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A Corridor Challenge

January 6, 2012 - Ernest Hohmeyer
I am divided on the rails vs. trails debate.

This whole issue may be my own problem.

My schizophrenia may be due to the fact that the property where I grew up and live is literally, not figuratively, divided by the corridor.

Perhaps the corridor dividing our property is a symbolic microcosm of the way we debate the issues in the Adirondacks. Perhaps the only way I can relate to things is to divide and conquer and not to integrate and make my own reasoned decisions.

Perhaps I have forgotten what our forefathers told us – or at least what my father told me: put a bunch of different perspectives into one room and you’ll come away with a better idea.

Growing up divided may be too strong for me to overcome. After all, I grew up in a Park where by fact, history and culture we have formed a debate environment sometimes referred to as the “Balkanization of the Adirondacks.”

There is no Place to Go.

So we have to make up our own “forums” and maybe that’s why we end up yelling so loud. There are way too many voices that need to hear us – including all those other factions we didn’t even know we were supposed to talk to. They seem to come out of the woodwork at the most inopportune time and we didn’t even know they were in the woodwork to begin with.

It’s too bad we don’t have a real Park so that when regional issues like the corridor come about there is an organizational framework to discuss them.

Why is it that our requests to act like a Park is like asking for another amendment to the Constitution? You would think we were asking for something special. This is ironic because everyone tells us we are a treasure.

I’m not sure we want to be that kind of a gift.

We would just like to operate and function like most other “parks” in the country and throughout the world. There is a clear management structure that appropriate agencies subscribe to as a chain of command on behalf of what is recognized as a special region. In many cases there is an economic and tourism strategy that local, regional, state and federal agencies understand.

In these parks, there is a place to go.

Opinions based on one perspective seem to be the rage of the day with all the social media review sites. In National Affairs, Marc Dunkelman’s article the “Transformation of American Community” refers to our “honeycomb society” of “Small segments of like-minded acquaintances.” Are we preferring to spend time with “friends” rather than listening to different point of views? This “push and pull” of different perspectives he writes “necessitated constant collaboration and in the end, fertilized American dynamism.”

Perhaps because of this, typical of our debate the Adirondacks, we will wait for one side to produce information.

We will then have to wait for other perspectives to respond or produce their information.

In the meantime time marches on and in the end we will have to decipher different points of view that do not use a similar baseline of information. It’s sort of like searching through the different languages looking for directions on a pain reliever hoping to get to the English one - before your headache kills you.

Is it possible to do a simple thing and that is to get everyone on all sides of the debate together?

Perhaps it could be a simple agenda – something like this:

1. Where Are We 10 minutes for all sides to summarize their goals for 2012.

2. Where Are We Going What are the key objectives for all groups in the next 1 to 3 years?

3. What Our Future Plans What are the long-term plans, if any for the entire corridor by any of these groups? If so, have clear objectives and benchmarks with timetables and investments been laid out?

4. Rails & Trails In terms of rails and trails, could all sides work together and at least agree on what the cost and potential would be to do this? It may be more costly but would the benefits be greater – or less?

5. Marketing. A great deal has been said about the potential for different uses. Who is the target audience? Where are they from? How will reach them? Do we have the amenities to attract them?

It may be that not all sides will have the resources to provide equal and thorough information. That’s okay though it is unfortunate. This is where a park wide economic office could be of assistance if one existed. They could create a “corridor commission” made up not only of all sides to the debate but important state and federal representatives such as the Department of Transportation, historic preservation and others.

A Corridor Business Plan? Going one step forward, this group together creates an overall look at the future of the corridor.

One document, one set of questions with participation from all.

I am too old to know that even this would be difficult to do and achieve consensus. But worthwhile initiatives like the future of the corridor may be worth trying. Our small communities did pull off not one, but two Olympic Games and I can only imagine the intense debate that must have taken place on how to best do that.

What Changed? When I was growing up these same tracks was a bustle of activity in the winter filled with snowmobiles from morning till night. Our family used to joke that there were more snowmobile traffic then cars on the road. Snowmobiling used to be half of our business.

The tracks were there then just like they are now.

We participated with Franklin County on promoting snowmobiling.

This traffic for the last several years is down significantly. Franklin County is no longer aggressively pursues snowmobiling. Is it only because of the tracks?

A Bike Route to Canada? There is also a trail that runs from Lake Clear to Malone. Canada looms next door.

Known as the “old rail bed,” there are no tracks on this trail.

If cycling has become a new tourism engine why has there not been an effort to turn this trail into a major recreational link with Canada and Montréal which is a world-renowned biking center?

Where is the RR? Why have we not heard more from the railroad, except its emphasis on the historic value of the line? Exactly what are its plans to maximize the economic potential of the corridor? Does it even have the capability to do so?

Our Communities Need More Commerce. I can see a world of a year-round recreation trail promoted by our communities and the region. I can also see gas at $5-$6 a gallon like they have been paying for years in Europe, making a tourist train from New York City potentially more viable year-round.

What will the effect of global warming be on any option?

I know we can’t answer everything but it would be nice to agree on a set of assumptions similar to a business plan. I would just like to get away from the feeling that everyone is already convinced they have the correct answers without compromise and are really just searching for the right questions to convince me.

But it may be just me, having grown up on a divided property in a divided region.

What I am afraid of seeing is a typical Adirondack debate of one side versus the other were it will take years for any of us to realize the best and highest use of the corridor.

Perhaps we can start off with a simple get-together. Putting my words where my mouth is, we can even use our divided property. If we cannot mingle with each other, there is plenty of room for folks to stand on each perspective side of the tracks. Those of us with questions can stand in the middle.

Can we create better answers by working together? Do we owe it to the future of this important asset to try?

 
 

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