To the Editor:
During my nearly four decades as a State and Federal representative, I was a staunch proponent of freight and passenger railroads. I viewed the collapse of so many of our nation's smaller railroads in the 1970's and 1980's with great concern, and I was hopeful that efforts to fully restore the Ulster & Delaware Railroad line would succeed. Despite decades of very dedicated work by the Catskill Mountain Railroad, that laudable goal has not been achieved, and much of the County-owned rail corridor has deteriorated significantly from lack of needed maintenance. It is time for Ulster County to protect what's left of this historic corridor, and I strongly support Ulster County Executive Mike Hein's proposal to convert much of this county-owned corridor into a rail trail that will be open and accessible to the public.
Across the region and State, we have seen the growing importance of rail trails as a tool for promoting economic development, enhancing quality of life, and improving public health. During my tenure in Congress, I obtained federal resources for the Walkway Over the Hudson, the Walden-Wallkill Rail Trail, the Rondout Creek Promenade, and numerous other walkways and trails, all of which quickly became beloved and popular community resources. The positive benefits of these "linear parks" are clearly demonstrated. Rail trails have contributed to making Ulster County and the Hudson Valley a growing destination for tourists as well as a wonderful place to live and raise a family.
Mike Hein's proposal to establish the Catskill Mountain Rail Trail and further develop the County's growing network of interconnected rail trails into a world-class tourism destination is a pragmatic and sound alternative. His vision to convert much of the U&D Railroad into a multi-use, recreational trail from Kingston to the Ashokan Reservoir, while also proposing to continue tourism railroad operations between Boiceville and Phoenicia, strikes a critical balance between preserving our railroad heritage and creating a foundation for future economic development.
As we have seen with other rail trails, the adaptive reuse of the underutilized U &D Railroad corridor for public recreation will help create jobs, support local businesses, and offer residents and visitors alike an opportunity to experience and enjoy the incredible beauty of the Ashokan Reservoir, and Ulster County in general. I applaud Mike Hein for his leadership on this exciting project and his championing of other critical environmental issues, including protection of the Lower Esopus.
I hope that you will join me in supporting the Catskill Mountain Rail Trail initiative.
Maurice D. Hinchey