Vision for Kingston Rail Trail Becomes a Reality in the Poughkeepsie Journal

Vision for Kingston Rail Trail Becomes a Reality 
The Poughkeepsie Journal

The first rail trail in America was built way back in 1965. It was the Elroy-Sparta bike trail in Wisconsin, and it was constructed on the newly abandoned Chicago and North Western Railway.

The 32-mile Elroy-Sparta rail trail was a model for what to do with abandoned rail beds, a growing occurrence in America in the 1960s. That trend continued into the 1970s as trucks took more and more goods and services to market, and railroads streamlined and consolidated. The rail trail movement, though, was relativity slow to catch on.

By the time the national advocacy group Rails-to-Trails Conservancy began in 1986, there were only 200 rail trails in America. Today, there are more than 1,600 rail trails in the country, including several locally, with more proposed, including a big push for rail trails in the City of Kingston.

Mayor Shayne Gallo has been in office for just under six months, and both during his campaign and after he took the oath of office he has made rail trails in Kingston a centerpiece of his effort to redefine the city. Gallo envisions a rail trail hub in midtown Kingston that will connect, via a proposed rail trail on Washington Avenue in uptown Kingston, to the Hurley rail trail along Route 209. In addition, Gallo sees an eventual link to the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail in Rosendale from the midtown hub and from there to the Hudson Valley Rail in Highland and on to the Walkway Over the Hudson and the Dutchess County Rail Trail.

Carrying the banner with Gallo for rail trails in Kingston is the Kingston Land Trust. Greg Swanzey is on the board of directors for the group and is the newly appointed director of economic development and strategic partnerships for the City of Kingston.

I asked him what the midtown rail trail hub will do for Kingston.

“It’s in the middle of the city, which is good for Kingston and certainly good for how we change our view of midtown,” Swanzey said.

Changing the view of midtown Kingston is an issue many in the city feel strongly about.

Indeed, a section of rail trail from Kingston Point to East Chester Street in midtown is already far along in the planning stage and has won widespread support from the business community and the public.

And how about the process of building a rail trail?

“In some cases when the railroad left town, they pulled up the rails,” Swanzey said. In other cases, drainage issues and culverts need to be built and the surface needs to be resolved with a variety of choices available.

“What we are looking at in Kingston is, through the Kingston Land Trust, the formation of a friends group,” Swanzey said.

He sees the group coming up with policy and operating the rail trail.

Jimmy Buff is program director and afternoon host for Radio Woodstock 100.1 WDST and is an outdoor enthusiast. Reach him at “The Green Life” is a column about local environmental issues and living a more sustainable life.

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