Saranac Lake village board now supports rail trail

Trees overhang railroad tracks next to the crossing at Cedar Street, Saranac Lake, part of the disputed Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor.
(Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)

Trees overhang railroad tracks next to the crossing at Cedar Street, Saranac Lake, part of the disputed Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor. (Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)

SARANAC LAKE — Despite having voted down a similar resolution two months ago, the trustees of the village of Saranac Lake passed a resolution Monday night supporting the Lake Placid-Remsen Corridor rail trail.

Passionate supporters of the rail trail and of another option, keeping the train track and placing a pedestrian trail next to it, packed the meeting room to air their opinions during the public comment period.

Mayor Clyde Rabideau was absent Monday night and Trustee Paul Van Cott recused himself, as he is an employee of one party involved in court action about the rail trail —  the Adirondack Park Agency.

Trustee Tom Catillaz, who was acting as mayor in Rabideau’s absence, and Trustees Allie Pelletieri and Richard Shapiro voted in favor of the resolution, which states:

“The Village of Saranac Lake hereby reaffirms its support of the Remsen-Lake Placid development plan as put forth by the State in 2016 Unit Management Plan. We recognize the important economic development, tourism, and health benefits that construction of the Adirondack Rail Trail will bring to our constituents. We urge the State to take every step necessary to expedite the appropriate procedural actions to allow construction of the corridor to continue including the appeal of Judge Main’s rail corridor decision. We further urge Governor Cuomo to take any necessary action or authority to designate the Lake Placid to Tupper Lake rail corridor as a NYS Recreation Corridor.”

In October, Judge Robert Main threw out the 2016 UMP, saying the state had failed to provide proof of ownership of several parcels along the corridor, and failed to prove its plan for the rail trail would economically benefit the region.

Several of those who commented during the public hearing decried the “divisive” effect of the issue on the village.

“This resolution is not common ground, it’s a battleground,” said Sunita Halasz. Halasz supports a compromise plan with both the rail and the pedestrian trail.

Others said the DEC is at fault for not implementing the original 1996 Unit Management Plan that allowed for the development of the corridor.

Phil Gallos said, “Option 6 of the UMP said the DEC would pursue development options in recreation and rail; the village should press New York State to develop fully Option 6.”

Steve Irwin said the resolution “lets the state off the hook.”

Irwin also said the state should be pressed to develop a pedestrian trail without removing the train tracks. Others said that once the tracks are removed, the state will lose the legal right to develop the corridor.

Emily Warner said the tracks go past her back yard, and she counts the passengers when there is a train. “Sometimes there are 40 or 50. Sometimes, zero.”

Warner said the ties are rotted, and further, “I know the tracks of people who walk there now. The trail is being used.”

Still others said a rail plus trail option is better for people with disabilities.

A group of people came from Tupper Lake, including Pete Edwards, Patti Littlefield and Neil Pickering.

“It was us three who asked you to bring this up again,” Edwards said. “I speak for the business community in Tupper. I went door to door to every business, and there were only three that were against the rail trail; all the others were in favor. During the winter, there’s no tourists. A trail is the way to go.”

John Brockway, owner of Charlie’s Inn in Lake Clear Junction, said, “I am for the trail. With those tracks in place, we need at least two feet of snow [to make the trail usable for snowmobiles]. We need to connect Tupper Lake to Lake Placid. I have a historic train station, and passenger trains haven’t run on those tracks since the 1960s.”

Hope Frenette of Tupper Lake cited a survey that found 70 percent of respondents favored the pedestrian trail, 30 percent the railroad, and 20 percent a rail plus trail option.

However, several residents of the village urged the trustees to represent village residents’ interests and not those of “outsiders.”

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