Wednesday, October 19, 2016

NYS Doesn’t Own 4 Parcels In Adirondack Rail-Trail Corridor

Adirondack Scenic RailroadThe state has identified four parcels along the Adirondack Rail Corridor that it doesn’t own, but officials say that shouldn’t hold up plans to build a controversial 34-mile rail trail between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake.

“As is often the case in projects like this, title questions arise that must be resolved. That is the case here,” Benning DeLaMater, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said in an email to the Almanack.

Three of the parcels are in Saranac Lake and together comprise a 3,000-foot stretch of the corridor. One is owned by North Country Community College, and the other two are jointly owned by Essex County and Franklin County.

The fourth parcel, in Lake Placid, is owned by the Lake Placid-North Elba Historical Society, which operates a museum at the Lake Placid depot, where the rail line ends.

“DEC has approached the four entities, and all have expressed a willingness to resolve the issue in manner that will allow the development of the recreational trail,” DeLaMater said.

NCCC President Steve Tyrell said the college’s attorney is working with state officials “on any requests that state officials wish to ask the college and its two sponsoring counties to consider.”

In a forthcoming story by Brian Mann in the Adirondack Explorer, a member of the historical society’s board said he is looking forward to working with the state and others to make the rail trail a success. “We look at this [new trail] as a tremendous resource for us and a great potential benefit for the community,” said John Hopkinson.

However, Hopkinson said the society has not taken an official position on the rail trail.

DEC expects to remove the tracks between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake next year and has begun meeting with stakeholders to discuss the design of the trail. DeLaMater said the people attending the meetings (the first ones were closed to the public) have shown “tremendous enthusiasm” for the trail.

“All of this gives the state confidence and enthusiasm that the recreational trail will be a wonderful new outdoor facility in the Tri-Lakes are that will benefit residents and tourists alike,” DeLaMater said.

The Adirondack Scenic Railroad, which operates a tourist train between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, has taken the state to court to try to block removal of the tracks. A hearing in the case was postponed after the state unearthed questions about the ownership of parts of the corridor.

ASR President Bill Branson contends the state’s failure to discover the title issues earlier “calls into question the due diligence performed by the state when deciding to remove the rails and construct a recreational trail over property it apparently does not own.”

In public meetings on the rail-trail proposal, some critics argued that ownership of the corridor could revert to adjacent landowners if the tracks were pulled up. The state rejected those claims, asserting it owned the entire corridor outright.

In addition to creating a recreational trail for biking, snowmobiling, and other activities, the state plans to rehabilitate 45 miles of track between Big Moose and Tupper Lake. The state estimates that the trail will cost $8 million and the track rehabilitation, $15 million.

ASR is based in Utica and also operates trains out of Old Forge. Under the state’s proposal, therefore, the railroad eventually could run trains from Utica to Tupper Lake. However, the state plans to solicit bids for an operator of the line.

In its lawsuit, ASR contends that removal of the tracks would violate the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, that the state based its decision on flawed economic data, and that the state failed to comply with historic-preservation regulations. The rail corridor is on the state and national registers of historical places. Arguments in the case are scheduled to be heard in State Supreme Court in Malone on November 2.

NOTE: The founder of the Adirondack Explorer, where I work, is one of the leading advocates for the rail trail. He is now retired and had no input into this story.

Photo: Adirondack Scenic Railroad locomotive approaches Saranac Lake.

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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.

167 Responses

  1. Keith Gorgas says:

    Phil, thank you for a straight forward article. I have written several times to the DEC asking for information regarding the condemnation proceedings that led to their taking the underlying land via eminent domain. Got no answer. Could you inquire about that?

    I know of several people who’s deeds refer to the “railroad right of way”.

  2. Larry Roth says:

    The corridor title issues are part and parcel of a process that seems, to some, to have been structured to give a pre-determined outcome. As such, inconvenient facts and bothersome regulations were perhaps not given all the attention they should have received.

    Why did it take legal action before the state did due diligence on ownership of the corridor? What else is lurking in the back corners of the bureaucracy? Other rail trail projects around the country have seen costs explode over unresolved title issues; was no one in the State aware of this? Those with designs on the rest of the corridor for a trail should consider the possibility that these are not the only places where ownership is in doubt.

    Up to this point in the process, DEC and DOT have been judge and jury on what is deemed relevant and what gets disregarded, and the APA has largely accepted their findings with little objection. The court challenge is the closest thing this process is going to get to an independent review. While some have tried to dismiss the court case as frivolous, the cost of mounting such a challenge is too high for anyone to undertake it as a joke.

    Legal scrutiny is an important part of how the state government is supposed to operate. Anyone concerned about arbitrary or incompetent action by the state in any context should support mechanisms that work to keep the state on the right side of the state’s own laws. It is one of the things that resists corner cutting or undue political pressure, and combats corruption. However anyone feels about the challenge to the decision, no one should dismiss the need or the right to bring it.

    It is worth noting that if the state had continued with the 1996 UMP, title issues would not have arisen. DEC has spent 20 years unable to come up with trail designs compatible with keeping the rails, not surprising given DEC’s constituencies and internal culture. As it is, the ‘compromise’ is going to drive two businesses out of Saranac Lake that have brought thousands of visitors to the community, and it will be years before the trail can ever begin to compensate for that economic self-inflicted wound – if it can.

    It may be that DEC has given up on rails with trails too soon, and depending on how the legal challenge turns out, it may be forced to reconsider. If so there is a resource which has this to say:

    “Rails-with-trails are safe, common, and increasing in number. These are the standout findings of America’s Rails-with-Trail Report, a defining new study on the development of multi-use trails alongside active freight, passenger and tourist rail lines.”

    This is not coming from a rail group; this is from a 2013 official report from the Rails to Trails Conservancy, a pro-trail group. Links to the full report can be found at their website:

    • Tony Goodwin says:

      If NCCC and the Historical Society do indeed “own” the tracks while also favoring the trail, what’s to prevent them from removing the rails on their own property and stopping rail service that way?

      • Big Burly says:

        Wow Mr. Goodwin,

        This comment from a 50-year subscriber to the publication Trains.

        The historic society properly researched its title, NCCC is a state entity. They will act in their respective self-interest, as will I expect the two counties. Hopefully the larger present economic impacts on the communities involved will be considered with greater care than NYS DEC has done in the development of Alt 7.

        Rail real estate you should know is a section of property law all its own, with precedents in legal rulings over a century or more. DoT made DEC aware of all this at the outset of the effort to get to Alternative 7. Fee simple is but one form of ownership and unless the titles were perfected at the time across all the parcels that had been granted to the original RR builders, NYS will have many more such instances than those in the short segment from LP to SL. Once rail operations cease, as opposed to the out of service designation, rail removal extinguishes the reason for the original easements or other form of land use permission, and there is much in the legal ruling precedents that determine what can and must occur with the RR right of way.

        • Boreas says:

          On one hand, if this is expected to be the issue along the entire corridor, perhaps in the long run, the best option for NYS would be to tear up all of the rails, keep the land NYS does own, offer to buy easements on the other parcels, and do whatever they wish with the corridor with a clean title.

          On the other hand, with the landowners who do not want to continue to allow NYS a ROW to run a multi-purpose trail through their property, rerouting around them shouldn’t be terribly difficult within villages. But this certainly wouldn’t be ideal.

          • Larry Roth says:

            Well, if they leave the rails in place, the title issues are moot. And that doesn’t preclude trail development, as the Rails to Trails Conservancy report linked above shows.

            The biggest problem with trail development in the corridor is that DEC has never had its heart in it so long as the rails had to be left in place. Their snowmobile constituency would not accept anything that couldn’t accommodate them. Given that their numbers are in decline and winter weather is increasingly erratic, it might make more sense to build trails for everyone else and let the sledders keep using the corridor as they do now.

            They may not like it – but if the rails stay they can’t be blocked from using it. It seems like a fair trade now that DEC has opened the title can of worms.

            • Phil Brown says:

              Larry, a big problem with the side-by-side idea is that the state would need to build spur trails in the Forest Preserve where it’s not feasible to build a trail along the tracks. These would be paths like you see elsewhere in the Preserve–that is, suitable for mountain bikes but not road bikes. Essentially, you’d end up excluding road bikers, which is one of the major constituencies the rail trail is meant to appeal to. Instead you’d have a flat trail along the railroad tracks for mountain biking. I doubt that most mountain bikers would be interested in such a trail.

              • Larry Roth says:

                Phil, it’s a matter of what the state is willing to do and how much they want to spend. Crushed stone is not going to be suitable for all of the users DEC promised would be able to use the trail. Skinny tire bikes for one may have problems.

                If a flat trail along the tracks is not appealing to mountain bikers, why would a flat trail on the roadbed be any more attractive? There are already sections along the existing right of way between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake paralleled by trails – and people are using them now. This is a red herring.

                The Rails to Trails Conservancy report shows how well rails with trails are working around the country in a whole variety of settings. The knee-jerk reaction against the idea has been holding back corridor development for two decades now.

                • Phil Brown says:

                  I’ve been told the intent is to make the corridor suitable for road bikes. My understanding is that a stone-dust surface can work for most road bikes, perhaps not ones with super-skinny tires.

