Letters: Tracks and trails; Niagara Bottling

ktx sq lomo 1923 Abraham Lincoln 3-cent stampWe want the tracks

This morning, I talked with Mike Hein on Kingston Community Radio about how I disagreed with his plan to rip up the Kingston Plaza railroad tracks. I mentioned two points. 1). The City of Kingston’s residents and businesses will definitely be hurt by Hein’s plan to rip up the plaza tracks and end the Thomas the Tank Engine, Peanuts and the pumpkin rides and the Polar Express events. 2). The many visitors from out of town and in town to the plaza train events may include business leaders who begin to like the Kingston area and the train and may want to move a business with jobs to Kingston.  However, they will hear local news and people talk about how local leaders Mike Hein and Shayne Gallo want to rip up the Kingston Plaza tracks and effectively end the fantastic train events, such as Polar Express. Why would businesses want to locate here when they find out that Mike Hein and Shayne Gallo are making plans that will hurt City of Kingston businesses and residents? Let’s tell Mike Hein and Shayne Gallo that we want to keep our railroad tracks at the Kingston Plaza.

Ralph Mitchell, Kingston

All for the Greenline

I have always believed in the promise and potential of Kingston. I’m a scenic artist who works in film and TV mostly in New York City, but I bought a house in Kingston seven years ago as testament to the love I have for this historic and eclectic little city. The house is located with its backyard adjacent to a Midtown section of the former U&D corridor, and although I love where I live, for years that abandoned corridor was a liability and an eyesore. It had become overgrown after years of neglect and was used as a dumping ground for old tires, mattresses and every other imaginable kind of garbage. And it wasn’t just unsightly, it was a legitimate hazard, and one that I had resigned myself would never be adequately addressed. However, one day last year, I returned home to find a miraculous transformation had taken place. The debris had been removed, the brush cut down and a path of woodchips had been carefully laid down between and alongside the rails.

The clean-up was more thorough than I could have ever anticipated. Upon inquiry I discovered that volunteers from the Kingston Land Trust Rail Trail Committee, with generous help from neighboring Church Communities, including the Bruderhof, had performed the clean up as a first step in the development of the 1.5-mile Kingston Point Rail Trail. It was slated to become a multipurpose urban rail trail running from Midtown to the waterfront. I also learned that the Kingston Point Trail was part of a larger projected Kingston Greenline project, a linear park running from the Strand all the way out into the Catskills, which was in turn a part of an initiative, funded by $4.3 million in competitive grants, to revitalize and create connected communities throughout our city. And just a few weeks back the city celebrated a groundbreaking ceremony kicking off the formal initial construction of the Kingston Point Trail, with detailed design and construction to follow over the coming year.


I am so happy to see Kingston move forward with this plan. One of my favorite things to do in our area is to take a jog or stroll along one of the existing rail trails in Marbletown and New Paltz. The ability to be within nature while still being within walking distance to our historic communities makes enjoying the outdoors convenient and accessible to many. Also, in New York City I use my bike as a primary mode of transportation, which has been greatly improved with the city’s implementation of bike lanes and bike awareness. Sharing the road with cars can be treacherous, and with the eventual continuation of the Greenline, I will be able to step out of my back door, hop on my bike to commute or shop, or go farther afield into the countryside. I also believe this rail trail is the kind of amenity that will attract bike tourism to our communities and people like myself that come for weekends and vacations will be encouraged to move here, renovate properties and bring improved economic development. And for the people who are here, we can share in the beautification of our little city and provide access ways other than roads to get from one place to another, while enjoying the scenery. I would like to thank the Common Council and officials, the County Legislature and officials, the Kingston Land Trust and everyone else involved with advancing this vision for our city. Here’s to a greener, healthier, more vibrant Kingston.

Beth Lonergan, Kingston

Don’t rush this

In all the pros and cons with the Niagara Bottling proposal I’ve not read anything about the effect on previous Kingston commitments to the water in Cooper Lake. I’m thinking about what we have already committed to the developers of The Landing and Sailor’s Cove, developments that would increase our resident population by 10 percent.

The Kingston Water Department maintains we had no problem with meeting IBM’s requirement for 1.75 million gallons of water per day but the fact is IBM never used that amount of water on a daily basis. And I also recall that a few years ago, long after IBM left the area, we were put on a water-use restriction for a number of weeks to deal with low water levels in Cooper Lake.

