Thursday, June 11, 2015

Rail-Trail Decision Announced

NYC Railroad from Lake Clear LodgeThe Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Department of Transportation (DOT) have announced their long-awaited decision in a controversial effort to tear up most of the 119-mile historic railroad running through the central Adirondacks. The decision has been issued in the form of a proposed amendment to the Remsen to Lake Placid Travel Corridor Unit Management Plan (UMP).

The plan would remove the rails between Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake, and Lake Placid in favor of a multi-use recreational trail for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. It also calls for maintaining the railroad from Remsen to Big Moose Station and rehabilitating the 45 miles of rail from Big Moose to the Village of Tupper Lake.  Also included is a plan to use at least some of the corridor as a long-range snowmobile trail that would connect to communities along the line, including Beaver River.

rlptcmap1-page-001The Amended UMP would also include what an announcement from DEC described as “hut to hut cross-country skiing opportunities between Beaver River and the Horseshoe Lake Station and train stops in Beaver River, Lake Lila and other interior destinations…”. DOT will seek a long-term lease of the excursion railroad, which railroad advocates said was necessary to allow for more investment in the train service.

The UMP Amendment is expected to be posted to DEC’s website by Friday here, where additional documents about the corridor are already posted. A public hearing is planned for Tupper Lake Middle-High School on Wednesday, July 8, at 7 pm.

DEC and DOT are accepting written comments until July 27th via email to [email protected] or addressed to the following:

John Schmid, NYSDEC, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY, 12233-4254
Dawn Klemm, NYSDOT Region 2, 207 Genesee Street, Utica, NY 13501

More stories about the Adirondack Rail-Trail efforts can be found here.

Photo of the Rail Corridor near Lake Clear courtesy John Warren. Map provided by DEC.

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John Warren

John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for almost 50 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded the geolocation services company Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John remains active in traditional media. His Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on the stations of North Country Public Radio and on 93.3 / 102.1 The Mix. Since 2008, John has been a media specialist on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute.

John is also a professional researcher and historian with a M.A. in Public History. He edits The New York History Blog and is the author of two books of regional history. As a Grant Consultant for the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, he has reviewed hundreds of historic roadside marker grant applications from around New York State for historical accuracy.

68 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    Interesting. I figured that the DOT would not have let this happen. It seemed to me that an all or nothing plan would have been what was decided.

    • Bruce says:

      Paul, all or nothing plans sometimes yield “nothing” results. I believe that covering the bets at both ends is the best solution, because it gives a little something to everyone. Any single use would be limited in its scope, whereas getting a little from a larger pool of users could yield big results.

      I can’t help but see Tupper Lake seeing a nice economic impact because of its connection with both a rail line, and a fine multi-use trail.

      • Paul says:

        This is true, my point there was that I was surprised that the DOT would want to breakup the RR infrastructure from the end that has the largest town in the Adirondacks as well as one of the Adirondacks most popular tourist destinations. They hang on pretty tight to things like this even if it isn’t that useful currently.

        • Hope says:

          Why? lake Placid made it pretty clear they preferred the Trail.

          • Andrew says:

            A trail could be built next the track too, this is just short sighted and corrupt!

          • Paul says:

            the dot is more of a regional thing. a rr isn’t really about one town. so if my town decides they
            want a bike trail rather than an interstate the dot should say ok we will have the interstate end in my town for a bike trail and start again in the next town?

  2. Erin Burns says:

    This is super exciting news. Hooray! 🙂

  3. adkcamp says:

    A win-win for Tupper Lake – let’s hope they put a little creativity and forward thinking into attracting travelers beyond the tracks and trail. This is a gift in hand and an opportunity for growth in tourism and prosperity. You don’t need Foxman to revitalize the town!

    This is a big loss for bike, hike, ski, and snow-machine enthusiasts south of Tupper.

