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Bob Beck, chair of the Dryden Rail Trail Task Force, delivers a speech at the opening of the Game Farm Road crossing on May 20.

On Saturday, May 20, at noon, residents and public figures of the Towns of Dryden and Ithaca commemorated the opening of the Game Farm Road crossing between the Dryden Rail Trail and the East Ithaca Recreation Way, which connects the two trails. Two groups of trail users – each walking, running, or riding bicycles – approached Game Farm Road simultaneously on both trails, arriving from designated starting points near the trails, and opened the symbolic gates to officially make the crossing accessible.

Although the Game Farm section of the Dryden Rail Trail has been open since fall 2021, the crossing at Game Farm Road required additional planning and improvements to make it safe for the public. These efforts included conducting a traffic study, developing a crossing plan, negotiating a speed limit reduction with New York Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), regrading and repaving a section of the road, and installing new signage, a crosswalk, and flashing warning signals.

Saturday’s festivities technically celebrated the reopening of this connecting section. This portion was open at one point until Hurricane Agnes hit the area in 1972, causing the stretch of railroad to close for 51 years.

“For most of those 51 years after the train stopped, the East Ithaca Recreation Way was becoming a beautiful trail and linear park that we now love,” Bob Beck, chairman of the Dryden Rail Trail Task Force, said at the May 20 ceremony. “Building a public trail on Dryden’s side of the road remained a daunting challenge.”

The project required committed and strong partnerships among multiple jurisdictions, which Beck thanked in his speech. Game Farm Road is maintained by Tompkins County, and NYSDOT oversees speed limits. The center of the road marks the border between the Towns of Ithaca and Dryden, both of which collaborated on developing studies and the crossing plan, as well as installing the approved infrastructure. In October 2022, the Tompkins County Highway Department removed the largest obstacle to the crossing by flattening a rise in the road that created line-of-sight safety issues for motorists and trail users alike.

Work on the Dryden Rail Trail began in 2016, when the Town of Dryden ambitiously embarked on efforts to connect the villages and hamlets in the Town of Dryden to Ithaca and Cornell University. The goal was to establish the trail along the nearly 15-mile route formerly used by the Elmira, Cortland & Northern Railroad and the Southern Central Railroad. By connecting to the East Ithaca Recreation Way, the Dryden Rail Trail is now linked to a larger network of trails in Ithaca and Tompkins County—allowing direct commuter access to the Cornell University campus.

Town Councilman Dan Lamb said the hope for the rail trail project as a whole is to revitalize the sense of community for Dryden residents. Lamb complimented the Town of Ithaca for its efforts in the partnership between the two municipalities in making the crossing a reality.

“They’re efficient; they’re effective; they’re smart; they're cool,” Lamb said. “They get it, and we were able to work out arrangements for negotiating this project. That made it all possible.”

The next phase of the Dryden Rail Trail will be to construct a bridge across Route 13 and connect the trail to Pinckney Road. This phase—financed through federal, state, county, and municipal funds, as well as foundation grants and local donations—is expected to begin in late 2023.

The final phase of construction will be to build the trail between Route 13 and Freeville. When completed, the Dryden Rail Trail will traverse the Town of Dryden from west to east and will serve as both a linear park and a commuter route. The completed trail will offer users expanded opportunities for recreation as well as a means for alternative transportation to work, school, community centers, or stores.

Other public figures such as Senator Lea Webb and Tompkins County Legislator Greg Mezey were in attendance and offered remarks on the opening of the crossing.

“Rail trails, specifically, are yet another opportunity to build connectedness, not just as it pertains to our public infrastructure, but how we connect to each other as a community,” Webb said. “And connectedness is a basic human need. And so having the ability to engage in that is very important. … When you have an opportunity like this that reminds us of how close we are and how the land connects us all, it’s really important that we celebrate it.”

“The vision that our town board has to create a connected community, either through the physical connection or the digital connection,” Mezey said. “We look at the Dryden Rail Trail, we look at projects like Dryden Fiber, they're all about creating the connection within their community, and that connection … reaches out to other parts of the community throughout the county.”

Sports Editor

Andrew is the sports editor as well as a news reporter for the Ithaca Times/Finger Lakes Community Newspapers. He also enjoys writing personal essays in his spare time.

(1) comment

John Butler

To think we just hiked along old logging roads, railways, and creeks & rivers when I was young. Lucky to be alive today .......

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