The smell of a possible $16 million infusion by Niagara Bottling to help upgrade the aging Kingston water infrastructure is certainly worthy of consideration. But let’s objectively study this, weigh the pros and cons and not blindly rush into a decision with unintended consequences.

Ronald E. Dietl, Kingston

Scrutinize Niagara Bottling

KingstonCitizens.org was formed in 2004 to support transparency and civic engagement in government. We are concerned that the Niagara Bottling proposal is being rushed without adequate consideration of potential economic and environmental costs. If the Town of Ulster is named “Lead Agency” in the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process, it will determine whether a full environmental impact study (EIS) is needed for the Niagara Proposal.

A “Positive Declaration,” which triggers the EIS, is necessary to assure a safe, responsible evaluation of the Niagara Bottling proposal in the Town of Ulster. A Positive Declaration is required when potential exists for at least one significant environmental impact.

This potential exists.

The last scientific evaluation of the capacity of Cooper Lake, Kingston’s water supply, was in 1961. Even if the final engineering study for Kingston’s Water Board delivered on Nov. 12 concludes our water capacity is adequate, it has done so without up-to-date science. Weather and rain patterns are changing and unpredictable. There is more erosion and drought, and less snowmelt to replenish our water table.

At last week’s Ulster Town Board meeting, Supervisor Quigley admitted he hasn’t seen any cost/benefit calculations to prove that a limited number of below-industry-standard jobs are worth expensive highway wear and tear, the foreclosure of the opportunity to attract other industries, limiting the supply of water available to create new housing in the future, and 10 years of enormous tax breaks to Niagara. Our citizens and school district residents could end up paying to host this company.

A Positive Declaration and thorough evaluation of impacts are imperative. Let’s not sacrifice our region’s long term well-being for short-sighted development unsuited to our needs.

Rebecca Martin, Jennifer Schwartz Berky, Heather Schwegler, Debra Bresnan, Kitty McCullough, Rachel Marco-Havens: Kingstoncitizens.org


There are 34 comments

  1. Michael Helbing

    As a staunch supporter of Rails to Trails, and President of a trail advocacy non profit, I was initially excited at the concept of rail trail all the way from Kingston to Ashokan. What trail enthusiast would not be?
    At Metrotrails, we are proponents of trails, but not at the expense of a viable, sustainable facility that showcases our heritage more accurately than a trail.
    In fact, the entire right of way technically already IS a trail, as per the county’s agreement with Catskill Mountain Railroad:
    “The Lessee shall allow the public to use the right-of-way for walking, cross-country skiing and fishing provided such activity does not interfere with its operations.”
    The county is claiming “rails with trails” is not a viable option, yet their official records show that just such agreement is already in place. Furthermore, it might take longer, but a parallel trail route within the right of way would not be hard to develop.
    The rail infrastructure was constructed as a means to carry people to tourist destinations cheaply and efficiently. Imagine….take an excursion train to Phoenicia, then a paddling trip back down to Mt Tremper….two for one price…or imagine taking a train from Kingston Mall to Phoenicia to spend a nice hiking or skiing weekend. All uses could compliment each other.
    Once these rails are gone, opportunities for county tourism disappear as well.
    Furthermore, the O&W Rail Trail from Kingston Mall is beautiful, and as much as I love it, it gets next to no use. County government should be dedicated to creating sustainable facilities at maximum benefit to tourism, but limited cost to tax payers.
    Ulster County has an absolute gem of an opportunity. I bring large groups up from NJ to visit, please don’t mess this up. I hope to both ride and walk the rails again in the near future.

    Michael Helbing

  2. CP

    Mr. Helbing,

    Thank you for the reality check. Coexistence is possible and preferable. In reality the U&D tracks east of the West Shore Line are cut off by a rather large building, so that segment makes sense to become trail only.

    But for Kingston to Phoenicia, as Mr. Helbing says, “Ulster County has an absolute gem of an opportunity….[P]lease don’t mess this up.” Mike Hein and Shayne Gallo would do well to listen to one of their advocates.