    • Dave says:

      Who are the “they” you refer to as putting creativity and forward thinking into attracting travelers?? I’m hoping you aren’t thinking that the state is going to market this trail other than marking it as a trail…. Any marketing monies that the state may invest in this endeavor will be centered around Lake Placid where the bulk of the traffic will be located Tupper Lake is too far out of range for any of that marketing to be of any use.

  4. Paul says:

    I hope the huge number of users that were estimated by the rail-trail proponents actually show up. It shouldn’t take long to do that part of the project.

    Today my pipe dream of a quiet electric train swooshing through the wilderness dropping off hikers and paddlers along the way has died!

    I will now begin eating crow!! Good luck to both of the new endeavors.

    • Jennifer Potter Hayes says:

      The Adirondack Scenic Railroad that operates through Old Forge already takes bikes, canoes and kayaks on the trains and drops off passengers or picks them up. It’s not electric, but it does serve the purpose of getting hikers, bikers and paddlers out to their destinations.

      • Paul says:

        Yes, I know that is a very cool option. I actually learned about that in Phil Brown’s last paddling guide.

      • Eric says:

        Tourists in Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake just want to hop on their bikes from their hotels, or walk to a bike rental shop, and get on the bike trail. They do not want to get on a train.

    • M.P. Heller says:

      Why can’t there be a quiet electric train dropping off passengers in the future if that’s what is the right model?

      The only section being removed is likely the least desirable to the wilderness enthusiast. All of the areas being preserved and upgraded areas due the most remote.

      How are a snare bout a train ride to the Norridgewok in Beaver River for an overnight with your gear before exploring Stillwater and the Pepperbox? What about a ride up to Lake Lila and a paddling weekend?

      New options abound for all with this proposal.

    • Beth says:

      It will be interesting to see the numbers when all is said and done..the cost to rip up the tracks, the number of users, the actual additional revenue it brings in… I felt that the projected figures were off on all accounts..but time will tell. It seems to me that DEC and DOT are trying to please both sides. But interesting to note that the rails to trails enthusiasts had a tunnel vision of what was best compromise…and the railroad enthusiasts were open to trying to come up with a plan to please all… We took a trip to Alaska last year…the Alaska Railroad takes you into areas that you can’t get to any other way…(sound familiar?) .Bikers and hikers take the train to remote trails……..I look forward to seeing this happen here…people traveling by train to Lake Lila and other areas…camping, biking , hiking …

      • Greg says:

        “the Alaska Railroad takes you into areas that you can’t get to any other way…(sound familiar?)”

        Not really. You can boat to the town of Beaver River on Stillwater, you can drive to Lila, you can drive and then canoe to Hitchins Pond, you can drive to Horseshoe Lake, you can drive to Mt Arab. Those are the major destinations along the railroad, the rest is either private land or just woods. So there would need to be a compelling case for taking the train to Lila vs just driving there, and I honestly don’t think there is.

        • Hope says:

          As a user of the Wilderness areas surrounding Lake Lila and the Bog River, I’m not looking forward to the clanging, industrial and urban sounding noise emanating from the train not the whistle blowing and breaks squealing as it stops at Lake Lila or Sabityid station everyday.

    • Eric says:

      How many people “show up” for the train between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. And what percentage of the people who ride the train would have come to the area without the train. I would say about 99%.

      And let’s not forget the year-round residents, who after a brutal winter wake up one early May morning to forecasted 60-degree temperatures, who can now hop on their bikes.

      • Paul says:

        Eric, I grew up in Saranac Lake. This is not our first chance to ride a bike. We have tons of great biking even w/o this new flat 20 mile dusty ride. We also have a bunch of old abandoned rail trails. People make this sound like it is some new thing. But this will make things better for folks snowmobiling on that section.

  5. Paul says:

    The tricky part will be designing and building how the trail will go over the trestle that crosses the Saranac River in Saranac Lake. That is pretty high and pretty creepy as a trail w/o some type of side rails. The trail will cross the road in about 5 different sections there in about a half a mile or so. Hope there isn’t an issue getting the necessary insurance for this with the estimated thousands of bikers per season crossing these sections? The section leaving Saranac Lake getting to Tupper is pretty easy. Maybe just one crossing near Lake Clear.

