Saturday, April 7, 2018

Commentary: Make Adirondack Railroads A Priority

20th Century Transportation PrioritiesFour unprecedented March Nor’easters caused millions of dollars in damage, kept utilities scrambling to restore power, and disrupted transportation up and down the east coast in 2018.

Choosing policies that will make matters worse should be the last thing to do in New York State, but that is what is happening in the Adirondacks and the Catskills.

Those storms are what climate change looks like. Researchers attribute the strength and timing of the storms to the disruption of the Polar Vortex, changes in wind patterns that have left the Arctic much warmer than it should be this time of year because of global warming. Extreme weather events of all kinds are increasingly likely in the years ahead – it’s not just about snow.

Wait – what’s that you say? Climate change is a hoax? There’s no such thing? New York State apparently agrees with you. The Adirondack Park Agency draft environmental impact statement written to justify converting rails to trails contains not a single mention of climate change, global warming, or any other inconvenient truths. Zero. Zip. Nada. That’s even more astonishing when you realize how much outdoor recreation – like snowmobiling – is heavily affected by weather.

Over a quarter of the energy expended in the US goes to transportation. The carbon emissions created moving people and goods, comparable to emissions from power generation, contribute significantly to global warming. Railroads are the most energy-efficient means of land transport,  but the US has invested heavily in highway-centric transportation for decades.

Rail and Trail in the Tri-LakesIn the Adirondacks, the Adirondack Park Agency is hoping to make it easier to turn Adirondack railroads into trails. While trails are a public good, the question in the age of changing climate is, are they good enough to justify ripping out rail corridors?

Ulster County is turning a rail line that parallels a major Catskill transportation corridor into trails and disconnected rail segments. Ulster County Executive Mike Hein has made trails a focus of tourism at the expense of rail.  He’s piggybacking off Governor Cuomo, who has an ambitious plan to cross New York State with the 750-mile Empire State Trail.  This is being promoted as a major tourism effort and the bandwagon effect has kicked in.

Rail Explorers in the Tri-LakesRail trails take no trucks off roads. With driving the only way to get to them, they paradoxically increase traffic on highways. They do little to make the state’s infrastructure or economy more resilient. They do little to reduce carbon emissions. They narrow the economic base of the state in regions that need more diversity, not less.

The APA proposal for Adirondack travel corridors lumps highways, railroads, and rail trails all together as though they were interchangeable. Measuring railroads against rail trails only as tourist attractions is not a proper comparison. Trails are recreation; railroads are transportation.

It might be different if the rail corridors in question were inactive – but all three have operating railroads on them, all three already contribute to tourism, and two are reviving freight service. Two of them also connect to Amtrak. All three operate wholly or in part over track owned by government – the “public-private partnerships” that are supposed to be the Holy Grail of the post Big Government age. All of them can be upgraded to full service with little disruption, as opposed to building brand new infrastructure.

The only difference between a tourist railroad and a “real” railroad in these cases is public policy and public investment. Replacing rails with trails caters to the shortsighted gratification of special interest groups and cheap/easy politics, not prudent governance. The current obsession with trails as the Magic Fix for struggling communities looks a lot like past fads for casinos, convention centers, giant shopping malls, etc. (See monorails, for how it works.)

Transportation is basic. Get it right, and much follows. Trying to live solely on tourism is like trying to live solely on junk food.

ASR Anniversary at ThendaraThe rail lines in question once moved freight and provided passenger service as well as serving tourism. They each have a historic legacy. The only thing preventing building on their potential is a refusal to recognize the world has changed and a reluctance to make the necessary investments. We spent billions in the last century covering the land with highways and driving railroads out of business. Now we’re paying the price for that choice – and we still need transportation.

In the era of climate change, trading railroads for trails in places already full of trails is a bad deal. Any group, agency, or organization whose mission includes concern for the environment but looks no farther than the immediate gain of more trail miles – but not the trade-offs – is not doing its job. Trading rails for trails in the 21 st Century is like getting rid of lifeboats to make more room for deckchairs on the Titanic.

The contribution of two Adirondack railroads and one in the Catskills to dealing with climate change may seem insignificant — but enough small steps taken everywhere can and will make a difference. It’s about changing attitudes as much as anything. A person who needs to lose weight but can’t get around to dieting and going to the gym can still start by doing something as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator. The important thing is to start, and go on from there.

