Wednesday, October 29, 2014

State Rules Out Rails-With-Trails Compromise

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the first of four public meetings on the future of the Adirondack rail corridor, state officials made it clear Tuesday night that a rails-with-trails compromise is not an option–which likely did not sit well with the many supporters of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad in the crowd.

About 100 people packed a room at the State Office Building in Utica to hear representatives of the Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Transportation outline their plans for amending the 90-mile corridor’s management plan.

The departments have proposed removing the tracks in the 34-mile section between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid and building a multi-use trail for road biking, hiking, skiing, and snowmobiling. The state would retain and rehabilitate the tracks south of Tupper Lake.

Under this proposal, Adirondack Scenic Railroad (ASR) would be forced to give up a seasonal tourist train that operates between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, but it could continue running its tourist train in the Old Forge area and would have a chance to run trains all the way to Tupper Lake.

ASR, however, wants the state to keep and repair the entire line. Many of the train’s supporters have urged the state to retain the rails and build a trail alongside them.

But Raymond Hessinger, director of DOT’s Freight and Passenger Rail Bureau, said constructing a side-by-side trail is not possible, owing to environmental and legal constraints. He noted there are places where the corridor passes through wetlands or over waterways where there is not enough room for a trail.

Some rail boosters have suggested that spur trails could be built off the corridor where there is not enough room for a side-by-side trail. But Robert Davies, director of DEC’s Division of Lands and Forests, told Adirondack Almanack that this option is not feasible either.

Davies said it would be illegal to build a bike trail similar to a rail trail–wide, flat, smooth, perhaps paved–in the Forest Preserve. Although it would be possible to build “typical hiking trails” off the corridor, he added, “that’s not the kind of trail under discussion.” Such trails would not be suitable for road bikes.

Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates (ARTA) has been urging the state to remove the tracks between the Old Forge area and Lake Placid. It maintains that a multi-use trail would attract tens of thousands of tourists annually and boost the region’s economy. Under this proposal, too, Adirondack Scenic Railroad could continue operating its Old Forge train.

Hessinger said DOT and DEC feel that the corridor between Old Forge and Tupper Lake is too remote for a recreational trail. He said rail trails that connect communities see far more use than remote trails. The 34-mile section that the state proposes to convert to a rail trail passes through Tupper Lake, Lake Clear, Saranac Lake, Ray Brook, and Lake Placid.

Hessinger also discussed the relative costs of rehabilitating the tracks versus converting the corridor to a trail. The state estimates that rehabbing the line from Big Moose (the northern terminus of the Old Forge train) to Lake Placid would cost $17.7 million. Under this scenario, the tracks would be upgraded only enough to allow the trains to travel 40 miles an hour.

If the tracks were replaced with a trail, the cost would be $21.2 million, according to Hessinger. This estimate factors in the cost of removing the rails. ARTA has argued that the sale of the rails would cover much of the cost of constructing the trail, but Hessinger said the money the state would receive from the rails would not even cover the cost of removing them.

The cost of rehabbing the tracks from Big Moose to Tupper Lake and converting the rest of the corridor to a trail–as the state is proposing–would total $20.8 million.

In addition, the state plans to construct new snowmobile trails between Big Moose and Tupper Lake. As yet, it’s unknown where the trails would be built or how much they would cost. Snowmobilers ride in  the  corridor in winter but complain that they can use it only when there is enough snow to cover the rails. Thus, they generally support removing the tracks.

Hessinger said the cost of maintaining the tracks and the trail is about the same–roughly $1,500 a mile annually.

DEC’s Davies said the state expects to issue a draft management plan in late spring or early summer. The public will have a chance to comment on the draft plan before it is finalized. The final plan is expected to be approved by the end of next year. Work on the corridor could begin in 2016.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, state officials gathered public comments that will be evaluated before the draft plan is written. Those with comments did not speak publicly. Rather, they were asked to speak privately to officials at “listening stations,” and the officials then jotted down their comments on large pieces of paper. Judging by the comments and questions, many of the people in the room favored keeping the rails. That was to be expected as ASR is based in Utica and its excursion trains are popular there.

