically
 from Railroad Mills Road to the new bridge, both of habitat and of plant, animal and bird species.  Careful examination and counting have established 215 species of plants living there, several extremely rare, and as well, 130 species of birds that use this area as home and in migration. It is an area for appreciation and study.
        The effect on life in this corridor of a proposed widening of the path to six feet, with two to three foot verges and graded, would be, I think, a blind and spendthrift act.  And birds which eat the seeds of small plants along the present path would be deprived, turtles would be deprived of a warm spot for egg laying, and many more examples can be given.
Why be wasteful with wilderness when careful planning can find healthy compromise?
        Please seriously consider creating a three foot wide accessible trail that will preserve this sensitive and unique environment.  Six foot width (ten feet in all) would be destructive and too wide.

November 19, 2008

I urge you to preserve the special environment that is found in RRMSEA. The current plans for a 6' stone dust trail will have serious environmental and aesthetic impacts which are inappropriate for this section. If the planned trail widening occurs, the linear meadow - and the food and cover it now offers for sparrows and other seed eating birds - will be eliminated. It is vital that we protect jewels like this area from such detrimental changes.

November 19, 2008
I wish to make a  few comments about the Auburn Trail Extension project.  I am writing to you because your names were listed on the Coalition for the Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area website as individuals to contact.
I attended the open hearing in the Town of Victor on November 6th and have also reviewed some material on the RRMSEA website and the Auburn Trail website.  The concept of providing additional biking paths is fine with me and I can appreciate the need for linking trails.  Overall, it sounds like a very good project, but I am concerned about the Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area.
Based on what was presented at the open hearing, it seems to me there are discrepancies with several parts of the project including the minimum width of an acceptable path, whether this extension will actually connect to a trail at the canal in Pittsford and, the discrepancy of most concern to me, the potential effects on the ecology and biodiversity of the environmentally sensitive area.
I have hiked a good portion of the trail in the environmentally sensitive area.  I like it there and have gone there to observe birds, other wildlife and just enjoy walking the trail.  I've seen one mourning warbler in my life and I saw it there.  If it were up to me, I guess I wouldn't change it at all. However, I fully recognize the requests and needs of others and advocate that, if a bike trail is placed there, that the minimal acceptable width be used.  As I mentioned, I'm not really sure what that width is (3 ft, 6 ft, or somewhere in between) - in my opinion the discrepancies between the groups' claims should be resolved before the project begins in this area.
My concern is that the biodiversity and ecology of the environmentally sensitive area could be negatively affected by this project and that this has not been adequately studied.  It appears that the biodiversity in this area is very high as volunteer naturalists have documented over thirty species of butterflies, hundreds of species of plants, and tremendous bird diversity just in parts of this small region.  A coordinated, scientific census and study may reveal much more.  I advocate for 5-10% of the budget for this project be used to carry out an ecological study of this area.  This could be a great project for a local college student(s), provide the Town of Victor with a great deal of information about a special resource located there, and provide information for the nature interpretation areas the RRMSEA is proposing be placed along the path (please don't overlook the educational opportunities in this project).
Ideally, this ecological study would be completed before the construction of a path in this area because the knowledge gained could help make decisions about things such as the width of the path and location of interpretive areas.  However, if it is not done before, I still advocate that a portion of the budget be used to complete an ecological study.  This is because the increased use of this area will likely result in more proposals for changes in the future.  A census of the biodiversity present now and some baseline data will help evaluate any future proposals, just as it would help evaluate this one.

November 19, 2008

I urge you to keep Auburn Trail in the RRMSEA to a width of 3 feet. That is a usable trail width while still maintaining the diversity of plants and animals in the area.

This is a very special area that allows people to come in contact with an amazing number of birds, butterflies, amphibians and reptiles, as well as some mammals. Nature lovers can find peace and quiet here. The flat open areas alongside the trail are important habitat and should be maintained.

Widening the trail to the proposed 6 feet will destroy important meadow habitat needed by many of the plants and animals to survive. It will also decrease the wilderness effect and turn the pathway into a busy travel corridor.

November 19, 2008

I am writing to express my disagreement with the current town of Victor plan to widen the Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area (RRMSEA) to a six foot wide trail.  I strongly support the compromise proposal by the Coalition to Save the RMSEA that would allow the path to be widened to no more than three feet.

As a biking enthusiast and nature lover, I wish to make clear that cyclists do not always want wide paved paths that destroy habitat.  If a wide path were the only need of cyclists, we would be riding on the canal path, other paved trails, and the roads and streets around Rochester that have bike lanes - all of which I utilize when I'm riding for exercise and/or speed. There are plenty of trails and roads already in the Rochester area that meet this need. But as a nature enthusiast, bird lover, and photographer, I'm also looking for those unique environments that allow access to bikes, but do not harm the existing habitat. This is what the RRMSEA currently provides and should continue to provide in the future.  I have been on the trail many times and enjoy its quiet, peaceful location for listening to and photographing the birds.  I have ridden on bike paths and trails all across this country.  I don't expect, or more importantly don't want, a 6 foot wide path with no stops. I expect stops at busy streets the paths cross, at congested pedestrian areas, and at special natural environments that offer interpretive signage. This should be Victor's aim for the RRMSEA.

Don't destroy more habitat that nurtures birds, unique plants, and butterflies.  Don't forsake our children's future environment for the sake of allowing bicycles to go 15 mph (a VERY fast speed).  Please have the foresight to preserve this last remaining contiguous piece of wild land in our region and allow use, now and in the future, that matches its special qualities.  Keep the trail narrow.  Keep speeding bikes off the trail. Let future generations thank us for saving something so special.

ciaPhoto Nature Photography

November 19, 2008

I am writing to express my support for the proposal to widen the Auburn Trail at Railroad Mills NO WIDER THAN 3 FEET, as required by ADA. When I first heard of this effort by the Coalition to Save RRMSEA, I wasn’t sure I was in agreement. I am a trail maintainer for the Ontario Pathway in Canandaigua and I know how fast things grow back so I thought it would not have much of an impact. But then I went there and experienced it for myself. The Town of Victor’s proposal to widen the trail to six feet would substantially alter the character of the trail and diminish opportunities for bird watching and other wildlife viewing. This section has become a popular hotspot for birders because it is an “oasis” in a populated area. I urge you to limit the trail improvement to a 3 foot corridor.

Trail maintainer for the Ontario Pathway in Canandaigua

November 18, 2008

For several decades, I have been studying and enjoying nature, specifically the flora of North America.  Our rich natural resources support many fauna, such as butterflies and birds, which are a joy to see.  I am also a bicycle rider and have had the privilege of riding on many of the Rails-to-Trails paths throughout the United States and the many paved and dirt bike paths in United States and in Ontario, Canada.

The bike paths are of various widths, and where they are narrow (approximately 3 foot width), I have never had any problems with other users approaching me from the opposite direction.  Most of us bike riders are courteous and will stop and pull over to the side, if necessary.  (usually the other bike rider also will stop and exchange brief pleasantries).

Concerning the section of trail from Railroad Mills Road to the collapsed culvert.  This is a unique place, almost akin, but on a smaller scale to Labrador Hollow south of Syracuse or the Rome Sand Plains.  If the trail is widened to more than three feet, it will destroy the uniqueness of the place, that is, the wild plants that are currently next to the dirt path (the trail) will be destroyed, and so too will the environment that the birds and butterflies are using. That would make for a very sterile corridor and it would be a travesty to destroy such a natural resource that this area is blessed with.

November 18, 2008

These comments are intended to become part of the Design report. Please so incorporate them.
The project process for subject trail development grinds on. However misconceptions and oversights have kept the process and particularly the public process from being forthright. FHWA's form letter response to several letters that offered different concerns and asked different questions did not portray a response based on careful consideration but rather a reiteration of the project sponsor's comments designed to support their original premise for a TEP Grant.
That same response suggested a three foot path would jeopardize the grant. I believe that the lack of due diligence in the environmental review connected with this project is a far greater threat to the implementation of the project and or use of federal money which requires compliance with NEPA and SEQR. The coalition has identified at least two (2) new threatened plant species that would have been found by the project sponsor if due diligence was exercised. The New York State Heritage Program is now aware of these findings. They can no longer be ignored.
The projected bicycle traffic for this project is speculative at best. The bicycle traffic demand to and from Powder Mill Park in the Town of Perinton and Victor has obvious limits even to the casual observer. Much of the projected traffic was projected for this project as a link in a Regional system of trails. Given the demand for public works dollars for the deteriorating infrastructure of the country and specifically for bridges it is highly unlikely that the necessary money would ever become available for the connecting link from Railroad Mills Road (or Woolston Rd) to the canal path necessary for connection to the regional system. The high cost of a structure over Route 96 and the Canal for that connection makes such a project cost prohibitive. The Pittsford town Supervisor said exactly this when asked about continuation of the Auburn Trail thru his town.
When the Town of Victor is ready to begin the necessary environmental review consistent with the now existing documentation of impact to at least two (2) threatened species, I remain available to them (as I have offered throughout the project process) to create a win-win  solution that allows the project to move forward while the proper environmental studies within RRMSEA are conducted. I am speaking from over 40 years of transportation project experience and a record of implementing projects in difficult environmental and social conflict arenas.

