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Delays damage troubled Adirondack economy

To the editor:

New York state delays action on the Adirondack Rail Trail while the regional economy suffers. Albany heard the public, local governments and the press, agreeing to review the plan managing the state-owned Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor, the former New York Central Railroad Adirondack Division – the 1996 unit management plan, more than 15 years past the agreed term for trial use by the railroad.

There was the expense and time of eight public hearings that vetted a proposal to repurpose the underused corridor for the greater potential of a year-round, multi-use recreational trail accommodating trekking, bicycling, skiing and snowmobiling with little or no environmental impact. Months of deliberation followed, and a proposed compromise, Alternative 7, was presented by the joint effort of the state Department of Transportation, as owner, and Department of Environmental Conservation as recreational manager. The Adirondack Park Agency reviewed the new use and supported its legal and proper use in a travel corridor classification. Alternative 7 divides 90 miles of the corridor from the Old Forge area to Lake Placid, converting 34 miles from Lake Placid to Tupper Lake to a rail trail while retaining and possibly restoring 56 additional miles of rail for the seasonal tourist train. Several municipal groups, businesses and the state snowmobile association do not agree with the limited scope of the trail conversion, but they feel the compromise will infuse a great deal of activity and economic benefit to an otherwise stagnant venue and the unfulfilled promises of the train ride.

Rail trail development is a national trend. Bicycling is one of the fastest-growing outdoor activities. Rail trails are linked to health, welfare and property values. Snowmobiling, the primary use of the corridor for 50-plus years, is the undisputed cash cow of Adirondack winters. A few inches will cover the trail where feet are necessary to navigate the rails.

The tourist train has been an attraction in Utica and Old Forge, but its operation has been for special events and limited to the busiest days of the season. The train operates less than 100 days for a few hours a day, a fraction of the use the corridor will see as a trail 24/7, 365 days a year. Obviously the trail use would also fluctuate, yet serve the public and the average small business in a much more manageable way. The impact of the trail would reduce unemployment, narrow the off-seasons and serve a wider base of the public.

The Adirondacks has vested a great deal of trust in the governor to remake the North Country’s stressed economy, listening to local governments, businesses, residents and stakeholders to create sustainable, viable changes to remake our fading communities. We implore DOT, DEC and Gov. Cuomo to advance the plan of trail conversion on the Adirondack travel corridor and begin to reap its bounties.

Scott S. Thompson

Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates

Adirondack Corridor Trail

Norridgewock III Lodge

Beaver River