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  • Harry James

    Harry James Over the past year or more, Harry James has played an integral role in ECRT’s successful bridge redecking and restoration efforts in the Town of Concord. He was named, he tells me, after his father, Harry James, and not in homage to the famous jazz trumpeter and big band leader, Harry James. Both Harrys, however — ours and the jazz legend — share a common key to their shared success on the job: They can improvise! According to ECRT Board member Kathleen McCrone, his improvisational skills and talent as an on-the-spot problem-solver came in handy more than once when critical adjustments in materials and measurements were needed to resolve unforeseen construction problems. “It was amazing watching Harry tackle a problem. First, his eyes would light up, he’d take a step or two back and we could almost see the gears turning in his brain. After a few moments of contemplation, he’d grab some tools, lumber, and a few volunteers and confidently get busy creating a perfect solution.” Harry grew up in Saranac Lake, where his mom ran the corner store and his selfemployed dad had both winter and summer jobs. “When you live in the Adirondacks year-round, you need to be versatile,” he noted, obviously an inherited skill. As a young man, Harry enjoyed venturing on foot or by bike to places not always on any map and sometimes considerable distances from home — “wherever a bike or my feet could take me” — Harry recalls. He loved to fish and was snowmobiling by the age of 14. “And I was always busy building or making things. To this day, I consider ‘creating’ my strongest interest and skill.” Harry attended SUNY@ Canton where he studied engineering. During the course of his career, he applied his skills working for Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station, Carrier Corporation, Corning Glass Company, and Budweiser. He retired in 2021 after 30 years with the West Valley Nuclear Demonstration Project. Harry is a 30-year member of the Western New York Snowmobile Club of Boston and the organization’s current vice president. Here he met fellow bridge-building partner John Baronich, a former principal and shop teacher. Together, with the able assistance of other retired regulars interested in construction, they were able to successfully redeck and restore a total of seven bridges. “The new decking is basically an even floor with no gaps. The goal was to make these bridges usable for everybody — not just snowmobiles.” Today, Harry remains an avid builder/creator and bicyclist. He owns bikes for every season and surface. To his credit and for pleasure, he participated in both the 2021 and 2022 EA2EVL Fondo events, the non-competitive fundraising bike ride from East Aurora to Ellicottville to benefit the ECRT trail. As far as the trail is concerned, Harry believes, “If you build it, they will come. There are lots of places to explore and enjoy here. It’s great when you see businesses interested and involved in the trial. I think you help communities grow by building and supporting cottage industries. You know, people will drive (or bike) to go to breakfast if the food is good!” February 1, 2023 Written by: Deb Fenn Previous Next Home About Explore FAQs Latest News Join Us Contact Search Events Photos More © 2024 Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail, Inc. Board Member Login

  • Kathleen McCrone

    < Back Kathleen McCrone ​ Previous Next Home About Explore FAQs Latest News Join Us Contact Search Events Photos More © 2024 Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail, Inc. Board Member Login

  • Marc Romanowski

    < Back Marc Romanowski Partner, Rupp Baase Pfalzgraf Cunningham LLC Environmental/Brownfields, Land/Use Zoning, Energy, Municipal, Administrative and Litigation Attorney Previous Next Home About Explore FAQs Latest News Join Us Contact Search Events Photos More © 2024 Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail, Inc. Board Member Login

  • Jim Slominski

    < Back Jim Slominski Jim Slominski has been a member of the ECRT Board since 2015 and serves as its Historian. He also is a Trustee of the Western New York Railway Historical Society (WNYRHS) and Co-Chairman of the Orchard Park Depot Committee. Jim became involved with ECRT due to his desire to save the railroad right-of-way from destruction by nature and/or man. He believes that the establishment of a rail trail is the best way to do so. During his association with ECRT he has served as a liaison between ECRT and the WNYRHS arranging for the cooperation between, and benefit of, both organizations. Jim retired from the IRS after a 34-year career advancing from Revenue Agent to Appeals Officer and finally as a liaison to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation for the Northeastern part of the Country. Previous Next Home About Explore FAQs Latest News Join Us Contact Search Events Photos More © 2024 Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail, Inc. Board Member Login