November 18, 2008

I am a member of a local hiking group ( Wednesday Hikers)  that  benefits  from the unusual beauty of this local Rochester environment.

 I am deeply concerned about the recent proposal to widen the Auburn trail in Victor.

This trail is a showcase of fragile, indigenous plants, a harbor for   local wild animals, birds, and insects.  The immediate trail borders contain refuge for this wild life.

I  am   most  supportive of following the ADA laws to accommodate wheelchair travel by a widening of this  trail to an increased  width of three feet.
 Please consider the ramifications of tampering  further - up to six feet- with this hiking pathway.
To widen this pathway  even more so,  as stated  in the recent proposal,  would be an extreme detriment to our  present wildlife, and effects for  those who follow   us in  the future.

Member, Wednesday Hikers

November 18, 2008

Please, please, please do not disturb this small section of the Auburn Trail, or if you must, please disturb it as little as possible.  The amazing thing about this section is that even novices like me can discover natural wonders up close, even without a guide.  It's only 3000' long!   I have personally watched a green heron hunting and feeding, saw my first Black-billed Cuckoo and been inspired by the variety, colors, and songs of warblers and sparrows.  Mind you, I am not an expert, but when you walk along this short path with an expert it's like a  trip to the hottest "hotspot" for seeing  things you've never seen before. 

I've only recently discovered some of the wonderful places in the Rochester area to walk and simply enjoy the woods, meadows, lake, and wetlands.  I've led hikes on other sections of the Auburn Trail and have no problem with making them handicapped-accessible. This little section, however, is such a gem that it should be left undisturbed for many more to discover in it's pristine state.  How could it be restored, once this unique 3000' is disturbed? 

November 18, 2008

            I recently had the opportunity to hike on the section of the Auburn Trail known as the Rail Road Mills Special Environmental Area, and feel compelled during this period of public comment to submit my comments concerning the proposed width of the improved trail.
            As a professional musician and avocational fiber artist, I find that experiencing our natural surroundings is imperative to renewal and to reconnecting with reality. In providing access to this area, let us not ignore the preservation of this tranquility and its elements.
            While I understand the value in providing a safely maintained trail for many kinds of users, it is of equal importance to protect the very plants and wildlife we come to see in this short stretch of trail. In particular, practically all of the vegetation in the unique 10-foot wide section which drops off steeply on both sides of the raised railroad berm would be razed in order to construct the 6-foot wide path and additional shoulders. This would be devastating for the environment (eliminating habitat for birds, butterflies, insects, and other small animals) and for the visitors (who come here to be surrounded by nature).
            I urge you and your associates to support the 3-foot path proposal for the RRMSEA, providing occasional turnouts to allow for easing of traffic (if present) and for rest, introspection, and observation. While fulfilling the ADA requirements, this would allow for variety in the trail and also bring attention to the special attributes of this section of the trail – descriptive signage could enhance the public’s understanding of the area.

November 18, 2008

I am a resident of Syracuse, however, I spend many weekends in Rochester visiting friends and birding.  This past September in particular, I had the pleasure of joining others for the NYSOA field trip to the Auburn Trail.  In short, it's one of the most beautiful and pristine trails I have been to in a long time!  Speaking as an avid cyclist, I would like to see this trail left "as is" to help preserve the diverse wildlife habitat that it supports.  There are so few areas today where one can walk quietly and observe nature without the disquieting presence of a lot of bicycles and/or motorized vehicles.  I have read the proposal and feel that even a 3' trail would have a tremendous environmental impact.
The Auburn Trail needs to be left untouched, to be enjoyed by those who visit it for what it offers - now and for years to come.  In closing, I would ask you to please reconsider this proposal. 
"If future generations are to remember us more with gratitude than sorrow, we must achieve more than just the miracles of technology.  We must also leave them a glimpse of the world as it was created, not just as it looked when we got through with it" - Lyndon B. Johnson

November 18, 2008

While visiting the Rochester area in October, I had a chance to hike the Auburn Trail section in Victor with friends. We enjoyed the unspoiled beauty of the trail, and had great fun observing flocks of migrating birds of various species that were feeding in the grasses and shrubs along it. My friends also pointed out several uncommon plants growing right on the trail.
I believe that the proposed widening of this path to a 6'  stone-dust trail with mowed shoulder is excessive and will spoil the undisturbed feel of this area. A wider trail also has the potential to attract use by off-road vehicles that would use it as a convenient speedway. I have seen this happen in my neighboring town of Suncook, NH where a section of railroad bed of the historic Concord-Portsmouth Railway was converted to an 8' gravel trail. It is attracting ATV users who have found ways around several barriers and have become a real nuisance to hikers and nature watchers using the trail.
I urge you to consider the less invasive trail widening to a max. of 3' as proposed by the Coalition to Save the RRMSEA which, I believe,  would preserve most of the beautiful unspoiled character of this sensitive area.

November 17, 2008

       I am writing t ask that the Auburn Trail be left as it is and that the six foot wide expansion planned be curtailed. Refuges of wildlife are fewer and fewer in Monroe County.  This trail that has existed for so long is precious to the species that live there and is a joy to those, like myself, who enjoy visiting places that are accessible (and within reasonable driving distance). Added to that is that this particular area hosts an exceptionally wide range of wildlife.  It is like a library for both the biologist and the amateur 'birder'.
What about using this money to improve some existing trails in the SE quadrant of Monroe County?

November 17, 2008

 It seems inappropriate that the Auburn Trail Extension should be widened to six feet. As more and more of our natural areas are taken for development, this important piece of trail can be much better preserved by a three foot path as a compromise.
Life member and Past President
Rochester Area Mycological Association

November 17, 2008
My husband and I are horrified that you are considering destroying this part of the trail which is so essential in its present state to local animal and plant life.  You seem to be planning to make it into a trail for those who are solely interested in ripping through it at a high speed, those who are not interested in enjoying the natural surroundings.  There are very few places left that one can enjoy the peace and quiet of this kind of environment – please do not destroy it –  perhaps put up educational signs if you are looking for ways to spend your (our) money.

November 17, 2008

I support the proposal for 3’ wide shared used trail in order to minimize impact on the important and sensitive ecosystem of this section of the Auburn Trail.  Please give this proposal your consideration and act in the best interests of all.
 thank you

November 16, 2008
Several months ago, I attended a meeting in the Town of Victor, New York, at which plans for the rails-to-trails project known as the Auburn Trail Extension were made available for public inspection and comment. As a person who has frequently hiked on trails in Victor and the surrounding area, I expressed my support and enthusiasm for this project, which would provide a valuable hiking and bicycling connection between Fishers and Powder Mill Park. I felt, and still feel, that a trail of this type would be a significant asset to the community.
However, at the public meeting, I also expressed my opinion that in developing the trail, steps should be taken to protect environmentally sensitive areas in the trail’s path. I am aware that the approximately 3,000 foot segment of the trail known as the Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area (RRMSEA) is home to diverse species of plants, insects, and birds, and I would like to see all reasonable measures taken to protect this valuable natural resource.
I am aware that the original plans for a 10-foot wide trail have been scaled back, and that currently, a 6-foot wide trail is contemplated through the RRMSEA. Although this is certainly better than the 10-foot width originally proposed, many knowledgeable environmentalists and environmental organizations feel that the 6-foot width is still too wide. They are recommending that this part of the Auburn Trail Extension be no wider than 3 feet.
It’s my understanding that the narrower width would not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. Moreover, I believe that 3 feet is sufficient for safe and enjoyable bicycling. If a 3-foot wide trail through this beautiful area is possible without jeopardizing this project, I urge you to take the time and trouble to seriously consider this alternative. In an age in which the protection of wild lands all too often takes a back seat to development and to community infrastructure projects, I think that it is incumbent upon government planners, as well as individual citizens, to go the extra mile to preserve whatever we can of our forests, wetlands, meadows, and “edge” areas such as the RRMSEA.

