Monday, April 7, 2014

Jack Drury: A Proposal For Rail AND Trail

Rail.locator (2)(1)I’ve been an advocate of more recreational trails throughout the park for a long time. I also feel that we’ll be cheated if we don’t try our damnedest to try to have a rail and trail, side by side where possible and intersecting when not.

In a March 16 letter to the Utica Observer Dispatch respected trail advocate Tony Goodwin noted that a rail with trail, “… is not physically possible” and that:  “Periodically leaving the corridor is so far just talk. A year ago, Tupper Lake rail supporters formed a committee to look at a parallel trail from Tupper Lake to the campground at Rollins Pond. I know committee members made field inspections, but so far there’s no plan showing that a parallel trail could feasibly be built.”

I decided to take a deeper look. I talked with some folks from Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake who have explored the rail corridor in greater detail than I have. I took their information and combined it with my own experience and I made a map of a possible trail from Saranac Lake to Tupper Lake. 

You will note a few specific things:

  • It is either in the rail corridor or on Wild Forest Forest Preserve with the exception of a short section at the Tupper Lake end that utilizes private roads.
  • Based on APA maps it follows the rail corridor or existing trails and roads throughout the entire route. It would require two or three short connector sections and bridges to be complete.
  • It would be an excellent all purpose trail. Short sections could be done by road bikes and the entire thing could be done on mountain bikes, by foot, ski, and snowshoe. Most, if not all of it, could be done by snowmobile. Primitive and front country camping can be readily accessed along the way.

Rail Trail - Rail With Trail MapNote: The blue shows the rail corridor and red shows the trail route. All boundaries and the route are approximate. I don’t pretend to have any expertise in GIS or cartography.

Have at it folks. What do you think?

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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103 Responses

  1. Buddy Boyd says:

    This might work for the section between Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake but going from Tupper Lake to Beaver River is a very different story. Land acquisition, permits, and construction would be difficult and expensive. My opinion is based on my personal observations having traveled that section of the tracks on numerous occasions. I have not heard one rail AND trail advocate discuss the cost of doing both. If the estimate of $40 million to rebuild the railroad is accurate, then I estimated the cost of rail and trail would be at least $60 million. As it is, I don’t see the state coming up with the first $40 million for the rail. I think there are higher priorities in Albany. I am sympathetic to the rail folks, but I don’t think it would be a wise investment by the state. The recreation trail provides the greatest good to the greatest number of people, and a lot more bang for the buck.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 10

    • big burly says:

      Straw man comments. Advocates for rail removal cite the scrap value would pay for trail construction. What about the costs entailed with legally required hearings if the UMP is opened? The costs to remove heritage protections? The costs of abandonment hearings — that by the way do not weigh alternate recreation uses, but rather is there alternative transportation infrastructure adequate to offset the abandoned capacity.
      Making what we have available in a greater variety of ways to a greater number seems like such a common sense solution. Maybe that is why it was chosen after such extensive examination in 1996?

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 15

      • Tony Goodwin says:

        After extensive examination in 1996 the full rail option was chosen as the first option for a “rail marketing period” of five years. This was after the ARPS had stated in writing that they were prepared to improve the track from Utica to Lake Placid to Class III (i.e. 60 mph passenger speeds) AT NO COST TO THE STATE.

        This promise apparently came from a study done by Freight Services Inc. that said Class III could be done, in phases, for $11 million. This study also charted the job creation as each phase of the restoration was completed. When the Lake Placid-Saranac Lake sections was running, the railroad would be creating 70 new jobs. Well, that operation has been going for more that ten years, but I don’t think anyone can point to more than a few part-time seasonal jobs that have been created.

        So, since neither the promised restoration “at no cost to the state” nor the “70 jobs” have come true, why is this not the moment to try something new?

        Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 4

    • Hope says:

      We were given estimates of over 2 million per mile based on a proposed parallel trail to be built in Maine thru similar terrain. The project was scrapped due to costs.

      Any new trails built must be suitable for snowmobiles and their appropriate grooming equipment. The trail proposed by ARTA is flat with a hard packed stone dust surface providing recreational opportunities to all levels of fitness.

      Almost all ADK counties can be connected via this recreation trail by existing snowmobile trails. Without being able to use the Travel Corridor these counties are isolated from one another. This was born true over the last couple of weeks of the snowmobile season.

      Finally, the communities and a majority of the people support the conversion to recreational trail. All the towns and villages support opening the UMP (Unit Management Plan)

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 11

      • Paul says:

        “Any new trails built must be suitable for snowmobiles and their appropriate grooming equipment. The trail proposed by ARTA is flat with a hard packed stone dust surface providing recreational opportunities to all levels of fitness.”

        Why?

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 8

        • Hope says:

          Because the trail that Mr. Drury is proposing is supposed to take the place of the trail that ARTA is proposing which encompasses the use of snowmobiles on the corridor. Snowmobiles. ARTA’s trail proposal’s main reasons for this trail is that both bicycles and snowmobiles along with other recreational pursuits have a venue that enhances their experiences and brings economic vitalty to the communities it passes through. Winter economies in the ADK’s depend on snow related recreational pursuits such as skiing, snowmobiling and snowshoeing. There are many venues across the ADK’s to ski and snowshoe but very few that allow for quality snowmobiling. The Travel Corridor is actually the perfect place for this because it exponentially expands possibilities throughout the ADK’s with minimal impact. The corridor is there already, it has been built. It just needs to be improved and maintained. It does not encompass building whole new wide trails through the Forest preserve to accommodate this pursuit.

          Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 12

          • Susan says:

            I second Paul’s question. When did snowmobilers become the top priority in this issue? (I suppose I could answer my own question here, as it was probably about the same time you realized their leverage financially) You state that Jack’s proposal is supposed to take the place of what ARTA is suggesting. Says who? This is about the best way to utilize the corridor and provide recreational outlets to the largest number of people. At least that’s what the trail and rail advocates are aiming for. Not so sure about ARTA’s motives anymore.

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            • Hope says:

              Snowmobiles have always been a part of ARTA’s proposed trail. Jim McCulley, from the Lake Placid Snowmobile Club is one of the original members of ARTA’s steering committee and now on the Board of Directors. And, ARTA is about utilizing the corridor to provide the most recreational outlets to the largest number of people and activities. And yes, economics does play an important role here because snowmobile tourists are a much bigger economic play for our communities than the railroad has ever been. As an ANCA member said to me at the beginning of ARTA’s campaign “All you have done (with ARTA’s proposal) is get the railroad stepping up to plate and moving on with their plan. This (rail trail) will never happen.” Well what the heck have they been doing for the past 20+ years? Playing trains? Someone (ARTA) has a different idea, puts it out there and gets an enthusiastic response from the business and community members and all of a sudden it’s supposed to be a rail AND trail proposal but not include snowmobiles and only go between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. I’m not seeing a great shift of opinion towards that end (rail AND trail) here in Tupper Lake. Especially after that last 2 weeks of March bringing snowmobile business into town they haven’t seen in years. Bring on the BIKES!

              Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 10

          • Paul says:

            You can still snowmobile on this trail he has mapped out. They probably can’t travel as fast as they could on the proposed rail to trail. Last time I rode a snowmobile (and that was a while ago) you didn’t always need a groomed trail. The snow-machines have been riding this corridor without a groomer for as long as there has been snowmobiles.

            Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 7

            • Hope says:

              So then why do the snowmobile clubs and counties have very expensive equipment used to groom snowmobile trails? Why are the trails in Old Forge and Tug Hill so popular? Because they are groomed. Just like Whiteface and Gore are McCauly groomed for downhill skiers and Van Ho, Cascade, Dewey Mtn, Paul Smiths VIC for X- Country skiing. It improves the experience for the snowmobile rider. Improved conditions bring in more people. More people utilizing the rail corridor in winter provides a significant economic boost to ALL the communities on the corridor as well as those connected via other trails.

              Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 6

              • Susan says:

                Again, this sounds like the snowmobiling community is your only priority. You claim to be wanting to serve a greater population of outdoor enthusiasts, yet every argument comes back to the usefulness of the trail for snowmobiles.

                Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 9

                • Hope says:

                  That is the beauty of it, snowmobile trails are very useful for other endeavors. There are no other trails among all the trail opportunities available in the ADK Park that permit snowmobiling, bike riding and walking on the same venue except for snowmobile trails. You can walk, ski, bike or snowshoe on a snowmobile trail in winter. Some of those new fat tire bikes have been seen on some this winter. You can bike or walk on the trail when the snow cover is gone. So other than paddling and ATV riding there isn’t any recreational opportunity that isn’t being accommodated by this proposal. Most all the paddling available in the ADK’s can be reached via road and ATV’s are not permitted on State Land in NY.

                  Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 5

                  • Marcel says:

                    I would just like to point out to Mr. Drury that Rail- Trail bikers are attracted to a rail trail because it is NOT a “Mountain Bike Trail”. Rail-Trails are used by ALL ages of our population, mainly because of the gradual grades, smoothness and the ability to ride Comfort or Hybrid bike which is important for people with orthopedic issues. Mr. Drury’s view point seems to be one that assumes all visitors to the Adirondack Park are in tip top physical shape. It is a view that seems held by many physically fit people who only see their view as to how the park should be used. I have ridden 36 Rail-Trails throughout our country, some of them with my arthritic knee before it was replaced, and none of them were part Mountain Bike Trails. I just couldn’t do Mountain Bike Trails. If this trail is to succeed it needs to be used by all ages and physical abilities. Mr. Drury take a trip to the Pine Creek in PA and see the very young, the old, the mountain bikers and the people in jazzy chairs using this rail trail. Oh, by the way there is a scenic railroad at the northern terminus of this 63 mile rail trail.

                    Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

                • Hope says:

                  I personally don’t snowmobile (I’m a skier) but I understand the draw and as a business owner in the ADK’s I understand the economic potential that this trail will bring. Snowmobiler’s spend more than double any other recreational pursuit according to ROOST. Between $300-$400 per day. More than downhill skiers and other winter sports. Why not accommodate them as well as other recreational pursuits?

                  Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 8

              • Paul says:

                Hope, sure it is what is more popular for sure. I was just saying that you could also ride this proposed trail and do it when there is less snow that you need with the rails.

                What is the plan as far as who will have what groomers where and who will groom the sections around the tri-lakes if this comes to pass? How does it work down in OF?

                The biggest battle here is going to be with the DOT they are not going to want to give up this corridor. That is probably why the thing already appears stalled as far as re-opening the plan.

                Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

                • Hope says:

                  Currently, when there is enough snow to cover the tracks, the grooming on the corridor is shared by the snowmobile clubs and counties with grooming equipment. Example: Lake Placid snowmobile club grooms LP to Lake Clear, Franklin County grooms Lake Clear to Piercefield, Cranberry Lake Snopackers groom Piercfield to Sabattis, etc.. onto Old Forge. The costs for grooming the trails is reimbursed by NYS from the snowmobile registration fees paid for by snowmobile owners. The Town of Webb has built miles of trails in their township that they groom themselves. These trails were built primarily for snowmobiling but are now also being used as bike trails with some being improved to be able to be used by road bikes. Old Forge charges a permit fee for trail use which offsets the costs of maintaining the trails. Their trails also connect with the corridor.

                  Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

              • Paul says:

                It sounds like in Old Forge there is a popular train and a lot of popular groomed snowmobile trails.

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      • Andrew says:

        Hope, we’re not anti-trail, we just don’t want the track stolen. Build a trail alongside the track just as sidewalks are built next to roads. This is a win-win for everyone!

        Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  2. Jim McCulley says:

    The question is even if possible. Why? There is no evidence that the ASR has an impact on the Northern regions economy. There may or may not be some impact in the Old Forge area. We have no way of telling since they won’t release revenue figures from their operations by location. Their public statements and tax return show 84% of revenue is derived Utica to Remsen. Not even on this corridor. To keep the train is an economic loser for the state whether or not the trail is built. There is no reason to keep throwing money at operation that create value for the few at the cost to many.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 14

    • Paul says:

      I think everyone (including the ASR) agree that something needs to be done on the entire corridor if it is to be successful. This is not necessarily an argument against the rail idea. In fact it may be an argument for it. I think the popularity and success on the train at the south end where it is actually starting to poke into some more remote territory may be an indication of what might be possible if it gets into some really remote and scenic portions of the line.

      Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  3. Alan Senbaugh says:

    When a “foot trail” is directly adjacent to an active Rail line, isn’t a high fence required? If true that would be a barrier for wildlife and add cost.

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    • Richard says:

      Good point. But also illustrative of the “created” nature of this issue. Truth: we can (and do) walk along this path through the woods now. It is neat (Beaver River Station north). And snowmobiles are certainly not unknown along the railway in the winter.

      Ponder the silliness: a walking trail through the wilderness, along side a railway upon which a train travels very occasionally (and noisily, btw), which requires an expensive fence. Huh??

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  4. Chris Rohner says:

    As a casual observer of this debate, I appreciate the concept of putting together a route that uses a variety of existing access points and rail and road networks. However the final decision comes down, a successful network will need multiple access points and use options. It would be great to see a similar map with some description of the cost/benefit of segment determination. (Jack – not to give you any more work!) Thanks for this insight.

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  5. George L says:

    The best use for the most people? NYS should:

    Use the existing tracks for a light rail system, primarily to connect the Adirondack communities

    Build a stand-alone bike trail from Lake Placid to Saranac Lake, using eminent domain if necessary

    Arrange for weekly planned road closures throughout the Adirondacks for car-free bicycling

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 27

  6. Tony Goodwin says:

    I commend Jack for finally showing on a map some possible routes for an alternate trail. Unfortunately, this proposed route does not come close to achieving ARTTA’s stated goal of a wide, smooth, nearly-level trail that can accommodate road bikes in summer and frequent snowmobile traffic with associated grooming in the winter. Such a trail would be very different from all other Adirondack trails and therefore attract a whole new group of trail users.

    Specifically, Jack’s map shows 32 miles of trail between Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake compared to 24 miles via the rail corridor. The route does avoid the largest wetlands and the Hoel Pond and Lake Colby causeways. However, of that 32 miles: a) 13 miles is parallel trail requiring additional fill and extending all culverts and bridges; b) over nine miles uses rough existing trails that would have to be smoothed and widened; c) over five miles uses private roads with no assurance that appropriate easements could be obtained – especially through the development east of Hoel Pond; d) over four miles uses busy paved highways with limited shoulders for bicycles and would not provide an alternative route for snowmobiles in low-snow winters; and e) one-half mile of new trail would have to be constructed to the above standard.

