Cape Vincent eyes new walking trail

People walk in the grass in front of the Tibbetts Point Lighthouse in Cape Vincent in 2018. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

CAPE VINCENT — Local officials are looking to add a walking trail through town and add more attractions at the Tibbetts Point Lighthouse.

Dan Wiley, a town councilman and liaison to the Cape Vincent Local Development Committee, said the town is considering building a walking trail that would extend from a ridge overlooking the St. Lawrence River at Valley Road, by the village boundary, to the Tibbetts Point area to the west.

The town has proposed a path, but still needs to work with local landowners to get easement rights to use parts of their land.

“We set up a tentative path, hoping to hug hedgerows, so we’re not directly cutting through large plots of land,” Mr. Wiley said.

He said in the past, there were some landowners who opposed giving the town use of any of their land for similar projects. However, those owners have since sold their properties, and he now hopes that the new owners will be more open to partnering with the town. He said that their cooperation is key to moving this project forward.

For the first few years, Mr. Wiley said the trail would only be cleared of any brush and maintained. Once that trial period ends, if the demand is clear and the landowners continue to cooperate, then the town would consider paving the path to make it a permanent feature.

“I give it a year or two of a trial basis, and if it’s handled correctly and if the maintenance is taken care of, like we promised to do with the town and village employees, then it would be turned into a more permanent site.”

The LDC is also in the process of applying to a program that would allow the town and historical society to do more with the land and buildings at the Tibbetts Point lighthouse. The lighthouse, which still functions and is an active navigational tool for boat and ship captains traversing Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, is under federal jurisdiction, and can only be used for certain things. The lighthouse is owned by the town of Cape Vincent, and maintained by the Tibbetts Point Lighthouse Historical Society.

If the LDC is able to get the lighthouse reclassified under the Historical Surplus Property Program, the town and the historical society would be able to take over more operations at the lighthouse and use the other buildings on the property.

Sally Williams, a member of the historical society board, said they would be thrilled to see more activity and investment in the lighthouse and its tertiary buildings.

“We would be thrilled if the town could find a way to bring some more money in and fix up the buildings, the keeper’s cottage and the other house, which was used as a barracks for the Coast Guard when they were there,” she said.

Currently, the historical society focuses mainly on maintaining and repairing the lighthouse and the foghorn, and lack the resources to maintain the other buildings as well.

“We really don’t want those other buildings left in disrepair so it starts to show,” Ms. Williams said. “You can have a gorgeous lighthouse, but you don’t want it next to a building that’s nothing but a ruin.”

Ms. Williams said the lighthouse has proven to be an enduring attraction for the town, and any further investment would only amplify that effect. She said that, this summer, their guest book had signatures from 40 different states and Washington, D.C.

“And that’s COVID summer, when people were really not traveling,” she said.

If all goes well, Mr. Wiley said that the application to put the lighthouse under the Surplus Property Program should be filed by mid-October, with approval taking between one and two years.

Ms. Williams said they would like to have any new projects and attractions at the lighthouse up and running by the summer of 2027, to celebrate the 200-year anniversary of the lighthouse.

As for the walking trail, Mr. Wiley said any timeline depends on the landowners who would need to give permission for the town to use their property.

“We’re obviously going to mark it out and start talking with whose going to be mapping it out and cutting down the brush,” he said. “If we have certain landowners that don’t participate, we may have to either redirect the trail or we may end up having to scratch the whole idea again.”

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(1) comment

BenG

Good luck, sounds like a good project,

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