To the editor:
I don't have strong feelings either way concerning the removal of the tracks, but I can relate a personal experience that does not seem to have been a part of the discussion thus far.
The long-term economics of rail vs. trail (I believe that the side-by-side "and" proposition is completely unworkable - it's one or the other) can be discussed forever, and all of that discussion is pure speculation colored by the biases of the individual presenting the argument.
I would, however, like to remind everyone that there is a current cost/benefit that is being experienced every winter.
When I first moved here, a group of friends would get together regularly and travel to Tupper Lake and then to points beyond. This included a stop at the Lumberjack for breakfast, gas across the street and then dinner and more gas back in Tupper Lake before returning to Saranac Lake. Five to seven people, two meals, two fill-ups - anywhere from $110 to $130 per person anywhere from eight to 10 times each winter, somewhere in the neighborhood of $5,000 to $7,000 injected into the Tupper Lake economy each winter from our small group alone.
Then one day in 2003, I caught a ski at a pinch point where a siding connects to the main track. This incident has had three consequences: $1,800 in damages to my snowmobile, no more trips on the rails (we go north instead) and advising everyone we encounter to likewise stay off the tracks.
In our case, removing the tracks would not simply extend the snowmobile season; it would mean the difference between adding Tupper Lake to our list of possible destinations or leaving it off the list.
And I know that our admonitions about the rails have been effective because many of the people we talk to are subsequently encountered in Mountain View or over at Deer Valley Trails.
I am perfectly content to keep riding north - the scenery is great, the trails are interesting, and the food is good. But the folks concerned about the winter economy of Tupper Lake might care which way I go.