  6. Martha Spear says:

    Oh, I am disappointed. I had hoped they’d find a way to do both rail & trail in LP, SL and TL.

  7. Michael says:

    The ravings and rationalizations of the no-compromise, “my way is the only way” crowd have stricken the northern end of the railway, the longest National Historic Landmark in the nation. It’s apparent that the destruction of the railroad was their objective. After the UMP review process was undertaken, opponents of the railroad decried the format because they were not able to dominate, as they had at previous meetings. They flatly dismissed any DOT/DEC findings with which they disagreed. They maintain the corridor trail will cause business to blossom along the trail, although development is not allowed in most of those areas. Developing a separate recreational trail connecting existing communities and business centers apparently will not do, because that does not destroy the railroad. Hate, like money, doesn’t care who owns it. Influential haters get heard. Of course the railroad north of Big Moose isn’t solvent. Closed roads don’t get any traffic, either. Fortunately, the railway can be restored through to Tupper Lake, and provide the only means for disabled veterans and others with mobility issues to experience the Adirondack wilderness and wild lands traversed by the corridor.

    • Paul says:

      Michael, Although I supported a plan that would perhaps save an end-to-end RR, and think this will not really be feasible to expanded it w/o a link to LP and SL, I don’t think destruction of the RR was their goal. It was two fold, a trail for bikers (which I think has wildly exaggerated expectations for use) and a better trail for snowmobiles in the winter. People just disagreed on what should be there I don’t think it was about some sort of sinister plot to nuke the RR.

    • Paul says:

      Also, the section that is proposed for a trail has very good accessibility. The 85 miles they propose to rehab does have the wilderness areas that you think should have better access so you should be satisfied with that.

    • M.P. Heller says:

      It will be interesting to see with ACR going forward and rail now terminating in Tupper how these economic tools can contribute to the local community sustainability models which are currently in place.

      Unfortunately, I feel that the current proposal lacks a certain amount of follow through which leaves a variety of advocates on many sides lacking in a satisfactory resolution.

      A good foundation has been suggested. For the amount of time amounted money we are talking amount about investing, a more refined course of action can clearly be achieved before adopting a final plan.

    • Eric says:

      The PEOPLE, through their ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES, want the rails ripped out between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake. Why, because they never ever get on the train, and the tracks prevent them for riding their bikes with their families and getting wonderful exercise.

      How hard is that to understand, Michael? Yeah, the longest National History Landmark that if completed, would lose millions of dollars every year because nobody will take the train from Utica to Lake Placid.

      Let’s hear it for the will of THE PEOPLE!

      • Paul says:

        Again, what is this the only place to ride? I will be riding my bike today. They are going to build this trail but it isn’t going to be the holy grail you claim.

    • Eric says:

      Actually, it you who were the “my way or the only way” people. You wanted the entire corridor for yourself. You still have most of it. Be happy.

      “They maintain the corridor trail will cause business to blossom along the trail, although development is not allowed in most of those areas.” “Along” means Lake Placid, Clear Lake, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake. Nobody is expecting a new village to emerge in the middle of nowhere

  8. Lakechamplain says:

    Hip, Hip, Hooray! I believe after what seemed like an interminable wait that this is a sound decision that will benefit the Adirondack region. Just about every imaginable angle has been discussed on these pages(and elsewhere) and I’m satisfied that in this case the ‘process’ worked.
    I think this decision will help increase tourism to this area, which after all is the lifeblood of its economic well being. Families in particular, as well as recreational bikers of all ages, will be able to bike amidst the beauty of the Adirondacks and not risk riding along the often dangerous–for bikers–roads of the region. And though I’m not and never want to be a snowmobiler it offers expanded opportunities for this group of residents and visitors alike.
    The railroad was and always would be an albatross around the neck of the area.
    And while trying not to be too critical, the idea that the railroad could somehow ever be a commercial success was simply pie in the sky.
    I hope work can begin this year and people who reside here make frequent use of this wonderful trail opportunity. If the surface is hard enough for bikers to use it without much difficulty it will increase the attraction potential of this area.
    Congratulations to the many people who offered their opinions and to the state for making what in many ways was a difficult decision.

