SARANAC LAKE - A local organization will release a study of the proposed Adirondack Rail Trail during a public meeting here Wednesday evening.
The meeting will be hosted by the Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates, a group that formed last year to push for a year-round, multi-use recreational trail between Lake Placid and Old Forge. It will take place at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Harrietstown Town Hall, 39 Main St., Saranac Lake.
Carl Knoch, manager of trail development for the Northeast office of the national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, will discuss a detailed plan on the first phase of the proposed recreational trail - the 34-mile stretch between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake. Knoch visited the Tri-Lakes earlier this year to conduct a mile-by-mile analysis of the rail corridor. As part of the study, Knoch detailed the "costs and benefits of converting the rail corridor into a year-round, multi-use recreational trail," according to a press release issued by ARTA. The group said the study will highlight the trail's potential impact on jobs, businesses and quality of life in the Tri-Lakes area.
Carl Knoch of the national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy inspects the railroad between Lake Placid and Ray Brook in April. He will present a study of the Lake Placid-to-Tupper Lake rail corridor at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Harrietstown Town Hall in Saranac Lake.
(Enterprise file photo — Chris Morris)
The future of the rail corridor has been a controversial subject for several years. Last month, the controversy boiled over again when ARTA called for North Country Chamber President Garry Douglas' removal as co-chair of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council because he's an adamant supporter of increased rail operations in the region.
Wednesday's meeting is open to the public, and the audience will have an opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback.
ARTA said the new study will explore the costs and benefits of "comparable rail-trail conversions" in other parts of the Northeast, including Maine, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Vermont. ARTA board member Lee Keet, in the release, said the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy study "will provide compelling evidence that a rail trail through the heart of the Adirondacks will attract hundreds of thousands of users annually and generate many millions of dollars in new spending."
Keet said the new study will include data from two previous reports.
Earlier this year, several organizations that support enhanced railroad service in the region - including the North Country Chamber of Commerce, Adirondack North Country Association and Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce - teamed up to sponsor a study done by Stone Consulting on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad's economic impact. That study found that current railway operations have a $3 million economic impact on the region in direct spending, and could bring $5.5 million in tourist spending annually if the railroad is rehabilitated from Utica to Lake Placid.
In 2011, a Camoin Associates study showed that either expanding railroad operations or replacing the railroad with a recreational trail would have a larger economic impact than doing nothing. That study was sponsored by AdkAction.org, an organization Keet helped establish.
"The Adirondack Rail Trail is an idea whose time is long overdue," Keet said in the release. "This largest American park outside Alaska is famed for its thousands of miles of hiking and paddling trails, yet one recreational amenity is conspicuously lacking.
"Nowhere in the Adirondacks is there an easy, safe, level, compactly-surfaced, long-distance trail that links our communities, traverses our wild and beautiful landscapes, and can be enjoyed on a daily basis by people of all ages and physical abilities."