The State of New York has proposed an amended Unit Management Plan, calling for the conversion of the Rail Corridor between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid to a 34-mile recreational trail.
Rally attendees are expected to pose for an aerial photo to show state officials the public interest in maintaining the rails and the use of the corridor by the Adirondack Scenic Railroad and Rail Explorers. Organizers say they will read 34 reasons for retaining the rails, one for each of the 34 miles of track that the state proposes to remove.
“This is a call to action to save our history and to save a small business and those that have developed around it,” Amy Catania of Historic Saranac Lake said in a statement sent to the press. “Removing the tracks is a permanent decision that will have an immediate negative impact on local businesses. We intend to show Governor Cuomo and the state agencies that this corridor is vital to our state and local history as well as our local economy.”
The Adirondack Scenic Railroad carried 22,000 passengers this year between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake according to Bethan Maher, Adirondack Scenic Railroad Executive Director. “We have been expanding our operations and working towards the day when passengers will travel once again from New York City to Lake Placid by train,” she said. “This proposal cuts off that prospect and damages local businesses that benefit from the railroad now, and even more in the future.”
The new rail bikes operated by Rail Explorers USA had about 15,000 riders this year. Rally organizers said that business is also threatened by the state’s plan to remove the rails.
“Rail Explorers has not only had a tangible economic impact by bringing new visitors to the area, but the company has also raised awareness about the importance of preserving this well-loved piece of Adirondack history. It is time to embrace a future of ‘Rails and Trails’,” said Steven Engelhart, Executive Director of Adirondack Architectural Heritage, in a a press statement.
Mary Joy Lu of Rail Explorers USA described the success of the rail bikes in their first year. ”We thought this would be a development year, and that next year things would really take off, but the immediate response to the rail bikes has been beyond our expectations. We have ordered more bikes to be manufactured, extended our hours, and hired more employees but are still unable to keep up. Our customer surveys have indicated that over 75% of respondents were traveling to the region for the very first time, and a large reason why they came what to ride the rail bikes,”she said.
According to the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, the average daily spending for a visitor party of 4.1 people is $323/day in our region.
The rally is being sponsored by Adirondack Architectural Heritage, Adirondack Railway Preservation Society, Historic Saranac Lake, Rail Explorers USA, and the Trails with Rails Action Committee.
Photos provided: Above, the Adirondack Scenic Railroad (photo by Aaron Keller, provided by the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society); and below, rail bikes courtesy of Rail Explorers USA.