The Netherlands operate their trains with an electrified rail system running on 100% wind power.  There’s a plan to bring that concept to America and expand on it.  Biodiesel, hybrid locomotives, even hydrogen fuel cell trains all offer immediate ways to reduce carbon emissions. The rest of the world is investing in rail systems in a coordinated strategy that includes all transport modes, even trails. Only America rips up rail corridors for trails while still subsidizing everything that competes with railroads.

bike on the asrIt’s about more than reducing carbon emissions. Railroads increase resiliency, vital in a world increasingly subject to climate disruption. They do it by diversifying the economy. If something affects tourism, not just natural disasters, but a recession, a terror attack, etc. the idea is to have something else to fall back on. Railroads can generate economic activity apart from tourism, like transloading operations. Concentrating on tourism at the expense of everything else is economic monoculture.

Railroads add redundancy. When airplanes are grounded, when roads become dangerous, trains can keep running. When mudslides blocked a critical commuting route in California in January, Amtrak and other passenger rail carriers scheduled more and longer trains; the alternative was a 275-mile detour by road. We are going to need that kind of resilience, and will need it badly.

There’s another aspect to consider as well: demographics. By the year 2030, Census projections are that 1 in 5 people will be at retirement age in the US. By 2035 there will be more people age 65 and older than there will be children in America. That aging population is going to need alternatives to driving. The portion of the population interested in trails is going to be shrinking in the years ahead.

Car ownership isn’t the given it used to be either. Given alternatives to driving – like rail, transit, etc. – people are more likely to forgo car ownership these days. When they travel, they may rent or use a service like Uber or Lyft when they reach their destination. (As when people travel by air, for example.) Renting at the destination also makes the case for electric vehicles. If they’re going to be used for local driving, range isn’t as big an issue.

Rails are also a tool for reviving towns. Towns can focus more effectively on visitors when they arrive at a specific location. A rail station is a de facto visitor center and anchor point for shops, restaurants, and services to cluster around, instead of them spreading out along roadways. It helps hold towns together and stimulates walkable development. It means parking doesn’t have to be a primary concern. It means a service like a bus route finds more ridership in a concentrated area. It means less traffic on the roads for local people – including those who want to get around on bicycles.

This doesn’t mean people are going to give up personal vehicles any time soon. Too much of what we’ve spent the 20th century building has been based on the assumption that everyone has a car. Highway mania has taken us as far as it can go, and like an addiction it distorts everything. Restoring rail is about providing more and better choices.

This is not about giving up trails either. Framing it as an either/or choice is a false choice. It’s like saying you can only have peanut butter or jelly on your sandwich – but not both. There are many ways rails and trails complement each other above and beyond their individual strengths.

Seniors boarding the ASR in UticaThe primary driver of the rail trail movement is as a cheap way to put in a trail – cheap only IF you place no value on rails. It’s easy to sell to people who have never seen a personal need for trains, and have no idea what trains could do for their community. It’s also an easy sell to people who just want trains gone. The anti-development and anti-tax crowds don’t like the idea of investing in rail, either.

In the cases here, we’re talking about a historic legacy as well as a transportation asset. That’s something that can’t be replaced or duplicated. If the point is to make the local economy more competitive, build on something no one else can offer.

Reality is recognizing trails and rails together are better for tourism than either alone – and rails can do more than just haul tourists around. The necessity is recognizing that the 21st Century is not going to be like the 20th. The original purpose of the rails to trails movement was to save railroad corridors for the time when we needed railroads again. That time is here and now. We need railroads to cope with what’s coming at us. The sooner we face up to that, the better.

Larry Roth recently retired after 40 years in the NYS Department of Health, having worked in clinical and research labs. He has a lifelong interest in historic preservation and railroads. He is currently a volunteer at the U&D Railway Revitalization Corporation in Phoenicia, NY.

Photos from above: Route 28A in Ulster County; ASR between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, 2016; Rail bike on ASR; ASR anniversary at Thendara, 2017; Rail Bike; and Seniors boarding the ASR in Utica.

