"Howdy Folks" One sunny winter day back in November of 2005 the late Neil Alhart and I were making our daily visit to the Mackay Wildlife Preserve, something that we tried to do each and every day.
We would sit and talk about what needed to be done next to improve the Park. Neil came up with the idea that we should take a look at the Matthews Trail and see if it would be something that we could work on and connect to the Mackay Trail. The next day I met Neil at Tennent Park and we took a walk on the Matthews Trail to see if it were possible to connect the two. We found that the Matthews Trail was in need of some work as it was in horrible condition. It needed to be made wider and to be cleared of brush and then mulched.
The Matthews Trail dead-ended at the railroad tracks and we discussed what it would take to get to the Mackay Trail from that point. I told Neil that we should go to the Caledonia Village Board and present our project to them and get the "ok" to go on with it. He agreed and on December 06, 2005 at 8:00pm, we asked the Board and we were granted the permission to go ahead with the project. Further inspection of the project showed that a lot of permission, labor and permits were going to be needed to reach the Mackay Trail. It could be done!!
As time went on, the idea to connect the two trails was being pursued by Ms. Jean Guthrie, representing The Big Springs Historical Society and Museum. Jean was trying to get a grant that would pay for the connection of the Museum to Tennant Park, through the Matthews Trail and then to the Mackay Park. Neil and I decided to wait with our plans and see what would happen with Jean and her efforts. We offered our help with what ever she needed to get the job done. As is with all grants, it takes time to get the results from the folks that do the deciding. In the summer of 2007 we found that the hard work that Jean put into the grant effort was not to be. We were all disappointed and the project was back to plan "A".
Neilís health started to go down hill and the project was all but forgotten. Neil couldnít go to the Mackay Park anymore so if I wanted to see him I had to go to his home. Not knowing it but the next visit that I had with Neil would be my last. He told me that his experience on this earth was coming to an end. On July 6, 2008 I lost the best friend that I had the privilege to know. Along with loosing Neil I also lost the will to complete the project.
On August 19, 2009 Mayor Joe Caluorie came to me and we talked about the Matthews Trail and what we could do to improve it and make the connection to the Mackay Trail. I told him that we should take the time and have Chris Buckley. He and I walked it and make some decisions as what it would take to make Neil Alhartís dream work. After making a visit to Kevin Quinlanís office at the Town Hall, I found that The State of New York owned the land that the Matthews Trail was on and the land that we wanted to cross to get to the Mackay Trail. This meant that the State needed to be contacted to get needed permits and "JCI" needed to be contacted for the permission to cross the railroad tracks. I knew the fellow that could help us with the State as he helped Neil and I with the Mackay Trail. Alan Mack, of the NYS Fish Hatchery in Mumford, was that man. He agreed to make the walk with us.
On September 18, 2009 Mayor Caluorie, Chris Buckley, Alan Mack and myself walked the Matthews Trail and discussed what it would take to make the project happen. We talked a lot, made a lot of decisions and had a very positive afternoon. Mayor Caluorie was to take care of the legal end, Alan Mack was to take care of the State, Chris Buckley was to take care of manpower and equipment and I was to go to "JCI" and the railroad issue. I did go to "JCI" and had a very positive and promising talk. As with the state, we are awaiting the answers from "JCI"that will let us go ahead with the project.
As with The Mackay Preserve the four of us will do all in our power not to have this project cost the taxpayers of Caledonia any tax dollars, and I am sure that there is plenty of help out in our community to get "NEILíS PROJECT" done. Watch out, I might be calling you!!
God Bless - Barry