Saturday, July 28, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: Revitalizing Tupper Lake

Amy and I have just returned from two magnificent weeks on Lost Brook Tract.  It was everything we could want and more, pure glory.  I am still digesting the experience, not yet ready to write about it.

In the meantime I had prepared a set of Dispatches to run while we were gone so that you, dear readers, would not have the weekly streak interrupted.  I came off the land revitalized, ready to respond to any comments and rejoin the fray.  But as my columns were hardly controversial or provocative there were few comments to read (yes Catharus, looking for Bicknell’s up top is on our priority list).  No comments?  That’s no fun!   So this time I decided to write a column with a topic guaranteed to produce a reaction: revitalizing Tupper Lake.  I was motivated in part by the vitriol evident in a posting on the same topic just days ago.

This is no stunt; the topic is important to many people.  At the moment there are many things going on in the Adirondacks that are directly related to it, a congruence if you will.  And in fact, the topic directly affected our experience with Lost Brook Tract, so it is fair game about which to write.  The connection comes in this way: we had planned to disappear for two weeks, bring in supplies and just stay on the land in perfect primal solitude, but instead we interrupted our visit right in the middle, coming to civilization for a meeting.  What topic could pull us away from our paradise?  The welfare of Tupper Lake could.

Did you ever have a friend who was charming if a bit rough around the edges, maybe a little down on his luck, struggling in life but headstrong and stubborn, determined to hold onto his ways in the face of mounting troubles?  Perhaps this friend was getting into a bad relationship, arguing and being disappointed repeatedly but insistently dreaming that everything would turn out.  Maybe his significant other was nice enough, even sincere, but it was just a bad match and everyone –except him – could see it?  Suppose this friend refused advice, counsel, common sense in an increasingly desperate bid to hope for the best based upon imagination flavored with delusion.  At what point would you grab this friend by the cuff, shake him and scream “Listen to reason, man!  Why won’t you listen to reason?”

This kind of thing makes an all-too-uncomfortable metaphor for lots of debates in the Adirondacks.  It’s one thing to disagree, even passionately.  It is another thing altogether to do it with any sense of reality or pragmatism thrown to the wind; to deliberately, even insultingly ignore stubborn things like facts or history or good old conventional wisdom.  I love a stiff debate; I think honest debate is the cornerstone of the Republic.  But I begin to chafe when the debate is silly.

Tupper Lake needs help, let’s all agree on that.  It is a struggling community, through no fault of its own.  It has assets to be sure – the setting, the ski area and the Wild Center among them – but we all know it is an economically troubled town.   There are all sorts of views on this but I have never heard from anyone’s lips that Tupper Lake should just be allowed to decline, so let’s all agree that we share a nearly universal desire to see a vibrant Tupper Lake.  My familial connection to the Adirondacks is the Central Region, so count me in.

But how to do it?  Here is where – to excuse the pun – the debate goes off the rails.  As it happens there are two massive initiatives in the wind that could potentially change the fortunes of Tupper Lake.  Interestingly, for the most part those in favor of the first one oppose the second one.  Forgive me, but that particular alignment is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.  It completely defies logic.

The first initiative is the hotly debated Adirondack Club and Resort.  The fierce, ongoing back-and-forth of this issue is riddled with details, from questions over wildlife studies to arguments over development clustering to legal matters of possible ex parte communications.  My voice hardly needs to be added to any of these discussions.  Sure, I have opinions, for example I think the APA process is unduly demanding of developers and not demanding enough of wildlife studies.  But my opinions on these matters are irrelevant.  I think most of these details are irrelevant, quite frankly.  It may or may not be that the developers are sincere and want to do a great thing.  I suspect they do.  They’re dreamers, like all of us in the wilderness.  That’s a laudable thing, to dream, to imagine beauties and joys.  It may or may not be that some environmental organizations recognize an opportunity to increase their membership activity.  I think this likely.  It may or may not be that a proper biological study was never done.

None of that matters because the ACR is simply a bad idea.  It’s completely unrealistic.  Betting the town on it strikes me as irrational.  That’s a very unfortunate thing.

I am often dismayed by the divisive game of separating locals from non-locals, natives from non-natives.  Okay, if someone wants to insist that being local or native trumps other kinds of knowledge and experience, so be it.  After all, pride in where you live is no empty thing.  But in that case, it might be best not to forget local history.  My reading of Adirondack history includes a few names:  Brown, Herreshoff, Bonaparte, McIntyre, Durant and many more.  These current developers are not the first men to dream big.  The Adirondacks are not amenable to that sort of dreaming.  Time and again the result has been ruin.  Do we not learn?  If you look at the ACRS’s sales projections, fantastic beyond any prior experience or evidence, you have to agree that I am asking a legitimate question.

Tupper Lake’s neighbor down the street makes a telling example.  Blue Mountain Lake was, for a brief time, a marquee destination of the moneyed.  And why not?  It is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world (USA Today is running a contest for best lake in America as I write this: Blue Mountain Lake is one of three Adirondack nominees).  It had a variety of hotels, one of them opulent.  It had numerous boating opportunities.  It had steamships, served by railroads to bring visitors in.  It had two of the most scenic climbs in the park: Blue Mountain and Castle Rock.  It had a harmony that cannot be put into words.  It had a family of great wealth behind it, all in.  How could it lose?  Yet it did.