Another meeting will be held from 1-3 p.m. today at View in Old Forge. Other meetings will be held from 6-8 p.m. November 6 at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake and from 1-3 p.m. November 7 at the Olympic Regional Development Authority office in Lake Placid.

Public comments also can be emailed through December 15 to [email protected]

Photo by Phil Brown: A crowd listens to the discussion of the rail corridor at a meeting in the State Office Building in Utica.

 

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Phil Brown

Phil Brown is the former Editor of Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack.

Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing.

He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.

Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.




65 Responses

  1. This is neither a surprise nor a radical step. These were the facts on the ground all along, despite the rhetoric around rails with trails. There is no through path for a side-by-side trail. It would never have passed constitutional muster. Let’s get on with true alternatives.

    • Big Burly says:

      Pete,
      You typically have an open and inquiring mind. Phil’s reporting frankly mirrors in this instance the desires of the man who pays his salary — not a surprise, Mr. Beamish is a founder of ARTA, the group seeking to pull the rails.
      The ideas and measured proposals for trails with rails have been developed by people with experience and expertise in trail planning and building, as well as rail operations. Having both is capitalizing on and preserving opportunities with far more economic benefit. Our region is being torn apart over this. NYS will be the poorer in an either or decision. We residents of the ADKs can and deserve to have both implemented as recommended in the ’96 UMP that was created after a long and comprehensive public process.

      • Paul says:

        Big, Phil is not taking any sort of side here he is simply reporting that the state has determined that a rail w/ trail is not something that they will consider since it is a near impossibility. If there is any “tearing apart” going on it is because people are overreacting on both sides.

      • Phil Brown says:

        Big Burly, it is true that ARTA has been maintaining for some time that the “rails with trails” option is not feasible. It’s also true that Dick Beamish the founder of the Explorer, is one of the founders of ARTA. However, he doesn’t get involved in our reporting on this issue. On the matter of “rails with trails,” the state agrees with ARTA that it is unrealistic. If the state officials had said it is a viable option, I would have reported that. They didn’t.

        • Big Burly says:

          Phil,
          No cheap shot stated or intended. I stated that this report by you does mirror what Mr. Beamish and his colleagues have been saying.
          I will be at the two sessions in TL and LP.
          Folks who were in Utica heard information that is not included in your reporting — it is not as categorical as you have stated. I will stand down on this until I have heard DOT / DEC folks first hand. Then we will reengage, hopefully in the same cordial manner in this thread.

          • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

            There was a lot of information presented. No single report can cover everything. I chose to focus on a fundamental question that has been debated for years: can we or can we not have rails with trails? Apparently, the answer is no. If we can regard that as settled, we can turn our attention to other questions such as cost, economics, etc.

            • Big Burly says:

              My point Phil is that it is not settled. There is a lot of information developed for these outreach sessions by NYS that will be presented that shows how cost effectively trails with rails is feasible. It is about preserving options for the future and providing enhanced opportunities for residents and visitors of all ages, recreation interests and physical capabilities.

      • Pete Nelson Pete Nelson says:

        Burly:

        As always I appreciate that you read me as open minded. Thank you.

        I didn’t write this comment based upon Phil Brown’s reporting. I wrote it based upon seeing parts of the route where a side-by-side recreational trail would violate the Constitution. Not to mention that the cost of creating a second path through wetlands would be astronomical. The State is decision is simply a matter of experts at DOT and DEC concluding the same thing. It’s common sense.

        You know I wrote a series of columns on this issue months ago. These were written from experience with rail trails elsewhere and from investigation into the possibilities in the Adirondacks that put me squarely in favor the ARTA proposal. I decided the evidence in favor of a rail trial here is clear.