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  7. Brian Mann Brian Mann says:

    Hi folks -

    As someone who has spent a probably inordinate amount of time covering this issue for NCPR and the Adirondack Explorer, I want to chime in with a couple of thoughts.

    Basically, I think we’re years past the point where proposals like this — draw a line on a map and throw out a cool idea — are particularly helpful.

    What’s needed are proposals that wrestle directly and frankly with the many challenges that such a project would entail.

    Here are some of the questions that Jack should take on if he really thinks this is an idea that might fly:

    -Why, when this idea of a combined rail-trail has been floating around for years, has no one stepped forward expressing interest in organizing the enormous effort that would be needed to support it?

    -What does it mean that Lake Placid abandoned a similar effort, citing cost and regulatory hurdles?

    -What does it mean that so far there is no source of major capital funding for the rail or the trail project — let alone both?

    -What constitutional issues would arise running a rail-trail type corridor through state forest preserve land?

    -What would the carrying cost for taxpayers be going forward trying to maintain both ideas?

    There may be good answers to these questions. It may be that a couple of small rural communities can sustain a combined infrastructure lift of this magnitude.

    But again, we’ve had a lot of years of people suggesting exciting big-vision ideas without providing any of the real-world, gritty, grounded analysis that would be needed to evaluate their actual potential.

    –Brian Mann, NCPR

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    • Paul says:

      “Basically, I think we’re years past the point where proposals like this — draw a line on a map and throw out a cool idea — are particularly helpful.”

      Why not? This is a blog. He is simply pointing out that the argument that it cannot be done is not entirely accurate. People can filter out information if they choose.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

  8. Linda says:

    If it would help the ongoing discussions, I am a GIS professional and would be happy to include various proposed trails in the adktrailmap as another layer.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  9. Lakechamplain says:

    I think the article is thoughtful and worthy of discussion as to solutions to the ongoing dilemma and dialogue.
    I have a few points to raise as some fellow commenters have. One, playing off the Brian Mann articles, where he confronted head-on the reality that both sides don’t have easy answers to: Where’s the MONEY going to come from?
    I appreciate that this is the opening salvo in a combination rail & trail from your perspective. I just wish you’d shared your thoughts on this angle.
    What genuinely dismayed me though was that in your description of the modified trail you mentioned that road bikes would be able to use some sections. Whoa. One aspect of the proposed bike/hike/snowmobile trail was that it would be paved and have a moderately level terrain. Your modifications don’t seem to reflect that. I think there are a lot more people, both residents and visiting tourists, who would be attracted to a trail that road bikes could use. Think families, older bikers, casual rent-a-bike riders. And I’m not sure this trail would necessarily appeal to mountain bikers anyway. But in the end if road bikes are excluded or limited, it’s going to harm this trails popularity and use.

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    • Hope says:

      The Rail Trail is not going to be paved with asphalt. it will be a hard packed stone dust surface. It will be wide enough to allow for modern snowmobile trail grooming equipment to be used.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 3 Thumb down 6

      • Paul says:

        Will it be watered in some way in the summer to keep down the dust?

        This normally wouldn’t be too much of an issue but some trail advocates have the estimates in the thousands of bikes per day range?

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6

      • Alan Senbaugh says:

        Funny, I was in favor of the rail trail until reading your comments. Goes to show you, read everything before you donate money. Go train!

        Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  10. Kara Page says:

    Speaking for myself, it’s never too late to make a sensible contribution. I have been waiting for someone to put this idea forward for years and applaud Jack for it. I think we need both the rail and the trail. Thank you.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 10

  11. It appears that the main complaints against having both end up being about money. I recognize that we are still coming out of a deep recession and we have become conditioned (indoctrinated?) by the ultra-conservative chant that we have to cut spending but I have to wonder what ever became of the quintessential American boldness of pursuing big ideas. We’ve lost it to the point that our astronauts have to hitchhike to get to the space station. Are we really so bad off, so pessimistic about the future and our ability to do difficult things that we don’t believe in our ability to build a trail in the woods? That’s truly sad.

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  12. Thank you Brian, you always bring good points to the table.
    I would add: there is a State Land Master Plan limit to snowmobile trail mileage in the park, so that would also have to be addressed. Then there is the 800# Gorilla in the room. The Rail bed is and has been a snowmobile route for over 50 years. Snowmobiling has been the most important independent contribution to the Adirondack economy in( my guess 50 years) the years there has been a snowmobile association. Removing the ties and rails would instantly, vastly, improve that contribution. Years like this? I’m sure x4.( and that is not just Beaver River, ask.)Yes, I know I make it all about the money, but somebody better!

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 7

  13. Paul says:

    Okay I know Brian doesn’t think it is productive to throw out funky ideas, and he is probably right, but I am going to do it again anyway.
    Someone here had a good idea recently. That is the idea of using the rails for some type of “vehicle” other than a train that could greatly reduce the cost of re-construction and maintenance of the rail line. I have suggested a smaller full-length (year round) tourist train like one I have ridden in SW Colorado. One that could take hikers and paddlers into remote trail heads and put-ins along the corridor as well as service regular tourist passengers and riders.
    Put these two ideas together and what about some kind of electric (quiet and clean keep even the enviros happy) train that could serve this purpose? It could be a one-of-a-kind tourist experience. A rail-to-trail is somewhat unique but there are plenty of them around. Imagine loading up your canoes in Old Forge and spending the day on a quiet car cruising through some of the most remote wilderness in the east. Your stop and where you unload your boats and packs is a re-built train depot on the shore of Lows lake (or some other rugged Adirondack pond) . Sure, maybe a wacky, idea but certainly unique.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 8

    • Susan says:

      Not wacky at all Paul. I think this combination makes the most sense, as it will appeal to the largest number of people, and make best use of both resources – the train and the trails. I know the focus of this piece is on the Tupper to Placid section, but what of access to the stretch between there and Big Moose? Average hikers/bikers/snowshoers/skiers are not likely to venture into 80 miles of wilderness with little to no infrastructure. The rail provides access to these interior stops, allowing for more feasible trips, and more users. It also has the benefit of carrying the elderly and infirm – who could never hope to travel the corridor under ARTA’s plan – as well as providing emergency transportation.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 7

      • Paul says:

        Whatever is done here it should be uniform along the whole corridor. Not a trail at one end and a train at the other.

        Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

      • Hope says:

        There is public access at many points along the Travel Corridor. Some remote such as Beaver River, with services, and of course all of the villages along the way. Those that don’t want to stray too far from amenities can stay closer to population centers. Those with more ambition can venture farther afield. The opportunities for all types of trips from the 1/2 hr. walk to a multi day bicycle/camping trip can be accommodated.

        Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

    • OK, you might have an idea, but how about this: no track repair, no building a new trailway, remove the ties and rails, add compacted stone dust, crusher run natural stone, then have an antique-look trolly ( see old photos of Grasse River RR and Paul Smith’s Electric ), could be propane engine or fuel cell electric, operate as needed when there’s no snow and everybody’s happy but the most ardent rail fans or purest hike and bike folks. Win Win and only one cost!

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 2 Thumb down 8

      • Paul says:

        They can ride of the snowmobile groomer! But I get your point.

        Scott what is the story with the trestles and bridges. Aren’t they kind of held together by the rails?

        Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

        • from Old Forge to Lake Placid the bridges are of independent construction and do not need the rails or ties, they are actually just extra weight. In my memory they are all box type; meaning they hold stone and would hold trail material. The exception is just South of Tupper Lake, the Raquette River Bridge? has an open space between each tie which would leave ~12″ between each channel of steel so we would have to deck that with planking.
          ” have sawmill, will travel!”

