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The ribbon of asphalt winds 5.2 miles through wooded countryside flanking Ellicott Creek in Amherst, attracting thousands of walkers, joggers, bikers and in-line skaters.

Now, a 1.3-mile spur may be added to the popular Ellicott Creek trail in concert with construction of an $18.3 million, four-rink ice arena at the Audubon Recreation Center off Millersport Highway near Maple Road.

Amherst officials have more than an ice rink in mind for the Audubon complex, envisioning a recreation and community center in the not-too-distant future.

The trail addition and a man-made lake for storm water run-off on the Audubon Recreation Center property are in the early planning stages, with a strong probability of state funding of up to $450,000 in matching grant money awarded in 1989, officials say.

The link-up between the Audubon center and the path could be made near Millersport, or just beyond the first bridge where the paved pathway begins on North Forest Road, near the Audubon Golf Course and Maple Road, said Jeffrey M. Bloom, Amherst recreation director.

A new cost analysis is being prepared for resubmittal to the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, he said.

The trail and lake once represented the environmental component of the town's ice rink project. But the two projects had to be separated when involvement of the Amherst Industrial Development Agency and private developers in the ice rink project compromised terms of the $450,000 state environmental bond act grant for the trail and lake, he explained.

The Audubon Recreation Center, built in the early 1960s, has an indoor ice rink, three baseball and eight softball diamonds, tennis and basketball courts, soccer and football fields and a now-closed outdoor swimming pool.

The four-rink ice complex also will house a new town youth center but eliminate at least one softball field, a soccer field, the basketball and tennis courts, and the old pool, said Council Member Michael G. McGuire, the Town Board's recreation chief.

Bloom and others see more benefits in the trail extension than merely making the recreation complex accessible to trail users.

For one, it will provide a new westerly access point to the trail, with the potential to take some of the load from the busy path parking lot on North Forest, Bloom noted. Ample parking is available at the recreation center, and more is planned.

Another benefit ties into fitness and workout facilities planned for the ice arena, according to Bloom.

"They're for people who normally would be sitting around watching their kids skate for two hours. This gives them an opportunity to get a workout themselves," Bloom said.

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