  9. Barb says:

    At least the trail will cover the most sensible part of the track bed. Connecting the villages along the trail will attract the more casual day walkers and bikers. Once it proves its worth, the train will still be struggling from Utica to Old Forge. Then maybe it will be easier to put a trail connecting all the way from Tupper to Utica and the Erie Canal trail. At that point, even a side by side option is feasible if the state still can’t face the facts that the train is dead. Hopefully, the state does not waste too much money on fixing tracks before the obvious folly in it is discovered.

    • James Falcsik says:

      Barb, have a look at the economic data for Damascus, VA at citi-data,com. Look up the median income of this Virginia Creeper Trail community, compared to the rest of VA, and tell me how a trail that has been in place for 31 years is providing any economic lift at all. You want to discuss folly, let’s examine these claims of economic prosperity from a trail economy.

      • Eric says:

        And what benefit does the railroad provide. How many people will not visit the Lake Placid area because there is no longer a train? Hardly any. How many more people will come to the area because they can bring their bikes, and bike from their hotel to the trail. A ton. And they will come back year after year.

        • James Falcsik says:

          Eric you have nothing but speculation for all those points. I simply look up the economic demographics of small trail towns noted by ARTA as having all this business from trail tourists. Unbiased documentation of substantially lower median income says ARTA and your assertion is BS. ARTA and the RTC sold this BS to about half of your community and politics contributed as well. It is clear the DOT and DEC did not have the stones to do the right thing.

        • Robert says:

          “What about a trip to Saranac Lake? It’s never been worth going to until they opened that one stretch of trail a mountain bike can go on. It’s such a different place now! Let’s go!”

          Said nobody.

          • chris says:

            “Said nobody” is right.

            I can’t imagine any net increase in biking miles traveled because of this. It seems like a snowmobiling project.

            And then to spend the money on SL to TL, through some very nice lands, seems to add to an unfoundedness decision.

    • Bruce says:

      Barb, I think if NY can attract a rail operator such as the guy who operates both the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad and the Silverton and Durango in Colorado they will have a first class rail operation, maybe even putting a steam locomotive on the line.. Both of these rail lines see ridership coming from all over the country. As the Adirondack Scenic Railroad stands now you’re right, it will probably struggle. That’s why the state is looking for an operator who can turn it around, now that a decent amount of trackage will be available as an incentive. If vision were limited to the way things are now, it can only follow that progress will be limited, if at all. Isn’t that what “vision” is all about, to see the future and then work towards attaining it?

      And who knows? If ARR obtains a track plow or blower, winter trains would be possible.

      We vacation in the Fulton Chain every year, and always ride the rails; next week will be no different. We frequently ride the GSMR as we live a few hours away.

  10. Pat says:

    Sounds like a reasonable compromise for all segments of the population. I really think more tourists and people of all ages and abilities can visit and enjoy the Adirondacks by rail. Snowmobiling is obviously limited by one’s income and the season (and our winters are always unpredictable), and maybe by gas prices. I’m a skier and hiker and I know I would like to explore the hut-to-hut trail in different seasons.

    • Eric says:

      Who is going to visit the Adirondacks by rail? What is the cost of gasoline for a two, or three, or four hour drive, vs. the cost of four round trip tickets on a train?

      • Bruce says:

        Eric, I didn’t hear anybody suggesting using rail as a way to get to the Adirondacks, although with Amtrak stopping in Utica, and the ADKRR going from Utica to Tupper Lake, it would certainly be possible. I don’t think there is any talk about operating the ADKRR on some sort of regular, daily commercial service as a replacement mode of transportation.

        The discussion is about using the rail as one of the things you do after getting there. And it’s not about the cost of getting to the park, it is about spending money after you get there. I drive 16 hours each way for a one week vacation in the Adirondacks, and I’m pretty frugal.