November 16, 2008 

  I am a new birder and was directed to the Railroad Mills section of the Auburn Trail as a great spot to easily watch birds as they feed along the trail itself, both on the ground and from the brush nearby. So I went--good easy birding's
important when you are just starting out.
  What a wonderful place! The first thing that struck me was how quiet it is in comparison to my usual haunts.  (I drove out from the city to walk the trail.) There was the sound of tall reeds rustling in the breeze,
 the "chit" of many sparrows, and the sound of Irondequoit Creek in the distance. We heard a huffing noise and 2 deer bounded into the lower meadow and away.  We saw juncos and a fox sparrow feeding right on the trail and I heard a Carolina wren--a first for me. Plus jays and cardinals flying by. All this in the first 20 minutes!
  I was more than dismayed to hear that there are plans to widen and pave this part of the trail. If that is done it will completely destroy the places we saw the birds feeding, including most of the brush on either side--which certainly attracts the birds to the area. I most heartily request that you leave this section of the trail as it is. I would not drive out from
the city specifically to walk the trail if it is paved--I can take a nice ride or walk on the canal path if that is what I wish. The wildness of this place IS the attraction.  Also, I often have family and friends (also birders or others who like an outdoor walk in the less manicured places) come to the area for a visit and I was thrilled to have found a place to take them that they haven't experienced. I imagine this section of the trail could be promoted as a birding hot spot--similar to Island Cottage Woods--as ecotourism appears to be a growing area of interest to travelers. Victor has a wonderful trail system, and I ardently encourage you to promote diversity and habitat conservation and keep it the quiet and peaceful place I drove out to experience.

 As Thoreau said: "In wildness is the preservation of the world."

November 16, 2008

As an owner of property adjacent to the Auburn Trail, I think it’s outstanding that there are people who value it as I do. It seems a difficult choice sometimes between progress and hanging on to the past. Clearly we need both. The hard part is deciding where to hold the line.

It’s possible that we are at a critical juncture with our green spaces dwindling. There are many people who aren’t concerned with that, so it becomes the job of those who find the problem placed squarely “on their doorsteps” to speak out and make the difference.

The group who are behind maintaining the Auburn Trail as is, are certainly up against strong forces in the opposite direction. They’re doing their best to say to these people “hey, wait a minute…is a six foot stone dust path really the best answer?”

Six feet may not sound like much, but it would have an enormous effect on the “residents”. This is a habitat for some of our most treasured species. The “save auburn trail” website says it best. In all seasons the trail has a lot to offer. Mourning Cloak butterflies that hibernate in the trees in winter and fly out on warm days, each spring thick with wildflowers such as twin leaf, hepatica, spring beauty. The magnificent Red Admiral butterfly lays her  eggs on the nettle patch, She travels north just to find it. Turtles, hawks, songbirds all thrive there. Too many to list!

The railroad that first cut a wide path through the area fell into disuse and was followed by a slow reclaiming of the lands by the creatures around it. They are the ones who are really fighting for space. They need someone to speak for them.

Adjacent Land Owner

November 15, 2008

 As a birder and nature lover, I have visited the Railroad Mills area of the Auburn Trail and found it to be well worth the hour's drive from my home in Cato. I first learned about this special place through postings on Birdingonthe.Net and was intrigued by the consistently interesting lists of bird species that were seen there. But upon birding this section of the trail, my friend Ken and I found out that it's far more than just a nice place to take a walk and see some good birds; it's an opportunity to experience peace and quiet and observe much more diversity than one would typically see in a suburban area.
As you've probably already guessed, I'm writing to urge you to seriously consider the input that you have been receiving from the nature organizations and individuals who would like to see the trail in the Railroad Mills area modified as little as possible.  However, since a width of three feet meets the minimum standard for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, I would agree that a stone dust trail of this width would be a good compromise, especially if the borders were left alone. A disabled birder, using a wheelchair, would certainly appreciate the opportunity to bird a special place like this.  The way the vegetation draws birds in and onto the meadow areas along the path create intimate viewing opportunities that do not exist in other places.  Allowing the trail to remain as much like it is now as possible, while still making it ADA compliant, would provide a unique opportunity for disabled nature lovers.
I attended the presentation at the last Victor Town Board meeting and heard a variety of viewpoints from speakers who are interested in the Auburn Trail project.  It seemed that those in favor of building the widest trail were concerned mainly with user safety. This is a valid concern, but, there are other ways of achieving that goal besides putting in a six-foot wide stone path. What is wrong with having a 3000-foot stretch of trail on which the users travel at a slower rate of speed than on wider sections? Also, the straightness of the trail there affords great visibility. Turnarounds and kiosks would provide additional places for moving aside in addition to the grassy shoulders that are already there. In a "low traffic" area such as this, watching where you are going, slowing down if others are on the trail, and moving aside when necessary seem like reasonable options.
I'm sure that you're familiar with the now famous misquote from the film Field of Dreams --"If you build it, they will come."  In the case of the Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area, I think the opposite is true.  While the goals of the
trail project are commendable, creating a wide stone path in this particular location seems counterproductive.  Changing a narrow footpath into a six-foot wide stone dust roadway would decrease usage by those who have been coming there for years and who already cherish it, just the way it is now. Too much modification will take away the very thing that makes this section of trail so special. People aren't asking for much. They are only talking about 3000 feet out of many miles of trail.
Onondaga Audubon Society board member
Stewart B. Lang Memorial Library board member
Retired Special Education teacher

November 15, 2008

    We are very concerned about upcoming changes to the Auburn Trail, primarily in the 3000 feet of the Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area. This area is extremely rich in bio-diversity of birds, butterflies, frogs and other animals.  It has a large variety of native plants, some wetlands and beautiful scenic views.  In short, this area is very important to plants, animals and humans.  We would like to see the hard trail of this area NOT be wider than three feet.
    Thank you for taking comments and listening to the public on this serious matter.

November 15, 2008

    A three foot wide trail meets the ADA requirements to make a path usable for handicapped people. By adding two turn-arounds along the 3,000’ trail at the Railroad Mills section of the Auburn Trail, people using wheelchairs or walkers would be able to enjoy the beauty of that stretch of trail. The foliage along the trail attracts birds, butterflies, and insects that in turn attract hikers, birdwatchers, and others who like to see nature on the “wild side”. Not all trails
need to conform to one another and this is one case where less is better. If, as planned now, a 6’ wide trail with 2’ mowed verges is constructed, the very thing that is special about the trail would be lost.  Surely, one short section of an otherwise well-planned trail system, could be an exception. As long as it meets ADA standards, a compromise should be made to secure the federal transportation grant.
    The bikers, who we have met on the trail, have been courteous and friendly. We allow each other to pass by stepping onto the edges of the present 1’wide path. Instead of being hard-core mountain bikers, they are riders who use that stretch of the trail to enjoy the pleasures that this wild area affords.
    As more and more fields, meadows, woods, and swampy areas are lost to housing developments, shopping centers, parking lots, and roads, natural areas become even more valuable. It would be a shame to lose this special habitat that has so many species of plants, birds, and butterflies. I wouldn’t consider hiking at the Dryer Rd Park that has been designed for mountain bike riders even though it is suppose to have a multi-use trail system. I urge you to plan this trail to accommodate those of us who enjoy the passive recreation that this path provides.

November 15, 2008

As one of the original families living on the former "Railroad Mill Extension", now "Railroad Mills Rd.", I'm writing to express my strong support  to preserve the special environment that is found in RRMSEA.  In order to maintain the environmental and aesthetic aspects of this section of the Auburn trail,  I strongly support a 3' extension as opposed to the current 6' stone dust trail as now proposed.  It is my understanding that providing a 3' extension is in compliance with Section 504 of the American with Disabilities Act.
Please keep me on your communication list of interested neighbors as your planning progresses and I look forward to your timely response to my e-message.

Long Time Neighbor

November 13, 2008

PLEASE....minimize the impact of your proposal to widen the Auburn Trail!!!! I'd love to see it remain as is, but if you MUST mess with it,  PLEASE, be considerate of the rest of us who would like it to be bird-butterfly-plant friendly.