What happened?  Those of us who adore Blue Mountain Lake have never understood it.  We drive through town, look out over the water at what is nothing less than a remarkable jewel and shake our heads: how can this paradise possibly not have caught on?

Blue Mountain Lake has natural assets Tupper Lake does not.  Tupper Lake has the Wild Center but Blue Mountain Lake has one of the great regional museums in the world, with a global reputation.  Yet if you spend the morning at the Adirondack Museum and decide to head down the hill into town to have a lovely lunch at a local restaurant, you are going to have a hard time fulfilling your desire.

What would make anyone think that Tupper Lake will fare better than Blue Mountain Lake with the few people who have the cash to own and build a pricey vacation paradise?  History offers no evidence at all that such a thing will come to pass.  In fact all the evidence is starkly to the contrary.  Where is the reason in that?  Why fiercely defend a fantasy?

On the other hand, there is a completely realistic, proven economic game changer hovering just within reach of Tupper Lake. Yet many of the supporters of the Adirondack Club and Resort oppose it.  This seems indefensible to me.

What spurred Amy and I to interrupt our time on Lost Brook Tract was a presentation by the Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates (ARTA) on the proposal to convert the existing rail corridor between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake to a recreational trail.  This is a good idea.  No, that’s not right: this is a great idea.  That is not an opinion, ladies and gentlemen, that’s a fact.  But somehow that fact is obscured by the usual, tired, nonsensical side-taking.

There is one part of the opposition that is not nonsensical.  The defense of a scenic train is nothing but laudable.  The train is romantic.  It is a vital part of our heritage.  It is an important part of Adirondack history.  The numerous supporters and volunteers who have kept the train and tracks going, who have restored the depots, should be applauded.  They love that train and well they should.  I will be the last person to dismiss such a love.

Would that we could have a train that was viable and a trail as well.  But this is not a realistic choice, there is no question of that.  The money issues and the land issues, especially the wetland issues, make it an irrational hope.

If it is to be one or the other, then it is simply the most obvious economic development choice in the history of the park.  It is sad to lose the train, but Tupper Lake is in deep trouble, and if the opportunity to truly revitalize the town as never could have been imagined is nigh, then it is practically a moral imperative that we pursue it.

The economics of a recreational trail are overwhelming.  The benefits conservatively outweigh the most optimistic benefits of a scenic train a hundred to one.  There is no question of it.  How can anyone not support that?  Don’t just believe me, go ahead and research the numbers yourself.  I live in a community that is a first-class demonstration of the economic power of a recreational trail strategy.  In my current home of Madison the yearly benefits run into the millions of dollars.  Even conservative numbers put the benefits of a recreational corridor through the heart of the Adirondacks at hundreds of thousands of dollars.  And that doesn’t even include the snowmobiles which would certainly vault it much higher.

I wish everyone who reads this could have heard the words of Jim McCulley at the meeting we attended.  I met him there for the first time and he spoke with integrity, passion and eloquence.  Jim and I are unlikely to waltz into the sunset together, hand in hand, singing “Kumbayah” and throwing flowers petals in celebration of an un-motorized park.  We’d no doubt be on opposite sides of a number of issues.  But here’s the thing: the man in rational.  He loves this park and he wants Tupper Lake vibrant and he knows what this trail could do.  Seriously, imagine the oomph of a snowmobile corridor connecting Old Forge to Tupper Lake.  Anyone been through Old Forge lately?  I just was.  It looks pretty good.

So there it is.  We have serious matters here.  Without realism we are in deep trouble.  We must have this park, we simply must, and we must defend and support these towns: Tupper Lake, Blue Mountain Lake, Saranac Lake, all of them.  You may disagree with me on either project.  But I beseech you, beseech all of us: leave the nonsense at the door.  Let’s be realistic.  We owe it to the Adirondacks.

Related Stories

Pete Nelson is a teacher, writer, essayist and activist whose work has appeared in a variety of Adirondack publications, and regularly in the Adirondack Almanack since 2005. Pete is also a founder and current Coordinator of the Adirondack Diversity Advisory Council, which is working to make the Park more welcoming and inclusive.When not writing or teaching mathematics at North Country Community College, Pete can be found in the back country, making music or even walking on stilts, which he and his wife Amy have done professionally throughout the United States for nearly two decades.Pete is a proud resident of Keene, and along with Amy and his dog Henderson owns Lost Brook Tract, a forty-acre inholding deep in the High Peaks Wilderness.

71 Responses

  1. Snowshoe steve says:

    A big sawmill and log the Forest Preserve.

  2. bjm says:

    Great piece!! So true about the trail option. Let’s do it!

  3. My wife and I were driving through Tupper Lake early this afternoon and I made pretty much the same observation. The ACR is a bad idea, a pipe dream. I just don’t see it succeeding.

