Letters: CMRR, Gibson-Eldridge, Niagara Bottling

Goodbye, CMRR

It is easy to see what side of the train debate Mr. Reynolds supports. Good journalism would hope that fair and unbiased reporting would show not only the benefits for a for-profit railroad company but also the negative impact that this railroad company has had on the many residents who have had to live next to the tracks for the past 20 years.

ktx sq lomo 1923 Abraham Lincoln 3-cent stampFacts of the tracks are that it is great to see such a great turnout for Thomas the Tank Engine. For those children’s parents who can afford the cost, it is like when the circus comes to town, or you take your child to have their picture taken with the Easter Bunny or Santa, with overpriced tickets and sky-high merchandise to boot.

It is also easy to see what side our elected county Legislator Dave Donaldson [is on; he] sides with a for-profit company (CMRR) over his own local residents which he is supposed to be representing. Knowing how many years and hours Mr. Donaldson has donated to the CMRR, I often wonder if he also has any financial ties with them as well.


In the old days an elected official would recuse themselves from a board or committee if there was a conflict of interest, but I guess those days are long gone. The rudeness that was shown to the speakers who spoke on behalf of the trail at the most recent committee hearings clearly showed how much hostility and ill feelings are inside of Mr. Donaldson. For true fairness to the process, he should have volunteered to annex himself [sic] from the proceedings.

It is sad that many families that actually live in Kingston could not afford this entertainment at $20 a person for a 20-minute ride. Now I hear The Polar Express will cost you $36 a person, so for a family of four it will be $144 but you get a free cup of cocoa! (Funny, nowhere on any of the posters for either Thomas the Tank Engine or The Polar Express does it give the ticket prices.)

With the average family living in the City of Kingston making under $30,000 a year, and as reported, most of these families who came to enjoy Thomas came from Manhattan, Rhinebeck, Woodstock and New Paltz, Mr. Donaldson should be aware that these people are not the ones that will be voting for his continued tenure in the legislature.

I have at least 10 years of pictures of the overgrown, trash-laden, rotted-out, rat-ridden, smoke-filled, vegetation-sprayed, tracks, non-payment of rent, and the lack of abiding to their lease.

If the grass and weeds grew to over six feet tall on my property and I did not clean up the trash that is thrown onto my property and I did not pay my mortgage I would get fined, cited and finally the bank would take my house. Thank god for Mr. Hein. Enough is enough.

Thomas the Tank Engine is the biggest thing and the most popular event that has ever happened to this CMRR in 20 years, so times that by number of riders times 20 years of abuse and the stats are not so great.

I personally brought 15 picture books filled with pictures of the filth, overgrowth, trash and non compliance of the CMRR lease over the past 10 years to the county legislature. I have written about the many times local community groups have had to clean up the tracks and haul away truck loads of trash and debris at the City of Kingston’s taxpayers’ expense as it’s carted away to the dump. But has Mr. Reynolds done one article about that side of the CMRR? No. Have I seen Mr. Donaldson at one neighborhood track cleanup in the past 10 years? The answer is no!

Mary Ann Parker, former alderwoman for the Midtown’s 4th Ward told the legislature that the last president of the CMRR wrote in your newspaper that “Midtown could go s–t in their hats!” (Editor’s note: Not exactly — Parker said Earl Pardini said that to her in response to her concerns about track-maintenance issues; Hugh Reynolds reported that in a column in 2013.) This is the true feeling of this for-profit company towards the city of Kingston and its residents and the way they use children to get the publicity they crave.

Is it worth all the mess for a couple guys who like to tinker with trains, to tie up our busy city streets every time their trains cross Washington Avenue, Downs Street, O’ Neil Street or at the plaza? Just wait ’till this Christmas when you get caught in a traffic jam at one of these locations, a for-profit company that can not even afford to buy proper railroad signs, signals, or crossing lights.

If families really want to take part in this kind of entertainment, and they come all the way from Manhattan, Rhinebeck, New Paltz or Woodstock they will be willing to drive the extra miles to Phoenicia and not think twice about it.