        I would love to be able to ride the train from Thendara to Tupper Lake, have a leisurely lunch, do a little shopping and ride back for dinner, or perhaps have a nice dinner on the train. Driving 28 and 30 to TL is losing some of its charm after doing it every year for some 10 years.

  11. Smitty says:

    Looks like an excellent decision. I’m really looking forward to a bike trail from Tupper… well as an excursion ride from Tupper to points south.

  12. John says:

    I don’t like this. There are plenty of other opportunities for hiking, biking, and snowmobiling in the park. This is a railroad corridor.
    I’m concerned about snowmobile noise and speed. How will a speed limit and night time limit be enforced? The train was noisy but was predictable and didn’t run at night.
    What about public safety? The Rails to Trails advocates say this is just scare tactics and then their website posts information about ways to mitigate safety concerns. Really? I don’t want lights or cameras along the corridor. Nor do I want my tax dollars paying for police patrols to monitor the path, taking them away from other locations.
    Keep the tracks and the train.

    • Robert says:


      There are countless walk and bike opportunities in the area. This isn’t a make-or-break for any potential tourist. I’m an avid outdoorsperson here and this doesn’t get me the least bit excited. I’ve biked the D&H. Not too exciting. The growing segment of mountain biking involves technical trails or courses, not another flat gravel expanse.

      This is a shortsighted decision. Avid snowmobilers would be foolish to leave the Old Forge area, which gets more snow, to come up here. And when I cross country ski, I avoid trails frequented by those machines because of the noise and smell.

      The train was unique. People have and would continue to ride it. And heck, maybe sometime down the road when fuel cost further limits gas-powered recreation and we Adirondackers wish there was mass transit infrastructure in place, well finally kick our own rears for letting this happen.

      You can’t reasonably argue that people are going to come here who otherwise wouldn’t have before the trail was trackless. That’s just silly. As for the locals, we have done just fine with the other thousand or so miles available to us around here.

      Nothing gained, plenty lost.

      • James Falcsik says:

        Well at least Camoin got it right when they determined how local trail users DO NOT contribute new economic benefits to the communities. Here is a statement right out of the Proposed UMP revision: “In an attempt to evaluate the economic impact of these scenarios, the investigators needed to make some assumptions, and the largest assumption made by them was that only visitors from out-of-State were considered for net economic impact. This was done because the investigators felt that in-State residents would be spending their money within the State regardless of the options evaluated in this amendment. Thus it was assumed that in-State residents would provide no net economic gain to New York State.” So for all the promise of an economic boom from trail users, even the DOT knows this would all be on the true primary purpose visitor. Other existing trails do not forecast that scenario being too promising.

  13. Mike effland says:

    Think they should open the track for the train so the commerce and tourism could have a new way to be seen! There’s plenty of hiking trails in the Adirondack’s for the public that no one uses already

    • Bruce says:

      Mike, based on discussions held earlier in the year and late last year, you are right; existing hiking, as well as snowmobile and bike trails are not utilized to the extent they could be, and snowmobiling is declining. This leads me to believe folks really just want something new, something which will boom at first, but eventually settle down to some level as the newness wears off…it always does.

      One advantage of a train is it can operate in all weather, and a track clearing locomotive could make it a year-round proposition. Another advantage of rail is the operators can come up with new and different kinds of excursions, encouraging folks to come back for more. A trail is just a trail.

  14. Bob Yarger says:

    While I have no problem with rail-trails when the rails are long gone, it is utterly ridiculous to tear out a functioning rail line to create a trail. Despite claims of “millions” of outside dollars brought in by snowmobilers, most trail users are, in fact, local people. They might stop for a sandwich and coffee, but they don’t fill motels and restaurants. This is proven out by three rail lines in Vermont that were destroyed to become snowmobile trails.

    While corporate greed sent Adirondack factories elsewhere long ago, there are still things like road salt, petroleum products and building materials that could be shipped in more cheaply by rail. Talk of the rail line being “uneconomic” is absurd. No trail ever made a dime.

