By Jake Lynch
The community leaders of Ulster County in New York have set
some of the nation's most ambitious rail-trail planning goals. And they are
determined to make them a reality.
Ulster County Executive Mike Hein left nothing to the
imagination in unveiling his 2013 executive budget for the county, stating that
continued regional rail-trail development was a key part of his vision "of
creating the healthiest county in New York State." And he knows exactly where
that rail-trail will go.
Ulster County owns a portion of the Ulster and Delaware
Line, also known as the Catskill Mountain Branch, which includes more than 32
miles of disused corridor between the city of Kingston and the county line. In the 2013 budget
announcement, Hein said he plans on turning this rail line into a premier rail-trail,
leaving intact the existing tourism railroad attraction operated by the
Catskill Mountain Railroad that utilizes an active portion of the corridor.
"By adding to the tourism magnet that is the Walkway Over
the Hudson, an interconnected U&D corridor with the O&W corridor which
runs along State Route 209, as well as the Hudson Valley Rail Trail (right) and the
Walkill Valley Rail Trail (below), Ulster County will be well on our way to creating
the single largest interconnected rail-trail network in the state of New York,"
told the Daily Freeman. "This vision will result in a tremendous new,
world-class tourism asset to add to our already long list of world class
This new project supports Hein's goal of creating the healthiest
county in the state, and would allow the county to sell existing steel on the
line, the value of which is estimated at approximately $650,000.
Though support for utilizing the unused sections of railroad
is widespread, the plan is being opposed by the operators of the Catskill
Mountain Railroad. Following Hein's announcement, they responded that they have
being trying to create a single scenic rail line running from Kingston to
Phoenicia for the past 29 years, a plan which has not progressed in that time.
recent op-ed in the Daily Freeman, members of the local Woodstock Land
Conservancy said research indicated there was widespread support in the area
for a Catskill Mountain Rail Trail, but that it was important for local
residents and businesses to convey that support to local decision makers.
"Hein's proposal encourages the for-profit Catskill Mountain
Railroad tourist ride to continue operations where it has for years, in
conjunction with a rail trail on the segments of the corridor that have been
inactive for decades," the members wrote. "This will collectively attract a
larger, diverse array of both trail and train enthusiasts to our region. Rail-trails
have a well-documented history of providing multiple year-round benefits,
including enhancing the health of individuals; connecting children safely with
physical activity and the outdoors; providing enriching educational and
spiritual experiences; helping to drive economic development by supporting
local businesses; and protecting the environment."
Photo courtesy www.traillink.com
These old rail road hobbyists always stand in the way of the rail trails. They have grand plans for putting their toy trains across the state even though they have 30 years of failure making their dream a reality. Get a hint already. Trains to nowhere will never do anything but waste the land they run on along with taxpayer's dollars. Keep your toy trains in your basement where they belong.
While I agree CMRR has been slow in their progress, saying "These old rail road hobbyists always stand in the way of the rail trails" is not factual in this case. Catskill Mountain Railroad has stated constantly that they would like to see a rail-with-trail corridor, such as the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad and Trail. I agree with CMRR that if the right of way is big enough, both a trail and a rail should be maintained to reap the maximum economic and health benefits. (Mind you, CMRR also operates on their profits; they are not publicly funded.) I also feel that the railroad is essentially dead beyond Phoenicia, and should be pulled and converted directly to trail. The section that should be rail-with-trail should run from Kingston to Phoenicia, assuming the City of New York is willing to accept a trail through their precious reservoir land.
For the Kingston to Phoenicia stretch, something like this...
Then from Phoenicia to Highmount go rail to trail. Makes the most sense. Maybe the railroad would let me throw my bike on the train if I wanted to take a break between Kingston and Phoenicia. I'll probably need it after riding up from New Paltz.
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