Ulster County Executive Mike Hein Announces Proposal For Tourism Railroad And Trail In Kingston

Posted December 8, 2014

Kingston, NY – County Executive Mike Hein, with the support of local government officials and local business and community leaders, announced today a new proposal that would accommodate both tourism railroad operations and recreational trail development in the City of Kingston.  The plan would include an additional section of the County-owned Ulster and Delaware (“U&D”) Railroad corridor in Kingston in a future request for proposal (“RFP”) for tourism railroad operations.

“There are undoubtedly passionate and conflicting opinions with respect to the appropriate use for the County-owned U&D corridor that runs from Kingston to Highmount,” stated County Executive Hein.  “While this complex issue has been the source of ongoing and passionate debate between rail and trail advocates recently and for several decades, my administration has continually remained focused on creating a solution that benefits the largest number of Ulster County residents.  The plan I am releasing today is consistent with my vision to develop a world-class, interconnected rail trail system connecting the Walkway Over the Hudson to the Ashokan Reservoir while also preserving future tourism railroad operations in the City of Kingston.” 

Ulster County Legislative Majority Leader Donald Gregorius

“This concept supports railroad tourism without compromising the integrity of the rail trail.  It benefits the City of Kingston, the hiking and biking community, and railroad enthusiasts,” said Ulster County Legislative Majority Leader Donald Gregorius. “This is a reasonable and pragmatic direction for the future that benefits all of Ulster County.”

Ulster County Legislator Jeanette Provenzano

“While more costly, I support and endorse the proposed solution offered by County Executive Hein, which consists of an uptown Kingston rail-with-trail,” said Ulster County Legislator Jeanette Provenzano.  “Regardless of whom the future operator of the railroad will be in 2016, this is a ‘win-win’ for both rail and trail.  I am also delighted that Mayor Gallo is supportive of this initiative, and I am very pleased that the rail yard on Cornell Street will be removed.”

Kingston City Mayor Shayne Gallo

Kingston City Mayor Shayne Gallo noted, “The County Executive’s plan has my full support as it is inclusive of all stakeholders, including local businesses, City residents and advocates for both rail and trail. This proposal builds upon the City’s efforts to redesign Broadway and enhance connectivity between uptown, midtown and downtown Kingston while also promoting economic development and midtown revitalization, addressing longstanding environmental justice issues, linking the City to regional rail trails, and improving the quality of life for all City residents.”

Tim Weidemann, Co-Chair of the Kingston Rail Trail Committee

“The development of trail from mid-town to uptown Kingston is a critical element in the City’s Greenline project, and I commend the County Executive for his plan to ensure this key connection,” said Tim Weidemann, Co-Chair of the Kingston Rail Trail Committee.  “While it is clear that the limited segments of trail-alongside-rail will be more expensive to construct than trail only, this compromise provides a common sense solution to a complex issue that will ensure Kingston has a beautiful linear park connecting key neighborhoods.”

Donna Brooks, owner of Hudson Coffee Traders

 “County Executive Hein has always demonstrated a commitment to finding reasonable solutions,” stated Donna Brooks, owner of Hudson Coffee Traders.  “As someone who lives in New Paltz and owns a business in Kingston, I support his plan, which will be beneficial for Kingston, New Paltz and all of Ulster County.”

Karen Clark Adin, Owner of Bop to Tottom

Karen Clark Adin, Owner of Bop to Tottom in uptown Kingston said, “Kingston’s continued economic growth requires development of rail trail connections in Kingston that link to other regional rail trails.  The County Executive’s well thought out alternative delivers this while also allowing uptown businesses to benefit from seasonal and special event tourist trains.”