I have been waiting 10 years to say this: Goodbye, CMRR and thanks for the memories. I look [forward] to walking, biking, strolling running down a clean trail with my kids, and not having to pay a dollar a minute for my kids to enjoy the trails. Maybe Mr. Donaldson and Mr. Reynolds can move up to Phoenicia, buy a restaurant together next to the tracks and sell pancakes in the shape of a train and charge $20 a plate and maybe the residents there will drink the Kool-Aid you two are trying to sell the people of Kingston and maybe the residents will vote Mr. Donaldson in as their legislator representing the CMRR’s concerns over their own!

Matt Ryan, Kingston

 We’re for Gibson

We are supporting Chris Gibson in his re-election bid to the Congressional seat of New York’s 19th district. Our reasons for supporting Chris Gibson are many, however one of the top five reasons are his participation the “No Labels” reform movement in Congress.   Chris Gibson has been on board with this movement to create a national strategic agenda since 2010.

We are encouraged by the work of Chris Gibson and No Labels to make Social Security and Medicare sustainable and solvent over the next 75 years. We believe that one of the ways to help return our great country back prosperity for all citizens is to encourage and support candidates who are committed to reaching across the political aisle and who will work to problem solve in a bipartisan manner.

Please join us in supporting Chris Gibson — no labels, stop the fighting, start the fixing, on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014.

Janine Fallon Mower & John A. Mower, Woodstock

Gibson’s moderate myth

After reading “Laboring in Obscurity” (Sept. 18 Kingston Times) about Chris Gibson’s high approval rating among Democrats, I had to wonder what they are reading and how they are informing themselves.

Is it possible Democrats really don’t know how he votes in Congress?

There are 47 comments

  1. citizen K

    Mt Ryan’s comments are outstanding, not just for their position, but for the care and clarity, and an even measure of the issue. It is well crafted and gives an insiders view of what CMRR has done over many years in Kingston, alas with the support of previous administrations.
    Mr. Donaldson does not shine.
    I am sorry that our mayor appeared to be heavy handed with his treatment of CMRR but an insiders view would reveal how cavalier and careless CMRR has been with Kingston, again, with the support or lack of attention from earlier administrations, which includes the alderpersons, the Common Council.
    It’s about time we, the citizens of Kingston, take our city seriously, as Mr Ryan has. Thank you.

  2. VTT

    Mr. Ryan, you have so eloquently put into words what my feelings prevent me from doing. Thank you for your letter, and, thank you for your support!

    See you on the trail!


  3. HopeForABetterKingston

    Add in the fact that CMRR supporters regularly make denigrating comments about the residents of Midtown (e.g., referring to them as drug dealers and prostitutes, criminals, and other slights) on various web sites, and in front of the County Legislature and local town boards, and it is clear they do not care about improving Kingston, they care only about CMRR.

  4. CP

    Good things cost, true, but they also pay. Well over half a million dollars was brought into Kingston from the Thomas event. Your “free” trail will cost taxpayers a lot in upkeep; the CMRR is a tax-paying operation which, by the way, picks up plenty of trash thrown on its property by others.

    The CMRR is a lot more than “a couple of guys who tinker with trains,” Mr. Ryan. Did you bring your kids (or grandkids) to the Thomas event? Have you even taken a ride? If you did, you’d see the truth in that statement.

    I can’t speak for the past, but I can say with assurance the present CMRR is an asset to the city and county. This is true despite the resistance and political maneuvering of those who are trying to kill a locally-owned small business which has big dreams for Kingston and for Ulster County. If the city and county took the taxpayers’ money it is wasting on trying to put the railroad out of business into supporting it, the picture would be even brighter. In the meanwhile, I think your “goodbye” is quite premature.

  5. Gregg Swanzey

    Thanks for expressing your view so eloquently, Matt. We know you are not the only one who has similar concerns.