                  • Boreas says:


                    In my experience on the Old Erie Canal Towpaths, I rode my road bike exclusively on stone dust. But it was a simple 10-speed Schwinn – nothing fancy. I may have encountered a soft spot or two, but usually it was balls to the wall. It does get quite dusty in dry weather.

                    But I have heard rumors of blacktop between LP & SL.

                  • Boreas says:

                    Likely the most heavily used section, where blacktop would probably be more stable.

                  • Keith Gorgas says:

                    As per two hour meeting last week with SLs Rich Shapiro, trail will only be 10 ft wide with stone dust covering. Paving is too expensive. A far cry from what DEC promised APA last fall when they made their pitch. Choice of topping material is based on the assumption that the trail is flat. There will be constant washouts with 2% grade in between SL and Lake CLear Junction.

                    • Boreas says:


                      After a few dozen repairs, DEC may reconsider the cost of blacktop in certain sections.

                    • Hope says:

                      ARTA has recommended stone dust composite as well as NYSSA. We also recommended that shorter sections within Villages may need to be paved. The Lamoille Valley Rail Trail in VT and others also recommend this stone dust composite. The crushed stone composite is packable, gradeable and environmentally friendly. It does not need to be asphalt to be a great trail.

                    • Larry Roth says:

                      Hope –

                      Try this scenario. You’ve just signed off on a new house – built by tearing down a local historic landmark. Now you find the kitchen counters aren’t granite – they’re Formica. The R20 insulation in the attic is actually R9. The 1/2 bathroom of the 2&1/2 is just a laundry room sink that has plumbing for those ‘extras’.

                      Oh, and the property survey? It’s messed up.

                      The person who sold you tells you it can all be fixed later, with more money.

                      So how are you going to react when they tell you “It’s still a great house!”

                  • Paul says:

                    Makes sense to build it to suit the kinds of road bikers we have around the tri-lakes. Very serious ones with “skinny” tires. Good way for the 3 or 4000 triathletes training here in July to get from LP to SL to spend money (w/o getting run over on 86 where there is no shoulder).

                  • Keith Gorgas says:

                    The stone dust is supposed to be required because creosote used in the railroad ties was classified as “suspected carcinogen”, so it’s now a requirement to cap it.
                    However, here is a little Easter egg for you to throw at them: quarry stone dust has since been classified as KNOWN CARCINOGEN because it contains silica! Further, the light weight surfacing kicks up far worse than the heavier creosote laden railroad cinder!
                    Quarry stone not containing silica costs a fortune more and would be classified as “semi impervious” from a EPA writer

                • Hope says:

                  Larry Roth, Nobody promised a paved path ever. Nobody. Yes some people might prefer it to be paved but it really was never an option. Problems are that the snow melts quicker on pavement which is not an advantage for snowmobiling, skiing or fat biking. Frost heaving and drainage are an issue as is repair and maintenance. You would just like to stir up a hornet’s nest where there isn’t one.

                  • Chip Ordway says:

                    Hi Hope, remember me?

                    how about things that ARTA *DID* say, like the following, quoted verbatim from the ARTA “trail Plan” pdf (available from the ARTA website–makes for great bedtime reading if you like make believe stories):

                    “ARTA believes the entire 90 mile corridor fr
                    om Lake Placid to Thendara/Old Forge can be
                    surfaced appropriately for road bike, mountain bike, and snowmobile use without demands on
                    New York taxpayers for additional financial investment.”

                    But then, on 10-12-16, we see these words printed in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise:

                    “The village Board of Trustees on Tuesday approved submission of a grant application to the U.S. Department of Transportation to make bicycle and pedestrian improvements in the village, including connections to a proposed trail where a railroad is now.”

                    Oh, wait…you’re gonna tell us that that is NOT the rail trail, but an unrelated connection, right?

                    What about the fact that you’re still pushing for the line all the way down to Thendara when it has already been “determind” that you’re only getting to Tupper Lake with the Shangri-La trail? I would think that since your organization is trying to “play nice” with the Alt. 7 compromise, that you surely would have ammended or even taken down this PDF file, right? I mean, it sure seems that you’re still marching to your original “all of nothing” vision instead of playing along with the rules. I’m surprised that no one has brought this up in the meetings.

                    Oh, ‘Scuse me…..maybe they have….it’s just that no one knows because you guys are locking everyone out.

                    Buzz Buzz go the hornets! :-*

                    • Hope says:

                      That doesn’t mean that it is a paved asphalt trail. Where exactly in the above does it say anything about the trail being paved with asphalt? Nowhere. There are other suitable surfaces for biking besides asphalt that are suitable for road bikes. Much ado about nothing.

                    • Chip Ordway says:

                      Nice diversion, but if you read my reply carefully, I wasn’t contesting the paved/unpaved subject.

                      So now that we have that misunderstanding out of the way, why dont you reply to what I actually *did* write instead of Gish Galloping?

                  • Larry Roth says:

                    Hope, you said this:

                    “Larry Roth, Nobody promised a paved path ever. Nobody. Yes some people might prefer it to be paved but it really was never an option. Problems are that the snow melts quicker on pavement which is not an advantage for snowmobiling, skiing or fat biking. Frost heaving and drainage are an issue as is repair and maintenance. You would just like to stir up a hornet’s nest where there isn’t one.”

                    Actually Hope, if anyone promised the whole trail would be paved, it’s you and ARTA who have done so – by implication and misdirection.

                    Dick Beamish loves talking about riding a favorite trail in Florida – which is paved, Numerous other trail examples cited by ARTA, including some with photos, are about paved trails. You cite these as examples of world class trails – and then call the tri-lakes trail “world class” repeatedly. Trying to blur the differences?

                    The Alt 7 plan lists roller bladers and skateboarders among possible multi-users. True, it doesn’t say the trail WILL be paved (and now we know it won’t) – but talks vaguely about multiple surfacing options. If you’re going to list uses that need paving to happen, that rather implies paving, don’t you think?

                    Maybe you won’t find anything – in writing at least – that promises the trail will be paved, but trail supporters have put a lot of work into planting a picture in people’s minds of a majestic cycling highway through the woods, your own dedicated road. Is that not what you intended by repeating “World Class” as often as possible? You’re too careful with your words to make me believe it was just carelessness.

                    And now you admit paving was never an option? When did you discover this? Is it like you no longer claiming the trail will pay for itself, as ARTA originally promised? What other revelations do you have planned?

                    Is it any wonder trail planning meetings are taking place behind closed doors, now that we’re finding out the pretty pictures trail supporters worked so hard to paint are running into reality? Is it a surprise it is going to need all kinds of extra-cost additions to meet the trail hype even halfway? Is it any surprise no plans are going to be revealed until after the November elections?

                    Now we find the trail is going to be only as “world class” as the state will pay for. The design is going to be constrained to meet the needs of snowmobilers for the three months of the year they have it, instead of optimized for everyone else the rest of the year. You seem to be quite resigned to this lesser vision – but then, if your primary goal has been getting rid of the rails all along, well Mission Accomplished.

                    Your effort to put words in my mouth are not appreciated, but they are part and parcel with the disinformation campaign the trail supporters have been waging all along. Hope, I will cheerfully admit to trying to stir up a hornet’s nest if that’s what it will take to wake people up to what increasingly looks like a scam being perpetrated on the public.

                    • Chip Ordway says:

                      Beautiful reply, Larry. Care to ponder how she will spin it? She’s in a conundrum here, because she can’t ban us like she can with her little Facebook page… I await her reply to see how she thinks we’re wrong.

                    • David P. Lubic says:

                      More likely she won’t. I’ve noticed when you give the trail crowd arguments they can’t argue with, they go away.

                      It does sometimes take a second dose. And example that comes to mind was I pointed out on another Facebook page that snowmobiles were in a serious decline. A guy name Rolf, if I remember right (Too many posts! Not enough mind!) took me to task about the drop of about 24,000 sled registrations in the last season. In effect he said, “That was just one bad [no snow] winter!”

                      I replied that his statement didn’t explain the drop of 40,000 sleds over the previous 12 years! He didn’t come back after that.

                  • James Falcsik says:

                    Are you forgetting the cornerstone of the DEC’s presentation to the APA? Photos of a paved trail surface the DEC presenter likened to a roadway, to maintain the travel corridor status, as a transportation corridor? This is clearly a bait-and-switch tactic to go along with all the other misleading methods you and ARTA have inundated the public with for years concerning the proposed rail trail. Why would the DEC use this paved trail argument when they knew darn well the cost would be prohibitive? How many times did you post in all manner of social media the rail corridor was owned “in fee simple” by NYS? Truthful statements by ARTA are very difficult to find.

                  • Keith Gorgas says:

                    The stone dust is supposed to be required because creosote used in the railroad ties was classified as “suspected carcinogen”, so it’s now a requirement to cap it.
                    However, here is a little Easter egg for you to throw at them: quarry stone dust has since been classified as KNOWN CARCINOGEN because it contains silica! Further, the light weight surfacing kicks up far worse than the heavier creosote laden railroad cinder!
                    Quarry stone not containing silica costs a fortune more and would be classified as “semi impervious”

      • Dan Bogdan says:

        If the LP-North Elba Historical Society indeed favors the trail they would contradict their mission of preserving and presenting the community’s history to residents and visitors. What better way to preserve and present than to keep the railroad and support its operations.