  • Deborah Stellrecht

    < Back Deborah Stellrecht Debbie has enjoyed a varied career, owing to a curiosity about everything! She served for 5 years in the Canadian Air Force as an Avionics Technician, then went on to do work in the fields of Technical writing, computer programming and web design. In 2013 she took a break from IT to manage the office end of her home parish of St. George in West Falls. Although retired from full time employment with the parish in 2021, she continues part-time as the parish bookkeeper and website manager. Debbie believes that time spent in nature is essential to our spiritual, mental and physical wellbeing, and she enjoys running the open portions of the trail whenever possible. Her goal is to do everything she can to increase financial support for trail improvements and community engagement with the ECRT organization. Previous Next Home About Explore FAQs Latest News Join Us Contact Search Events Photos More © 2024 Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail, Inc. Board Member Login

  • Gary Koeppel

    < Back Gary Koeppel Accomplished engineer and manager of teams of engineers and project managers for major industrial gas company. Project management included interfacing with many agencies, local governments and stakeholders for routing and permitting of pipeline systems. Now enjoying using these skills for non profit work in Western New York. Gary is an avid skier in winter; sails, golfs and cycles in summer; and enjoys keeping up with 5+ grandchildren in addition to his non-profit work. Previous Next Home About Explore FAQs Latest News Join Us Contact Search Events Photos More © 2024 Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail, Inc. Board Member Login

  • Larry and Gretel Laing

    Larry and Gretel Laing For over 50 years, Larry and Gretel Laing have called West Falls home. They raised their four children there and welcomed seven grandchildren as well as nine great-grandchildren to their lovely spot adjacent to Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail.​ For many years, Larry worked for Thruway Builders at both their Orchard Park and Cheektowaga locations. He later retired from Sorento Cheese (now Lactalis American). In addition to raising children, Gretel found time to work for physician’s offices in the Southtowns.​ When they first learned Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail had become managers of the former rail corridor located behind their home, and that plans were in the works to build a trail, they were apprehensive, to say the least. “Our property backs right up to the railroad, and we were against it. We thought the worst. What about our privacy? What about safety?” Like so many people on trails across the country, Larry and Gretel soon found they had nothing to fear and, in fact, they have become big trail supporters. “We walk the trail all the time,” notes Gretel. “It’s become such an asset to have a trail like this so close. Both the grandchildren and great-grandchildren enjoy it. It’s like having your own private nature path.”​ Larry, meanwhile, keeps busy mowing and maintaining the trail. “I keep the section behind us clear, and then I’ll mow all the way from Old Glenwood to the West Falls Depot. It’s a nice walk, and we meet such nice people on the trail. You see folks walking with their dogs and with their kids. It’s good for wildlife, too. It’s been wonderful.” The couple would like to see the surface improved in the future so even more people can enjoy walking and biking on the trail.​ Larry, meanwhile, could use our help. “My legs aren’t what they used to be, and so I’m looking to get ahold of a used golf cart for trail maintenance.” So, here’s a shout-out to our readers — let’s help Larry find that golf cart! October 1, 2023 Written by: Deb Fenn Previous Next Home About Explore FAQs Latest News Join Us Contact Search Events Photos More © 2024 Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail, Inc. Board Member Login