    After the rehab of the rail line was poorly handled for the 1980 Olympics, the state turned it over to DEC for trail use, attempting to sweep the whole matter under the rug (the same was done with the Lamoille Valley RR in Vermont). Only the hard work by dedicated volunteers has kept the railroad alive. I sincerely doubt the snowmobilers will be so energetic, expecting we taxpayers to foot the bill for their fun.

    Also ridiculous is the idea that scrapping the rails will pay for the trail. At today’s scrap prices, it will be hard to find a contractor that will pick them up for free, much less pay for them.

    While the national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy recognizes that railroads are still an important part of our economy, many local trails groups do not, which breeds the stupidity we’re seeing here. In fact, major North American railroads are doing as much business today as they did during WW2. Many of the regional and local lines are doing fine also – witness Vermont Rail Systems’ former Rutland Railroad, that was given up for abandonment in the 1960’s; today it’s very much a vital part of the Vermont economy.

    While today’s automobiles are getting smaller, the trucks that bring goods to us are getting larger and heavier. Thus, most of the expensive highway improvements and repairs done today are for trucks, not cars. And a lot of the goods they carry could be hauled by rail, with no cost to the highway department.

    As someone who spent 30 frozen winters working outdoors before retirement, I’ll never understand why any sane person would want to ride a snowmobile, but I don’t deny them their “fun”. Snowmobiles, however, can go most anywhere, while trains cannot, thus to tear out tracks for them to ride on is simply nuts.

    • James Falcsik says:

      Great comment Bob.

      • Dave Whitbeck says:

        It’s NOT a functioning rail line between Big Moose Station & Lake Placid & hasn’t been for years!

        • AdkDave says:

          Dave, it is a functioning railroad between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid as evidenced by its return last evening….

    • Tom Payne says:

      Bob, Snowmobile clubs in NYS are very energetic. The volunteers in these 200 volunteer clubs have created trail system statewide of over ten thousand miles. The user group (snowmobilers) pays a yearly snowmobile registration fee and part of that funding goes to those volunteer clubs to develop and maintain those trails. It is set up as dedicated fund and administered by NYS Parks and Recreation to the clubs. No taxpayer monies are involved.

      • James Falcsik says:

        I have several reasons to hope your railroad is preserved, but trail funding is one of the issues. I do not think federal TAP or other public sources should be used to destroy an existing rail line, especially one that has been preserved. Since you feel this is a local issue, would you support a local sales tax (or state tax increase), property taxes, and/or a registration fee for bicycles to pay for trail conversion and maintenance? Just like the snowmobile trail funding system now in place?

      • James Falcsik says:

        Nice article, Quite a bit different from your scenario. Railroad pulled out and abandoned the line on its own; a legitimate rail-trail conversion. Clear understanding of how much this trail is costing the public; you claim the ARTA trail would be low cost or FREE. The projections for an economic boom are the same. The locals are already using it. Yup, that is how it worked around here also. Economic boom? Not yet; 27 years and counting.

  15. Paul says:

    A “hut to hut” system requires “huts”. Do they plan to build some? I don’t think that is even possible on Forest Preserve land?

    I think it is a great idea. But I think it’s impossible.

  16. Sirs, I cannot believe that you would even think of tearing up the railroad. I grew up in the Adirondacks. I am 85 and have fond memories of the trip from Utica up north. My children traveled this route to their great grand parents and back home many times. I guess I will never find snow mobiling that excitiing, Let these people go find open fields AND HAVE THEIR FUN. tHE WAY THINGS ARE GOING NO ONE WILL EVER HAVE THE RAILROAD EXPERIENCE AND THE MEMORIES. I worked i up north at the hotels and remember the open truck going to Thendara and pick up the trunks of the visitors from NYCity. Many of them stayed for two months but most for a month. It was an exciting time for all of us It was an experience I will always remember.

  17. Westernedge says:

    What a wonderful decision!