November 13, 2008

I am concerned about the proposal that is currently being considered for the Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area.  The proposal to widen the current path to 6 feet of stonedust and 2 feet of cleared area on either side would have a detrimental impact on the wildlife and vegetation as well as the various wetlands on either side of the trail.  Widening the path would change the current ecosytem and eliminate nesting and feeding habitats for birds, butterflies and other wildlife.
I would like the see the trail preserved in much the same way it currently exists.  To reduce the impact on the habitat as much as possible I would recommend the widening of the trail to no more than 3 feet.   This compromise would preserve the unique environment and allow users to continue to take pleasure in this irreplaceable environment.

November 13, 2008

I am a member of numerous local groups including Rochester Birding Association, Burrough's Audubon and Genesee Land Trust, to name a few.  Recently I have discovered this unique area. As so much of our great birding/wildlife habitat is dwindling each year, I was ecstatic to find such a place unmarred by heavy traffic and development/"progress".
The Auburn Trail has many diverse habitats all concentrated in one area that supports a large variety of bird, butterfly, and a multitude of other wildlife/ plant species.  They are so few places left in the Rochester area that people can come to enjoy a tranquil few hours with nature, please reconsider your proposal for a wide paved trail that will spoil this area.  I personally would like to see it remain just as it is today.  However, a compromise position for a narrow paved 3' trail would satisfy the needs of the current visitors to the trail and allow for other new, like-minded individuals to have greater access to this very special haven.
It is a beautiful, relaxing area to get away for a few hours from the daily stressors we all must deal with in today's world.  It is also a great location to quietly bring a child to to aquaint them to the natural world that was such a cornerstone of my young life.  It is a shame that there are so few areas for today's children and future children to experience that joy.
Rochester Birding Association
Burrough's Audubon
Genesee Land Trust

November 13, 2008

The proposal to widen the Auburn Trail in the Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area of Victor has been characterized by other concerned citizens as one which 'may' have detrimental consequences to the wildlife of the area. I have personally witnessed the results of an improvement similar to the one proposed on the birds of Cove Island Park in Stamford, CT. After many years of birding that area, and after public recognition of that area as an important birding area, I saw the City of Stamford 'improve' the area by clearing brush and trees, and establishing a 6' stone dust trail throughout the area. The improvement actually wiped out most of the valuable bird habitat and reduced the value of the place as a bird refuge nearly to zero. At a time when valuable wildlife habitat is being destroyed by uncontrolled development in the private sector, it would seem that at least someone in the public sector should recognize that surviving wild habitat such as that being considered here is an invaluable treasure, to be preserved AS IS, not 'improved'. Any significant change to this habitat positively WILL have a detrimental impact. There are other places to put trails for strollers, cyclists, etc., but once 'improved' for such uses, this wild gem will be lost forever. Please reconsider!

November 13, 2008

I would like to urge you to seriously reconsider your stated plan for the 6’ stone dust trail in the Railroad Mills area.  I have hiked in that area many times, in fact gone specifically to that area for the unique experience, and I am concerned that a 6’ stone dust path would have an irreversible destructive impact there.  
The Coalition’s proposal seems reasoned and appropriate.  I can’t imagine that you would want to move ahead without the benefit of a full study, acknowledgement of potential damage to the environment, and a willingness to move ahead with the compromise of a 3’ wide prepared shared use trail.   It would be a shame to risk harming the diversity of this habitat and sacrificing a natural treasure, especially when a workable solution exists.

November 12, 2008

As a former resident of Fishers, NY for 16 years, I have enjoyed the Auburn trail over the former Railroad tracks since 1985. I was upset when the trail behind Main St. Fishers was carelessly bulldozed a number of years ago which resulted in a record-sized Witch Hazel tree being totally destroyed by the bulldozer operator who didn't know what was being knocked down while backing into it. I have never seen one as large since then, we need a careful survey of all the species affected before any action is done. It's a shame to destroy what makes a trail special and beautiful when trying to attract more people to it or to make it more accessible. I'm sure many nature lovers who want to keep the character of the trail would love to assist anyone with any disability to traverse & enjoy this special place. Many unusual species show up at the trail edges which should be kept intact.

The Nature Conservancy Volunteer Site Monitor for Bentley Woods (in Fishers) since 1995.

November 12, 2008

I write to support the efforts to preserve the Auburn Trail.  I apologize for not reading far enough to understand the need to widen and pave the trail.  Is it for biker riders, skate boarders?  The environmental change would impact the area and possibly negate its current usefulness for wildlife, plant life and those hoping to see it all -- folks like me.  Please continue your fine work.

November 12, 2008

I do not use the Auburn Trail, but I take an active interest is the discussion about widening the trail. Let me tell you my experience in Perinton where a narrow, somewhat overgrown path (formerly the Rochester-Syracuse trolley line route) behind our house was widened and paved to become a bike-and-hiking trail by the town. Prior to the widening and paving, the path was an excellent place for bird-watching, encountering deer and other wild mammals (once a mink) nearly face-to-face, and listening to Silence.  During the planning stages, we were assured that the widened path would be designed to prevent use by motorized vehicles. The completed trail is, without a doubt, very well done and much used by walkers and bikers. However, despite metal barriers and "no motorized vehicles" signs, snowmobiles in the winter and ATVs in the summer zip back and forth on the trail. The wildlife, once so present and visible, has retreated back into the surrounding woods. During hunting season when hunters stalk the adjacent woods, we either wear red jackets or don't walk at all.

We had a similar, but more extreme, experience in a New York State Wildlife Management Area on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario in Jefferson County, New York. For years the area, accessible only by a long walk, was a haven for migrating waterfowl and a collection site for thousands of migrating Monarch butterflies in the fall. Nesting eagles could be seen in the trees. A silent walker could watch deer and fox drink from the lake in the early morning or evening. Those people who valued and treasured this area, without any formal organization, kept the beach clean of the detritus that naturally washed ashore. Then a few years ago a huge New York State project built a road  and a wide raised boardwalk to the sandy beach. It was publicized as being "for birders and families." Oddly enough representatives of the adjacent El Dorado Nature Conservancy Site did not object to the construction. What happened was the loss of a rare and precious place. The road and walkway quickly became a route for families to swim and picnic, in itself not a bad thing of course, but also a site for unsupervised revelry (drinking, pot-smoking, and beach fires late into the night) by teenagers from the surrounding towns and young people from Fort Drum in Watertown. Many of the visitors left their trash on the beach: glass liquor bottles, disposable diapers, underwear. The wooden fences installed to protect the fragile sand dunes were broken up and used as firewood. Signs enjoining the public not to hike into the dunes or walk on the beach during bird migration season were ignored.  A summer "dune steward" and the State Police were unsuccessful in stopping the destruction of the area. The migrating birds stopped coming. The eagles left. Only a handful of Monarchs comes anymore. I think "desecration" is not too strong a word to use for what happened to this area.

I want to emphasize that what happened in Perinton and in Jefferson County was the result of good intentions on the part of the planners. "Let's let more people take advantage of this beautiful area." However, in both cases, there were serious, negative, unintended consequences. I don't know what's best for the Auburn Trail, but I believe that some areas should be left "wild."

November 11, 2008

In decades, others will look back on the decision about altering the Railroad Mills Section of the Auburn Trail, and see that the proposed "improvement" is really a loss.  As one who has walked quietly along that trail, seeing beautiful plants and birds that are unique to that place, I urge you to resist the idea of widening the trail so much, and making it a paved thoroughfare.  I believe that a narrower trail, with a gravel path will preserve best what we so wish to preserve--the treasured places where wild life and humans can quietly come together in beautiful and restorative ways.

I urge you to responsibly alter your plans for the trail.  Thank you for considering an alternative!

November 10, 2008

In regards to the recent proposal to widen the Auburn Trail located at the Railroad Mills special environmental area located in Victor, NY, I would like to voice my opinion on the matter and clearly state that I believe the trail should remain as is and that the widening should not take place.  I had the opportunity to visit the trail for the first time in September of this year (2008) amongst a group led by the New York State Ornithological Association and it was well apparent how important the location is to the several migratory species of birds we were seeing, not to mention the many close looks we had of several species in the vegetation right along the path in the proposal area.  Areas as rich as these located in a relatively suburban setting are especially important locations for both migratory and nesting species of birds, and I do believe it is key to keep these locations as "wild" as possible.  This would give these species of birds the greatest amount of habitat available, which is critically important since locations many locations such as these are increasingly becoming part of the suburban scene all throughout upstate New York and elsewhere.  Please take a step towards preserving the environmental potential of this trail rather than turning it into a widened bike path which should be placed elsewhere.