  3. Paul says:

    Starts getting into some weird parts of real estate law when you are looking at things like presumptive easements. For example if the RR has used those parcels of private land for this specific purpose for many many years with the owners knowledge and w/o a formal complaint from the landowners then the RR may have a presumptive easement. I don’t think that would apply for a new use like a bike trail.

  4. Paul says:

    The state doesn’t need to buy these parcels they just need to get an easement (permission) from the owners for a bike/snowmobile trail. It’s pretty easy but it does need to be recorded with the deed.

    • Boreas says:


      The main issue I can see with the owners granting an easement is that the train is only on their property a few moments every day – seasonally at that. Otherwise, they just look at empty tracks and all is quiet. With the multi-purpose trail, during nice weather people can always be using it, and in the winter, snowmobiles as well. People may be concerned about trespass, noise, etc. If I was the grandson of a landowner that had a RR shoved down his throat 100 years ago, I may be looking to get even.

      Just a thought.

      • Larry Roth says:

        A 100 years ago, landowners were probably grateful to have any kind of reliable transportation in the era before cars and highways – and they likely would not have been there without the railroad in the first place.

        There’s reason to suspect the people who want the rails gone include people who want nothing in their place – and are just waiting for the rails to be taken up.

        • David P. Lubic says:

          “There’s reason to suspect the people who want the rails gone include people who want nothing in their place – and are just waiting for the rails to be taken up.”

          Larry, if what you are saying is true, what are the odds that the principals behind the trail know at least some of this. . .and know the trail will bog down because of it?

        • Boreas says:

          “A 100 years ago, landowners were probably grateful to have any kind of reliable transportation in the era before cars and highways – and they likely would not have been there without the railroad in the first place.”

          Well, one might think that, but there was NIMBY sentiment a century ago as well. Same with roads. Hence eminent domain.

          • Bruce says:


            I’m sure there was a certain amount of NIMBY 100 years ago, but you have to remember that the early Adirondack railroads were primarily built by men who owned or had leave to develop a good chunk of the land in the first place.

            I don’t believe the Adirondack RR was shoved down anyone’s throat, because it would have been viewed as a great economic engine during a time when rail was the primary method of distance transport, connecting towns, villages, and cities all over the country. Also remember in the 1890’s, there were few, if any trucks transporting goods, or busses for people to ride.

            • Boreas says:


              Ponder this – why weren’t these parcels sold to the state or RR when obviously, most of them were eventually? Likely because an easement was the best the state could do with these smaller properties. The owner probably wasn’t keen on giving up property or rights on a small parcel in a village. They could take a fraction of what their land was worth, have it condemned via eminent domain, or grant an easement. All would have been a bitter pill to swallow.

              • Larry Roth says:

                I’ve read the history of building the line (Conquering the Wilderness – a private printing) and one of the things it tells is that Dr. Webb ran into a huge mess of bad surveys, conflicting title claims, and worse. It’s one reason why earlier railroad efforts didn’t succeed. It’s not surprising there are still tangles a hundred years later, especially with all the ownership changes.

      • David P. Lubic says:

        One thing that has come up on this is that a new use for the easement is just that. . .and it requires a new price to go with it.

        There are cases of trails running up to $5 million per mile in new easement costs alon! To put that in perspective, to actually rebuild this railroad as a light duty road, complete with paving, would only be about $1 million per mile.

        People may or may not like trains, may or may not like a trail, but you can bet they’ll like money.

        This has even come to sting railroads on occasion. I’ve read about a case where a railroad wanted to lay a fiber optic communications line that wasn’t for their own use, and as a result, had to pay oompa money to the current holders of its easements because the fiber optic line was a new use and needed a new agreement, with a new price.. The fellow who wrote about recalled, and this was some years ago, that the payment came to something like 90 cents per foot. Now there are 5,280 feet per mile, and how many miles of easement underlie a railroad like Norfolk Southern?

        I think we had better let sleeping easements lie. . .

        • David P. Lubic says:

          By the way, keep in mind this was for an additional use; this was not a case where the railroad was actually abandoned or replaced.

          Can you imagine the negotiating and cost if it DID involve an abandoned railroad that the new use couldn’t piggyback with?

          I’m damned sure you had better let those sleeping easements lie!

          Of course the trail crowd will poo-poo people like me–just like they did the rest of us when we warned this was something that was likely to turn up.

          Some people only can find things out the hard way.

  5. David Kwan says:

    Having just done a round trip on the 22 mile long Cape Cod Rail Trail over Columbus Day weekend with a group of senior vintage bike enthusiasts, I am looking forward to the High Peaks region having the Saranac Lake Lake Placid trail built.

    • Boreas says:


      I agree – that is a beautiful trail. The road crossings get a little tedious, but nice regardless.

      • Larry Roth says:

        Several weeks ago I did the trip from Utica to Big Moose and back. Great trip, nice cross section of the Adirondacks -and the way the rails wind through the rocks south of Big Moose is is fun. 5 coaches and a baggage car – nearly a sold-out train with people of all ages on board; families with young children, seniors, and more.

  6. Phil Brown says:

    Just received this news release from DEC:

    The New York State Department of Environmental (DEC) announced today that a low-altitude helicopter flight will take place over the recreational corridor between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake on Tuesday, October 25, in preparation for design and construction of a multi-use recreational trail.

    The helicopter will videotape the corridor and its historic features as part of efforts to preserve the historic railroad prior to removing the rails and ties. Additional flights will be taken after all the leaves have fallen to survey the corridor using a light detection system known as LIDAR and to obtain aerial photogrammetry data. These flights will fly at higher altitudes.

    In May 2016, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the final plan to govern the use of the 119-mile travel corridor from Remsen to Lake Placid. The final plan, signed by DEC and the Department of Transportation (DOT), describes the means to maximize the future use and economic benefits of the corridor. The State is implementing the plan with $15 million to upgrade the rail line between Big Moose and Tupper Lake and $8 million to build a multi-use recreational trail between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid.

    The plan calls for DEC to manage the design, construction, and operation of the 34-mile recreational trail. Since late summer, a stakeholder group has been working to inform the development of a conceptual design and operation plan for the trail.

    The stakeholder group is comprised of elected officials or their delegated representatives from the three villages and four towns along the corridor, DEC, the Olympic Regional Development Authority, Office of General Services, Adirondack Park Agency officials, and local representatives from the biking, hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling communities.

    A draft conceptual design and operation plan will be shared with the public for review and comment in the next few months. The final conceptual trail design will be used to develop a request for proposals to design and construct the trail. Rail removal and trail construction are anticipated to begin in 2017.

    • Larry Roth says:

      A couple of points. If there are any representatives from the preservation groups in the area among the stakeholders, it’s not obvious. Ditto for anyone from the rail community. If the state is confident it will prevail in the legal challenges and go ahead with the plan, then coordination between rail and trail groups at Tupper Lake would seem to be essential if the plan is going to work as promised.

      Second, the $8 million cost for the trail may be correct, but incomplete. In Saranac Lake, they are already calling for lots of connector trails and additional enhancements, for which they are seeking additional funding. DEC has also noted communities may choose to pave sections of the trail at a later time; it’s currently going to be stone dust the entire 34 miles. All of this is going to raise the cost of the trail when it’s all accounted for.

      Something to keep in mind for 3-4 years later when all is supposed to be complete and people will finally be able to see what it is they’ve gotten.

      • john says:

        The rail community refuses to participate. Connector trails are the responsibility of the towns that want them. It’s up to them to fund them. The DEC/DOT is only responsible for making the trail from Tupper Lake to Lake Placid.

        • Chip Ordway says:

          This is pure unbridled bunk. From the beginning YEARS ago, the Railroad was never against a coexisting trail. ARTA and its happy little soldiers are the ones to blame for starting this whole mess because they themselves want all or nothing for themselves.

          No matter what the outcome of the court case, the tracks are supposedly being rehabbed south of Tupper….so why aren’t they involved in these meetings, as they will be intersecting in Tupper Lake, right?

          • john says:

            If Opt7 is tossed by the courts then so goes the rehab on the tracks south of Tupper Lake to Big Moose. It’s all tied into Opt 7. The rail folks never seriously wanted a trail because if they did NY State law would have to change to have a trail right next to the tracks.
            And as far as the rail folks being involved, THEY DON’T WANT TO BE!

            • Larry Roth says:

              If Alt 7 goes, then the 1996 plan is still in effect, calling for rails and trails, and restoration of the entire line.

              Not that I’m holding my breath. Logic and the state do not mix well.

              • David P. Lubic says:

                “And as far as the rail folks being involved, THEY DON’T WANT TO BE!”

                And if I had had the insults and comments directed at me that the rail people have, I wouldn’t want anything to do with them, either.

                In fact, I’ve gotten a couple such comments, including a private message that I should masturbate around model trains. The same clown told another rail supporter on a public forum that a Canadian rail supporter from Montreal that he should take a drink of maple syrup laced with arsenic.

                OK, everybody occasionally loses their cool. But in my opinion, that the rail people are willing to work with the trail people, who answer with “go the hell away” says volumes about the respective sides here.

        • Larry Roth says:

          Thanks for agreeing that the trail costs are going to be higher than the $8 million. As you admit, towns are going to be responsible for connectors and all the other amenities needed to realize the full potential of the trail as promised. Funny how a ‘free’ trail is less of a bargain than it was sold as being.

