By Jeanne Sager
LONG EDDY March 7, 2003 The folks on County Route 28 in Long Eddy want to know their way of life isnt headed for a drastic change.
They want to be able to head out on their regular route to school, church, work and the grocery store when they need to.
But more importantly, the residents living on the Delaware County road and its side streets want fire trucks and ambulances to have easy access to their homes.
Residents recently learned that the county has plans to close an approximately 800 foot portion of the road, maybe as soon as June, to rebuild a retaining wall along the roadside.
Their first concern was the loss of an area landmark. Made from bluestone taken from area quarries, the wall has been along the roadway for as long as most people can remember, it has historical value and most people think its aesthetic value cant be beat.
This is a beautiful wall, said Rhonda Gillow, a resident of the Goulds section of Long Eddy (a section that is primarily reached by traveling down Route 28).
According to Gillow, the road was in fine shape until the county closed up scuppers that had been cut at road level in the wall to help water flow out rather than eroding the sides. And residents have asked to bring in a private contractor to look at repairing the wall, but no one can raise the funding necessary to have it fixed.
According to Wayne Reynolds, commissioner of the Delaware County Department of Public Works, increased truck traffic on the road over the years has rumbled along and shaken the wall to the point where it has begun to crumble. Part of one of the lanes had to be closed to keep motorists and pedestrians out of danger in case rock from the wall fell in the roadway.
Reynolds says it needs to be fixed, and the cost of putting up new bluestone would rest on the taxpayers, and its just too high.
But beyond the beauty of the Long Eddy wall, the residents dont want to see their main access to society completely cut off for months at a time.
Its going to affect the school buses, the mail, the ambulances, the fire trucks, any kind of emergency vehicle, Gillow said.
This is going to be a headache for the fire department, the secretary/ treasurer of the Long Eddy Fire District Commissioners said.
Folks will have to travel dangerous dirt roads to get out of Goulds. Otherwise, theyd have to go 10 to 12 miles out of their way up the Klondike Road and out to Route 97, doubling back through Long Eddy to head to Callicoon (where most of the residents do their shopping and the kids attend school).
Especially with gas prices the way they are now, how many people can afford to go out of their way 10 to 12 miles every day? pondered Irene Andersen, co-owner of Andersens Maple Farm, just one of the businesses that will be hit by a road closing.
Like dairy farmers on the roadway who have milk trucks come in each day on Route 28, the Andersens get frequent deliveries in large trucks. And they all come down 28.
Besides, the Andersens make a large portion of their income guiding tours on the farm and selling their maple products.
With a road closure, Andersen said, our customers wont be able to find us.
There have been several meetings about this issue. And Reynolds said no one ever stepped up to complain.
But most residents said they never knew the meetings were happening. If they were publicized, they never saw the notices. And none were ever sent to their homes.
Reynolds pledged to make sure people were better informed.
But this project has to be done, he said. The wall is falling apart, and its become a danger.
In the past few years, Reynolds said, there havent been any significant changes. In that time, the county has reached out to the Department of Environmental Conservation and engineering experts to develop a cost-effective plan that will protect the integrity of the environment in the area.
If we could maintain traffic, we would certainly do that, he said. But were stuck between a rock and hard place.
Its not going to be a perfect solution, we realize, but we will certainly work to minimize the impact, he said.
No final plans have been set in place, but work could not start until after June 15 because the streambed will be affected.
Work would have to be completed before September according to the DEC which means most school busing should not be adversely affected. That would also help heavier truck traffic which might get stuck on some of the dirt roads during the muddy spring season. And Reynolds has pledged to work with emergency responders, even suggesting a truck could be stationed on the Goulds side of the construction site so a first responder could get to the scene faster.
Keeping the road open, Reynolds said, would require building two temporary bridges across the Basket Creek at a major cost to taxpayers.
The county intends to take slabs of pavement taken off other roads in the state to rebuild the wall, a process which has been used on some other spots on Route 28.
Some residents have expressed concerns that those slabs could possibly contaminate the water in the nearby brook, but Reynolds said they will be cleaned and the DEC will have to give approval before they are used.
But that still doesnt solve the residents biggest concerns. How are they going to get in and out of their homes?
The Long Eddy Fire Commissioners are encouraging anyone with concerns about the project to speak out at a public meeting next week in Hancock and make their voices heard.
The meeting, set for Wednesday, March 12, at 6 p.m., will be held in the Hancock Town Hall on West Main Street. The public is invited to attend.