Ulster County is in a precarious financial situation due to Covid 19. The county predicts a $34.2-million budgetary shortfall this year. Local businesses are essential for a recovering economy.
The Catskill Mountain Railroad has had dramatic success as a tourist railroad in recent years and has been a significant source of revenue for Ulster County. In 2019, its ridership was up nine percent to 41,115 passengers. Its revenues were up four percent to $1,490,000.
Last year, CMRR purchased nearly $500,000 in goods from Ulster County businesses. It invested $250,000 in rehabilitating county-owned railroad tracks and paid $50,000 in rent to Ulster County. CMRR’s annual payroll increased to over $379,000, and it paid $29,000 in payroll taxes. CMRR estimates its total economic impact for the year 2019 in Ulster County was over five million dollars.
In order to grow and be an enduring tourist attraction, CMRR needs a renewal of its five-year permit and an extension of 1.68 miles of track from Route 28A in Stony Hollow to Basin Road in Hurley. This additional track will allow passengers from Kingston to disembark close to the trailhead of the Ashokan rail-trail and to enjoy a scenic destination.
The Catskill Mountain Railroad estimates it will cost about $300,000 to complete renovations on the existing track in this section and will take two years to complete. All costs will be paid by CMRR without local taxpayer funds.
This area in the right-of-way of the former Ulster and Delaware Railroad was professionally studied five years ago, and its future was left to be determined. The winning decision now would be for rail and trail to share this short distance and to move forward together.
Hurley’s town board has unanimously approved a resolution supporting the extension of the Catskill Mountain Railroad’s permit to Basin Road. It would be in the best interest of Ulster County for the county legislature to do the same.