The official opening of the Dryden-Freeville section of the Dryden Rail Trail takes place on Saturday, May 11, 2019, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. When completed, the Dryden Rail Trail will connect three of Cornell Botanic Gardens’ natural areas across 16 miles.

Saturday’s railroad-themed celebration, hosted by the Town of Dryden and the Rail Trail Task Force, will feature a 5-K fun run, local celebrities, music, raffles, children’s games, food trucks and more.

All participants, except 5K runners and walkers, are invited to park in Freeville or Dryden and walk along the trail to the event site on Old George Road. Runners and walkers in the 5K may park at the William George Agency main lot, about a half mile from the starting line.

Read on for the details:

Before the main festivities, the Cayuga Bird Club will host an early-morning bird walk on the trail at 7:30 am.

At 10 a.m., community members will meet at the trailhead kiosks in Dryden and Freeville, and walk with their respective mayors, Mike Murphy and David Fogel, to the event headquarters pavilion at Old George Road, the midpoint of the 3-mile trail section.

Lime Bikes will be available at the trailheads and leashed dogs are encouraged to join the celebration.

Syndicated columnist, author, and Freeville native Amy Dickinson will emcee the opening ceremony starting at 11:15 a.m. Instead of a ribbon cutting, the village mayors will drive a golden spike into the ground at the trail midpoint, to commemorate the golden “Last Spike” that connected the First Transcontinental Railroad to the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads and was hammered into place exactly 150 years and one day earlier.

Invited speakers include Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton; Trail Task Force chair Bob Beck; leader of the Friends of Dryden Rail Trail Bruno Schickel; Tompkins County legislator Mike Lane; the village mayors, and Town of Dryden Supervisor Jason Leifer.

On-site registration begins at 9:30 am for the “Almost 5-K Run,” which leaves at 10 a.m. from the Old George Road pavilion and goes to the Freeville Village kiosk and back. Runners and walkers of all ages can join. The $10 fee will support the Dryden PTA and the first 60 to sign up will receive railroad whistles. Parking for Fun Run participants and their families only will be available at the William George Agency main lot, about a half mile from the starting line, with shuttle service for those who need it. Or runners can be dropped off at the George Rd. trail kiosk.

Stations along the trail will offer free raffle tickets, cookies, and stickers for kids. The Freeville Community Council and Freeville 4-H Green Lions are sponsoring nature walks from the Freeville kiosk at 10 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.

Family-friendly activities will include box car races, an old-fashioned bean bag toss, LilySilly puppet making, giant Jenga, railroad bingo and crafts, along with a raffle ticket drawing at 1:30 pm.

Maddy Walsh of the Blind Spots, a nationally touring band, will team up with her father, Ted Walsh, a former Dryden teacher and administrator, to provide music as MaddDaddy.

Food trucks Dos Amigos, Eat The Foood, and Dragonfly Grille will sell brunch and lunch at the pavilion. Official Dryden Rail Trail water bottles, stickers, and backpacks will be for sale, and tickets for special raffle items will be sold.

Disability parking will be available at Old George Road. All others are encouraged to walk, bike, or run to the celebration from marked parking locations at the trail heads in Dryden and in Freeville. The Dryden Recreation Department will provide shuttle service back to the villages from 1 p.m to 3 p.m.

Sponsors of the Opening Celebration are Whitmore Fence Co., Upscale Remodeling, B&B Flooring, and Bailey Place Insurance. The William George Agency is providing the event pavilion.

The Town of Dryden formed the Rail Trail Task Force in March 2016 to reclaim easements and convert the abandoned railroad corridor into a recreational trail.
The trail lies along the old railroad bed and, once the full trail is completed, will connect Dryden, Freeville, Etna and Varna to the greater Ithaca trail system.

Support for the Trail

The project has received generous support from NYS Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation, Tompkins County Tourism and Capital Improvement and Parks and Trails, Cornell University and AARP grants.

Also crucial in building the trail have been contributions from the Dryden Department of Public Works, RMS Gravel, Mix Brothers Construction, S&S Tree Service and Schickel Construction, and dozens of local volunteers.

Last month, Governor Cuomo announced a $1.5 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration through the State Department of Transportation to continue development of the trail from Pinckney Rd. to Game Farm Rd., including a pedestrian crossing at Route 13.

More information can be found at

Event Contact:
Susan Ashdown, event coordinator

Dryden Rail Trail Contact:
Bob Beck, Trail Task Force chair