FULTON — More than four years in the making, a plan to build a series of multi-use trails in the city of Fulton is becoming a reality with the city's approval this week of a construction contract for the Pathfinder Canal Towpath and Canalview Bridge Walk trails on the city’s east side.
The New York State Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) awarded the city of Fulton $900,000 in December 2018 to increase public accessibility to the Oswego River and Canal via multi-use trails along the Oswego Canal, including the Pathfinder Canal Towpath Trail. The Fulton Common Council on Tuesday awarded a $911,939 contract for the trail project to East Syracuse-based Upstate Construction Services, who submitted the lowest of four bids for the project.
The trail projects stem from work started by city residents Marie Mankiewicz and Brittney Jerred, who co-chair a group called Fulton Footpaths that initially proposed the trails. The city previously received state funding for a feasibility study, which started in 2016 and provided the city with a master plan of eight walking trails and the design and construction drawings for the Pathfinder and Canalview Bridge Walk trails.
Trail improvements are slated to run along the eastern shore of the Oswego River, from Indian Point Landing in the north, through downtown, to the Broadway Bridge in the south, passing the city’s historic library and post office.
The project includes paving, benches, lighting and other features aimed at both accessibility and beautification.
City officials in recent years have sought to increase the city’s recreational opportunities, economic growth and tourism capacity by capitalizing on Fulton’s canal location.
Council President Larry Macner, R-6th Ward, who has been a longtime supporter of the project and personally provided labor to clear brush in the area, said Tuesday awarding the bid for the multi-use trail made him a “happy camper.”
“It’s going to be a really great thing,” Macner said. “Now the wheels are in motion. We already have the money for it and the bid has been awarded, so let’s move forward.”
In a joint statement, Mankiewicz and Jerred thanked the council and mayor’s office for moving forward with the construction project along the Oswego River, which they believe will improve the quality of life for Fulton residents and attract more visitors to the area.
“This construction will allow more people to enjoy the river and the historic canal,” Mankiewicz and Jerred said in the statement. “The trail, once completed, will connect Fulton’s natural resources to its downtown and allow for more fitness and recreational opportunities in the city.”
Part of the project’s intent is to improve pedestrian and bicycle traffic in the city, according to officials, and to direct more people to parks and expand access to the riverfront and Lake Neatahwanta. Officials believe the project could help showcase the city’s history and eventually create more opportunities for public art.
Reached after the council’s approval, Mankiewicz and Jerred both expressed excitement about the years-in-the-making project reaching its final stages.
“In a word — ecstatic,” Mankiewicz said of her reaction to the approval. “(Tuesday) night was like a dream come true.”
Mankiewicz said the “whole idea” of the project is to “jumpstart downtown Fulton activity” and spur economic development, in addition to improving residents’ quality of life by providing a quality, attractive area for walking and biking.
“We have these natural resources and this is about finally developing them,” Mankiewicz said of the city’s riverfront and Lake Neatahwanta.
City officials anticipate the construction to start in the coming months and to be completed as soon as the end of the year. As part of the project, the city is expected to contribute roughly $75,000 in so-called in-kind services in the form of labor and construction costs.
All told, city officials previously said the entire eight-trail network that connects the waterfront areas with commercial and suburban centers would be a multi-year endeavor and could cost more than $5 million.