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          • Paul says:

            Thanks. I think you will have to do that with the trestle that crosses the Saranac River in Saranac Lake as well. I think it will need fencing on both sides also it is pretty creepy as far as how high it is. You could just bike around and use the road bridge but that would kind of defeat the purpose.

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    • troutstalker says:

      Sounds like a romantic idea but the last thing I want to hear while paddling in the wilderness is the clanking of a train! I paddle and camp to get away from the sounds of the industrialized world. How long will it take to make 60 million dollars in such a huge endeavor? I don’t spend much money up there. I get my gas in Rochester and bring my own supplies. I agree that snowmobilers bring in the most revenue and the most accidents. Who’s going to patrol the trails?

      Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

      • Sorry to hear you don’t actively patronize the Adirondacks businesses, the greater the volume the better the competitive price and some one will miss them when they’re gone. Anyway, the Corridor has been a trail for over 40 years; the rail removal will just make a longer season with a wider, safer trail. I will suggest the increased snowmobile registration fees will help DEC and local agencies enforce the regulations and violators should contribute HEAVILY .

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  14. Steven Leslie says:

    Rail trails are not especially interesting for biking and skiing, both of which I like to do when I make it up to the Adirondacks from downstate. For transportation this trail might be interesting in short stretches. And I’m sure it’d be great for snowmobiles. But mountain bikers and XC skiiers want terrain that’s challenging, not a long, level route. This rail trail wouldn’t make my list of places to go. I doubt it’d be much of a draw for other sports-oriented visitors either.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 7

    • Hope says:

      The rail trail is not designed to be a challenging mountain biking or skiing venue. It is designed to be used by average people of all fitness levels to have an off road venue to recreate in. A place where families can bring children to ride bikes or go for a walk. A place that is deliberately designed to be an easy recreation activity for all. That is not to say that more challenging ventures cannot be designed that would use all or some of that trail but we have a lot of trails here in the ADK’s that scale mountains or are rough footpaths thru the woods that a lot of people aren’t interested in or not experienced or fit enough to attempt. This rail trail is for their benefit. It gets people outdoors and moving and maybe they will expand their horizons to a more difficult adventure as they feel more comfortable on this easy path. What it will do is get more people outside and more appreciative of nature and it’s benefits.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 6

  15. Alan Senbaugh says:

    Question-If the tracks are ripped up the land goes to DEC instead of DOT? The full length in the blueline would then have to be added to the snowmobile cap? This would require abandonment of a lot of other trails, or most likely APA just raising the cap.

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    • Jim Rolf says:

      Why Would The Corridor Go To The DEC? It Should Stay With DOT, IMO. So The Mileage Cap Wouldn’t Matter. But The Mileage On The Corridor Might Already Be Considered Since The Travel Corridor Is Its Own UMP.

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      • Alan Senbaugh says:

        Why would you want DOT to manage Forest Preserve? If the tracks are ripped up the DEC is the agency to manage the lands.

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    • Paul says:

      I think the question of whether this is already considered as snowmobile trail mileage is one that should be answered? Anyone?

      If it isn’t it seems to me like the trail idea is dead in the water at least for snow machines.

      There was a lot of debate from the environmental community regarding the approved corridor for snowmobiles near the Essex chain lakes. Interestingly there doesn’t seem to be much opposition to increased snowmobile use on this corridor?

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      • Hope says:

        This Travel Corridor is already a snowmobile trail (trail designation C-7) on the NYS map of snowmobile trails. Removing the rails and ties doesn’t change that.

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        • Alan Senbaugh says:

          Your missing the Question…Yes it’s a snowmobile trail but I think and am pretty sure that since it is DOT and not Forest Preserve it is not in the APA snowmobile cap which applies only to Forest Preserve. If the land becomes Forest Preserve the cap would need to be revisited.

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          • Hope says:

            The land does not become forest preserve. It is a Travel Corridor with its own UMP. That it’s its classification in the SLMP. It is specifically mentioned by name as the “Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor”. It is to be managed by DEC, DOT and APA according to the current UMP.

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            • Paul says:

              We get all that. Is the mileage counted in the current snowmobile trail mileage for the DEC?? Or are you saying it is not part of that but a “travel corridor” that is exempt? Are you sure about that? If a new UMP has the DEC and the APA managing this, the DOT is out if the rails are gone they don’t manage trails, the trail would probably count as part of the snowmobile trail mileage allowed under the SLMP.

              I would not be at all surprised if some environmental organizations argue that 120 miles of other snowmobile trails will have to go if this is opened up. What amount of mileage is left under the cap? Is there any?

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              • Paul says:

                BTW this is not a “conspiracy theory” but a real possibility under a revised UMP. Not one that means that a trail is not possible but this is one thing that you might have to deal with moving forward.

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                • Alan Senbaugh says:

                  Absolutely. As you can tell from my comments I am more of a wilderness advocate. The last decade, with some poor snow years, the rail line has been reasonably snowmobileable, an avg of 30 days per winter? With no rails and same snowfall that jumps to 90+? That’s all and good but I would ask for a compromise. I would want some more quiet lands. Give and take. Have your greatly expanded (in day use) sled trail but maybe next Finch “wilderness” purchase lets not run a sled trail through the middle of it.

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              • Hope says:

                The APA document for mileage cap on snowmobiles can be found here. Item# 6 addresses the Remsen-Lake Placid Corridor.
                http://www.northcountrypublicradio.org/PDFs/SLMP-Guidelines4.pdf

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                • Hope says:

                  Sorry, that link doesn’t work.
                  This one should
                  http://www.northcountrypublicradio.org/PDFs/SLMP-Guideline4.pdf

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                  • Hope says:

                    Well, the link doesn’t work but you can type in the address and it should get you there. Anyway here is #6:

                    “The mileage of designated snowmobile use on roads and trails on lands under jurisdiction of DEC in existing areas classified Primitive, Historic or Intensive Use will not be subject to Wild Forest Basic Guideline #4 and will be documented in the unit management planning process. Similarly, the designated snowmobile trail use in the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor under jurisdiction of the DOT will not be subject to Wild Forest Basic Guideline #4. Designated trails in Alice Brook and Forks Mountain Primitive areas are temporary and efforts should continue to relocate them outside Primitive and Wilderness classifications.”

                    The mileage cap is for designated trails in Wild Forest classified areas. Guideline#4

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                    • Paul says:

                      Thanks. I tried everything it doesn’t seem to work.

                      But here is the problem for ARTA:

                      “Similarly, the designated snowmobile trail use in the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor under jurisdiction of the DOT will not be subject to Wild Forest Basic Guideline #4.”

                      UNDER JURISDICTION OF DOT.

                      The DOT is not going to have jurisdiction if there isn’t a rail line there. Without rails it is a state owned trail under the jurisdiction of the DEC. The DOT does not want to be liable when hundreds of thousands of bikes (ARTA estimates) are using this trail crossing highways going over old bridges etc.. They are probably not comfortable with the liability issues that could come from allowing snowmobiles now.

                      I guess we will just have to wait and see what happens.

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                • Paul says:

                  Hope the link doesn’t seem to work?

                  According to the ASLMP the only “travel corridor” that is not a highway is this rail line. I don’t think that there is any reason to think that if the rail line is removed that it would remain a travel corridor.

