At the natural heart of Putnam County winds the Putnam Trailway, that 11-mile swath of green from Baldwin Place to Brewster, where walkers, cyclists, skaters, skiers, and skateboarders find nourishment. We get healthy and find solace moving through hardwood forests, by a glacial moraine, and across the Middle Branch Reservoir.
It’s a prized public investment. We never want to lose it.
Dedicating the trailway as a county park would put Putnam’s piece of the Old Put on par with its designation to the south, where the right-of-way of the NY Central Railroad’s Putnam Division has long been part of Westchester County’s park system.
In Putnam, it’s a no- cost way to raise the profile of a county facility that attracts residents – and visitors – of all ages, from all walks of life. Some say the bike path is their favorite part of Putnam County. It is mine.
The Trailway has faced its share of challenges in recent years. In 2009, residents by Willow Road in Carmel convinced the Town Board to limit access to the Trailway by voting to ban on-street parking there. Yet others urged the county Legislature to kill the Park ‘N Ride lot at Mount Hope Road in Mahopac, and forego $1 million in federal funding for a project that was designed, in part, to serve bike path users. The Willow Road parking was restored. The trailside parking lot was completed.
The most recent brush-up featured two politically connected, self-styled entrepreneurs, who wanted to sell outdoor advertising on the Trailway. Tax Watch in May broke the story, and later detailed how Bikepath Country executives had misrepresented the company’s experience to win the nod for the county contract. At the time, the company was moving forward with plans in Westchester and Putnam counties to erect mile markers, emblazoned with corporate logos, every half-mile along the Old Put,.
The ads would have tarnished this taxpayer-owned treasure. Tax Watch kept the community updated in three columns and 14 blog posts. Following a public outcry, the plans in both counties were withdrawn.
The debate over the outdoor ads revealed a deep-seated love for the bike path by the people throughout the region. Making the Putnam Trailway a park would elevate the land’s status and give it added protection under the state Constitution. Once designated parkland by the Putnam County Legislature, it would take an act of the state Legislature to change it.
I live in Mahopac. I ride the trailway often. This month, I’ve led bike rides each Saturday morning with the Westchester Cycle Club along the Trailway from the Park ‘N Ride lot at Mount Hope Road. We ride down the bike path to Brewster, then turn around to head back up the hill to Mahopac. We loop around Lake Mahopac, pass the B-52s legendary Love Shack, and end our 22-mile ride at the Freight House Café for a well-earned cup of coffee and savory chocolate-chip cookie.
On the first Saturday, 25 riders from Westchester and Putnam gathered at 9 a.m. Last Saturday our group met a couple from Newton, Ct., who said they come regularly to Brewster to ride the Trailway because Fairfield County has nothing like it. The Trailway has become a destination – for both Putnam residents and visitors from Connecticut and Westchester.
So let’s make it a park. It won’t cost taxpayers a cent. And it could inspire more people to go there, to experience the natural world preserved in this corridor of green, to walk and ride and skate, and to live healthier lives.