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ORCHARD PARK, NY - It's a rare day that human development gets returned to nature, but a fledgling project in WNY aims to do just that. The Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail is truly a grass roots effort, attempting to convert an old stretch of railroad into a multi-use nature trail.

Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail, Inc. is a group of concerned citizens based in Orchard Park. The group, along with NY State Parks, are currently in negotiation with the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Railroad to transform the 27 mile long trail into a benefit for the many communities located along the line.

The railroad has been a fixture in the area since 1880, but time and disuse took it's toll on this line. A few years ago, an opportunity arose. Deborah Fennis VP of Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail, Inc." There was a window of opportunity during which time any entity interested in acquiring the corridor could step forward and say we're interested, this is valuable, we want to do something with it, and the only two entities that really stepped forward the parks department of NY State and Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail."

That was just the first step. The finished product will become a "linear park", one that unfolds in a fairly straight line,in this case extending from Orchard Park to Springville,and touching a number of small towns and villages along the way. But before it becomes a reality there is much work to be done. " Negotiations just take time."Fenn explains."We, Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail have to do our due diligence, we have to take a look at the corridor, see what the liabilities might be, see what issues might be, the rights of way up and down the corridor, all of that kind of thing we have to take a look at."

The infant trail is already returning to it's roots. Almost all of the rails have been removed, and Mother Nature is slowly reclaiming her own. Fenn says that soon the many communities along the trail will be able to decide what they'd like to do with their individual sections. " What has to be done to this trail to make it active and to make it a working usable trail is really up to each individual community. Every town gets to kind of take ownership and really do something the way they want to do it with their particular section of the trail."

The benefits of the new trail will go beyond it's recreational value. Erie Catt Rail Trail says that the many communities along the trail will see economic benefits to local businesses and an increase in property values. Fenn says the trail's backers have gathered considerable support. " Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail has talked with, negotiated with, sat down with the leaders of communities up and down the corridor and met with community groups up and down the corridor. We have currently about six thousand supporters, which is really pretty terrific."

The future of this verdant dream lies with continued hard work and support from communities and their representatives alike. Once it is complete the Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail will be yet another jewel in Western NY's natural heritage." What's so nice about a linear park is that is really traverses so many different kinds of environmental communities, so many different terrains and wildlife places. So you can really begin to appreciate the extent of the beauty that is Western New York."

The tail is not open to the public yet, but you can help hasten it's completion. For more information, visit their website at www.ecattrail.org