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                  • Hope says:

                    IMHO, keeping the Travel Corridor so designated permits it to be “rail banked” so to speak so that if a train is warranted in the future it can be rebuilt. Rail Banking is a Federal term that helps to preserve ROW’s for future rail use. ARTA thinks that although you can’t “rail bank” state land, the State can preserve that right for the future. Many people think that ARTA is being disingenuous with that idea. They think that once pulled the tracks will never come back. That may be true in my lifetime but forever? Who knows? Why not leave that possibility open?

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                    • Paul says:

                      I really think that this is an attempt to have it both ways so to speak. I am not sure it is realistic.

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                  • Hope says:

                    Part of the problem with Jack’s trail system is that it would increase snowmobile trail mileage in Wild Forest areas which may exceed the cap set for that classification. Also, the lawsuit which PROTECT has filed against the DEC, for permitting new approved snowmobile trails to be built to modern snowmobile trail specs, has understandably but a damper on the building of new trails.

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                    • John Warren John Warren says:

                      There is no damper on building new snowmobile trails. See for example the several new connectors including in the Moose River Plains, between Newcomb and Indian Lake, and planned for the Essex Chain. Since 2004, more trails have been built in recent years and are in the planning than over many years before that. Easements, which avoid forever wild protections, have opened many additional miles to snowmobiles. At the same time, it appears snowmobiling will continue it’s long decline (which started in about 1975).

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            • Alan Senbaugh says:

              There is no way once the tracks are ripped up it remains DOT property. Look at all the other old rail lines in the DEC that were state owned. They become forest preserve. The only reason it is still DOT is because of the rail line.

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              • Paul says:

                I agree. If you can wrestle this out of the DOT’s hands they are gone.

                This is not unmanageable for the trail people but it must be understood how this will affect their plans.

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              • Hope says:

                Those other rail lines were not in there own designated Travel Corridor classification. This is a specifically classified area with it’s own UMP. It would require a change in the SLMP to be referred to forest preserve. No one is asking for that to happen on either side of the debate.

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                • Alan Senbaugh says:

                  Bury your head in the sand then. You are correct, they didn’t have their own UMP’s because there were none in that era. There is no way removing the tracks and leaving as DOT lands inside the Forest preserve will withstand a constitutional challenge. It is a manageable situation when it becomes Forest Preserve but you can’t expect it to remain DOT land.

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                  • Hope says:

                    It is NYS land not DOT land. DOT and DEC co-manage the corridor. As long as the Travel Corridor is being used as a Travel Corridor (which it would be by snowmobiles and bicycles, which are considered modes of transportation) I believe that it would stand up to that scrutiny. You are entitled to believe what you wish but what happens in that corridor will be determined by the UMP review and the agencies involved will be making the determination as to what will work within the constitution of the forest preserve. Since neither side of this debate wants the Travel Corridor designation to be put aside it will be a consideration in the final determination of the UMP.

                    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6

                    • Paul says:

                      “Since neither side of this debate wants the Travel Corridor designation to be put aside it will be a consideration in the final determination of the UMP.”

                      Hope, neither the rail or the trail advocates has anything to do with what this is designated under a revised UMP where it is no longer a rail line.

                      Is there any precedent for what you are hoping will happen? Do we have designated “travel corridors” that are trails and not roads or rail lines?

                      Let’s say it remains a “travel corridor” under a new UMP why would other motor vehicles not be allowed to use the corridor. Recreational biking and snowmobiling does not seem to fit the designation of “travel”? Isn’t it technically a “transportation corridor”?

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                    • Paul says:

                      It looks like funding for maintenance is a challenge for trails, although not one that can be overcome.

                      http://www.railstotrails.org/ourWork/trailBuilding/toolbox/informationSummaries/maintenance_funding.html

                      There is some federal funding available.

                      http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/recreational_trails/

                      NYS is getting 2.2 million dollars in 2014 from this program. The amount a state gets is based on the amount of fuel consumed for “non-highway recreational use”. Good thing this is also a snowmobile trail! This seems unfair to the bikers and hikers. But I guess that is where the money comes from. It looks like motorized recreation pretty much pays the bills. Open this up to ATV use (or motorcycles?) and there would be more funds available for maintenance.

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                    • Alan Senbaugh says:

                      If there is not a rail line the “travel corridor” will essentially be a trail through state land in (when inside the blueline)the Adirondacks on state land. That is Forest Preserve. People don’t sled, bike and hike on old rail lines that are Forest Preserve now? Ever heard of the Bloomingdale bog? When the rails are ripped up this will be a constitutional question. Not much precedent for DOT owning/maintaining/managing hiking, biking and snowmobile trails in the park.

                      Why do the trails folks want the “Travel Corridor Designation” to remain in place?

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                    • Paul says:

                      “Why do the trails folks want the “Travel Corridor Designation” to remain in place?”

                      Two reason that I can see.

                      One. The idea of getting DOT funding is possible (if not probable).

                      Two. The state or others can’t turn around and say that snowmobiles are not permitted on trails that run through Wilderness land. If the Bloomingdale bog was through Wilderness designated lands it would not have snowmobiles (at least legally).

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        • Lake Champlain says:

          Hope, with all due respect, you are turning this comment section into your own personal blog. I really think you’ve made your points, over and over and over. I think there has been a healthy and civil exchange of ideas here so maybe we should move on.
          What I would perhaps like to see on this site about this topic are some examples of other rail to trail systems around the country, preferably those with similar circumstances. I know my neighbor, an avid biker in his 70′s, has gone far afield, to places like Iowa, Virginia, Wisconsin, Quebec and elsewhere to be part of rail to trail tours, with his sons and grandsons, and has nothing but positive things to say about them. They’ve traveled to these places and spent money and in my humble opinion, most of them don’t offer the scenic opportunity that biking through a section of Adirondack wilderness does.
          (And Hope, please no snowmobile comment here).

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          • James Falcsik says:

            The ARTA trail proposal is projecting thousands of visitors and economic prosperity based on flawed impact study methodology. Economic growth will not occur to the region if the majority of trail users are local to your counties. That is what happens to many rail trails. Sales dollar figures do not add up to jobs created or aggregate income growth. ARTA and RTC’s examples using the Great Allegheny Passage and the Ghost Town Trail are way off base. The City of Connellsville and Connellsville Township, trail communities in western PA, are considered economically distressed municipalities. In the last 10 years more than 12K people have moved out of Fayette County. This is consistent with several other trail towns here. Emails to the Allegheny Trial Alliance go unanswered when I request these types of measurable indicators. At least the Indiana County Dept. of Parks and Recreation were honest and said they did not have job or income growth data.

            Population loss and the distressed status are not imagination; they are facts that should make Adirondack communities and your legislative reps really use careful reasoning before considering removing the tracks. These are not attributes of a robust trail economy. That railroad line is an economic asset and the idea that ASR only has a month-to-month lease is ridiculous. They can’t possibly attract business investors without a minimum 5 year lease, and you folks want to accuse them of mismanagement. The other side of the coin, literally, is the perpetual cost of trail projects and maintenance. The local RTC here in Westmoreland County sucked almost $16 million public dollars out of the economy between 2007 and 2011; twenty years after the trail was built and opened.

            Now don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy our rail-trails in Pennsylvania. The GAP, The Ghost Town, and the Five-Star (trail with rail) will find my wife and I enjoying frequently in the long days of summer. Despite what some here have written about on the ARTA Facebook site, I think rail-trails are a good use of land assets; AFTER abandonment. But the idea that you can fool the public with promises of prosperity and cheap conversion are misleading.

