To the editor:
I agree with much of what Michael Burke has to say about the beauty surrounding the trail that runs over and alongside the abandoned Putnam Rail line. I have enjoyed its beauty countless times as well, on foot and on my 20 year old locally bought bike. I do not agree, however, with Mr. Burke’s over-the-top hyperbole about how improving and paving the trail will destroy its beauty or harm anyone’s enjoyment of the trail.
Mr. Burke refers to a “century old trail” — I would remind him that this “trail” was a commuter rail line until 1958. Commercial freight traffic passed through this “trail” as recently as the 1980s. I have no idea what Mr. Burke means when he writes: “The Putnam trail is perfect as nature and a century of respectful, considerate use made it.” This past century of use included huge commuter and freight trains passing over a rail line — if that is the sort of respectful and considerate use Mr. Burke appreciates, it is hard to imagine what the big deal is about creating a paved multi-use path — a path that will make this old rail line and its surrounding beauty more accessible to people on foot and on non-motorized wheels.
While unfairly poking fun at roller bladers and hipsters on “gazillion dollar” bikes, did Mr. Burke consider that other groups will stand to benefit from an improved and paved trail? I have walked and biked on the paved part of the old Putnam Rail line just north of Van Cortlandt Park — on more than one occasion I have encountered people on standard and racing wheelchairs. There is no way these folks could enjoy the Van Cortlandt section of the rail line without the planned improvements. Don’t these folks deserve the chance to see “Canadian snow geese sunning in the pond”?
I read and re-read Mr. Burke’s piece and really tried to understand how his experience as a runner will be negatively impacted if the old rail line is improved and paved. Honestly, all I could uncover was Mr. Burke’s love of running through mud. I’ll grant that an improved trail will likely mitigate the mud holes anyone who uses the trail now know all too well. Van Cortlandt Park will still have many unpaved trails and these trails produce mud when it rains. Even on an improved rail trail, I am sure Mr. Burke will find a few mud puddles to the right or the left of the paved path after heavy rain. Perhaps the planned improvement could even include a dirt path shoulder to accommodate folks who want their feet or wheels touching dirt?