ODESSA, N.Y. (WETM) — Nature lovers have a new trail to hike in Odessa thanks to a community effort.

After years of planning, the Odessa-Hector Rail Trail officially opened to the public on Sept. 23. The trail starts at the end of Texas Hollow Road near Rail Road Street. The 2.5-mile-long trail sits on land that was once part of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. After sitting unused for decades, the Village of Odessa was able to purchase the land and convert it into a trail for pedestrians, horse riders, and bikers, all at no cost to the taxpayers.

“The bottom line on this whole thing is this trail is here for your use, for the residents of Odessa, the county, the state, and the world, at zero taxpayer cost,” said Odessa Mayor Gerry Messmer. “This trail is 100% donations with a little touch of some federal money in there that we were able to get ahold of.”

According to Messmer, he became interested in the land sometime after becoming mayor in 2018. He had heard that the old Lehigh Valley land had been sold to different local landowners but found out that the property belonged to Fairman Drilling Company through a hunting app. Messmer contacted the Pennsylvania-based company, and the owners agreed to sell the land to the village for $35,000.

The Finger Lakes Land Trust was the first organization to help the village purchase the land and donated half of the money needed to purchase it. Chemung Canal Trust Company, Schuyler Glass Company, and long-time Odessa residents Ralph and Debra Daugherty also made donations to allow the village to purchase the land. After hearing that the village bought the land, Bruno Schickel, owner of Schickel Construction, contacted Messmer.

While Messmer was working to make the trail a reality in Odessa, Schickel was doing the same in Hector. According to Schickel, he had been talking to the Town of Hector’s board about turning the 12 miles of the former Lehigh Valley land into a rail trail when he found out that the Village of Odessa had purchased some of the land a couple of years ago. This past spring, Schickel offered Messmer his help.

Schickel Construction began working on the trail in July and finished about six weeks later at the end of August. Schickel and Messmer eventually want the trail to extend through Hector and connect Odessa to Burdett, making the trail 16 miles long. However, this goal will take some time.

“Ultimately, it’s going to require a huge community effort, and it’s going to require land owners that are willing to donate easements; nothing is going to happen unless that happens,” said Schickel. “It’s going to require people to donate money, time, volunteer to do the work, and that’s how you build it forward.”

According to Schickel, the project will only be able to be completed if local landowners donate easements of land; the government won’t take any land using eminent domain to finish the trail. Schickel said that the trail can be built in small sections over time and doesn’t have to all be connected at first. The whole trail will take many years to finish, and Schickel said that he hopes that his work inspires others to help make the Odessa to Burdett trail a reality.