            Economic growth should be measurable before federal funds are released as part of the rail-banking statute. ARTA and other similar organizations can project any economic data they want in order to market their plans, and nobody holds their feet to the fire to prove their claims. At the very least, local communities and state agencies should require trail organizations to put up substantial money in escrow before allowing existing railroad lines to be converted to trails, in an effort to protect their economic assets.

            The Rails-to-Trail Conservancy should not receive another penny of public funding for supporting the destruction of this rail corridor.

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  16. Adam says:

    I can’t help but be suspicious about how realistic Jack himself thinks this trail idea is. Check out Jacks own blog at his Broadwing Adventures website. First of all, he used maps showing wetlands and steep slopes that APA created. Why did he fail to mention that here or on his blog? He only admits that those maps exist after someone asked about them in the comment section. Instead, he puts out this map that has no detail on his blog and then does it again several weeks later here. I am suspicious that there is a reason that he doesn’t want to bring attention to the detailed maps. As you could see from his blog, once attention is brought to the existance of those maps, which a commenter (not Jack) posted a link to,, the comments go quickly from pats on the back to real questions that Jack has not or will not answer. There are too many of these questions for me to post here so I suggest you check them out yourself

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    • Adam says:

      Among the questions brought up on his blog:
      1) who would use this trail? He says it would be suitable for a mountain bike for most sections and a road bike for some portions. As mentioned here, most mountain bikers would find this boring. What’s the point of having a few sections suitable for a road bike, we have roads for road bikes. Unless it can handle the hybrid/cruiser bikes, I don’t see the point of spending money on another unused hiking trail.

      2) Several comments asked jack if he knows of a comparable trail anywhere. Tourist Railroad and rail trails are established popular assets, is this trail idea like something that has been done somewhere else and has shown to be popular and economically beneficial? Or will is be an expensive trail that nobody wants to use.

      3)The APA maps say some of the roads on their map, which Jack uses, are designed to be used when the ground is frozen. When asked, Jack admits he is not familiar with the roads west of Rollins Pond, so he doesn’t know if the roads he used are even possible.

      4) Jack says here that his intention was to follow the rail where it was possible, and use intersection trails where it was not possible. As someone pointed out to him(but he has not responded, he may have done the opposite. He used routes that deviate from the rail where there were alternative routes. Where there were no alternative routes available, his trail follows the rail even though those sections of the rail seem to be the most problematic, hence the reason Jack doesn’t mention that detailed maps exist. Some of the more problematic sections of the parallel trail are near McCaully pond and Rollins Pond. When asked, Jack says he was told a trail could be built there, and if not an alternative route could be found. Well, couldn’t you say for the whole corridor? What’s the point of this map then? He also says that the McCaully pond section is not as difficult as the saranac to placid section, but when asked which sections in the SL to LP were more problematic, he doesn’t answer.

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  17. Dick Beamish Dick Beamish says:

    Jack should be credited for thinking out of the box regarding the future of the mostly unused, 120-mile Remsen-Lake Placid rail corridor. However, Jack may be thinking too far out of the box (or in this case too far off the rail bed). What he is proposing is very different from the ARTA proposal. ARTA wants to convert the corridor to a level,safe, scenic, traffic-free compactly surfaced recreation trail that will connect the Tri-Lakes communities and continue on to with Lake Lila, Beaver River, Big Moose and Old Forge. Based on other rail-to-trail conversions around the country, this one could be a magnet for bikers, walkers, runners, strollers, fisherfolk, bird-watchers, you name it, and for greatly improved snowmobiling, with minimal impact, on a trail well-suited for this purpose. Rail trails have proved to be enormously popular with people of all ages and physical abilities, from small children on bikes with training wheels to athletes in training and long-distance cyclists. They can also benefit in a big way rural economies like ours. As for the cost to taxpayers, converting the 90-mile section from Lake Placid to Old Forge into a world-class recreation trail could be done at far less public expense, and with much greater public benefit, than extending a tourist train between these two points. However, the best use for the rail corridor and how this will be accomplished can be worked out when the state finally reviews the management plan for the corridor. This is something all the local governments along the corridor have called for. The time for action is now.

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  18. Jack Drury says:

    Quite a response to my piece. Over 30 comments at my blog and 50 here. Passions are strong and conspiracy theorists are alive and well on both sides. Unfortunately I have a couple of jobs keeping me from responding to all the questions and comments. It is maple syrup season and I’m in my sugar shack boiling a minimum of 12 hours a day. I’ll try to respond to some of the more germane comments tonight.

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    • Matt says:

      Well Jack, if North Elba’s situation didn’t already prove it, this proposal proves yet again that both won’t happen, nor should they. Further investigation into the practical reality of your suggestion shows just how entirely outlandish it really is. On a fundamental level it has broad appeal to no one, cannot be compared to ARTA’s proposal, and only accomplishes the goal of prolonging this already drawn out public debate- more paralysis by analysis. So why have you proposed this? What are the real motives here, and are you really surprised you got lots of comments? Anyone who has been paying attention knows this is an important regional issue that many people care about; I assume you understand that? What exactly do you consider a “conspiracy” as you suggest above? Why don’t you mention anything about your TRAC group? Don’t you think that would be an important part of this conversation? Who exactly has the small group of individuals involved with TRAC, some commenting here I believe, been communicating with at the state anyways? Don’t you think opening the plan would be the right thing to do now so TRAC can openly advocate for the quality of a shared proposal, and have it vetted in a real planning session, instead of here in a comments forum? You’re a planner, right? I would think you of all people would be advocating for a well-moderated and fact-based public dialogue- Clearly the municipalities on the corridor want just that. This plan desperately needs to be reviewed. Brian Mann was absolutely right when he said we are “years” past this.

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      • Tony Goodwin says:

        Thanks for your comment, Matt. I also wonder whatever happened to TRAC. Remember Jack, that I had asked Al Dunham to be a part of TRAC so that I could help in picking the best alternate trail in the event that the State chose the rail option in the UMP review. I was kept “in the loop” long enough to learn that a group did some field work at the Tupper Lake end, but your proposal indicates you didn’t know about the terrain west of Rollins Pond. I think I have provided a very fair analysis of your proposed route: earlier on this blog, on your own blog, and on railroad.net. So far, no one (and I do mean no one) has responded directly to any of my comments. All I’ve heard are the conspiracy theories that ascribe either sinister motives to anyone who opposes rail restoration, or raise bogus issues like a “wilderness takeover” of the corridor once the tracks are removed.
        This alternate trail proposal just prolongs the debate by giving people the idea that this doesn’t have to be an either/or decision. The sooner we can finally rid everyone of the notion that we can have both, the sooner that people will see that the trail option is far better than the rail restoration option.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4

  19. Jack Drury says:

    I can’t possibly respond to all the comments and questions so I have decided to choose one (author’s prerogative) that I think concisely captures the issue and has good questions. It will probably not make anyone happy but it is the best I can do given my time constraints. I think Brian Mann’s comments and questions meet these criteria. Brian’s comments are in quotes.

