The Dryden Town Council faced some concerns from a couple of property owners regarding the privacy of their land near a portion of a property that the town has obtained from NYSEG at a meeting on Sept. 19.
The Town Council considered a resolution that would authorize the acceptance of a trail license from NYSEG for tax parcel numbers 71.-1-25 and 71.-1-28, which is where the former Delaware, Lackawanna and Western railroad bed laid, stretching from the Town of Ithaca town line, across German Cross Road and to the Town of Danby town line. The land would potentially be used as an extension off of the South Hill Recreation Way for further public recreational purposes.
Dave Risley lives at 130 German Cross Rd. Risley said he and three other property owners nearby will have to face potential invasions of their privacy if the council were to accept the license from NYSEG.
“My wife went for a walk today on the South Hill trail, and she was out there for a half an hour, and all she saw was people disobeying all of the rules, all the guidelines that are insisted on the board,” Risley said. “They’re not life-or-death. That’s the truth. But there are people not obeying the trespassing signs.”
Risley presented some photos taken by his wife to the council of individuals walking their dogs without leashes on the trail as well. He said his wife saw three dogs running past trespassing signs and onto people’s private properties that day and there were several bags of dog feces left on the trail.
“What is really concerning to me is that this trail affects four people that are taxpayers,” he said. “We’re pretty against it because we’ve been a private property for a hundred years. It’s only going to help Ithaca; it’s only going to help the county. It’s not going to help the Town of Dryden. As taxpayers, we’re looking to you folks to help us out.”
Dryden resident David Weinstein spoke at the meeting as well, saying while he understands Risley’s trepidations, the extension is a necessity for Dryden.
“I appreciate this gentleman’s desire to have the maximum amount of privacy that he can have,” Weinstein said. “However, we have a population that needs recreation. The trails that we have are not as extensive as they need to be, but they get a lot of use.”
“I used to be the steward of a property for the land trust, a big property that runs along the [end] of the South Hill Recreation Way. In all of my years, I’ve visited the South Hill Recreation Way very frequently over the last 20 years, and I’ve not seen a lot of the problems that he’s talking about. I never saw anybody trespass on that property. If I saw one bag of dog poop that somebody forgot to pick up, that’s as much as I ever saw in 20 years.”
Bill Hilker lives adjacent to the South Hill Recreation Way and said he has seen people trespass onto his property on several occasions and that there was a trespasser that confronted him physically.
“At one point, I had a man become…very belligerent,” Hilker said. “He was on my personal property, not the NYSEG portion, and knocked me down to go by me. I’m not a young person. I wasn’t hurt, but unnerved, very unnerved.”
Both Risley and Hilker mentioned that a lot of the private land surrounding the trail is used for hunting (Risley said he uses his property for hunting purposes). They both said they would be worried about someone getting hit by a stray bullet if they were to trespass onto their property.
“I’m out there hunting, and I shoot a deer and that bullet ricochets out and shoots somebody, hits somebody, whose fault is that,” Risley said.
Councilman Dan Lamb said because people are already walking on that land, he believes individuals might become wary of such dangers and adjust their actions.
“People are already using it,” Lamb said. “We might see better behavior when it’s formalized.”
Peter Brown, who lives at 190 German Cross Road, also expressed his worries regarding the extension at the meeting. Brown said he too has experienced people trespassing on his property.
“I found people sleeping under pine trees in the winter in…arctic sleeping bags that were just passing through Ithaca,” Brown said.
“My position is that I would really like to not see that turn into a trail park. But if it has to, what is Dryden going to do to protect my privacy and keep people on that trail off my property?”
Lamb said the town would apply the safety and sanitary measures that were used on the Dryden Rail Trail to this particular situation, which involves a community-wide effort to preserve and protect the trails.
“We have to be good neighbors, and we’ve been emphatic about that,” Lamb said. “I think teamwork is necessary for this recreational trail. There needs to be people committed to doing what we’re doing here with the rail trail in terms of maintenance and keeping good behavior and signage.”
When all was said and done, the Town Council voted in favor of accepting the license. Lamb, along with Councilwoman Alice Green and Town Supervisor Jason Leifer, voted in favor. Councilwomen Kathy Servoss and Linda Lavine were not present at the meeting.
Green said the town will work with those worried about the privacy of their properties if the town chooses to construct a trail along the land.
“I just want to let you know that we will be working with you should there be a decision that a trail goes through,” Green said. “We do want to work with you to make sure that we pay attention to your concerns if this gets developed in this way.”