Resident promotes “The ChapLine,” a path from Chappaqua Crossing to downtown Chappaqua

October 17, 2014
by Christine Yeres

At last Tuesday’s Town Board meeting, New Castle resident Dan Googel brought to public attention a concept first floated around 2005, when Mt. Kisco needed to reline a sewer main running south through New Castle along the east side of the railroad tracks between Horace Greeley High School and North Greeley Avenue in downtown Chappaqua.  Gravel was laid down along the path so that trucks could come and go.  At the time, former Town Administrator Gerry Faiella thought to ask the county to replace the gravel with asphalt once the project was completed and even lay an electrical conduit for low path-lights someday.

The concept resurfaced at the end of last year, when the Town Board inserted into its November 2013 “Findings” on the Chappaqua Crossing application a directive—under the heading “Community Facilities and Services”—that, “[a]s proposed by the Applicant, there shall be cooperation in opening on-site trails for public use and in connecting on-site trails to the prospective trail along the sewer trunk line providing bicycle and/or pedestrian access to the Chappaqua Hamlet.”  Presumably the pathway would from town, beyond Greeley, and connect to Chappaqua Crossing—a distance of around 1.6 miles.  The project would require easements from several Lawrence Farms South properties that border on the pathway; the town already has an easement from the Chestnut Oaks condo development on North Greeley Avenue.

Googel, who serves on the “Commerce and Hamlets” committee of the Master Plan review has investigated the pathway (see photos of it in his presentation below).  In a town “where our kids can’t bike on virtually any of our roads,” he told Board members, he learned from the Pace public outreach that New Castle residents are keen nowadays to have ways to walk and bike around town—and here, he said, was one that pretty much exists already.  The “ChapLine” trail, he said, “remains in great shape and could be upgraded cost-effectively to a public pedestrian/bicycle path benefiting the entire New Castle community.” To finish it off might cost between $850,000 and $1.4 million, and deliver benefits well worth the cost.

On the Town’s website Googel explains further:

“The ChapLine would provide a healthy recreational space for our families and enhance the pedestrian/biking experience in a town where roads tend to be relatively unsafe for walking and biking. Such trails have been proven to increase the values of nearby properties as home buyers increasingly seek more pedestrian-friendly communities. The ChapLine would also allow Horace Greeley students with a means to safely walk or bike to/from school and provide a safer and healthier alternative to driving off-campus during the day, as they could walk or bike to downtown Chappaqua for lunch or snacks. Regardless the ultimate mix of office, residential and retail at Chappaqua Crossing, the ChapLine would provide the residents and employees an alternate means to get to downtown Chappaqua.”

See Googel’s presentation to the Town Board—including maps delineating the pathway—is embedded below:

The Chappaqua Bike/Walkway (The “ChapLine”) from New Castle Media Center on Vimeo.

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Creative and great idea!  It will link the community. I wonder when the NIMBYs will complain about it disrupting their community.
The Chapline with a multi use Chapp Crossing (with retail) will be great.

By Resident on 10/19/2014 at 8:03 am

This is a wonderful idea. It will be perfect to link the newly created multi purpose Chapp crossing with the rest of the community.

By great idea on 10/20/2014 at 12:48 pm

I commend Dan Googel for his persuasive and professional PPT presentation.

Chappaqua has many attributes, but road width and topography conducive to safe and frequent bicycle use are not among them.

I am hopeful that the adjacent property owners will embrace the proposed project and grant the needed easements. I then hope they benefit from using the ChapLine and from their appreciated property value. I cringe whenever a proposal is described as a “win-win”, but in this case, I think the term applies.

Project cost is always a concern, but there’s no sense being penny wise and pound foolish. Chappaqua’s good fortune should be recognized.  Most of the groundwork for this path is already in place. The project is starting at the 50 yard line, not the 20.

Cost conscious project management must be utilized. The challenge then is to identify and allocate sufficient funds to create a pathway able to withstand deterioration for decades to come. Constructing and maintaining for long term function is critical.

