Is ARTA pro-trail or just anti-rail?

As of this writing, it hasn’t even been two full weeks since Judge Main handed down his ruling against the New York state’s “Alternative 7” plan concerning the railroad corridor. I’m seriously wondering if anyone thought that Adirondack Recrerational Trail Advocates would go quietly because I, for one, sure didn’t think it would be over.

It took just a short few hours for ARTA board members to start spreading their well-known style of response on the matter via their social media webpages. ARTA board member Jim McCulley was quoted of saying, “This will be appealed. This judge is noted for not following the law thats why they judge shopped it to Franklin County.” McCulley is the same person that only two days earlier was proclaiming on the same site that the tracks should be pulled “all the way to Remsen.”

More quotes from board member McCulley are, “The NYSDOT [New York State Department of Transportation] has intentionally kept the truth from the public about their support and spending on the ASR [Adirondack Scenic Railroad],” and in the same paragraph, “The DOT hides the fact they illegally pay for ASR repair track maintenance even their utilities.” McCulley’s claims are often so outrageous that one wonders where his hatred of the idea of rail travel originated.

So now the judgment has been made and the tracks stay. This is an open letter to ARTA to come clean and tell us what their exact motive is. Are they pro-trail or anti-rail?

Are they pro-trail, as in are they SERIOUSLY shooting for a goal to get a new trail built? For years now, rail supporters and historic-minded people alike have been calling out the claim that the state’s plan for Tupper Lake to Lake Placid merely mirrored ARTA’s concept to tear up the tracks and build whatever then-current version of the trail would fit their argument. Now that the plan has been ruled as being “affected by errors of law and was arbitrary and capricious,” one would think that ARTA would want to drop their swords and start working WITH both the railroad and the state to come to a LEGITIMATE compromise involving rail WITH trail.

Or are they, as they seem now more than ever, simply anti-rail? The social media postings, as well as numerous letters to various media outlets, paint a picture of an organization that is now more offended than ever that the tracks are staying, and now seem to be going all out to try to sway whosever opinion they can toward the destruction of the rail line.

In a letter published just this morning [Oct. 9], Joe Mercurio, ARTA president, wrote that ARTA finds it “inconceivable that the APA [Adirondack Park Agency] erred when it approved the 2016 unit management plan.” Really, Joe? You had rail supporters, historical societies, former state officials, homeowners along the railroad corridor, property legal experts and even the general public all expressing their thoughts as to the plan being flawed, but you chose to keep pushing the whole idea through at any cost, and yet it was still shot down.

Now is the time for ARTA to join forces and work on the true rail-with-trail compromise, as worked on by TRAC [Trails with Rails Action Committee] that would parallel the tracks where possible, deviate and return to the tracks where needed, and can compliment and coexist alongside a fully operational tourist railroad. If ARTA can do this, then they will save face and people will accept the fact that they, from the start, had a “world-class” trail in mind.

If not, the only conclusion that one can come to is that they simply want the rails gone, and whether or not a trail was built in its wake would be merely a bit of runoff from the death of the railroad.

Which is it, ARTA? We’re listening.

Walter Ordway lives in Greenwich.

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