November 10, 2008

I am a frequent user of this section of the Auburn Trail. My interests include bird watching, butterfly watching, photography, and nature observation in general. This project as proposed will completely change the character of this unique area. For me this is one of the few places within a short distance from my home where I can enjoy a tranquil, escape from the encroaching development so pervasive now. I am afraid this project, if completed as proposed, will destroy this attraction for me and I will no longer be interested in using this area any more than of the other “developed” trails around.
I have followed the progression of this project with interest and am very disappointed that the current plans have not taken into consideration the preservation of the many unique natural features of the area so thoroughly documented by the coalition. The environmental assessment was cursory and I think a formal Environmental Impact Statement is warranted for this project.
After all the previous input documenting the natural value of this area, I find it disingenuous that the only accommodation is a 10 foot wide trail (6 feet of stone dust and 4 feet of mowed margin.) With this plan I see no evidence that that a good faith effort has been made to accommodate the coalition. The current plans certainly do not take into consideration the unique environmental value of this area and how its preservation would be an asset to the town.
I do support a modest improvement of the trail and the installation of a light bridge over Irondequoit Creek to accommodate hikers and bikers safely but I strongly oppose the proposed construction of a “road” through this sensitive area. I am not convinced that handicapped persons and “thru” bikers cannot be accommodated in a much less destructive (and expensive) alternative – especially for the short distance that is known as the Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area.
The minimal accommodation of the many requests to preserve the unique features of this area compels me to oppose this project.

November 9, 2008

Burroughs Audubon Nature Club was organized in 1913 for the study and appreciation of nature.  We use a 3000’ section of the Auburn Trail which is near our nature sanctuary for nature study. The trail runs through the Irondequoit Creek Valley which is a wildlife corridor connecting several parks.  Besides the creek there are also wetlands, woods, and bog habitats in a short distance providing habitat for a diversity of species.  In addition, the vegetation along the edge of the trail provides a linear meadow habitat.
 When we first learned of the plans to widen the trail with a TEP grant, we became concerned that it would be widened so much that a lot of its meadow habitat would be lost.  We contacted the other local nature organizations that are the primary users of the section of the trail from Railroad Mills Road to the collapsed culvert to form a coalition to preserve this environmentally sensitive area which we call the Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area or RRMSEA, for the whole community.  These nature groups which have a collective total of over 5000 members, have formal field trips on this section of the Auburn Trail and their members also use this section as individuals.  The total number of people visiting this section of trail for nature study in a year is quite large and a very high percentage of all the current users of this section.
 The Coalition to Save the Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area has a vision for this trail section as a model trail for environmental education utilizing a 3’ strip of prepared surface with grassy edges where the birds and butterflies can be seen close-up.   The wealth of species in this 3000’ trail section is so great that people already come from long distances to use it.  With a prepared surface and 3 wider turn-around areas with interpretive signs, it could also be accessed by wheelchair users who can’t normally get close to wildlife and would be a wonderful asset for school classes and families as well.   VIctor could boast a trail section unlike any others in our area.
 Widening the trail to 6’ would severely impact a high percentage of the current users who come to see the plants and wildlife that are along the edge of the very narrow trail that is there now.  Many other current users such as runners, bikers, and neighbors who walk the trail, though they don’t do nature study, have told us they would prefer the trail to remain as it is now with its wilderness character, unusual in a suburban area.  It would be a shame to widen it to increase access and in the process to destroy much of what makes it such a special place.
 Our coalition sought to work with Victor to develop this wonderful natural area to benefit new user groups as well as allow the current users to retain use of its richness.  We offered to help the town get a design exception for this section of trail by using the expertise of one of our members who has 40 years of experience in transportation projects and the great nature expertise of some of our members to develop interpretive signage.  We have considered offering our help in maintaining the area as well.
 We have been disappointed that our offers to work with the town for everyone’s benefit have been rebuffed and our considerable expertise ignored.  Thorough environmental studies have not been done despite recommendations by various government agencies that they are necessary and the environmental sensitivity of the area has not been acknowledged. Since we have been using the trail for so many years and have members with great expertise, our members know more about the species that are there than an expert brought in from another area, especially one with knowledge in only one segment of the natural world.  We have provided Victor most of the information they have to date on the species present in that area.
Unfortunately, instead of working together, the whole design process has become adversarial.  However, this area is important enough to our members that we still stand willing to work with Victor to develop this unique trail section as a model for environmental education and offer the expertise of our members to help get a design exception for a 3’ wide handicap accessible trail complete with turn-out areas featuring interpretive signs.   This would meet the goal of connectivity, but would have the added benefit to Victor’s residents young and old, of a local nature education resource.  We hope you will take us up on our offer.

Conservation Chairman
Burroughs Audubon Nature Club

November 9, 2008

I live in Pittsford and walk on as many trails as possible to connect with nature. The Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area is truly as special place to feel intimate with nature, and it would be a great loss to me if a simple foottrail were turned into yet another "road." Don't we know by now that there is too much "improvement" and "development" of natural areas? From my point of view, I just want it left alone so I can enjoy my peaceful commune with trees, water, sky, birds, night sounds. We even get real lucky there and see other creatures I look for every year: salamanders, turtles, etc. So please consider that we have a gem of a trail as it is.

November 9, 2008

I am writing in support of the compromise proposed by the Coalition to Save the Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area, namely to limit the widening of the current path to three feet, which is the minimum required by the Americans for Disabilities Act.

I am a current user of the trail and former consultant for the New York Natural Heritage Program, the Genesee Land Trust and the City of Rochester. As a consultant for the Heritage Program, I was responsible for documenting rare plants and rare plant communities in western and central New York. I worked in Cattaraugus, Allegany, Chemung, Schuyler, Yates, Livingston, Erie, Genesee, Monroe and Lewis counties and so am very familiar with the native, introduced and rare flora of the region. I am also a member of both the Rochester Birding Association and the Rochester Butterfly Club. I visit the trail to enjoy the amazing diversity of its plants and animals. It is unusual to have such diversity present along a linear trail of just 3000 feet situated so close to development but understandable because of the microhabitat, namely a raised berm situated between wetlands in the Irondequoit Creek valley. I feel strongly that the integrity of the RRMSEA should be preserved and that a six foot wide path would decrease the plant and animal diversity presently at the site.

I think Victor should be delighted that such a unique natural area still exists within the township and equally delighted that a cadre of dedicated volunteers exists to help the town develop the site as a recreational and educational resource. I think the coalition's compromise proposal is totally reasonable, although in an ideal world I would love to see absolutely no change to the current width of the path. I am a bicyclist as well, have seen cyclists on the path, and feel that even the current width is a safe one for multiple use because the sight lines are so good.

Former consultant for the New York Natural Heritage Program and Genesee Land Trust

November 8, 2008

I would like to go on record as stating my support for the compromise proposal for the section of trail under consideration referenced as Auburn Trail Extension PIN 4760.35.

I think that this portion of trail warrants special consideration in it's development and I am in agreement with the proposal put forth by The Coalition to Save the Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area to limit the Railroad  Mills Special Environmental Area segment of the proposed trail to not more than 3 ft wide.

As a cyclist who enjoys riding on area trails, I am willing to sacrifice the convenience that a wider trail would provide, in return for the opportunity to preserve the beauty and habitat of this section of the trail.

After all, what is the appeal of trails like this if not the beauty of the natural surroundings?

November 8, 2008

Everytime a housing development or mall or road is created, habitat is destroyed, plants and animals lose their lives. We don't usually hear much about this. The reason being no one knows exactly what is being displaced because many times the land is privately owned and people are not there to observe.

This is not the case with the Auburn Trail Ext. Many people use the trail between the bridge and Probst for nature observations, be it plants, butterflies or birds or all three. We notice what is there. We know what is there and when it usually is there.

As a member of the coalition, I know we have proposed to Victor that this is a wonderful opportunity to advance the study of nature to it's residents and could be used by the schools, scouts, etc. to learn more about our natural world. We have been accused of being "selfish" or "trying to keep this for ourselves". To the contrary, we would like to see this area recognized for its special features. We also feel that a trail of 6 feet stonedust plus 2 feet either side of grass will effectively destroy much of the habitat that attracts the wildlife. The coalition has proposed signage to request people walk their bikes, go slower and enjoy the ride. A 3 foot prepared trail would accomplish this. Two bicyclists going opposite directions walking or going slow should not be a problem as line of sight is a non-issue. In fact, bicyclist should be slowing and stopping at Probst as traffic on that road is very fast.

