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Alex Bay riverwalk delayed once more

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ALEXANDRIA BAY — The million-dollar riverwalk is being delayed again by several months as the village and River Hospital continue to “fine-tune” the project design.

Alexandria Bay hoped to break ground by next April, but that might wait until summer, according to village officials.

Mayor Danielle L. Jury said the village still is hoping to complete and open the scenic walking trail to visitors by the 2014 tourist season.

Since May, the hospital and village have been trying to reach a middle ground to get a land easement in place for the project.

“Of course, it’s delaying the project, but I don’t think it is the intention of the hospital to delay the work,” she said. “They have concerns we’re trying to address and we’re fine-tuning the designs.”

Because of what officials called a “lack of communication,” River Hospital board members decided earlier this year not to approve an easement to run the public trail along the hospital’s waterfront.

Officials said the “misunderstanding” started with a notice from the village’s consultant suggesting that Alexandria Bay intended to acquire that strip of land by eminent domain — by which government may require landowners to sell their property for a public purpose.

Mayor Jury and fellow village board members told hospital officials that Alexandria Bay had absolutely no interest nor the money to acquire such an expensive piece of riverfront property.

River Hospital CEO Ben Moore III has said that the hospital’s main concern always has been unimpeded access to its emergency dock and that the board of directors is not opposed to the riverwalk as long as the hospital can maintain responsibility and control over its waterfront.

Mr. Moore was unavailable for comment Monday.

With a vision to build a public trail connecting the village’s downtown business district and the St. Lawrence riverfront, the village government secured $935,000 in federal funding in 2009 and initially hoped to break ground in summer 2010.

But the project — originally proposed as a mile-long loop that would start and end at James Street and weave along Howell Avenue, by River Hospital and the Scuba Park waterfront, as well as along Fuller, Sisson and Church streets — has been pushed back several times because of redesigns and unexpected cost increases.

The village now is working with a scaled-down “baseline project” that eliminates the Scuba Park waterfront, Sisson Street, part of Fuller Street and Casino Island from the plan’s scope.

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