Rails with trails understood in England

To the editor:

If handling loss is a test of character, so is winning. Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates is not doing well by that test. A visit to the ARTA Facebook page finds understandable celebration – but also mean-spirited gloating, censorship and continuing anti-rail propaganda. While the Adirondack Scenic Railroad gets flack for not accepting the “compromise” – ARTA has not accepted it either. The official ARTA position still calls for ripping out the rails all the way to Thendara.

A July 20 Adirondack Almanack article “Tupper Lake: A Hub of Potential” looks forward to having both trains and a trail in the town. I commented that that potential is less than it could be because ARTA refuses to consider any cooperation with the railroad. ARTA member Hope Frenette’s responses emphasized that total rejection. ARTA’s primary mission is still to get rid of the tracks; the trail is bait they’re using to get that done.

ASR is fighting for the 1996 rails AND trails plan. Here’s why I support that – and why cyclists and the state should, too. I recently traveled to the historic town of Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire, England – by train. At the station I found a car park, a bus stop and more. A covered bike rack was waiting with bicycles for rent – the English have Bike & Go (www.bikeandgo.co.uk). Join, and you can rent bikes anywhere train stations have them available. There’s also a covered bike rack by the car park for commuters, visitors and local riders.

Signs around the station show walking paths, bus schedules, where to call for a taxi or a car, a map of the town, local attractions and more. Visitors come off the train and are almost instantly oriented to the area. It’s a de facto visitor center – and it connects to the Pennine Cycleway (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pennine_Cycleway). This is a true world-class trail, part of a national trail system.

It purposely connects with rail stations so trail users can go out or return from trips by train. English trains encourage you to bring your own bike on board for no extra charge; I saw several cyclists do so. Beside station bike racks, there are also lockers big enough to take an entire bicycle with touring gear; riders can use them for free for 24 hours, and secure them with their own lock. These are all things that could be done along the ASR rail line – ARTA willing.

Hebden Bridge lost its industrial base long ago. It’s trying to survive by tourism, by attracting “creatives” and as a bedroom community – all things ARTA claims to support. Tupper Lake will get Utica’s Union Station for a new front door and visitor center. The ASR already offers bike and rail service (and canoe/kayak) on the southern end. It will extend this to Tupper Lake – and to the rest of the Tri-Lakes IF the tracks are saved.

ARTA’s uncompromising anti-rail fanaticism serves neither its members nor the region.

Larry Roth

Ravena