Updated 11/28/2011 01:18 PM
Bronx Residents, Parks Officials Divided Over Paving Part Of Putnam Trail
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The city plans to revitalize an abandoned rail line in the Bronx and reuse it as greenspace, but not without some controversy.
The Parks Department officials want to widen the 1.5-mile Putnam Rail Trail, a former railroad track running through Van Cortlandt Park into Westchester County, from eight feet to 15 feet and cover part of it with asphalt.
Opponents, including members of the group Save The Putnam Trail, say the expansion would harm wildlife and destroy 1.5 acres of land.
"Our plan, the plan of SaveThePutnamTrail.com, is to keep the trail at its current eight feet and to finish it with a stone dust surface," said Michael Oliva of Save The Putnam Trail. "Stone dust surface still serves all users — cyclists, walkers, runners, hikers, and it's wheelchair-accessible as well."
"It's really a haven. It's a beautiful, beautiful environment, and paving it just doesn't make any sense," said Mike Arnstein of Save The Putnam Trail.
Parks Department officials say they have done extensive community outreach and site investigation and that their plans satisfy the needs of local users.
The trail was a passenger rail line until the 1950s and freight trains ran there through the 1980s, and Parks Department officials say they will remove unwanted debris from the area.
"This is an abandoned rail line. The rails were removed years ago but the creosote-soaked rail ties are still there, along with some trees and shrubs that have just naturally blown in over time," said the Parks Department's Assistant Commissioner for Planning and Natural Resources Joshua Laird. "We'll be pulling up those ties and be clearing some of that growth to create room for the trail."
The Parks Department also pledges to replant and landscape the area.
People who use the trail fell on both sides of the issue.
"Widening would be great because there are certain paths, certain spots on the path that are very narrow and hard to run on, so renovating it in some fashion, I would definitely be all for that," said a runner.
"This looks natural. In the summer when the trees are all full, it looks like you are in the woods. If they put asphalt, it's not going to look like you are in the woods," said another local.
It is not yet known when construction on the project would begin and the Parks Department has not yet set an anticipated completion date.