— The town of Dryden will gain use of old rail bed trails and bridges for the 11 mile town rail trail project after an agreement with the state.
The agreement with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, reached recently, grants the town use of about 2,700 feet of old railbed trail and bridges over Cascadilla Creek near Reynold’s Game Farm, town Deputy Supervisor Dan Lamb said.
“I’m very pleased with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation,” Lamb said. “They’ve operated in good faith. They’re bureaucratic and move slow but they cooperated with us and accepted our request.”
Lamb said that negotiations over land use began four years ago as the farm and its surrounding land is owned by the DEC and its permission was required to extend the trail through the farm’s property.
The next steps in making use of the trails nearby will be to have them cleared of brush and to repair and repurpose old trestle bridges over Cascadilla Creek, said Bob Beck, chairman of the Dryden Rail Trail Task Force.
No finish date has been set yet as multiple projects are in development on the trail.
“It’s a slow process, but a huge success to this point,” Beck said of the portions already open.
Aaron Burgess was walking the completed section of the trail Thursday afternoon near Game Farm Road for exercise.
Burgess, 36, said he had heard about the project to extend the trail.
“We’re really looking forward to it,” he said, noting he and his husband, Mason Jager, had recently moved from Brooktondale to Varna, drawn in part by the trail and other outdoor attractions of the area.
The planned trail project includes a bridge over Route 366 in Varna that has been cleared and opened to foot traffic.
The 11-mile trail will cost about $2.5 million, Lamb said, most of which would go toward a $2.2 million bridge to be built over Route 13 in Varna.
The state Department of Transportation has already committed $1.5 million for the bridge, Lamb said.
The trail, which began in 2016, will connect to the East Ithaca Recreation Way at the Ithaca town line on Game Farm Road and provide access to Ithaca and Cornell University. It will pass through the hamlets of Varna and Etna and the village of Freeville, ending at Route 13 in the village of Dryden, where it will connect to the Jim Schug Trail.
City Editor Kevin Conlon contributed to this report.