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Cuomo Announces Approval Of Adirondack Rail-Trail Plan

As George the cranky steam roller from the Thomas the Tank Engine series says “Tear them up and turn them into roads” but in this case trails. I’ll be honest, I agree with this plan. I work in the rail industry, however I enjoy the outdoors. The original plan was to remove the rails from Big Moose to Lake Placid. Now the rails will only be removed from Lake Placid to Tupper Lake a distance of 35 miles rather than about sixty or so.

I believe that if the rails were to stay and the entire line be restored to active service it would boom until the nostalgia wore off. Who knows maybe I am wrong? I do believe a rail trail will draw more visitors than the railroad. Right now in America the “Rail Trail” boom is booming and they continue to grow in popularity. I guess only time will tell if this was the right decision.

Below is the story by Phil Brown  of the http://www.adirondackalmanack.com

Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced approval of a controversial plan to remove state-owned railroad tracks between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake to create a 34-mile multi-use trail. In addition, the state is committed to restoring 45 miles of tracks between Big Moose and Tupper Lake.

The governor’s announcement is a victory for Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates (ARTA) and a defeat for the Adirondack Scenic Railroad (ASR), which operates a tourist train on a 10-mile stretch of tracks that will be removed. Later in the day, ASR revealed that it recently filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court seeking to save the tracks.

ARTA President Joe Mercurio, who lives in Saranac Lake, said he was thrilled by the governor’s announcement. “ARTA and a great many others have worked long and hard for this,” he said. “Governor Cuomo deserves a huge round of applause for his support. It was the right thing to do.”

The trail would be used by bicyclists, hikers, and others most of the year and by snowmobilers in the winter.

In a news release Tuesday afternoon, the governor’s office said the trail will be finished within three years, at a cost of $8 million. The line south of Tupper Lake will be rehabilitated within the same period, at a cost of $15 million.

“By rehabilitating the railway and building a scenic trail, we are better utilizing the corridor and its surrounding lands to create more economic and recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike,” Cuomo said.

One argument for removing the tracks was that the ASR train that runs between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid does little for the local economy. ARTA and many local officials contend that a recreational trail will attract more tourists.

If the tracks are removed, ASR will have to shut down the Lake Placid train. Also, Rail Explorers USA, a rail-bike operation that started last year in Saranac Lake, will have to relocate.

ASR will still be able to run trains out of Old Forge and eventually extend its excursions all the way to Tupper Lake. The Old Forge train is seen as more successful than the Lake Plaid train.

However, it’s not certain ASR will continue to be the rail operator in the corridor. The state plans to solicit bids for a rail operator.

The entire state-owned rail corridor extends 119 miles from Remsen to Lake Placid and is managed by the state Department of Transportation. The updated management plan for the corridor was drafted by DOT and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which will oversee the construction and maintenance of the recreational trail.

DEC officials said Tuesday that track removal could begin as early as December or, if not then, in the spring. ASR and Rail Explorers can continue to operate on the tracks through November.

Supporters of the railroad have argued, among other things, that removing the tracks would violate the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. They also point out that the corridor and the tracks are on the state and national registers of historic places.

In February, after the Adirondack Park Agency approved the rail-trail plan, ASR started a campaign to raise $100,000 for a legal fight. As of late March, it said it had raised about $40,000.

Bill Branson, president of the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society, which operates ASR, said in a news release late Tuesday afternoon that the railroad recently filed a lawsuit against DEC and the APA. “We are an important driver of tourism in the Adirondacks, and we cannot understand why DEC is determined to destroy vital transportation infrastructure and the only operator on that infrastructure,” he said.

Steve Engelhart of Adirondack Architectural Heritage also criticized the decision. “We are disappointed by the governor’s announcement, as we feel that the railroad advocates made a strong case for the preservation of the entire 119-mile rail corridor for its economic, social, and cultural value,” Engelhart said. “In addition to destroying a significant section of this National Register-listed historic resource, this decision will shut down a successful local business, Adirondack Rail Explorers, and eliminate the northern operations of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, a popular attraction for area visitors with thousands of riders every year.”

In addition to building a rail trail and fixing up old tracks, the state intends to:

  • Build snowmobile trails near the corridor to connect Tupper Lake and Old Forge and improve snowmobile connections between the Adirondacks and Tug Hill.
  • Evaluate the feasibility of a hut-to-hut cross-country ski trail from Beaver River to Horseshoe Lake.
  • Establish railway stops for visitors and outdoor recreationists.
  • Consult with the State Historic Preservation Office to mitigate the impacts of removing the rails.
Adirondack Scenic Railroad "Railroader's Special" arrives the station at Big Moose, NY on September 24th 2015.
Adirondack Scenic Railroad arrives the station at Big Moose, NY, image © Joe Geronimo.