        I always find the ARTA-bashing interesting. Here is an organization advocating for increased recreational opportunities to benefit communities. The argument that a rail trail will do this better than a train may be right or wrong, but their motives get questioned, as though it’s really greedy environmentalists at work. Does that make the slightest sense at all? After all, Dan Crane is right: what about eliminating the corridor altogether so as to improve the integrity of one of the largest otherwise-unbroken parcels of land in the park? That’s a strongly arguable position, but it is not ARTA’s position. So why the bashing from the very folks who I would think would favor more economic activity? Senseless, I say.

        Wait, maybe it’s because ARTA is evil and slimy, with their secret agendas and made-up facts. That must be it. Well, I joined ARTA and have not hidden that, nor hidden my support for the Adirondack Rail Trail. Yet not once have I been asked by ARTA to write a column or comment for the Almanack, nor ever been urged as to what to say. They have asked me if I would write letters to the editors of regional newspapers but never fed me content. Good thing, as I would never let anyone dictate to me what to write. It’s more likely I’d deliberately let my Mother-In-Law beat me at cards and that there is a non-starter. Everything I write is my own. ARTA has acted with nothing but integrity in their dealings with me.

        In that spirit, I need to challenge what you wrote here. It is fair of you or anyone to point out connections between supporters of an initiative and the organizations that report it. But I think it is incumbent upon those who would seek to make accusations based upon these relationships that they back them up with some sort of substance. Phil Brown produces a lot of written output. I challenge anyone to show where any of his writing suggests that he is a shill for someone who pays his salary. Failing that, such accusations are nothing more than churlish cheap shots.

        • Dan Crane Dan Crane says:

          Pete,

          Are you trying to set me up as a target for bashing in place of ARTA? Or that I am a greedy environmentalist?

          If so, them’s fightin’ words!

          • Pete Nelson Pete Nelson says:

            Dan:

            Although you occasionally haunt my sleep I’ve never seen you eat. Therefore I cannot say if you are greedy or not. Me, I’m greedy. It’s amazing I don’t weigh 300 pounds.

            What I am sure of is that you are a tree-hugging, wilderness-preserving lefty-type. So you’re my type of guy, except you carry too much gear.

            With that said, don’t flatter yourself. You could never replace ARTA as a punching bag.

            Love,

            Pete

        • Big Burly says:

          Pete,
          I have several years experience with rail abandonment and working with communities building rail trails — as a railroad executive it was not always a happy experience.

          There has been a single minded effort and focus on rail removal and an equally single minded focus on a so called rail trail.
          The ’96 UMP recommendation was made and accepted by NYS after a long and comprehensive process involving all the stakeholders. That NYS did next to nothing … or very little … to actually implement Option 6 is now not a reason to unilaterally walk away. Preserving future opportunities and enhancing the system for use by residents and visitors of all ages and abilities is a far better option.
          Frankly those of us who live here should demand that NYS make the necessary investments to implement Option 6. Not yet having personally heard DOT / DEC speakers I am relying on info from folks who have — in Utica statements were apparently made that the RR would bring 200,000 new visitors in addition to 70,000 new trail users to the region. By my calculation that total is about 2X the permanent population of the ADK region. What a boon !
          There are many options for trails within the travel corridor and those, connected with existing DEC trails that parallel the corridor, would provide an interesting and varied experience for pedestrian hikers, mountain and cross over bikers and in the winter season a safe place for XC skiers. Volunteer folks I work with have walked the corridor from SL to TL, designed trails and structures that would give life to this trail and rail system; coupled with the work already done between SL and LP a combined trails with rails can be cost effectively real. Our work will be provided to the folks in Albany.

          • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

            The visitor figures you mention were drawn from a tourist railroad in Ohio and a rail trail near Rochester. It’s unclear to me that DOT was asserting these are the number of visitors that we can expect from a train vs. trail. I intend to clarify this point in the article I write for the Adirondack Explorer.

  2. Debbie Thompson. says:

    Please lets remember the dredded word ‘BUDGET” what can we afford to do, not what would be the grandest. Thanks.

