Trail enthusiasts, IDA consider future of railroad tracks

OXFORD – The railroad tracks that span the county have remained damaged and quiet since the floods of 2006, leading many to consider their usefulness. According to Jerry Locke, a biology teacher at Oxford Academy, Chenango County should consider converting them into a Rails to Trails program.

Rails to Trails programs have transformed approximately 20,000 miles of rail lines into walking and biking trails across the country since 1986. Doing the same to the lines here would benefit the entire community, Locke said.

“It would help in many ways ... less burning of fossil fuels, more exercise and getting back to nature,” said Locke. “But the most important thing, I believe, is increased tourism to the county.”

According to the MAP-21 bill passed more than 20 years ago, Rails to Trails uses the rights of way if a railroad were to abandon a line, but the legislation allows that the railroad would be able to recover that line for rebuilding purposes at any time.

However, according to Jennifer Tavares, director of economic development at Commerce Chenango, the county is not interested in “encouraging or allowing the railroad (New York Susquehanna & Western Railway) to abandon any portion” of the line.

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