  4. Mightymike says:

    Rail trail bike trails are the summer economic equivalent to snowmobiles. My family has traveled to ride several rail trails. We dine out 3 meals and stay at motels. It’s clear when looking at license plates in the parking areas that many travel to ride these trails and restaurants are full of bicyclist and motel/ hotels are full of cars with bike racks. Obviously snowmobiles are big economic driver in the park. Other than not needing gas, bike trails users will provide a similar impact in the spring, summer and fall.

  5. Tim says:

    I agree with you 100%, Pete, on both issues. But HOW do we make the bike trail a reality?

  6. Mightymike says:

    I don’t understand why you consider ACR to be unrealistic. An improved ski area/lodge is inevitable, ACR or not. Whiteface is overcrowded and Big Tupper is a great place to ski IMO. It went out of business because of the owners, at least that’s what I have heard. That part of TL already holds most of the newer, non-shorefront 2nd homes. Their plants are to build it out over decades, which may turn into 3 decades. A rebuilt marina on one of the nicest, biggest and underused lakes in the park that has no marina. Even though the housing market isn’t great, the wealthy have more mobey that ever. Seeing plans for the total build out, it may seem unrealistic, but I would imaging the guys who have put their own money on the line have thought it through. The fact that one of the developers has bought half of the buildings downtown and has or is currently renovating those budding for restaurants/retail makes me think he is convinced. But I digress. The rail trail would have as big or bigger impact on TL as the ACR.

    • Pete Nelson says:

      I agree about the ski area (with a concern for our diminishing winters and the obvious need for snow making). But of course as you say yourself the ski area doesn’t need the ACR to be leveraged as an asset to the town.

      I’m less sure of the marina. I happen to know owners or managers of a livery or two in the area, so have first-hand tales of profitability or the lack thereof, mostly the latter.

      But the real story is that a development of this scale needs a steady stream of money and a good economy. I used to be peripherally involved in development issues on the south side of Chicago, so I have a pretty good idea how development works. Even if the developers have very deep pockets (and these developers do not appear to fit that description) it takes a lot of sales in order to sustain any growth plans. This is proven throughout the history of the park, much less elsewhere. As has been oft noted, the developers’ own sales projections eclipse the sales of similar kinds of properties in the entire remainder of the park. That’s not even close to realistic.

      Suppose they achieve half of their optimistic rate of sales (which in itself will require a lot of growth in the economy)… is that enough to keep going? No one has answered that question but a healthy dose of skepticism seems to be in order.

      I do not doubt the intentions or sincerity of the developers, nor I have anything but good wishes for Tupper Lake (and thus I champion the recreational trail). This is simply about being rational, nothing else. Tupper Lake – and the Adirondacks – need rational, sensible policies more than ever.

      • Paul says:

        Pete, the season before This past was the longest season that Whiteface had in its history?

        • Pete Nelson says:

          That was one season. The trends are undeniable.

          • Paul says:

            Pete, I am not climate change denier by any stretch. Is it accurate that the season lengths are trending shorter when you look at a fairly long time period? I do not think that is accurate but I could be wrong.

          • Paul says:

            Pete, Assuming that the trends will ruin the skiing at Big Tupper isn’t the idea of clustering the development around the ski area (as many groups have proposed) a terrible idea?

          • John Warren says:


            The trends are solid even locally. Researchers at SUNY-ESF in Newcomb reported findings at the Adirondack Research Conference this year that showed reduced ice cover on several lakes at Huntington. I believe they said we have between 2 and 4 weeks less ice cover on average. They found that one season (spring maybe?) the change was more dramatic than another (fall?).

          • julius parleaius says:

            Did you see their financial projections on sales? Crazy. Not based in reality. Fraudulent just to get a permit.

    • Red says:

      Mightymike, If you don’t understand why Pete considers the ACR to be unrealistic you obviously haven’t looked at their projected sales estimates. In 2005 the ACR put out projected sales for their units that were to say the least overly optomistic. But at the time the realestate bubble was still growing. However in 2010 the ACR came out with new estimated sales prices which were on average 55% higher than 2005. As everyone knows the realestate bubble burst around 2008, locally, regionally,nationally and internationally. Realestate prices dropped drastically but somehow the ACR projections went up 55%?? Mike, that alone would lead anyone looking at this project objectively to conclude that the ACR is totally unrealistic.

  7. Hope says:

    We at the Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates ( are working diligently to try and make this happen. We have almost reached 9000 signatures on our petition. Over 400 signatures from Tupper Lake alone. There is a small contingent of rail fans that are holding fast to the idea of returned railroad use “someday” in the future for freight and passenger service. Pete hit the nail on the head. There have been numerous times in history when people have sought to revive the railroad yet without massive amounts of Tax payer subsidies they all have failed.

