Imagine a park where you could travel through miles of scenic rural settings on foot, on bicycle, on cross-country skis, or perhaps on horseback without having to worry about the hazards and noise of motorized vehicles. It may sound like a dream, but communities across the U.S. have made dreams like this a reality by converting over 10,000 miles of abandoned railways into safe and attractive public trails.
Here in Broome County NY, just a short drive from Binghamton, there is an abandoned railway corridor, which runs along the beautiful Susquehanna River from Nineveh, through Colesville and Windsor south to the Pennsylvania border a distance of approximately 15 miles. Passengers who traveled this route back in the days of steam locomotives were treated to lovely views of the river and the surrounding hills, forest, and farmland. The trains are gone, but the corridor remains, and with some work and foresight, it could be preserved and enjoyed by all as we move into the twenty-first century.
The rail-bed runs through an area which is rich not only in natural beauty, but also in history. As stated in Marjory Hinman's book, Oquaga, Hub of the Border Wars, the region was the homeland of the Algonquins and later was "The Meeting Place" for the powerful Iroquois nation.
The trail would begin in Nineveh, former home of the Hobbs Brothers Carriage works, which operated from 1845 to about 1920, producing fine horse drawn carriages and later, automobiles. It appears that the Hobbs works served as a repair center for the Barnum and Bailey circus wagons, which were delivered to Nineveh by rail during the off season. The quality of Hobbs carriages was so high that even the Queen of England was reputed to be a customer.
Between Nineveh and Harpursville the trail crosses the Susquehanna River over a 420-foot truss bridge built in 1908 which is eligible for inclusion in the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The trail passes near, and could make use of, the Center Village bridge, which is currently listed on National & State registers of historic places. The railroad station in Windsor could be restored for use as a trail related business or museum.
Because the rail-bed parallels the river, it would be possible to develop access points along its length for public boating and fishing. Picnic areas and campgrounds could also be created. The trail would provide public access to many areas of the Susquehanna River that otherwise would remain inaccessible. The recreational opportunities for year-round and summer residents as well as tourists are outstanding. And residents who live near the rail-bed are likely to see the value of their properties increase when a deserted, neglected area becomes a beautiful park.
The Rail-Trail Council of Northeastern Pennsylvania has an existing rail-trail which currently runs 35 miles from Forest City north to Stevens Point in Susquehanna County (near Lanesboro). This group is currently negotiating for the purchase of the abandoned D&H railway corridor from Stevens Point to the NY State border, where it would connect to the Susquehanna River Rail-Trail. The purchase and preservation of the Susquehanna River Trail would therefore complete an extensive trail over 50 miles long. The Rail-Trail Council of Northeastern Pennsylvania has future plans to extend their trail all the way to Scranton and Pittston PA, and they are actively working on a number of branches off the main trail. We would be connecting to a network of trails!
The advantages of the project are numerous. It would preserve open space along the river, providing local residents of all ages, with a place to relax, enjoy great natural scenery, and get some healthy exercise. It would promote tourism and could provide an economic boost to eastern Broome County. Local schools could use the trail as an outdoor laboratory for science and history classes. School sports programs could use the trail for conditioning. The Boy and Girl Scouts, 4-H Clubs, the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society and other groups or individuals interested in experiencing the great natural beauty of our area could use the trail.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) are aware of this resource as stated in the report "Conserving Open Space In New York State 1997." The project is a prime candidate for Environmental Bond Act money. The $l.75 billion bond act was approved by voters in 1996; the state is in the process of deciding where that money will be spent. The members of this community have a once in a lifetime opportunity to support the local groups who are working together with the DEC and the OPRHP to make the Susquehanna River Rail-Trail a reality.
The wonderful parks our community enjoys today are here because of the foresight of previous generations. If we act now, we can create a recreational resource, which will be enjoyed, by residents and tourists for years to come. If you'd like to help with this effort, please contact us.