Black Diamond Trail History 1820 – present

2016 August: We are all giddy with excitement as the trail is actually being paved with a solid bed of stone dust, rapidly approaching Ithaca. The past two years, the state has expressed its firm intention to do this, money was appropriated, bridges were built, and a lot of work repairing old culverts was actually done. Still, there were halts and some washouts that made for setbacks, and a pessimist might have taken to despair. But, this year, beginning early in spring, the progress is clear and rapid. We’re holding a picnic on October 2 to give heartfelt thanks for this wonderful addition to our community.

2013 November: Sue Poelvoorde, Senior Natural Resources Planner for FL Region of NYS Parks, announced that NYS now owns the entire BDT corridor between the City of Ithaca and Taughannock Falls State Park, having just procured the final 60′ section.

2013 Fall: The Willow Creek Bridge is completed!

2013 August: Major flood damage south of Glenwood Heights Road washed out a section of the trail.

2013 January: Glenwood Creek Bridge is completed!

2012 May 15:  NYS Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey came to Ithaca to publicly announce funding and plans for constructing the Glenwood Creek and Willow Creek Bridges. Funds came from NYS ($969,000)and the Treman family ($231,000).

2012 May: Construction started on the Glenwood Creek Bridge!

2012 March:  Town of Ithaca Public Works spent two weeks replacing and cleaning culverts near the trail spur leading to Cayuga Medical Center.

2011  December 18:  A dozen volunteers did major trail clearing from Kraft Rd to Willow Creek Rd.

2011 November: Town of Ulysses Highway Dept installed culverts at the Kraft Rd-BDT intersection.

2011 April 17: A very productive BDTEN Work Day on a densely overgrown section of trail on either side of the Agard Road-BDT intersection. About 22 volunteers cleared approximately 1/2 mile in 3 hours!

2011 April 6: BDTEN supporters met at Cass Park to discuss how to engage more actively in BD trail construction. First step: A Work Day to clear a section of trail where it intersects with Agard Rd. is planned for April 17.

2011 April 5: FL Parks reported that they are now eligible again for federal funding (see March 1, 2010 entry below) but have no plans at present to apply for funds; designs for two trail bridges are complete and ready to go to bid; FL Parks Region does not expect to have much capital budget to work with this year; temporary easement on the 60’ stretch of trail owned by Holochuck has still not been achieved. Towns are awaiting the culvert work plan from Parks so they can continue offering assistance when possible.

2010 November 23: Ted Turan, FL Parks engineer, reported that Town of Ithaca has cleared the brush at trail culverts and along the trail under the power lines; and Town of Ulysses installed a culvert at Glenwood Heights Rd. Turan expressed appreciation for the towns’ assistance and reported that Parks completed the culvert inventory from Cass Park to Glenwood Heights Rd. and is in the process of devising a work plan.

2010 September 10: A meeting of Town of Ithaca and Ulysses highway superintendents and employees, town supervisors, FL Parks staff, and a BDTEN representative was convened by Fernando deAragon (Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council) to discuss cooperation among the entities. It was agreed that Parks would work to complete the inventory and specs for culvert repair along the trail; and that Town crews would clear brush around the culverts to make inspection easier. This sharing of resources and staff is a new, hopeful model for constructing the BDT. Still in question is procurement of a temporary easement on the troublesome 60’ stretch (owned by Holochuck) south of Glenwood Heights Rd.

2010 June 25: At a meeting convened by Fernando deAragon (Ithaca Tompkins Transportation Council), attended by representatives from Tompkins County, Town of Ithaca, City of Ithaca, Town of Ulysses, FL Parks, and BDTEN representative, it was agreed that FL Parks would welcome help from municipal and county highway & public works depts to do culvert work on the trail. This is a major step forward. FL Parks planner, Sue Poelvoorde, agreed to request temporary easement of the troublesome 60′ stretch (owned by Holochuck) so that work on all sections of the trail can proceed.

2010 March 2: FL Parks reports there is still a 60’ stretch of trail south of Glenwood Heights Road for which Parks does not own the Right-of-Way. This may become an obstacle to construction in light of NYS Governor Paterson’s proclamation about no new land acquisitions for State Parks.

2010 March 1: FL Parks reports they have to forfeit the $209,000 grant awarded to them in May 2009 for bridge designs due to bureaucratic issues with NYSDOT, and that they will pay for bridge design with Parks funds. Design work is underway by the firm who did preliminary bridge design report; contracted cost is $120,000.

2009 May 22: ITCTC grants $209,000 to FL Parks to pay for the design of two bridges, a momentous show of support by Tompkins County and local municipalities for the BDT. This is federal stimulus plan money allocated through the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), assigned by ITCTC, and administered by the NYS Dept. of Transportation. FL Parks tells ASCE student chapter that volunteer design/construction labor is now unnecessary.

2009 March 30: BDTEN citizens organize a meeting of FL Parks offiicials with faculty and student reps of Cornell’s ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) student chapter and ITCTC director to explore possibilities for involving the volunteer talent and labor on BDT design/construction. FL Parks stated that if federal stimulus funding is not forthcoming, collaboration with ASCE student chapter may be feasible.

