Rail Trail Expansion: May 2021

Historic Fallsburg Tunnel Will Eventually Be Reinstated
by Brian Dennis and John Conway
SOUTH FALLSBURG, May 2021— With the arrival of the spring weather, the town of Fallsburg is expected to begin work shortly on the expansion of the O&W Rail Trail in the town. As reported in an earlier edition of The Hurleyville Sentinel, the town has been awarded a $400,000 grant to undertake the project, which is expected to eventually link the existing Milk Train Trail that runs through Hurleyville with a section that will stretch all the way to Mountaindale. The resulting trail will then run from Ferndale to Mountaindale.
There are a couple of major obstacles to overcome, however. The historic Fallsburg tunnel needs extensive rehabilitation before it can be utilized as part of the trail, and a crossing has to be erected at the Neversink River to allow the trail to continue into Woodridge and its final stretch to Mountaindale.
Fallsburg Supervisor Steve Vegliante says the tunnel work will be put off until Phase II of the project.
“We are concentrating on a bridge over the Neversink, and negotiating the grading to avoid any steep slopes as we encounter the proposed bridge,” Mr. Vegliante says. “We will be working this year on the area around the tunnel, creating a temporary alternate trail route and repairing the trail down to the trestles at the Neversink.”
The $400,000 currently available for the project consists of $250,000 from New York State, secured by Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, $150,000 from Sullivan Renaissance, and a $50,000 in-kind contribution from the town. Mr. Vegliante says the town will do much of the early work on the project in-house, but will likely bid out the major work to private contractors.
The O&W Railway abandoned the right-of-way in 1957, and it was sold along with most of the railroad’s holdings to settle its debts. A nine-mile stretch of trail through Hurleyville from Ferndale to South Fallsburg was purchased in 2014 by a partnership of the Open Space Institute and The Center for Discovery, and has been rehabilitated, including the paving of about three miles of it.
Further expansion and improvement of the entire former O&W right-of-way in Sullivan County has become a stated priority of the most recent County Legislature, and the county Planning Department is spearheading those efforts. It is hoped that if a continuous trail can be developed it will draw tourists to the County, improving the economic climate here, as well as provide recreational opportunities to local residents, hopefully improving the county’s traditionally dismal health rankings, which have slipped again this year to second worst in New York State.
“If COVID has taught us anything, it is the value of outdoor entertainment, and the need to focus on our overall health,” Mr. Vegliante told The Sentinel. “This project serves both of those interests, resulting in a roughly 13-mile continuous trail from Mountaindale, through Woodridge, South Fallsburg, Hurleyville and eventually leading to Liberty. It will provide an incredible jewel for the residents of the Town of Fallsburg, and, we believe, will become a regional tourist attraction.
“Imagine if you will, our first trail-based marathon event, and the showcasing of our hamlets to visitors,” he said. “When we can rehabilitate a tunnel, visitors will be able to experience firsthand what those on trains in the 1800s saw traversing our town. It will be amazing!”