  3. Michael Helbing

    I agree on the east section entirely, though I hope it will not leave out possibilities for light trolley use on the lines there. I thought the trolley area was interesting, even if only used on a short section of track.
    Sections around the tunnel and into town are indeed a dumping ground, and will benefit from re-use as a trail. From Kingston to Phoenicia however, more opportunities exist with the rail remaining. I am both a trail advocate and a rail fan. I respect both sides, and we should have both, but NOT at the sacrifice of sustainable rail. I’ve walked the entire line, and found it to be in good repair save for the Boiceville Trestle and the Mt. Tremper washout, with only a few other minor repair areas.
    Ulster County will benefit more with duel use and the tourism it would provide than rail trail alone. I’ve walked the old O&W trail south from Kingston twice, both beautiful Sundays, and passed only one other patron on one of those days.
    Now…imagine a short commuter line…ride the rail to Phoenicia with your bicycle on the train, then get off and pedal back on a parallel trail…THAT is something I would do, something that would bring people back, patronizing businesses, staying the night, looking for more to do and see. Restore the rails, develop the trail, and be the political force that made the right decisions for the future of Ulster County. It will take longer, but the benefit reaped from patience will be priceless.

  4. AnotherTakeOnIt

    Mr. Helbing, a pragmatic look at the points you make (e.g., there is already a trail on the corridor per the lease; that a commuter line is viable on that corridor; that tourists use it for transportation) will quickly show that neither is even close to reality.

    Only the most adventurous and fit would consider using that corridor with the tracks on it as to do so involves walking or cycling across the ties or in the drainage ditch. Crossing the bridges involves crossing the ties with the gaps between them.

    What commuter in his right mind is going to make their way to a CMRR station on that corridor and take a 15 MPH ride to another station, and then find a way to their destination by other means. It would take someone 5-6 hours per day to get from Highmount to Kingston and back on the train!

    Regarding the tourist use, the CMRR originally was put in operation to serve tubers… they couldn’t even support that as the tube businesses had to run buses to supplement the sparse train schedule.

    Reality trumps fantasy every time…

    1. Michael Helbing

      To your points…
      Only the adventurous and fit would do this? Have you seen the Long Path out of Phoenicia in either direction? This is far easier than most anything in the Catskills and will certainly be walked by more novices in it’s current state, plus it preserves a more bucolic setting keeping the rail rather than some eight foot wide “road” which is what most rail trails become.
      The only bridge with gaps that would be an issue is the one over the Esopus. The bridge at Boiceville needs to be replaced and could easily be done with duel purpose in mind. The current plan calls for continuation of at least the currently used CMRR section, which includes the trestle that railroad repaired for a fraction of the cost the county said it would (county said $900K I believe?).
      And who said anything about Highmount? Not me! I would love to see it all working with rail service, but at the very least from Kingston to Phoenicia. Everything from Kingston to Ashokan is clear and very easy walking. Except for Tremper washout and Boiceville Trestle, the rest really isn’t that bad either to Phoenicia. Areas west are in rough shape.
      I’ve never addressed the section from Phoenicia to Fleischmann’s, but I will now: That should be made a trail, HOWEVER the rails should be left in and used as barriers for the crushed stone of the trail. Walkers could step to the side as bikers go by, and the rails act as a deterrent to erosion. Most of this line is either “fill” or “shelf” in railroad terms, and the county will be at a loss for upkeep of these sections if they try to keep up with maintenance. Trust me, I maintain rail trails through my job, the county doesn’t know what it’s getting into. And they don’t do so good maintaining what they have. Downed trees were over the Marbletown Rail Trail when I hiked it twice, left uncleared months apart. Again, I reiterate that during these two trips on beautiful days that not a single other trail user was passed.
      When fully operational, the railroad should not have to conform to 15 mph speed limits. On the stretch from West Hurley to Ashokan, clear and straight, the tracks take the light weight cars moving up to 30 mph.
      Also, I understand there are FEMA funds for these repairs?
      The reality of the trail to Phoenicia is that it is unsustainable and serves too few people. The county won’t be able to sustain it. When I worked for Hunterdon County NJ, two employees had to be hired just to deal with seven miles of rail trail that had washout problems, the same type of right of way in question.
      It’s a lot of work to keep these rights of way clear. And the county won’t let CMRR even use Roundup for it. Remember, I am a lover of trails, but there are still opportunities with rail. If the county has issues with CMRR, then another rail group. But in truth, I think the issues are not understanding at all the work that goes into maintaining a right of way like this. Did you know that the state of NJ has stopped purchasing old railroad corridors altogether? We’re DONE with them in NJ. Leaving it to the counties to foot the hefty bills.
      Further, as per the property titles for this particular right of way (they vary from line to line), the county may not have right to the property if the rail is torn up. This is what happened with the trail that was intended to connect Baltimore with Washington DC.
      If we want to talk reality, I could go on all day. But it all boils down to the fact that removing the rails in favor of trail only is a foolish mistake.