  • Howy Holmes

    Howy Holmes Howy Holmes ( affectionately known as "Mr. Orchard Park") is a lifelong resident of Orchard Park. His home, built in 1861, was originally located along Quaker Field Stables and was owned by Harry Yates, who, among other accomplishments, was a principal with Buffalo & Pittsburgh RR and instrumental in the design and construction of the OP Depot. Howy’s parents bought about an acre or so of property from Yates and moved the historic house to its current location at Bridle Path and Freeman Rd. Howy and wife Dorothy later purchased the home from his mother in 1982 where they raised their family and continue to live today. “I went from sleeping in the kid’s bedroom to the master bedroom – about 30 feet down the hall,” he quipped. Howy attended OP HS and went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in finance from Miami Florida. There he met his wife Dorothy, in the last few days of his college career and her master’s program. He then joined the Navy reserves and served from 1966 – 1968. He and Dorothy married in 1972. Together, they raised 2 children, now grown: a daughter Chandra who lives near St. Louis, and son Tyler, who lives nearby in Amherst. After college, Howy decided to join the family’s highway construction business, Holmes & Murphy, established in 1917 by his grandfather. His wealth of experience in design and construction has been invaluable to Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail, and the board continues to rely on him and his considerable expertise. Throughout his adult life, Howy has been an active and avid community supporter. People often refer to Howy as ‘Mr. Orchard Park”, and rightly so! His affiliations and accolades include Orchard Park Citizen of the Year (2004), member and President of the Orchard Park Chamber of Commerce, Co-President of the Orchard Park Historical Society, President of the Quaker Friends Cemetery, board member of the Buffalo Ski Club and Hickory Hill Swim & Tennis Club, and a charter member of the Orchard Park Council of the Arts – the organization that built the Orchard Park Pavilion. “I was ‘Person of the Year’ in 2006 in Time Magazine,” he says, half-jokingly. “Just Google it.” [That was the year Time noted every citizen in that category!] Howy is also known to be a frequent attendee at Town board meetings. “I’m interested in what’s going on. You have to read the local paper and follow what’s happening in your hometown. It’s important. How else can you make good decisions? You need to support and sometimes question your local officials. That’s democracy.” Howy has been involved with Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail since its inception. “I mow, walk the trail in Orchard Park pretty frequently, take on maintenance jobs and participate in design and development. The new section [of the trail in Orchard Park] is so important. It links residents to the library, the depot and all the village has to offer. It’s such a great asset for the town and village. And this is just the beginning!” June 1, 2023 Written by: Deb Fenn Previous Next Home About Explore FAQs Latest News Join Us Contact Search Events Photos More © 2024 Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail, Inc. Board Member Login

  • Jim and Cynthia Page

    Jim and Cynthia Page Volunteers Jim and Cynthia Page clearly demonstrate you don’t have to live on or near Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail to appreciate it, use it and support efforts to complete it.​ Long-time Lancaster residents, both are active cyclists. Jim retired from Calspan in 2018. During his last few years with the company (a time when all four daughters were grown and on their own), he took to riding to work and back every day from March through November “It was a 25 mile round trip. One year I estimated that I rode around 3,000 miles to work and other outings." ​Cynthia, meanwhile, who grew up in Amherst, recalls biking to college in all kinds of weather, starting on a big, heavy bicycle and eventually graduating to a 10-speed. She biked frequently in her neighborhood, often with family members. “Jim and I met at Calspan. We had a lot in common. An important, enjoyable part of many of our days was spent outdoors, often on bikes.” Their interest in biking even influenced their choice of neighborhoods. “We bought a home with access to bikeable roads,” said Cynthia. “There were no bike trails back then. And if you’re raising a family, it’s important for children to have a safe place to ride.”​ Both Jim and Cynthia are members of GOBike, where Jim volunteers repairing and renovating bikes for kids, an activity he thoroughly enjoys. They also support the notion of a regional trail – one that will someday incorporate the ECRT, the Southern Tier, and the Genesee Valley Greenway.​ Jim was one of several volunteers who helped improve and mulch the berm at the Orchard Park Depot. He has also participated in clearing portions of the West Falls section of the trail from Ellicott Road south on National Trails Day last June. Most recently, Jim helped clear debris adjacent to Jewett Holmwood Road in preparation for the opening of the new trail segment. “We are so impressed with this new section of trail. It was remarkable how quickly and professionally the stone dust surfacing of the trail was completed. It’s beautiful and a real asset for the community.” ​“The people on the ECRT board and volunteers are great to work with,” Jim reflected. “There’s a positive, engaging exchange of ideas and information along with the hard work demonstrated by these people. It’s extraordinary.“ "We look forward to future rides on the trail, especially as it continues to build to its full potential, linking communities for transportation, pleasure, and commerce. It will be an immeasurable asset to the south towns, not just for the people who live along the route. We are definitely looking forward to helping where we can.” July 1, 2023 Written by: Deb Fenn Previous Next Home About Explore FAQs Latest News Join Us Contact Search Events Photos More © 2024 Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail, Inc. Board Member Login