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The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional guest essays from Adirondack residents, visitors, and those with an interest in the Adirondack Park. Submissions should be directed to Almanack editor Melissa Hart at

197 Responses

  1. David P Lubic says:

    Thank you, Larry, you’ve made a great case, and you didn’t even bring up the arguments I’ve made. I’ve pointed out, multiple times, that the cost of building and maintaining the trail will be higher than keeping the railroad, and that keeping the railroad means you avoid opening all sorts of worm cans. That includes things like dealing with easements (and reversion clauses), dealing with the Surface Transportation Board on abandonment or railbanking issues (and the Adirondack is a “real” railroad in that it comes under that jurisdiction), and trying to come up with ways to mitigate the loss of historic infrastructure (which runs afoul of historic preservation laws–one of the reasons the state lost the lawsuit about improper procedures),

    None of this will matter to the trail crowd, though. They tell us we a idiots who don’t know anything, even after we have been proven right on a number of things. (One–the easement issue. There weren’t supposed to be any at all.)

    They remind me of Chester A. Riley, the title character of the old radio show, “The Life of Riley.” He was, well, a bonehead, and one of the things he would often say was, “Don’t try to change my mind, my head’s made up!”

    • Eric says:

      Rail trails have a place in the Park but they shouldn’t come at the expense of diminishing the Park’s overall transportation mix. But trail enthusiasts aren’t the only ones who’ll object. A far more monied interest group in forever wild purists (who are already trying to take control of local back roads away from communities) in their never-ending pursuit to make the Park the exclusive domain of the young and able-bodied.

  2. Chris says:

    Well written and lucid.

    Questions – what is the current use of the railroads in question in terms of people and freight transportation. What is a reasonable forecast for the future in terms of people and freight transport (given what assumptions)? What is needed for the railway to really make a dent in current transport practices (stations, hubs, feeder transport to- and from- stations)?

    I live mostly downstate and in a beautiful area which is being strangled by traffic. A transportation center was proposed for our “neighborhood” which is perfectly located and has enough space to unite rail and highway. It was vehemently opposed and torpedoed because it would completely change the area. So, without the transport hub, no solution to the traffic problem by shifting drivers to riders.

    • Hope says:

      No traffic issues here in the Tri Lakes for cars but problems exist for bikes. No freight demand in or out. No trans loading here there no cross train traffic. UPS, FEDEX hubs just outside the Park in larger communities. Towns along the rail corridor of less than 4,000 or so inhabitants. Very little commercially viable developable land for major manufacturing and significant permitting hoops to get through (just ask ACR in Tupper). Back in the 1950s when logging was king and there was manufacturing in Tupper the train was barely viable then. When you get here by train, then what? You have no transportation to any other venue. These are not urban communities but country villages. No train operator except a tourism train run by volunteers is interested in running this line. There is no train “transportation” demand to warrant the expense. There is recreational trail demand across the entire Adirondacks. There is also government initiative to build these types of trails not only in the Adirondacks but across NYS as well. My peers, in our 60’s now, are seeking an outdoor recreational venue safe from traffic and safe to go with our grandchildren and other family members. These are the people that will help grow the communities in the Adirondacks because they will move here and help maintain life in our towns and villages.
      Personally, riding along side a train track just doesn’t do it for me.

      • Chip Ordway says:

        Hope (aka one of the board members of ARTA whose main goal is to rip up the rails) says “Personally, riding along side a train track just doesn’t do it for me.”

        But riding the exact same path without a track next to you all of a sudden makes it a ‘must happen’?

        That’s the same conflicting argument as when you and your cohorts say that no one will ride the train because you claim it’s ‘not scenic’. Ok, then why would people travel from miles away to walk/run/bike a non scenic *trail* when they could easily suit their needs elsewhere?

        The double standards are alive and well.

      • Andrew says:

        It comes down to politics, roads are not expected to be profitable to survive. There is most definitely merit to having trails between towns, but railroads shouldn’t stolen to do so :$

      • Paul says:

        “No traffic issues here in the Tri Lakes for cars but problems exist for bikes.”

        What? The Tri Lakes is a great place to bike. I have loved biking there my whole life. It’s one of the best road and mt. biking places in the East. You want a rail trail, we get that, but don’t make it sound like it’s not a great place to ride now. Myself and many of the friends I grew up with are up every summer to ride. This debate is ridiculous.

