Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Rails AND Trails:
10 Trails We Should Build Before Tearing-Up Rails

Map_all_trailsA few years ago, I was talking with Adirondack Explorer publisher Dick Beamish when he asked me, “What do you think about the railroad? Should we have a train or a trail?” I thought for a second and responded, “I think we deserve both.” His response was simple. “We can’t have both. I think we should remove the rails and build a recreation trail.”

I didn’t think much about it for a year or so until I started reading about Adirondack Recreation Trail Advocates’ (ARTA) efforts to create “a contiguous recreation trail from Lake Placid to Old Forge.” I recalled my original perspective on the issue, and it had not changed. We deserve both a railroad and a recreational trail. This triggered a blog post on the topic in September of 2011 in which I argued that there are many more foolish wastes of money than supporting a railroad line and that the residents of and visitors to the Adirondack Park are deserving of both. Although ARTA argues that maintaining the rail line is a boondoggle I am reminded of the proverb, “One man’s waste is another man’s treasure.”

Since then I have maintained the position that there are more important things we can do than ripping up the rails to create a flat Lake Placid to Old Forge trail. What I believe we need, in every community in the Adirondack Park that wants it, is a connecting trail network accessible from the front doors of community members’ homes or motels. Note the two key elements in my perspective: “connecting trail” and “accessible from people’s front doors.”

There are three dimensions of connectivity for a well-designed community trail network:

  • You can get from one trail to another without having to get into your car.
  • You can travel from one trailhead to another rather than just traveling in to an interior location and then hiking back out.
  • You can travel a loop trail and don’t have to retrace your steps

Accessibility means that you hike or ski (or bike where permitted) from your doorstep to many, if not most, points within the park.

ARTA’s concept of a recreation trail from Lake Placid to Old Forge on its surface sounds appealing.  ARTA however has created the classic story line in that every good story has to have a protagonist, in this case ARTA, the good guys, and an antagonist, the bad guys, in this case the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. Of course if you are the Adirondack Scenic Railroad you may see it the other way around. History usually determines which is which. The winners end up being the protagonist and the losers the antagonist.

I prefer to look at it differently. I have an affliction called rationality. As one friend once wrote, “It’s Jack’s most honored virtue.” I like to find win-win solutions to problems. I’ve always preached to my students to use the rational decision-making/problem-solving process. One of the first steps of problem solving is to define the problem.  It appears that the anti-train people define the problem as: we need more recreational trails in the Adirondacks, the railroad is a mode of transportation whose time has passed, so let’s tear up the rails and use the money from salvaging the iron and build a multi-purpose trail from Lake Placid to Old Forge.

As a recreation professional with over 40 years of experience I see the problem a little differently. The problem, as I see it, is that most Adirondack communities lack easy to access, inter-connected trails that people can reach from their homes or motel rooms. How can we remedy this? I’m continually amazed as I travel around the world how much easier it frequently is to find beautiful terrain to walk through in urban areas than it is in my hometown of Saranac Lake. That needs to change here in Saranac Lake as well as other Adirondack towns and villages.

The solution is much simpler than what the anti-train people advocate. The solution is a series of interconnected trails accessible from numerous access points in every Adirondack Park community that desires such a network. As a model I’ve suggested 10 trails for Saranac Lake. The list I created is just a first attempt. It could be replicated in virtually every community within the park. The list is about multi-use trails but not all of the trails I proposed are designed to be used by all modes of transportation. Some are possible to be used by all modes of travel but most will be limited to two or three. My effort was not to replicate the proposed multi-purpose recreational trail but to show that there are lots of trail development opportunities that the people of Saranac Lake should consider. Others need to do similar research in their communities. I’m calling this community trails concept “50 in 2.” Every community within the Adirondack Park should be able to have at least fifty miles of trails with trailheads within two miles from the center of the community. A concept like this would make the Adirondack Park an interconnected Mecca for trail activities.

