Greenway: a program whose time has come
By NEAL HALLORAN
The timing couldnt be better.
Two news releases from the offices of New York State Senator John Bonacic and Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther announced that the Delaware River Valley Greenway, proposed by Bonacic over a year ago, has now passed the senate and the assembly. The bills need only to be reconciled by a committee made up of the senate and the assembly. This could happen as early as this summer, when the two bodies may meet to finish some unfinished business. If it doesnt happen this session, it should happen next session.
The reason that the timing is good is that it comes during the unusual regional discussions caused by the New York Regional Interconnect proposal to run a high-voltage power line through eight rural counties. Never before in recent history has there been so much unanimity among very disparate communities and individuals within the Delaware River Valley and environs.
What exactly would the greenway do for the river valley communities?
To answer that question, one only need look at the Hudson River Valley Greenway, which is the model for the Delaware River Greenway. The Hudson River Valley Greenway Act of 1991 created a process for voluntary regional cooperation among the 259 communities in the 16 counties in the river valley. Of all the 259 communities, over 80 percent, or 211, have joined the greenway. Two organizations were created by the act to facilitate the greenway process: the Hudson Valley Greenway Communities Council and the Greenway Conservancy.
The communities council works with local and county governments to promote land-use planning and create a way that communities and counties work together. It could, for example, fund technical assistance to help updating comprehensive plans, or a multi-municipal comprehensive plan if towns wished to construct one. Another project could be to help a riverfront community develop a river-access project like the one that was designed for Narrowsburg a few years ago. There are many possibilities, and its up to the towns and counties which projects to choose.
The Greenway Conservancy works to help local communities develop such projects as a trail program, or to help a community to maintain its identity. It can also assist with the preservation of farms and open space.
The motivation for communities to join the greenway is to get additional opportunities for funding not otherwise available. Communities can get matching grantsusually $5,000 to $10,000for planning. Communities that want to do multi-municipal planning can receive in excess of $10,000.
The greenway is not, as some fear, another level of government, as the Hudson greenway has proven. It is voluntary, and communities can participate to their comfort level or sit on the sidelines. But for those who participate, the greenway can be a conduit of funds, and serve as a catalyst for other state funding. We have everything to gain, and nothing to lose, from the greenway program, and its passage by the legislature is a fact worth celebrating.
(Neal Halloran is on the Town of Cochecton Planning Board and he is the code enforcement officer for the Town of Goshen; and a member of the Visioning Committee of the Upper Delaware River Corridor.)