        • Hope says:

          Maybe you and your friends don’t mind biking alongside log trucks and distracted drivers but many of us recreational riders do. Riding the roads around here is not great for children in fact down right dangerous. Your arrogance and disdain for the average recreational rider has been apparent throughout this debate. As far as you’re concerned the only bike riders that matter are mountain bikers and Lycra clad bicyclist riding in peletons and/or training for athletic endeavors. There are many more general recreationlists that would prefer not to ride alongside vehicles traveling in excess of 55 miles per hour.

          • chris says:

            Does the trail plan forecast the usage in terms of local rec riders and children? Is is point-to-point like the RR?

            It seems that the popular rail trails and canal paths that I am familiar with are in pretty urban areas with lots of access points and places where people are stopping. The point-to-point rail trails and canal paths seem to be popular only with upscale-rec (more hardcore) travelers and in areas that don’t have a lot of other biking options.

            • Hope says:

              There are numerous on and off points throughout the rec trail proposal plus opportunities to go off onto other roads and trails. There are campgrounds were there are many bike riders that could ride in either direction to a larger village as a day trip. In fact when doing a survey at Fish Creek campgrounds the staff said it would be easier to count the number of cars without bicycles than the ones with because there were just too many to count. There are people who would commute via bicycle to their jobs and to school. Not only by bicycle but by snowmobile and skis as well.

            • Paul says:

              Chris, this is also about a snowmobile trail up-grade, making it easier for sleds in the winter.

          • Paul says:

            Wow. “arrogance an distain”? Nice. You can’t even acknowledge the great riding we have in the Tri Lakes? Sure a rail trail would be good for some riders but that doesn’t change the fact that we have great riding here, that is my only point. I have said before that a rail trail would be good, but Hope, you can’t ignore certain facts.

            Have a good weekend. Hopefully spring will eventually arrive.


            • David P Lubic says:

              Alas, Paul, that’s only too typical of the trail crowd. Why, I don’t know.

              I do know it makes the idea of “loving your enemies” harder than it should be.

            • Hope says:

              Your point has always been that a Rail Trail would be flat and boring for most riders and that people only come here to ride mountain bikes and do long distance rides on roads. Yes that type of riding is available for those who wish to do it but there are many, many people who just wish for a place to be able to ride a flat easy place to ride with their families and friends without the threat of being run over by a distracted driver or sucked into the vortex of a tractor trailer. I bet there are far more recreational riders than there are adventuresome mountain bikers and road riders. Just take a visit to Fish Creek in July. I’ve nothing against those other types of bicyclists, I was once a participant back in the day, but I know a lot more folks who would ride more and many who leave town to go to other places to ride because of the lack of availability to a rail trail. I’ve spoken to Tri athletes here training who wish that we had a rail trail so that they could ride or run out of traffic with their kids that they brought with them for the weekend. Ask the owners of the hotels how many people ask about places to ride bikes out of traffic. You wonder why Lake Placid is not interested at all in having the train come. They know who their customer is and what they are looking for.

              • Paul says:

                Hope, I have never once seen a tractor trailer when I was riding with my kids (or them by themselves) in places like around moody pond in Saranac Lake. These places exist. WQould this be another place for a family ride, sure, I agee. The tri-lakes has great rides. Admit it.

          • LeRoy Hogan says:

            If there were freight trains, then maybe their would be no log trucks to worry about.

            • Hope says:

              Nope. The logs have got to get out of the woods first on a truck. Once loaded they are not likely to be unloaded onto a train to be offloaded onto a truck again to be taken to the mill. I’ve spoken with loggers and unless the train goes right to the mill the logistics don’t work. Some of the logs go to paper mills and some to hardwood mills and some to chip plants. Also we’ve lost a lot of log production in the Adirondacks as the state purchases previously producing forests and keeps it forever wild.

          • Andrew says:

            You’re not pro-trail, just anti-rail :$

          • Chip Ordway says:

            Didn’t you and your friends ride all the way to Albany in the name of ARTA? Didn’t hear you doing much complaining about THAT trip!

  3. Brian Joseph says:

    LOL ….. getting desperate!

  4. Scott says:

    That was a well written argument covering all the points except the biggest one: trains and railroad tracks and all the chemicals use to maintain everything do not belong in the forest preserve.