Kevin Smith, Chairman of Woodstock Land Conservancy/Co-Chair of Friends of the Catskill Mountain Rail Trail

"This is a win-win, practical solution to the problem of how to accommodate limited tourist train operations while preserving a destination-quality trail network linking the Ashokan Reservoir and Catskill Park through Kingston to the Walkway Over the Hudson,” highlighted Kevin Smith, Chairman of the Woodstock Land Conservancy and Co-Chair, Friends of the Catskill Mountain Rail Trail.  “This new proposal offers the promise of preserving the best of both worlds, and doing so without burdening the trail project with substantial additional costs to the County. We look forward to continuing the planning process to realize the Ulster County Rail Trail Project as a top-flight attraction linked to the county-wide trail network and the Kingston Greenline hub for tourism, non-motorized transportation and multiple recreational uses."

Dr. Kathleen Nolan, Senior Research Director of Catskill Mountainkeeper/ Co-Chair of the Friends of the Catskill Mountain Rail Trail

"From Mike Hein's first announcement of his vision for Ulster County's unified, world-class trail network, our County Executive's leadership has generated energy, ideas, funding, and a can-do spirit that has already resulted in additions, improvements, and enhancements to many of our trails and trail networks,” noted Dr. Kathleen Nolan, Senior Research Director of Catskill Mountainkeeper and Co-Chair of the Friends of the Catskill Mountain Rail Trail. “This new approach to addressing the desire of rail supporters to preserve a section of the corridor for tourist train operations in Kingston, in addition to hamlet centers in western segments of the U&D Corridor, again demonstrates Executive Hein’s flexibility and creative approach to problem-solving."

Elenie Loizou, Owner of Dietz Stadium Diner

“I want to thank County Executive Hein because this plan helps my business,” said Elenie Loizou, Owner of Dietz Stadium Diner.

The County Executive’s plan would convert some parts of the U&D corridor into trail only, develop two limited sections of “rail alongside trail,” and utilize the former O&W Railroad corridor to allow for trail connections to the Hurley Rail Trail and Ashokan Reservoir.  The plan includes the following:

  • The unpermitted rail maintenance and storage yard between Cornell and O’Neil Streets will not be allowed and from this location to the Kingston Plaza would become trail only.
  • From the east end of the Kingston Plaza to the west side of Washington Avenue, the railroad tracks and rail trail would run and operate parallel.
  • From Washington Avenue, the railroad only would run along the U&D corridor to State Route 209 with rail alongside trail between Route 209 and Hurley Mountain Road, where the railroad operations would end.
  • From Washington Avenue, the rail trail would follow the former O&W Railroad corridor to the Hurley Rail Trail, where it would cross under Route 209 using an existing underpass (or farm crossing) to ensure safe pedestrian and bicycle access under this roadway.  The trail would then head northward along the western side of the Route 209 right-of-way rejoining the U&D to head west to Hurley Mountain Road.  This will require a pedestrian/ bicycle bridge structure to be built across the lower Esopus Creek.
  • The rail trail will then continue parallel to the U&D until it reaches Hurley Mountain Rd. where the U&D then becomes “trail only”.  The U&D remains “trail only” until it reaches the western most end of the Ashokan Reservoir and the end of Ulster County’s, DEP funded, extensive reservoir trail project.
  • As previously announced, the County will accept proposals for tourism railroad operations west of Boiceville at the western end of the Ashokan Reservoir.

In addition to the plan details above, any future railroad operations would be subject to the following conditions:

  • Any increased expenses of trail development resulting from this alternative would be borne, all or in part, by the future rail operator in this section.
  • The illegal rail yard at Cornell Street must be removed from its current location and no train activity may occur on the corridor east of the Kingston Plaza.  This addresses long-standing environmental justice issues affecting the surrounding neighborhoods.
  • To improve public safety, the rail operator must work to ensure the installation of County-approved automated gates and flashing lights for road crossings at both Washington Avenue and Route 209.
  • Major logistical issues with the owners of Kingston Plaza and other adjoining landowners must be addressed by any potential future rail operator.

The discussion of the future utilization of the U&D corridor is often confused with the decision of whom ultimately may be the operator selected by the County to run any tourism railroad operations.   The County Executive’s alternate plan in no way predetermines any potential future operator on segments identified for potential railroad use, which will be determined through the RFP (Request for Proposal).