  6. Shawn Shader

    I think it is ignorance to compare the use of the Catskill mountain railroad and the potential use of a free unrestricted public trail… Common sense says that a limited schedule
    Train ride does not explain trash being deposited on these tracks… But to think that this limited use is causing a disturbance compared to the unrestricted, unsupervised, free for all use of this “trail” will not open up to a whole worse and new set of complaints is downright blinded thinking.
    The biggest problem I see with this whole debate is that one side is willing to work with the other so that the community could have the best of both worlds, while the other is unwilling to have it any other than their way…
    Why is it so hard to work together and have the mutual benifit for the entire community for many years to come…
    Once the rail is gone, it is gone forever… If it doesn’t work, the rail could be taken up at anytime in the future…

    1. no wey

      A trail is not handicap accessible, available to all, historic, unique or free. A railroad is all of those.

      Blaming the railroad for trash generated by transients and residents is unfair.

      We already have over 500 miles of trail in Ulster County. I know – in my lifetime I’ve hiked most of those.

      To my eye the railroad is in favor of a dual use corridor – each supporting the other. That is a great paradigm. The vocal train opponents simply want to take away from others so that they can own it all. Which group consists of adults?

      Let’s stop the rhetoric and do a bit of critical thinking on this subject.

      1. Highlander12528

        “A trail is not handicap accessible, available to all, historic, unique or free. A railroad is all of those.”

        I beg to differ. I walk trails all the time–never paid a dime. They are free. I’ve never rode a railroad for free. If the Thomas the Train event was free, please clarify that. The Polar Express ride is $24adult/$16 kids. We’re talking about $80 for a family of four. This is something for people with money to nurn

        There may be 500 miles of trails, footpaths, hiking trails an rail trails. That does not mean that more trails are not needed–especially through the City of Kingston here people live.

        The railroad is the lessee for the right-of-way and therefore the responsible party for its shabby condition.

        If the right-of-way would accommodate duel use that would be great. But the right-of-way is environmentally constrained and cannot accommodate both. This way made clear to me by CMRR officials 10 years ago when I tried to work with them on shared use corridor. Has the r-o-w magically enlarged? No. What’s changed? The CMRR is in danger of losing their lease.

        Run the train in Phonecia where it belongs. Please. And don’t tell me that Thomas the Train, the Pumpkin Train, and Polar Express doesn’t want to run in Phonecia. If that was the only opetion the VCMRR woudl find a way.

        And don’t call these cartoon trains a “heritage” railroad–or historic. Thes are cartoonish characterizations and a last ditch effort to try to undo 20 years of failed CMRR management and operation.

        We need the County’s r-o-w as something useful for everyone–not just those who can blow $24/$16 for a ticket.

  7. Mary Anne Moughan

    Honestly, I am stunned at this article. Walk into the long-suffering businesses in Kingston and just ask them what they thought of the “Thomas the Tank Engine” event. I did, and they were extremely pleased with their double- digit sales increases. They can not understand why, once again, they are not being supported. I am a local resident thoroughly disgusted by this whole scenario. The CMRR has many volunteers who participate in their upkeep. Instead of criticizing and complaining, why not pitch in and help pick up? Whenever my family or friends, see trash any where in our neighborhood or theirs, we never think twice about picking it up. The trains are a part of our history and there is value in maintaining it. It has proven that the railroad and the events draw much needed business into our community. There is no reason why they can’t cooexist, the trail alone will not be this much of a draw as so many communities have their own trail, but very few have a historic rail road. Just look at the commerce we lost with not approving “Steamtown”. As for the price, yes, it was a little expensive for many, but there were free exhibits and many budgeted to enjoy the day, licensing is part of the expense. I, and many others, do not feel represented by our lawmakers in their decision to erase a part of history that is also a much needed boon to business. Many of these tourists have discovered a new area to visit and spend their dollars in. The CMRR needs support and help in maintenance. Contribute instead of complain.

  8. Chris Bigham

    Kingston already has a rail trail that no one uses! It’s a mess. Why aren’t the trail people cleaning up and using that trail??


      Where is this trail of which you speak? The only two rail trails currently within the City of Kingston are either under development (Downtown) or in regular use (Uptown). The one Uptown has also been steadily undergoing clearing and drainage work with a large crew there as recently as a week ago… That trail has been maintained as a single track trail pending a decision about how the connection to Hurley will be done (O&W or U&D). The one downtown will have major work started shortly with several major cleanups of the corridor having already been carried out by volunteers. So where is this trail of which you speak?