  3. Daniel Cash says:

    Agreed. But at least the State is officially recognizing the facts. We can at least hope that this will stop the useless rhetoric from the ASR supporters about rails WITH trails. Now the rail option and the trail option can be weighed on their own merit.

    • John says:

      The negatives & mud slinging slinging are getting old.

      But if we must ……..

      Then please mention the Useless rhetoric from ARTA

  4. Stuart says:

    Question ? Who would be responsible to maintain it if it went to a trail ? If a snowmobile club or Old Forge did the winter maintenance, don’t they get money to manage the trails in the wintertime ? Could they use some of their club moneys from the snowmobile management fund to help with the cost of removal of the rails?

    Just a thought..

    • M.P.Heller says:

      Old Forge is a hamlet in The Town of Webb. They do not have their own government,and therefore do not have their own budget. The Town of Webb administers the Webb snowmobile trails and generates revenue for its upkeep through a use permitting system whereby users get a sticker to display after paying a fee. The Town of Webb includes the communities of Old Forge,Eagle Bay,Big Moose,Beaver River, Thendara, McKeever, and Stillwater among others. The money to maintain snowmobile facilities is already pretty thinly stretched. There is nothing to suggest that there would be funding from that source available to participate in any type of rail rehabilitation or removal. They simply sell stickers to raise funds to groom trails and maintain them. There is no largess to assume other projects.

  5. Jim McCulley says:

    I hope people are noticing from both sides ARTA has been right about all of our assertions.

    • James Falcsik says:

      Right about all of ARTA’s assertions? Are you including the grossly exaggerated overnight visitor numbers for the Virginia Creeper Trail and the Pine Creek Trail? The pick-and-choose, out-dated tax info for ARPS you post and use to write misleading commentary? ARTA may end up being correct about side by side rail and trail not being feasible for most of the corridor, but this falls on a very short list of correct ARTA assertions.

      • Adkbuddy says:

        ARTA ‘may’ be right about the side by side? Anyone whoever rode the full distance of the track has known that for years. That has been a major problem, too many opinions based on emotion rather than facts.

  6. Dan Crane Dan Crane says:

    I assume getting rid of the rails without replacing it with a trail (i.e. letting nature take its course) is NOT an option being discussed.

  7. Dan says:

    Glad to see the State is clear about the possibility of a trail next to the tracks, anyone who has been through some of the terrain involved can easily see it is a physical impossibility. And it would be a logistical nightmare trying to get something like that through the DEC and APA.
    But I’m sure the train crowd in Tupper Lake will have a fit over this.

  8. Eric says:

    The least we could do is have a rail trail between the population centers of Lake Placid and Saranac Lake. I believe it’s about 20 miles round trip, and would be perfect for local families and tourists. And if you lived in one town and worked in the other you could bike to work. I envision hordes of people using the trail in the summer. Unlike the train, which locals never use, and tourists ride once and they’re done because it’s a dull ride.

  9. Mr. Hessinger’s figures are just not accurate (even close) National Salvage and Service company has done projects like this in Vermont and New Hampshire and they estimate the scrap value at $64-69,000 per mile generating $1-$3 million in surplus for 70 miles, more for all 91 Lake Placid to Old Forge. Iron Horse Preservation gives a written estimate of full 10′ stone dust surface at par with scrap value: COMPLETE!!

    • James Falcsik says:

      Scott; how about posting your itemized quote from National Salvage and Service for the rail salvage? Does it cover the cost of the following: rail removal; Other Track Material; Turnouts; Crossties; how about restoring at-grade highway surfaces and city streets; cost of removal of warning signals systems at protected grade crossings; any ballast removal? Is the profit & overhead for NSS already deducted from your numbers? Let’s have a look.

      What if the state decides to keep that rail value for themselves? Even if all that is break-even, who pays the cost year-after-year for maintenance and improvements? I have page after page of IRS Form 990’s here of trail groups that get millions in public funds every year; how is your trail going to be free to the taxpayer?

      • Hope says:

        It is the hands of the DOT and DEC for review.