    “Basically, I think we’re years past the point where proposals like this — draw a line on a map and throw out a cool idea — are particularly helpful.”
    Why are we years past? I’m confident this will debated right up until, and after, a decision is implemented. My post was a direct response to Tony Goodwin’s letter to the Utica Dispatch where he stated a rail with trail, “… is not physically possible” and that “Periodically leaving the corridor is so far just talk.” I wanted to explore how accurate that statement was. I’m sorry you didn’t find it helpful in looking at the issue from a different perspective.

    “What’s needed are proposals that wrestle directly and frankly with the many challenges that such a project would entail.”
    I agree with you here. It is a shame that when Rob Camoin, was hired to do his study, he was not given the opportunity to explore alternative options rather than just either/or. It was a missed opportunity to get a relatively objective look at more creative alternatives.

    “-Why, when this idea of a combined rail-trail has been floating around for years, has no one stepped forward expressing interest in organizing the enormous effort that would be needed to support it?”
    Because no one has looked. If you don’t look for alternatives you won’t find any. Except for the LP to SL section no group has really examined the issue as a problem to solve and given any serious effort to addressing the related challenges.

    “-What does it mean that Lake Placid abandoned a similar effort, citing cost and regulatory hurdles?”
    It means they got burned out and gave up. Not surprising but it is clear it wasn’t because it couldn’t be done. The engineering and virtually all the funding were in place. I served on an advisory committee for that effort.

    “-What does it mean that so far there is no source of major capital funding for the rail or the trail project — let alone both?”
    You could say that about many major projects. My guess is that the Governor will try to find some sort of compromise and will determine a funding mechanism. Funding is frequently a matter of politics. If someone with enough power wants something to happen it happens. I get the sense that if the Governor announced funding for a train and trail tomorrow some would STILL be against it.

    What bothers me more than anything else about this larger discussion is the idea that something can’t be done for financial or engineering reasons. Wow, that is so contrary to the American ideal. I wonder how many times Robert Moses heard that. We wouldn’t have an interstate highway system, we wouldn’t have gone to the moon, we wouldn’t have a social security system, and on and on if that attitude prevailed. I respect an opinion that says it shouldn’t be done but don’t tell me it can’t be done. Opinions and facts are getting all mixed up in this discussion.

    “-What constitutional issues would arise running a rail-trail type corridor through state forest preserve land?”
    The nice thing about what I have proposed is that there are no constitutional issues but I think it is an excellent question regarding the removal of the rails. Some believe that environmental groups are waiting in the wings to swoop down and declare the rail corridor Forest Preserve once the rails are removed. I think that is where the constitutional issues are worthy of examination.

    “-What would the carrying cost for taxpayers be going forward trying to maintain both ideas?”
    Good question. I don’t think the numbers presented by either side are particularly objective. We need more in-depth study of the finances regarding all the options.

    “But again, we’ve had a lot of years of people suggesting exciting big-vision ideas without providing any of the real-world, gritty, grounded analysis that would be needed to evaluate their actual potential.”
    I agree. We need a Camoin type study to answer these questions but it isn’t rocket science. It is basic engineering. Despite the desire by all parties to move forward quickly my guess is that this process is a long way from playing out.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 8

    • Steven says:

      Of all of important questions that have been brought up here, I am baffled about which ones Jack chose to respond to. Anyone could draw a line on the map. Jack, you posted it and invited us to have at it. So,you want to ignore specifics, and just talk about the rail and trail concept, that’s fine. But why put this map out there with a line. Clearly the comment above about failing to include the maps showing steep areas and wetlands because you hoped for pats on the back instead a real critique, I think was right on. Here those maps are http://apa.ny.gov/State_Land/assets/RLPRC_MapSeries20140228.pdf

      The worst part here is that I understand the railroad group was recently told that the state was planning to have the train have the rails from Tupper Lake and south, and have a trail from Tupper to Placid. The train supporters, including Jack, scrambled to put a line on the map and beg the state to do a rail and trail instead. Jack came to this project knowing he had to draw a line regardless of whether it was a realistic project. He just drew the line in the most reasonable location, even if the whole idea was not reasonable. If a side by side along Rollins and McCaulley ponds and the wetland north of McCauley pond, needing to use highway shoulders and including trails that are steeper than 15% didn’t lead you to conclude that the rail with trail idea was unworkable, then I’d be curious to know what you would have encountered that you would have considered insurmountable.

      Jack, if you can only answer one more question, did you send this to the DOT and DEC?

      Did you use your “expertise” as a recreation professional, to attempt to influence an important public policy decision, but cannot defend your proposal against even the basic questions brought up here. No offense, but part of being a professional is to be able to defend your work.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 4

  20. Brian Mann Brian Mann says:

    Jack (and others) -

    I have no problem with new, funky ideas. But after decades of debate over this rail corridor, those ideas need to be supported by rigorous engagement with the realities of the proposal.

    That means a certain amount of cheerleading is fine, but you also need to tackle head-on the immense challenges such a project would entail.

    Jack expresses frustration with the suggestion that proposals like this should deal honestly with problems of engineering and financing — suggesting that it’s sort of un-American to ask rigorous questions

    But this isn’t a bake sale we’re talking about or a community garden. This is a railroad running diesel locomotives with passenger cars through one of the wildest stretches of country in the East.

    Jack’s idea entails what would amount to a lengthy and complex public works trail project, involving new bridges, culverts, potential environmental impacts, etc.

    That’s going to take a lot of engineering and a lot of financing.

    When asked to back up his proposal with some specifics, Jack suggests that a new study is warranted. Fair enough.

    But again, there’s no suggestion about who might pay for that kind of study or who might support it.

    So here’s what I would suggest as an alternative.

    If someone thinks this proposal is viable, I’d urge them to write a second article that deals directly (and not dismissively) with the huge hurdles mentioned by myself and others.

    Find actual independent experts on short rail operation and trail building. See what they say and quote them accurately by name — with the skeptical bits as well as the supportive bits.

    Come up with some facts and some concrete suggestions. How much would this cost? How might we pay for it and who would do the actual work?

    Talk to the people in Lake Placid who tried this and abandoned the concept. Listen honestly to their concerns.

    I know that sounds like a lot of work. But with a week or so of research, this line on a map could be fleshed out with some data that would take us beyond the cool idea phase.

    One final thought: If I sound impatient with Jack’s essay, it’s in part because so much of this debate has already been muddled by this kind of argument.

    For their part, the pro-train folks insist that they have a sustainable, viable plan worth a taxpayer investment that would surely exceed $15 million — but they’ve declined to release their detailed business plan, as they once promised to do.

    On the other side, the pro-rail-trail folks say their idea is cool and viable and affordable, but their plan for getting it done basically involves handing the entire route to the state of New York and having them tackle the entire project – a notion that no state agency has embraced.

    So here’s my (admittedly slightly) cranky analysis:

    What we need at this point are people with good ideas AND the gumption to lay out a workable, affordable, sustainable plan for their vision that stands up to a whole lot of tire kicking.

    –Brian, NCPR

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    • Justin says:

      “What we need at this point are people with good ideas AND the gumption to lay out a workable, affordable, sustainable plan for their vision that stands up to a whole lot of tire kicking. ”

      Agreed. I’d love to see the rail-trail happen, but ARTA’s lack of a plan for what happens if they actually get this corridor converted is highly problematic. Dumping it in the lap of the state is not an option.

      Without a sustainable plan, the status quo of letting the ties slowly rot away is preferable.

      I don’t see why ARTA doesn’t simply propose charging fees for use, and use those to fund a non-profit that would handle all the maintenance. A train ride isn’t free, and neither should use of this corridor, which someone has to pay to take care of.

