To the editor:
In this rail-trail debate, the issue of wilderness and conservation has been pushed onto the back burner by the unfair generalization of an "elitist" agenda. We must remember that the Adirondacks were created around an ethos of "forever wild" public lands. With this in mind, land management should provide the greatest good for the greatest number of people while preserving the intrinsic aesthetic and wilderness qualities of the land. Though the issue of greatest good, greatest number has been discussed ad nauseum, it seems that concerns about the intrinsic values of our public lands have fallen by the wayside.
I am not advocating for a gate on either end of the current railway between Old Forge and Lake Placid, blocking public access, but for economically, socially and environmentally sustainable land management strategies. Passenger and freight trains are not an economically sustainable solution: Despite their nostalgia, it is hard to dispute the national decline in the locomotive industry. (Those better versed than I in the economics of this industry have said the same.) Additionally, when considering the many options for the future of this passage, it is hard to argue that maintaining locomotion would have the largest environmental impact of any option. Building a multi-use rail trail, as proposed by the Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates, would provide social and economic benefits to the towns the trail passes through while diminishing the environmental impact of the train to wildlife habitat and movement - truly the greatest good for the greatest number.