My list has been criticized and I’m sure will continue to be criticized because of the many challenges to building some of these trails. Some say that there are too many regulatory obstacles. Others, that there are too many environmental obstacles. Or that the cost is too high. You could say the same about the rails to trails project. Creative problem solving and good leadership can build all of my suggested trails as well as a park-wide network. My guess is that if you built all of these trails I have proposed for Saranac Lake and replicated the process throughout the park then you will gain more economic benefits from tourism than ARTA’s plan would. In addition, you will improve the quality of life for all Adirondack residents. There are no losers in such an effort.

One final point: if you want to use a travel corridor for trails I think there is a much more readily available travel corridor, our automobile highway system. Imagine every major highway in the Park having a motorized corridor on one side of the road for snowmobiles, motorcycles and ATVS and a non-motorized corridor on the other side for hiking, biking, x-country skiing, and snowshoeing. It would be the ultimate travel corridor. It would be a much more functional multi-use trail system than what ARTA has proposed. I realize there would be many more obstacles to overcome to build such travel corridors but they would be much more functional and easier to access for construction and maintenance.

The trail/rail debate will in all likelihood continue for too long. Hopefully rational minds will prevail and a win-win option will triumph.

In the meantime, here is a list of the 10 trails for Saranac Lake, along with links to the trail maps, mileage and difficulty ratings, and some notes:

1. Saranac River/Pine Pond Trail – Three Miles, from the Route 3 State Bridge boat launch parking lot to the Averyville trail at Pine Pond.

Notes: The parking lot already exists. It would make a fine trailhead. A bridge across Cold Brook and that fact that it is a Wilderness Area are two issues. This trail would provide access to the existing trail to Averyville. It is safe to say that the DEC is concerned about using the Route 3 State Bridge Boat Launch as a trailhead. There are many issues with that site and adding a new use just complicates things further. Having said that this is a natural location for a trail head and at least two trails could start from there. (This one and #9) Given that the trail I proposed here runs through the High Peaks Wilderness it turns out there are at least two other options for this trail that might make more sense.  Evidently there is a route north of the bridge that DEC employees use to access the lower locks in the winter to check the water level. There is also the old abandoned trail from route 3 north of the river that went into the lean-to on Lake Kiwassa. From there it wouldn’t be too hard to get to the locks. The challenge is to find a route from the locks to the trail from Averyville. Finding a way to get from Averyville to route 3 just makes too much sense not to do it. Difficulty: From state bridge to Pine Pond – easy. From Averyville to state bridge – moderate.

2. Saranac River/Moose Pond – Four miles from the Route 3 trailhead north of the village of Saranac Lake to Moose Pond and then around Moose Pond.

Notes: The trail from Route 3 to the pond exists. The trail in the McKenzie Wilderness should be made accessible (by regulatory change) to bicycles. The UMP for the McKenzie Wilderness will probably not be completed for a long time yet. The fact that this is a wilderness area seemed to raise red flags, but all the trails I have proposed for the McKenzie Wilderness have close proximity to Route 3. This trail has great connectivity to the Village of Saranac Lake.  Difficulty: Most activities – Easy. Mountain Biking – Moderate.

3. McKenzie Wilderness Trail – Five miles from the Jackrabbit Trail trailhead on the McKenzie Pond road to the Waste Water Treatment Plant.

Notes: From McKenzie pond to the Water Treatment Plan would be a new trail through a Wilderness Area. It should be made accessible (by regulatory change) to bicycles. Difficulty: For most uses I would consider that a moderate trail. DEC appears to support the trail proposed in the Village of Saranac Lake Trails Plan from the summit of Baker Mt. The trail I have proposed here would complement that trail and combining this with #2 and #5 make for a nice trail network on the east side of the Saranac River.

4. Scarface to Pine Pond – Five and a three-quarter miles from the Scarface mountain trail head on the Ray Brook Road following an access road to private property with a new trail over to Pine Pond.

Notes: Much of this trail already exists. This trail and #1 would provide access to the existing trail to Averyville. It could be a multi-use year around trail. It require only 1.6 miles of new trail. The rest already exists. The SLWFUMP proposes a trail around the south side of Scarface Mt but does not, at this time, connect to Pine Pond. By this time you know my mantra, “Connectivity.” Connect trails around Scarface to Pine Pond, which will connect to Route 3 and Averyville. Difficulty: This is hard to determine. The trip from Ray Brook all the way to route 3 is relatively long but mostly downhill. The terrain is easy but the distance makes it more challenging.