I would like to see the Town of Victor get creative and think outside the box and appreciate and preserve what they have instead of destroying it.

November 8, 2008

Moving into Pittford ten years ago from the Bristol Hills, I was delighted to find so many special places in the area, where the natural environment has been preserved and open to the public for recreation, study and sheer enjoyment of nature. The Auburn Trail especially seemed to offer a sense of "wilderness" within it's boundaries.  Upon hearing of the proposal to expand the trail I visited the Auburn Trail website to find out more and was reminded again of what makes it such an environmental treasure.

While I strongly support improving accessibility for a wider range of users, I believe the town of Victor's current plan to dramatically increase the width of the trail will have serious impact on the environment and jeopardize that sense of wilderness.  I believe the compromise offered by RRMSEA meets accessibility requirements without endangering the unique community of plant and animal life of the Trail. I join the ranks of those who value the natural gifts we share in this community, in urging you to reconsider the unnecessary, extensive expansion on the trail.

November 8, 2008

As a neighbor who uses the trail I have read the draft design document.  There are many inaccuracies and spins in it that support your position of widening and “improving.”

The current trail as it is, is PERFECT for novice bicyclists - not just "experienced" ones that you claim (several times in the design document) are the ones that use it now.  I am a novice. I am not a strong rider, and feel unsafe riding on roads.  But I ride the trail regularly, and feel completely safe there.  The scenery and nature is beautiful; I enjoy the way it is now, and do not want to see a stonedust road. I have been on other “improved” parts of the trail, and they feel sterile compared to this area.

I do encounter walkers, bird watchers, and other bicyclists going in the same and opposite directions.  I have never once had a problem passing or being passed by these other trail users – we simply slow down and one of us goes on the grass.  It has NEVER been an issue.

Incidentally, these other trail users have included families with children, as well as elderly walkers.

The one place I am not as comfortable on the trail is the collapsed culvert, where I need to walk my bike down and back up.  I would be happy to see an improvement for this part of the trail, but NOT at the expense of the natural beauty and serenity of the trail that is such an important reason I use it.

I get the feeling that you've never really listened to the concerns of users, and are pushing your own agenda.  I hope this public process is not just lip service and going through the motions.

November 7, 2008

I have been involved with the SEQR process in the city of Rochester since the late 1980’s. I have also walked and biked the Auburn Trail for a number of years. The biome that has developed since the abandonment of the trolley line is of special note. Unusual and rare plants are now found near and along the trail and the vegetation beckons a wide variety of birds and butterflies. The trail also runs between a wetland and the Irondequoit Valley.

It is hard to believe that the construction of this trail through this sensitive environmental area did not justify a positive declaration of environmental impact producing an Environmental Impact Statement. The EIS would of address the environmental conditions along the trail and involved a public hearing and comment period that may of avoided the situation that now occurs.

Due to the lack of an FEIS and to protect the area from unknown damage,  I support the 3' trail width.

November 6, 2008

I am writing to express my concern with the proposed plan to widen the trail in the Railroad Mills Environmental area.  I feel that widening the path to 6 feet will be detrimental to the birds, butterflies and plants that make this area such a local treasure.  Please follow the recommendations of the Coalition to Save the Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area. Do not expand the trail to more than three feet wide.

November 5, 2008

 I am writing this to you concerning the proposed changes to the RRMSEA Auburn Trail.
Because I live near the trail (Whistle Stop) and hike it very regularly, I want to express my opinions about this project:
1.      I want to go on record as being strongly opposed to the use of any federal or state funds for this project. At this time and under the current economic conditions, I feel this project demonstrates a high level of selfishness and shortsightedness. For us to take funds from a deficit ridden federal government during a time we are fighting three (Iraq, Afghanistan, and Terror) wars seems amazing to me. To use these funds to satisfy some recreational access “needs” for a generally comfortable (economically) suburban population is hard to fathom. How can the Town of Victor in good conscience feel justified in taking these funds when there are SO many other positive, more humane and socially responsible uses. Just because these funds have been previously approved/designated for this use, does not, to me, mean we just accept them blindly. The momentum of this project is no reason to continue. Deny or return the funds and let it go to some serious needs……..of which our country has plenty right now. Maybe we could all sleep better knowing we actually contributed to something worthwhile.
2.     Using handicap access as one of the reasons for this project is questionable at best. I have been observing the segment of the trail which was already “improved”. The volume of use of the “improved” trail at all is VERY limited. In fact I would venture an educated guess that it is used less now than before the changes. And if there is belief that more handicapped people are using it because of the “improvements”, I beg to differ based on observation.
3.    I would be very disappointed if we were to go back and review how this project proposal started to only find out it was pushed by runners and trial bike riders. I have yet to speak with a person who hikes or enjoys/appreciates nature who wants any part of this project or even the compromise proposal now on the table. Simply put, why should we tolerate changing nature for a smoother bike or running path? Mountain bikers, trail runners and ALL users need to adapt to the environment, not the other way around.
4.     We all live in an area with a wealth of parklands and trails. These, now and for the foreseeable future, are more than adequate at providing trails, walkways and handicap access to more natural areas. Are we really convinced this project provides anything we do not already have in abundance?
5.     At one informational meeting a Victor town rep. actually told me that people wanted to use the Auburn trail to commute to and from work and school. I’m sorry but you’ve GOT to be kidding me. We have a beautiful street, sidewalk and trial system in place that can already handle those “needs” without “modifying” more of our precious (and disappearing) remaining natural areas. Why modify nature for a “shortcut”?
6.     I object to any use of these funds for creating what will essentially be a sidewalk out of a serene nature trail. Just look at the already “improved segment of the “trail”. Can anyone honestly call it a trail or path now? It certainly resembles a cinder sidewalk. If this were in the Adirondacks would you call it a trail…or for that matter would anyone use it? Questionable at best.
7.     If you want to “improve” a trail it seems to me the LAST thing you would want to do is cover it with fine stones or cinders. To enjoy nature, a quiet approach is always best. Walking on these “improved” trails guarantees all wildlife will scatter away from the rather loud footsteps. Plus a harder surface is definitely not best for your feet.
8.    I have also been told that one of the initial reasons for obtaining the funding was to re-build the collapsed bridge on the trail. As it was told to me, it was discovered that funding to improve the old bridge was unobtainable unless the trail was changed to provide handicap access. I would suggest asking for community donations to build a more natural bridge as those in parks. I would gladly be the first to donate time and some funds towards such a project. A nice solid log bridge would allow us to maintain the look and natural feel of the area and feel good that we did not have to go ask Washington to solve our community issues. Let’s leave the trail alone! Leave the bridge alone, too. The dip and rise give the trail a lot of character.
In conclusion, please reconsider giving up the funding for this project for more worthy uses and let’s try to be proud that Victor will be a community which respects nature and goes to great lengths to preserve it. Let’s be proud that we do not frivolously use federal funds for projects we can easily handle ourselves.
Let’s leave the trail alone and let nature take its course with it. Now that’s my definition of improving our area for the next generations.

"It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment."   - Ansel Adams

November 4, 2008

It is imperative  to preserve the special natural habitat  that is found in Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area of the Auburn trail. The current plans for a 6' wide stone dust trail will have serious environmental and aesthetic impacts of a highly deleterious nature on this section.

November 3, 2008

    I represent some  forty individuals who are members of the RTO Birdwatchers. This is part of the Retired Teachers Association. This group consists of approximately 800 retired teachers, principals, and other individuals in education who worked in  the school districts of Monroe County. The Birdwatchers are one of the twenty interest subgroups of the RTO. We  have used the Audubon trail as one of our favor places to look for birds. I mention this simply to show that I am familiar with the physical out lay of the area.
    The plans presently call for a six-foot path with two additional feet on each side to be used as an edge. Therefore, ten feet of habitat will be removed. Most of the length of the path, except in the woods, is very near ten foot width. Teh . This means that much of the brush, small trees, and other vegetation will be removed. As a consequence, we will have a pathway to the edges  with shear drops on either side. The removal of the plant life with reduce the scenery and food and prtection for the animal life such as butterflies and birds.The very things which make this an attractive  sight  will nor longer be found along the trail.

