For years, a number of people in Lewis County have been looking to develop miles of old train-tracks into a tourist line, but Tuesday those plans came to a major halt. Our Amanda Kelley tells us why the rails-to-trails plan was voted down by county leaders.
CROGHAN, N.Y. -- It's been a dream of many in Lewis County to acquire ownership of these rails.
Railway Historical Society of Northern New York Secretary and Treasurer Laurie Hallady said, "We want to develop it into a tourist line because once history is gone, it's gone forever. You need to preserve it for future generations."
County leaders had been working to purchase two former rail lines, 17-miles from Lowville to West Carthage, and 10-miles from Croghan to Lowville. But Tuesday night, those plans fell apart.
Legislature Vice Chairman Michael Tabolt said, "I thought we had a majority of the legislators on board with our proposal. The local law proposal would have appeased what we had heard at public hearings."
Railway Historical Society Member Lowell Virkler said, "I heard the sad news right away and very disappointed. Our president and our whole committee have worked hard."
Legislators voted against setting a public hearing on a proposed law that would restrict rails to trails development to non-motorized uses a big stumbling block for many.
Tabolt said, "There were some legislators that were reluctant to leave ATVs out of the equation and I guess that all came to a head in the evening meeting."
Other concerns included the possible use of taxpayer dollars on this project. But as county leaders are shutting the door to the idea of a tourist railway in Lewis County, other groups aren't giving up hope so easily.
Halladay said, "We could try to go out and get those grants to purchase it ourselves. That might be one option. We can always speak with GVT too to further the dialog there to see what would happen. There's always options, there's always hope."
The Railway Historical Society of Northern New York says they plan to fight for the project, saying it could bring much-needed tourists to this small town, but they realize their dreams won't happen anytime soon.
Virkler said, "Not in my lifetime. I don't expect it, no."