  8. Lakeman says:

    Pete, Very nice, honest perspective on Tupper Lake. I have been coming to the ADK’s for over 50 years. My family enjoys, camping, hiking, biking kayaking and yes, even snowmobiling. I have become friends with many so-called native folks across the ADK’s. They will all tell you that it is quite a challenge to run a make a living or run a successful business here. But, ask the businesses that are in areas with snowmobile trails and most will you that without the snowmobilers, they would be hard pressed to survive. The trail would be an a large economic generator to TL 4 seasons of the year. Over the years I have ridden and hiked the RR corridor from White Lake to Lake Placid. It is a very beautiful corridor that will bring people back year after year. TL would benefit greatly from this trail. Rip up the rails! (BTW, I am also a huge rail buff, 25 year member of the National Railway Historical Society, but I see little benefit to keeping the rails intact between Big Moose and TL.I also don’t support NYS taxpayers subsidizing this RR line year after year.)

  9. Scott W. Saranac Lake says:

    1) The NYSDOT has stated that they have no intention of removing the rails.
    2) Rails, ROW, and structures are landmarked, again, can’t be removed.
    3) We already have hundreds of miles of trails in the ADK’s.
    4) Don’t the snowmobilers already use the ROW all winter long? It already connects to Old Forge, nothing new, no changes required.
    5) The tourist train operations are not subsidised. The NYSDOT pays for ROW upkeep, just like roads, canals, and airports.

    I don’t see how the future of Tupper Lake can changed by a trail or a tourist train. The Wild Center certainly has not changed things much.

    More good paying local jobs are what is needed.

  10. bjm says:

    Scott, I will address #1 only due to time constraints. NYSDOT does not have final say in this, nor have they ever decreed that the rails cannot be removed. They love status quo, because it makes their lives easier. If the people of the state(aka THE OWNERS of this rail line) want it to be a trail, it should be a trail.

  11. Pete Nelson says:


    1. As far as I know this is true. But changing that position is not difficult, as is true of any outdated policy. DOT changed positions on the route 86 repaving project repeatedly in the last couple of years.

    2. The legal consensus I have read says the corridor is protected but the rails can be removed.

    3. There is no comparable recreational trail in the Adirondacks. There is no comparable recreational trail in the United States. The concept of this trail is getting national attention, for good reason.

    4. The presence of the rails severely impacts the ability of snowmobiles to use the trail because of the amount of snow needed to cover them and the ties. It was essentially out of use all winter this last season. Ask a snowmobiler, there is a huge difference.

    5. I hear a variety of views on this. I don’t know either way for certain so won’t comment further.

    Your last point is my last point. What Tupper Lake needs is local jobs, growth from the bottom up. That is exactly what recreational trails do, time and again, virtually everywhere they are put. You start with the trail, next thing you know there is a coffee shop, then a restaurant, then a bike shop and on it goes. That’s why it is an economic game changer.

  12. Jim McCulley says:

    Scott W bjm has taken care of #1 I will Start on 2. The NYSDOT is the most active changer of Historic Designations in the US, they change them all the time the corridor is protected the tracks are not.
    3. We have 0 trails that go from community to community with nothing more than a 2% grade, that can be used by bikers hikers the disabled, skiers and snowmobilers.
    4.No snowmobiles do not use the corridor all winter long at best we get 2 months since the tracks are a dangerous hazard that help to melt the snow.
    5.Definition of subsidy Monetary assistance granted by a government to a person or group in support of an enterprise regarded as being in the public interest. Now I have all of their bills from 2009 that the state paid for them it’s over 5 inches thick. Those bills included their electric bills,repair of their equipment employees paychecks, hotel rooms,training, widows for vehicles, boiler repair for train station in Thendara, and yes track repair. That would be unneeded if the tracks were removed. Their permit says the ASR will be for all these items I have listed and there are plenty more. If these are not subsidy’s, what is?

  13. 1) NYSDOT & DEC agreed on a five year choice to “experiment” with the rail restoration in 1996 under the adopted Unit Management Plan. Option #4, remove the rail and develop the recreational trail.
    2)The Historic Classification only requires public hearing or legislative action to change.
    3) No comparable trail exists in the State.
    4) the Snowmobile access would more than double by removal of the rail. Have been grooming the corridor since 1971.
    5)Most transportation is subsidized, but must or has proven its benefits.
    See winter employment data for the Old Forge area, registration numbers for snowmobiles and State figures for snowmbile economic impact.

    This trail is an economic and life style game changer.

  14. Mightymike says:

    I have not heard anyone from the DOT state that they have no intentions of removing the rails. Their spokesperson did say that they do not plan on revisiting the the unit plan because they are busy working on other plans for highways. They were supposed to revise it every 5 years. But, as mentioned above the easiest thing for them to do is nothing. By doing nothing they are just letting these opposing interest duke it out. It’s time for the DOT to revisit the plan. We(ARTA) need to force the DOT to stop taking the easy out and start the planning process that should have been done 5 years after the plan was adopted. As stated above, the DOT doesn’t own the corridor, we do. They are just civil servants who we pay to do what we tell them.

