The Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail & Its Impact on Adjoining Residential Properties

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Place: Schenectady

Overview

This study found that landowners adjacent to the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail are frequent users of the trail, and most are satisfied with having the trail as a neighbor. Despite their general approval of the trail, most landowners did not think the trail would increase their property value or affect how quickly they could sell their home, suggesting that the main appeal of living near the trail comes from being able to use it.

Relevance

This study’s findings would be of use in communities that are interested in developing a trail but may be facing objection from adjacent property owners. Because this study conducted a census of all adjacent landowners to the trail and had a high response rate, one can assume the responses presented here well-represent the opinions of landowners along the trail. However, because property value and salability information are subjectively reported by the landowners, they may be biased by property owners’ perceptions of the trail.

Location

The trail crosses rural, sparsely developed areas, heavily developed urban settings, and suburban single family home developments along the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers in Schenectady and Albany Counties, New York.

Trail Type

Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail (MHBH) is a 35-mile long, multi-use trail. The trail was constructed in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and is built directly upon the old Erie Canal towpath and the former railroad grades of the area’s first transportation routes.

Purpose

This landowner survey was part of a larger regional effort that to document the extent and type of use occurring on the MHBH Trail, along with user attitudes toward the trail. The MHBH Trail is generally perceived as a benefit to the region, but attempts to further develop or extend these types of trails were met with opposition from nearby landowners. Reliable information on the impact of trails on nearby residential properties provide valuable information for evaluating landowner concerns as new trails or extensions of existing ones are proposed. This study was prepared by the Schenectady County Department of Planning.

Findings

The MHBH trail sees approximately 104,000 users per year, and is mainly used by cyclists (44%), followed by walkers (31%), runners (18%), and in-line skaters (7%). It is primarily enjoyed by locals, with only three percent of users traveling more than 20 miles to use it. Eighty-six percent of respondents said their household uses the trail, and of those who use the trail, 40 percent use it weekly.

Of the landowners living near the trail, 56 percent said living near the trail was the same as they expected it to be, 18 percent reported it was better, and 10 percent reported that it was much better. Sixteen percent reported that it was worse or much worse than they expected.

Fifty-six percent of landowners were satisfied or very satisfied with having the trail as a neighbor. Twelve percent reported being unsatisfied or very unsatisfied about living near the trail. The remaining 31 percent were indifferent.

According to respondents’ perception, the trail did not appear to have a clear effect on neighboring property values or on their ability to sell their home. Regarding property value, one-third had no opinion, and 54 percent said the trail had no effect. Seven percent thought the trail had increased property value and seven percent thought it had lowered property value. Regarding property salability, two-thirds thought it had no effect, and 20 percent thought their proximity to the trail would make it easier or much easier to sell. The remaining 14 percent believed proximity to the trail would make it harder or much harder to sell.

Respondents largely thought that the development and management of this type of trail is a good use of public funds, with 82 percent in favor and 5 percent against using public funds. The remaining 13 percent had no opinion.

Methods

The residential landowner data contained in this report were collected through the use of a self-administered questionnaire mailed in March of 1997 to all 315 residential property owners immediately adjacent to the trail. A total of 215 responses, or 68.3 percent, were completed and returned by mail. The survey instrument was eight pages long and included: a cover letter from the Commissioner of the Schenectady County Planning Department, a generalized map of the trail, and 21 multiple choice questions. The survey was similar to a study conducted by the National Park Service Conservation Program in a 1992 study of three rail trails.

Citation

Feeney, S. 1997. The Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail & Its Impact on Adjoining Residential Properties. Schenectady County Department of Planning. Schenectady, NY.