Letter to the Editor: The Time is Now for Trails

A response to this letter was published in our letters section on December 12, 2012. -- Julia Reischel

Dear 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 Ulster County 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, the 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.

Thanks to all those who have worked to construct the Walkway Over the Hudson and other very active and well-managed rail trails in our region, we are now within reach of filling all the remaining gaps so that off-road cycling, skating, walking, and running become possible throughout Ulster County for both residents and visitors. Thanks primarily to County Legislators John and Robert Parete, Ulster County has sustained this vision since the time of the County’s initial investment in the Ulster & Delaware Corridor, and thanks to County Executive Mike Hein, a means toward the completion of a world-class, unified, county-wide trail network appears to be at hand. Please voice your support for bringing forward this vision and filling the gaps and opening up some of the most important trail sections of the network, especially in unused yet beautiful and extremely trail-worthy portions of the Ulster & Delaware Corridor!

Kathy Nolan, Chair
Ulster County Trails Advisory Committee