  15. Mark says:

    As a Tupper Laker who has skin in the game by running a business, paying taxes, and working towards a better future, I wonder why you call the ACR project irrational and state that we are betting the town on it. No worries though, we know that you are aligned with the radical environmentalists who were beaten at your own game by a score of 10 to 1 by the grass roots effort in Tupper Lake.
    In America and even in this Park, private land owners who get approval from local zoning boards (read APA in this case) to build a business are left to their imagination, energies and resources to succeed or not. It’s all part of the American dream.
    Tupper Lake has a ski slope, great golf course and a larger lake than Blue Mountain. Mt. Morris (home of Big Tupper) is a perfect spot for the ACR project. The development borders the Town of Tupper, the land has been logged for a century and given the existing ski slope, there is no “fragmentation of the back county”. That’s just a mantra for the Kool Aid drinkers.
    So Pete, who are you (and all your friends) to tell private land owners that they can’t pursue a legal project that meets the guidelines of the APA? Sounds a bit elitist to me.

    • Pete Nelson says:

      Wow, Mark. In four short paragraphs we get the local Tupper Lake card, “radical environmentalists,” appeals to America (as though I don’t get America), “Kool Aid drinkers,” me and all my friends lumped together, and suggestions of elitism. Pretty impressive, Mark, and the height of rational debate. Good one.

      This is why I write an appeal to reason, ladies and gentlemen.

      A few short points, if you will. You have no idea what my environmental positions are, as I‘ve not enumerated them, though you do have my stated position on the welfare of Tupper Lake. However, the term “radical environmentalists” which is unimpressive and boring political labeling, in my experience typically indicates that the utterer knows about as much about ecology, biology, environmental policy and climate as I know about the economy of Latvia.

      As to being beaten 10 to 1 in my own game, it wasn’t my game, I wasn’t in it. I support the APA act and think the APA needs reform, probably about the same way you would characterize your position.

      Nowhere have I said that private developers and entrepreneurs should not be allowed to pursue the American Dream. I don’t know what your small business credentials are but they are unlikely to exceed mine. I have been an entrepreneur and small business owner since the 1980’s and I am a huge supporter of small business: thus my support for the recreational trail – a small business engine – among other things such as tax breaks for entrepreneurs. All I said was that the ACR was an unrealistic project, and I say that as a businessman, not an environmentalist. My comments were about economics, were they not? These developers have every right, under the dictates of their APA permit, to pursue whatever project they want, even a boondoggle.

      So you say you are a business owner. Where is your comment about the ACR’s sales projections? By the way, I pay taxes in Essex County, not Franklin County, but if I were you I’d keep an eye on that IDA bond idea over there.


      • Red says:

        Pete, Great reply to Mark. He represents the small minority of people in Tupper Lake who have fallen for this scam and have “skin” in it. Marks reply is typical, attack anyone who has any questions about the ACR plan. Name calling just shows that they cannot argue the facts because they haven’t studied the details of the plan. It’s the old ” don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up”.

        • Pete Nelson says:

          Thank you Red, for your generous comments. I am fully capable of being overly acerbic and/or sarcastic, but this is an important issue to me as it is to many and any encouragement of honest debate seem wise to me.

          I never got into the detail of the sales projections. Thanks for supplying some of that. They’re an eye-opener, aren’t they?

  16. Snowshoe steve says:

    What is “fragmentation of the backcountry” anyway? ACR will just bring rich people here. Logging brings jobs.

  17. Matt says:

    I agree with Pete on the trail and probably agree mostly with Mark on ACR, all except for his vitriol.

    Is there something in the water in Tupper Lake? Why do public debates about these things have to get uncivil. Many commenters on this board obviously disagree but up until Mark’s comments, its been a good spirited debate. Radical environmentalist, elitist, Kool Aid drinkers. It seems like any debate in Tupper devolves into this crap. In Seven Days magazine, Jim Ellis called ARTA “enviro-nazi’s”. Real class Jim.

  18. Matt says:

    I think “fragmenting the backcountry” is when development in the back country reaches a point where its no longer backcountry. The backcountry, the vast undeveloped (no houses), land in the Adirondacks are something that you find nowhere else out east other than Maine. Logging does not fragment the back country.

    Rich people do bring jobs. I don’t think Lake Placid, Vail or Beverly Hills are hurting for logging jobs. What does a logger make anyway?

  19. Solidago says:

    I’ll skip all the debate and discussion and just say that I’d absolutely love to see the rail trail happen. It seems like it would be an exciting new asset for the Adirondacks and it is great to see folks on opposite sides of other issues coming together to support this.

  20. Don Dew Jr says:

    As a member of the Tupper Lake Revitilazation committe since 2003, I would like to invite you to attend our next meeting. If you could provide me with a way to contact you I will be happy to extend an ivitation although an invitation is not necessary as anyone is welcome. Thanks For Your Interest in Tupper Lake. My contact info is

    • Pete Nelson says:

      I would be pleased to do so. When my schedule allows I will attend a meeting. I’ll send you an email. I would love to see a vibrant Tupper Lake and would be happy to contribute what little I can to the discussion.


  21. Don Dew Jr says:

    My previous post was intended for Pete, but as stated anyone is welcome.

