Letter to the Editor: Friends of the Catskill Mountain Rail Trail congratulate NYC DEP on trail

To the editor:

The Friends of the Catskill Mountain Rail Trail congratulate New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on moving forward with plans to support the construction of a publicly accessible multiuse trail along the northern border of the Ashokan Reservoir. This action was endorsed unanimously (with one abstention) last week by the members of the Ulster County Trails Advisory Committee, who prepared the following statement to be sent to Ulster County’s Economic Development and Tourism Committee: "Based on last week's offer by the Commissioner of New York City's Department of Environmental Protection of considerable financial and other support for converting 11.5 miles of rail corridor along the Ashokan Reservoir to a multi-use rail trail, with parking and other amenities designed to create a world-class tourism attraction, with year-round free access to the rail trail without permit, the Ulster County Trails Advisory Committee strongly urges the Ulster County Legislature to authorize the Ulster County Executive to execute an agreement to further this plan."

The conversion of the rail easement on DEP property to trail has been under consideration for over ten years, and the DEP has consistently held that either a trail or tracks could run through the easement area, but not both. The possibility of future rail use is preserved under the new agreement, yet the DEP recognizes the environmental advantages of conversion of the corridor to trail use and is now offering $2.5 million in direct financial support for trail-only development, with another $1 million available to address water quality issues, and considerable additional support. Under the new agreement, the DEP will construct three trailheads with parking and restrooms, a bike and pedestrian lane across the dividing weir connecting the north and south shore trails, and a bike and pedestrian lane on Route 28A connecting the trail to Boiceville; it will also co-promote these new recreational opportunities to their water customers in New York City. The Friends of the Catskill Mountain Rail Trail heartily applaud this cooperative effort between the DEP and Ulster County, and we look forward to the speedy consummation of this agreement, the immediate start of a public planning process, and the earliest possible beginning of construction.

Kathleen Nolan, MD, MSL and Kevin Smith

Co-Chairs, Friends of the Catskill Mountain Rail Trail