          • Boreas says:

            Who said it would be “free”??

            • Larry Roth says:

              Every trail booster. “FREE trail”

              It’s part of their campaign to make people think they’re getting ripped off because you have to pay to ride the railroad or the departing Rail Explorers. They repeat over and over again the trail will be FREE, ALL YEAR ROUND.

              So, money the state has been getting from tickets sold to visitors is going to have to be made up by taxpayer money. DEC estimates cost per mile of maintaining the trail is about the same as maintaining the rails – but the trail will have no source of revenue.

              • Boreas says:

                Oh – free for users, of course! I’ll pay my fair share of taxes for the trail. At least it is something I will use. I doubt anyone is stupid enough to believe it will cost nothing. Except non-residents…

                • Boreas says:

                  I meant non-residents won’t pay, not that non-residents are stupid…

                  • Paul says:

                    What are non-residents now tax exempt? No. They pay sales tax and other tax like the rest of us.

                    • Boreas says:

                      Haven’t we been through this before? Non-residents don’t pay NYS income, county, and local taxes. That is the difference. A few dollars on sales taxes paid during a visit pales in comparison to what NYS residents pay that may never even visit the Adirondacks.

                      My point was, obviously the trail isn’t “free” to build. or maintain.

                • James Falcsik says:

                  ARTA has repeatedly mislead community officials and the public about the cost of the trail. In July 2012, in a letter to the Saranac Lake Trustees signed by ARTA board members Beamish, Keet and Mercurio stated “we could build the first leg of the rail trail, the 34 miles between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake, at no cost to the taxpayer”. Later in a January 2013 Times Union op-ed piece, Beamish wrote to build the trail would “cost little or nothing”.

                  The trail will cost taxpayers at every municipal, state and federal level every year in perpetuity. There are plenty of existing trail references to crush any claim by the trail advocacy that the trail will be “free”

                  • john says:

                    All I have to say to the rail folks is this: Life’s a bitch, sometimes you get what you deserve. Enjoy your last weekend of existence on the northern end! If you don’t like the outcome, tough! If you don’t want to participate in the rail-trail work, that’s fine too, because I’m sure some of the biggest bitchers will be out there using the trail when its complete. You won’t be able to help yourselves!

                    • Chip Ordway says:

                      Spoken like the true public relations gurus that you all seem to be over there. Stand tall and proud, my friend…you are EXACTLY the face of the “trail advocate” that sways public opinion. Keep up the good work!

                    • Bill Hutchison says:

                      The real face of the trail movement. Thanks for showing everyone what you really are.

        • Keith Gorgas says:

          this is a completely ignorant comment. It was Next Stop Tupper Lake and TRAC that walked every inch of the rail and designed, at great effort, a series of trails, with the help of Region 5 DEC personnel and DEC regulations. They engineered solutions to every trouble spot between LP and TL. Rejected out of hand by DEC, as per the advice of ARTA. My wife and I are ardent supporters of trails with rails. We, along with 6 or more rail supporters were among the 11 people who attended last week’s meeting with RIch Shapiro. We were not there to protest, or cause problems (read today’s editorial in the Enterprise) We made it clear that we were there to work together for the good of the tri lakes.

    • Larry Roth says:

      A couple of additional points. Did DEC do any comparable aerial surveys in the 20 previous years when they were supposed to be building trails?

      Will they have anyone on board from the rail or historical communities who will be able to tell them what they’re looking at? Will the video be available to the public at some point?

      • john says:

        Why does the video need to made available to the public? And again the rail/historical communities DONOT want to participate with anything involving a trail, so I would doubt they have anyone who wants to ride in the helicopter.

        • Larry Roth says:

          Actually John, we’re talking about video being created with public money – it should be available to the public who is paying for it. It’s a historic record, planning groups of all kinds would find it useful – and some people would like to see it just to see it. You have a problem with that? Why?

          As for the railroad/historical communities, they have a direct interest in this so why shouldn’t they want to see it? I’m told DEC actually asked the railroad if they could provide equipment to do the trip; they didn’t have crews or equipment available so had to pass – hence the chopper.

          And, I asked if there was any previous video/aerial surveys available. It seems that is something that should have been done before planning to build a trail, to better inform the process.

  7. Phil Brown says:

    After I posted my article, DEC clarified the ownership of the parcels in Saranac Lake as follows:

    “The deeds filed in the Essex County Clerk’s office indicate that Franklin County and Essex County jointly own one large parcel that the NCCC sits on, and that NCCC owns two pieces of land on either side of the campus, both north and south, constituting a small portion of the railroad bed.”

  8. terry says:

    Nobody is going to ride a bike on a flat trail form Placid to Tupper.
    This is all about snow sleds and bike rentals for people riding from Placid or Saranac Lake to Placid or Saranac lake. I bet that some local politician or connected real estate broker has already got the rights to the crossing on 86 or the terminus in Saranac Lake

    • DoubleD says:

      Haha. Nobody? Because it’s flat?! I get why many oppose the removal of the rails. There are good arguments for keeping them, but the silly arguments and claims that come up in comments sections are getting tired and desperate.

    • Boreas says:

      “Nobody is going to ride a bike on a flat trail form Placid to Tupper.”

      Why do you think converted rail trails are popular around the world? Not every climate allows for snowmobiles.

    • Tim says:

      As Trump would say, “Wrong!”

  9. Keith Gorgas says:

    I’m sorry Phil, but what you wrote is “word salad”. It’s a whole bunch of words that have no cohesive meaning. I don’t think any one could make any sense out them. Using 1984 “Newspeak” translator guide, what I think they mean is “we are NY State, and we will do what ever we want to do ,when ever we want to it, and to hell with you little people who think the rule of law means anything”

    • David P. Lubic says:

      My thoughts are that this should have been settled before now. It’s particularly telling when we recall that the DEC and the trail crowd kept telling us again and again that the railroad was owned in fee simple.

      Well, NOW we find it isn’t at least for these properties, and it wouldn’t surprise me if there were more, which would have been pretty typical.

      It certainly shows how sloppy some of the research work was, and it makes you wonder what else is out there that we don’t know about yet.

    • Phil Brown says:

      Keith, are you referring to the original article or to my two later comments? The comments are DEC’s words, not mine. I just posted them verbatim.

  10. Chip Ordway says:

    This bit from the official press release may be the most absurd comment of them all:

    “The helicopter will use light from laser instruments, a light detection system known as LIDAR, to survey the corridor. Videotaping equipment on the helicopter will also record the corridor and its historic features as part of efforts to preserve the historic railroad prior to removing the rails and ties.”

    Am I the only person who reads that and thinks that I lose IQ points with that last line?

    • Phil Brown says:

      DEC later rewrote that paragraph to correct an error. I swapped in the new version; as a result, it doesn’t read the same as what you quoted here. However, the gist is the same.

      • Chip Ordway says:

        Oh absolutely. ARTA’s Tony Goodwin was quoted as pretty much saying the same thing as it was originally written in the press release, and it sounded just as stupid from him as it did from the DEC. It makes you wonder who is really doing the writing of this stuff for the DEC.

        For the record, here are Tony’s words:

        “As for the Lake Placid Historical Society, they have preserved the station and their exhibits celebrate the people who used the station and the Railroad to help create the town as it now exists. There is nothing particularly historic about the rails and the ties.”

        Yep. That’s right. Tony admits that the railroad is historic, but the two essential ingredients of a railroad, both of which are still very much in existence, have no historical meaning. Makes perfect sense, right?

        • Boreas says:

          I believe what he meant was the rails and ties aren’t original. I might have a Model T, but the tires I bought for it last year aren’t historic.

  11. CarlG says:

    It’s called, “RR right-of-way”. Just like powerline companies. pipelines, etc.

  12. Chip Ordway says:

    Oh, BTW Phil….a BIG thumbs up to the disclaimer about the Adirondack Almanac and the connection to its trail advocate founder (although he holds no connection to the story). This is one of the main “skeletons” that North Country Public Radio has failed to do constantly–they refuse to mention that one of their massive contributors just happens to be the main person spearheading the movement for the destruction of the railroad, and their reports come off as VERY biased because of it.

    • Boreas says:

      “…destruction of the railroad…” That’s not biased? With the compromise the railroad stays and is repaired, but is shortened by 34 miles. And a new recreation trail is built in its place. I wouldn’t say the RR is being destroyed. Some rails, yes, but not the RR.

      • Chip Ordway says:

        When said person has been quoted on numerous occasions as to wanting the tracks out, then yes–its destruction. What would YOU call it?

        • Chip Ordway says:

          And here you are, just as Goodwin and the DEC did, saying that some rail is being removed, but the Railroad isn’t being destroyed.

          IT’S THE SAME THING!!!!!!!!!!!

          • Boreas says:

            You can use all the caps and exclamations you want, but you are still wrong. Only 34 miles – not the whole line. The RR will continue to run a longer run from Utica to TL. I don’t call that destroyed – I call it an improvement over the status quo.

            • Larry Roth says:

              If someone came along, and ripped out a bedroom wing on your house, but patched up the hole, painted it over and put a new roof on, would you consider that not really destruction?

