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Extend rail trail to Big Moose

To: John Schmid, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY, 12233-4254; adirondackpark@dec.ny.gov

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Dear Sir,

I am responding to DEC and the state Department of Transportation’s request for suggestions for future use of the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor. I am requesting that you add as an option a longer multi-use rail trail by allowing that portion of the travel corridor from Tupper Lake to Big Moose Station to be included in a multi-use rail trail.

The Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan says in Part II on page 14, “THE ACT REQUIRES the Agency to classify the State Lands in the Park according to ‘their characteristics and capacity to withstand use.'” What place, other than a road, is there in the Adirondack Park that has such capacity to withstand use? A rail bed with rails removed would easily have that capacity year-round to withstand MULTIPLE USES in both character and time, much more so than the miniscule use of the Tupper Lake to Big Moose Station section of the travel corridor has seen for the past 23 years!

The heart of the problem to the Adirondack Park’s ability to become a fully successful year-round tourist attraction is winter! The inability of the state of New York to successfully integrate Adirondack winter into its economic plans is an important factor. There is, however, another government entity other than the Lake Placid area that has successfully harnessed winter to its advantage. They are the townships of Inlet and Webb, popularly known as “Old Forge.” In the mid to late 1960s, forward-thinking persons in those towns recognized a new method of leisure wintertime entertainment that would turn their towns from hibernating villages in winter to a flourishing wintertime destination! What was the new wintertime entertainment? Snowmobiling! DEC and DOT, you need to visit the businesses in the Old Forge area and ask the owners of businesses that are open in winter for tourism one question: “Would you be open in winter if there were NO snowmobiling?” 

The opening of a rail-less railroad bed from Big Moose to Lake Placid would effectively add another 500-plus miles of already existing snowmobile trails to the towns of Webb and Inlet’s trails, thus making them more competitive with northern New England and Canada as a snowmobiling destinations. With the addition of this extra trail mileage, Old Forge would become “the” snowmobiling destination in New York state and possibly the northeastern USA. Without the cutting of “timber” or building of “bridges”! This also would help the “forgotten locations” of Piercefield, Conifer, Childwold, Cranberry Lake and Star Lake and other northern Adirondack towns with increased business in winter, and in summer due to bicycling as well.

With the handcuffing of the community connector snowmobile trails in the courts, it is even more urgent that this centrally important snowmobile trail be allowed to operate all winter long by making it a multi-use rail trail! DOT, NOT allowing this rail-embedded snowmobile trail to be used all winter long due to insufficient snowfall to cover the rails would be a gross underutilization of a state taxpayer-funded asset. DOT, this rail bed should be used year-round for multiple uses! It should not be a considered a “seasonal travel corridor” to be saved for just a railroad that MIGHT be used at some future date. The potential of the Big Moose-to-Tupper Lake portion of the travel corridor has been wasted for 23 YEARS!

Let’s flip over to other uses that would complement the town of Webb, Inlet and other central and northern Adirondack towns and locations. First of all is a world-class bicycling rail trail year-round (fat tire bicycling in late fall, winter and early spring), to add to the Webb-Inlet and north-central Adirondack vacation toolbox. With the development of the Grass River Railroad Trail, a connection from Conifer Station on the expanded Adirondack Rail Trail and the portions that are snowmobile trail, it will provide tourist access year-round to Conifer and Cranberry Lake. Access to remote trails for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, hiking and primitive camping are among other uses that could be enjoyed as well. Low-impact hiking: We met a couple in their 60s along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Trail making their third and final 100-mile hike from Washington, D.C., to western Maryland. Many communities throughout the USA hold events along the rail trails that go through their communities, Quilts Along the Trail on the Lake Wobegon Trail in Minnesota, which also holds a marathon on its trail, is an example.

The train component of the trail should remain as it is now, because of the current status of using only Remsen to Big Moose Station. The current operator of that section of the travel corridor has had to concentrate on operations from Utica to Big Moose. DOT: For years that operator has tried to maintain too much of the corridor. The concentration of its operations now is forcing it to develop its venue in the current section of trackage, and it appears that it is diversifying its entertainment choices with success. Allowing it to operate from Big Moose to Tupper Lake would only return it to the same performance it has had in the last 23 years. The merger of rail trail and train at Big Moose Station could provide another tool to the Adirondack tourism toolbox for ALL users of the travel corridor. Transporting bicyclists from the Empire State Trail — which, by the way, will intersect the rail line the Adirondack Scenic Railroad uses at some point in the Mohawk Valley-to-Old Forge area — that intersection could be done by either a bicycle lane on North Genesee Street to Union Station or by a whistle stop being built by the DOT at the intersection of the Eire Canal Trail section of the Empire State Trail. Long- and short-distance bicyclists could catch the train to Thendara or Big Moose Station and either bicycle the Tobie Trail to Big Moose Station, perhaps dropping a little money along the way, or if a train would be running to Big Moose Station, they could ride the Great Adirondack Rail Trail to Lake Placid and back to catch a train to Utica to continue their journey on the Empire State Trail.

Multi-use rail trails are putting a different kind of engine on their rail beds throughout the USA. It’s a multi-use economic engine for ALL types of users. New York State DEC and DOT, let’s take this seldom-used part of railroad, remove the diesel engine and the rails, and turn it into an economic and recreational engine for the benefit of all the citizens of New York state by making it a multi-use rail trail abutting the railroad operator that will bring visitors to the Adirondacks from all over the USA as well as New York state. The possibilities to “withstand use” are expanded ONLY if you diversify the “use” of the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor!

Marcel and June Carrier live in Star Lake and Callicoon.