      1. CP

        Hopefor…, if you’re considering the “Uptown” trail as the CMRR/U&D right-of-way, don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.

        1. Highlander12528

          Let’s hope so. The trail will allow ordinary people to use it on a regular basis–as opposed to the seldom run tourist train.

          1. Highlander12528

            CP:I asked CMRR officials about 10 years ago about cooperating with others to co-locate a trail along the tracks in the County’s right-of-way. The response was a curt no–that the right-of way would not accommodate both. Now that the County has a better understanding of the economic benefit of a countywide system of trails and the CMRR has not expanded track construction as stipulated in their soon-to-expire lease, CMRR has suddently found a way? I don’t think so. I’ve read the feasibility study and envioronmental constraints such as wetlands and steep slopes prohibit a rail with trail option. I believe the County is doing the right thing by encouraging a rail and trail option by offering to extend the lease between Boiceville and Phoenecia so that the railroad can continue to operate there where it makes the most sense and create a trail in Kingston and up to the Ashokan where it can be used by people on a daily basis for transportation, recreation and fitness. So, I seek a win-win situation–in fact I embrace it as described above and urge CMRR supporters to do the same.

          2. CP

            Highlander, CMRR expects to be operating further westward for the Polar Express. Significant track work has almost been completed despite the minimal funds available and other “bumps in the road(bed).” Also, the rail-with-trail option is about maintaining and expanding operations over the entire U&D right-of-way. To limit operation from Phoenicia to Boiceville is to ultimately reduce the railroad to the kind of novelty it was when it only hauled tubers. Times have changed since then.

            Mr. Swanzey, while the O&W trail indeed stops short of the Kingston city line, it is still Kingston-based and could easily be extended eastward to the former junction with the CMRR. And as a side note, who is paying for the trail clean-up – taxpayers, aren’t they? As Robert321 noted, “Seems like the cost to build and maintain (and insure) a rail trail needs to be part of the conversation (it is not free). Every taxpayer gets to pay; not just the users….the taxpayers will always be on the hook.”

            Finally, it seems to me that, contrary to Mr. Ryan’s assertion, Mr. Donaldson IS representing his constituents by trying to end the wasteful litigation that has consumed so much time and money. Coupled with the large infusion of money to the area (estimated at well over half a million dollars) brought by the Thomas event, it should be obvious that the CMRR’s continued existence is a great benefit to Kingston and the region.

            In closing, I urge those who have posted here who understand the benefits of continuing the railroad, whether with CMRR or another operator, share that understanding with your friends, neighbors and elected and appointed officials – local, regional and state. It is important that the campaign of disinformation against the railroad be responded to with both facts and popular support.


          I’m referring to the single-track trail on the O&W that has been in steady use since the early 1980s by bicyclists and by runners, walkers, motorcycles and snowmobiles since before that (though the latter two user groups were later banned on the publicly owned sections of that corridor). The trail on the U&D will be started after CMRR vacates the property… on or before 5/31/2016.

      2. no wey

        Walkill Valley and O&W Northern division of course. Why not complete them before taking more land that will never be fully utilized after the taking.

    2. Gregg Swanzey

      The Kingston Greenline is in the conceptual design stages. To date there have not been any rail trails in Kingston but that could soon change. In the meantime there have been some recent cleanups out on the Causeway to Kingston Point and along the corridor between East Chester down toward the Avenues. Cleanups on the northern end of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail just south of the City line and on the Hurley Trail, too. more to come.


    How many more times is this guy going to tell the “$–t in you hat” story? Each time it gets a little more interesting. And the same wackos give their approval. Seems like the response was planned? Is this letter part of a larger campaign?

    I never heard the railroad dis their neighbors, unless the neighbors are the ones throwing trash onto the tracks or drug needles on the ground.

    I also find it hard to believe that Legislator Donaldson is part of the CMRR. A financial interest? This guy must be out in left field. Is it possible that Donaldson just wants to stop wasting taxpayer money fighting with these guys in court?

