Letter to the Editor: I support the Catskill Mountain Rail Trail

To the Editor,

I have lived in Ulster County for 34 of my 37 years and I’ve seen the majority of my classmates from Onteora High School move away to places where conditions are more inviting to those seeking employment and financial security. Census data from recent decades shows clearly that workforce-age people tend to flee our region.

Why am I telling you this? Because I stuck around, and I believe the City of Kingston and surrounding region has fantastic potential to emerge as a special place to live, work, and locate a business. If we are to avoid becoming a region dominated by second homeownership, low-wage jobs and an underprivileged population, we must make pointed efforts to harness the region’s potential. Where do we start?

Check out the plans under development by the City of Kingston and the Kingston Land Trust for the "Kingston Greenline". This exciting vision broadly involves two elements: (1) creating a network of trails and bicycle/pedestrian-friendly streets throughout the City of Kingston and (2) realizing the City as a hub wherein the growing county-wide network of rail trails come to meet.

This is not just about yet another trail! It’s about alternatives to automobile transportation to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and encourage healthful activity; trails to provide access to nature and connections to key city-wide destinations and between communities; and people engaged in the safety and vitality of their community. These are important quality of life amenities that workforce-age people, young families, and businesses seek out. These amenities will encourage me to keep my young family in the region and others to bring their families here.

I am a Catskill Mountain native. I support County Executive Hein’s proposal for a Catskill Mountain Rail Trail which is both a crucial element of Kingston’s Greenline initiative and a vital spoke for the County-wide trail network. I also share the belief that maintaining and strengthening the Catskill Mountain Railroad Inc.’s tourist train operation on its most-viable Phoenicia-to-Boiceville segment is a common sense, fiscally responsible, win-win compromise.

As Maurice Hinchey’s recent letter emphasizes, the evidence is clear that “…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 our region.

Our young families, our revitalizing communities and our economy need this trail. Let’s build it!

Bryan Roberts
Onteora High School
B.A. Mathematics/Computer Science, SUNY New Paltz
Masters of Regional/Environmental and Land Use Planning, SUNY Albany

Click here to read our previous coverage of the Catskill Mountain Rail Trail