    • Andrew says:

      Yet rail is far more “greener” than more asphalt :$

      • Scott says:

        Rip up the tracks and grade the dirt & stone surface and the trail is done. No asphalt please.

        • Boreas says:

          From what I understand, a compacted stone dust surface has always been the plan for the bulk of the Tri-Lakes trail .

          • Paul says:

            This doesn’t strike me as the family friendly trail some describe. Have ridden some rail trails that are fun for kids, Cape Cod, one in SC, and one in MD and West V – paved trails. It will be good for snowmobiles for sure.

            • Larry Roth says:

              Funny – the original EIS for the trail called for users on roller blades, skinny tire bikes, strollers, roller skies, along with everything else they could think of – and you can’t do some of that stuff unless it’s paved.

              Then at some point it was that some sections would be paved, and now it’s crushed stone…

              Bait & switch is the term for it I think.

              • Boreas says:

                I’m not positive stone dust is the CURRENT plan. It is just the last thing I remember hearing a year or more ago.

            • Boreas says:


              I used to see a lot of families on the Old Erie Canal towpath. A stone dust surface is similar to dirty pavement – usually very hard and level with some fine debris on top. It almost acts like dry clay or cement if well-drained like rail beds typically are. It does get dusty though – often leaving a layer on a bike or stroller. I had no trouble riding my older road bike on it full speed. However I suspect areas close to the villages will eventually be blacktopped.

  5. Tony Goodwin says:

    Larry Roth, you have been involved in this debate since at least 1990 when you wrote and article for the Adirondack Mt. Club’s publication, “Adirondac” about the fate of what is now the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. There you said that the restored railroad would create both jobs and tax revenues. Well, that line has operated in one form or another since 1992; but it has produced many fewer jobs that predicted and not produced any tax revenues. In fact, the railroad has received an annual NYS taxpayer “grant” (read subsidy) of around $300,000 for track maintenance plus additional multi-million dollar grants.

    A railroad that is only hauling a few cars in each train is neither energy efficient nor taking many trucks off the road. (CSX’s container trains on the main line do that.) One occasional box car of garnets from Barton Mines doesn’t qualify in either category. You state that two of the current railroads in the Adirondacks have Amtrak connections, but that has not resulted in any new passenger business in the Adirondacks. The Saratoga North Creek started with an ambitious schedule that did meet Amtrak trains in Saratoga, but no one made the connection and those trains were quickly dropped.

    The survey data about only short trip use of the Great Allegheny Passage Trail is probably correct, and much of the use of these other trails will be local short trips. Fine, as that means local families with small children have an easily available recreation corridor that doesn’t involve driving very far or at all. Now that’s energy efficiency. And it keeps young families that will grow these communities in the years to come.

    • James Falcsik says:

      Nice of you acknowledge the trails are primarily used by local people. But that is not what you sold the communities on Tony. ARTA stated without question the trail would be built for free and create millions of dollars in economic growth in the Remsen-Lake Placid rail corridor. You know local money is already accounted for in a communities economic spending, so all these local users generate net zero growth.

      The reference to young families and children is nice. But ARTA looks more about Hope’s real estate business, Scott’s lodge and restaurant, Jim’s grooming and vending machine business, Rich’s tandem bike rentals, etc. Economic redistribution. That was proven when Rail Explorers was essentially run out of Saranac Lake.

      • Hope says:

        It’s about all the businesses in the Adirondacks which is why it is supported by over 400 businesses throughout the tri-lake area. As well as others beyond the corridor. It’s about growing and sustaining our communities. It’s always been about both benefiting tourist as well as residents alike. It’s not a hard concept really. It just seems that it’s hard for you guys that don’t live and work here to understand apparently. It only matters, to you, that no railroad gets removed regardless about what the owner of that railroad wants to do with it or what the communities wish to try instead.

        • James Falcsik says:

          What matters most to me is you present your position with truth, not trying to fool people with talking points and economic impact statements that are not worth the paper they are printed on.

          Address the first point; you said the trail construction would be free. What was quoted here and in several forums; $11 million?

          How about your statement the corridor was owned “in fee” by NYS? Please explain how not all the property that has been publicly disclosed is not all owned by NYS, and I am told there will be many other parcels revealed at a later time.