      1. CP

        Mr. Helbing’s analysis is excellent. I agree with all his points including, sadly, that the right-of-way west of Phoenicia would be costly to rebuild and maintain. Much of what is away from the Creek is in good shape, and it could be done, but I would put this as a secondary priority after reopening the line to Phoenicia (and the Reservoir to start with). Both of those locations are real destinations, something many shorter tourist railroads don’t have (and something a truncated CMRR would be missing as well).

        By the way, I was informed that the county’s estimate to repair the bridge over the Esopus west of the Thruway (Bridge C9) was $800,000. CMRR did it with volunteer labor and $80,000 – 10% of the estimate! (Kudos to Past CMRR President Earl Pardini who pretty much prepared the ties by himself; that bridge now has some of the straightest rail on the line.)

        1. michael helbing

          Thank you.
          I would also like to give a big thank you to the Kingston times.
          Unlike the daily Freeman, My opinions have been allowed to continue publication here. When I post the same or similar types of comments on their online site, They are deleted within 5 minutes. It is behavior like this that leaves me disgusted with the media.
          It is needless to say that the Kingston times will be my periodical of choice when I visit the Kingston area. Despite disagreements between myself and the opinion piece posted by the editor, There is an obvious respect of opinions here.
          There is very obvious corruption in Ulster to be disregarding facts, especially when the source is someone who spends most time advocating trails on rail corridors. Initially I was for the trail plan, but I have no problem admitting I was wrong. Sometimes we need to step back and look at the bigger picture. Look at what is better for everyone.

      2. AnotherTakeOnIt

        Conveniently the County and DEP own most of the corridor in fee. Railbanking is the proven option for the rest.

        It is important to note that rail through the DEP property, some 11.5 miles is a non-starter as DEP will not allow a train to operate on their property. That takes the section between Basin Rd in West Hurley to Boiceville out of play for rail use period. In fact, there is already work underway to build the trail through that section sans rail.

        Your twice use of the O&W trail compared to my 33+ years of regular use tells me a much different story about that trail. It wasn’t even designated as a trail when I started mountain biking on it… it was simply the “old railroad.” At that time the tracks were already gone for 23-24 years and it was regularly used by snowmobilers and motorcyclists. Over time the O&W trail has been steadily improved with two new bridges in the High Falls area being completed recently. When I started using the corridor there were no bridges over most of the streams and now, all these years later, two of the “new” bridges have been already been redecked!

        In recent times blow downs, once reported or discovered by crew members, are removed in a timely fashion… NOTHING lays for “months” between Kingston and Rest Plaus road. This because either I remove it myself between Kingston and Hurley or I notify other folks who take care of maintenance. If you saw downed trees on the first of your two uses of the corridor did you report them?

        There are many dedicated volunteers who are well aware of the amount of maintenance trails require. If you keep up with the papers you’d know already that formal cooperation agreements are being created across towns, cities and villages in the county for long term maintenance on the O&W in cooperation with volunteers. Much of the WVRT is under private ownership and is maintained by their organization and volunteers. The maintenance of the U&D corridor is already under discussion and by the time the trail is built maintenance will begin.

        For a multi-use trail the trail has to be 10 feet wide with 2 foot shoulders on each side for a total of 14 feet. As it is in some areas the berm upon which the rail sits needs to be widened, possibly by lowering, to gain the requisite width. Keeping the track system in place under a multi-use trail leads to quicker deterioration of the trail and increased maintenance.

        BTW, crushed stone makes for a horrible trail surface… the existing ballast will serve as the base layer for the new trail and the trail will be a non-motorized multi-use trail. We don’t know yet if DEP will allow horseback riding on their section but we may see it on other sections.

        CMRR has an expiration time and date of 12 O’clock Noon, 5/31/2016 for use of the U&D corridor. Assuming qualified bidders submit responses to the county’s RFP for rail service on the designated sections of the corridor, rail will continue into the future. If there are no qualified bidders we’d be happy to have trail only.