    This letter was a waste of ink.

  10. Robert321

    Seems like the cost to build and maintain (and insure) a rail trail needs to be part of the conversation (it is not free). Every taxpayer gets to pay; not just the users. The rail trail will collect trash and weeds just like a railroad but now it will be up to the taxpayers to clean it up. And the taxpayers will always be on the hook.

  11. matthew ryan

    Thank you all for your comments, to all the nay-sayers if you lived less then 40 feet from the railroad tracks and had taken pictures for the last 10-years, you would know a picture is worth a thousand words. My children and I have gone up to Phoenicia and have paid and rode on the Catskill railroad train so, (no) we are not train haters, but when a for-profit company can not take care of their own property after 20 years, it is time to call it quits!!
    Hopefully the train tinkers can maintain their tracks up in Phoenicia or else the people of that town will be complaining the same as the people in Kingston, As for Mary Ann Moughan’s comments once every 20-years is not a very good % for any uptown business to exsist, and can not sustain anyone in uptown business in the long run, a sustained venue such as a trail will prove to be a bigger draw and a bigger profit maker for local area merchants!! Maybe a bed and breakfast next to the trail with bikes for rent? a lot of the nay-sayers do not even live in Kingston and do not have to live and breath the negative parts of what the cmrr brings to our doorstep everyday, compared to those who come here for a twenty minute ride and then say good-bye to our good city.

    1. CP

      “…those who come here for a twenty minute ride and then say good-bye to our good city” probably also after leaving money behind in a restaurant or a store or also touring the colonial section of Uptown or heading to Rondout. That potential B&B you refer to could also successfully serve rail riders as others have done where rail tourism has local support.

      I’m not sure if your battle is with the CMRR in particular or with the idea of the railroad in general. It seems that you and those who side with you are conflating the two. Would a different operator be preferable to you? Why not give that option a chance before ripping out a unique and valuable resource?

      Also, think of Thomas and the upcoming Polar Express not as the only time in 20 years but as the first of future events. (So much is revealed by how one looks at things.)

      Finally, if you go further up the line, you will see that many miles of tracks have been cleared to avoid overgrowth. Much more mileage would be open (1) if the CMRR wasn’t having to plow profits into fighting the government to keep their business alive and (2) if said government released the funds already allocated to the railroad for the kind of improvements you’re talking about.

    2. Highlander12528

      Ryan, Thank you for expressing your observations about the railroad’s maintenance of the the County’s right-of-way it leases from the county in Kingston.

      There is no doubt the railroad’s operation would be more welcome in Phonecia. I am not a train hater either–actually a railroad buff. I, too, have ridden both the D&U train in Arkville, the CMRR in Phonecia and once CMRR’s Christmas ride at Kingston Plaza.

      The simple fact of the matter is that the county-owned right-of-way between the Ashokan and through Kingston will serve the most people as a trail. Trails also offer tremendous economic impact and the initial construction costs and maintenance leverage big dollars in tourism and tax ratables. People want to live near trails. This will help attract new residents and make our homes near trails more valuable and saleable when the time comes that we wish to sell them.

      Now that the County’s policy is to create a countywide trail system and the CMRR’s failure to maintain the terms of its lease, we have heard first a call for rail and trail (won’t work), then excuses that the County didn’t support the train, and now seeing cartoon trains and a pitch that “this is the future; don’t look at our record. Well, it’s too late.

