Letter to the Editor: Catskill Mountain Railroad business plan is yet another unrealistic scenario

Dear Editor:

Congratulations can be offered to the Catskill Mountain Railroad on its successful fall/winter theme train events. However, as has been the case previously with unrealistic scenarios, CMRR officials have now used the events to release yet another even more unrealistic development in its 56 page “Kingston to Glenford Dike 2015-2020 Business Plan” advocating continued railroad operations in the Kingston-Boiceville section of the corridor. http://www.dailyfreeman.com/general-news/20150223/catskill-mountain-rail...

“We can have both rail and trail” was the CMRR theme for the last several years. But the lack of any mention of that option in the current Plan reveals what was essentially a cynical gambit for confusion of the issue. In private, many supporters were heard to concede that such a proposal would cost tens of millions of dollars, a figure confirmed by preliminary engineering studies, and this newest plan affirms that the railroad had no real intention of ever funding such an enterprise.

Railroad officials, however, have now created an even more unrealistic scenario, in which trail options are omitted completely in favor of rail-only for the Kingston-Ashokan segment, CSX connections are somehow restored over paved parking lots, and trains run into the DEP lands, despite the recent public pronouncement by the DEP that trains will be prohibited and its $3.5 million commitment to construct trails.

The plan’s rail-only option versus trail however has been thoroughly evaluated and resoundingly decided by Resolution 275, which defines a segmented approach with trail-only from Kingston to Boiceville and rail operations west of the Ashokan. The Kingston Greenline and Catskill Mountain Rail Trail, in concert with the wider Ulster Trails network vision, will not only be a comparable or more substantial long term active-tourism draw than limited-run theme train events, but can be used throughout the year by thousands of people each week-- unlike the monopolization of an empty corridor for Saturday-half-day-only little-trafficked train use in the summers.

The CMRR, recent theme events notwithstanding, should give up its unrealistic dream of a “rail- only” solution in the Kingston section as projected by its just-released Business Plan and instead use its recent theme events to leverage its operations on the Western end of the corridor-- which Shandaken residents have endorsed with their own resolution, which make sense logistically and financially, and which the County has repeatedly offered to market and support.

William Sheldon