Time to pursue rail-trail benefits

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To The Editor:
Completing a world-class trail network linking the Walkway Over the Hudson to Kingston and then out to the Ashokan Reservoir and beyond offers the Catskills huge economic benefits built on healthy recreational activity. Studies across the country repeatedly demonstrate substantial economic and health benefits from building off-road multiple-purpose trail networks, and linking existing mountain biking and hiking trails in the Catskills with these trail networks obviously creates an invitation for outdoors enthusiasts from around the world to join us in enjoying these riches.

In the mid-1970s, Ulster County purchased the old Ulster & Delaware Corridor running along the Esopus Creek as an almost 40-mile-long linear park intended for the benefit of the public. Over the past three decades, the best efforts of the Catskill Mountain Railroad, a for-profit railroad line operating in the corridor, have left them far short of their obligations and aspirations, with only about five miles of track active and huge environmental and financial hurdles looming.

Ulster County’s residents therefore deserve immediate access to all those sections of the corridor that the railroad has been unable to maintain and will never be able to put into use. This can be done without harming the railroad’s existing operations, and, as with other rail trails around the country, the railroad right-of-way can be preserved via rail-banking, so that in the future a railway can be brought in, if a viable business plan for doing that emerges.

Meanwhile, a great new section of trail (and existing rail) in Ulster County can connect with the Catskill Scenic rail and trail in Delaware County, joining people in trail activities throughout the Catskills.

Kathy Nolan, Chair
Ulster County Trails
Advisory Committee