SARANAC LAKE - A pair of village board members rode the railroad tracks from here to Tupper Lake on Thursday to get a firsthand look at the tracks some people want to replace with a recreational trail and others want to build such a trail alongside.
Mayor Clyde Rabideau and Trustee Tom Catillaz rode in the back of a red pickup truck, outfitted with wheels that fit the rails, from Saranac Lake's Union Depot to Tupper Lake's train station. They were joined by a pair of Adirondack Scenic Railroad employees and several members of the media. The excursion took about two hours, given that the truck could only go about 10 mph.
Dan McClelland and Dan Mecklenburg, members of pro-train group Next Stop Tupper Lake, had invited the village board to ride the rails during a presentation they made to the mayor and trustees Monday night. Next Stop Tupper Lake wants to rebuild the railroad tracks and restore rail service to Tupper Lake, and put a recreational trail alongside the tracks.
From left, Next Stop Tupper Lake member Dan McClelland, Saranac Lake village Trustee Tom Catillaz and Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau smile in front of Tupper Lake’s train station Thursday after riding there from Saranac Lake on a high-rail truck.
Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates, a group that met with the board earlier this summer, has called on the village to support pulling up the rails and converting the corridor to a multi-use recreational trail. ARTA supporters believe it would be too costly to build a recreational path along the tracks between Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake.
Asked for his impressions of the trip, Rabideau said, "There's a heck of a lot of wetlands in there.
"It'd be a tremendous challenge to do both (the trail alongside the railroad)," he said. "But as one person said on the ride, if you've got the will and the money, you can do anything. There's probably the will, but I don't see any money coming out of anywhere."
Rabideau said the village still needs to gather more information before taking a stance on the issue.
"I want to know about the railbanking issue," he said. "Fifty years or 100 years from now, that corridor, we might need it for high-speed rail. We don't know. If we could railbank it, which means if you take up the tracks and later put them back, maybe that's an option.
"Everybody's got different facts, numbers, projections, estimates. How do you get the real numbers when there's such disparity? We're going to do our due diligence and go from there."
The village is planning to host a meeting among stakeholders on both sides of the issue. Rabideau thinks it will take place toward the end of the year.
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.