I am writing this letter as a Shandaken resident in favor of the use of the Ulster rail corridor as a rail trail in the sections not actively used by the Catskill Mountain railroad. This letter is in no way meant to undermine the hard work and value of the CMRR or the attractions and services that they provide for our region. I would hope that while the county may support the continued use by the CMRR of the rail corridor from Phoenicia to Boiceville, that future considerations look at the rest of the corridor and the multiple benefits of a 365-days-a- year recreational asset connected to the growing county-wide trail network.
The potential economic and health impacts of a rail trail for Shandaken are tremendous and there is extensive literature to support it. One would only have to look at the walking road at the reservoir to see the popularity of scenic, accessible and safe areas for walking and cycling. Cycling is now the second most popular recreational activity in the U.S. Imagine the popularity of such trails or walkways in our town where the end or start destination could be restaurants and shops (including the CMRR & Empire Rail Museum) as well as stream-side access!
Furthermore, the rail trail would help fulfill a long-time goal of developing Belleayre, Pine Hill Lake and Big Indian as a popular year-round destination by providing a safe, beautiful path for hiking, biking and cross-country skiing connecting hamlets, businesses and recreational areas.
The unused sections of the rail corridor in Shandaken are in an ever-worsening state of disrepair. Besides sections of mangled track laying in streams and broken trestles posing dangerous situations, there are long sections of track that are so overgrown that large saplings are growing in the middle of the corridor. I see this as an ongoing waste of a potential economic and recreational resource that has been left for far too long.