    3. RailWithTrail

      Notably lacking from Mr Ryan’s absurd letter is any disclosure about his own property which is adjacent to the tracks, and how he stands to gain personally by eliminating CMRR.
      While hyper-critical of the for profit motives of CMRR (and he knows full well CMRR has never made an actual profit), he is less than honest about his own pecuniary motives.
      You see, what Mr Ryan fails to disclose in his rant against the CMRR, is that he owns a house next to the tracks. A house which could easily be a “bed and breakfast next to the trail with bikes for rent.”
      Mr Ryan may be eloquent, but he’s not even as open and forthright as he calls on others to be. And if he is less than honest about this, then what else is he less than honest about?
      Is it possible that Mr Ryan failed to do his due diligence and paid more for his property than he would have, had he known it was next to an active tourist railroad?
      Is it possible Mr Ryan’s real objections have to do more with his own personal inconvenience than any real concern for his neighbors or Kingston businesses?
      One suspects so.
      As Mr Ryan must well know, CMRR is not trashing the ROW. Quite the opposite, CMRR has many times cleaned up the property (and Mr Ryan has pictures to prove it) only to have someone in Mr Ryan’s neighborhood dump more trash on it.
      Rather than taking pictures and writing letters, Mr Ryan would do well to police his own neighborhood and figure out who dumps all the trash he sees.
      Shame on you Mr Ryan for using your gift of eloquence to twist the facts and distort the truth.
      And shame on you for being a bad neighbor.


        Thank you RAILWITHTRAIL, your comment fully reinforces the point Mr. Ryan made that CMRR doesn’t care about Kingston nor the residents that are negatively impacted by CMRR.

        You choose to blame the victim of CMRR’s neglect and pollution rather than the ones responsible for the corridor. CMRR owns the liability for maintaining the corridor under the lease. Their failure to do so is one of the non-compliance issues in the demand to cure issued to them by the county.

      2. Gregg Swanzey

        RailWithTrail, as you say, property values and thus property owners all along the corridor will benefit with a transition to a rail trail, especially in Kingston. And it does open up the opportunity to those that live close by to open a B&B since that would be attractive to people who might come to Kingston, spend a weekend or a week and explore the growing system of trails in Ulster County. That is sustainable economic development. Let’s also have a tourist train. Just locate it in a more rural setting like Boiceville to Phoenicia where the setting works and where there is much less impact on residents than there is in an urban center like Kingston.

        1. CP

          Mr. Swanzey: “Much less impact on residents”??? Oh, the more-than-half million dollars generated by the Thomas event would be better spent out of town? That’s one heck of a way to serve your community as its director of economic development!

          Railwithtrail, I knew that Mr. Ryan’s letter had to be fueled by some sort of animosity. The fact is that the U&D corridor was – and in much of its area, is – out of service; it has never been abandoned. If he bought his house after the NYC/Penn Central/Conrail ceased active service, his due diligence should have revealed that fact.

          And thank you, too, for emphasizing that CMRR is certainly NOT trashing its own right-of way but is policing and maintaining it. Let’s also underscore that should the rails be lifted, that responsibility reverts to the government and to the taxpayer dollars that fund it. This brings up one more fact worth repeating: a trail is not free. You may not pay to walk on it at admission gate, but your taxes pay for it forever.

        2. RailWithTrail

          And why, Mr. Swanzey, would Kingston choose to replace rail with trail, when it could have the benefits of both? Your lack of vision and foresight given your position of trust in the community is appalling. One can only hope that the wiser heads, those who see the greater benefit of rail with trail, will prevail.
          It is so sad to see the lack of vision expressed by you and other followers of Mr. Hein. Kingston and Ulster County deserve the best – not just “good enough”.

      3. Highlander12528

        Are you suggesting that Mr. Ryan has no business in trying to protect the investment he has in his family’s home? The nerve.

        Really, the point is that a rail trail from Kingston to the Ashokan will be much more beneficial daily to more people and businesses and the County at large than the tourist and now cartoon trains that have been running on an occasional basis.

        And the train’s operation could be consolidated between Phonecia and Boiceville. And, no, sharing the rail and trail although the same constrained corridor is not feasible. If the CMRR thinks its is, build the trail and let the RR try to squeeze the rails in–or try to loop in and out of the right-of-way, if necessary. Good luck with that!

        1. BP

          Highlander asks: “Are you suggesting that Mr. Ryan has no business in trying to protect the investment he has in his family’s home? The nerve.” Not at all – simply that he can or should not be naïve about it. Nothing more – or less.

          He continues: “[T]he point is that a rail trail from Kingston to the Ashokan will be much more beneficial daily to more people and businesses and the County at large than the tourist and now cartoon trains that have been running on an occasional basis.” This is comparing apples and oranges. Substitute a permanent attraction used on specific occasions, such as a sports stadium, for the railroad. It is not in use every day, but is it a more beneficial attraction than a trail?

