By our count, the Enterprise has published at least 200 letters to the editor and Guest Commentaries on the Adirondack rail-trail debate, including 79 in 2011 and 110 so far this year.
So, yeah, it's controversial.
That controversy needs to be dealt with productively. It's gotten too big to ignore and shows no sign of fading. Rather, it's swelling, spreading and becoming better organized.
There are strong points both for and against tearing up some or all of the tracks and replacing them with a recreational trail for bikes, snowmobiles, etc., on this 120-mile, state-owned corridor. We won't repeat those arguments here; if you read the paper with any regularity, you've heard them. They've probably been batted around your dinner table, too.
We're not ready to pick a side, but we do think it's time for a formal reckoning, especially now that municipalities along the tracks are taking stands. Boards of the towns of North Elba and Piercefield and the village of Lake Placid have voted in support of replacing the rails with a trail, while the Saranac Lake village and Tupper Lake town boards have voted to reopen the rail corridor's unit management plan.
We agree with the latter. Let's handle this the right way, the UMP way - a thorough, public process that's been prescribed for this circumstance and that's been done for all sorts of other parcels of state land in the Adirondacks, with results the public has generally accepted as fair. If this UMP update goes as well as others have, all but the most ardent advocates will accept its determination.
Of course, the state is way behind on all kinds of UMPs, but those aren't generating the kind of public outcry - including from municipalities - that this is.
And while some may say the UMP process is time-consuming and expensive, at this point, it's time. Actually, it's past time.
The fact that the rail corridor UMP is overdue for an update is one of the roots of our current predicament. When the state completed it in 1995, it was supposed to be revisited every five years. That should have happened three times now, but it never did.
Let's do it soon and deal with this situation. Until then, we hope state officials will hold off on investing large chunks of money in this railroad. Plan first; then spend.