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Plans for miniature railroad in Greenport face delay until DEC concerns are addressed

Plans to put a miniature railroad in part of Moore’s Woods in Greenport have run into some opposition at the state level.

In a letter dated Jan. 2, 2020, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation wrote that the proposal to construct a public building and related structures in an adjacent freshwater wetlands is an “incompatible use” and must meet certain standards in the state law on freshwater wetlands permits.

The village, along with the Greenport Rotary and the Railroad Museum of Long Island, purchased a mini-locomotive, three passenger cars and about 1,500 feet of track from Greenport resident Frank Field and plan to operate a miniature railroad in a section of Moore’s Woods. Mr. Field ran the miniature train on his own property Sundays and holidays from 1985 until 2012.

The plans also call for removing some trees and brush along the route.

But the DEC has some concerns about the project. 

“In order to proceed with your application as proposed, you must demonstrate how your proposal meets the weighing standards for a Class 1 wetland,” wrote Elyssa Scott, an environmental analyst with the DEC.

“A narrative must be provided for this demonstration that includes a discussion of project alternatives that must be given consideration, such as constructing the railroad on other Village-owned parcels, shortening the tracks to avoid the wetlands, (or) purchasing the lot with the existing miniature railroad.”

Greenport Mayor George Hubbard Jr. said at last Thursday’s Village Board meeting that officials plan to meet with the DEC soon to figure out the next step and how to comply with the DEC.

“It’s an update,” he said of the letter. “It’s still moving forward but we thought we had everything into them, and that they were saying it looked good. Then we got a letter this past week saying we need more.”

Ms. Scott’s letter also noted inconsistencies on some of the plans submitted by the village and said the “DEC has received comments from citizens who oppose the project based on the impacts the proposal is likely to have on the relatively undisturbed portion of Moore’s Woods.”

Ms. Scott said the permit will only be issued if it is determined that the proposal “satisfies a compelling economic or social need that outweighs the loss and detriment of the freshwater wetlands adjacent area.”

Officials held a ceremonial unveiling of the Greenport Express in September, where its nickname was revealed. Called the “Joe Cherry Choo Choo,” it was named for Rotarian Joe Cherepowich, who was a “driving force” behind the project and died in October at the age of 73.