5. Saranac Lake / Moose Pond Trail – Five and a half miles, from the Waste Water Treatment Plant to Moose Pond.

Notes: This would be an all new trail through the McKenzie Wilderness. It should be made accessible by all but snowmobiles. (would need regulatory change to get bicycles).  A loop trail around Moose Pond makes a lot of sense because it would meet all three of my connectivity points when combined with trail #4. Ditto the comments for #2. Difficulty: Easy – This would be gentle terrain

6. Saranac Lake to Mt. View – Twenty-eight miles from the Harrietstown Road north of Saranac Lake to Mountain View via the old railroad bed / power line right of way.

Notes: It already exists as a snowmobile trail and could readily be turned into a multi-purpose year around trail. Conceptually the state seems to support this although, if I understand it correctly, they don’t have ownership of the entire roadbed. The DEC has some excellent ideas for this region which is in the DeBar Wild Forest. They are trying to link the VIC, the Slush Pond Trail, and the Hayes Brook trail and other areas. This would be excellent. Great connectivity! Difficulty: Easy

7. Turtle Pond Trails (Fowler’s Crossing) – About six miles, from the parking lot by the railroad tracks on route 86 this is a network of trails between Turtle Pond and Oseetah Lake. There are trails on both sides route 86.

Notes: This network exists. It just needs to be formalized. It could be a multi-purposed year around trail although probably would not be of interest to snowmobiles due to its short length. This would include a new spur to intersect with the Scarface Mt. trail. The proposed UMP supports the development of this area but a trail linking to the Scarface trail is challenging due to wetlands. We need to find a way to make this connecting trail work. The trails south of Turtle Pond are nice but connecting them to the Scarface trail opens up numerous additional opportunities. There may be some options to run the trail through private property. The DEC has proposed some good connectivity on the east side of the tracks north of route 86 to Ray Brook.  Difficulty: Easy – perfect for novices of all kinds.

8. Scarface Mountain Loop – Six and a half miles, from the existing trail on the summit of Scarface Mt. around the eastern ridge down to Ray Brook across the tracks out the access road on the NE side of Scarface to Route 86.

Notes: I’ve bushwacked this route and variations of it numerous times on foot, snowshoes, and skis. This could be used as a year round trail. After reviewing the proposed UMP I learned that it has some very interesting trails proposed around Scarface Mountain. I support their proposals and suggest that my proposal be left as a bushwhack and not developed as a trail in light of the other trails they are proposing. Difficulty: Challenging.

9. Lower Saranac Lake Trail – About nine miles, from the Route 3 State Bridge boat launch parking lot around the south end of Lower Saranac Lake crossing the river at the upper locks then proceeding around and eventually heading north to the Forest Home Road. 

Notes: This is Wild Forest so could be multipurpose year around trail although for a number of reasons it might not be practical for snowmobiles. It follows a number of existing hunting trails and even a portion of an old snowmobile trail. The main challenge would be building a bridge across the Saranac River near the upper locks. The State Bridge on Route 3 has great potential as a trailhead since a parking lot already exists.  There is a desire at DEC to keep this large parcel of land more primitive with few trails, but there may be options that allow for that, such as keeping the trail close to the lake and then running it closer to private land up to the Forest Home Road. I really feel that this trail has lots of potential especially if it is continued on to Lake Colby as I propose.

10. Black Pond Trial – About four miles from the Forest Home Road to Black Pond and then intersecting with the Lower Saranac Lake Trail.

Notes: This is Wild Forest so could be a multipurpose year around trail although for a number of reasons it wouldn’t be practical for snowmobiles. A hunter/fisherman’s trail already exists to Black Pond. I’ll gladly sacrifice this trail for #9, the Lower Saranac Lake Trail, in order to preserve a larger trail-less area in this region. Difficulty: Hiking is moderate. Skiing is challenging. Mt. Biking is challenging.

 

Jack Drury

Jack Drury is co-owner of Leading E.D.G.E., a professional development firm, along with Broadwing Adventures, an Adirondack guide service. He maintains a blog at www.broadwingadventures.com.

