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North Country News

Adirondack Park Agency To Consider Rail To Trail Plan

Adirondack Scenic Railroad
Pat Bradley/WAMC
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Adirondack Scenic Railroad

The Adirondack Park Agency Board will decide on Thursday whether a plan to create a rail and trail corridor in the Adirondacks complies with the State Land Master Plan. The controversial issue has been debated for years.
The Remsen Lake Placid Travel Corridor is a 119-mile rail corridor through the center of the Adirondacks.   A 1996 Unit Management Plan called for rail use to be developed along the entire route with parallel recreational trails where feasible.  It specified that no action to eliminate rail should be taken at that time.  

In 2013 the DEC and the DOT sought public input on possible amendments to the rail corridor’s management plan.   The agencies have now proposed the so-called Alternative 7, which divides the corridor into two segments.  Rails would be kept between Remsen and Tupper Lake and improved.  34 miles of rails between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid would be removed and converted to a multi-use recreational trail.  

The Adirondack Park Agency will consider adopting the plan at its meeting Thursday in Ray Brook.  

The potential to change the rail corridor has resulted in a firestorm of controversy with rail and trail advocates awaiting the decision.

Trails With Rails Action Committee volunteer Steve Erman is a former economic advisor to the APA.   “The decision is critically important because what is at stake is a loss of a key transportation asset for the future. We feel that the 1996 Unit Management Plan basically got it right: retaining the rail, improving the rail, all the way to Lake Placid and building an interconnecting series of trails in and out of the corridor to accommodate recreationists.”

Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates, or ARTA, Board Member Tony Goodwin is also director of the Adirondack Trail Improvement Society.  He calls the plan going before the APA a step in the right direction.   “The rail has been in operation for 20 years now and there’s been no significant benefit to the local economy. We definitely envision the corridor being surfaced with stone dust so that after a year or so it’ll firm up and people will be coming through on a daily basis, not just the few days when the train is running.”

Tourist trains currently run throughout the rail corridor.  Adirondack Scenic Railroad said in a statement that Alternative 7, the plan the APA will vote on, cites a misleading Economic Impact Study and that “No analysis has been done of what is the consequence of removing rails on the existing economic activity in the communities of Saranac Lake and Lake Placid.”   President Bill Branson calls the DEC proposal misguided.   “The proposals don’t jive with the anticipated uses and the long term uses  as they are currently written in the State Land Master Plan.  And we don’t believe that if the APA rules in favor of this that it’s the right thing for the Adirondacks and it probably isn’t the right thing for the railroad either.”

The DEC and DOT estimate that the cost to create the recreation trail is $10 million and rehabilitation of the remaining rail line about $11 million.

The Adirondack Park Agency board is scheduled to review the plan at 1 p.m. Thursday.