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The Adirondack crab bucket

One of the things the rail-trail fight has brought to light is rather disturbing. A number of commenters have attacked the operators of the rail bike business as getting rich at their expense because they are using a public resource for private gain.

Dick Beamish spelled it out in a letter to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise on Feb. 2: “The goal of the rail bike entrepreneurs is to appropriate a public asset (our railroad corridor) for their own profit. In so doing they would deny free and full use of the corridor to the general public, just as the tourist train operators have been doing for the past 20 years. Catchpoole and Lu would privatize and monopolize what could be, as they themselves acknowledge, ‘a great asset to locals.'”

Mr. Beamish is, to put it kindly, confusing a number of things to paint a false picture. Catchpoole and Lu invested their own money to build a business that brings in visitors, employs local people, generates business for others in the area, and contributes to the local tax base. Anyone could do what they have done. So why are they being attacked?

Does Mr. Beamish object to taxis, tour buses and commercial trucks using the public roads in the area? They’re doing the same thing in principle as the Rail Explorers. They infringe on his free and full right to use those roads to ride his bicycle. Get rid of them, and everyone would be free to use the roads all the time.

Does he object to Dean Pohl operating the W.W. Durant on Raquette Lake for personal profit on a public waterway? Would he object to a bike rental business exploiting the publicly owned rail trail for personal gain? Does he have any problems with snowmobile dealers getting the state to give them a new trail at public expense so they can make money off it by selling more sleds?

And what about the railroad? It is a nonprofit organization, yet it gets attacked for not making any money! The only reason the corridor is usable by anyone else is because of the work this group has done to restore it and keep it open, for over 20 years. Aren’t its volunteers part of the public as well? They get attacked as hobbyists playing with their toys at public expense – so what exactly are people riding their snowmobiles or bicycles doing that’s different?

The crab bucket referred to above is something quite common in seafood markets. Vendors have crabs for sale in open buckets. Theoretically, the crabs could climb out and escape at any time. They don’t because as soon as one crab starts to get on top and climb out, the others grab it and pull it back down. Mr. Beamish is playing to the crab bucket mentality, the one that resents people like the Rail Explorers and the Adirondack Scenic Railroad for getting ahead and succeeding, and for daring to change things. For Catchpoole and Lu, I suspect there’s also resentment along the lines of, “How dare these outsiders come in and throw their money around! We’ll show them.”

I’m pretty sure if and when the rail trail ever gets built, if they get even half the number of outside visitors Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates has guaranteed will show up, you’ll see the same people complaining about all those cars with bike racks taking up the parking spaces, jamming the trails with their bikes and making a traffic hazard on the roads.

Crab bucket. It’s a useful tool for those with their own agenda for the region.

Larry Roth lives in Ravena.

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