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36 Responses

  1. Tim Baker says:

    I think that as a developer and owner of an Adirondack guide service you’re primarily interested in making more money.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 18

  2. Mike says:

    Good suggestions, all. I’d like also to see a corridor of bike trails from the south, say Saratoga, northward to Lake Placid and/or Plattsburgh. Many already exist in the Glens Falls/Queensbury/Lake George region. This would be a wonderful continuity and recreational opportunity.

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  3. Diane says:

    In the day and age of conflict in conversation, opinion and solutions, Jacks proposals are a breath of fresh air. Of course we can discuss alternatives to all or nothing approaches proposed by these two organizations. And why not? Certainly loop trails would present better economic opportunities to the communities who choose to work in this direction. Labor would be local, Residents would explore their own back yards. Travel buffs hikers bikers snowmobilers etc. would be led back to the community they started in resulting in commerce for food, fuel and lodging. Even exploring the actual community would be a boost. The box as I see it, is being stuck in one “right” opinion with no flexibility for other ways to succeed.
    Time to think outside the box.

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  4. Excellent suggestions. I understand the DEC’s desire to keep areas as primitive or wild as possible but it seems to me that getting people out of their cars and on foot furthers that objective. It’s an idea I’d like to see undertaken everywhere, not just in the Adirondacks.

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  5. Mightymike says:

    If you think the “Anti – train people” believe the problem is we need more recreational trails, then you are completely ignorant on this debate. This really causes me to doubt your claim of being a recreation professional for 4 decades. . Your trail ideas are fine but none are a substitute for the potential opportunities created by the rail trail. If a ” recreation professional” thinks a trail is a trail is a trail, then I’d love to know what credentials you claim. Perhaps shuffleboard director for a retirement community? It’s like a transportation professional saying there were a dozen dirt roads we should have built before building the northway.

    Your point about trails along highways, then I believe you could argue that almost all of your trails are accessible by existing roads and trails and therefor redundant and unnecessary

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  6. Doug says:

    Good article. Well reasoned approach to the issue of trails in the Adirondacks. Thanks for taking the time to put it out there.

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  7. Alan Senbaugh says:

    Holy Cow! Jack you went a little trail crazy! I like some of your suggestions but trails do perforate the land and I think your proposal in its entirety is excessive. The lands north of the Pine Pond truck trail could be reclassified as wilderness if and when (if ever) the dispute over the road status is resolved so I hesitate to add bike trails. I never understood the ban on bikes in wilderness either.

    I like the idea of the extended scarface trail.
    Mckenzie Pond has the Jackrabbit trail and the lake is pristine right now. Add that loop and it will then resemble Moose Pond (Which you also want to ring) with litter and illegal campsites all over the place.

    The DEC has a very low staffing, who would do the enforcement even if volunteers did do all the construction? I see a ranger in the woods like once decade.

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  8. Curt Austin says:

    I’ll just address one of Mr. Drury’s paragraphs:

    “One final point: if you want to use a travel corridor for trails I think there is a much more readily available travel corridor, our automobile highway system. Imagine every major highway in the Park having a motorized corridor on one side of the road for snowmobiles, motorcycles and ATVS and a non-motorized corridor on the other side for hiking, biking, x-country skiing, and snowshoeing. It would be the ultimate travel corridor. It would be a much more functional multi-use trail system than what ARTA has proposed. I realize there would be many more obstacles to overcome to build such travel corridors but they would be much more functional and easier to access for construction and maintenance.”

    Rail trails are good ideas because they are actually feasible.The right of way is legally established and all the excavation, drainage, and bridge work is done, saving 99% of the cost and trouble of building a trail from scratch.

    The idea of widening the right of way along highways on two sides is preposterous, legally and physically. You just have to drive down a highway, and adopt an engineers point of view – look at the rock cuts, the fills, culverts, intersections, driveways, wetlands … and the bridges! If engineering is not your thing, consider the property acquisition and permit issues, which are less tangible but even worse.