        • James Falcsik says:

          In the hands of the DOT & DEC for review…and you did not make any copies to share or scan? How long have they had the quote? Would they have already considered this for their current presentation?

          • Hope says:

            No. We gave it to them in Old Forge and we have additional quotes coming in from very interested parties who have been paying very close attention to these proceedings. Sounds to me like it will be a very competitive bid once it’s let.

  10. David Lubic says:

    What I would like to know is why the talk of promoting snowmobiles goes on? I’ve checked some numbers, and they are shocking. Registrations in New York have declined 33% in the last 10 years; they declined 13% since a study that has been touted as a great measure of their economic impact came out in 2012 with 2011 data. They even declined slightly in the past season, when the weather was the best for the activity in years and with sales going up a bit.

    And sales–down 50% in the last 10 years, and an astounding 66% in the last 16! Fully two thirds of the customers gone!

    I would wonder about why the decline has been so severe, about its causes. Aging buyers? Declining middle class? Replacement by ATVs which can be used all year?

    In any event, I don’t think there’s going to be any economic growth from the sled crowd, because the sled crowd isn’t there anymore.

    • Hope says:

      Because snowmobiles are an economic reality here in the north country and there are over 100,000 registers snowmobiler’s in Qubec alone, many who would love to travel here to ride both snowmobiles and bicycles. It’s not just about NYS but the interest from the surrounding communities both within and outside of NY.

      • Big Burly says:

        And Quebec and northern Ontario have a snow season longer and with more precip than is now the situation throughout NYS. It is not about a trail suitable for snowmobiles.
        The opportunities for people of all ages and health conditions, and recreational interests, to enjoy the ADK region will be diminished with rail removal.

        • Hope says:

          You are correct, it IS about a trail that can be used by people of all ages and physical abilities. But, snowmobiling is a big part of the overall economic picture and that was mentioned at the hearing as a very important contribution to NYS and local economies. Also mentioned by Mr Davies, from DEC, was the demand for more accessible trail venues for people with disabilities, not more typical backcountry hiking trails. That is what this proposed venue can provide. A trail for all people.

        • Hope says:

          It was made very clear to me at the Old Forge hearing that Rails with Trails is not on the agenda other than giving DEC ideas about where additional snowmobile trails could be built between Old Forge and Tupper Lake. There were 3 different questions that input was requested. The entire pdf is available on the DEC website. Just type in Adirondack Rail Corridor in the search box on their site.

          • Big Burly says:

            Hope,
            The search comes up saying Sorry, no results found for ‘Adirondack Rail Corridor’. Do you have another way to get this info digitally? Thanks

              • David Lubic says:

                Hope, I speculated that snowmobiles might be at least partially being replaced by ATVs. I have since found that ATVs, like snowmobiles, are required to be registered in New York, but I can’t find anything for numbers. Who would keep that data?

                Also, are the fees used for trail maintenance, or do they go into the Department of Motor Vehicles?

                I still want to keep the railroad, of course, but I also argue that we need a good Adirondack tourist economy to do so. We would be better off working together–something I think you might agree with!

      • David Lubic says:

        Hope, as I recall, New York requires snowmobiles that operate there to be registered there, even if the owners and the machines are stationed elsewhere. I recall seeing a summary of the snowmobile registrations that included five from my state of West Virginia; bet at least some were near the border with Western Maryland’s Garratt County, which is lakes and ski country, much like your Adirondacks, and gets quite a bit of winter.

        The point is, your registrations already do include out of state sleds and people–and the registrations are still down. You still have an activity and business in trouble–and with it, the fund that helps maintain your snowmobile trails.

        Of course, I still argue the most interesting thing,and by far also the most important thing, is the reason or collection of reasons for the decline. You can’t deal with something like this without getting a handle on the cause.

        Any speculation as to the cause or causes?

