By PHIL NOBILE
A proposal to include Halstead Avenue as part of an interconnecting trail spanning thousands of miles was met with both support and concern from town officials.
East Coast Greenway, a national non-profit organization, requested Harrison incorporate 1.3 miles of Halstead Avenue into a developing trail system of more than 3,000 miles along the east coast. According to the organization, 29 percent of the trail is made up of off-road, traffic-free sections, while the remainder consists of streets and roads.
Andrew Hamilton, the mid-Atlantic coordinator for the group, asked the Town Council at its Dec. 5 meeting to approve placement of signage along Halstead to include Harrison in the greenway.
“We’re looking for the town to accept the signs on the routes and also to ask if their Department of Public Works could install them,” Hami-lton said.
According to Hamilton, there are numerous advantages of including Harrison in the national system, from both an economic and general health standpoint.
“The economic development opportunities that come with it can be significant,” Hamilton said about joining the east coast trail. “When a town embraces a trail coming through, it creates development opportunities and a general awareness of this creates interest and probability of people going outside and doing something active because they’re curious.”
Hamilton cited areas previously added to the route as having local businesses offer incentives to travelers, such as free water or “pit stops” along the way.
The plan to include Halstead Avenue in the greenway involves the implementation of 15 signs, each 18 inches by 24 inches in size, between the Mamaroneck and Rye borders. The locations of the signs were determined by the state’s Department of Transportation and Westchester County said it will waive all fees involved with putting the signs in place that the Town’s Department of Public Works would be responsible for.
According to Hamilton, the bordering communities of Ma-maroneck and Rye have already approved the signs for their respective communities and await their delivery.
While Harrison council me-mbers praised the concept and presentation by Hamilton, some remained skeptical about the required size of the signs.
Questioning its effect on the “character of the community,” Councilman Stephen Malfitano, a Republican, declined support of the project as it stands, and requested a sample sign be sent to the board for its consideration of the project.
“I think the project is a worthy cause,” Malfitano said. “The issue I have has to do with the visual impact and aesthetics of placing signs along our roadways, more specifically in the central business district, and how it’s going to look.”
Malfitano acknowledged the fact that the neighboring communities of Mamaroneck and Rye accepted the signs, but said it was irrelevant when it came to Harrison.
“My impression is that it’s much too large,” he said. “These signs are meant to be very visual, so they’re colorful. Placing those signs along the right-of-way in the business district concerns me.”
While Hamilton acknowledged Malfitano’s concerns, he said the signs meet federal and state size standards.
“All signage has an impact on the public street, but the amount and size of these signs is not too great,” he said.
The organization, headquartered in North Carolina, was created in 1991 by 10 “trail advocates” with the goal of creating an interconnecting system from Maine to Florida for cyclists and joggers alike. Shortly after its inception, East Coast Greenway personnel began to-uring the country in the 1990s, adding states and routes to their envisioned trail each year. The organization’s goal is for the trail to ultimately be completely off-road, and, according to Hamilton, approximately 50 miles of off-road additions are made annually. Memberships as well as corporate and foundation sponsors are the source of East Coast Greenway’s operating funds, according to Hamilton.