Don’t redefine travel corridors

This is an open letter to the Adirondack Park Agency:

Changing the transportation corridor definition is, in my opinion, spot zoning. The intent of the change is to favor the use of the land for a subset of the public, and it reduces the number of citizens able to actually travel along the corridor. It reduces the access to disabled people, violating the intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It effectively reduces the number of transportation corridors connecting Saranac Lake with Lake Placid by 50 percent. This reduction has a severe negative impact on the future transportation capacity between these population centers.

Transportation corridors serve a utilitarian purpose of moving people, goods and services between population centers and other intensive use areas within the park. The primary reason for transportation corridors in not recreation; it is logistics. Without logistics, the Adirondack Park as a system is unable to provide the support visitors require to actually access and use the park as a whole. Removing railroads, current or future, in order to provide a slight increase in total recreational trails hampers any capability to provide for the utilitarian needs of park residents and visitors.

Changing the definition in order to sidestep the recent judicial decision concerning the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor Unit Management Plan does nothing to mitigate the damage that will be done to the national historic value of the current travel corridor. Nor does changing the definition improve the movement of the public between population centers within the park.

The APA and Department of Environmental Conservation have a special interest in not only maintaining the Forest Preserve but also those citizens who live within the park. Giving away the ability to have mass transit between population centers reduces the potential for the park as a whole to provide access to wilderness areas, thus violating the primary reason for the park to exist in the first place. Visitors must have a variety of means to get to a place to stay, which acts as a headquarters for their recreational use of the park.

There are only two transportation corridors connecting Saranac Lake (the largest population center) to Lake Placid. Removing the rails for recreational use reduces them to only one! The travel corridor between these two population centers is already the busiest in the park. If there is no opportunity to increase the capacity of the highway corridor, effectively removing the remaining travel corridor with the only potential to meet future transportation means is shortsighted and fails to meet the needs of the total public interest.

Changing the definition greatly widens the scope of travel corridor that would have second- and third-order effects, such as use of snowmobiles on ALL travel corridors (to include highways); this opens up Pandora’s box concerning the ability to actually regulate use of these corridors.

Removing current and future railroads reduces the ability to move large numbers of people and vehicles with minimal impact on the surrounding forest.

One great advantage to the forest lands immediately surrounding an active railroad is that there is little human impact on these lands.

I support Alternative 1 to the proposal, that the current definition remain unchanged.

James P. Pierson lives in Saranac Lake.