People should appreciate Rail Explorers

To the editor:

Imagine a baseball stadium full of fans. There are families, tiny babies, creaky-boned seniors, wheelchair-bound adventurers and diverse visitors from all over the U.S. and the world. Some are Red Sox fans, some prefer the Yankees, most are still excited over the Cubs taking the Series this past fall, but no one is actually talking about baseball — all 37,000 of them are talking about one thing: rail biking in the Adirondacks.

Thirty-seven thousand people — enough to fill Fenway Park — came to the Adirondacks over our last two summer tourist seasons to ride with Rail Explorers USA, and for 24,000 of them (65 percent), that was their primary purpose in visiting.

Rail Explorers is rated No. 1 on TripAdvisor for “Outdoor Activities” in the entire Adirondacks, and No. 1 for both “Outdoor Activities” and “Things to Do” in Saranac Lake.

Lonely Planet called the “Adirondacks, NY” one of the Top Ten Places to Visit in the U.S. in 2017 and highlighted Rail Explorers in Saranac Lake and Lake Clear as one of three destination activities.

I Love NY’s website “Spotlight: Adirondacks” provides a week-long itinerary for visitors and lists Rail Explorers in Tupper Lake and Lake Clear as an activity for the very first day.

Rail Explorers is an innovative, human-powered economic engine for our area.

It is a Minority Woman-Owned Business.

It employed 36 people in 2016, 28 of whom averaged 40 hours per week.

The 2016 payroll was $370,000.

The company touched almost every business in the community through direct purchases like T-shirts, fuel, hardware, labor and catering, or indirectly from their customers who stayed in hotels and visited restaurants and our downtown specialty shops.

The company’s sustainable use of existing infrastructure has been at zero cost to the state and village.

This company is exactly what we wish for when we talk about economic development in the North Country.

Husband-and-wife team Alex Catchpoole and Mary-Joy Lu love Saranac Lake and want to stay and expand their business, not only because our community was clearly perfect for their operation from the moment they opened their doors but also because of the people we are: friends.

Thirty-three local businesses, organizations and the Franklin County Board of Legislators have recently thanked Rail Explorers with heartfelt letters and a formal resolution recognizing their “rising tide of economic impact.”

To the participants who submitted Rail Explorers Appreciation Letters and to the Franklin County Legislature, I thank you on behalf of the broad consortium of businesses, organizations and individuals who value the economic opportunity created by Rail Explorers. The resolution shows thoughtful leadership by Franklin County in representing these interests, and the letters from the community help Mary-Joy and Alex as they deliberate the uncertain future of their business in the Adirondacks in the face of their strong vocational and personal desire to stay here.

A paper copy of all the letters and resolution is at the Saranac Lake Free Library until Feb. 15, and most are available online at https://goo.gl/5gu5oP.

Sunita Halasz

On behalf of the group “Working Together Saranac Lake (and Beyond)”

Saranac Lake

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