This safety enhancing, congestion reducing, outdoor activity encouraging, community connecting plan should proceed. Do the proper due diligence, then ….. Let’s Roll.

By William McHale on 10/20/2014 at 8:03 pm

Great idea.  But I always visualized that a sidewalk along 117 would have wider appeal and allow many kids to walk or bike to Greeley

By Ken Fuirst on 10/20/2014 at 8:14 pm

Fantastic idea! Thank you Dan for bringing it forward.

By Matt Egan on 10/20/2014 at 11:32 pm

Sidewalks are a great idea- BUT the space and the money just aren’t there.  This is actually something that could happen.  don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good (or even great).  Chappaqua didn’t get built with sidewalks- it has typical suburban sprawl development.

By sidewalk on 10/21/2014 at 3:20 pm

You’re going to need something considerably more persuasive than this glib, poorly researched presentation to convince the property owners of Lawrence Farms South to agree to this. Even the cutesy little name (The ChapLine? Please …) dismisses the very real issues of lost property, privacy and security that will come with this path.

By LFS Homeowner on 10/21/2014 at 9:42 pm

I’m sure the comments about NIMBYs will be coming fast and furious, but I don’t know anyone who would want potentially hundreds of people a day walking/biking through their literal backyard.

By can’t blame them on 10/22/2014 at 8:57 am

Can’t blame ‘em, you may be right. I’ll have to walk to trail to see how close it is to people’s homes. But I’d also encourage people to go walk the Croton Aqueduct trail through Irvington. It passes through some stately neighborhoods, and it makes them even more appealing.

By Matt Egan on 10/23/2014 at 2:49 pm

The Croton Trail skirts properties and back yards it doesn’t go right through them like this would go through Chestnut Oaks Condo. There are so many serious liability issues here that are not being considered.

This notion of linking the community is simply not the case. Chappaqua is not Pleasantville. It’s never going to be a walking town. It’s made up of enclaves that don’t want strangers walking or biking through their properties. Build side walks! This is a diversion for the TB as a feel good project.

By Chappdad on 10/25/2014 at 9:16 am

I feel for the affected property owners of Lawrence Farm South. Through no fault of their own, they’re in an awkward spot. If implemented, the proposed path would unquestionably compromise their privacy and security.

We can debate the extent of their loss, and can propose the creative use of fencing and shrubbery that may help mitigate their loss. But whatever the outcome, the question is not whether a loss will occur, but what the extent of their loss will be.

It is one thing to weigh the pros and cons and then decide to purchase a home alongside a pedestrian / bike trail. Many Westchester residents have done just that. It’s another thing to have the trail imposed upon you. In this instance, the latter applies.

Adding to their plight, it seems to be in the interest of everyone other than these homeowners that the path be built. If there was a referendum, I’ve no doubt this proposed path would be approved.  After all, it’s not our privacy and security that will be affected.

If the homeowners grant the easements they’ll be lauded for their selfless sacrifice and contribution to the community. If they decide their privacy and security concerns trump all other arguments, they risk criticism for their perceived selfishness.

By William McHale on 10/26/2014 at 12:35 pm

As they decide whether to grant the required easements, my request of the homeowners is that they fully consider how they might personally benefit.

Is it appealing to have the option to leave their car in the driveway, ride their bike to the train station, and on the way home pick up a DVD from the library, use an ATM, and drop off a prescription?

Weather permitting, how much of an upgrade in quality of life would it be for the neighborhood middle school students to be able to forego the school bus and ride their bikes to Bell School?

Would an immediately accessible biking or running path be helpful to their conditioning?

Would it give them pleasure to look out their back window and see the Greeley cross country team training for the county championship?

To what extent shall they be swayed by the gratitude of the community?

I am confident the debate of this matter will be spirited and contentious. I am also hopeful we’ll be pleasantly surprised that the discussions include more empathy and less vindictiveness than we anticipated.