  22. Don Dew Jr says:

    Great Pete, I will send you an agenda and the schedule of the next meeting. The committee meets at least once a month and sometimes more. I think you will find it encouraging that there are more ongoing projects than just the ACR and the trail/rail projects in Tupper Lake. Granted they seem to be getting the most discussion recently. Tupper is in a unique postion to set the course for future growth and in my opinion so far has succeeded. Rest assured the eggs are not all in one basket. A topic we have discussed. Look forward to meeting you.

  23. Twin Rivers says:

    Aren’t there rail corridors without trains running on them that would be an easier lift for the rail-trail? I think there’s even another that ends in Tupper Lake. I’m assuming someone here has done the research. I love the rail trail idea, but also would understand why DOT might not want to abandon the rail infrastructure.

  24. Mightymike says:

    There are no other rails that connect the biggest communities in the Adirondacks. The section of rail between Saranac Lake and Thendera (not sure where the southern route ends) is not operating, a train passes 2 times a year bringing the train from Utica to Placid for the season and then back. The train could still operate where it does now even if the trail were built. The only difference would be that the train would be stored over winter in Lake placid. The question is the best use for the underutilized section. Expand the scenic train route or create a recreation trail.

  25. Mightymike says:

    Who at the DOT has said that they oppose converting the rail to trail? Was it quoted in a press release or news article?

  26. Paul says:

    The rail trail is a good idea. I think this is a better one. A RR that can service hikers and paddlers along its whole line. A true Adirondack RR. This is similar to what I describe:

    There are many rail trails but few true RR experiences that can take you deep into the backcountry like you could have in the Adirondacks.

  27. Paul says:

    Also there are many many roads that have been abandoned in the Adirondacks that should be made into bike trails. There are also some old rail beds that could be great trails. Why not have both?

  28. Mightymike says:

    I am not aware of a abandoned road that connects Saranac Ll, Tupper and the Old Forge Area. I would love to bike paths in the tri-lakes, but understand that the attractiveness of rail trails are the gentle fade and ability to bike from community to community. If we converted the unused section to a trail, we could have both.

    • Paul says:

      True, but I think that a train that services hikers and paddlers taking them to new remote flag stop trail heads and put ins would be far more unique than another rail trail. This train could even transport mountain mikes to some of the remote bike trails that I describe above. Just wish there was a way to have it all. I think there might be but it would take some work. This debate, like most in the Adirondacks, has just deteriorated into the usual “my way or the highway” argument.

      • Paul says:

        Sorry that is “mountain bikes” not “mountain mikes”.

      • Pete Nelson says:

        A rail deal as you describe would be more unique, yes, but nowhere near the same ballpark economically, especially given that this corridor can have one use or the other, not both. This corridor is getting national attention, for a reason. In no context is a scenic train an economic game changer. A rec trail is, hands down, no doubt.

        PS – I know a few Mountain Mikes, they’re good stuff.

        • Paul says:

          As I describe it it would attract bikers, hikers, and paddlers. Not to mention the fact that folks that do none of the above could travel on the train (just for the beautiful scenery) and stay at hotels and inns along the way. If I had not ridden on a similar train (as a hiker) in Colorado I would think that the idea was insane. But I have seen it in action. I did a lot of snowmobiling when I was younger and I can relate to the folks that want to boost that kind of tourism but I don’t think it is best for this area. And like you said above with a “declining” winter maybe that isn’t in the cards anyway. The train I describe would run year round. If they can run a train in the Southwest of Colorado in the mountains in the dead of winter we can do it in the Adirondacks.

          • Pete Nelson says:

            Then you should add your voice to the debate; the time is never better. How would it work? What is the economic feasibility? You can contribute a new point of view.

  29. Pete Nelson says:

    Paul, on climate change and the Tupper ski area:

    Climate change is tricky. Deniers exploit a combination of that complexity and a deliberate, arrogant ignorance of science to live in their fantasy world.

    My view is that as recently as six years ago those who were crying that global warming was human-caused and potentially devastating were probably right on both counts, but there was room for doubt. Despite what deniers would say, even six years ago the evidence of global warming was indisputable; however, as is often the case in science the big picture causal element was not entirely convincing on two fronts: one being the extent to which human activity was responsible for warming the globe and the other being what said warming would cause in the future.

    Six years later, these doubts are gone. The science, on literally dozens of fronts, has converged on a statistically significant proof that we’re doing it with our emissions and the results, barring a tremendous slowdown, will be epic disaster. The causal factors are modeled and well-understood, confirmed over and over again. There is no real scientific argument any more.

    At this point the choices are whether one supports science as a discipline or not, not whether we’re in deep trouble or not. We’re in trouble, and the deniers insult science to our detriment.

    So we’re going to warm further, no doubt of that. We already are, obvious to anyone watching ice out dates or the spread of invasives or the hot weather over the last decade. Given that, the Big Tupper Ski Area faces fewer and fewer days where natural snow cover will be sufficient. If there is to be development at Big Tupper I would favor clustering around the ski area anyhow, as an investment in snow making is inevitable. Skiing in the Adks won’t go away (yet), but snow making will become mandatory for sure.

    • Matt says:

      While climate change will likely lead to fewer ski days, its quite possible that climate change could lead to more snow fall.

