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Approval of Adirondack Rail And Trail Plan Continues Controversy Over Travel Corridor

Map of Remsen-Lake Placid travel corridor
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
Map of Remsen-Lake Placid travel corridor

Governor Andrew Cuomo has approved a plan by the Departments of Conservation and Transportation to create a rail and trail corridor between Remsen and Lake Placid. But the plan remains controversial. Trail advocates praise the move, but there’s rancor from those who want the 119-mile rail corridor in the Adirondacks preserved.
The final plan approved by Governor Cuomo for the Remsen to Lake Placid travel corridor in the Adirondacks will have the state spend $15 million to upgrade 45 miles of the rail line between Utica and Tupper Lake to extend a tourist train route.   The state will also spend $8 million to remove the tracks between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid and build a 34-mile community recreational trail for bicyclists, hikers, snowmobilers and other users.

Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates co-founder Jim McCulley has been working for about a decade to convert the rail bed to a trail. He calls the plan a good compromise.   “This obviously generated a lot of controversy but I think it was a good compromise and this is going to help the regional economy. People will be able to ride their bikes between the communities, ride their snowmobiles and I just think it'll really become the central economic growth for this region, I would guess, for the next twenty to thirty years easily.”

Utica Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi criticized the state plan, saying it will stop tourism along the travel corridor in its tracks.   “This is really a lost opportunity to expand tourist rail along that corridor. It's great that they're re-habbing the tracks up to Tupper Lake. But I really think that by not expanding it up to Lake Placid you’re cutting off a world of potential tourism dollars that could come in.  So it's a lost opportunity and I think in a time when we should be expanding passenger and tourism rail in upstate New York we’re ripping up tracks, which is the wrong way to go.”

Adirondack Architectural Heritage worked with the Preservation League of New York State to have the rail line listed as one of seven historic state sites to save.  Executive Director Steven Engelhart is very concerned about the potential impact of the plan.    “The entire 119 mile rail corridor is listed on the national register and it has a tremendous historic importance for its role in helping in the development and the settlement of the region.  I think today the importance is much more for its economic impact and the loss of that economic impact is very worrisome.”

Adirondack Scenic Railroad President Bill Branson says a lawsuit filed in April by the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society, which operates the railroad,  contesting the Unit Management Plan allowing the trail conversion will continue.   “The suit itself is very well researched with factual challenges to virtually every aspect of the 2016 UMP (Unit Management Plan).  We know that this will not stand up if it's scrutinized with respect to historic preservation and the economic impact, the environmental impacts. There isn't much about it that will survive scrutiny in an objective examination.”

The Adirondack Railway Preservation Society is planning a rally in Utica on June 3rd to gain support for the railway’s retention.  The state, meanwhile, plans to begin removing track between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake beginning in November.  


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