To the editor:
First, let me set the records straight - I am a volunteer on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad as well as an avid rail-trail bicycle rider. Since we have the railroad in place and it is being used by visitors to the area who are willing to pay for the train ride, leave the usable rails in place and find an ex-rail bed to use as a bicycle trail. For that, I suggest putting a bicycle trail in from Lake Clear to Gabriels to Loon Lake to Mountain View to Whippleville up near Malone. That would make a wonderful 40-mile trail that is already in place for ATVs and snowmobiles. Better yet, the old D&H railroad from Saranac Lake through the Bloomingdale Bog through Buck Pond campsite would be a wonderful 15-mile rail trail, and it, too, is in place for snowmobiles and is mostly on state land already. It just needs a surface made for bicycles.
That said, let me defend the ASR as it is. First, we had more than 10,000 riders on the train last year and are on pace for more riders this year. This is entertaining people who come to the area, as would a bicycle trail. Second, there is NO SUBSIDY from the state for the OPERATION of the ASR in Lake Placid to Saranac Lake. Yes, the rails are owned and maintained by the state, and yes, the ASR is reimbursed by the state for maintenance that we do on the rails. I would suspect that Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates would be looking for state subsidy for the building and maintenance of the rail-trail that they are proposing. (Please do not argue that they could use the money from recycling the iron rails to pay for the rail-trail because the state owns the iron rails and that also would just be a state subsidy.)
So ARTA and people of the area, why not support the trail-WITH-rail proposal that would put a rail-trail NEXT TO THE EXISTING AND USABLE RAIL from Lake Placid to Saranac Lake. We can have our cake and eat it too - everybody would be happy! (Or should be.)