        1. Michael Helbing

          In response, yes I only hiked the Marbletown Rail Trail twice in good length, and I believe the downed tree was near High Falls. A lot of rail trails see more use when ATVs follow them than after they’re made into trails. Such is the case for one of the rail trails we manage in NJ.
          Now, if the line is not allowed to be used as rail, why is it that CMRR are running light cars on the entire section between Ashokan and West Hurley currently? From the lease I read, they have that section and it can certainly be rail.
          I walked across the one new O&W bridge, the other wasn’t in yet. I’d have reported the trees and branches if I’d known who to report to.
          As for multi use trails having to be that wide, such is not the case with the section along the rail at Kingston Point, nor is it the case with countless other rail and multi use trails in the tri state area. To make an extra wide trail I feel disturbs a bucolic setting. I must say I do very much enjoy the O&W because so much of it is narrow and less developed.
          And THANK YOU for saying the crushed stone is a bad surface! I can’t stand when rail trails are capped with the stuff. It’s hard packed surface is murder on the knees, especially when doing high mileage. I assume you didn’t mean to say ballast, but rather original cinder base would be the trail surface. This is preferable. Ballast rock is the only thing worse than crushed stone!
          I am still a proponent of rail WITH trail. Wide trails have their place, but I don’t think it’s here. A parallel route can be sought, and it could work just fine.
          The other point I’d like to bring up opens a whole new can of worms we trail advocates are going to be facing in the very near future. Trail funds which are usually passed on to non profits, counties, and municipalities will be sent to capping all rail trails with crushed stone aggregate. Why? Because the creosote from the railroad ties is classified currently as “suspected carcinogen”. What this means is that some of our favorite rail trails like Wallkill Valley and O&W will be widened and coated with this stuff because of claims that the dirt kicked up can be breathed in.
          The truth is there are two types of creosote: wood tar creosote and coal tar creosote, the latter being the suspected carcinogen. This type was not used industrially in this area until 1910, and most railroads would have had the harmless stuff prior to their abandonment. This is something coming very soon not from Hein or any county executives, but from Washington DC and Surgeon Generals. Open space ballot questions are misleading in that the fine print states that much of this will go to “remediation”. In short, what is going to happen is hefty government cut backs in regard to full time permanent staff, and funds will be allocated to private contractors for remediation work.
          I love trails, I love railroads, and I want what is best for both, but I truly fear that in short order we will all be fighting to protect both the historic and ecological assets on a larger stage, which is all the more reason to make the most sound decisions now.

          1. AnotherTakeOnIt

            DEP’s position for many years has been one foot print through their property, i.e., rail OR trail, not both. About a year ago they announced that they were going to develop a public access trail on their property which in fact then excludes rail. Once the CMRR lease with the county expires rail use is done.

            The trail at Kingston Point is a walking path located next to a trolley track. The standards for that combination are MUCH different than they are for a multi-use trail next to a railroad. As such, the photo in the press release put out by Donaldson, et. al is very misleading. The standards that need to be met are also contingent upon the funding sources and the standards have changed over time. For example, WVRT is owned and maintained by a land trust so they can do pretty much what they want (within safety and engineering standards of course). The trail on the U&D will likely have a combination of funding coming from trust, state, and federal sources and as such will need to meet the current design standards.

            The term ballast was used in the sense that it is a railroad term for the material upon which the cross-ties are laid. What the ballast is comprised of is a different issue. Crushed granite and cinder bases can be found singly and together on old railroads in this area. I know that when the Wallkill Valley RR tracks were removed they salvaged the granite ballast but there is still some cinder base in evidence.

            The section of rail being removed from the U&D in Downtown Kingston appears to have both cinder and granite ballast. However, as with the rest of the U&D there is a lot of soil and organic material mixed in with the ballast and covering the ties so until the ties were pulled it was difficult to tell.

            Regarding dust on the local rail trails… that would be something new! This as the trails are generally well shaded and remain damp year round. Worst case scenario would a layer of stone dust, not crushed stone, would be added. Crushed stone, nor item 4, are acceptable trail surfaces.

            There is no parks department in Ulster County so there are no related positions to be cut by the county! As with other trails in the area cooperatives formed between volunteers, trusts, and municipal organizations may be the model used for the U&D. Those discussions are already starting so that by the time the trail is built maintenance can start.

        2. Mike Helbing

          Also, I just looked into this and CMRR claims DEP does NOT own the railroad through it’s lands. The forman just ran a rail car through the section recently and told me they have ID cards to show to DEP officers if they come by.
          In fact, I’m looking into it more, and with the rails removed, a trail alone might be illegal. I will look into it further and report back.

          1. AnotherTakeOnIt

            A contractual agreement between the DEP land owner and County rail owner will take care of the legal issues… We’ll probably all know at the same time of what that agreement is comprised.

