"Without this trail, my son would not have learned to inline skate at such an early age, nor bicycled on his own over to his grandmother's house, who lives near the other end of the trail. Without this trail my neighbor and I wouldn't have taken up our early morning walks. Without this trail people wouldn't be able to link up as quickly or easily or safely with other trails in communities next to ours."
- Kristine Poelzer, Former Trail Opponent
If you live adjacent to the proposed trail, chances are you have questions and concerns. Rest assured, trails make better neighbors than trains!
Numerous studies have shown that trails do not negatively affect property values or safety. Here are just a few studies:
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy: Trail Benefits Report
University of Nebraska at Omaha: Trail Neighbors Study
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy: Safety Study of 372 Trails
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy: Economic Impact Study
Trail Neighbors: Before and After the Trail
As part of our community outreach initiative, it is our goal to address your questions and concerns. Many of you enthusiastically support the proposed trail conversion, including several property owners adjacent to the trail who are eager to begin using it. However, if you have concerns, here are answers to frequently asked questions:
Doesn't the railroad want to abandon the corridor? Why are you interfering? Can't we just let them abandon it?
Abandonment is a technical term used by the Surface Transportation Board. It refers to abandonment of rail service from the line, not abandonment of the railroad's ownership of the line. If the Surface Transportation Board allows a rail line to be abandoned, the railroad still owns it until it officially liquidates the property through a real property sale.
In 1983, Congress enacted legislation aimed at preserving our nation's disappearing rail infrastructure through railbanking and interim trail use. This legislation allows railroads to transfer title and easements to a private or public organization to use the line as an interim trail. At the same time, the corridor is preserved should there ever need to reinstate rail traffic in the future.
Can't I buy the rail property behind my house or have the railroad deed it to me?
A railroad's core business and primary source of revenue is moving goods from Point A to Point B. Railroads are not in the real estate business. Like any business though, a railroad will desire to liquidate and divest underutilized assets, however it is impractical and financially prohibitive for a railroad to engage in hundreds of real property transactions each time it wishes to divest a line. Additionally, Congressional enacted legislation is aimed at railbanking unused rail corridors to preserve our nation's valuable infrastructure for future use. If a railroad sells part of the line, the corridor is forever broken. Moreover, it is unrealistic to think that each of the hundreds of landowners bordering the line would be interested in purchasing it. Therefore, the railroad would still be left with ownership interests in an underutilized asset. Even if the railroad deeded the property to all adjacent landowners, some would not want it. Therefore, railroads often desire to divest a line via one transaction: either through railbanking or sale to a utility company.
What effect will a trail have on my property value?
Numerous studies show that trails have neutral to positive effects on neighboring property values. Some realtors have reported that homes near trails sell faster and at a premium vs. those homes that are not located near the trail. You can read one such study here.
Trails are among the top five amenities homebuyers look for when deciding where to move. Homes near trails sell faster, and home values increase the closer they are to the trail.
What about safety? Won't a trail invite criminals into my yard?
Trails have excellent safety records. Statistics show that trails have significantly lower crime rates than the communities they are located in. In fact, a utilized trail is less of a "crime magnet" than an abandoned rail corridor. Consider that criminals and vandals are more likely to use an abandon rail corridor as a "dark alley" or escape route vs. a trail that is actively used by citizens with eyes, ears, and cell phones. You can read a study on the safety record of 372 trails here.
The ECRT trail will be open from dawn to dusk. Signage with rules and a local telephone contact number will be posted along the trail. Besides employing a proven volunteer "neighborhood watch/patrol", the ECRT will coordinate with local police and first responders to ensure community safety is maintained and concerns are addressed.
ECRT will work with adjacent property owners to ensure privacy and safety. Design, good trail management and regulation enforcement can mitigate privacy and safety concerns.
Who will police the trail?
Just as the local authorities would respond to an emergency on the corridor now, they will in the future as well. Moreover, the trail will also have the benefit of having more eyes, ears, and cellphones on the corridor than it does now. Besides employing a proven volunteer "neighborhood watch/patrol", the ECRT will coordinate with local police and first responders to ensure community safety is maintained and concerns are addressed. Trail surface conditions will allow access by first responders when necessary.
What about liability?
The New York State General Obligations Law, Recreational Use Statute § 9-103, removes liability from use of the trail for recreational purposes. Moreover, homeowners are not liable to a trespasser or anyone who entered an adjacent property without permission. Additionally, ECRT has purchased our own comprehensive insurance program for the trail system.
What's this going to cost? Will my taxes go up?
The trail may be funded by a combination of private endowments, and/or appropriated State and Federal grants. These grants are earmarked for trail development and recreation and will be spent elsewhere if not spent on this trail, therefore use of these grants will not add to your tax burden. Additionally, converting the rail corridor to a trail will not create a significant loss of tax revenue for the communities through which the trail passes. Due to the age of the rail corridor, tax assessments are very low. Most communities have their portion of the line assessed for only a few thousand dollars: the equivalent tax revenue from one single family home. Increases in home values and additional sales tax revenue from trail visitors will help offset any minor losses.
What about noise and snowmobiles?
A trail is a much better neighbor than a train. While many neighbors can remember being awoken at 2 am by a passing freight train, a trail is much quieter than a train. In some areas, snowmobiles may only be permitted to use the trail under low power as a way for local residents to access connecting snowmobile trails, but not for through travel. Consider that if snowmobiles are allowed on portions of the trail, they are strictly regulated. NYS requires that snowmobiles adhere to specific decibel restrictions (often quieter than your neighbor's snowblower). Additionally, snowmobiles must have at least 6 inches of snow on top of frozen ground to travel. This limits the days in the year to which they can travel to only a dozen or so. Note, based on feedback from the Erie County Federation of Snowmobile Clubs, and community feedback, it has been determined that snowmobiling will not be a permitted trail activity in the Village and Town of Orchard Park.
Will ATVs and dirt bikes be allowed on the corridor?
No. These types of motorized vehicles are prohibited.