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Rail line removal doesn't necessarily ensure hiking trail

Tracks are being removed from the Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad in the Southtowns, but it does not mean that the corridor is being transformed into a hiking trail.

The railroad received permission earlier this year to abandon 27.6 miles of its rail line between Orchard Park and West Valley, a company official said in a statement.

Buffalo & Pittsburgh "sold the rail track materials from the line to a railroad track materials company which recently commenced removing the track from the corridor," said Kevin D. Bowser, assistant vice president of marketing.

The proposed trail has raised controversy in Orchard Park and other towns because many residents living adjacent to it are opposed to having public access so close to their homes.

Walkers, bicyclists and snowmobilers favor the multiuse trail and say that it would benefit the entire community.

Orchard Park Supervisor Mary Travers Murphy said she had heard from a resident concerned about vegetation that had been removed by the railroad.

Bowers said the company is removing the rail and ties from the line, and rail from the road crossings. It plans to restore the road crossing's surface, he said.

The railroad said that it has agreed to negotiate with the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to use the corridor for a trail, "subject to future reconstruction and reactivation to rail service."

The Town Board has passed a resolution in support of the trail system, and the state is using "due diligence" on the proposal, which includes examining the property and its amenities, such as bridges, looking into possible environmental contamination and coming to terms on a price.

If the state decides to purchase the property, it would be with money from the state Environmental Protection Fund. If a town opposes the trail, the funds could not be used in the town, a state representative said in May.

e-mail: bobrien@buffnews.com