          You keep claiming the trail will grow and sustain the communities based on an impact statement you (ARTA) paid for; it is full of errors and flat out lies to the public about economic growth. Nobody who reads it should believe a word of it. The RTC has a hand in it as well and Karl Knoch continues to mislead readers when he writes about the York, PA, trail and covers up the fact it is rail with trail. ADE had to print a correction in his last commentary after he was exposed.

          Your activism based on false pretense to take away a state-owned transportation asset, at great taxpayer expense, and the expense of other folks who do benefit from the current use is what I oppose. To do so in the name of the “community” is about as socialistic as it gets.

          I live in Pennsylvania; so what? When you use our trails as examples of your folly and claim they create something they don’t I have as much right to speak up about it as anyone else. West Newton, PA, is put on a pedestal as being revitalized by the trail; the real story is folks complain nobody riding the trail crosses the bridge into town to even buy a cup of coffee. I can’t post photos here but I took some on December 23rd on Main Street and there was not one shopper on the sidewalks–two days before Christmas. Empty storefronts line all the streets in a 30 year old trail town.

          • Todd Eastman says:

            James, yer making a fool out of yourself…

            … Hope’s points are valid and her motives are her business…

            … shall we surmise yours?

            • James Falcsik says:

              By all means Todd, go on, what are my motives?

              Hopes points are valid? Based on misleading the communities with the promise of a trail boom economy. I am not the fool.

          • Chip Ordway says:

            It’s both amazing and completely pathetic that Hope still insists on playing the “you’re out of town so your comment means nothing” card, when some of the loudest sledders and trail advocates are ALSO from out of town, including one or two of the actual ARTA board members. Didn’t Beamish move to Vermont?

            I was being berated by a Sled-head buddy of McCulley’s who lives and works in Richfield Springs. Funny, but I don’t hear Hope telling him to keep his opinions to himself….

            Come to think of it, I don’t hear Hope addressing ANYTHING that James F. just confronted her with.

          • Beth says:

            James Falcsik, the following is of great interest to me “How about your statement the corridor was owned “in fee” by NYS? Please explain how not all the property that has been publicly disclosed is not all owned by NYS, and I am told there will be many other parcels revealed at a later time” We own property that this RR Corridor crosses for app. a mile for a total of over 7 acres. Our deed references a “right of way for the New York State Railroad” It does not reference a right of way for any other purpose or entity.

            • James Falcsik says:

              What is the date of your deed?

                • James Falcsik says:

                  Beth I responded with a detailed comment including reference links, but the editor has not posted it. If he does not eventually allow it to be posted to this forum I will post it on the Friends of the Rails Facebook Page.

                  • Beth says:

                    Thank you.

                    • Larry Roth says:

                      If anyone approaches you about the easement, agree to nothing until you have your own lawyer look at it. Easements can be tricky, and people have lost out because they didn’t know their rights.

                    • James Falcsik says:

                      Beth; I posted the comment to the Friends of the Rails Facebook Page. You can find it there. I’ll try and contact you with additional info you may find helpful.

            • James Falcsik says:

              Beth; a right of way is a type of easement which allows another person or entity to use your land, although you still own the land. There are many types of easements and if you have not already hired an attorney who specializes in this, I would suggest you consider it.

              According to the NYDEC, they claim to have purchased the entire R-LP corridor from Penn Central in 1975 and executed eminent domain condemnation proceeding to “take” all property. That requires them to ‘perfect” all the affected deeds, which essentially means they would have needed to pay property owners with easements to take ownership of all the associated land.

              Complications may also exist as many properties affected by the RRRA Act of 1973 were “botched” where the abandonment proceedings by Penn Central and other bankrupt northeast railroads were not completed properly. There are examples of this. While there were several attempts by NYC and successor Penn Central to abandon the Lake Placid Branch, these applications may not have been approved by the ICC (the NYC application in 1963 was obviously not approved) and a decision or Notice of Abandonment for the line may not have been issued. In this case there are other ramifications for this corridor, including possible jurisdiction by the federal Surface Transportation Board. Reference this link:


              First, we know the NYDEC and ARTA was not truthful with the initial statement of complete ownership because NYS has admitted there are two properties they do not posses, one being a college and the other a historical society.

