December 1, 2021

Dryden trail expands

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Michelle Hardy-Cook walks along the Jim Schug rail trail in Dryden on Friday. The town is working to extend the trail.

Another 2,600 feet has been added to a recreational trail set to connect Dryden to Freeville and Freeville to Ithaca.

After working with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the Dryden Rail Trail Task Force along with Deputy Town Supervisor Dan Lamb reached an agreement to gain access over state-owned land on Game Farm Road, said Bob Beck, chairman of the task force. “Now they (DEC) are preparing an agreement in writing,” Beck said.

Gaining access to the land on Game Farm Road will allow work to be done from both ends of the trail, Beck said. With the additional 2,600 feet — nearly a half-mile — the project is getting closer to completion. “We’re really close,” he said.

The next step in the process involves working with landowners to gain property easements from Route 13 to Etna. “I think we will come through,” Beck said. “I’m optimistic.”

So far 8.1 miles of the 10.5-mile trail has been secured. “That’s a lot,” Beck said. “We’ve made huge progress in the last year and a half.”

Beck said many landowners are enthusiastic and helpful.

In June, after gaining four easements, the section of trail running from the village of Dryden to the village of Freeville was complete. Also in June around 10 youths with Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Youth Employment Readiness program worked to clear brush from a portion of the trail, Beck said.

The trail runs along the former Lehigh Valley Railroad right of way.

In 2015, after residents decided to revive the idea of one single 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. That same year the task force was created.

To fund the trail the task force plans to apply for a $500,000 grant through the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

It is still unknown when the trail will be completed, but once everything is complete around 10.5 miles will be available for public use including biking, hiking, running, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, bird watching and more.