By William McHale on 10/26/2014 at 12:38 pm

to chapdad: you wrote “The Croton Trail skirts properties and back yards it doesn’t go right through them like this would go through Chestnut Oaks Condo” but that’s a roadway for cars already. it’s not a private dead-end. the town says it has an easement through the condos already.

By the town has an easement already on 10/28/2014 at 7:27 pm

I certainly appreciate the thoughtful tone of Mr. McHale’s comments, and I will attempt to match it.

We already walk or ride bikes to town through the roads of Lawrence Farms South; an existing bridle path connects High Way with Crossways and Castle Road. A few Greeley students already use this route to get to school, but the truth is (as anyone with a high school student knows) walking is their least likely mode of transportation, even in the nicest weather. And the Greeley cross country team already trains here, where they are both safe and welcome.

It’s nice of you to consider our health and conditioning, but remember: The proposed path is a little over a mile long. That’s all. It won’t connect neighborhoods. It won’t connect to any other trail system. It’s just long enough to connect two commercial districts. And disturb homes, reduce property values and violate protected wetlands.

While I do agree with Mr. McHale’s hope that empathy will characterize this discussion, my real hope is that informed opinion will drive it.

By LFS Homeowner on 10/28/2014 at 7:35 pm

Thank you to Dan Googel for putting the time into this proposal.  He did a nice job envisioning an idea and presenting the concept.  Anything that encourages people to get outside and bike or walk or run is a good thing—IF it’s used.

Seems to me that most people who bike, would have to drive to one of two parking areas at the ends of the trail.  Do those exist?  And with the Saw Mill Parkway alongside the path, the road noise along the path would be considerable; not a quiet nature walk. 

By contrast, the North County Trailway has a nearby parking area in Millwood.  So I don’t know if many serious bikers or families would want to drive and park at the ChapTrail, which would only be one mile long, when they can just as easily use the North County Trailway, which is quiet and goes up to Brewster and down to the Bronx.

Aside from the easement issue and the ongoing maintenance costs, I wonder how many Greeley parents would want their kids walking through a long pathway through woods at 7am, with no people along the way.  Police wouldn’t be able to keep an eye on it.  Nor would many kids, I think, feel totally comfortable walking a secluded path to the rear of the school—especially in cold months.

On the other hand, I hope that Dan’s proposal starts a broader discussion about how we can make our town more pedestrian/bicycle friendly.  Recently I biked across Manhattan, and I was amazed that so many streets now have bike lanes.  If they can do that in Manhattan, simply by moving lines around, can’t we find ways to make Chappaqua safer for bikers and pedestrians?

By Dan Baitch on 11/01/2014 at 6:34 pm

This is a great idea, but once again, property owners who have taken advantageous of property that they don’t own, i.e. the public right of way, will argue against it. Sad, but here comes the next war.

By Here comes the NIMBY’s Version 2 on 11/08/2014 at 6:11 pm

I really miss riding my bike since moving to Chappaqua 2005. Ironically, we rode our bikes more often in the city – all over Manhattan, in fact, than we do out here in the suburbs. We’d thought thjT we would be on our bikes all the time. The traffic and steep hills have made that impossible.  The bikes in the garages unless we go out to Long Island or some other area with bike routes, or ride on the bike path on the old Pelham rail line.

I don’t live in Lawrence Farms South. Nonetheless, I do think that the residents would have good reason to complain if a bike path were to be run through their backyards. They are being asked to give an easement on property that they own, and one thT would affect their privacy.  I am not sure that I would like a couple of hundred bikes, or even 50 bikes, running across my property every single day.

Bike paths are great. But we seem really quick around here to call other people names when they will not give up their rights and their stuff so that we can have what we want. We are very eager to call other people selfish when they don’t make our own lives easier at their own expense. Again, while I don’t live there, I think the LFS residents have a right to object to having their property used for public purposes. I don’t deserve your stuff just because having it makes my life more pleasant.

By Don’t live there, but . . . on 11/13/2014 at 7:57 am

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