              I am told by others that are close to the railroad and have seen deeds like yours first hand, that many folks like you have yet to be heard. The reason to hire an attorney is he/she would be able to determine the type and status of your easement. If NYS proceeds with this shortsighted plan to remove the rails, they may owe you money, especially if reversionary rights are involved. Do your research well on this; there are prominent attorneys who specialize in this field and a few Google searches will reveal very successful firms.

              Here are a couple links on the subject you will find interesting:


      • Larry Roth Jr. says:

        James, a while back you did a detailed analysis I believe that found there was no evidence that a major trail had done anything to improve the local economy, create jobs, or raise real estate values. If you could dig that out again, that would be useful.

        • James Falcsik says:

          The trail advocates like to post big numbers without telling the whole story. The Burke-Gilman trail was one of the earliest rail trails in the country, dating to 1979. An analysis of the adjacent property values between 1979 and 2013 did reveal property values closest to the trail increased in value 334% over the 35 year period. Trail advocates celebrate this increase, and it is good. The rest of the story? Uphill properties (not adjacent to the trail) increased 1110% and properties 3-blocks uphill (even further from the trail) increased 759%.

          The biggest takeaway from this is not the numbers themselves, but understanding not all trails share in the promises of the best examples chosen to convince elected officials or the public to support the trail.

          Trail boosters like to add up all the speculative pluses of trail benefit, but they do not consider the minuses. No accounting for maintenance cost, increased cost of public safety requirements, and yes, crime on the trail, infrastructure investment (for parking, facilities, etc).

      • LeRoy Hogan says:

        Yes it was pretty bad with them kicking out rail explorers.

      • Chip Ordway says:

        James Falcsik said:

        “…But ARTA looks [to be] more about Hope’s real estate business, Scott’s lodge and restaurant, Jim’s grooming and vending machine business, Rich’s tandem bike rentals, etc. Economic redistribution. That was proven when Rail Explorers was essentially run out of Saranac Lake.”

        That right there is perhaps the best synopsis of the ARTA mission that has ever been stated.

        • Hope says:

          Not just my business but all businesses thank you very much. What should it be about? Please enlighten us all because if there is no business in the Adirondacks then there are no people living here, no schools, no communities, Is that your end game?

          • Larry Roth says:

            Hope – when did you become the spokesperson for all of the businesses in the region? How did they select you?

            I am curious because ARTA appears to claim they speak for everyone. Does that include Old Forge? Remsen? Utica?

            And what about those of us in the rest of the – the ones whose state tax money you want to build you a trail? And what about the visitors from New York State and the rest of the world?

            What about the people who are concerned that our long obsession with cars and highways is killing the planet? What about the aging drivers who want other ways to travel? What about the young who don’t want to be burdened with the costs of car ownership?

            Do they all agree with you that the rails must go so that you can have a trail? When was the vote?

  6. Tim says:

    Well, we see how well the rail freight business turned out from the old Tahawus mine. As for rail passengers, only a handful of people get off or on the Amtrak at the 4 Adirondack stops.

  7. Ron Hoffman says:

    While I appreciate your idealism, you are ignoring a couple of inconvenient truths:
    1) The ADK’s are so overprotected that tourism is the only “industry” that has a chance for growth.
    2) Scenic railroads are complete failures. The very few passengers they have are getting no exercise while the train is burning lots of fuel. Hardly an environmental win if your main concern is climate change.

    Also I am surprised that, as a person who spent his career working for the health dept, you are not recognizing the health benefits of the self powered exercise that will occur on the rail trails.

    Another thing that caught me by surprise was the statement that the ADK’s are already loaded with trails… as though primitive hiking trails and rail trails are equivalent.

    Lastly, as a life long cyclist I am highly confident that a rail trail that goes through scenery as beautiful as the ADK’s will draw rail trail enthusiasts from outside the area who seek multi-day rides. Rail trails are a safe way to enjoy the ADK’s by bicycle… as opposed to the state highways which are basically death traps for cyclists.

    The bottom line is that this resistance to such an obviously positive thing is precisely what is killing the communities of the ADK’s. Ever wonder why Vermont is doing so much better? They seem to embrace creating ways to expand the opportunities for tourists to enjoy the land rather than severely limit it.

