Coalition Vision for a Model Trail Section

II. Comparison of the Alternatives 

The Coalition has considered each of the four suggested alternatives in relation to the project objectives. We will show that the Coalition-recommended alternatives will best meet the project objectives, while best protecting the habitat and listed species, fulfilling the wishes of most trail users, and enabling the vision to develop RRMSEA into an educational showcase.

A. 10 foot width Alternative

The 10’ width (one of the original compared alternatives) would require substantial alteration to the berm resulting in excessive environmental impact, additional engineering features (railings & utility relocations) and the highest construction costs. It is deemed impractical.

(See Additional Trail Comparison photos.)
B. 6 Foot width Alternative

Although this alternative was recommended by the Consultant in the Draft Design Report, it raises serious environmental and social concerns.

As mentioned, the construction of this alternative will cause a loss of >50% of the linear meadow – an unacceptable environmental impact. Furthermore, since the Town did not do any substantive environmental studies, it cannot define which threatened species exist in or near the trail footprint, the extent of the populations, or the precise location. This alternative has the potential to cause severe environmental impact, as well as substantial degradation of the aesthetic values.

The great majority of trail users have stated that this is an undesirable alternative. If it were chosen, it is likely that many existing users and groups would seek other places that better meet their requirements for birding, butterflying, nature studies and aesthetic enjoyment.

This alternative, then, would fail in one of the stated project goals. Rather than attracting people to visit the trail for its natural attributes, it would eliminate many current users. The potential for development into an environmental showcase would be lost, as many of the attributes that make the area attractive for that purpose would be eliminated.

C. Leave As Is (null Alternative)

This is the alternative of preference for most trail users, based on the submitted comments. It is also the least costly option. It will have little or no environmental impact. It best preserves the existing natural trail section and aesthetics. It best protects the NYS-threatened species. It maintains the user experience, notably the nature up close feature that distinguishes RRMSEA from many other regional trails.

It meets most of the project objectives except ADA compliancy. However, that should not automatically eliminate this alternative, as it would be out of compliance for just 3000’ of a 2.5 mile project. There are three local examples in TEP projects where there are non-ADA compliant sections of trails. Each of these projects received approvals for the design exceptions, and received funding.

One TEP award was for the Genesee Riverway Trail at Turning Point Park, in the City of Rochester. Here an exception from ADA guidance was granted for a trail section from the parking lot at Boxart Street to the boardwalk. This is documented in the Environmental Assessment for that project.

In two other local projects (a part of the Genesee Valley Greenway in Scottsville, and a section of the Greenway in Sonyea) a section of trail was left untouched, between completed trail sections. The untouched sections are not ADA compliant.

If the Town wishes to support this ‘leave alone’ alternative for RRMSEA, the Coalition would enthusiastically support it. There is ample environmental and social justification to recommend it, and local precedents for non-ADA sections.

The Coalition offers to partner with the Town in this alternative. It offers its expertise with all aspects of environmental education, interpretation, and research. It offers its award-winning website[1], which would be redesigned to emphasize environmental education, for use by the Town, schools, and all citizens. It offers the expertise and sweat equity of its members with future maintenance of the Railroad Mills Special Environmental Area.

[1] selected, for its March 2009, Environmental Site of the Month award.

D. 3 Foot width Alternative

The Coalition offers this alternative as a compromise. It would likely achieve the best balance between the desires of the most trail users, environmental impacts, and the project goals. It would gain the support of all the Coalition groups. It meets all Project Goals including ADA compliancy per Access Board standards for outdoor trails. This alternative will have some environmental impact and will cause some disturbance to the aesthetics. We believe that these impacts can be minimized by proper design and oversight, and we offer to work with the Town in the design, implementation, and assessment of this alternative.

Again, the Coalition offers to partner with the Town to develop RRMSEA into an educational and environmental showcase. Specifically the Coalition offers the use of our website for educational purposes, and the expertise and volunteer labor of Coalition members towards trail maintenance and management.

Go to Next Section: III. Consideration of Frequently Mentioned Concerns