              You’re forgetting the historic status of the corridor because it is essentially intact and still functioning as a railroad. If somebody took the top 100 feet off the Washington Monument, but left the rest, would you consider that no big deal since so much of it was still there?

              • Boreas says:

                So destroying the railroad only involves the 34 miles in question? If that goes, we can take the rest as well? Hyperbole isn’t going to win any arguments here. 34 miles of rails will be destroyed – period. The remainder is to be rebuilt allowing a much longer run to TL.

                And this run-down RR corridor is far from a national monument.

                • Larry Roth says:

                  If you don’t place any value on the railroad then of course you don’t see losing 34 miles as a problem. Not everyone feels that way.

                  From the standpoint of using it as a Railroad, having it reach an internationally known destination matters a lot. Tupper Lake isn’t the marketing draw Lake Placid is. If passenger service was restored to the entire line, there would be travel packages that would bring people into the region simply because they could reach it by train.

                  The current service gap keeps that from happening. Tupper Lake should see what happens when people can once more reach the central Adirondacks by rail, but not as big if they reached all the way to LP.

                  • Boreas says:

                    All or nothing. All or nothing. The way I see it, if you succeed in killing the compromise you will end up with a 34 mile island of a RR corridor with no way for riders to access it other than by car.

                    • Larry Roth says:

                      You assume that the state will never allow the rest of the line to be upgraded. We may have to wait for Cuomo to leave office first, of course.

                      But you’re also wrong about the line being isolated.

                      In point of fact the entire line is in service today. They can’t run passengers over all of it, but they can and do move equipment. That’s how they had 4 coaches on the LP-SL run to handle all the leaf peeper traffic. They brought extra cars up from down south to meet demand – and they were filling them.

                      This brought people to SL who might never have gotten past LP otherwise, and it also took some cars off the road between SL and LP.

                      Restore passenger service on the whole line, and you’ll get people coming up to see the region in Autumn via Amtrak in Utica – and the rest of the year as well.

                    • David P. Lubic says:

                      That or else 34 miles of railroad will be destroyed–and no trail either, because of the problems with easements.

                      There is reason to believe those four are not the only ones that can cause trouble. There is a good chance there are a lot more.

                      In fact, it’s possible almost the whole railroad is easements. If that’s the case, then perusing the trail is what risks all!

                • Bill Hutchison says:

                  “Run-down RR corridor is far from a national monument”


            • Bruce says:


              You’re so right. I’m a rail fan, but I’m also realistic enough to realize the compromise as being a good, practical solution with possibilities for a revitalization of TL and the ADKRR. Those who can’t see this are pulling at straws in a last ditch effort to get what they want.

              I even went so far as send a letter to the ADKRR letting them know I will not donate any more money until after things are settled and firmly in motion. I don’t believe my money should be wasted fighting a court battle over the TL- LP corridor, but used for line and equipment upgrading for longer and more interesting trains to TL.

              • Boreas says:


                Unfortunately it seems to be the way many groups are nowadays – all or nothing, don’t give an inch. Few groups on either side of a question are willing to accept compromise because their members won’t support them. It has poisoned the US political system as well. Perhaps it will turn around in a few generations, or require a world war or something (climate change?) to get people working together again.

                • Larry Roth says:

                  Boreas – If you’re willing to indulge me, perhaps I can supply you with some perspective that will give you a better handle on why there seems to be so little readiness to compromise.

                  I think I can understand why you support turning the corridor into a trail. The railroad has nothing you need or want, and you don’t think it has sufficient economic or historic value to justify keeping it. You don’t think there will ever be enough rail users to make it worthwhile.

                  From your point of view, it’s a waste of space and money compared to what it could do as a trail. (Correct me if I’ve got any of this wrong.)

                  You enjoy cycling, you go on trips to do it, you know it has health benefits, you and your friends enjoy it, and you think more people would enjoy it if it was right there in the tri-lakes.

                  Almost everybody you know wants the trail – or doesn’t care one way or the other. You see little local support or need for a train, and you think the rail bikes of the Rail Explorers do nothing that couldn’t be done just as well or better by bicycles. (Did you ever ride with them by the way?)

                  From your point of view, the rail supporters ARE being selfish – especially when they’re being offered upgrades to the rest of the line they’ll be keeping. Why shouldn’t they just accept what they’re being offered and get on with it? You’ve found them to be angry, even abusive at times – and they consider you to be the outrageous one. Let me see if I can convey to you why that may be.

                  Rail supporters have been at this for a while, more than 20 years some of them. They’ve invested a lot of time, money, and personal physical labor to restore rail service to the full length of the corridor. They’ve kept at it even when the state failed to come through with promised funding or threw all kinds of bureaucratic obstacles in their way.

                  They’ve been carrying out their part of the 1996 unit management plan – and they’ve made tremendous progress from the few miles of track they started with. Unlike you, they see great value in what they do, and in the line that is and could be again.

                  It’s now possible to move trains over the entire line, and carry passengers between the parts that have communities on the line at the northern and southern end. They’ve made the history of the region come alive again, and they’ve served over a million visitors to the Adirondacks while doing so, people who might not have been able to experience it any other way. Their work made it possible for the Rail Explorers to come in and start a business that served 35,000 riders or more in just two years in the tri-lakes. The rails have generated business for the rest of local economy, and brought in money that helps support the line.

                  For those who want trails in the corridor, it didn’t happen – but that’s not the fault of the railroaders. If they’d sat back and waited for the state to make things happen, there’d be nothing. For the past 20 years DEC was supposed to be coming up with trail development. There have been any number of people who have come up with plans. DEC’s response has always been “No. Can’t be done. Not safe. Too expensive. State laws won’t allow it.”

                  That might be more credible if we hadn’t seen this summer how quickly the state could ram a major roadway up Blue Mountain despite all those costs, laws, etc. Blaming rail people for the lack of trail development is barking up the wrong tree. DEC can move with the proper motivation. (Or improper, for that matter.)

                  From the rail supporter viewpoint, they’ve done nothing wrong. They’ve been doing exactly what they intended to do, with (and without) help from the state. When people tell them the 1996 plan has failed, that’s assigning them blame for things not their responsibilty – and ignoring all they have accomplished.

                  So, when they hear they are just a bunch of hobbyists monopolizing a public asset to indulge themselves, when they’re told they’re liars because they couldn’t possibly have as many riders as they do, when they’re simultaneously accused of wasting tax payer money AND getting rich off the railroad, when they’re told to walk away from something they’ve literally put blood and sweat into, well maybe you can begin to understand why there are times you might find them not as civil as you’d like.

                  Compare and contrast.

                  To have a rail trail, what do you have to do? Get the state and the towns to pay for it and keep it up. All you have to do personally is show up with your bike and ride. Maybe you can volunteer to do trash pickup or something, but no one is going to make you.

                  To have a working railroad, you need a lot of things. You need people – volunteers who believe in what they’re doing and who want to share railroading with other people; doing what they believe is a good thing. They have to undergo safety training before they can work anywhere on the railroad; some jobs require certification. They have to follow rules and regulations precisely. It’s not just about avoiding fines, criminal convctions or pushing needless paperwork; it’s because people can die if they don’t do their jobs in the right way.

                  When these people are dismissed as hobbyists playing with their toy trains by the ignorant or the malicious, it’s pretty close to a blood insult. (Take a look at Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The Sons of Martha” if you want an appreciation of where they’re coming from.)

                  Consider the compromise.

                  What exactly are the rail trail people giving up? They want the corridor all the way to Thendara – or farther. It’s not theirs, but they’re not getting it is a sacrifice? They have to ‘settle’ for a mere 34 miles that they’ve done nothing to restore or maintain for the past 20 years – it will just be handed over to them and remade to their desires by the state.

                  Explain to me why that is considered a compromise on their part.

                  From the rail supporters point of view, the state is going to upgrade the line to Tupper Lake – when they were originally promised the line all the way to Lake Placid. All the work they’ve done between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid is going to be tossed away. The history they’ve worked to preserve will be put aside. The thousands of people they’ve served and could serve in the future will be turned away.

                  The rail supporters are supposed to consider this a win?

                  Keep in mind this isn’t just about the trail. Rail supporters have always supported the development of trails in the corridor – and DEC is supposed to finally do that in the section between Big Moose and Tupper Lake. (And why didn’t they do that before?) Take a look at the Pennine Cycleway in the U.K if you want to see how a rail with trail partnership can work. Take a look at how the ASR is already offering rail and bike adventures.

                  No, the rail-trail is also the Trojan Horse for a more basic agenda, above and beyond its purpose as a trail. It’s the lever being used by people whose sole interest is to remove the rails for their own ends. While there are good reasons for a trail and people who are sincere about it, there are also those who don’t care as long as they get rid of the tracks. For them, the compromise is just phase one of their campaign to take out the rest of the line. (ARTA is still pushing for that.)

                  If you feel you getting unfairly attacked, you may just be drawing fire intended for others. Just because somebody agrees with you doesn’t mean they’re necessarily on the up and up.

                  If feelings are high, it’s because the stakes are so uneven. You already have many places to ride a bicycle, including a rail trail already in Tupper Lake. There are cycling events all around the region using the existing roads. There are plenty of places to ride within the towns, and ways to make the area more bike-friendly without taking out the rails.

