The Town of Dryden has been awarded a $1.5 million grant to help build a critical section of the 10.5-mile Dryden Rail Trail, following the route of the decommissioned Lehigh Valley Railroad that linked Ithaca to Dryden via Freeville. When the rail trail is completed, pedestrians, runners and bicyclists from the Cornell, Varna, Etna, Freeville and Dryden communities will have access to more than 20 continuous miles of non-motorized, off-street trails.
Bob Beck, chair of the Dryden Rail Trail Task Force, announced that Dryden received the funding April 24. Awarded through the New York State Transportation Enhancement program, it will be used primarily to build the trail’s proposed pedestrian bridge over Route 13 near the intersection of Route 366, linking the proposed rail trail with Cornell Botanic Garden Natural Areas. Todd Bittner, natural areas director for the Cornell Botanic Gardens – and a Dryden Town Board-appointed member of the task force – served as lead grant writer for the project.
The Dryden Rail Trail will ultimately link three separate Cornell Botanic Garden Natural Areas. Upper Cascadilla, which hosts a major portion of the 3.5-mile East Ithaca Recreation Way, will connect to the Dryden Rail Trail at Game Farm Road. Further east the trail will cross Cornell Botanic Garden’s Monkey Run Natural Area and connect to its extensive trail network. The 6.4-mile Jim Schug Trail forms the eastern end of the trail, which passes through the Cornell Botanic Gardens’ Purvis Road Wetlands Natural Area near Dryden Lake.
The three miles of trail to be constructed with the announced grant – located between Game Farm Road and Pickney Road – will be fully ADA-compliant, surfaced with stone dust similar to that used on the Black Diamond Trail.
The bridge over Route 13, which will accommodate all non-motorized uses, will cost an estimated $1.7 million; the total cost of this three-mile portion of the rail trail, which will also include a spur trail through the Monkey Run Natural Area to a trail head and parking area by Fall Creek, is projected to be $2.2 million. Construction is projected for completion in 2021.
Other grants and local funding will cover the project costs not covered by the $1.5 million grant, Bittner said. More than $365,000 has already been funded through funds from the Town of Dryden and a grant from New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. Additional funds have been provided by Tompkins County, the Town of Dryden, and Cornell University, while two grants are still pending.
“The funding we have received is indicative of the broad community support behind the development of the rail trail, which will help reduce commuter-generated carbon emissions, enhance access to nature, and stimulate tourism and the local economy,” Bittner said.
Trail development is a key conservation strategy that supports related natural area and green space conservation, housing and development, and sustainability goals, Bittner said. The Dryden Rail Trail already serves as an economic driver for Varna and is a signature component of the proposed 36-unit townhouse project at 1061 Dryden Road, he said.
About three miles of the rail trail from Dryden to Freeville already have been completed. An event to celebrate the official opening of this section will be held May 11 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Pavilion on George Road in Dryden and will include a fun run, raffle, activities, music and food.
Bittner said the next step in the project is to send out a request for proposals for design and construction of the bridge and then award bids.