By Kellen M. Quigley
At the June 3 meeting of the Village of Springville Board of Trustees, Mayor William Krebs updated the board and public on the maintenance of the Pop Warner Rail Trail, the portion of the Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail (ECRT) in the village.
According to Krebs, the village had been receiving questions and complaints concerning the condition of the ECRT in recent months, specifically the lack of mowing the grass, as well as some branches fallen on the trail not being removed.
“The answer is very simple: the village of Springville does not have a right of entry agreement or contract approved by ECRT,” the mayor said. “We cannot legally enter this private property.”
Krebs said that the trail is owned by the Buffalo Pittsburgh Railroad (BPR) and is leased to ECRT, which has the development rights. He said the agreement is between those two parties and was approved in August 2018.
“They have been informed since last summer personally by me and by meetings with the board that we need a contract,” Krebs said.
The proposed 27-mile trail will span from the town of Ashford in Cattaraugus County to Orchard Park and also connects the towns of Aurora, Colden and Concord. The Pop Warner Trail in Springville is already open.
“We received a contract from the (BPR), a right of entry contract, to design our trail, to build our trail and maintain our trail in 2015,” the mayor said. “This village got the public’s support, we signed the legal contract.”
According to Krebs, village groups raised the money and the community built the trial using village resources. But since last summer, ECRT has not given the village the go-ahead to do the maintenance of the trail.
“Since last summer, members of the ECRT … have assured me that we will get a contract,” he said. “The last we heard from the ECRT attorney, from the Friday before Memorial Day, was we would see ‘a path forward.’”
During a conference call several months ago with the village, BPR and ECRT attorneys, the railroad attorney said BPR is in favor of the multi-use trail in Springville, Krebs recalled, and would look into amending the agreement to allow Springville to maintain the trail.
According to Krebs, the ECRT would not agree to amend the agreement due to a property tax issue with the railroad property and linking it to the village maintaining the trial.
“There’s no way the village board or anybody in the village is going to forgive property taxes on private property, and that’s what the rail trail is,” the mayor said.
The Sunday before Memorial Day, Krebs said there was a 74-year-old Vietnam veteran at the trailhead in the village mowing the grass because he knew the parade would go by there and wanted it to look nice.
“That’s not sustainable. We don’t want to make 74-year-old volunteers maintain our trail,” the mayor said. “We have the equipment, the employees, the history and the desire to keep the trail and keep improving the trail so our residents can use it. That’s where this village stands.”
Krebs said the village wants to take care of the trail, but won’t be able to until the legal issue is solved. He said while members of the ECRT board of directors may want Springville to just keep maintaining the trail, the village needs a contract first.
“We designed the trial, we funded it, we maintain it,” he said. “I want that to be perfectly clear to the people who use it: our residents. We will maintain it as we have every year in the past, but we need a renewed contract with the railroad and/or ECRT first.”