What is Erie-Cattaraugus Rail-Trail and what is their role?
Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail (ECRT) is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit volunteer organization formed in 2009 to develop and manage the 27-mile Buffalo & Pittsburgh rail line into a linear park for multiple recreational and educational activities. ECRT is seeking volunteers, supporters, and institutional funding to help make this happen. ECRT goals are:
Historic preservation of former railroad corridor for adaptive reuse
Build closer, stronger connections within and across communities
Improve community well-being
Provide a safe place for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy quiet outdoor recreation
To encourage economic and community development that is compatible with the rural character of the communities hosting the trail, through trail-related activities
What is happening along the Buffalo-Pittsburgh rail corridor?
In 2018, the Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail non-profit organization (ECRT, Inc.) signed a 49-year railbanking lease agreement (with four-10 year extensions) with the Buffalo and Pittsburgh Railroad (B&PRR). Railbanking is a federal program that maintains the railroads federal right-of-way while allowing for interim trail use in lieu of rail traffic for an interim period. Under the terms of the lease agreement, and the federal rail banking program, ECRT was selected as the local trail manager to build a multi-use trail on the 27-mile rail line. ECRT is looking forward to working with local communities to make the necessary safety and aesthetic improvements to the right of way and bring the communities trail vision to a reality.
Why did B&PRR want to stop rail traffic?
The Buffalo & Pittsburg Railroad filed a request with the Federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) in September, 2008 to formally cease freight operations for an indeterminate amount of time. During the summer of 2009, A&K Railroad Materials removed the rails and ties. The bridges and culverts remain in place. B&PRR chose to cease rail traffic on the section between Orchard Park and West Valley because it had more challenging grades and crossings than an alternate route through East Aurora. In addition, there was a lack of business along the Orchard Park to West Valley section of railway. However, the STB and B&PRR still see the corridor as a strategic piece of infrastructure and it was determined that the corridor not be allowed to disintegrate or turn forever wild. B&PRR requested to federally railbank the corridor for interim trail use, so they could have the option to reactivate rail service in the future as needed. B&PRR and the STB selected ECRT to be the local trail manager to build this multi-use recreational trail.
What about liability on the trail?
Trail use is preempted from liability due to The Recreational Use Statute of the NYS General Obligations Law. Additionally, ECRT has purchased and maintains a comprehensive insurance program for non-recreational liability. Adjacent homeowners have no increased liability or responsibilities.
What happens to real property values adjacent to rail-trails?
There is a great deal of evidence from existing rail-trails that property values either remain the same or increase. Often, buyers seek homes along these corridors for their recreational value. Trails are among the top five amenities homebuyers look for when deciding where to move. Homes near trails sell faster, and home values increase the closer they are to the trail.
Will the rail-trail be safe? What about my privacy?
The trail will be open from dawn to dusk. A well-maintained, community managed trail is safer than an abandoned railroad corridor. Signage with rules and a local telephone contact number will be posted along the trail. Besides employing a proven volunteer "neighborhood watch/patrol", the ECRT will coordinate with local police and first responders to ensure community safety is maintained and concerns are
addressed. Trail surface conditions will allow access by first responders when necessary. Trail users are responsible for their own safety.
ECRT will work with adjacent property owners to ensure privacy and safety. Design, good trail management and regulation enforcement can mitigate privacy and safety concerns.
When will it open and who gets to use it?
ECRT is just beginning the design effort, which could take up to a year to complete. We are estimating the entire trail could take anywhere from 5-10 years to complete. The Springville Pop Warner Trail is currently in use and is a model for our ECRT trail development vision. The remaining trail will be built in sections as community funding and planning is completed. Announcements will be made as soon as other sections are ready for public use.
Plans for the 27-mile rail trail include conducting a series of meetings with local governments, community residents, adjacent neighbors and other stakeholders along the corridor to encourage community involvement in design, construction and various uses for the trail. Funding will be sought to produce a community-specific, clear visioning plan, which will be integral to the trails development.
Outdoor enthusiast, including bikers, hikers, horseback riders, cross-country skiers, bird-watchers, and snowmobilers are envisioned to have access. However, every use may not be allowed on every segment of the trail. ATVs and dirt bikes – considered “wheeled motorized vehicles” will not be permitted on the rail-trail.
I'm interested in supporting Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail. What can I do to help?
Where can I visit a local trail?
In addition to the Springville Pop Warner trail section of ECRT, other regional trails you can visit include: Chautauqua Rails to Trails, the Allegheny River Valley Trail, the Cattaraugus Pat McGee Trail, the Genesee Valley Greenway, the Tonawanda Rail Trail, Clarence-Akron-Newstead Bike Path, and Lancaster’s Heritage Trail.