  18. Seth bay says:

    As a snowmobiler, I have riden the tracks many of times. Unless the tracks have a fairly good amount of snow, rails often are showing. Hitting these on snowmobiles can be dangerous at spots losing control with deep banks and trees off to the side. The tracks are no longer in use and the price of restoring the tracks would be a waste. Removing the tracks would increase buinsness for local restaurants and make the trail much more enjoyable for all. As much as hikers, bikers and locals want snowmobiles to go away they never will and they are a major factor in the economy for the area during the winter months.

  19. Lee Wilkerson says:

    There is no question that the rail provides a nostalgic experience which is difficult to duplicate. However the cost associated with operating and maintaining that line cannot be justified. nd in fact neither choice is economically justifiable in real terms. The trail option does seem to offer access to more folks interested in recreation and the area is full of and continues to attract active recreation seeking visitors. Most travelers seeking a scenic rail trip have plenty of options and this corridor is not marketed in a way that is competitive with those longer more scenic trips. The rail trail will be a way for all of the active travelers that area already attracts to travel between towns without the dangers of auto and truck traffic. My hope is that the first phase will succeed swiftly and the second phase from Tupper Lake to Old Forge will follow suit. This is a small victory for active travelers and residents of our area.

  20. Buck says:

    Article XlV states
    “Section 1. The lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.”
    Then it specifically makes exceptions, such as the Northway,etc.

    NOWHERE is there any mention of the railroad from Remsen to Lake Placid.
    ENCON & APA have via the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan 2014
    created clasifications outside the NYS Constitution
    it is clearly a violation of Article XlV unless amended. With just a pen and a few
    “empowered” men our State Constitution has been changed
    Article XlV says the lands shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. Not reclassified to
    suit those in power for their convenience – In particular; Where do they get TRAVEL CORRIDORS ?
    Apparently just made it up to fix a problem, and got another agency (DOT) involved
    to complicate the situation further.

    Wild Forest
    Canoe (Adirondacks only)
    Primitive (Adirondacks only)
    Primitive Bicycle Corridor (Catskills only)
    Intensive Use
    Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers (Adirondacks only)
    Travel Corridors (Adirondacks only)
    Historic (Adirondacks only)
    State Administrative
    Detached Forest Preserve


    I see all the recent “Decision Making” by ENCON & DOT regarding the tracks from Old Forge to Tupper Lake. I also read the latest version of Article 14 NYS Constitution. 1. Can you please explain where the railroad is covered by the Article ? Article XlV is VERY specific as far as roads, ski trails, etc. It would seem that the lands the railroad operates thru that are in fact State Land within the Park
    and must be returned to FOREVER WILD. If not please explain.
    Second: Article XlV specifically states that State Land cannot be leased, rented, sold etc. Yet the various plans include a proposal to LEASE the railroad to Adirondack Scenic Railroad. How is that legal ? Is not an amendment required here to make this legal? Or are we just in an extra constitutional era like Obama and the Congress?

  21. Buck Jordan says:

    “For years the State had been acquiring and holding lands, often denuded, to be sure, which lumber interests did not pay the taxes on. It was this nucleus of property that gave the idea for the Park. Curiously enough, in this way, avarice was its own undoing … In 1885 the Forest Preserve was created, and the popular vote in 1894 set it aside for the use of all the people forever.”
    In 1894, a Constitutional Convention approved a new Article VII (now XIV), bringing New York’s Forest Preserve lands under the state’s highest level of protection. This proposal, combined with other amendments from the Convention, was approved by the people at the 1894 General Election and became effective on January 1, 1895. Article XIV’s original wording, found below, still survives today in spite of numerous efforts to modify it.

    The railroad was first financed in1890 and completed 18 months later.