    ARTA is not proposing anything nearly as fanciful as this, or fanciful at all. They are exemplars of rationality. Railroad advocates are the fanciful ones, predicting the resurrection of a transportation system that became non-viable here 75 years ago.

    Where is the “let’s have both” group? They appear nicely moderate and rational, but they are not properly taking into account the most important characteristic of a rail trail – feasibility. They are not seeing the cuts, fills, bridges, etc. of what they are proposing. They are not seeing the difference between “possible” and “feasible”. This is the sort of project where “feasible” must mean “easy”.

    To see this more clearly, consider ASR. They’re doing something easy – leasing an existing corridor for $1. They probably don’t think that what they do is easy, and it isn’t. In fact, they would object strenuously if it were made more difficult, since it would threaten their viability. “Both” dooms trail advocates to “difficult”. ARTA objects because “Both” threatens the viability of their trail.

    (I am an advocate for bicycling and for trail development, but not a member of ARTA.)

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  9. Trails from homes and motels? Really? Would sidewalks count?
    Does walking or biking along a road count? Are you looking for easements from every Tom, Dick and Mary who owns a house or a motel in the Adirondacks?
    Fact of the matter is that you already can walk just about any place you want as long as you are not cutting across private property.
    Want a loop trail? Would hiking into the Upper or Lower Sargents Ponds count if you loop back via the North Point Road, which I have done?

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  10. Paul says:

    There are how many hiking trails within the park?.Bring on the train and let it be a steam locomotive..awesome

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    • Hope Frenette says:

      This trail is more about biking and snowmobiling of which there are not miles of trails for in the Park. Sure one can hike on it if they want to but that is not the main premise for it’s use.

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      • John Warren John Warren says:

        There are in fact many, many miles of bicycling and snowmobiling trails in the Adirondack Park.

        http://www.adkmountains.com/adkbikes/maps.asp

        http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/59570.html

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        • matt says:

          I hear this all of the time, that there are many bike trails and I wish it were true, but nobody has ever been able to tell me of specific trails. I have been looking for places to take my kids biking for years. We found Fish Creek, which costs a day use fee everytime, and we go frequently. That’s it. I followed your links and found snowmobile trails on DEC website and the adkmountains.com site were road biking torus or broken links. The DEC lists trails near horseshoe lake as bike trails, but these roads had huge cobbles and were definitely not suitable for causal trail riding. We tried Bloomingdale bog and there a lot of mud and water filled ruts. I hear there are nice mountain biking trails, and obviously there appears to be nice road biking opportunities in the park.

          I am not taking a position on rail vs trail, but I honestly don’t believe there are any or many places where I can take my young kids, or where my aging mother can ride her bike.

          I would truly appreciate it if anyone can list some places for were young kids can bike in the tri-lakes area. I am not debating, just looking to go biking.

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        • Hope Frenette says:

          Let’s not confuse bicycling routes with recreation trails. Most of your links are to routes on roads which are shared with motor vehicle traffic or they are technical mountain biking single track. They are not flat, wide packed safe trials for your everyday cyclist or children. I bike commute on rte 30 to my office and although it is part of the scenic byway route from Long Lake you are sharing the road with tractor trailers and people driving at speeds in excess of 50 miles per hour. Recreation it is not.

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          • Paul says:

            Hope, I agree that these are different than a rail trail. But biking on many of these roads is “recreation” for thousands of people every year. I know you want to make a good argument for the rail trail but this isn’t it. In fact some hard core bikers don’t ride these kinds of trails since they tend to be congested in certain places (close to town) and a flat dirt road is not really what mountain bikers are interested in. I would be careful that some of the rail-to-trail data may be coming from trails that are like the one you may be familiar with in Cape Cod. It has thousands of users. Most of them are just taking a bike ride and have come to Cape Cod for the ocean.

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            • Hope Frenette says:

              Paul I am not speaking to the “hardcore athletic road biker, single track rider or tri athlete trainer” I am talking about your average recreational rider who would like to take a tour or go for a reasonably easy ride. There are far more of that type of recreational riders out there and living here now that would appreciate this type of venue. I’m talking about families who would like to ride away from traffic and retired folks who would like a safe ride with their friends or grandchildren. This is a trail for everyone not just athletes and thrill seekers. Over 12,000 people have signed our petition to build this type of venue so I would say that there is significant interest in this type of trail.