        • Hope says:

          I’m not a snowmobiler so I can’t speak to the registration numbers but I can speculate that a lot of it is due to economics. As a skier I am also aware of the same issues in that sport. It is an expensive sport that has also seen decline in numbers. Changing age demographics probably plays into it too.
          What I can tell you though is that when the corridor has enough snow coverage the businesses in my town of Tupper Lake are happy.. It is a long winter in the Adirondacks and small communities like Tupper need that winter business to survive. They don’t need a train. The people who come here at anytime of the year arrive with some type of recreational equipment attached to their vehicle. You see it in the parking lots of restaurants, grocery stores, etc. there are canoes, bikes, skis,snowshoes, snowmobiles, and other paraphanelia attached to 90% of the vehicles that belong to visitors. My office is close a major intersection in the Village. I see what’s happening all day and all year long. Tupper long ignored the business of recreation because they had an abundance of State employment with Sunmount and the prison economy. Those types of jobs have been disappearing and Tupper is now embracing the new recreation economy with a vengeance. We are doing pretty well with that during the summer months but we need to pursue and enhance our winter recreation possibilities. Snowmobiling is one of those eggs in our winter basket of recreation endeavors.

        • Adkbuddy says:

          In spite of declining snowmobile registrations, the snowmobile business in New York is still hundreds times greater than the ASR business. Add to that the business generated the other 3 seasons by any other uses, like bicycling which I believe the fastest growing outdoor activity, and it should be a no brainer. TRAIL!

  11. Wendy Rolleston says:

    Side by side trails should not considered as well as pavement. Safety of walkers and cyclist are my concern there. Pavement is environmentally invasive and has higher maintenance and construction costs. The material frost heaves creating another type of safety hazard for walkers. Well groomed gravel trails are great with my trail bike or crossover bicycle. The concern here is washouts but they can be fixed with backfill and landscape timbers.
    Looking for more to do in ADK
    Wendy

    • Pullman2tupper says:

      Pavement is also not friendly to the knees & ankles of us baby boomers!

    • Adkbuddy says:

      For anyone who ever traveled the full length of the rail corridor, the side by side was not going to happen for the reasons already stated.

  12. Bruce says:

    Finally, a sensible proposal. Everyone gets something, and no one is totally happy. The reasoning behind the proposal is sound.

    It’s a little like politics,(or maybe a lot). Most folks want their party (or their proposal), to control an outcome, and if they don’t get it the grousing goes on and on, instead of simply accepting a reasonable compromise and moving on.

  13. Adkbuddy says:

    I find it interesting how much of the debate is driven by Mr. Falcsik and Mr. Lubic. One from PA, the other from WV. I doubt either one is a stakeholder in New York. Sounds like two rail fans who have more interest in their hobby than in the economy of northern New York. But hey, it’s just my opinion.

    • John Warren John Warren says:

      Nonsense. There are plenty of people right here in the park who don’t want the rails torn up.

      Where they live has no bearing on the quality of the arguments they’re making.

    • James Falcsik says:

      Adkbuddy, I will not apologize for living in PA. I am a stakeholder. Your proposed trail construction and maintenance will cost me, a federal taxpayer, plenty. Railroads are federal issues; go ahead and commit a crime within 50 feet of the tracks and the laws that convict you are federal.

      You don’t like to hear opposing commentary from outside the region; but you rejoice with favorable words from anywhere outside NY. Rather than complain about my participation in the debate, produce facts to address the points. Are you happy to have more than 8000 registered sleds from PA? You like the economic contribution of Pennsylvanians I am sure. The pencil-thin line between NY and PA should make no difference: the truth should be measured the same way in NY, PA and WV.

      I don’t need New York to supplement any part of my hobby, which is not part of the discussion here. ARTA chose to reference trails that are literally in my region and they are not telling the truth about those details. I am speaking up in hopes that some folks in your community look into the issues and references I have provided so they can see the details for themselves.

      If the Editor, Mr. Warren, would prefer that I not comment on the rail-trail subjects presented here, because I am an “outsider” he can email me anytime and let me know.