    The railroad later became part of the New York Central System. The railroad carried the Webb, Morgan, Vanderbilt, Whitney, and Roosevelt families along with other not-so-famous families to their Great Camps in the Adirondack Mountains. It also provided freight service to communities along the way. In 1961, part of the line was abandoned from Lake Clear Junction to Malone. Scheduled passenger service was continued on the Adirondack Division from Utica to Lake Placid but ended in April of 1965. In February 1968 the New York Central System merged with the Pennsylvania Railroad becoming Penn Central Transportation Company. Freight service was continued with decreasing frequency until 1972. In that year, the Penn Central’s application to the Public Service Commission to abandon the line was approved. In 1975, the state of New York purchased the abandoned line. 

    The line had a brief reprieve when it was returned to service in 1977 when the Adirondack Railway Corporation contracted with the state to run passenger service from Utica to Lake Placid for the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid. In February of 1981, problems with the Adirondack Railway Corporation’s management of the line forced the State to terminate the company’s lease. Ownership of the property went to New York State and the railroad laid dormant.

    In 1992 a group of devoted rail enthusiasts banded together and proposed to operate a short section of the line from Thendara south to Minnehaha. New York State approved the 4-mile train ride and on July 4, 1992 the Adirondack Centennial Railroad ran its first train out of Thendara station. By the end of the season the railroad carried over 55,000 passengers. With such a positive response from the public, New York State allowed the railroad to operate in 1993, distinguishing the entire rail line from Remsen to Lake Placid as part of the National Register of Historic Places along with the New York State Register of Historic Places. In July of 1994 the Adirondack Centennial Railroad became the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, which is operated by the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society, Inc. (ARPS). ARPS is a 501(c) (3), not-for-profit corporation and is run by a staff of 150 volunteers and a few full and part-time employees.

    ( An amendment should have followed )

    In 1930, the Court of Appeals construed Article XIV, Section 1 (then Article VI, Section 7) in a
    landmark decision involving a proposal to construct a bobsled run for the 1932 Olympic Games in
    Lake Placid. Although the Court struck down that proposal as unconstitutional, it indicated that Article
    XIV, Section 1 could be properly interpreted to allow for “the erection and maintenance of proper
    facilities for the use of the public which did not call for the removal of the timber to any material
    The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks v. MacDonald
    , 253 N.Y. 234 at 238
    (1930). The provisions of this UMP are intended to ensure that the maintenance and use of the historic
    structures and improvements are limited to purposes which are directly related to the public’s
    appreciation of, and education about, the New York Forest Preserve, and that no management actions
    or other activities call for the removal of timber to a material degree.

    NOW – ripping up the track to establish a NEW use may be NOT covered by the court case ?

    Here again we have a court making law / amending the clear wording of our constitution without an amendment approved by the people.
    It’s written so clearly – what is open for interpretation? Just like the 2nd amendment in the U.S. Constitution is clearly written “Shall not be infringed”

    • Paul says:

      It’s not a new use. It is still a travel corridor, the travel is just by bike and foot rather than train. Snowmobiles can use the corridor now so that isn’t new at all. I see where you are coming from but I don’t think it is a real concern.

  22. Curt Austin says:

    I’m struggling to find something to say that hasn’t been already … how about this:

    There’s a family near me that is big on model railroading. I mean really big, world-famous, perhaps the best model railroad exhibits anywhere – professional, skilled, dedicated. Passionate.

    Encouraged by the arrival of the Saratoga – North Creek Railway some years ago, they created a museum housing some of their finest scenes. Outstanding in every way. A little out of the way, perhaps, but build it and they will come.

    Five years down the road, and SNCR is reporting losses, and has a tenuous existence. No one faults them for not trying. The model railroad museum building is up for sale, the exhibits sold at auction. It’s very sad that such passion can end this way. But in both cases, railroad passions were out of touch with reality.

    Rail trail advocates are never talked about this way after they get a trail developed. Their passions are rewarded with success – their trails make people happy. This acrimonious debate will end with another example.

  23. Dave Whitbeck says:

    Let them upgrade the rails & give it 5-10 years & the area will be in the same sad shape as the Saratoga to North Creek rail line is in. Go ahead NY waste millions & millions of dollars, that is what you seem good at!

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