County Executive Robert P. Astorino was joined Monday by the three previous county executives to celebrate the completion of the last major section of the county's combined North and South County Trailways, a 36-mile bike and foot path running the length of Westchester from the Bronx border to the Putnam line.
Astorino and former County Executives Alfred DelBello, Andy O'Rourke and Andy Spano cut the ribbon on a two-mile section in Yonkers.
The idea for the trailway, along the right-of-way of the Old Putnam Division of the New York Central Rail Road, originated during the DelBello administration more than three decades ago. Various sections of the trails were built during the Astorino, O'Rourke and Spano administrations.
"Good things can indeed sometimes take a long time," said Astorino. "It takes vision, it takes passion and it takes hard work. Thousands of walkers, hikers and bike riders already use these trailways each year. It is one of our most popular county parks. Congratulations to everyone involved."
Joining Astorino and the three former county executives for the celebration were many other elected officials and planners who were involved over the last three decades.
Among them was Board of Legislators Chairman Ken Jenkins of Yonkers who said: "The completion of the trailway is a tremendous achievement and the result of an effort that has spanned several decades. This is a perfect example of the type of investments the county must continue to make to enhance and preserve Westchester's enviable quality of life."
The newly completed Yonkers segment is a 10-foot wide, two-mile paved asphalt pedestrian and bike pathway that extends from Redmond Park to Tuckahoe Road. It is the final major section of the 14- mile South County Trailway, which stretches from Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx to Eastview at the Greenburgh/Mouth Pleasant border.
The South County Trailway creates an almost seamless connection to the 22-mile North County Trailway, which runs from Mount Pleasant to the border of Putnam in Mahopac. These trailways connect to the nine-mile Putnam County Trailway, which extends to Brewster to provide a total 45-mile span for bicyclists, walkers and runners.
The only remaining work on the combined trailway is construction of a half-mile detour around an industrial area between Route 119 in Elmsford and Warehouse Lane in Greenburgh, where the railroad right-of-way was unsuitable to be used for the trailway. Astorino said the county is acquiring the necessary easements for this small piece and design for it will begin shortly.
The county purchased the South County Trailway property in 1991 for $2.1 million, more than a decade after the state purchased the North County Trailway portion and leased it to the county for use as a trailway.
The south portions were designed piece-by-piece by the county Department of Planning; construction was overseen by the Department of Public Works and Transportation. The north portions were built by the state. Both trailways are maintained by the county Department of Parks and Recreation.
Here are some highlight of the highlights of the trailways, compiled by the county's Department of Planning based in part on the book The Old Put, (2007) by Joe Schiavone. Schiavone attended Monday's ribbon-cutting event.
The New York, Boston and Northern Co. begins construction in 1872 on a new rail line between the Bronx and Brewster. Passenger and freight service commences on the "New York City and Northern RR" Line in 1880. Consolidated under the New York Central Railroad, the rail line in 1914 becomes known as the "Putnam Division."
Passenger Service ends in 1958 on the "Old Put" due to decline in ridership brought on by the interstate highways, parkways and other travel options. Freight service ends in 1970 north of Eastview. New York State acquires the rail right-of-way (ROW) between Eastview and Mahopac for $250,000 for the North County Trailway.
New York State completes the first 2-mile section of the North County Trailway from Rt. 117 to the Briarcliff Library in 1981 and leases it to Westchester County to maintain as a pathway. A long-term lease for the remainder of the North County Trailway ROW is established in 1984. Freight service ends in 1982 south of Eastview. ConRail files for abandonment of the tracks in the remaining southern portion of the railroad. In 1983, a report from the county Planning Department recommends the acquisition of the lower Putnam ROW from the Bronx line to Eastview for trailway purposes. In 1984, the next phrase of the North County Trailway is complete from Eastview to south of Route 117. Work continues on other sections.
Westchester County purchases most of the 14.1-mile lower Putnam ROW between Eastview and the Bronx for $2.1 million in 1991. Following an inventory of rail materials and historic rail artifacts, Westchester County authorizes a salvage contractor in 1993 to remove rails, secure the ROW and prepare the rail bed for trail use. In 1999, the first section of South County Trailway completed, running 5.1 miles from Route 119 in Elmsford to Farragut Ave in Hastings. Trail extended 0.5 miles south to Barney Street in Yonkers in 2000.
Second 1.75-mile section of South County Trailway is completed in 2001 from Warehouse Lane to Eastview in Greenburgh, connecting to the North County Trailway. Last half-mile "missing link" section of the North County Trailway completed in Mount Pleasant in 2002.
South County Trailway completed in southern Yonkers spanning 3.1 miles from Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx to Redmond City Park in Yonkers.
Last major section of trail spanning 2 miles in Yonkers is completed. Design work on half-mile detour gap in Elmsford-Greenburgh is underway.
Main photo: (l-r) Former County Executives Spano and DelBello, County Executive Astorino and former County Executive O'Rourke
Secondary photo: Joe Schiavone and County Executive Astorino