The Friends of the Upper Hudson Rail Trail, Inc. emerged in early 2009 to encourage the development of a 29-mile rail trail from North Creek to Tahawus, NY. Parks & Trails New York began assisting the Friends of the Upper Hudson Rail Trail (FUHRT) as part of our Healthy Trails, Healthy People program.
Now, it seems the dream of making this long neglected rail corridor into a multi-use trail is in jeopardy.
Iowa Pacific Holdings, LLC, a subsidiary of Iowa Pacific Railroad, recently announced discussions with NL Industries Inc., which owns the 29 miles of track between North Creek and a former National Lead (NL) mining complex in the hamlet of Tahawus in Newcomb. It has been unused since the late 1980s.
Iowa Pacific only plans to purchase the line if it gets the contract to operate the train line in Warren County. Whether trains will resume operating is another uncertainty. Iowa Pacific doesn’t have any immediate plans for the line other than to see the tracks remain in place, but it hopes to provide services for Barton’s Mine, five miles north of the town of North Creek.
A tourist train currently operates on 39 miles of track south of North Creek and the option of using the North Creek to Tahawus section for an extension is being discussed. There is also some speculation about resumption of titanium dioxide mining in Tahawus.
“Potential deals are easy to announce. We think the Warren County DPW Committee has acted a bit hastily in endorsing the idea that this corridor should be reserved for potential new train use,” says FUHRT president Curt Austin. Friends of the Upper Hudson Rail Trail pledged to work harder on advocating on behalf of the trail.
“We intend to give county officials an up-to-date review of our project. We need to make sure they understand the huge benefits of a bike trail. Everyone who loves cycling needs to help us out. North Creek and North Warren County has a fabulous opportunity to have a train to the south AND a bike trail to the north. Both! Don’t we have enough county-owned railroad, which is hardly ever used? We definitely don’t have enough places to safely ride a bike. They just have to compare the success of the Warren County Bikeway with the county’s train operations to see the difference.”
Utilizing the tourist train to access the trail could be an opportunity to attract new clientel for the tourist train. The award winning Ontario, Canada’s Bike Train Initiative has successfully opened new markets for both cyclists and passenger rail. Trail advocates see a win-win for North Creek, too.
This is not the first time an organization has attempted to purchase the corridor for a multi-use trail. In 2003 NL sold nearly 10,000 acres of Tahawus land holdings to the Open Space Institute (OSI). OSI held an option on the Railroad ROW also, with thoughts of developing a trail, but did not execute it due to permit complications and the threat of additional regulation from the Adirondack Park Agency. NL removed all ore processing equipment and most remaining mine buildings in 2005. They did not remove the rails.
Curt is worried the rail line will remain underutilized and the window of opportunity will close again. “There’s a lot more of us cyclists than there are rail fans, but only rail fans turn out at these meetings. They want keep this corridor for themselves, even though they won’t use it much, if at all. It would be quite an expense to get the line over the 5mph classification and at 5mph, it would be a 12-hour trip to Tahawus and back. This rail line could sit unused for another 22 years. Let’s not let that happen this time.”
Read more about the potential sale of this corridor in the Post Star.