Rail trails have a well-documented history of providing multiple year-round benefits, including greatly benefiting local businesses, enhancing the overall health of individuals, connecting children with nature, providing enriching educational and spiritual experiences, and protecting wildlife and the environment.
A recently-released study commissioned by the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development; Catskill Mountainkeeper; and the Catskill Heritage Alliance, puts some hard data and dollars behind the CMRT vision. It estimates the economic impact generated by outdoor recreational activities in the central Catskills for the surrounding communities at more than $46 million from 1.7 million visitors annually, supporting 980 jobs.
- Rail trails are an increasingly important tool for expanding tourism and promoting economic development. A 2013 study by Camoin Associates found that the CMRT would bring about 140,000 visitors a year to Ulster County, and $3.1 million in direct and indirect spending. (For the complete study click here, for just the highlights click here).
- As demonstrated by the recent success of the Walkway Over the Hudson, pedestrian and bicycle trails that highlight outstanding historic and scenic resources can attract hundreds of thousands of year-round visitors to our region and create hundreds of new jobs.
- Studies show that trails not only attract tourists, but also extend their length of stay, directly benefiting restaurants, motels, other recreational and cultural attractions, and a wide variety of retail and service businesses.
- In addition to increasing tourism, the CMRT will also make the City of Kingston and the Hudson Valley more attractive as a place to live, work and invest.
- The CMRT will provide enhanced recreational tourism and business opportunities in communities from the City of Kingston, all along the Route 28 Catskill Gateway corridor, including the Towns of Ulster, Kingston, Woodstock, Hurley, Olive and deep into the wild beauty of the Catskills in the Town of Shandaken, ending at the Ulster County boundary at the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, before connecting with the Scenic Catskills Rail Trail in Delaware County.
- Since longer trails generate more visitors from greater distances, the connection of the CMRT with trails to the south and west – in addition to hiking trails and other recreational activities in the Catskill Park – promise a renewed economic vitality for the Catskills, based on the region’s outstanding scenic beauty and protected wilderness lands.
- Numerous studies nationwide have documented the fact that proximity to bike/hike trails increases property values.
According to Ulster County Executive Michael Hein, “This rail trail conversion will have an immediate short-term as well as a long-term economic impact. The long term value of this plan is almost incalculable tourism dollars, community fitness, business attraction, and quality of life. Praising the project as creating a world-class tourist destination,” Hein said that it would “allow our residents and people from around the world to enjoy the pristine natural beauty that is Ulster County.”
Regular, vigorous exercise is critical both for preventing and combating childhood obesity and diabetes, along with a host of chronic adult diseases. In Ulster County, nearly 60 percent of adults are overweight or obese, and child obesity rates are climbing. Encouraging increased physical activity is a vital strategy in stemming this growing public health crisis.
- Accessible trails are critical to expanding opportunities for outdoor recreation and physical activity and promoting healthier lifestyles.
- The CMRT gives people of all income levels access to free, safe, year-round opportunities for recreation and exercise
- Studies show that people are more likely to exercise regularly if they live near a rail trail. The CMRT will offer “no car required” access to outdoor recreational opportunities and scenic open space to many urban neighborhoods that currently have limited options.
- The CMRT will be fully accessible for all – children, adults, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities.
Land Use Protection
Rail trails allow everyone to safely enjoy wild spaces with minimal environmental impact. When people get out on the land, they are inspired to celebrate and protect it.
The old Ulster & Delaware corridor runs through ecologically important habitats
- dramatic view sheds.
Especially now as climate change, flooding, and other environmental stresses threaten
these lands and their bio-diversity, it is important to make choices that help conserve this vital part of our natural heritage – important for plants, birds, animals, and fragile ecosystems as well as for people.
Multi-use trails are enormously popular with a variety of users including:
- Cross-country skiers…
A 2012 trail user study, focused on 14 of the state’s multi-use greenway trails, conducted by Parks & Trails New York, the New York State Trails Council, and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, estimated that over 2.2 million cyclists and pedestrians are using these trails each year.
The highest result in the statewide study was right here in Ulster County. The Hudson Valley Rail Trail, with over 650,000 annual users, was by far the most actively used trail in the study, while the Hurley Rail Trail, just outside Kingston, shows over 80,000 annual users!
On June 17th, 2013, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference released a study carried out by Camoin Associates, an economic analysis firm in Saratoga Springs. They estimate that the CMRT will bring about 140,000 visitors a year to the trail.
Trails connect people and places. A rail trail running along the Route 28 corridor between Kingston and Belleayre will fill one of the great missing links in the vision for a viable non-motorized transportation system in Ulster County. It will give residents and visitors a safe, convenient route for pedestrian and bicycle travel to work, school, between neighborhoods and to our beautiful wild and open spaces.
The Ulster County Transporation Council completed a countywide Non-motorized Transportation Plan (NMTP) in 2008. The Plan states that by “improving the connection between the human and natural environments, Ulster County can create a “green infrastructure” that:
- reduces fossil fuel consumption
- enables freedom of mobility
- encourages more physical activity
- allows children to walk and bike to school
- reduces traffic congestion
- makes it possible to create economic growth at the same time.
The Catskill Mountain Rail Trail will play a powerful role in raising awareness of the interconnected benefits of non-motorized transportation, land conservation and healthy people in healthy communities.