          2. Michael Helbing

            As far as there being one “footprint”, most of these rail rights of way are about sixty feet wide. These rights of way can be narrowed where necessary, just like at Kingston Point, but in most cases you could have your six to eight foot wide multi use trail.
            I honestly don’t see DEP going for the multi use aspect anyway. Mountain bikers are notorious for going off established trails and creating rogue mountain bike trails. I love them all, but take Bluestone Wild Forest right across the highway at West Hurley: there are four “official” marked trails, but at least twenty or so more going off in all directions and onto private land.
            And one final point: the trails in Bluestone Wild Forest are duel hiker and biking trails. They are no more than three feet wide in many places. Only the sections on woods roads are at all wider.
            As soon as this area is open to mountain bikers, the edge of the reservoir will be full of rogue paths. I’m not against that, but I know it’s going to come up, because they are. Simple trails like those in Bluestone Wild Forest, following next to the tracks, is the way I would do it if I had my way. Get the NYNJ Trail Conference on board to create a good trail. A unique trail. Stringent policies like “multi use must be eight feet” just don’t work everywhere.

          3. AnotherTakeOnIt

            Mr. Helbing, in regards to “As far as there being one ‘footprint’, most of these rail rights of way are about sixty feet wide.” You are confusing the available real estate with the area that has been stripped of trees and the grade prepared for the railroad tracks. The vast majority of the U&D corridor was built as a single track corridor that could hold either rail OR trail within its footprint. As such, in order to build a trail next to the railroad tracks thousands if not tens of thousands of trees would need to be cut and extensive excavation work would need to be carried out to create an additional footprint for the trail. DEP has long said they will not allow this. Also, DEP has already started laying the groundwork for the multi use trail so that is going to happen.

          4. Michael Helbing

            I’ve walked the entire corridor from Kingston to Mount Tremper. That many trees do not need to be cut, we must remember that a train hangs over the rails quite a bit. In most areas there are even as much as 8 feet, but you failed to acknowledge the fact that bluestone wild forest which comes within 1 mile of the railroad has two to three foot wide multi use trails.
            Again, there is plenty of room for the rail with trail plan, While protecting the area’s natural resources.

          5. AnotherTakeOnIt

            Without the railroad tracks there the number of trees drops significantly. However, put rail, trail, trail shoulders, buffer between the rail and trail, drainage and meet the construction standards needed to attract and secure funding, and the volume of trees to be removed and volume of excavation work goes up dramatically.

            Those standards are significantly different from what is going on at Bluestone as they are completely different types of trails… The U&D will be a multi-use trail that will be accessible to even physically impaired people over very low slopes. The other little more than old wagon roads from the mining days that follow whatever terrain is there. Outside of the area around Onteora Lake there are basically no areas accessible by wheelchair at Bluestone.

            Just an FYI, I am very likely the first person to ever ride a mountain bike on Jockey Hill/Bluestone. That happened back in 1982. You should have seen the area then!

          6. Michael Helbing

            With all due respect, to build a trail all the way from Kingston to Ashokan that is accessible for people with disabilities doesn’t seem to make much sense. Marbletown Rail Trail and the Kingston Point Trail are good for that, and not used much for it. The Bluestone Wild Forest model, with narrower multi use trails is perfectly fine for what is needed. Barely any trees would need to be moved.
            Why not just start with this? Allow for this use through the area at interim, and if CMRR or any other rail excursion line fails to comply with reasonable terms within five to seven years, move forward with continued trail developent?
            If I am wrong, if the rail with trail plan is indeed bad, why not try this? I see no reason to jump the gun, and this should not impede repairs of important places like Boiceville Trestle and Mt Tremper washout. I’ve got photos of the entire route, at least one per mile, at every mile marker that is still in place, from Kingston Point to Mt. Tremper. Rail with trail will work if enough of the right people want it to.

          7. AnotherTakeOnIt

            The short answer to your proposal is that no organization is going to fund building the trail twice… once as a rustic rural trail like Bluestone has and then again later as a multi-use trail. Also, given the funding design requirements that exist for rail trails the former most likely would not be funded period.

          8. AnotherTakeOnIt

            If you feel so strongly about this I suggest you respond to the county’s RFP and see where your proposal goes… simple as that.

          9. mike helbing

            I would respond to the RFP if I didn’t live 3 hours away.
            The rails all the way to Ashokan need only minor work. It makes no sense to remove something that’s been kept clear at no cost to taxpayers, by CMRR and without using defoliates as the county insists, and can already be walked.
            We’ve got plenty of bikable rail trails. How many rail with trails allow you to walk the tracks? It’s an American tradition to walk rail lines, but this day in age that right we grew up with is mostly gone! Let’s offer people something special and keep other positive aspects of the current agreement going.