                  If the trail isn’t built, you have lost nothing you currently have. If the trail is built around the rails, you gain from both, and vice versa. If the trails replace the rails, you get a nice trail – but you lose everything the rails have brought in the last 20 years and everything they might have brought in the future. You’ve turned away the thousands of visitors who will never climb on a bicycle, but would be more than happy to ride a train. You’ll also be turning away those who want to do both.

                  If you don’t care about that so long as you get your trail, well fine. But don’t call rail supporters selfish if that’s all you’re concerned about.

                  For rail supporters, the stakes are far higher. They only have one line between Utica and Lake Placid. Less is less. They have nowhere else to go.

                  They lose a prime tourist destination at the end of the line that would draw visitors from around the world with full rail service. They’ll lose all the ridership they already have in the tri-lakes, and all they’ve invested in it. They’ll lose all the riders who come to Lake Placid, and discover the railroad there.

                  The Rail Explorers have already been driven out of the Adirondacks, and that’s going to be a huge blow to Saranac Lake all by itself.

                  Tupper Lake as an end point is going to take a lot of investment before it begins to match what the line is losing in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid – and not just on the railroad’s part. The station is in an area of town with little development around it to support foot traffic or draw visitors. How much cooperation can they count on from the community, with so much anti-rail effort in the area or the limited financial resources of the town?

                  How much can the railroad afford to invest, knowing that the same forces that are planning to take the last 34 miles of the line are already planning how to get the rest of it? How much ridership will they have to get, and how quickly before the naysayers pronounce them a failure?

                  When you understand why the rail supporters are putting up a fight, how uneven the compromise is, how high the stakes are for them, I hope you’ll be willing to listen with an open mind.

                  • David P. Lubic says:

                    Thank you for the commentary, Larry!

                    There are two things I would like to add.

                    One is that I don’t think anyone outside the railroad people knows how much work has been done to get the railroad passable, even if just for equipment ferry moves. There are photographs available of huge washouts, of track flooded by beaver dams, of a right of way that looks like a jungle. Nothing could get through it until those guys put their work and sweat and blood and time into it. In the process, they also made the line passable for the snowmobiles that also run over the roadbed when there is enough snow.

                    Second, you commented on the safety training and certifications even such heritage railroaders have to have. I’ll mention that railroaders in general, including the heritage people you have on this one, have a very strong safety culture. It’s said the standard railroad operating rule book is written in blood–and there is much truth in that when you look at accident investigations.

                    Sure, these guys can be tough, and at the same time pretty nerdy–but that nerdiness is also a passion for precision and correctness. It’s a love of what they do, tempered with a strong sense of responsibility. Everything the railroaders do–whistle signals, the tradition of comparing watches to make sure all are at a standard time, the routine of running brake system tests every time a car is added or subtracted from a train, and before the first run of the day–exemplifies that, reinforces the reasons for doing so many things that seem arcane and legalistic.

                    Such knowledge and maturity in outlook would normally make these people among the best you can have in your community. It seems sad, and even strange, that certain citizens want to chase them away.

                  • Paul says:

                    This is the longest comment I have ever seen at this blog!

                • Boreas says:


                  Thank you for your comments to help elucidate the discussion. I believe you have described my personal standing on the issue quite well. I am just one voice, but I believe there must be others who feel the same way as I. And your comments also help me appreciate your standing and your supporters as well.

                  In a perfect world, it would be nice if RR corridors were twice as wide and would safely allow side-by-side rails and trails. But unfortunately, that isn’t what we have to work with here.

                  So the question is, how does the state deal with all sides of the issue? Many people love trains while others do not have much appreciation for them. Many people are interested in history, many others could care less. Some communities support the RR, others support the trail. The state is now being pushed to do something for both sides – what should they do?

                  As usual, government looks for a cheap compromise. That is fiscal responsibility while trying to appease all constituents. But a compromise is just that, not necessarily the best solution. Perhaps the best solution would be to rebuild the entire RR corridor and construct a flat, safe recreation trail either within the same corridor or totally new construction. Both involve significant tax expenditures for RR upgrades, legal issues with constructing a new recreational trail through the Preserve, and purchase of land or easements through private parcels. I don’t see the current administration even suggesting either of these solutions. The political will just isn’t there.

                  So that leaves us with the DEC, citizens, and special interest groups all fighting it out in the courts. I understand your point of view – you understand mine. Who knows the final result? It likely won’t be pretty.

                  • Larry Roth says:

                    Thanks for acknowledging my efforts to bridge the divide. We may not agree, but I hope we’re not talking past each other now.

                    This isn’t going to be pretty – it never was – but that’s the way democracy works. But what you get with oligarchy and authoritarianism is even uglier. If democracy was easy, we could all just sit back and enjoy it.

                    • David P. Lubic says:

                      “As usual, government looks for a cheap compromise. That is fiscal responsibility while trying to appease all constituents. But a compromise is just that, not necessarily the best solution. Perhaps the best solution would be to rebuild the entire RR corridor and construct a flat, safe recreation trail either within the same corridor or totally new construction. Both involve significant tax expenditures for RR upgrades, legal issues with constructing a new recreational trail through the Preserve, and purchase of land or easements through private parcels. I don’t see the current administration even suggesting either of these solutions. The political will just isn’t there.”

                      I seem to recall the T.R.A.C group actually had answers to that, but they were pooh-poohed, possibly at the suggestion of the moneyed interests that are alleged to be behind the trail. Maybe their suggestions and work should be revisited.

        • john says:

          It’s called corridor improvement. If you want destruction just keep bitching to the DOT/DEC & see how long you have those leases to operate on the southern portion of the corridor. Be happy with what you get to keep, because IT WILL BE REAL easy for you to loose that too.

          • Larry Roth says:

            There you go again, making threats.

            Never mind that it’s not just about the railroad. Saranac Lake stands to lose something that brought thousands of visitors to the town – and they’re calling that improvement too.

            Have a happy.

            • Boreas says:

              Not many people with TB these days Larry. Perhaps SL prefers healthy bike riders now.

              • Larry Roth says:

                Now you’re just reaching for something dismissive to say. Making TB into a joke is beneath your usual standard.

                • Boreas says:

                  Oh, it’s no joke – it has been nearly wiped out. SL was instrumental in that. SL has the Trudeau Institute explaining all of that history. But it is also in their past. Perhaps SL would like to focus on a healthier future is all I’m saying.

                  • Larry Roth says:

                    If you think TB has been nearly wiped out, you haven’t been following the news. While the Trudeau Institute contributed to that, it’s far from gone and it’s still a real threat. Look up MDR-TB and XDR-TB if you want to lose some sleep. Florida had an outbreak last year – it’s not just a problem “somewhere else” in the world.

                    Your quip that perhaps SL would like to focus on a healthier future is as superficial as your commentary on the rest of these issues.

                    • Boreas says:


                      Perhaps I should reword my thoughts, leaving out epidemiology. I believe and many SL residents believe their future would be brighter by the addition of a recreation trail than relying on visitors interested in the history that the RR provided to the village and RR ridership. Much of the history still would remain and can even be enhanced with history kiosks, etc.

                    • Larry Roth says:

                      And many of the benefits of a rail trail could be obtained by having the state just buy everyone an exercise bicycle – which would probably be cheaper than building the trail. Just as kiosks could replace history, posters in front of the bikes could replace scenery.

                      Bonus – it wouldn’t matter what the weather was doing or what time of day it was.

            • john says:

              Not a threat, just a observation. It would be real easy for the DOT to just decide to not renew any of the leases for the southern portion. So please keep bitching instead of working to improve what ya got left.

              • Larry Roth says:

                When you tell someone to shut up or something bad will happen to them, that’s a threat, and typical of the way too many trail supporters have acted.

                For 20 years rail supporters have been working towards bringing back the railroad for the good of the region and because it makes sense. No hidden agenda – just a lot of work.

                They made possible the Rail Explorers, with all the business they brought in and all the people who came to the region.

                Now they’ve been driven out and rail supporters have been smeared as selfish, ripping off the public – by arrogant people who have their own elite vision they’re imposing on the region through lies and back door channels out of the public view.

                If Alt 7 goes through and you get your trail, I wish you great joy in the price you’ll pay for it.

                • Larry Roth says:

                  Well thank you.

                  I appreciate your concern in the spirit with which it was offered. I expect calling people people names will build even more support for your trail.

                  Keep up the good work, and God bless you.

                • Bruce says:


                  Rail Explorers knew their time was limited before they started, and you can’t run trains and Rail Explorers on the same tracks. I’m just disappointed they couldn’t find an unused spur track somewhere so they could stay in the region.

                  The trail will connect 3 villages where there is already a sizeable tourist population. There is no reason to believe bike rentals, places to stay and restaurants won’t increase as a result.

                  With the train from Utica, Remsen or Thendara connecting to the trail at Tupper Lake, there’s also no reason to believe bicyclists and hikers won’t be riding the train to get to the trail. The Wild Center is extremely popular and folks will also ride the train to get there, especially if the train has packages available.

                  It’s time to get on with making the compromise work. Nothing is to be gained by the constant back biting and whining. Putting all your eggs in one basket (train only) is not sound economic policy.

