We applaud the manner with which the Catskill Mountain Railroad
has been dealing with the changes thrust its way in recent months,
via a newly enthused effort on the county’s part to build
a rail trail up the volunteer organization’s right of
way to the county’s border with Middletown. When the story
first started emerging it looked like trouble for CMRR, what
with a number of official sorts down in Kingston talking about
finding ways to wrest control of the county-owned rail tracks
from the train guys. But then the CMRR folks got on the case
and proved their willingness to play ball with whomever was
willing to bring in funding to keep their dream alive.
Sure, there will be some tense times ahead as the rail trail
and train folks accommodate each other in some of the narrower
parts of the right-of-way. Also, there are many questions in
need of answers from New York City regarding access to its lands
adjacent to the reservoir. But at least everyone’s now
talking, and there seems to be a sense that the nation’s
(and county’s) growing awareness of people’s need
for walking exercise is worth funding, and that that funding
is perfectly suited to the rehabilitation of this major resource.
In the long run, we believe it might make sense to get the rail
trail up and running sooner than later because it will allow
for later development of the rail alternative once the right-of-way
is improved from its present state and we all start showing
greater resolve to move beyond our current auto-centric modes
of travel to realize, again, the benefits of a working rail
system not just aimed at tourist rides.
But that’s part of longer-term planning that we still
need to deal with, as towns, county, a region, state, and nation,
much better than’s been our normal behavior in recent
In particular, we’re thinking of other issues in need
of strong planning thoughtfulness, from the wisdom of putting
more public funding into Catskills ski areas when all our scientists
are saying the future of local winters, and snow, is in serious
jeopardy because of proven climate change.
We’re thinking about how some of our towns keep failing
to implement or enforce comprehensive planning for a future
we all know, now, will be including as many if not more major
changes than we’ve already seen in recent decades. Does
it really make sense to keep putting up businesses, especially
without any tourism draw, along our major highway at the same
time that other entities are working to make Route 28 a scenic
corridor, and maybe even a bigger thoroughfare? In specific,
we are worried about the precedent set by the storage units
approved in Olive last week...
Getting back to the railroad, what was hopeful was the ways
in which the volunteers working on the CMRR effort have been
able to accommodate change and keep pushing forward. Something
we should all start doing better, instead of blaming others
for bringing up things we are trying to hide from.
The Catskills and Upper Esopus Valley/Route 28 corridor of ten
years from now is going to be much different from what it is
now. The better we understand this, and work to incorporate
such change, the better off we’ll all be down the line.