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              • Nathanael says:

                Most of the people who signed your petition are snowmobilers or ATV users, or just hate railroads.

                The trail you propose is usable only by atheletes and thrill seekers — or snowmobilers and ATV users. It has no value for “recreational riders” — none whatsoever.

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        • Curt Austin says:

          John, it is certainly true that there are many snowmobile trails in the park. Many if not most of these are specifically intended to be safe, pleasant and appropriate to the typical snowmobiler. “Snowmobile trail” is a term that means something fairly specific.

          When it comes to bicycling, it is not so simple. Cycling varies enormously; one way or another, it can be done almost anywhere. Some will try to use that fact to argue against anyone promoting a bicycle trail, but we’re talking about a particular form of cycling here, probably the most popular form. The bicycling equivalent of a safe, pleasant and appropriate snowmobile trail is just as specific. It is something like the Warren County Bikeway, or the Cape Cod Rail Trail (or four other bike trails on Cape Cod), or like thousands of other rail trails. It is flat, quiet, safe, easily rideable by anyone. There is no mud, no rocks, no lung-searing ascents or white-knuckle descents, no busted-up shoulders, no log trucks racing to get one more load to the mill.

          The Fish Creek trail is a very short version of what we’re talking about here. Elsewhere in the Park, there are a few miles at the north end of the Warren County Bikeway in the Park, but that’s it. “Many miles” is literally true, I suppose, but you give the wrong impression by citing that link.

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  11. Hope Frenette says:

    What Mr. Drury fails to recognize is that none of his suggestions connect any other communities except Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. Apparently he feels that other communities aren’t worth the effort. The proposed rail trail by ARTA is exactly that. A Community Connector which does not involve the cutting of new trails. It’s main focus is biking in the warmer months and snowmobiling in the winter. If each individual community wants to build their own loop trails, have at it. Don’t confuse people by saying all ARTA wants is more trails. No that is not at all what ARTA is about. It’s about building a World Class Recreation Trail that runs through the whole Park connecting communities along the way. It’s about encouraging tourism in other areas of the Park besides Lake Placid area and Old Forge area. It is regional in scope and will encourage economic development in the smaller outlying communities that are along the corridor. It will encourage people to get out into other less traveled areas in the Park.

    ARTA is not about building more trails it is about building this trail. Either you agree that it would be a better use of the corridor or you don’t. It’s that simple. It can’t be utilized for both. Even ANCA has finally admitted as much. So let’s move on and make the final decision about how this asset should be utilized and then jump in and support whatever is decided to be the best use.

    Hope Frenette, Tupper Lake
    ARTA Board of Directors

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    • Nathanael says:

      Do you want to get to Saranac Lake? Or even Tupper Lake? Well, the only reasonable ways to get there are by car or train!

      An over-120 mile long trail through wildnerness will be almost completely unused by cyclists. Only hardcore extreme bikers will even try. Despite this, there is plenty of room to put a trail next to the railroad if it is warranted; and the railroad will even maintain it as part of its railroad maintenance.

      With no railroad, the trail will fall into disrepair.

      It seems clear that the agenda of ARTA is to dismantle the railroad. You don’t give a damn about building trails, at all.

      The Snowmobilers can already use the route. The ATVs are banned from the route regardless of whether it’s a trail or a rail. Bicylists and hikers will account for approximately zero users on an over-120-mile long trail.

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  12. David Banks says:

    With respect to the rail/trail controversy, I share Mr. Drury’s desire for rationality. It is clear that a recreational trail along the Thendara/Old Forge-to-Lake Placid corridor could significantly benefit the region, at negligible initial and ongoing cost to taxpayers. On the other hand, it would cost tens of millions of dollars to restore rail service along this corridor. However, we have not been provided information about the ongoing costs of train service, including:
    • Rail infrastructure maintenance, and related specialized heavy equipment,
    • Acquiring and maintaining rolling stock (including tools, equipment, supplies, and facilities),
    • Workers’ wages, health coverage, training, and workman’s comp,
    • Competent, responsible management and financial controls,
    • Insurance and public safety,
    • Regulatory compliance, fuel, batteries, utilities, etc.

