To the editor:
It's hard to imagine a better project and greater cause for the North Country Regional Economic Development Council to go to bat for. That's the 90-mile rail trail envisioned by Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates that will connect Lake Placid and Old Forge utilizing the old railroad bed through the heart of the Adirondacks. This would surely be one of the nation's outstanding bikeways and snowmobile trails, a major tourist destination and a huge boost to the quality of life of local residents.
This Adirondack Rail Trail is a perfect fit for the following criteria set forth by the North Country Regional Economic Development Council for projects that will transform the region.
"Unlock a barrier to economic progress." For 40 years, the old rail line has been rusting and rotting away. But once the rails and ties are removed and a crushed-stone surface put down, we'll have a world-class recreational trail that will attract cyclists and snowmobilers from far and wide.
"Capitalize on a unique region asset." That asset is the rail bed that traverses the Park and is just sitting there, waiting for a second life.
"Demonstrate positive regional impact." What could be more positive than a recreational trail that will, according to the national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, annually draw some 250,000 tourists who will spend an estimated $20 million here?
"Demonstrate a multi-county impact." The Adirondack Rail Trail will connect Essex, Franklin, Hamilton and Herkimer counties, and it will join together the communities of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Beaver River, Big Moose and Old Forge.
"Where things move is where prosperity occurs," says Garry Douglas, the council's co-chair, and who could disagree? What Mr. Douglas has in mind, however, is restoring train service in the 140-mile corridor between Utica and Lake Placid, a move that would preclude use of the rail bed as a recreational trail. ARTA believes that the railroad line went out of business decades ago for good reason. There was no demand for freight or passenger service - and there's even less demand today.
What we do favor, however, is the kind of adaptive reuse that has experienced enormous success nationwide - the conversion of abandoned rail lines into popular recreational trails. The Adirondack Rail Trail between Lake Placid and Old Forge would be a bonanza for bikers, hikers, mothers or fathers pushing strollers, seniors keeping fit, people with disabilities, birdwatchers, runners, athletes in training, families with children - all of them looking for a safe, level, serene, scenic trail, well away from the road traffic where they can enjoy nature and get some exercise in a superb natural setting.
To help us make the Adirondack Rail Trail a reality, visit TheArta.org and click on the sign-up icon.