The New York Bicycling Coalition has kept a low profile in the debate over the future of the Adirondack rail corridor, but its proposal for the 119-mile corridor is similar to the one set forth by the state.
Last September, the coalition’s executive director, Josh Wilson, wrote the state Department of Transportation (DOT) to call for removing the tracks between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake to create a trail for biking and other non-motorized activities in spring, summer, and fall.
“NYBC believes that such a trail would be unparalleled in New York State and the Northeast,” Wilson wrote Raymond Hessinger, director of DOT’s Freight and Passenger Rail Bureau. “A trail on this segment of the Corridor would serve to connect three ‘hub’ communities of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, and Tupper Lake with multiple other access points in between.”
Adirondack Scenic Railroad operates tourist trains out of Lake Placid and Old Forge. While the Old Forge train is quite popular, the Lake Placid train hasn’t enjoyed the same success. As a result, many local leaders and residents have called on the state to remove the tracks between Old Forge and Lake Placid and create a recreational trail, which they argue would have more economic impact.
Last week, DOT and the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced that they would reopen the management plan for the state-owned corridor, and they proposed removing the tracks in the 34-mile stretch between Placid and Tupper.
DEC Commissioner Joe Martens told Adirondack Almanack that bike paths work best if they pass through communities. However, the state is recommending leaving the tracks in place in the more remote section of the corridor between Old Forge and Tupper Lake while trying to improve rail service along this stretch. The New York Bicycling Coalition, in contrast, called for further study to determine whether rail service should be expanded north toward Tupper or whether this stretch also should be converted into a recreational trail.
The Bicycling Coalition also said the tracks should stay in place in the southernmost stretch—from Remsen to Old Forge—“where existing tourist excursion train service is well-utilized and popular with local communities and businesses.” No one is calling for ripping up the tracks in this section.
Martens said he was unaware of the coalition’s proposal and that any similarity between it and the state’s proposal is “a total coincidence.”
Wilson, a Saranac Lake resident, said he’s happy with the state’s decision to reopen the management plan and to consider creating a bike path.
“To my knowledge there are not any trails in New York State that would compare to that trail—connecting communities and passing through wilderness,” Wilson said.
Wilson expects the trail would see a lot of use from tourists and locals alike. As it is, cyclists riding from Lake Placid to Saranac Lake must travel on the shoulder of busy Route 86. “Many people are not comfortable riding on a highway like that,” he said.
The New York Bicycling Coalition is a statewide organization that lobbies for bicycle safety, bicycle tourism, and pro-bicycling policies.
Photo by Susan Bibeau: tourist train entering the village of Saranac Lake.