    • Paul says:

      Pete, I totally agree with you on the global climate change issue and our participation in that problem. In my personal opinion (and when you look at where we and the rest of the world are heading, and the politics involved) the only workable short term solution is carbon sequestration technology as we work toward cleaner alternatives, but that is a debate for another day. As far as the ACR I don’t think it is only a “ski area development” so clustering it all there probably isn’t really an option anyway. Perhaps you are just saying that some more of it should be clustered there. I would imagine that nobody wants to sell those places more than the ACR developers so I am sure they have tried to do it in a way that they think it will sell. I wouldn’t buy any of it, so obviously I don’t have a clue what would sell to the right market. That is also something that I assume the groups opposed to the project have not taking into account from their perspective. Why should they? For them the issue is the environment not if the ACR can make a go of it. That is part of the reason there is so much tension in the debate. The APA is in the difficult position where they have to do what is best for all parties involved. From an environmental perspective the choice is simple the best thing to do is not do anything with the land.

    • Paul says:

      Pete, also I am curious. I assume that your Adirondack land is classified as Resource Management given its location. What do you think of the idea of changing (or perhaps interpreting as some would say) that the APA act should not allow any single family dwellings (as a primary use structure) on these lands. I would assume that the next “change” proposed could easily be that even a ‘hunting and fishing cabin’ should be classified as a SFD. I am happy to say that I have the camps that I need and want, if I didn’t yet I would be nervous about some of these changes. Some could greatly diminish the monetary value of land that some have held for generations. For some this is the only asset that they have. These changes could mean that logging (or other agricultural use) is the only use for some of this land.

      • Pete Nelson says:

        That’s tough one and it is relevant to my situation. I think that the distinction between single family dwellings and hunting or fishing cabins should remain and be clarified, however I think the APA’s attempt to do so in 2008, subsequently overturned by the courts, was clumsy as it is inappropriate to regulate behavior, including frequency and/or dates of use.

        I certainly think that in general hunting clubs and dwellings ought to be grandfathered in on land deals. Focusing on – some would say picking on – them in comparison the the larger, more important issues the park faces strikes me as short-sighted and an unwise use of energy.

        If hunting and/or fishing cabins were better defined and regulated appropriately and the tradition they represent defended, then I for one would entertain a further restriction on single family dwellings on Resource Management lands.

        With that said I think the big issues are elsewhere, specifically:

        A. reforming the APA (and DEC, to a lesser extent) and revisiting older UMPs to focus specifically and comprehensively on ecological integrity, a subject where the science has greatly advanced in the past couple of decades

        B. A blueprint or blueprints for sustainable “green” marketing, investment and development for the parks’ communities.

        C. A comprehensive strategy on warming and invasive species

        D. Regulations on development visibility including ridges, summits and shorelines to better preserve the wild character of the park.

        • Paul says:

          I agree. But I think that the ACR is going to specifically bring the issue of singe family dwellings on RM lands to the fore. That is an issue that many Adirondack land owners are going to be watching very closely.

          On “D” we have some pretty tough regulations on shoreline development, which have been made much tougher by way of the Wild, Scenic, and Recreational rivers Act. So you would propose to continue to make them even more restrictive? Being the owner of two shore-front properties I probably would agree but it doesn’t affect me or my family at this point, in fact it would increase the value of my land, so why not. I would note that the developers at ACR chose NOT to develop their Raquette river frontage. Seems to me to be the most marketable (maybe only) land they have.

          • Pete Nelson says:

            I would propose to make shoreline restrictions more stringent, yes, focusing on current frontage or river corridors that are relatively if not entirely pristine.

        • Paul says:

          “Wild” rivers are what I think you call pristine or nearly pristine are very well protected what additional restrictions would you suggest? Remember here we are talking about the relatively low percentage of wild river frontage that is privately owned. All the public river frontage is fully off limits from development. When we talk about taking private water-front out of development you are talking about removing the most desirable land for development and the most likely to attract folks that want to stay near the water (not in a tent) and spend their money in the Adirondacks so it is a trade off. People who don’t depend on the area for their living, like you and me, probably have a different view of what restrictions we would like to see.

          • Paul says:

            Here is the current regulations for a “wild” rives on private land according to NYS law:

            “Wild Rivers

            No residential structures of any sort may be located on a river segment designated “Wild”.”

            So you cannot build anything within 1/2 mile of the river. How do you propose to maker this more “stringent”?

          • Pete Nelson says:

            I wasn’t talking about wild rivers. Those are protected. Lots of navigable water in the park is not classified as wild rivers. I’m more concerned with lakes in any case.

        • Paul says:

          Pete, it seemed like the waterways you were describing as “nearly pristine” would fall into that Wild or even Scenic classification. But either way what would you suggest as better setbacks? It is a half mile for wild, it is 250 feet for scenic and 150 feet for recreational. What would be better in your opinion? Remember these regulations do not allow you to ignore other regulations such as restrictions for wetlands. So it is far more complicated to build near the water when you take into account all the requirements. But you think it should be tightened up can you elaborate a bit? Like I said I agree that less development near the water is a noble goal but don’t you think that we have to be fair to those that own the land at the same time. For example one of my neighbors on the lake is currently building. I wish that were not the case but why should I have a place and he now gets denied the same opportunity. Putting the screws to the regulations will push people out.

