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ARTA wants Douglas removed as NCREDC co-chair
June 26, 2012 - Chris Morris
The Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates wants Garry Douglas removed as co-chair of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council for allegedly showing bias toward railroad operations.
ARTA issued a press release minutes ago citing "multiple incidents over the past three months where Mr. Douglas, who is charged with promoting optimal economic development for the North Country in his role as president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of the NCREDC, has operated with an overt and egregious bias in favor of rail restoration on the corridor between Utica and Lake Placid, despite growing evidence that such an expenditure of taxpayer funds hurts rather than helps our struggling economy."
ARTA formed last year to advocate for the creation of a multi-use, year-round recreational trail on the rail corridor between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid. In Tuesday's release, ARTA indicated it wants that trail to run along the unused portions of rail between Old Forge and Saranac Lake. ARTA's Dick Beamish confirmed that if the town of North Elba can make a side-by-side trail work between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, his organization is OK with that.
On the call for Douglas's removal as co-chair of NCREDC, ARTA claims that he "distributed 'anonymous' flyers falsely claiming that certain organizations support rail restoration, including Paul Smith’s College, the Harrietstown Board of Trustees, the Village of Saranac Lake Board of Trustees, the Wild Center, and the Adirondack Observatory, all of which have denied in writing ever having made such a statement."
The press release also cites a letter Douglas wrote to the Tupper Lake Free Press "urging rail supporters to come out in force to drown out recreational-trail supporters at the NCREDC meeting tomorrow night (June 7) at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, where as co-chair he is chartered with eliciting exactly the kind of input he seeks to suppress."
ARTA President Joe Mercurio said his organization expects "officials representing us on various development organizations, including chambers of commerce and the Cuomo-appointed regional economic development councils, to work for the best interests of our communities.
"It is clear that Mr. Douglas has an agenda that is counter to the highest-yield economic development for our region, as study after study has shown that the return on a dollar invested in renewed rail service returns pennies to our local communities, whereas a dollar invested in conversion to a recreation trail offers a multi-dollar payback," Mercurio added.
Mercurio said ARTA has asked the other co-chair, Clarkson University President Tony Collins, to seek Douglas' removal, "either voluntarily or by an act of the board.
"If Mr. Douglas does not step down or is not removed, we intend to ask the Governor to remove him, as it is clear that his interests are not aligned with the people of the North Country or the objectives set out for the NCREDC," Mercurio said.
I called and emailed Douglas for a response to this story, but hadn't heard back as of 4:40 p.m. Tuesday. I'll update as more information becomes available.
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