    There can be no rationality without careful consideration of these costs, which would be a heavy, perpetual burden for taxpayers. The state must open the management plan for this state-owned corridor and conduct a detailed analysis of these costs, as well as the benefits of each option. If, on the other hand, we simply proclaim that we “deserve” rail service—whatever its costs might be–we will succeed only in damaging our credibility and diminishing our likelihood of success when we seek funding from the state for truly important needs.

    David Banks
    Lake Clear

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  13. Paul says:

    I think the idea of using the RR as a hiking and paddling train is a better idea. Just a sample of the canoe part:

    Starting from Saranac Lake:

    First put in – McCaully Pond then Lake Clear, Little Clear pond, Little green, Rat pond, Hoel pond, to Slang and Little Long Pond, Floodwood pond, Rollins pond, Deer pond, Raquette Pond and the Piercfield flow, Mt Arab and Eagle Crag Lake, Horse Shoe Lake, Hitchens Pond, to Lows Lake (and beyond) Clear Pond to Bog Lake, Lake Lila to Nehasnee lake….

    You get the point.

    There is no RR in the country that could offer such an opportunity.

    Now some will argue that you can drive to many of these lakes. That doesn’t matter. If you can offer people hiking and paddling from new trailheads and remote put ins they will come.

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    • matt says:

      This sounds good, but what if you miss the train. I have never returned to my vehicle after a day of paddling or hiking. I think there is something similar in Colorado, which looks like it would be a great experience, but I thought that all excursions are guided, so nobody missed the train at the end of the day.

      I don’t think it would be impossible, but the logistics would be challenging. If someone could work out the logistics, it would a great experience.

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      • matt says:

        I meant to say “I have never returned to my vehicle on schedule after a day of paddling or hiking”. I either am either early or late.

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      • Paul says:

        Yes, the train in Colorado (which I have used several times is where I got this idea). No, most of the people who use that train are not on organized guided trips. You flag the train down an the trail heads. If you are not there it will not stop. The train in Colorado is a bit easier since there are just two station stops at each end separated by about 45 miles of track (I think that is right?). It would take some planning but it is doable in some format. And I think it is far more unique than the many rail to trail projects you can find all over the US. The rail to trail isn’t a bad idea. It is a good one, but in my opinion not very unique. In fact as a biker I find the flatness of a rail trail pretty boring. I certainly would not drive 6 hours to ride one like I did to get to that hiking train from Denver. But that is just me.

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      • Nathanael says:

        Take the next train. It is quite possible to run several.

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  14. brian m says:

    We can’t afford the railroad, and in the meantime it is depriving many other potential trail users enjoyment. Rip out the tracks. Let it go, rail people. Let’s get this great trail going!

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  15. Tony Goodwin says:

    Only one of Jack’s ten proposed trails could offer anything like the flat, safe, road-separated experience ARTA is proposing for the Rail Corridor. The one exception is the abandoned rail line from Lake Clear to Malone. That route, however, does not connect communities as Hope’s post notes. It is also rather unaesthetic as one would be pedaling under a high voltage power line most of the way. Additionally, there are no rails to salvage and therefore pay for the cost of a suitable surface for bikes. Finally, non-snow use has been “claimed” by ATV interests that would be difficult to dislodge.

    The idea that restored rail service could actually serve recreational users must be viewed very skeptically. To date, no rail supporter has identified a single boat put-in or trailhead that is not already accessible by road. Why would anyone drive to the station, pay a fare, and then be bound to the train’s schedule when they could just drive there in the first place? In other posts I have challenged the rail supporters to produce both a list of unique put-ins/trailheads and most importantly a timetable of how such a service would actually be provided. The silence has been deafening.

    As I see it, the choice is for NYS to spend tens of millions to restore a rail service that no one will ride or to realize that for good reason rail service on this line ended 50 years ago and that it is time to move on to a more productive use for this publicly-owned asset.