Member, RTO Birdwatchers

November 3, 2008

As a regular user of the Auburn Trail Extension off Railroad Mills Road, I urge you not to widen it any further. This short portion of the Auburn Trail and its surroundings are excellent bird habitat in its present condition. Widening the trail will seriously affect this area in a negative way. Birds use the trail itself, as well as the edges, for foraging and shelter, particularly during migration.
I am an avid bicyclist, as well as a birder and bird photographer. The trail in its present state is totally adequate for safe bike riding. I think an exception should be made to the trail widening program for this particular stretch of trail because of its importance to bird life. The birds use this corridor along Irondequoit Creek extensively during migration season.
I laud the town of Victor's rails to trails program. I thoroughly enjoy using these trails for biking, but think there's a strong environmental argument that an exception be made for this small portion of the trail for the above reasons.

November 3, 2008

I am a long time member of the Biology Department at Monroe Community College working in the area of ecology, zoology and botany. I am very concerned of the future of the known biodiversity that currently exists at the Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area. This is indeed a special area not just for the people, groups, classes, bicyclists, runners and neighbors that visit and utilize the trails but most importantly it is a haven and sanctuary for the living species that have occupied this area freely and unobstructed as a natural wilderness. Over-widening the path will destroy existing habitats along the trail that have supported and allowed such a great diversity of life. I support the RRMSEA Coalition’s recommendation that the path is only widened to 3 feet to meet ADA codes.
Please, I strongly support this Coalition and ask that you do not over-widen the trail but preserve the trail and emphasize it’s unique biodiversity!

Biology Department
Monroe Community College

November 3, 2008

     I encourage you to support and help implement the compromise plan for the Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area which will both provide the environmental protections needed and create a wonderful land use adventure for hikers and outdoors folks.

November 2, 2008

I have walked this section of trail since moving into the neighborhood in June of 2001. In the summer it is quiet except for bird, frog, and insect sounds; in winter the trail is riddled with animal tracks to read. I would prefer the trail not be altered. If it is to be widened, then please widen it the minimum amount possible in order to preserve the wild feel of this trail.

November 2, 2008

I'd like to hear from you why this issue has not been resolved.  The data supporting a 3' trail width was submitted long ago from many recognized authorities in the field.  What is the problem?

November 2, 2008

The present Auburn Trail is a unique walking and birding experience. I have walked it by myself and also led birding groups there.
Widening it and paving it with stone dust would detract from the wilderness feeling. Stone dust is noisy underfoot. A wider trail would no longer be a natural path. Please reconsider this action.

November 1, 2008

Having been involved for over 30 years with a Nature Preserve in Penfield, I am committed to preserving the natural areas of our region for the enjoyment of today's citizens, but even more importantly, for the enjoyment of future generations of our citizens.
I am dismayed to see the changes being proposed to the Auburn Trail in Victor.  Trails, like the Auburn Trail, which are suitable for hikers, bird watchers, nature lovers as well as the plants, animals, and birds they seek to observe and enjoy are not the same as trails that can accommodate bikers, joggers and others seeking physical activity for recreational purposes.
While both pursuits are notable, destroying one for the benefit of the other is not in the best interests of the community.  I am asking you to please let the Auburn trail remain a foot path where nature lovers can continue to enjoy the diversity of plants, birds, and even turtles who have made the trail their home.  Should the scope of this trail be changed by widening and resurfacing, the opportunity for future generations to observe the trees, plants, butterflies and wildlife currently thriving along this stretch of trail will be forever lost.
I sincerely hope you will decide to leave the natural beauty of this trail untouched.

November 1, 2008

No expenditure of money, time or effort can restore a marsh, replenish a sandy beach or redeem a degraded river. Once these wild places are lost, they are lost forever.

One such very special wild place is the Auburn Trail.

An avid birder for over forty years, at age 83, I savor quiet mornings on this easy, level trail and hope that it will remain “unimproved” for further generations to enjoy.

November 1, 2008

Regarding the matter of Victor's proposed changes to this trail, I as a hiker on the trail, feel that they are not appropriate for the trail's location and special qualities.   Such  "improvements" as widening and surfacing are best suited for trails that invite more traffic and longer distance traveling, such as the canal path.  This little trail is best enjoyed with as little change as possible = perhaps widening to three feet.   Undisturbed natural areas where observers and nature can come in such close proximity are becoming so rare that those that do exist should really be protected.
Thank you for considering these thoughts of a trail user.

November 1, 2008

[A friend] and I walked this trail a week ago,  It is spectacular, a wilderness area, you wouldn't even know you were anywhere near Rochester.   The trail is plenty wide for walking and cycling, it needs no gravel or resurfacing.  It is a birding paradise.  Perhaps the area where the concrete wall,  a creek area , could use some repair for safety.    This area is not "broke"    why fix it???   The trail is perfectly walkable, grassy and easy on the feet. It is a trail, it does not have to be a sidewalk!  
Veterinarian from Oswego

November 1, 2008

I am a senior citizen who has spent many hours over many years on the Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area Trail.  It is a beautiful serene area in which to enjoy all phases of nature.  I often walk alone and feel very safe there.

It would be far seeing and a credit to the town of Victor to leave this area as "unimproved"as possible (Coalition recommendation) for future generations to enjoy.

October 30, 2008

I became acquainted with the Auburn Trail when writing a guidebook to local public access wetlands. Since then I've walked the Auburn Trail many times. It is even the subject of a little book collaboration with my father, a painter.  It's a great place, and one best left alone.  Widening it and adding a hard surface will make it a hostile place for walkers as it may become a bicycle and ATV-filled speedway; as it is, on one visit there I was surprised by a speeding bicyclist rejoining the trail after riding over some rough (not trails) hilly terrain there.  I doubt people using wheelchairs will enjoy the place.  I rarely use the canal path-- a hard, wide surface--unless I'm on a bicycle because most canal path users are on fast wheels.  One is left to ask, what is the impetus for this change to the Auburn Trail?
On a walk of the Auburn Trail with Bruce and MaryAnn Cady, we noted evidence of turtle nests in the path.  Habitat will be affected by modifying the trail, not just by the physical change to the widening and surface, but because of the increased traffic. That traffic is less likely to comprise people have the time to look out for wildlife at 15 mph.
The trail is rustic and works as a simple footpath. If it must be changed in the future, the best use of DOT dollars would be to convert all rail trails back to light rail lines.  That's probably unlikely to happen, but the sacrifice of some wild places for a more realistic system of human transportation would be a sensible decision that considers a time span beyond just our own generation.  One hopes for that kind of planning.

October 30, 2008

As one who walks the Auburn Trail, and enjoys its many birds. wildflowers, and peaceful aura,  I ask you to leave it as natural as possible.  Once an area is paved over, it is lost.  We should try to preserve as many natural areas as possible for ourselves, and those to come. 

October 29, 2008

For 35 years I have lived on Railroad Mills Road not far from the section of the former Auburn rail line that runs south from the Railroad Mills/Probst Rd. intersection in Victor.  During this time, I have enjoyed hiking, biking, and XC-skiing along this section of the cinder path.  It is a very peaceful and beautiful place throughout the year and is a treasured resource.  Although I am not a serious birdwatcher nor wildflower enthusiast, I have enjoyed meeting and talking with the numerous wildlife aficionados who frequent the trail.  They have alerted me to the plans for extensively widening this trail, which would greatly degrade the area both esthetically and environmentally.

I cannot understand the logic behind spending public money to destroy this wonderful resource, which is greatly appreciated by so many in an area that has undergone so much surban encroachment over the last third century.  Other than repairing the bridge over Irondequoit Creek, I see no need for further "improvements" to the trail.  It has been serving the public fine just the way it is.

  October 29, 2008
The Rail Road Mills section of the Auburn Trail should be preserved as much as it is possibile.
I live nearby and have the pleasure of using the trail many times a year.
I often expore the trail with my kids either on foot or by bike.
The proposal to narrow the new trail width to 6 feet from 10 feet makes alot of sense.
That section could actually be even narrower, say 3-4 ft, and still allow the hikers and bikers plenty of room to travel on it.
The RRMSEA is so unique from an environmental perspective that it should not loose any of it's natural habitats.
The other sections of the trail are very sterile from an ecological perspective.
To save the RRMSEA would benefit everyone.
When people pass thru the RRMSEA section they will realize they just experienced something very unique.

October 29, 2008

Please consider leaving Auburn Trail alone. These special  havens of nature are so few and far between, and truly valued by the  community.

We hope it can remain as the sacred space that it  is.