      • adkbuddy says:

        I think you are dead wrong on this one. The corridor is 100% owned by NY State. Nothing to do with the feds.I have read all your commentaries published in the Adk. Enterprise and googled you, it is obvious what your bias is. ARTA has published all the facts relevant to this issue, but it looks like you are the one who has issues with facts.

        • David Lubic says:

          Mr. Buddy (bah, I know, it’s a pseudonym, but I’m old-fashioned), it might be worthwhile to remember that almost all railroad mileage in the United States is privately owned–but it still comes under federal jurisdiction. Has to do with railroads being federally regulated, and that includes the Adirondack Scenic (their equipment has to pass a federal inspection, and there are other things, too).

          This was found out the hard way by the mayor of Kingston, who narrowly avoided federal trouble for deliberately blocking another disputed railroad in Ulster County. You’ve also had at least one sabotage incident involving the Adirondack that has drawn federal interest. Things like that are the Fed’s jurisdiction. Mr. Falscik speaks the truth here.

          I would also note that I think he speaks the truth about how you might want to listen to what outsiders have to say. After all, you have a couple of baseball teams down at the end of the Hudson River that have a lot of fans all around the country. I don’t think their management groups would want to snub their fans from California, Pennsylvania, Florida, New Jersey, West Virginia, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan–you get the picture.

          Put it this way–having outside interest is a good problem to have! As Mr. Falscik put it, would you want to turn away the snowmobilers from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Quebec, and yes, even the five or so from West Virginia that are registered in New York? Why do you want to turn us away?

          • Hope says:

            Go back to the DOT presentation and you will see confirmed that none of the Remsen – Lake Placid Travel Corridor is privately owned. It is owned in fee title by NYS.

            • James Falcsik says:

              There is no challenge to fact that the State of New York owns the right-of-way. That is what will make any change to the corridor a public works project and Davis/Bacon wages may apply to demolition and trail construction. This has the potential to blow all the cost estimates out of the water; except the DOT’s estimates.

              You and Stuart missed the point. If federal money is used for trail development, then federal taxpayers are stakeholders. If any section of this corridor becomes a bike trail it is guaranteed at some point federal money will flow into groups that sponsor it. Federal regulations do affect railroad operations. Right on the DOT Fact sheet this is stated. ASR has received inquiries for a small volume of freight service. If ASR was to provide freight service, first it would need approval from the Surface Transportation Board (a federal agency) and have use of the corridor 24-7/365 days per year. At that point the STB has jurisdiction on the corridor.

              • Hope says:

                And you wonder why the snowmobilers have lined up with ARTA. There you have it. 24/7/365 days of no snowmobiles or no hikers or bikers on the corridor. Simple as that.

                • James Falcsik says:

                  I don’t think that is a revelation in anyone’s mind. Although if freight has not been part of the discussion, that is not their primary concern.

                  What I do not understand is why environmental groups have not lined up against turning the rail corridor into a pollution super highway with all the sleds? Take the peak day of March 22, 2014 where you had a total of 610 sleds past Big Moose. When you do a carbon footprint tabulation, you end up with over 12,000 metric tons of CO2e from the sleds. 610 one-way train trips the entire length of the corridor only equals 6.1 metric tons. Even if my math is wrong by 50% the difference in stunning. Why are the tree-huggers on the sideline for dumping all these emissions in the middle of the AP?

                  • Hope says:

                    Quite possibly they may want to keep them on the corridor rather than cut new trails to make up for that mileage and connections. Also, many so- called environmentalist are interested in riding their bicycles on this venue. They are willing to make that compromise. Many who are in the woods during the summer months aren’t too thrilled with train loads of people being dumped off in Lake Lila or the Bog River area. Different people have different reasons depending on what their own use is and how it would be affected. Pretty much only snowmobilers use the corridor in the winter and they prefer long distance travel so a long trail is more desirable than short loops here and there. It is not unusual for a group of snowmobilers to travel over 100 miles in a day. Snowmobiling is a traditional recreational use and they have had uninterrupted use of the Travel Corridor for longer than ASR. Snowmobiles are not going anywhere. They will be accommodated on the corridor or somewhere else. They prefer the corridor.