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    • Doug says:

      I invite those that say the trail ARTA is proposing will be paid for by salvaging the tracks to show us those figures. Scrape iron prices are constantly changing. Currently they are fairly low.
      There is no salvage value in the ties. Creosote treated timbers cannot legally be reused by anyone except other railroads. Currently most of the heavily used rail lines in the USA have converted or are converting from wooden ties to concrete ties. Travel any of these corridors and you will see stacks and stacks of used wooden ties with no place to go. Thus, the ties on the Adirondack line would need to be disposed of. Creosote ties would likely need special disposal sites. At disposal fees of $70 a ton and up, disposal of ties would easily use up much of the salvage value of the steel rails. Add to this the cost of machinery and labor to remove the tracks and transport the rails to salvage yards and the ties to dumps and there is nothing left for building the new trail. So no matter what your stance is on rails versus trails or having both, please stop claiming that the salvage will pay for the trail. It just isn’t so. All it will leave us with is no rails and no trail. I call that lose / lose.

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    • Paul says:

      Tony, I think that this idea of using a restored RR for hikers and paddlers (as well as any other train use) is just an idea that I have floated here. I would not categorize that with the “rail supporters”. It is just my kooky idea but it is worth consideration. But I personally don’t have time to design such a proposal. I think it is just important to remember that once you have torn up the tracks you are pretty much done with any RR related use. Also, people would participate in an activity that they can get to some other way as long as it is fun. That happens all the time. It is easier to take a motor boat to some of the places I like to go via canoe but I still prefer to paddle there sometimes.

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  16. Naj Wikoff Naj Wikoff says:

    The value of an accessible loop trail is evident in the highly popular walk around Mirror Lake in Lake Placid, which is used non stop by all manner of people all day long. I believe that similar trails though the wilderness would be equally popular. In the Valley Trail located Keene Valley we have a bit of the possibilities which would be great and I think well used if it could be extended from Keene to St Huberts and wander along one side of the Ausable and at least in sections return on the other.

    The reality is our population is getting older and thus creating a series of community-based loops that are not terribly long have much merit as a lot more people will use them than one that stretches some 100 miles in length. After all, how many people each year stroll the Placid-Northville Trail in contrast to the hundreds who walk, bike and run around Mirror Lake each day.

    If our goal is to get as many people out hiking and enjoying nature as possible, I think the shorter community loops will do that the soonest with the least cost and effort.

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  17. Ken Youngblood says:

    Jack’s ideas are fantastic…if we had unlimited financial resources, if the state of New York is about to invest a hundred million in the fantasy, and if the laws governing wilderness preservation are abolished. Short of any of those premises and we have nothing but a costly, empty tourist train, and 90 miles of abandoned track that could be a recreational trail thru wilderness connecting towns and drawing tourist dollars to every one of them.

    The target population of an Adirondack recreational Trail is not the typical hiker/biker/skier eager to make tracks over hill and dale. The target is the casual recreationist who likes to visit new places at a leisurely pace with safe conduct for young and old, absent of road traffic.

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    • Nathanael says:

      The tourist train is profitable and busy.

      And the 90 miles of track are used for equipment moves between the two ends of the railroad — eventually they will be restored to full passenger operation.

      The Adirondack Scenic Railroad has restored the line from Remsen (north of Utica) to Big Moose and from Lake Placid to Saranac Lake. It will continue to restore track, unless the anti-rail fanatics rip the track up.

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  18. Tony Godwin says:

    Naj, yes we need local trails that are accessible and useful by those of all ages and abilities. However, don’t cite the Valley Trail in Keene Valley as an example. When it actually existed, it was nowhere near the river for most of its length, it had many steep hills, and was abandoned because too few ever wanted to use it. Your comments echo those who somehow think there is a network of parallel trails that will allow the railroad to continue while still allowing recreational use between the communities.

    That just isn’t possible -either along the rail corridor or in Keene Valley along the Valley Trail.

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  19. Randy Wint says:

    Very nice ideas… very similar to ideas that I have always thought would be nice additions to hiking, biking areas! Thanks for publishing your ideas!! (and one writer said “only SL + LP” but I believe you said that this could be done in many communities and here were your ideas for SL- maybe I’m wrong)

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