To the editor:
I'd like to address Gail Brill's recent letter to the editor "Removing the rails would be a mistake."
Why is that idea such a mistake? First, given their current state of deterioration, the rails and ties would have to be replaced in any case, should the kind of transportation needs envisioned by Mrs. Brill become a reality.
The real problems we have here in our Adirondack communities are population loss and lack of employment opportunities. This is not unique to the Adirondacks but a problem all across the Northern Forest counties, as stated in a recently released report by the Carsey Institute called "Demographic Change in the Northern Forest" (www.carseyinstitute.unh.edu/publications/IB-Johnson-Northern-Forests.pdf). Before we can transport goods, services and people, we actually have to have people here to use the goods and services.
One way to attract people here, according to the findings of the Carsey report, is to provide the amenities that outdoor-oriented folks in the 45-to-65 age group are looking for. These are the people who will be a significant part of our economic recovery for the next 30-plus years. These are the types of people we want to attract here, and guess what? They WANT to come. But they are also looking for recreational amenities that don't require you to be an Olympic athlete to participate. These are people who will not be giving up their vehicles anytime soon. Yes, they may purchase a more fuel-efficient one, but they won't stop driving until the state takes their driver's licenses away. What these people want is walkable and bicycle-friendly communities so that they can maintain their health and enjoy an outdoor-oriented lifestyle.
This is important to the communities of the Adirondacks because, according to the Carsey Institute report, the only regions experiencing population growth in the counties compromising the Northern Forest are those with a strong recreation sector. To quote: "Population gains were greatest in Forest counties with amenities that attracted recreational activity and retirees. Nearly all of the growth in these counties was fueled by migration. Population gains were the smallest in Forest counties that specialized in manufacturing. These trends reflect the growing importance of natural and built amenities, as well as the waning influence of manufacturing."
So why, then, do we continue to procrastinate? It's time to remove the rails and ties, and get some much-needed recreational and economic benefit from the corridor's conversion to a user-friendly rail trail NOW. Should Mrs. Brill's utopian vision of a burgeoning Adirondack population and demand for rail service ever come to pass, the rail bed will be ready and waiting for restoration.
Yes, Gail, sometime in the distant future, we may need a rail line. But RIGHT NOW, we actually need people and jobs, and it is my, and many others', opinion that the Adirondack Rail Trail will do that better and faster than restoration of train service from Lake Placid to Utica.
ARTA Board of Directors