          10. Michael Helbing

            I find it best insulting to say I should focus my efforts three hours away. For one, members of Metrotrails live in the area. More importantly, I represent the tourist contingent, for whom part of this plan is supposed to exist. Trails alone don’t bring in $$$. Excursion railroads however do bring in money. Even greater, restoring a more regular passenger service to the Catskill Mountains would be a boon to all local eco tourism. It’s incredibly difficult to backpack through NY because of limited bus service no other public trans.
            If active rail is out of the question, the smartest choice is still to leave the rails in place. I can name a number of rail trails where the rails were kept in place and serve as the trail by filling a soft surface between them. This is done mostly in places where the rail lines followed a steep shelf or over many fills. This strategy prevents serious, costly washouts of trail surface, which is bound to happen with the topography of the right of way in question. With this plan, the light weight rail equipment could still traverse the right of way to perform needed maintenance.
            But as The Daily Freeman posted today, there is already a planning consultant on this project who calls for something different. I posted the example photos of what I describe on the Friends of CM Rail Trail page, and they deleted them within minutes.
            I find the removal of my suggestions on the forums to be a cowardly move on the part of the proponents of trail only alignment. If my suggestions were as preposterous as they are made out to be by naysayers, then their merits alone should be enough counter my arguments.
            The truth is, rail WITH trail makes perfect sense. It’s just more difficult. It would probably take a little longer than the terms of the current politicians. The removal of a valuable asset is asinine, and I was basically just told to go away by someone who wants to draw public in with a trail. This isn’t about the good of the public, it’s about a single agenda with no room for further suggestion.

          11. CP

            If I may suggest a point to “AnotherTakeOnIt” and other anti-rail people: CMRR’s events and operations – and that of any future operator, if not CMRR – depend on creating and maintaining a REGIONAL, not just local, attraction. That is what will bring new and much-needed money into the area. Mr. Helbing’s interest, despite being three hours away, underscores that. The railroad’s through operation, from Kingston to Phoenicia, in addition to the intermediate attraction of the reservoir, could highlight the historic districts of Kingston. create a bus connection to Woodstock, and help rejuvenate Phoenicia, which has the potential to be a very attractive destination. Even Kingston to the reservoir alone would yield significant results; there would be a destination, not just an out-and-back ride. Either way, it would be a regional attraction. Yes, adding a trail would be a bonus, but substituting trail for rail would yield little if anything of significant value in the long run except a maintenance drain on taxpayers for a little-used trail.

            May everyone enjoy the holiday season, and let’s work in 2015 to give the railroad the support that its latest series of events shows that it deserves. Together, we can realize its potential benefits for the city, county and region.

          12. AnotherTakeOnIt

            Perhaps then you should focus your efforts 3 hours away and understand that Ulster County will move forward under the guidance of Resolution 275 that calls for trail only east of Boiceville. An 18-4 bipartisan vote supporting that resolution, by the representatives of the people of Ulster County, is a strong indicator that the trail will be built.

          13. AnotherTakeOnIt

            Mr. Helbing, you are not being reasonable. You live 3 hours away, do not want to participate in the project here, yet you want things your way?

            Also, regarding deleted posts. They may have been awaiting moderation and eventually showed up. Or, the moderators may have deleted or not published posts if they felt they went outside the bounds of decency. If you think posts are missing look for them again. If you cannot find them consider what you wrote.

          14. AnotherTakeOnIt

            I and most of the other trail people are not anti-rail per se… I rode about 10,000 miles on AMTRAK in the past 3.5 years or so and support a tourist train operation west of Boiceville. What we’ve supported is a segmented approach to the corridor where rail OR trail exists in various sections as the only economically viable solution.

            RE Rail from Kingston to Phoenicia, that is not on the table and never will be. DEP is going to take an 11.5 mile chunk out of that stretch for the trail for which they have already started their planning work. The agreement in principle between the County and DEP for this trail was announced a bit over a year ago and the groundwork to make it happen has been underway since then.

            The CMRR has proven they can run a successful operation between Kingston Plaza and Hurley Mtn Rd. (We’ll have to assume they made money on it and paid all their vendors, rents, fees, taxes and staff.) They also have had an operation west of Boiceville for some 30 years. If they submit a viable response to the county’s RFP they may be able to continue to do so under a new lease with a term of possibly as long as 5 years though it could be shorter.

