Town of Nelson completes walking trail through Nelson Swamp – Eagle News Online
CAZENOVIA – In May, the Town of Nelson completed a new walking trail in Nelson Marsh behind City Hall.
The trail, which crosses city-owned land, is part of the proposed Nelson Walkability Project. The initiative will eventually create an ADA-compliant walking loop of over two miles through Nelson City Park, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Nelson Swamp Unique Area, and the hamlet of Nelson.
According to Planning Council Chairman John Dunkle, the local project began about five years ago when a group of community members formed the Nelson Swamp Trail Committee with the goal of determining the optimal location for a walking trail in Nelson.
The committee included Dunkle, who served as chairman, Jeff Palmer, Bob Carr, Dr Mildred Irizarry, DEC senior forester Gregory Owens, local sportsman Charles Pace, city councilor Jen Marti, co-historian Nelson Fay Lyon and the members of the planning council Sandy Palmer and Jim St Pierre.
“They were the coolest bunch of people,” Marti said. “It was such a good mix – we had hunters, we had biologists, we had [people like me] who lived nearby and liked it before. It was so much fun to find out. . . We started to examine the areas of the swamp on the north and south sides of Highway 20 where it might be possible to create a walking trail. We looked at a few trail options on the south side, but they weren’t really that good. It was either too much work or too close to an existing trail or private property or that sort of thing.
Marti, who lived next to the Odeon on Nelson Road when she first moved to town, ultimately suggested the committee focus their attention on the land behind Town Hall.
“In the early 90s, I was going out behind my house in the swamp, and it was fantastic,” she recalls. “Back then, the snowmobile was huge and there were bridges built over the creek. Because of all this, you could walk back there practically all year round, as the areas where the [snowmobiles ran] remained packed. This is what I did every day between [about 1992 and 1996]. “
Marti added that when the sidewalks were installed along Route 20 in 2018, the committee realized the potential for a loop.
“You can start at the city office building, cross the swamp to Highway 20, then take the sidewalk back into town,” she said. “They even extended the sidewalk longer than it would otherwise have been to accommodate the potential swamp trail that led to Highway 20.”
Since then, local citizens, DEC, NYS Department of Transportation, Madison County Highway Department, SUNY ESF, and the City of Nelson have all contributed to different components of the project.
“Much of the work to date has been donated, including some of the materials and labor for the construction of the boardwalk by River Rock Dock,” said Dunkle.
The next major element of the loop, which will be completed by the DEC, is a walk and trail on state lands from Highway 20 to the Nelson owned section of the trail.
According to the DEC, the Nelson Swamp Trail Committee and the Nelson Streetscape Committee worked with the department to develop the concept and preliminary design.
The segment, which is independently funded by the Environmental Protection Fund, measures 1,520 feet in total, with 840 feet proposed for walk above wetlands and 680 feet of hardened trail.
In the unique Nelson Marsh area, trail visitors will follow the headwaters of Chittenango Creek and pass through open, forested wetlands, including a northern white cedar swamp, grasslands, and the Chittenango Creek riparian area. Interpretation panels and viewpoints will offer visitors the opportunity to discover the unique flora and fauna of the region.
“Since 1986, DEC has worked closely with the communities of Nelson and Cazenovia to preserve the unique natural and cultural resources of Nelson Swamp while providing opportunities for public access,” said Matthew Marko, Director of Region 7 from DEC. “The Nelson Swamp Trail project is a continuation of this partnership and an effort to strengthen the bond between these two communities and their local forests and wetlands. “
Construction is tentatively scheduled for 2022.
“At this point, the infamous ‘curb to nowhere’ on Route 20 will actually go somewhere as planned,” Dunkle said.
Once the DEC section is completed, the trail will become part of the Mad Cow 5K running course.
Mad Cow proceeds from August 7 of this year will support the completion of the trail.
To complete the entire loop, the Town of Nelson will complete the final section of the trail from Nelson Road to the Town Hall property.
According to Marti, the city is in the process of donating the Nelson-owned section of the loop – which begins behind City Hall – to the state.
“This removes the responsibility of the city and puts [the land] as part of the state’s DEC management program, ”she explained.
The city councilor also said she was working through the CED application process to establish a Friends of Nelson Recreation volunteer group that would help maintain the new loop, as well as the playgrounds and all future trails in Nelson.
According to Nelson Town Supervisor Jim Cunningham, Nelson Swamp is a valuable resource that deserves to be protected, nurtured and explored for a number of reasons.
“There is a special thrill in wild places – a feeling of discovery,” Cunningham said. “Wetlands offer a wide range of ecosystem benefits. Nelson’s Unique Swamp is one of the most biodiverse areas in central New York City.
Cunningham explained that wetlands help to control flooding, improve water quality and store large amounts of carbon, helping to moderate global climatic conditions.
“One of the reasons Chittenango Creek has such great water quality is that the springs flow through Nelson Marsh, cleaning up the water along the way,” he said. “Some of the greatest values of [Nelson Swamp] are plants and animals. . . The new elevated trail protects the extremely fragile ecology, creating an interesting and practicable loop just minutes from the bustling community of Nelson Route 20. Nature-related recreation is the fastest growing [sector] of the tourism industry. Once DEC completes its section of the loop, our sidewalks will connect not only to this area of exceptional visual quality, but also to the city’s businesses, our municipal park and the recently donated pollinator gardens. Real estate analysis Redfin and Zillow both found statistical correlations between walking and home values. People look for communities that offer physical activity that connects neighbors, which together affect the physical, mental and spiritual health of community members.
To learn more about the Nelson Swamp Unique Zone, visit dec.ny.gov.
For more information on the town of Nelson, visit townofnelson-ny.com.