CMRR isn't giving up on "rails"
By Jay Braman Jr.
Catskill Mountain Railroad (CMRR) officials have issued a follow up statement to one made earlier this month about their reaction to news that the City of New York will put up $2.5 million to build an 11 and-a-half mile long rail trail on City property along the Ashokan reservoir.
According to CMRR spokesman Harry Jameson, some published reports gave the impression that CMRR has abandoned plans to have a train running along that section of railway.
He says nothing could be further from the truth.
“The December 16 article in the Daily Freeman entitled “Catskill Mountain Railroad abandons plan for Kingston-to-Phoenicia Scenic Train” misrepresents the position of the railroad on the recent announcement from Ulster County,” Jameson said in prepared statement.
“The CMRR’s position is that we will support whatever agreement is executed between Ulster County and New York City. In the meantime we will continue to advocate rail with trail throughout the reservoir area with the new DEP commissioner until the final agreement is signed. No money flows until an agreement is actually signed between the City and Ulster County, which could take years to negotiate.”
Noting that CMRR still has a lease to use that section of the railway, Jameson said that nothing can be done without his organization’s consent.
“The CMRR has agreed to nothing and our plans are unchanged,” Jameson stated. “In the meantime we will continue to rebuild track to return to Phoenicia in 2014 and continue our expansion of Kingston passenger service towards the Reservoir.”
If an agreement is executed between the City and Ulster County that limits rail use, the CMRR will support interim trail use, Jameson said, as long as CMRR is given the opportunity to expand both existing operations to the reservoir and are ensured that the possibility of eventual rail restoration is not prevented.”
On December 12, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein made the announcement along with New York City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Carter Strickland that the City would give $2.5 million, but only for a rail trail, not for any other use.
“Today’s agreement with the NYC DEP lays the groundwork to allow everyone unimpeded access to the breathtaking views along the entire north shore of the Ashokan Reservoir from the trail, without permit or fee for the first time since the reservoir was constructed more than a century ago, and ensures that this incredible recreational resource can be enjoyed by future generations,” said Hein. “Ulster County is committed to expanding and connecting the current rail trail network throughout the county. NYC’s commitment to trail development along the Ashokan Reservoir is a key advancement towards this goal, which will provide an unprecedented boost to the $475 million tourism sector of Ulster County’s economy.”
But Jameson believes there is time to work something out.
The CMRR needs to make clear that it is fair, reasonable, and flexible enough to welcome the trail project and share the corridor now,” he said. “However, under no circumstances are we giving up the right to pursue rail restoration in the future.”