  • Robin Frey

    Robin Frey Robin Frey grew up in Alden, NY, next to the old Delaware, Lackawanna & Western (DL&W) rail line, built in 1883 and abandoned in 1963. “We lived in the old hotel across the street from the North Alden Station,” she noted. “We were all homeschooled and television wasn’t allowed, so we had time to get creative (or get into trouble) outdoors, mostly along that old rail line.” Hours on end spent exploring the tracks led to her love of “all things outdoors and all things railroad.” Robin credits her grandmother for her creativity and her father for her entrepreneurial spirit. Her dad “bought an old station wagon, painted Ken’s Handyman Wagon along its side panel, and Voila! He was in business!” She helped him make flyers and spread them all over the community, even door-to-door. Robin’s eccentric grandmother exhibited her own creative flair. Like Robin, she loved the outdoors and loved to paint, using “crazy, bright colors to interpret the natural world around her.” Self-sufficiency was a rule of thumb in Robin’s family, and Robin would hold a series of odd jobs starting at age 14. By 17, she was out on her own. “I attended GCC and took a course in advertising and design. But I was already earning a living at that time, and I just wanted to work with my hands – like my dad.” She soon landed a job with Ingersoll Painting & Construction, painting and doing intricate plaster work on some of Buffalo’s most historic homes and businesses. “I really enjoyed doing my small part to preserve and restore some of these magnificent buildings.” ‘Tired hands’ led her to retire the paint brush for less physical marketing and advertising, first with Joe Basil Chevrolet and later as the Marketing Manager for the entire Basil Automotive Group. “I became adept using a variety of Internet marketing platforms. I produced advertising materials and managed the advertising budget for the Group.” Some years later, moving to Ashford, NY, Robin again found herself living near a rail line. “I started walking the corridor regularly. It was so beautiful! I got involved with the Pop Warner section of the trail and started taking lots of pictures in the area – mostly of the trail. I showed them to the owner of Vanover Fine Arts, one of Springville’s local galleries at the time”, and they were so impressed that they “invited me to do a show of my own there, featuring many photos of the trail. I called it Beauty In Our Backyard.” During a brief move to Las Vegas, Robin secured a marketing management role with Goodnature, a commercial juicing equipment manufacturer which, oddly enough, was based in Buffalo. Her work focused on increasing brand awareness through industry trade shows and required frequent travel to promote the company. Goodnature moved her back to their Buffalo headquarters to expand their social media presence and produce the company’s annual JuiceCon convention. Robin’s recent corporate projects include developing a new company website, overseeing a rebranding effort and producing the firm’s popular hardcover publication, The Juicing Companion. “It’s a growing company with lots of opportunities. I’m really happy there.” Both a cyclist and hiker, Robin rode in the 2021 EA2EVL Fondo, the fundraising bike ride from East Aurora to Ellicottville benefitting Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail. There she reconnected with ECRT, and since then she’s become a key player on the Communications Team, leading its Social Media focus group and developing branding guidelines. “I look forward to helping with the website and building greater brand awareness for the trail. Personally, rail corridors have played an important part in my development as a child. They were, and still are, places to explore, enjoy nature and spark creativity. I really want to see a safe, accessible trail for everyone to use and enjoy. This trail can make a huge difference in the quality of life for so many. The possibilities are endless!” March 1, 2023 Written by: Deb Fenn Previous Next Home About Explore FAQs Latest News Join Us Contact Search Events Photos More © 2024 Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail, Inc. Board Member Login

