Hardenburgh on track to join the railroad fight
By Jay Braman Jr.
The Town of Hardenburgh has jumped into the ongoing battle of Rails vs. Trails in Ulster County, where the county government has been trying to kick the Catskill Mountain Railroad (CMRR) off the tracks to make room for a walking trail on the property.
But the CMRR has a lease on the rail bed that stretch from Highmount all the way down to Kingston until 2016 and they want to stay. County Executive Mike Hein has begun eviction proceedings and the matter remains in court.
But last Thursday, the Hardenburgh Town Board unanimously passed a resolution calling for a halt to the legal action.
“The continuing legal battles between these entities increases costs for both a local tourist attraction and the County of Ulster, whose funds are provided by the taxpayers of Ulster County, and accomplishes nothing but exacerbates a relationship between two entities who should be working toward a common goal for all parties involved, most notably the taxpayers and residents of the County of Ulster and the Town of Shandaken,” the resolution states.
The resolution continues on, calling for the county to not only allow CMRR to continue operating trains between Phoenicia and Boiceville but also allow the operation to expand.
The Hardenburgh Town Board believes that the solution to this dilemma is to have both walking trails and a rail line.
They propose that the rail line infrastructure, basically the steel tracks, can remain intact and in places where there are no plans to develop CMRR operations for the next five years, walking trails can simply be built over top of the tracks.
Ulster County has proposed to rip the tracks up and sell them for scrap.
Shandaken narrowly passed a similar resolution earlier this month in a 3-2 vote, with board members Faye Storms and Tim Malloy opposing. Supervisor Rob Stanley was joined by councilman Alfie Higley and Vince Bernstein in passing the measure.
Voting against, Storms said she was uncomfortable supporting a measure that took sides in an issue in litigation and felt that the town board needed more information on the matter before taking a position.
Malloy agreed saying “I don’t even know why this resolution is in front of us.”
While the CMRR now has support from Shandaken and Hardenburgh, Town of Olive Supervisor Sylvia Rozzelle said they should not expect any support from her town.
Much of the rail line passes through Olive. Rozzelle said CMRR has never done anything for Olive except to park old railroad relics along the tracks in Shokan.
She said she checked the records and found that in 1983, the CMRR dragged an old ticket booth to Shokan, promising to renovate the structure once the lease agreement between CMRR and the County was signed. “That was 31 years ago,” she said. “Nothing has happened yet.”