2009 January 22: Meeting called by BDTEN citizens with FL Parks officials, and Towns of Ithaca and Ulysses and Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council (ITCTC) officials to explore cooperative efforts to construct pieces of the BDT.

  • FL Parks reported they had to forfeit the federal ISTEA grant, (an estimated $350,000). This grant was originally received in 1993 in an amount exceeding $500,000.
  • FL Parks reported there now exists a Design Report for the two bridges, a prelude to the actual construction drawings. No design work has been done on the trail itself.
  • FL Parks stated they will consider completing trail sections piecemeal from Cass Park north, with construction help from Towns of Ithaca and Ulysses. Substantial culvert work is needed; Parks has started a culvert inventory.
  • FL Parks agreed to explore collaboration possibilities with the Cornell University Student Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) for trail bridge design and construction.

2008 December 3: FL Parks reports the NYS budget crisis means no money for bridge designs.

2008 July 16: Notice of Completion of a Final Master Plan Environmental Impact Statement for the BDT.   NYS-OPRHP took the following action: Adoption and Implementation of a Master Plan for the Black Diamond Trail.

2008 April 10: Finger Lakes Parks says that the BDT project is on track for beginning bridge construction in Spring 2009.

2008 April: The Black Diamond Trail appears as a $150,000 item in the NY State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation’s (OPRHP) $132 million capital funds FY2008-09 budget.

2008 March: Publication of the citizens’ public statements made at the December 2007 SEQR Public Hearings is expected. This is the final step in the SEQR process.

2008 February: Finger Lakes Parks Commissioner Carol Reeves “adopts” the Black Diamond Trail as her pet Parks project.

2008 January 15 Today is the deadline for written comments on the Draft Master Plan/DEIS to be submitted by the public to Parks officials.

2007 December 5 & 6: Two public hearings on the Draft Master Plan/DEIS were held in Ithaca and the town of Ulysses. An estimated 100 people attended on Dec. 5; and an estimated 80 people on Dec. 6. Many made public statements, and all but one spoke in favor of the trail!

2007 November 21 The Draft master Plan/Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was released to the public for review. A big day for the BDT!

2007 October 13: A third BDTEN Work Day, A third successful citizens’ Work Day on BDT section from Willow Creek Rd. north. Thanks to Paul Thorington, Taughannock Park Manager, for supervising all three of our Work Days.

2007 June: Eastern Mountain Sports store in Ithaca donates proceeds of its kayak raffle to the Black Diamond Trail project in care of BDTEN –$900! The Nature Center received and holds this gift for us because BDTEN is not incorporated as a not-for-profit organization.

2007 March 31: A second successful BDTEN Work Day on BDT section from Willow Creek Rd. north, 39 volunteers for three hours!

2007 February: First-round draft of Master Plan prepared by the Finger Lakes Regional Parks Office and sent to Albany State Parks Office for approval, including SEQR process.

2007 January: Tompkins County Highway Dept. offers machinery and labor through a shared agreement with the Finger Lakes Regional Parks Office. They are told subsequently by the State Office that no work can be done on the BDT until the Master Plan is approved.

2006 October 14: BDTEN Work Day to clear trail from Willow Creek Rd nearly to Agard Rd. It was a remarkable show of community involvement with 29 volunteers hand-clearing a substantial section in three hours.

2006 April: Conservation re-zoning approved along Rte. 89 by Town of Ithaca, which protects environment along BDT.

2006 February: formation of BDTEN, a citizens group whose goal is to support/push for the BDT project, particularly the first ten miles from Cass Park in Ithaca north to Trumansburg.

2005: Extension given to State Parks for using the federal ISTEA grant, now estimated to be about $350,000. The original grant was larger but some was lost when the initial trail project scope was cut back. Originally, the trail was to continue into Seneca County, but Seneca County killed the project in their area, and Parks gave up some of the original grant when that happened (pre-1998, unsure exactly when).

2000-2001: Finger Lakes Region of State Parks organizes workdays and publishes newsletter, says BDT will open soon.

2000: Submission of Master Plan draft by Finger Lakes Regional Office to State Parks Office.

1999: Completion of NYSEG easement and land transfer to State Parks for 10-mile rail corridor (except for one 60’ section).

1995: Tompkins County Greenway Coalition prepares “Building Greenways for Tompkins County: An Action Plan,” which includes BDT.

1993: Project awarded federal ISTEA grant of over $500,000.

1990s: Parks Finger Lakes Natural Resource Planner Sue Poelvoorde works on land acquisition and project planning.

1983: Joint agreement among State Parks, City of Ithaca and Town of Ithaca to create BDT.

1970s: State Parks proposes BDT.

1960s: Abandoned rail corridor land is transferred to NYSEG and some private owners.

1961: Last passenger train leaves Ithaca.

1959 May: Last run of the Black Diamond train.

1896: First run of the Black Diamond Train through Ithaca “the most luxurious train in the world.” The Black Diamond is part of Lehigh Valley Railroad, the company which took over most of the smaller railroad companies in the area.

1873: Geneva & Ithaca Railroad opens on the west side of Cayuga Lake.

1834: First train out of Ithaca, going south to Owego.

1828: The Ithaca & Owego Railroad Co. is chartered, 2nd in New York State.

1820s – 1870s: Land corridor easements given to rail companies by State for transportation ways.