          15. mike helbing

            I have visited Kingston 6 times over the past year. If that doesn’t give my opinion some weight I don’t know what does, especially when I bring along an entourage of 10 to 20 people at leas through Metrotrails hikes.
            I have checked back on the other papers, and have even received an email from the moderator. My comments were deleted, because I included in it that and Ulster County employee, a consultant sent me a rather threatening message. I asked who the guy was, and the moderator of one of the rail forums told me. Not only that other people have received some more messages from the same guy. This is why I am flustered. Using bully tactics to get their way is unbecoming of a politician or a government representative.
            Regarding the forums on Facebook, they appear immediately and then are deleted. I am not mistaken there. The responses here try to suggest that it’s already too late. It is never too late. I’ve seen countless development stopped in their tracks even after their road infrastructure was built.
            I’m going to go out on a limb and give you a hint about what I know….. the county will begin management of the trail. Then in order will come down from the Attorney General. It will state that creosote is a suspected carcinogen and the county is liable as land managers for cleanup. For this particular mileage a minimum of 10 million dollars will have to be allocated for camping

          16. AnotherTakeOnIt

            Bullying sort of defines CMRR’s behaviors over the past 30 years… Donaldson simply adds to the history. Ask residents, business owners, and former Alderman of Midtown Kingston about that.

          17. m helbing

            I don’t know the history of the current CMRR, but this is intended to be more in favor of keeping the rails than supporting any particular rail organization. I would think regardless of who gets the lease on the tracks, volunteers will be involved. The most important thing is thing is to keep the infrastructure.

        3. Ryan Lennox


          Please STOP spreading false, misleading & outright lies about the Catskill Mountain Railroad. I understand that you’re not happy about us keeping the tracks in Kingston… but please stop with the degrading comments.

          Your quote: “It is important to note that rail through the DEP property, some 11.5 miles is a non-starter as DEP will not allow a train to operate on their property. That takes the section between Basin Rd in West Hurley to Boiceville out of play for rail use period. In fact, there is already work underway to build the trail through that section sans rail.”

          That’s outright false. CMRR ALREADY has normal track car runs and light equipment moves within Ashokan’s premises. There is also a crane located in Ashokan that actively moves down the ROW. We’ve used it just this last month. The tracks are being normally used as my brush crews clear those railroad tracks you think is going to become “just” a trail. There’s also adequate room for both Rail WITH Trail. Something you fail to mention. DEP DOES NOT OWN THE ROW nor can they dictate who can access the corridor via the Ulster & Delaware Corridor. The property that surrounds the tracks is DEP. They do NOT own the rail bed.

          Here’s proof of rail operations in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lueZSrtBt5c
          The railroad is completely cleared from Kingston to Ashokan. There will be even more railroad activity in the coming months. So please be aware.

          Again, please stop with the false information. Rail & Trail advocates should be working together. Pushing misleading propaganda isn’t going to help your case and downright makes you look desperate. Thank you & I hope we can work together!

          -CMRR, Brush Foreman, Ryan Lennox.

          1. AnotherTakeOnIt

            I have posted no “false, misleading & outright lies” about CMRR.

            As I’ve posted previously, for the present CMRR’s use is covered under the lease.

            I’ll post the same reply to you as I made to another in regards to the future.

            A contractual agreement between the DEP land owner and County rail owner will take care of the legal issues… We’ll probably all know at the same time of what that agreement is comprised.

            Though we’ll all get the details of the agreement at the same time it is clear already that there will be no rail on the DEP property… I suspect that both parties would be willing to say that much now based on the press conference announcing the agreement in principle held in December 2013. Dig into it yourself…

            BTW, the video shows nothing of the legal issues!

      3. Steve Porter

        Well said Mr. Helbing. Very good points.

        ” …removing the rails in favor of trail only is a foolish mistake.” , Let us prevent doing this mistake.

          1. Michael Helbing

            Who said no one would fund it? Did anyone try? I date to say they would fund it. In fact, I dare to say volunteers will clear and build the route within the existing sixty foot right of way. I dare to say CMRR will help with this project, especially if it preserves the rail aspect of it.
            I have personally built MILES of trail through Metrotrails, through Warren County, through Hunterdon County, and through DEP.
            It can be done, and it can be as simple as signing a piece of paper giving proper permissions, if all parties are amenable.

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