2018 resolutions for Gov. Cuomo

A young girl rides a bike on the Virginia Creeper Trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western Virginia. (Photo provided — Richard Smith)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has done much to promote the tourist economy of the Adirondacks. In furtherance of his good work, we urge the governor to adopt the following new year’s resolutions and, in so doing, make the Adirondack Park an even better place to live and visit.

1. Adirondack Rail Trail

In recognition that a 34-mile recreation trail on the rail bed connecting Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake will be of economic and recreational benefit to the Tri-Lakes area, I will, as the state’s chief executive, instruct the Adirondack Park Agency to remove any ambiguity in the State Land Master Plan governing this “travel corridor” and its appropriate use as a priceless public resource. Such ambiguity, as recently perceived by a state Supreme Court judge, is delaying conversion of the railroad line into a tourist destination that will draw users from far and wide. Along with bicycle riders of all ages and abilities, those who would repeatedly use the Adirondack Rail Trail include parents pushing baby joggers, small children riding tricycles or bikes with training wheels, people riding in wheelchairs, commuters biking to work, fitness buffs doing their daily workout, elderly folks out for a stroll, serious athletes in training, birdwatchers wielding binoculars, dog walkers soaking up nature — in short, everyone wishing to enjoy the Adirondacks in a peaceful, scenic setting well away from the noise, pollution and hazards of motor vehicle traffic.

2. Rail-trail success stories

I resolve to take into account the success of rail-to-trail conversions elsewhere, a national trend that has been instrumental in furthering the economic well-being, public health and quality of life for localities nationwide. There are now more than 2,200 miles of rail trails in this country, with the number growing almost daily. To cite just a few examples from literally hundreds of success stories:

A survey sponsored by Parks and Trails New York found that the Erie Canalway Trail between Albany and Buffalo generates some $253 million a year in sales and $28 million in taxes in the upstate economy; the Island Line Rail Trail on the Vermont side of Lake Champlain, which connects Burlington with Grand Isle to the north, is a hugely popular recreational amenity which has also enhanced the value of property nearby; the Virginia Creeper Trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western Virginia, comparable in many ways to the eagerly awaited Adirondack Rail Trail linking Lake Placid and Tupper Lake, now attracts up to 250,000 visitors a year (source: town of Abingdon in western Virginia); the Withlacoochee State Trail in Florida, used annually by an estimated 400,000 bikers, joggers and walkers, generates $30 million for the local economy (source: Florida Department of Environmental Conservation); more than 500,000 yearly visits were recorded for the Swamp Rabbit Trail in South Carolina, a community asset funded in part by a local hospital in recognition of its health benefits (source: survey by Furman University). (The Swamp Rabbit Trail also revitalized Travelers Rest, a village at one end of the trail that is comparable in size and which faced comparable economic challenges to Tupper Lake.)

3. Celebrating Adirondack history

The conversion of abandoned or underutilized rail beds has proved an effective way of presenting a region’s history to the greatest number of people. In recognition thereof, I resolve to help celebrate the fascinating past of railroading in the Adirondacks, which opened the region to loggers, miners, health seekers and tourists, by supporting interpretive signs and kiosks along the Adirondack Rail Trail. I will support the utilization of train stations and associated structures as mini-museums, tourist-information centers, bike shops and places where trail travelers can dine and refresh themselves.

4. Upper Hudson Rail Trail

I will lead the way in supporting the move to convert into a rail trail the little-used rail corridor extending from the state’s Capital Region in Saratoga along the Upper Hudson River to North Creek, and from there to Tahawus in the shadow of the High Peaks. I resolve to take this action in recognition that another world-class rail trail will, along with the Adirondack Rail Trail between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake, add a new recreational dimension to the Adirondack Park.

5. Improving railroads statewide

Because railroads tend to be the most efficient and environmentally sound means of moving people between population centers, I will do all in my power to improve passenger service between New York City, Albany, Buffalo and Montreal. Ditto with freight service, the most benign way to move goods whenever possible. Conversely, I pledge not to waste another penny of public funds to subsidize tourist trains that provide no significant benefit to local communities while, at the same time, prevent a far more productive use of these travel corridors for recreational, health and economic purposes.

Dick Beamish, who recently moved from Saranac Lake to Middlebury, Vermont, founded the Adirondack Explorer magazine in 1998 and is a board member of Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates.


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