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      • Hope says:

        Fact: The funds raised by ticket sales does not pay for track rebuilding, repair or maintenance. The money is used for operations of the train. The money to rebuild and maintain the tracks comes from NYDOT and Federal transportation grants.

        Since there would be no train why would you need to charge a fee? The trail can be built with federal and state grant money, as North Elba was planning on doing, and the scrap value of the rails can go a long way to help with that. It would be less than rebuilding and maintaining the tracks. The users will be supplying their own vehicles for use on the trail. The economic contribution of the users and the lifestyle improvement value to the residents far out weigh any fee you could charge and the cost to collect it. A group like ARTA (not for profit) can form into a “friends” group for support and fundraising to help with organizing volunteer groups to help with maintenance as well as building other amenities along the trail. The NYSSA (NY Snowmobile Assoc,) already performs trail maintenance on the corridor.

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        • Paul says:

          “Since there would be no train why would you need to charge a fee?”

          What is the plan for paying for ongoing maintenance. For things like when you need to replace a bridge or bring in an excavator and replace a culvert.

          True, maintenance for a trail will be less than for a rail line but you still have to pay for it somehow. The idea of forming a “friends” group might work but some of these projects eventually are going to be very expensive. Do you really think you can raise the necessary funds that way??

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          • Hope says:

            Who does that now? All maintenance on the corridor is paid for by DOT. What maintenance that is done by or organized by ASR is reimbursed by DOT. Bridge repair, Culvert replacement is all paid for by the state. It is a state asset on state land. ARTA has been very successful in raising funds just to promote this idea. I believe that a “friends” group can also be successful in raising funds to help offset costs in the creation, promotion and maintenance of the rail trail. There is a great deal of interest in building this trail and there are a lot of funding mechanisms available to help with that.

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            • Paul says:

              “All maintenance on the corridor is paid for by DOT. What maintenance that is done by or organized by ASR is reimbursed by DOT.”

              It is a stretch to think that DOT would continue to pay for these maintenance costs if the rail line is removed. I wouldn’t be surprised if the DOT uses some federal money to do this that is earmarked for rail infrastructure maintenance (any one know about this?). And they can’t do that for a trail.

              You are saying (and I think perhaps hoping) that the DOT would agree to pay for the maintenance of this particular trail where they pay nothing for any other trails designated for bike and snow machine use.

              It seems to me the corridor can get this type of “special treatment” as rail infrastructure but as a bike trail?

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          • David Lubic says:

            Paul, I’ve found out that the cost for maintaining a trail, a railroad, or a secondary road all run about the same, on the order of $1,500 per mile per year. That’s what is estimated by Camoin & Associates’ study that was originally commissioned by ADK Action, it’s confirmed by another state’s trail maintenance figures, it agrees with highway department figures I’ve studied, and it’s actually more than the railroad has actually received over the years (the averaged cost has come out to $1,324 per mile per year, per the same Camoin study mentioned above).

            On top of that, I’ve been checking scrap prices, and the best the trail people might expect is for the sale of the track material to pay for maybe 15% or so of the cost of trail conversion. And then there’s the question of the ties. They can only be sold for relay use on another railroad; they are no longer legal for sale as garden material. If they are to be disposed of, then (a) there is no salvage value, and (b) there is a disposal cost.

            I bring this up because the ARTA has alternately said the ties could bring in salvage value, and then members of the organization claim they are all rotted and good for nothing. Now, they can only be used for relay use (which means they are good), or they are rotted and must be disposed of (resale to gardeners is illegal). Notice the ties are “good” in one argument, but “bad” in another–and the “good” argument means the ties are really good, not rotted out! ARTA, which one is it?

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            • I think it is obviously both. At one point we (taxpayers) paid for ~20,000 ties in the early 2000′s, to be installed so the ASR could continue to get trains to LP. See bleeding creosote in http://www.adrtrail.pbwiki.com. In my research, National Salvage and Service writes that the disposal cost of ties is estimated at $1.5 million. Recently it has come to my attention that there are two Bio-Mass clean burners
              near our area; one being the military at Camp Drum which I will follow up with to see if there may be more savings.
              Everyone needs to realize ARTA is, at this point, an advocacy group and although we have HUGE support, we have no product to sell or manage until NYS moves on this.
              ARTA has said repeatedly it will assume a management roll if necessary. We are well aware and prepared to address the responsibility of preserving and maintaining the viability of the corridor in cooperation with NYSSA. We will do what has to be done.

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        • Justin says:

          As someone who has been excited about the prospect of a rail-trail from the get-go, I”m troubled by the attitude that ‘someone else will pay for it.’

          This will surely result in a corridor unusable by bicyclists in short order. Who is going to fix the washouts, and when? Cut away the down trees? Deal with the beavers? Maintain the riding surface? Replenish the stone dust?

          I have no doubt NYSSA will keep this corridor in tip-top shape for snowmobilers during the winter. They have a model that works – the users pay for and put the work into the trails they use.

          Bicyclists, and ARTA, should enthusiastically replicate the model for all seasons and figure out how to maintain the trail they’re working so hard to create.

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          • Hope says:

            ARTA hopes to work with all the stake holders in the trail to build a sustainable model for ongoing support. Donations are always welcome.

            Before ARTA (an advocacy group) can morph into a “friends” group and apply for grant funding from anywhere we have to have NYS permission to use the corridor. One step at a time. Before we get to far ahead of ourselves we first needed to determine if there was an actual desire by the communities to build it. Now we need the state’s permission to build it. Then we can approach funding sources.

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  21. Paul says:

    Given all this information it seems highly unlikely that a rail-to-trail project (given the lack of planning and information) will be able to kick out an ongoing and growing rail project (which also seems to lack a real plan)? In the end possession is nine tenths. My guess is that the rail line will have to go belly up before any significant change to the UMP is allowed. Some here will say that it is already belly up but in the not-to-distant future we will be hearing train whistles at both ends of the line.

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  22. Ed Carroll says:

    Jack, Why can’t you do what is done all over the Country when a road intersects a train track ie., pave between the rails leaving enough room for train wheels and form up the outside of the RR ties and fill with paving giving you and trail for both sides to enjoy.

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    • Hope says:

      Mostly because you can’t have a train running and bicycles or people walking on the same path at the same time.

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      • Paul says:

        I agree. But they do do it in San Fransisco!

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      • Bill Hutchison says:

        Hope, that is a bit of a disingenuous statement. Of COURSE trail users can’t occupy the same space as a train. On the other hand, you know as well as anyone else, that there are countless examples of trails being immediately adjacent to rail lines. One of the best is the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, which has a parallel trail.

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      • Bill Hutchison says:

        By the way, there are examples of paving or gravel between the rails on some lines. That could be a solution for periods when trains don’t run (winter months and weekdays other times of the year).

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  23. To address Mr. Warrens comment: Yes, in some cases the gross number of snowmobilers has declined, but the demographics is definately changing to a more affluent croud. Old Forge reports a nice rise in trail permit sales (See the April 8th Express)with a lot of new entries. With the equalization of the Canadian dollar and harder border crossings, the US is seeing a trend toward bigger dollar snowmobile vacations. Old Forge and Tug Hill see a high percentage of housing starts related to Snowmobiling: I was not able to find the same for Rail Fanning. The State reports over $250,000,000. in economic impact. AND, with a little groomer plowing, we would probably have a bige path for families on Easter vacation!

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