            • David Lubic says:

              Ownership by the state makes no difference, it’s still under Federal railroad regulation. That applies to private freight railroads, it applies to commuter services that operate on private freight railroads, it applies to Amtrak which owns its own track between Washington and Boston, it applies to the state-owned Alaska Railroad, and it applies to the tourist hauling, state-owned Cass Scenic Railroad. It applies to any railroad, standard or narrow gauge, that is considered part of the national rail network, and that includes this one.

              The only exemptions are “insular” railroads, such as certain transit lines, certain industrial railroads, and amusement park railroads.

        • James Falcsik says:

          You think I have problems with facts? Between January 2013 and June 13, 2014, ARTA founder and director Dick Beamish wrote Op-Ed commentary three times in two newspapers dramatically skewing examples of the most important data metric used to determine the economic impact of a recreational trail to a region.
          In commentary appearing in the ADE June 13, 2014, about a recent visit to the Virginia Creeper Trail, Mr. Beamish stated “more than 100,000 overnight visitors” describing trail users who spend money in that region. Following a challenge requesting the source of this statement, Beamish admitted to ADE Editor Peter Crowley his quoted value was erroneous. Beamish exaggerated the true published value of the impact statement more than 1,700 percent. The VCT study projects only 5,725 yearly non-local, primary-purpose overnight visitors.
          Come on ADK Buddy, how do you see the facts?

  14. Lynn H says:

    http://parks.ny.gov/recreation/snowmobiles/documents/SnowmobileSeasonReport.pdf See page 12 for snowmobiling stats.
    Registrations are down but not as dismal as stated in a previous post. I am a hiker, bicycler, and snowmobiler: imagine that! I have busted a ski on the RR tracks in TL, and would not mind a track free ride in the winter. I don’t understand why certain areas could not be detoured to pavement/roads. The bike trail from Albany to BUffalo has plenty of these “detours”. There must be road access to the tracks for maintenance?

    • David Lubic says:

      Those are same stats I’ve been using–and going from a peak of 172,164 to 115,982 is a 33% decrease.

      It’s the sales that are really dismal, with a 66% decline nationwide.

      The economic impact has to be down, too, simply because of the reduced numbers. The study that cited an impact of $864 million per year (with roughly a quarter of that coming to the Adirondacks) was released in 2012, using the most recent data of the time, which was the preceding season of 2010-2011. The registrations went from 134,442 in that season to 115,982, a decline of a bit over 13%. That means the impact would have been down to about $745 million, which would represent a decrease of $119 million, all in rounded numbers.

      And this is the point of my comment that we may not want to spend money on snowmobiles at this time. Where is the increased business supposed to come from with such delines over this relatively long period of time?

      At best, you would be simply stealing business from other parts of New York. At worst, you lose a railroad you may need later (think gas prices) for–nothing.

      • David Lubic says:

        “I don’t understand why certain areas could not be detoured to pavement/roads. The bike trail from Albany to Buffalo has plenty of these “detours”. There must be road access to the tracks for maintenance?”

        And this is the key to getting rails with trails to work. The main problem is that you lose the snowmobile “superhighway” that some in the sled crowd want.

        Personally, based on the driving I do, a “superhighway” is kind of boring. I do prefer driving on secondary roads, which are more interesting. And being a train nut, I appreciate driving beside a railroad, especially if a train shows up and I can get to “pace” it. That’s something bicyclers like to do on the Western Maryland Scenic, particularly when running downhill on the trail that parallels the steam powered mountain railroad!

        • David Lubic says:

          Couldn’t find “pacing” footage of the Western Maryland Scenic (which would be a bit difficult to shoot from a bicycle!), but did find this nice shot of a locomotive out west.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgGufdRAWdU

          One of the things that some find fascinating about steam trains is how this hulking mechanical monster becomes graceful in motion. . .

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