The Heritage Trail is growing

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:49

    By next summer, hikers and bike riders will be able extend their through-journeys on the Heritage Trail. Orange Pathways, the original supporters and builders of the trail, will expand the trail all the way to Middletown. Work on the expansion will begin as soon as the Orange County Parks Department and Orange Pathways come to an agreement, said Joseph Sosler, President of Orange Pathways. While prospects for the Middletown extension look promising, the planned expansion into Harriman, beyond the Monroe terminus, won't be as easy. Ed Shuart, a Harriman Village trustee, said the Consolidated Rail Corporation, or Conrail, is the biggest obstacle to acquiring one section of railroad needed for the eastward expansion. CSX Corporation and the Norfolk Southern Railroad acquired Conrail in the spring of 1997 through a joint stock purchase. It owns the section of disused railroad tracks Orange Pathways still needs. "The railroad keeps changing hands, and we don't always know who to talk to," Shuart said. Sosler said Orange Pathways must acquire this 1,500-foot section before it can start work. Orange Pathways has teamed up with the Village of Harriman in its negotiations with Conrail, but they haven't been able to work out a compromise. Sosler said he hopes they can reach an agreement by the year's end. Until then, Harriman residents will continue to pick up the trail in Museum Village in Monroe. "If it's good for the Village of Harriman, then it's a good thing," Shuart said. "People have misstated what I've said. We're not against the trail. We're for the people of Harriman." He believes the trail will benefit the village. "I am pro-expansion," he said. The extension will bring an influx of people into the village, said Shuart. They may bring problems with them — litter, parking, and traffic problems — "but they can all be worked out," he said. The Heritage Trail is Orange County's only linear park. Its 11 miles of smoothly paved railbed from the Erie Railroad stretches from Hartley Road in Goshen to Museum Village in Monroe. If all goes well, the expansion will add miles on both ends of the trail — four miles into Middletown and four miles into Harriman. When all is completed, the trail will be almost 20 miles, passing by historical landmarks and scenes of pastoral beauty. Hundreds of people use the trail daily. That number will keep growing as the trail extends. Jim Lewis and his wife, Mary Lou, of Chester walk the trail everyday. "We're definitely for expanding it," said Lewis on one of the first warm afternoons of the season as the couple walked their dog on the trail. The expansion will allow Harriman and Middletown residents to get on the trail more easily — although the Lewises hope the extra people will not disturb the trail's tranquility. To pick up the Heritage Trail in Monroe, take Route 17 to exit 130. Go south on Route 208. Turn right at the sign that says "Village of Monroe" onto an unsigned road and go approximately 0.3 miles. The trail starts on the left side by a park & ride, lot B. To pick up the trail in Goshen, take Route 17 to exit 124. Take Route 207 East for approximately 0.8 miles. At the traffic light turn right onto South Church Street and go about 0.1 miles. Turn right onto St. James Place and go about 0.1 miles to meet the rail trail. The parking lot is on the right.