        • Paul says:

          One that I might suggest is better regulations on seawalls and those kind of shoreline disturbance. Erosion is a natural process and it should be allowed to happen. If you look at the wind damage that occurred on Lake Placid from this last storm it looks like much of it was in places where the shoreline has been heavily disturbed by things like seawalls. This just an uninformed guess so I could be wrong. But the shore was basically being torn up by the wind in places and you don’t see that on the “natural” shoreline.

        • Paul says:

          Pete, so what new setbacks do you propose for those water-bodies?

  30. julius parleaius says:

    The wild and scencic river corridor regultions are among the best but they classified many river areas that were mostly public land all ready. It was a “Window dressing” environmental regulation.

    • Paul says:


      If you look at all the “study” rivers that also fall under the law it seems like it has pretty much all of them covered, and there are vast amounts (some has been added to the FP since the law went into effect) of private land that span these waterways. What waterways are you thinking that should also be included?

  31. AdkBuddy says:

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and everyone is entitled to spend their money as they see fit. If the ACR developers want to pursue their dream, that’s their business. Sadly, too many people want the gov’t to step in and enforce their own views on the rest of the people. For years the APA was that gov’t force that stopped people. Now that they approve something big, they are suddenly ‘the enemy’. It’s private property!

  32. Pete Nelson says:

    This nefarious “government” business is tiresome, either direction. We don’t like “governrment” when it “encroaches” on our freedom. We like it better when it pays flood relief, ensures a safe food supply, provides for our defense and paves our roads.

    In general private property owners can do what they want, even if it is not sensible. But that generalization is mighty narrow. I live in typical house in a typical nice neighborhood. I can’t build within 6 feet of my property line. I can’t put up a twelve foot high fence. I can’t add another garage. I can’t build a huge bonfire in my back yard. I can’t install a 1,000 watt PA system and send messages promoting the APA into my neighbor’s window. We live in societies, we make the best system of governance we can.

    The ACR has an APA permit. Fair enough. all the government stuff is beside the point. I just think it is a bad idea on the face of it. The rec trial is a good idea. I’d like to see Tupper Lake thrive and whatever balance of property rights and community rights and governance and opinions and ideas does that is alright by me.

  33. Paul says:

    I think the point that the ACR has played by the rules all along and now they are still getting the run around is a fair one. The latest desperate salvo is that now “the APA did not play by the rules” is just getting tiresome. And I think it is starting to support the argument (one that I did not think was true) that forces in the area are hell bent on keeping business and development out of the park.

    • Pete Nelson says:

      The question for me is not whether the ACR developers played by the rules. They got their permit, the APA granted it. Again, I just think it’s a bad idea that won’t succeed, leaving Tupper Lakers no better off in the long run and maybe even holding the bag.

      With that said I think the APA needs reform and the process needs much improvement, both on behalf of developers/builders and the environment.

  34. Snowshoe steve says:

    The developers have the same amount of money as me. It will never happen. Lets utilise our natural resources instead of depending again and again on tourist and second home owners. Log, mine, flood our rivers and make electricity!

  35. ParkResident says:

    ACR got their permit. They should be allowed to move to the next steps. The PILOT/bond deal decision remains ahead and it is in the hands of local elected people. It is a much harder decision than the APA permit and the people will own the financial consequences of it down the road…putting money where their mouth is so-to-speak.

    I think the APA made the right decision given the nature of the parcel involved and its location.

    • Snowshoe steve says:

      So the argument that the ACR would fragment a site that was already logged and wasn’t “clustered” didn’t bother you? LOL? What a joke.

  36. Cookie Monster says:

    ACR is a no brainer and is a great idea, and rails to trails will never happen. the author of this piece is just another friend of Beamishes.

    • Pete Nelson says:

      Dear Cookie Monster:

      Nope, I’m not a friend of the Beamishes, haven’t socialized with the Beamishes. However your brilliant, insightful, rock solid commentary really put me in my place. It’s just like you know me!

      What a great contribution to the debate. Nice effort.

  37. Ellen says:

    Thank you for staying above the fray with your post and the subsequent discussion. It’s impossible to have any sort of informed, civilized debate these days with people who stoop to accusations and name-calling.

    As someone who is passionate about economic development AND the environment (yes, it is possible!), I share your concerns about the ACR project. I hardly think that makes me a “radical environmentalist.” We need to be able to discuss these issues openly instead of forcing people to choose sides and put blindfolds on.

    • Pete Nelson says:

      Wonderful comments, Ellen. Thank you for taking the time. A good healthy debate featuring substantive, even passionate disagreement is the lingua franca of democracy. Why that has been confused with and even co-opted by side-taking and the lobbing of irrational absolutes and flip dismissals is beyond me, but it is a sad development in our culture. That makes a voice like yours – and like many here at the Almanack comment board – refreshing and hopeful.