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ARTA comes off badly on Facebook

As this whole rail-trail debate simmers while the court case in Malone draws closer, I’d like to use this space to address some questions toward ARTA, which stands for Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates.

Currently as of this writing (Aug. 3), there are no less than two Facebook pages that are using those initials for their advocation of destruction of the Adirondack railroad line. Depending on which page you visit, you get very different impressions of what this group is about.

The first one is billed as “The Adirondack Rail Trail” (“https://www.facebook.com/theadirondackrailtrail/home”>www.facebook.com/theadirondackrailtrail/home) and lists ARTA’s homepage as its home link (www.thearta.org). Upon browsing the site, one is treated to many links to various other rails-to-trails projects around the country, as well as write-ups and pictures of the group’s recent “ride to Albany” in which a handful of its members made a relay ride from Lake Placid to the state capital a “thank you” to the governor for his sign-off on the destruction of the line’s north end. This ride had been organized as a rally/protest before the decision was made, but instead it was rebranded as a “thanks!” ride after the decision was “finalized.” Among all of these links to stories of other trails that were once rail beds, the page moderators make no attempt to show what or how or why these other examples are in similarity to the current Adirondack situation. Usually they are just accompanied by a “This could be us!” type of comment.

The second one is a bit weirder upon first glance. Titled “The ARTA” (www.facebook.com/groups/107243836054598/), its message is posted as “An organization advocating the removal of the railroad tracks from Lake Placid NY to Thendara NY. Making this the longest most remote recreational trail in the world. It should be open to Hikers, Bikers Snowmobilers, Skiers,Fisherman, Hunters and Horse back riding. The economic benefits are far greater than the NYSDOT spending millions for a mere 40,000 train riders per year.” OK. That’s all well and good and in their interest of their own opinion, but unlike the other page, which seems to stay somewhat focused on their mission at hand, the second page is loaded with posts, almost on a daily basis, of an empty parking lot outside of the Lake Placid train depot. The photo postings, made by ARTA member Jim McCulley, are purported to be taken during railroad business hours, and they are matched with comments such as “Why do they want to continue up here?” “Today’s clown train,” or, “DOT has know(n) for 20 years that this was a waste of time. Because DOT never made them be honest about ridership and their ability to be a going operation. DOT allowed the ASR to lie and say they were a success. And ASR told the lie often enough that people believed it. The lie is why this became such a bitter debate.”

The ARTA website claims that “ARTA is a New York based 501c3 not-for-profit corporation dedicated to creating a world-class recreation trail from Lake Placid to Old Forge, with a first implementation between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake.”

Based on the Facebook examples, the organization comes off more like a group of people bullying anyone who disagrees with it. Any sort of point that is pro-rail or anti-trail is usually deleted – this has been proven by screen grabs posted in other web forums from original posters whose words have been wiped clean from the ARTA pages. As for the parking lot photos? It all comes off as more stalker-ish than anything else, and the claims that they are taken during full business days really makes one wonder where the patrons do park, because ticket sales don’t lie – unlike what ARTA would want a person to believe.

The last example I’ll show here is a blurb from the first Facebook page that I mentioned, and it states, “Tracks are coming up this fall of 2016.” As I write this, the aforementioned court case between the Adirondack Scenic Railroad and New York state has NOT hit the courts yet. ARTA makes this bold statement and omits any sort of logical thought when it comes to such projects. Let’s say that the state is the “winner” here and the track is to be torn up. Costs aside, bids STILL need to be sent out for prospective companies to do the work, tie disposal (hazmat) and rail removal still need to be finalized, and all of this takes MONTHS. How can ARTA back this crystal-ball-like claim? They’ve been asked about costs for this project countless times and have never given a clear answer, so any answers they could provide to their current claims would be greatly welcomed.

On many occasions, ARTA has been accused of everything from distorting and stretching the truths in this debate, to putting out downright lies. Examples like the above mentions blurbs do NOT help their case.

Walter Ordway lives in Greenwich.