Ashokan Rail Trail Meeting Recap

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ashokan Rail Trail, first proposed in 2012 by Ulster County Executive Mike Hein, getting closer and closer to construction. When completed in 2018, it will provide 11.5 miles of a world-class public recreational trail bordering the northern edge of the Ashokan Reservoir. While motorized vehicles will not be permitted, the trail will offer access for hikers, bikers, walkers and runners, nature enthusiasts, skiers, and snowshoe devotees. It will also provide outdoor opportunities for persons with limited mobility or other disabilities.

Ulster County executive Mike Hein. Photo courtesy of the Ulster County Executive’s Office.

To share current developments with community residents, the Ulster County Planning Department held a public information meeting on December 1, 2016 at Onteora High School in Boiceville. Chris White, deputy director commissioner of the department shared a timetable for the project:

  • Preliminary engineering design and environmental review began in June, 2016.
  • Construction is scheduled to begin in late 2017.
  • Grand opening anticipated in 2018.

Those who attended the meeting were overwhelmingly in favor of the project for many reasons. It will provide a variety of healthy outdoor activities close to home. In turn, the community at large will be healthier. It will enable everyone to enjoy the natural beauty of the area. And it will be a boost to the local economy, since it’s expected to attract an additional 140,000 visitors to the area each year.

Ulster & Delaware railroad tracks looking toward the Ashokan Reservoir from the Route 28A overpass at Boiceville, NY. Photo by Tony Adamis

The Ashokan Reservoir supplies drinking water to New York City and is strictly controlled by its Department of Environmental Protection. However, the trail will follow the former Ulster & Delaware railroad corridor that runs around the northern perimeter of the reservoir.

A packed house! About 344 people attended the Public Information Meeting on the Ashokan Rail Trail project on 12/1/16. Photo courtesy of Friends of the Catskill Mountain Rail Trail.

Some attendees at the Onteora meeting were concerned about dismantling the railroad bed, but it has not been used for train service in forty years. White explained that the trail is being developed with the understanding that it could also be returned to a railroad bed if the need arose in the future.

The project is budgeted at $8.5 million dollars, funded from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the state DEC, and money from FEMA. It covers surfacing the trail with crushed stone, improving drainage and regarding the former rail bed. There will be signage, fencing, and other amenities as well as three new trailheads along the route. Boiceville trestle and Butternut Creek culvert will also be replaced.

Proponents of this project have worked tirelessly since Mike Hein first proposed it. With county residents behind it and the funding in place, it’s been five years in the planning.

And it’s almost here! We’ll keep you updated on future progress, but to get the info straight from the source, visit catskillmountainrailtrail.org, or follow @FriendsOfTheCatskillMountainRailTrail on Facebook.

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