ALBANY – Who could oppose a statewide recreational trail running for New York City to Buffalo to boost tourism and promote healthy living?
It seems like a majority of the public and the state Legislature do.
Neither the Democratic-led Assembly nor the Republican-controlled Senate are showing much support for Gov. Andrew Cuomo's $200 million proposal to build a 750-mile trail across New York -- which would be the largest state-owned trail in the nation.
And a Siena College poll last month showed that voters had the least support for the so-called Empire State Trail among the ideas Cuomo announced in January.
Just 38 percent of voters supported the idea.
Advocates for the trail rallied Monday at the state Capitol in support of the proposal to try to sway lawmakers.
“The Empire State Trail is a great investment in the health of all New Yorkers,” said Bob Elling, chair of the state advocacy committee for the American Heart Association.
“Heart disease and stroke are the No. 1 and No. 5 killers of all Americans, yet 80 percent of those disease are preventable."
The Assembly and Senate majorities put out their own budget proposal last week, and the trail got little financial backing.
The Senate didn't include any money for the trail, while the Assembly included $10 million. Cuomo's budget seeks $77 million in the fiscal year that starts April 1, and the whole project would be funded over three years.
The trail will be part of budget negotiations that started in earnest Monday between legislative leaders and Cuomo.
Senate Tourism and Parks & Recreation Committee chairman Rich Funke, R-Perinton, Monroe County, said he believes the state has other more immediate funding priorities.
"If we have money to put into our parks, we have a lot of needs in our parks right now that can be addressed and should be addressed," Funke said Monday.
"I think it’s a noble idea, and I think it’s a great idea over time," he continued about Cuomo's plan. "But there are other things that need to be addressed first."
Cuomo is undertaking a $900 million capital improvement to the state's 80 state parks and 35 historic sites, called NY Parks 2020.
He has called the Empire State Trail a way to expand tourism across the state, particularly upstate, and link existing trails that run through New York.
The plan would add 350 miles to the existing the Hudson River Valley Greenway and Erie Canalway, creating a contiguous hiking and biking pathway from the New York Harbor to the Canadian border and along the Erie Canal.
When he announced the proposal Jan. 10, Cuomo said the trail would provide "residents and visitors alike unprecedented access to New York's outdoor treasures, driving tourism and economic activity to communities across the state and helping to protect our environmental resources for generations to come.”
Parks & Trails New York, an advocacy group, said Monday that the trail would connect state parks, such as the Walkway Over the Hudson and FDR National Historic Site in Dutchess County to the Ganondagan State Historic Site in the Finger Lakes.
"The initiative will secure New York’s place as a destination for outdoor recreation and heritage tourism and contribute substantially to New York’s economy, public health, and environment," the group said.
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