                  • Larry Roth says:

                    Bruce –

                    Your comment that you can’t run trains and Rail Explorers on the same tracks tracks is, to the best of my knowledge, wrong. The ASR and RE can and have worked together, and could in the future IF they weren’t being driven out of the area.

                    As for the rest of your assertions, we’ll find out if the legal challenge fails. There are no guarantees on any of that – but there’s still the point that rails with trails would be stronger than either alone.

                    • Bruce says:


                      I re-iterate…Rail Explorers and operating trains do not share the same section of track. Here is the answer to an e-mail I sent this morning to Rail Explorers, I quote:

                      “We can only operate on inactive trails!”

                      As to the section being used by RE, they were allowed on the tracks only when ASR was not occasionally shuttling equipment back and forth between Saranac and Thendara. Other than that, the section was closed to trains.

                    • Larry Roth says:

                      Well, at this point it hardly matters unless the court rules otherwise – AND if DEC chooses to let them operate without strangling them in fees and red tape. (See Keith Gorgas on that.)

                      It hasn’t been a problem with the ASR driving them out – it’s the state. If the rails stay, it remains to be seen what can be worked out between them.

                    • Big Burly says:

                      The response by “Steve” is only partially correct. Since this operation is the first of its kind in NA, there is no experience with rail bikes sharing an active rail corridor. Trains — freight and passenger — operate along and in the same corridor everyday, in both directions. Dispatching needs to be coordinated — it is very doable and done every day with trains. Could be with rail bikes with proper planning and scheduling.

                      Not likely the experiment will happen in the DAKs. A conversation with the entrepreneurs who brought this attraction to SL would tell you they do not feel welcome by elected officials and regulatory bureaucrats. They will tell you as well that every single customer — about 21000 in 2016 — believes this was an amazing experience and are sorry if it disappears.

                  • Keith Gorgas says:

                    Actually, both ASR and RE were dispatched by a common source, maybe in Buffalo, and RE bikes are equipt with real time GPS, which the RR will have next year. Additional sidings are being added from Big Moose to Tupper Lake for co-existence. Unfortunately, with NY State retroactively double billing Rail Explorers for use of the tracks it;s unlikely they will ever return to the Adks. They had already paid $10,000 per month,as per contract, and NY State refused to sign a new contract for next year unless they paid another $6400 per month dating back to last May. Young Justin Lavine is very selective in what he reports .

                • john says:

                  Didn’t see anywhere in ANY of my post the words “Shut up”! You must be paranoid! If you don’t like facts too bad! For 20+years the state has been propping you guys up, pure & simple. Let’s take the state money out & see how you would have done. You’d been gone a long time ago. That’s a FACT!
                  Am I sorry you couldn’t become the success you think you should be. No! Am I looking forward to a rail/trail combination between Remsen & Lake Placid? Yes!

                  • Larry Roth says:

                    Actually, the rail supporters have been propping the state up, because without their work, there would be no corridor today.

                    Under state control, the corridor was washing out, becoming overgrown by brush, and was becoming totally unusable. The money from the state has gotten the state quite a lot, because the volunteer labor of the rail supporters has made it go much farther than it would if the state was trying to do it all – which they weren’t.

                    If the state hadn’t been ‘propping up’ the rail supporters, they would have been gone long ago, and you’d have nothing to build a trail on. Now the state is going to have to prop up the trail all by itself, plus whatever money the towns are willing and able to kick in, because there’s no direct stream of revenue from a ‘free’ trail.

                    Your taxes will be subsidizing visitors – and your visitors are going to be limited to bike riders now, instead of all the different kinds of people who came to use the rails.

                    Your tax dollars at work. Enjoy! You’re going to get what YOU are paying for.

                    • john says:

                      I will enjoy it. I’ll enjoy hiking on it, biking on it, and snowmobiling on it! I’ll totally enjoy it!

                  • Bill Hutchison says:

                    Aren’t you hyperventilating just a bit?

                    • john says:

                      Nope, just stiring the pot, because the rail weenies are so easy to spin up. If you don’t like the fact, that I could care less about a rail line that ONLY survives because the state continues to prop them up year after year after year, then tough! Grow a pair & learn to take what ya got & improve it. If you don’t you won’t have that in a few more years!

                    • Larry Roth says:

                      Thanks – always nice to have one of you proclaim exactly what you’re doing. We will quote you on that.

                    • Bill Hutchison says:

                      Yep, you’re hyperventilating. Your eye are starting to bug out. Breathe in, breathe out. I get a laugh out people like you, who go right to the gutter. “Rail weenies” Nice. Tells the world what sort you are and that you are also factually challenged. Everyone but trail ideologues knows the state pays to keep the right of way maintained, which would have to be done for any trail. Otherwise, the railroad supports itself, so your fairy tale isn’t true.

                      Have a nice and don’t pop a blood vessel.

  13. Larry Roth says:

    You too. Don’t get snowed in.

  14. Keith Gorgas says:

    There is an article in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, dating back to 1974 that clearly states that NY State doesn’t own a lot of the land under the Right of Way. We know from people near the top of DOT that they have been warning the DEC of this for at least the past 4 years. DEC had on their website, during the public hearing process, that they had full ownership, Even the land that the DEC claims to own between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake was not taken via court proceedings, and will not stand up to legal challenge. The state simply declared that they owned it. The fifth amendment of the constitution has a clause forbidding the public taking of private property without just compensation. From all the info I’ve been able to glean, there never were condemnation proceedings If someone has documentation of such proceedings, I would be happy to hear about them and will stand corrected..

    • David P. Lubic says:

      I tell you, the position of the rip out the railroad crowd looks worse by the day. Clearly we are looking at what at best could be described as gross incompetence.

      Worse, and I think this is the case, is that someone deliberately tried to keep this undercover to build the trail.

      If I were a trail proponent, I would be furious that my leadership’s lack of honesty and how that lack may well destroy an asset that has trail use now for what may well be something of no use at all.

      I’ll mention there are some people who claim that’s been the plan all along–and if it is, and I were a trail supporter, would make me ever angrier at the leadership still.

      • Boreas says:


        It will be interesting to see what happens. My understanding is that the title conflicts constitute relatively small (albeit significant) sections of the 34 mile corridor. The way I see it, the state still has the same options that were available when the original RR corridor was built – namely easements, condemnation with compensation, reroutes, or doing nothing. Reroutes or incomplete sections shouldn’t be too difficult to manage if most of these parcels are in a village setting.

        One should also consider the politics of the compromise. This administration clearly wants a change – touting economic development. I would assume state and local governments have the ability to put a lot of pressure on these landowners to toe the line for the good of the community. Just as when the RR was built, it will boil down to the various governments’ desire for the trail vs. maintaining the status quo. Projects are always attractive to government officials – with obstructions either being surmounted or circumvented.

        • David P. Lubic says:


          I would think, or would hope, that after your exchange with Larry Roth that things would be a little better. . .but in effect, this is saying we rail supporters are being pooh-poohed again.

          No matter. It’s happened before, will happen again. Just don’t be too surprised if there is a “we told you so” moment in the future.

          • Boreas says:

            Larry and I agreed to disagree. I am simply saying it is mighty tough to fight city hall (and the Cuomo administration). We will have to wait and see the eventual outcome.

        • Paul says:

          The parcel that involves the college is where the RR runs right between the athletic building (maybe 50-75 feet away) and a road (right next to the tracks) that is next to a berm next to one of the athletic fields. There is no room for any re-route.

          • Boreas says:

            The reroute(s) would be onto existing streets and roads bypassing the parcels. Not a good option, but not impossible. But it certainly wouldn’t work well for snowmobiles.

            • Paul says:

              Show us on a map how this would work. Have you ever seen these spots? You want, what is supposed to be a family friendly bike trail and supposedly awesome like all these other ones they compare it to to be re-routed onto a street. That seems highly impractical. One problem with this trail that I have pointed out before, usually with no good answer given, is how do they plan to deal with the 7 road crossings and bridge over the saranac river in less than a few miles in SL. They claim is that this trail will attract tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands at some high estimates) of riders each year. What is this going to look like at all these crossings? This has not been carefully planned out.

              • Boreas says:


                Even the rails cross highways and streets. Bikes are allowed on streets, pedestrians on sidewalks. Signs and crosswalks. As I said, re-routes onto streets are not the ideal solution, but are not impossible. The few messy miles within villages doesn’t lessen the value of the main sections of trail and may enhance spending in the villages from vendors/stores along the street.

                • Boreas says:

                  Yet another thought would be to actually close down an appropriate street to motor traffic and create a greenway or something similar to Church St. in BTV. Hopefully village planners can turn lemons into lemonade.

    • Bruce says:


      “Even the land that the DEC claims to own between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake was not taken via court proceedings, and will not stand up to legal challenge. The state simply declared that they owned it.” What evidence do you have showing the land was just “taken”?

      Court proceedings are not the only way the state acquires private land (through condemnation proceedings). There are easements, long term leases, and direct sales; none of which require going to court if the contract arrived at is legally binding.

      • Keith Gorgas says:

        I certainly understand that Bruce, It was the DEC who had posted on their web site during the public comment period, that they had taken the land “via eminent domain”.

  15. Paul says:

    “The helicopter will videotape the corridor and its historic features as part of efforts to preserve the historic railroad prior to removing the rails and ties. Additional flights will be taken after all the leaves have fallen to survey the corridor using a light detection system known as LIDAR and to obtain aerial photogrammetry data. These flights will fly at higher altitudes.”

