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Adirondack rail or trail?

Renee and Suzette ride fat bikes at the Norridewock Lodge’s takeout window in Beaver River on Feb. 21. (Provided photo — Scott Thompson)

To the editor:

As winter draws to a close and construction season nears, we have to again ask, rail or trail?

This winter has been one of the best in years for snow coverage on the rail corridor, thus allowing the most consistent grooming (minus a few problem areas) in years, with a corresponding increase in traffic and business. With the corridor as trunk, its many branches saw remarkable increases: Herkimer, Hamilton, St. Lawrence, Franklin and Essex counties benefited. Unfortunately, COVID protocol limited economic benefits, but increased travel was dramatic, particularly after the Tupper-to-Floodwood section was reopened. So now the rail is again cropping up in the sun and the corridor will not be useable, BUT.

If the rail were gone, the bike traffic would begin to mimic the snowmobile business. “Fat bikes” and “e-bikes,” which were not even a factor in the plan to restore the Old Forge-to-Tupper Lake rail section, were already using the snowmobile season and would flourish and shorten the shoulder season, and wow, what summer would bring!

In a recent WSYR (Syracuse TV) interview, Adirondack Railroad President Bill Branson spoke of the great things the train would do, mentioning Beaver River, Brandreth, Nehassanne and Sabattis, and how the railroad would bring them back to life, apparently not aware that these places are remote, private and hold no attraction for potential riders. The ride itself may hold some interest, but will be of very little benefit for the economy, will be expensive and leave people in remote destinations with no services for long periods of time.

Trail use of the corridor starts the minute rails, ties and debris are removed and only improves from there, while rail restoration is only the beginning: There has to be a viable operation and operator, access, ancillary transportations and accommodations, and state dollars have to keep coming or there is nothing!

What do you think? Call or write your representative TODAY!

Scott Thompson

Norridgewock Lodge

Beaver River

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