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Your Town: Oneida putting in trails where railroads used to be

Oneida Rail Trail (Alex Resila)

In downtown Oneida where Main and Railroad Streets cross, history has left its tracks. Specifically the railroad beds left behind. They used to support rails and wood, but are now covered up by modern roads or brush. Three railroads used to cut right through and around this city so many years ago.

The city is now looking to bring back a part of its history by putting in paths for people to ride their bikes or walk on with kiosks along the way explaining what used to be there. Two years ago Oneida unveiled this part of the path already completed on the outskirts of the city, but the director of the city's parks department, Luke griff says this one mile section is just a small piece of the entire idea.

"Bringing back the history and teaching people what these trails used to mean to the city of Oneida. The city of Oneida was instrumental to getting railroads to Central New York." says Griff. "We feel there would be a huge economic boost. The trails going to connect to the Erie Canal and there's riders from all over the country that ride the Erie Canal yearly. They would hopefully take that spur into Oneida and eat some lunch or spend the night."

Much of the idea is still in the planning stages with funding and property rights being ironed out. The goal is to have a mostly grass path go down the middle as well as around Oneida, right where the railroads used to be. Griff says people will really begin to notice things are changing in their town, once construction on the next part of this project starts along East Railroad Street next spring. It'll have a green bike path and a pedestrian plaza for concerts all while reminding people about their history.

"Really going to pop out and kind of change the face of downtown Oneida. A lot of different plantings and a lot of different improvements that are going to make this whole area look completely different," says Griff."

Griff expects the downtown portion to be completed by the end of summer next year and says the rest of this miles long project will likely come together in the coming years.

The projects already paid for have been accomplished with grants. The city is now looking for help to raise enough money to complete the rest of the idea.

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