The Compromise: Re-purposing our Rails while Preserving the Past

support the compromise

I remember driving by a new billboard in Kingston a few years ago that stated “Build the Trails but Save the Rails.” Why was this an issue? I felt uninformed at the time and curious. Why couldn’t the rails and trails coexist?

This brings me to our current topic, The Compromise, which is an agreement come to by a few different groups, to accommodate the building of new trails as well as preservation of railroad operations on the 36.8 mile Ulster and Delaware Corridor (1).

You may have seen signs up around town stating “Save the Rails” as well as “Support the Compromise.” You see, there are two camps on this issue; those who want to preserve the railroad tracks for use as a tourist train and those who want to re-purpose the tracks into trails. Of course there were also those wondering “why not both?” However, there remains a feeling of history vs. the future as the rails vs. trails debate continued.

Key Points of Compromise (wide)

The creation of new trails would get Ulster County residents out into nature to experience the beauty of where we live through the lens of walking or biking rather than driving. Trail supporters believe creating more trails will benefit the health and wellness of our residents.

The Compromise, embodied in Resolution 488 of the Ulster County Legislature, represents an agreement between the Catskill Mountain Railroad, Friends of the Catskill Mountain Rail Trail, the Ulster County Executive and the Ulster County Legislature to help the railroad supporters and trail builders collaborate. It created space for the railroad to continue to maintain its tracks in portions of the county as well as for new trails to be built (1).

support the compromise

The need for a compromise became apparent when members of the community expressed concern over a proposal put forward in 2012 by the Ulster County Executive to convert the current rail line that runs from the City of Kingston to the western edge of the County, near Highmount, to a recreation trail for walking or biking, etc. The proposal was made when considering that the lease by the Catskill Mountain Railroad would end in May of 2016. This was of concern to rail supporters because it would mean the elimination of the railroad.

In order to come up with a resolution, a committee was created called the “Ulster and Delaware Corridor Advisory Committee.” Additionally, they hired a consulting firm to assess what would make the most sense when divvying up the stretch of track and trails and deciding where both could exist. The committee did a thorough reexamination of the original proposal to build the trail and conducted a study to decide what would be the optimum use of the corridor. After assessing what would be best, the committee came to a “rails with trails” agreement (1).

Support The Compromise

Starting at Cornell street in Kingston, a pedestrian trail will run to the Kingston Plaza. From there the train and trail will run side by side to Route 28A in Hurley. The portions of track between Route 28A in Hurley and Basin Road in West Hurley at the Ashokan Reservoir are still to be determined. Basin Road to Route 28A in Boiceville will be pedestrian trail only. Boiceville to Phoenicia will be rail and trail “where feasible’, and last Phoenicia to Highmount there will be trail development with a possible rail station development and rail connection to Delaware County at Highmount (2).

As you can see, both camps ended up with some of what they had hoped for, both rail and trail. The Compromise brought together two ends of a very passionate debate on an issue important to the people of Ulster County. The process continues, as Ulster County has recently selected two contractors to provide service on the two separate portions of track to remain. As it turns out, the Catskill Mountain Railroad will continue its operations in Kingston, while a new organization will operate west of the Ashokan Reservoir, providing rail-bike excursions.

And so we hope this brief explanation clarifies the history, and helps you understand why we #SupportTheCompromise


  1. Resolution 488

Dana lives in the Rondout neighborhood with her adorable dog Cooper. Her family history in Kingston is what brought her to the area over ten years ago. Together, she and Cooper enjoy exploring all of the beauty and history that Kingston has to offer. The Kingston Land Trust asked Dana, who has only recently become aware of the compromise for rail and trail, to do some digging and attempt to explain from an outsider’s perspective what it’s all about.





3 comments to The Compromise: Re-purposing our Rails while Preserving the Past

  • Kristin

    Thank you for informing us all! #SupportTheCompromise

  • Kelly Myers

    The problem with “The Compromise” is that the rail corridor will be segmented. Of the 38.5 miles of corridor the railroad will only be able to use 5 miles… that’s a pretty short trip!! Eleven miles of tracks are scheduled for removal! We should have BOTH RAIL AND TRAIL for the full distance.

  • Irwin

    How wise and sensible ! This represents the genuine compromise. SAVE THE RAILS is a misleading effort to go back to the beginning. COMPROMISE sighns should appear ion the minds and hearts of concerned citizens.

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