Residents will have the opportunity Saturday to take the next step in making a dream a reality.
That dream: the Dryden Rail Trail.
Five miles of the trail already exist. The Jim Schug Trail was dedicated to former Dryden Town Supervisor Jim Schug in the 1990s, said Bob Beck, chairman of the Dryden Rail Trail Task Force. The trail was originally the site of the Lehigh Valley Railroad that ran the length of the town.
After the railroad was discontinued in the 1960s, the rail bed was divided up and sold to private landowners in the 1980s, Beck said.
In 2015, after residents decided to create the longer trail, they met with students in the Design Connect group at Cornell University to gather input, survey the corridor and propose a rail trail blueprint. After presenting information to the town board, Beck said the task force was created. “We could make this (the trail) a reality.”
The proposed trail will run around 10.5 miles from the village of Dryden, through the village of Freeville and continuing west to the Ithaca town line. It will not connect to the portion of old rail line that runs through Lime Hollow Nature Center, Beck said.
When complete, the trail will consist of a surface of mowed grass and maybe some gravel-covered sections, Beck said.
Since gaining approval, the 11-member task force has been seeking funding for the trail and working with private landowners to gain easements to use the rail beds on their properties, Beck said. Around 14 landowners have signed and recorded agreements with around 14 others pledging to do so. Between six and 10 landowners have yet to answer. “We expected to have some reluctance.”
Beck did not have an estimate Tuesday morning of the number of miles of rights of way already secured.
To fund the trail the task force plans to apply for a $500,000 grant from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Beck said.
Once everything is complete, Beck said around 10.5 miles will be available for public use including biking, hiking, running, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, bird watching and more. “It would be wonderful if we get it done in five years,” Beck said. “It could be sooner, it could be longer.”
The workshop, at the Dryden Fire Hall, 26 North St., will run from 9 a.m. to noon and feature an overview of the project’s progress and a historical presentation of railroads in the town, said Alice Walsh Green, a task force member.
David Cutter, a Cornell University landscape architect and village of Dryden resident, and Reed Huegerich, Cornell transportation planner, will facilitate the workshop.
Following the presentations, Walsh Green said attendees will break into groups and share ideas about the uses for the trail and design features they’d like to see. “We’re looking for good ideas.”