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Hudson Valley News

NYS Budget Funds Start of Rail Trail Project in Ulster County

Doug Kerr, flickr

New York State’s 2013-2014 budget contains a $2 million grant to launch a Catskill Mountain Rail Trail in Ulster County. Yet there are differing visions about what that means.

The grant for the Catskill Mountain Rail Trail project would initially focus on developing the trail within the City of Kingston, and connecting along eight miles to the Ashokan Reservoir. Subsequent phases could extend the trail for a total of 38 miles from Kingston to the Delaware County border. Democratic State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill of Kingston says he views the project as rail and trail. He says after an effort by some legislators to remove the funding altogether:

The grant goes to Ulster County, so it is county officials who will hear from the public. Here’s New York State Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk, a Democrat whose  district includes portions of Ulster County, including Kingston.

The railroad to which Cahill refers is the Catskill Mountain Railroad, a for-profit, all volunteer operation that currently runs a five-mile round trip ride between Mt. Tremper and Boiceville. Here’s spokesman for the railroad, Harry Jameson.

Kathy Nolan is the Regional Director for the High Peaks with Catskill Mountainkeeper, and she does not see rail and trail coexisting where Jameson does.

Ulster County Executive Michael Hein says the railroad has not shown the feasibility of having rail with trail, while Jameson says the railroad has put together a 2013 rail with trail report showing there is. Here’s Hein.

Assemblyman Cahill says he hopes both sides are heard.

And here’s County Executive Hein.

Mountainkeeper’s Kathy Nolan, who is a former chair of the Ulster County Trails Advisory Committee, says a hiking or biking trail could have large economic benefits, and be inclusive of all who want to use the trail, without charging a fee. Yet Catskill Mountain Railroad’s Jameson disagrees, saying the railroad offers an option for those who cannot walk the trail.

The Railroad’s lease is up in two years, and, so far, there has been no successful extension or renegotiation of the lease. As for the rail trail, the vision of trail advocates, including the Ulster County executive, differs from others, like those with the Catskill Mountain Railroad. The open comment period, says Cahill, will allow all voices to be heard.

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