Article Reprinted From : http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081001/NEWS01/810010341/1006
Vision, perseverance made Highland Rail Trail realityBY LARRY HERTZ • POUGHKEEPSIE JOURNAL • OCTOBER 1, 2008
Costantino hit on the idea of turning the abandoned New York, New Haven and Hartford railroad line in the Town of Lloyd into a pedestrian and bicycle trail. He and other members of the Rotary Club, including a local chiropractor, Steven Auerbach, took the proposal to the Lloyd town board - and were promptly turned down.
"There was a lot of opposition at first," Auerbach said, "especially among the people who lived along the trail. They were afraid it would become a hangout for teenagers. The problem was, it was already a hangout, and there was nobody policing it."
By 1996, Costantino had become a town board member. He continued lobbying fellow board members and finally convinced them to endorse the project. He said those along the trail who initially opposed it are now among its biggest supporters because the rail trail is an asset to their property.
Funding Fell Into Place
The following year, a means of funding the rail trail more or less fell into the town's lap: A firm that was laying fiber optic cable along the New York State Thruway, MFS Network Technologies, was looking for a shortcut to the Hudson River that did not involve paying expensive easements along Route 299.
Costantino suggested the old rail line and soon the town board negotiated a $400,000 deal with MFSNT, the bulk of which would be used to build and pave a 2.5-mile stretch of flat, largely wooded rail bed that runs from the hamlet of Highland toward the New Paltz town line, terminating at a town park.
Over the last decade, the town, the Rotary Club and the recently formed Hudson Valley Rail Trail Association have secured funds to maintain and improve the trail. Recently, the town secured a federal grant to expand the trail to the east so it can connect with the Walkway Over the Hudson on the abandoned Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge. That project is set to be finished next fall in time for the opening of the Walkway during Poughkeepsie's Quadricentennial celebration.
Once the link with Dutchess County is established, Costantino and Auerbach said, the town is virtually certain of attaining increased economic benefits.
"That link gives the trail a whole new dimension," Costantino said. "I can see establishments like a bike shop or a cafe opening along the trail."
"It's bound to help business on both waterfronts," he said. "There aren't many places bikers or pedestrians can get across the Hudson River. It's a beautiful thing."
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