TUPPER LAKE - The village here passed a resolution in support of converting rails to a trail.
The resolution to support the state removing the rails along the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor to develop a multi-use recreational trail passed by a contentious 3-2 vote, with Mayor Paul Maroun and Trustee Leon LeBlanc voting against it and trustees Rick Donah, David "Haji" Maroun and Thomas Snyder voting in favor.
Donah first brought the resolution in front of the village board in September, and Maroun said he would never vote for it.
Tupper Lake village Trustee Rick Donah listens as Mayor Paul Maroun speaks in opposition to removing the rails along the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor to develop a multi-use recreational trail during Tuesday’s village board meeting.
(Enterprise photo — Shaun Kittle)
Two weeks later, the town board unanimously passed a resolution in favor of the trail. Councilwoman Kathleen Lefebvre was absent from that meeting and later told the Enterprise she would have voted against it in favor of a pro-rail-and-trail approach.
Donah was present at the town meeting and applauded the board for its decision. He said he would bring the resolution to the village board again, a promise he made good on Tuesday night.
"During winter, those rails require at least a minimum of 2 to 3 feet of snow to cover and safely groom, and that has prevented the Franklin County snowmoblie group from coming down and giving us a nice groomed trail," Donah told the village board. "Without those rails, it changes the dynamics of our snowmobile tourism business, and it gives us the opportunity to compete with other markets in the Adirondacks for businesses like service businesses and restaurants."
Donah said snowmobilers are a virtually untapped resource for Tupper Lake.
"There are hundreds of thousands of people out there who snowmobile," Donah said. "The New York State Snowmobile Association itself has 60,000 members. Many of them live in the southern counties in New York, and they'd love to come up here."
The resolution states that converting the rail corridor to a multi-use recreational trail would benefit the economy of the region and that the village of Tupper Lake will support the removal, sale and salvaging of those rails. It also implores Gov. Andrew Cuomo to expedite the opening of the state-owned corridor's unit management plan so changes can be made.
LeBlanc said he supports snowmobiling but doesn't think the state will ever remove the tracks.
"I have dealt with the DOT in the past, and I know where they come from, and I know where they're going to go with this," LeBlanc said. "I don't believe they're going to tear up the tracks. I've always been in favor of the trails and rails, and I will continue to be that way."
LeBlanc added that he used to be an especially avid snowmobiler.
"There's nobody, I don't think, in Tupper Lake that's rode as much as I have in my years," LeBlanc said. "I used to ride all over the North Country. I've raced in about every circuit there was in the North Country. Snowmobiling was my livelihood for many years. I still own sleds, but I would never support tearing up those tracks."
Maroun agreed that rails and trails can happily coexist.
"I've said it from the beginning - we can have a recreational trail and a Remsen-Lake Placid railroad," Maroun said. "Strategically speaking, you normally don't tear up the only interior rail line in the Adirondack Park. I know people think it's funny right now, but someday you might want a train that runs from Tupper Lake to Utica to New York through Albany."
Maroun emphasized that he also supports snowmobiling in the region but added that shipping light cargo by train could benefit the Tri-Lakes region.
"I don't want anybody to think I don't support snowmobiling, because before anybody in this room was on this board, I supported snowmobiling and got the first groomer for Tupper Lake in my county position," Maroun said. Maroun is also a Franklin County legislator.
Maroun then read a passage from a book written by Dick Beamish called "Getting the Word Out in the Fight to Save the Earth." The passage includes a letter from the Adirondack Park Agency dated Jan. 15, 1988, that opposed the use of motorized vehicles along the rail corridor from Beaver River to Horseshoe Lake. Beamish was once employed by the APA and is currently an Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates board member.
"I think that some of the people in the groups that want to tear up the track have tricked some of our people," Maroun said. "There's a (proposed) place called the Bob Marshall Wilderness. There's a part of the track that runs through that, and there are people on the board who have supported no mechanized vehicles through there."
ARTA board member Hope Frenette was at the meeting. After the vote, she thanked the board and addressed Maroun directly.
"I take big offense with Paul Maroun indicating that people who support ARTA have been hoodwinked," Frenette said. "I disagree completely with that. We're all a lot more intelligent than that. He's looking at a book that's about marketing and putting something on some people that have changed their opinion from back in 1988, and without him having a discussion with that particular person, he has no right to indicate any other thing."
Maroun maintained his stance.
"I have a right to say anything I want, and I will continue to, and I will speak out for the people I represent, just like your group that you represent," Maroun said. "I think the people of ARTA have been hoodwinked by some of the environmentalists who really don't want the train for reasons other than movement of people."
Contact Shaun Kittle at 891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.