  • Jim Smolinksi

    Jim Smolinksi ECRT relies on board member Jim Slominski for his deep knowledge and dedication to preserving railroad history. A current trustee of the Western New York Railroad Historical Society and chair of the Orchard Park Depot Committee, Jim became involved with ECRT due to a primary interest in preserving the integrity of the former Buffalo-Pittsburg Railroad right-of-way. He recalls what happened in Hamburg when the Buffalo & Susquehanna line was discontinued: “The right-of-way was completely obliterated. Today, you’d be hard pressed to find any intact sections of original corridor.” A lifelong resident of Orchard Park, from a very early age, Jim grew up near train tracks. “I was fascinated with anything that had to do with trains. When we lived on Liberty Drive off Taylor Road, I could watch trains come and go from our family room.” The Orchard Park Depot Committee was formed by like-minded railroad buffs in 1980 with a common desire to restore the depot and its storied surroundings. Jim joined in 1981 and has been an active member ever since. The hard work of restoration began in the early 1980s when then depot owner, Ed Burke, expressed interest in donating the site to the organization. In the decades following, everything from new wiring and plumbing to exterior restoration projects were undertaken with support from generous individual donations and from the efforts of local legislators. Most recently, Scott Bieler, CEO of West Herr Automotive Group, provided funds enabling significant renovations to both the interior and exterior of the site. The depot is now dedicated to his family. One very large project remains: restoring and retiling the roof, a project that could cost up to $1,000,000. “We also need to find a company with the skills and the will to undertake this hands-on, labor-intensive project.” Jim graduated from Canisius College with a degree in accounting. Prior to graduation, he participated in a work-study cooperative program with the IRS. Upon graduation, he began a 34-year career with the IRS advancing from a revenue agent to that of an appeals officer and finally as a liaison to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation. During the course of his career, Jim was a member of the IRS instructor cadre, worked closely with the IRS litigation division, served on a number of task forces and authored various training books and procedural manuals. An ECRT board member since 2012, Jim is delighted with the trail’s noticeable, significant progress over the past four years or so. “I can’t wait for the new section to open up connecting the trail to the depot. It will have an enormous, positive effect on the Village. You’ll see people using the trail on a regular basis to come to the Village to visit the library, to shop or to attend events. I predict we’ll see a lot more interest in and activity around depot which, of course, we welcome!” The Orchard Park Depot Committee is always looking for people interested in volunteering. “My wish list would include new members willing to help with events and interact with visitors to the depot. And if you have a background in construction, maintenance or any of the trades, we’d welcome your time, skills and support!” May 1, 2023 Written by: Deb Fenn Previous Next Home About Explore FAQs Latest News Join Us Contact Search Events Photos More © 2024 Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail, Inc. Board Member Login

  • Laura Lisitsky

    Laura Lisitsky Apart from a 12-year hiatus in Seattle, Laura Lisitsky is a life-long Western New Yorker and a dedicated lover of the outdoors. She grew up in Elma, attended Iroquois Central School and now teaches K-4 Physical Education there. When she’s not encouraging children to participate in structured physical activity, she indulges in some of her own. Favorites include hiking, kayaking and cross-country skiing. Laura is always up for another great outdoor adventure. Her love of the outdoors has deep roots, stemming from time spent at her grandparents’ home in the Catskills. The youngest of five, her grandparents would treat each child — one at a time — to a few weeks with them on their 23-acre homestead in Saugerties. Here, Laura spent many memorable hours exploring nearby woodlands, fields and streams. “Locally, I belong to an informal hiking group, formed during the pandemic by a group of former high school friends. We call ourselves the ‘Silver Lining Hiking Group’. Lots of our outings are spur-of–the-moment and always fun." “During my time in Seattle, hiking and biking trails were everywhere. I was surrounded by them, but couldn’t afford to live near them. They’re a very popular amenity, and housing prices are higher the closer you live to a trail.” Laura recently traveled to Norway with her partner, Steve. Here, again, hiking trails were numerous and considered an integral, defining part of the Norwegian lifestyle. Through her travels, chosen lifestyle and profession, Laura truly understands the value of trails. “People need to get outdoors for their mental and physical health. In my volunteer efforts with trail clean-up and the Fondo bike event, I’ve found pleasure working with like-minded people for such a great cause. We’re working to create something that will mean so much for so many. Trails are such an asset to any community. Why not ours?” April 1, 2024 Written by: Deb Fenn Previous Next Home About Explore FAQs Latest News Join Us Contact Search Events Photos More © 2024 Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail, Inc. Board Member Login

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