Comments on the trail plan
First, the process by which comments have been collected on this ongoing issue has been less than satisfactory. There are several questions that myself and my neighbors in Lake Clear have asked and never gotten answers for over the years that this process has dragged on for.
The stakeholders group had not one member from the Lake Clear area. There are over 50 lots that are bisected by the railroad in the Lake Clear area. This is as close to a stakeholder as anyone else can claim. Yet no one from Lake Clear, whose property is bisected by the right of way, was asked, or allowed to be part of the process. I know of at least one neighbor who asked to be a part of the group but was barred from participating in the closed-door, high-security meetings.
The plan, as put forward, completely ignores very real problems with the proposed trail in the Lake Clear area.
First and foremost is the fact that the railroad is occupying and operating within a railroad right-of-way. The state does not own the land. They have a right-of-way through the properties. For a railroad. This use does not extend to a trail. The state taking the position that it owns the land is proven wrong by a complete lack of any property tax payments by the state, or the railroad, for the property in question. Where and when has the state paid any property taxes to Franklin County on this property? I can find no record of the state, or the preceding railroad, paying anything at all in property taxes for this property. This fact alone seems to prove the ROW issue is valid, and a lot more widespread than the state or the local media is willing to admit. It is very easy to verify this.
I put forward a plan at several of the meetings in the past which would allow the trail to use the existing state Department of Transportation roads to get around the Lake Clear area without the intrusion of thousands of people a day walking, biking and skiing through my and my neighbors’ yards. The plan is attached.
This plan could save the people of Lake Clear and the people of state of New York a whole lot of time, trouble and money. The existing ROW agreement does not extend to trail use. If the state pushes this use, there will be pushback. Lawyers. Lots of money spent on lawyers. Each individual property owner will be able to bring suit. Not only that, but the existing surveys and land use in the Lake Clear area are far from settled. The state will be opening itself up as a party to disputes between neighboring property owners. There are rumors of long-standing issues that this will bring forward. None have easy or clear answers. This could lead to decades of ill will, legal battles and ongoing costs.
If the plan moves ahead, there are also water quality issues with paving the entire southern shore of Lake Clear. The state DOT is already facing criticism for the climbing salinity of Lake Clear, heretofore one of the cleanest lakes in the Adirondacks. The lake is already ringed by state roads. This proposal adds yet another state road, 300 feet from an existing road. Litter, debris and policing issues have never been addressed. All of these issues have been brought up at previous meetings. They were dismissed. The current plan does nothing to address these known problems.
I have watched this entire process move forward. I have participated at every level. No answers or guidance have ever been given. Hand-waving was the normal response. The formation of, and the plan put forward by, the ill-named stakeholders group is an insult. The decision was made early on for a trail with little or no input from anyone but the people supporting the trail, at any cost. This is not public policy. It is special-interest marketing and the taking of land supported only by vapid conceptual plans and the illusion of law. As the state is finding out with the current legal suit filed by the railroad, the illusion of law and public support is not, and will not be enough. Seeking some sort of consensus with the stakeholders of this dispute could be proverbial train that has already left the station.
John Lanahan lives in Lake Clear.