          1. Highlander12528

            With all due respect, your opening statement:

            “Notably lacking from Mr Ryan’s absurd letter is any disclosure about his own property which is adjacent to the tracks, and how he stands to gain personally by eliminating CMRR.”

            demonstrates that you are unconcerned about the CMRR’s impact on his property.

            And questioning whether or not he did his due diligence by purchasing a home near an out of service and abandoned looking rail corridor is pure speculation your part. Does the average person know the difference when a railroad right of way is “out of service or abandoned? Either way, he makes valid points, has a right to express his opinion, and should not be chastised for doing so.

            And, no, the once in a while railroad, which can operate at Phonecia, is not as beneficial; as a trail that would be used by hundreds of people daily.

            The train appeals to a limited number of people and even those might use it once or twice a year.

            I commend Mr Ryan for expressing his view as a neighbor to the underutilized county asset. Trying to be kind here.

  12. Tom Whyte

    If this proposed trail and the elimination of the CMRR is backed by “everyone” in Kingston as the politicians say it is.

    Why are people from Scenic Hudson and the City of Kingston’s economic Development agency on here every day making negative comments and trashing the railroad?

    Are they going to gain personally from this?

    We know who the Economic development director is, the guy from Scenic Hudson is hiding behind one of those made up names.

    1. Highlander 12528

      The only ones proposing “eliminating” the CMRR are the operators of the CMRR–if they do not get their own way.

      1. CP

        No, sir. You want the CMRR to concede to the trail lobby, do it your way, and claim it is a compromise, not the concession it would be. What you are proposing sounds to me like what Grover Norquist has proposed about government: “We don’t want to kill it, just shrink it to a point where it will go down the drain by itself.” (The quote is a paraphrase, but the essence is true.)

        The CMRR – and those who support the continuance of the railroad, no matter who the operator is – are arguing for a viable run to create a regional attraction that will bring more tourism money to the city and county. CMRR has willing to a compromise encompassing rail-with-trail. It is truly the trail advocates who are saying that they’ll rip up all the trackage if they don’t get their 90% of the right-of-way.

        1. Highlander12528

          You piqued my curiosity about Scenic Hudson’s view on this issue. After scouring their website I cannot find a mention of it, so it appears they have no view on it. Thanks for the head’s up. Perhaps they should.

          1. CP

            someone – I don’t remember who or what the source was – said that the usage of the Scenic Hudson walkway was down significantly after the first flourish. It would indeed be worth researching that.

          2. Highlander12528

            The first “flourish” lasted 4 1/2 years (500,000-720,000 annually) and increased each year–wildly exceeding expectations of 267,000. The reduction in visits reported by NYS Parks was 32% over a six week period.

            I wouldn’t read too much into it. Walkway is still the #1 regional tourist draw and attracts hundreds of people on bad days and 10,000-15,000 and on beautiful fall days.

          3. CP

            Thank you for the stats. I agree that Walkway is still the #1 regional tourist draw, and no other walking attraction would have the impact of Scenic Hudson. Thus something additional and unique in the region is needed: in this case, the railroad would do the magic assuming that it is ultimately allowed to run at least to the reservoir (if not all the way to Phoenicia).

            Here are two more differences: the rail line over the Poughkeepsie Bridge had been dead for about 35 years when the walkway was created. The CMRR is still alive and developing as a railroad. Also, the tracks to the west side of the Poughkeepsie Bridge were already gone; the U&D (CMRR) tracks are still there. With its recent success (with Thomas) and expansion of service, it makes sense to support continuing the railroad, with or without a concurrent trail.

  13. Highlander12528

    Thanks for sharing your perspective CP. I must say it’s great to have a civil discussion.

    While I agree that no other existing or future rail trail would ever have a draw equal to Walkway, I believe that Walkway has become the centerpiece of a regional rail trail system that will continue to bring benefit to Ulster. BTW I am a Walkway volunteer and as far as I know Scenic Hudson is a separate organization from the Walkway Over the Hudson friends group. And the friends group is a separate entity from the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park, which is operated by NYS State Parks.

