Catskill Mountain Railroad, Ulster County battle of track plans

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By Joe Moskowitz
The battle between the little train that thinks it can, and Ulster County, which has the backing the state and federal governments, is heating up.

Ulster County Executive Mike Hein and the Catskill Mountain Railroad (CMRR) are on the same track, and right now, and that is not good.
Hein wants to tear the tracks up while the CMRR wants to lay down more.

Hein, with the support of U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer and Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to create a trail from the Hudson River to Highmount along the former Ulster and Delaware right-of-way. That would mean tearing up the tracks of the CMRR’s tourist runs in Kingston and from Mount Tremper to Phoenicia. At least it used to run to Phoenicia. Hurricane Irene tore up some of those tracks. The CMRR is about to resume rebuilding those tracks, but that’s not the end of the line.

Earl Pardini of the CMRR says they not only do they plan to fix what they were using, they want to restore all of the tracks from Kingston to Phoenicia.

He says they began that process 30 years ago and there is no reason to stop now. But Hein has a couple of million reasons why they should stop. Ulster County, which owns the rights of way, just received $2 million from the state to start creating a trail.

Pardini insists that the 38-mile stretch should be rails and trails. He says there is plenty of room in the rights-of-way for both tracks and a trail for hiking or biking. Hein, however, said this week, “That’s fundamentally impractical without tens of millions of dollars.”

Pardini says the county can do both. It’s just a new idea it hadn’t considered.
Hein and Pardini agree that the old track bed can be a major tourist attraction. But they continue to travel in different directions on the same track.