DRYDEN — The town of Dryden and Dryden Rail Trail Task Force members will start designing plans and writing proposals for bids for three trail projects after receiving $1.5 million state grant that would cover 80% of the total cost of the projects.
“We’ve been waiting for this announcement from the governor’s office since last fall,” task force President Bob Beck said Wednesday.
“This is terrific news,” Deputy Town Supervisor Dan Lamb said. “We’re grateful to the governor’s office for recognizing the importance of this project to the town of Dryden.”
He said the task force had previously applied, but didn’t receive funding and was encouraged to apply again.
The trail, which began in 2016, is a multi-use, non-motorized path in the Lehigh Valley Railroad corridor. It will connect to the existing East Ithaca Recreation Way at the Ithaca town line on Game Farm Road and provide access to Ithaca and Cornell University. It will pass through the hamlets of Varna and Etna and the village of Freeville, ending at Route 13 in the village of Dryden, where it will connect to the existing Jim Shug Trail.
Once the entire trail is done, it will be a 10.5-mile path for cycling, running and walking.
The money from the Federal Highway Administration and administered directly by the New York State Department of Transportation will be used to build a pedestrian bridge over Route 13 near the Route 366 intersection, said Todd Bittner, the lead grant writer for the task force and natural areas director at Cornell Botanic Gardens.
“Part of the reason I am interested and involved in this is because the trail goes through part of Cornell Botanic Gardens,” Bittner said. In fact, the the gardens are on both sides of where the bridge would be located.
“It has stood out as the most challenging physical obstacle to completing the project,” Town Supervisor Jason Liefer said in a news release. It is estimated to cost $1.7 million to build, according to Bittner.
“This was a key part of the funding we needed,” Bittner said.
An Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant stone dust path like the one used on a portion of the over eight-mile Black Diamond Trail near Cayuga Lake will be added to the section of the trail from Game Farm Road to Pinkney Road.
“In most places it’s gravel, mowed grass or old rail bed cinders,” Beck said.
The trail near Route 13 will also be diverted under Fall Creek bridge, where there is an existing path that leads to a parking area.
In total, the cost of all the projects is estimated around $2.2 million.
Bittner said Cornell University has given $10,000 toward the project and the town is waiting to hear back about two grants — one from Tompkins County and another state grant. The money should be enough to complete the project.
“We’re fairly confident those funds will be awarded,” Bittner said.
The town of Dryden will pay whatever expenses are not otherwise covered.
Bittner said the next step is to send out a request for proposals for design and construction of the bridge and then award bids for the projects.
“We would hope to get started as soon as possible,” Beck said.
Beck said the town and task force are close to having only two miles of trail easements left to obtain to complete the trail.
“We’re making huge progress to connect our community,” Beck said.