I am Bill Ford, the 92-year-old “baby” brother of Edwin Ford, Kingston’s city historian of over 35 years. While Ed strives to remain apolitical, I am not. I call myself a “Lincoln Republican” out of respect for my grandfather, Albert Ford, who I knew for 13 years until his death in 1936. He voted for Abraham Lincoln. I myself am a combat veteran of World War II, having fought as a rifleman in the 38th Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Infantry Division in the European Theater of Operations.
I was born in a family farmhouse in Highland on April 4, 1923. I arrived in Kingston in 1928, following the sale of the farm, and later graduated from Kingston High School in 1941. After a varied and successful career, my retirement led me to Florida and then to Texas. I returned to Kingston in 2014 after the death of my wife, Thelma. We raised three sons during our marriage of 70 years. Kingston is once again my home and I’m very glad to be here.
The 11-mile section of the Catskill Mountain Railroad that serves as the current “missing link” between Kingston Plaza and Mount Tremper will be torn up and cast asunder unless we as concerned citizens, mindful of the tracks’ historic and commercial value, act between now and the spring of 2016. Built in the 1870s, the Catskill Mountain Railroad was originally part of a commercial enterprise developed by Samuel Coykendall and Thomas Cornell. These two very perceptive businessmen if the 1870s had the foresight to realize that many thousands of passengers disembarking from Hudson River steamboats might wish to continue their scenic journey into the Catskills aboard a comfortable railroad car. Coykendall reported that in one year alone, 1905, 600,000 passengers rode the trains.
Starting from the Kingston Plaza, there are currently thousands of passengers enjoying themed train rides to a terminus just past the flats of Hurley. It is beyond here that the 11-mile section of the historic tracks still exists. Why shouldn’t these tracks be used as well?
Ulster County Executive Michael Hein seems to be determined in his effort to destroy our heritage. That section of the tracks is historic, as proven by the fact that it is protected by law. This section is the “missing link” to the existing tracks at the village of Mount Tremper, where another very popular excursion train operates. This train ride allows passengers to enjoy a ride, “clear up to Phonicy,” to quote us “old-timers.” Reconditioned, I predict that hundreds of thousands of tourists will flock to Kingston to take a spectacular 35-mile trip through our scenic Catskill Mountains.
It could very well become the foremost tourist attraction in the entire Hudson Valley!
As I see it, Kingston seems to have fallen behind in attracting tourists. Tourists translate into money spent with local merchants. Several towns around us seem to have gotten that message. But these towns have far less heritage to offers, such as the establishment of Wiltwyck as the third Dutch settlement in America or the “rebels” of Wiltwyck risking their lives to establish New York as a state or our heritage of Gen. George Clinton being sworn in as New York’s first governor. When properly presented, heritage attracts tourists; thousands and thousands of them, all willing to spend money. Lots of money!
To me, County Executive Michael Hein doesn’t seem to have a care about our heritage. If he does, he has a strange way of showing it in his persuading 18 county legislators to support him in destroying our heritage just so people can take a hike. He should know as I do that other communities have had the foresight to create both a scenic/historic train ride and a hiking path side by side. It can be done! It’s being done elsewhere. It should and can be done here!
It is worth another effort for the key persons involved — city, county and state as well as railroad management — to agree, to work together and to open up this missing link.
Acting on my own without help from any group or committee, I am gathering signers — 350 in two days, to a petition which I hope may help convince those key people that we want our voices to be heard. Please listen to us, before it’s too late!
William A. Ford, Kingston
The mayor and the city
Everything that happens on a mayor’s watch is his: it breaks, it gets fixed, it just stays put. He owns all of it.
Walking through the city on the Kingston Corridor which takes me through Uptown, Midtown and Rondout and all the “”tweens” or “‘taints,” I like what I see and really, I’ve never seen it this good before. Not nearly. Thank you.