October 29, 2008
Since learning about this project a couple of months ago, I have visited the section of trail in dispute several times and have to say that I think a 3 foot  wide trail maintaining existing shoulders is perfectly viable for the use the trail is getting and essential for preserving that beautiful section.

In checking other parts of the trail, none of them offer the chance to experience nature the way that section does.  I have found more different species of plants and much more diverse bird life along that section as well.

What is more, claims that the trail construction would have minimal impact cannot possibly be true.  I checked the width of the bed and in sections, it is barely 10 feet wide now, with steep drop offs.   A six foot wide paved trail would effectively obliterate the natural habitat along the sides in this section and remove the food supply of the variety of migratory sparrows that frequent this area now--meaning the section would lose its attractiveness and value for me, and other nature lovers.

In the times I have used the trail, there have been few travelers on it.  Bikers ride by at a modest pace, and could easily be seen by me (or me by them) when 40 or more yards away.  There is plenty of space for adjusting speed and negotiating a pass, and raising an issue of safety here seems absurd to me.  If there are wider sections suitable for high speed and exercise, people can use those sections and modify their tour in that small area.  Why would all other users have to adjust or sacrifice their needs to a desire for speed by bikers or skaters.

For these reasons, I feel the compromise is insufficient and the project should be revised to constructing only a three foot wide trail in this section.

October 28, 2008

I am writing you in response to the current plans involving Victor’s Auburn Trail Extension Project and specifically the multi-use trail in the Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area, between RR Mills/Probst Road and the damaged culvert – a distance of approximately 3500’.

The current plan is to widen this trail by up to 6 to10 feet.  I feel that widening the trail more than 3 feet would be excessive and would have an adverse impact on habitat.  The habitat supports both host and nectar plants for butterflies, important bird habitat for migratory birds, is within close proximity to a state threatened plant species, and will greatly change the “wilderness feel” that makes that section of trail so special.  This section of trail offers a unique opportunity for hikers, a diverse plant and animal population, an educational opportunity and should be consider a prized centerpiece of the trail project.       

I support the proposal to save the Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area to limit the width the trail no more than 3’, and retain the grassy verge that exists now, in order to impact the environment as little as possible.  Furthermore, I believe that the trail can be a major highlight in the extensive trail system in Victor.  I believe it can be an excellent educational and environmental resource for the town.  I suggest that in the times of rapid development and loss of precious environmental resources and green spaces, that it behooves the town to act in a creative manner to protect an exquisite and important environmental area.
I urge the Town to protect this Special Environmental Area by not widening the trail to more than 3’ prepared width, which should meet the Access Board requirements for minimum width for accessibility for shared pedestrian/bicycle paths.

Biology Department, Monroe Community College
Director of Research, Gastroenterology, Chung Kim, MD, PC

October 28, 2008

I am writing in reference to the proposed widening of the section of the Auburn Trail Extension between Railroad Mills Road and the stone bridge, an area of only 3000'. This is a unique and beautiful nature trail for any visitor, but it is irreplacable for any nature lover with limited mobility. The  straight and flat linear meadow that comprises this section of the trail provides the rare opportunity to be surrounded at close range  by an amazingly rich and diverse habitat for animals, birds,  butterflies, trees, shrubs, and wildflowers. The suggested compromise of a 3' width seems to me to be an ideal solution-- allowing for the preservation of most of the natural habitat with an improved surface that meets ADA recommendations. 
As a 67 yr old nature-loving lady with increasingly bad knees, I implore you to avoid stripping the nature from this magnificent nature trail with the planned 6' width, and consider the needs of citizens like myself for both the nature and the access.  Others like me from all around the area will thank you.

October 28, 2008

As a biologist and educator I am very concerned with Victor's proposed widening of the Auburn trail, particularly in a area that enjoys a unique biodiversity.  Too often, the consequences of a short sighted environmental decision are realized too late. That does not have to be the case here. The proposal to limit the path to 3 feet in width is a reasonable compromise and one that enables a "win-win" situation for all parties involved.   I urge each of you to use your position and influence to protect the unique habitat found along the Railroad Mills Special Environment Area and take the necessary steps to preserve it for present and future generations to enjoy.
Professor of Biology
Monroe Community College

October 28, 2008

Please reconsider the plan to put a 6 foot wide path through the Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area that would wipe out the special vegetation along this corridor.  This sort of path is not appropriate for this rustic section of the trail.  The adverse environmental effects would be reduced greatly by minimizing the width of the path as much as possible. I take my Vertebrate Zoology course from MCC to this area to view animals.  It is a special place.
Assistant Professor of Biology
Monroe Community College

October 27, 2008

I  would just like to put in my 2 cents regarding the proposed Auburn Trail "improvements". I live very close by the trail in Fishers, and have used it regularly for walking and biking over the past 10 years. I and those I have met along the trail feel strongly that it should not be widened and/or paved as would completely ruin it's character and appeal, not to mention the effect on the animal habitat. I have been on the section closer to Victor that has already been"improved" and I think it's absolutely awful. It is no longer a trail at all, but a virtual highway, and holds no appeal to me whatsoever. It's not just the wider trail, but the fact that all of the brush and trees have been cut back to allow the heavy equipment through, that completely destroyed it's character. Now that it's been "improved" I no longer have any desire to go there.
I understand the desire to make the trail more accessible to those in wheelchairs, etc., but I believe that anyone in that position would much prefer the trail in it's more natural state. I believe that with minimal improvements such as ramps or regrading in certain spots, most of  the trail would be usable by anyone with a chair made for rough surfaces. It doesn't have to be six feet wide or paved/graveled, as long as it's reasonably smooth.
As for rebuilding the bridge over Irondequoit Creek, near Fishers Rd., I think it would be a huge waste of money to restore it to anywhere near it's original state, when it carried trains. I agree that it should be made safer, but that could be as simple as regrading and adding a couple of handrails. To completely rebuild the bridge would be simply ridiculous. I'm sure most of the trails' users would agree that it is a wonderful spot in it's existing condition, and to change it significantly would be a great loss.
In summary, my point is simply that accessibility is certainly desirable, but let's not destroy the character and appeal of the place in the process, or what's the point of making it accessible? This trail is one of my favorite places in the world, and is one of the reasons that I moved here. Please don't turn it into a road!

October 26, 2008
While I now live outside of Boston, I recently came across some information regarding plans for a trail that I am very familiar with that runs through the Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area.
On one hand, I was heartened to learn that the Town of Victor and the State of New York sees the the importance of such places to your community.   That is truly commendable.
But on the other hand, I am very concerned about the specific plans for the RMSEA.  And not only because I enjoy spending a bit of time there a couple times a year when I return to visit my extended family.   I am concerned because the very process of caring for places like that often changes a big part of what we loved about them in the first place.
As a kid who grew up exploring Powder Mill Park and riding my bike on those abandoned railway beds, the sense wildness really mattered.  I hope future generations are as fortunate.
The plans for a 6 foot wide stone dust treadway threatens that sense of wildness, I think.  A walk through that area and a face-to-face with a deer among birdsong can be magical, not because one is simply a spectator to God's beauty but because you feel part of it.   A highly engineered treadway offers advantages, I am sure.  At the same time, it can help but diminish the feeling of wildness and set you apart from what is, by all accounts, a very special place.
My hope is that any future development will balance accessibility with the wild character of the trail.  It a beautiful natural area, and one that I look forward to walking for years to come.

October 22, 2008

I am writing on behalf of the 360 members of the Rochester Birding Association (RBA) regarding the proposed plans for the Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area.

As was communicated in our previous letter of October 27, 2006, this area is an important birding area for the members of the RBA.  We have several field trips to this area during the year which are advertised in newspapers and our website and are open to the general public.  Several rare or uncommon species of birds have been seen in this area.  The abundant bird life is no doubt due to the habitat bordering the trail in this area.

The current trail is narrow (1') and cinder flanked by a several foot border of grassy plants.  Widening the trail removes some of the grassy border believed to be important habitat to the birds of the area. 

Before settling on the width of the trail, the RBA would like to see some detailed environmental evaluation of the impact provided by specialists in the particular habitat found within the Auburn Trail.  We don't believe this has been done to date.  Surely, the time and expense required to perform such studies are justified in view of the consequences for making detrimental decisions.

We commend the Town of Victor as it continues to provide its community with natural areas such as parklands and trails.  Carefully assessing the habitat impact of the change proposed for the Auburn Trail makes sound environmental sense and is in accord with your good intentions throughout the Town.

Rochester Birding Association