    I think where our opinions diverge is that I believe that the CMRR has had nearly 20 years to prove itself and has not succeeded. While the Thomas the Train weekends have been successful for the CMRR, this does not, in my opinion, negate the benefit of a countywide system of rail trails that include conversion of rights-of way through Kingston and up to the Ashokan. While I understand the CMRR would like to expand its operation as much as possible, my past discussions with CMRR officials and the report on the right-of-way lead me to conclude that a rail with trail alongside from Kingston to the Ashokan would cause the trail to divert many times from the right of way.

    I believe that the train already operates at Phonecia and the County has indicated it would support operations between there and Phonecia. So that would constitute the “magic.”

    I think just as the CMRR’s position has morphed (when faced with the prospect of losing its lease) from anti shared corridor to pro “rail with trail,” likewise, t would find a way to consolidate its operations between Boiceville and Phonecia if that were to be its option. Thomas the Train would do just fine. BTW I love trains, have ridden on the D&U and CMRR at both Kingston and Phonecia and cringe at the thought of these fantasy, disneyfied, cartoon trains being run on what should be something that reflects history and heritage. But that’s the CMRR’s business decision.

    I also strongly believe–because I use rail trails on an almost daily basis and experience it with my own eyes–that a weekend train would not be the highest and best use of a trail that would be used by hundreds of people every day. Yes–even in winter. I’ve also taken vacations to places with rail trails and have seen once sleepy communities develop because of teh trails.

    There is a large body of research that demonstrates investment in tracks brings big returns to communities in terms of not only tourism, but attracting and retaining residents (young people, especially, and the “creative class), improving the quality of neighborhoods and investment in adjacent properties, business development, and providing transportation function. Admittedly this is a more powerful argument in Kingston than between Kingston and the reservoir.

    Nonetheless, a trail through Kingston to the reservoir connects to the O&W Rail Trail and Wallkill Valley Rail Trail by on-road facilities and that positions Ulster County, with easy access to major metro areas like NY, Boston, Philadelphia, to be a increase its already substantial cred as a leading destination in outdoor recreation. I simply believe that the County’s property would be most beneficial as a trail between Kingston and the reservoir. That said, I respect your position and if I were a CMRR volunteer I’d feel as strongly as you.

    If the CMRR had a better track record over the past 20 years and if the r-o-w could TRULY accommodate both, I might think differently. And if CMRR officials did not so curtly tell me years ago “no way” when i asked about rail with trail.

    So, in my opinion, a couple of good weekends is too little too late when the County has already secured grants and funding for conversion of these limited sections of r-o-w to trail and will cooperate with the CMRR if it would limit operations as described above. I know you think this is unfair. I think it’s quite reasonable.

    I have also read so much hyperbole in these media chat rooms, like this would “destroy” the railroad, the trail would be a drain on taxpayers, railroad serves the elderly and mobility impaired and rail trails do not, there’s already 500 miles of trail (by that logic I could assert there’s already a train at Arkville and Phonecia), name calling of local officials, asserting that the trail primarily benefits lycra clad racers, the notion that there is a trail “lobby” as if to equate it with big tobacco or oil, Walkway has not helped Highland or Poughkeepsie, etc.), that I am pretty much at wits end and believe little that I read from the railroad supporters.

    Glad to share these thoughts with you. But we’ll just agree to disagree.

    1. CP

      I too appreciate a genuine discussion and your thoughtful reply. While I would like to pursue this more, it’s late and I have other obligations.

      If time allowed, I’d spend some of it on distinguishing between issues about CMRR vs. issues about the physical railroad itself, which could well continue under another operator. I think it is too valuable an asset to summarily rip up. I also think that rail-with-trail is workable, even in areas with a narrow right-of way, since a trail doesn’t require the same gentle grades as a train does and could be built overland at cuts, fills or bridges.

      But it’s late and several busy days lie ahead. As you said, we’ll just agree to disagree, certainly for the moment, but I think more areas of agreement could be found with a lot less effort than some people think.

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