On the Trail @ Chenango Valley State Park

Chenango Lake @ Chenango Valley State Park November 15th 2015.
Chenango Lake @ Chenango Valley State Park November 15th 2015.

This morning myself, Ryan Heinlein, Linda Reynolds, Chris Welch and Ruby a Norwegian Elkhound met for a trail run. The air was brisk, the leaves crunchy and the canopy of trees overhead filtered the Autumn sunlight quickly warming us as we navigated the trails at Chenango Valley State Park. For me trail running is relatively new and I enjoy it quite considerably.

Our run would take us on a 6.25 mile adventure of wide trails, narrow trails, up hills, down hills and a few vista views as well. My trail running experience is limited but I will say this I really enjoy running at State Park. I feel there are many options for running here. Whether you enjoy trails or the road or a mix of both State Park offers it all.

http://parks.ny.gov/parks/attachments/ChenangoValleyTrailMap.pdf

I myself truly enjoy road running but running some trails on a periodic basis is a really nice change of pace (Pun Intended). I love the solitude of the woods, the camaraderie of friends and the time outdoors.

Questions for you:

Do you run trails? If so where is your favorite place to run?

Cheers!

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The On Going Battle in the Adirondack’s

Adirondack Scenic Railroad Otter Lake, NY. Image © Joe Geronimo
Adirondack Scenic Railroad Otter Lake, NY.
Image © Joe Geronimo

Last week, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a proposal that could bring big changes to the region and potentially enhance both recreational and tourist opportunities between Adirondack communities.

The proposal concerns the Remsen to Lake Placid Travel Corridor, a 119-mile strip that winds from the southwest corner of the Adirondack Park to the northeast corner. The corridor was originally home to a railroad that was built in the 1890s to bring wealthy families to their seasonal Adirondack estates, but parts of the line began falling into disrepair in the mid-1900s. By 1975, the line had been completely abandoned, and was taken over by New York State.

In 1992, a 4-mile stretch of the track opened from Thendara to Minnehaha, and it was so well-received that it was taken over by the Adirondack Scenic Railroad in 1994. After overseeing the repair of additional portions of railway, the Adirondack Scenic Railroad began operating rail service in two sections, as it still does today: between Big Moose and Remsen and between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. Unfortunately, the middle section of the rail line from Big Moose to Saranac Lake is still in a state of disrepair.
The combined proposal from the DEC and DOT is an effort to compromise between those who are in support of further railway restoration and those who would like to see the tracks ripped up in favor of a multi-use recreational trail. The proposed changes were described on the DEC’s website as follows:
  • Removing the rail infrastructure within the Corridor between the Village of Tupper Lake and the Village of Lake Placid and establishing a multiple-use recreational trail
  • Maintaining the existing rail infrastructure and enhancing train service between the village of Remsen and the Big Moose Station
  • Rehabilitating the rail infrastructure between the Big Moose Station and the Village of Tupper Lake to allow passenger train service to be restored for a contiguous 85 miles
  • Developing a community connector snowmobile system both within and outside of the Corridor, which will attract additional snowmobilers to the Adirondacks and Adirondack communities.
In total, the proposal will cost approximately $20 million to carry out, with $11 million going toward rail rehabilitation and another $8-10 million required for ripping up the tracks and converting the 34-mile section into a recreational trail, according to the Associated Press.
The Times Union reports that Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald “said the rail extension would ‘provide train passengers an opportunity to view parts of the Adirondacks very few have seen,” which could bring more tourist dollars to the Adirondacks. The region would also presumably see an economic benefit from more widespread recreational opportunities in the corridor all year round, including hiking, biking, nordic skiing, and snowmobiling.
Interested in learning more about the proposed changes or want to make your opinion known? A public hearing will be held in the Tupper Lake Middle-High School auditorium on Wednesday, July 8 at 7:00 pm, and all are welcome to attend.

 

This has battle has been going on for years now and I am literally torn on the issue. Part of me wants to see the rail line intact all the way to Lake Placid. This rail line traverses some of the most beautiful scenery in the Adirondack Park. However another part of me likes the idea of a multi use trail giving other opportunities to see this wonder. In a perfect world a multi-use trail right beside the railroad would be the perfect compromise. No matter the final outcome of this I look forward to exploring this remote section of the Adirondacks.

http://www.adirondackexplorer.org/stories/rail-trail-or-both

http://www.adirondackexplorer.org/search-results?cx=013059154616239745149%3Apuni5ad9rhe+&ie=UTF-8&q=rail+trail&sa=Search

The above link you can find most articles related to this issue archived through the Adirondack Explorer.

 

Sources:
  • DEC: DEC & DOT Issue Proposed Amendment to the Management Plan for the Remsen to Lake Placid Travel Corridor
  • ABC News (AP): NY Plans Tourist Train Upgrade and New Trail in Adirondacks
  • The Times Union: Adirondack rail line survives, but shrinks, in state trail plan
  • Adirondack Scenic Railroad: History