    I am no fan of this trail but none of this stuff seems necessary. No wonder it is costing almost 10 million bucks. Just wait for the court to make a decision and then build the trail or not. Stop with all this nonsense.

  16. Todd Eastman says:

    Impressive endurance by the posters!

    We will delivering a freshly dead horse tomorrow…

    … don’t forget yer axe handles!

    • Bruce says:


      Ever see your car lose traction? The wheels go around like mad, but nothing useful happens. I’m like you, it’s time to move on and actually get something done.

      • Larry Roth says:

        Even if it’s the wrong thing?

        • Bruce says:


          Wrong in who’s opinion?

          • Larry Roth says:

            Perhaps in the opinion of the court. We’ll see.

            Despite the impression the trail supporters would like everyone to have, not everybody thinks this is a good idea.

            The entire rail line could upgraded to full passenger service in about three months, versus three years for the trail.

            • Hope says:

              “Could” being the operative word but it “could” have been done over the last 20 years or so but wasn’t. “Could of, would of, should of…..” Hmmm….. why is that? You can’t have full passenger service without actual passenger demand. 3 or 4 weekends during leaf peeping season is not full passenger demand. There has been no political will for that in 20 years. Now you have an opportunity to expand yet you are unhappy with that.

              • Larry Roth says:

                You never give up, do you Hope. Ridership numbers on the rail line keep going up and you keep claiming there’s no demand. In 20 years you did not get one mile of trail built while the rails were bringing back the corridor. What does that say about where the demand is?

                You might as well admit it Hope. There could be a million riders a month and that still wouldn’t be enough for you, because you just want the tracks gone.

                How many trail users are you going to promise, and how much money are you going to guarantee they’ll bring to the area? How soon? Let me guess – if the Magic doesn’t happen, you’ll claim it’s because the trail really has to go to Thendara to work.

                You’ve already helped drive the Rail Explorers out of the Adirondacks and you won’t be happy until the railroad is gone too. I hope you enjoy the results. Too bad about everyone else who’ll have to live with them.

                • Hope says:

                  If you had a million riders a month we would not be having this discussion. The train would be running and nobody would have suggested the corridor be used for anything else. But that is not reality.

                  • Larry Roth says:

                    The reality Hope is that you and your associates have no personal use for the rails and a number of different things you’d all rather see done with the corridor. The trail is just the Trojan Horse you’ve come up with to sell everyone else on the idea.

                    I will give you credit for doing a great job of organizing and marketing the idea – but it’s still a bad idea compared with keeping the rails and building the trails around them IF a trail is what you really want and not just the absence of trains.

                    If the case for the trail is as solid as you claim, why does the state keep delaying their appearance in court to defend it? If the process behind Alt 7 was so thorough, why did no one catch the title problems? Why the planning meetings behind closed doors, and why is DEC in such a hurry now? Why the gloating over driving out the Rail Explorers and why the smear campaign against the railroad? Why no mention of the Rails to Trails Conservancy report on rails WITH trails, when that validates the 1996 plan? Why the constant denigration of the hard work rail supporters do to keep the corridor open and the trains running? Why the oblivious treatment of the history at stake here? Why the determination to erase the one thing the communities on the line have that sets them apart from the rest of the area? Why throw away an irreplaceable asset while chasing the latest fads?

                    There’s just too much of the trail proposal that doesn’t meet the smell test. You’ve been doing a great job distracting people away from this while the trail was just a shiny promise, but selling the reality is proving a bit more difficult, isn’t it.

                    • Hope says:

                      You Larry are the one who continues to make up the nefarious reasons behind mine and others interest. You continue with all sorts of conspiracy theories and far fetched notions. I’m am only interested in the promoting something that will be better for my community, one you railfans continue to denigrate every chance you get. We do not agree. So be it.

                    • Larry Roth says:

                      Hope, I have no objections to the trail – I think it would be a good thing in cooperation with the rails. What I have issues with are the exaggerated claims being made for it and the refusal of persons like yourself to acknowledge anything positive about the rails.

                      This isn’t nefarious or a conspiracy theory – it’s based on observable facts. I notice you either can’t or won’t respond to any of the points I raised above. You deal with them by ignoring them. I’ve seen this kind of mental rigidity before; it usually does not turn out well.

                      What’s your Plan B if the trail fails to deliver on all you’ve promised? What happens if the assumptions about funding and converting ARTA into a group to take responsibility for the trail falls through? You are making a huge bet on the future of the tri-lakes, something keeping the rails does not.

                      Confidence is good until it becomes hubris.

                    • Larry Roth says:

                      Hope –

                      Here’s what you can get with rails AND trails.


                    • Bill Hutchison says:

                      Except they are not conspiracy theories, as Larry says. On the other hand you continue to spread the fabrication that we “denigrate” the trail when we have consistently supported rail WITH trail.

                      ARTA has consistently engaged in a campaign of half-truths, distortions and outright falsehoods in pursuit of its goal to destroy the railroad. It has also promised a golden future if only we rip out those nasty old tracks, trumpeting some very questionable statistics ad arguments to make its claim.

                      No, we don’t agree, but then it’s hard for us to agree with a bully. Too bad ARTA isn’t more open minded.

  17. Ben says:

    I’m not going to sit here & debate with anyone the goodness or total stupidity of this rail idea, but I will say this the state has made the decision in what direction it wants to go. One side has decided to go to court & stop it. They may win & get to keep what they have or they may loose & get to keep what they are allowed. But there is a 3rd option too, they can win the court case but still loose the war. The state can just chose not to renew the lease for next year at all! You’ve moved the train south from Lake Placid, so the state can deny you the lease to operate & move back north next year. That is within their right as the lease holder. The Rail Explorers have or are already moving to someplace else, so they are out of the picture.
    The state has all the power here win or loose in court. Opt 7 is the way to go forward, because if the state looses in court, you may not see Opt 6 again either.

    • Larry Roth says:

      Thank you Ben for pointing out the state holds all the cards. The truth of the matter is, the state has always had the power to throw the railroad out at any time. So long as they only issue 30 day operating permits, they can drop the hammer any time they feel like it. If nothing else, going to court serves notice that the state can not act in an arbitrary fashion without consequences. Not filling a challenge given how outrageous state actions have been would be dereliction of civic duty,

      • john says:

        Here’s a question for the rail folks, why was Rail Explorers paying the ASR 10K a month? Two separate business running on 2 separate areas of track, both of which are owned by the state. So why was one business paying another business to use state owned property?

        • Larry Roth says:

          Just a guess on my part, but I expect it has something to do with the railroad being the operating leaseholder on the line. The state may own the line but they leased out the right to operate on it. I suspect it would be like a store getting paid a fee by someone using part of their space for their own business. The Rail Explorers were also paying the state separately for other fees.

          My understanding is the amount the Rail Explorers was paying the ASR was based on the number of riders they had, which should address the claims that their numbers were exaggerated.

          What we can say for certain is that no one will be getting any money directly from using the trail – taxpayers will have to pick up the whole tab for building it and maintaining it. Visitors get to use it for free.

          There will also be no jobs from the trail directly – although that doesn’t keep someone from, say renting bikes for visitors to use on the trail, and paying the state no money for the privilege. Such a deal!

        • Keith Gorgas says:

          John, I might be able to help out a little here. I was part of the negotiations last spring. The railroad held, actually holds for another month, the lease on the tracks and the station. That includes all the track. Rail Explorers was a sub lease tenant. Historic Saranac Lake loaned artifacts to the RR for use in the Union Depot. The Depot used to be leased, at no cost or minimal cost, to the Village of Saranac Lake. They turned it back over, rather than have the expense of maintaining the Station. A few weeks ago, the DOT came to Rail Explorers and tried to get them to sign another lease directly, with a retro-active bill for $6400 a month going back to May.(after not allowing anyone in the Depot till mid June, and waiting since last fall to give the RR permission to fix a section of track needed to move equipment north) At the same time, the DOT has kept stalling regarding signing a contract for next year, from Tupper Lake south, or any section of track. By the way, Rail Explorers was never party to the Article 78 proceedings against NY State agencies. Coupled with some very inhospitable actions taken by members of the Village board, it created an impossible business climate. Rail Explorers have been welcomed with open arms in the Catskills and just came to an agreement to operate around Newport, RI. After carrying about 15,000 last year, this year’s ridership was 21,873 paying riders, about 95% from outside the Tri-Lakes region. 34 hourly employees, earning between $12-$18 plus time and half for overtime., and a half dozen salaried personnel. Gone.

  18. Bruce says:

    As far as the 4 parcels are concerned, it seems the final decision will be between the landowners and the state. According to the article, it also seems the landowners are seriously considering the trail option.

    This does not bode well for the ASR’s lawsuit, because if the state does not already own the land involved, a legal solution will most likely involve the wishes of the landowners.

    • Larry Roth says:

      The lawsuit was filed before the state ‘discovered’ title issues, as far as I know. It addresses numerous flaws in the state plan – laws ignored or misinterpreted, misstatements of fact, etc. If the state does not remove the tracks, the title issues are moot. There’s also no guarantee these are the only title issues the state has overlooked.

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