    • Larry Roth Jr. says:

      Trust me Ron – I didn’t spend 40 years in the health department and remain unaware of the benefits of exercise. There’s plenty of opportunity for exercise in the Adirondacks. I should know – I’ve spent enough time hiking and canoeing there.

      Funny thing about those state highway death traps. There seem to be plenty of cyclists who use them and live to tell about it.

      And you know what? As I have to keep explaining I am NOT against building trails for you to ride your bike on, or telling you to take your bike elsewhere – I’m trying to get the message across that there is room for – and more important – a need for both.

      Apparently the only thing you took away from my commentary is that I don’t think ripping out the tracks so you can have a bike trail is a good thing, and the rest of it just went right past you.

      And so it goes.

  8. David P Lubic says:

    I’m just going to leave this here.

    This letter is from Ed Kanze, a strong supporter of trails with rails and a well-known naturalist and guide in the Adirondacks. It’s one that he requested be made public.

    He doesn’t sound like a stranger to the area. He sounds like someone knowledgeable.
    Dear Adirondack Park Agency,

    I urge the A.P.A. and D.E.C., both agencies created to protect the environment of the state of New York, to assure that the rail corridor between Utica and Lake Placid remains what it was created to be originally: a corridor for public transportation and freight movement via railroads.

    The scheme to restore rail travel to Tupper Lake, but destroy all possibility of it between Tupper and Lake Placid, is, in my view, madness. At a time when the climate grows warmer by the day, and when increasing numbers of young adults are choosing not to drive and to drive by public means instead, it is plainly wrongheaded and anti-environment to rip up the rails and replace them with an automobile-dependent tourist attraction, one that, if predictions of its popularity come anywhere near being realized, will require the building of vast parking lots to accommodate the cars that will come to park and bring riders to the so-called rail trail.

    As the CEO and sole employee of a one-man guiding business with clients mainly coming from The Point on Upper Saranac Lake, the Lake Placid Lodge, and the High Peaks Resort, I can tell you that a great many of my clients voice strong interest in restored passenger rail service. This is true of clients who come to me from eastern cities, and also others who come from Europe and Asia. We would see a lot more of these folks in our hotels and restaurants, and create the possibility of having more hotels, restaurants, related businesses, and jobs in our communities if we had the possiblity of rail travel here from Chicago and the west and from the big cities of the eastern seaboard.

    Yes, I’ve heard the tired, straw man arguments that rail travel is a relic of the past. Tell that to the Chinese, who are spending billions on improving their rail network, and to other countries around the world. Rail offers a whole new kind of travel. Those who advocate ripping up our Adirondack rails portray trains in the way they existed in the 1950s. A few years ago, when I last rode Amtrak downstate to Westchester County, the train was packed, and it was chockablock with people sipping good coffee and working on their tablets, smart phones, and laptops. The argument has been made that no one wants to sit on a train from NYC anymore and be stuck for hours, doing nothing. This is a false argument, a classic straw man erected up to be knocked down by the slick but hollow logic of rail trail creation. You don’t sit on a modern train and do nothing for six or eight hours. That might better describe what you’d do in a car, driving up here to park with thousands of other cars at a rail trail trailhead. On a modern train you work (I’m also a writer, and I can work without restriction on trains now that they’ve got WiFi) or play and relax and arrive refreshed.

    The failure of the 1980 rail restoration is often cited as an argument against bringing back rails today. This is another straw man. That misconceived effort was badly bungled, bringing slow-moving trains over a marginal railbed, with no large-scale infrastructure investment and very little marketing. Of course it failed! That was also 38 years ago! America was at the height of its infatuation with the automobile. Very few had any sense of the automobile’s role in overheating the earth’s climate. Cars were multiplying in driveways across the land, and young people were lining up to get driver’s licenses. But times have changed. Most of the rail trail advocates I know have, as I do, gray hair. They’re out of touch with just how much the coming generations of young people want to turn climate change around and inhabit a greener world.

    So let’s keep and restore the rails and bring back passenger trains, and welcome tourists from Europe, Asia, the eastern seaboard, the Midwest, and elsewhere to come here in green high-tech style. And let’s promote the railroad and offer tourists packages that combine rail tickets with nights in hotels such as the newly refurbished Hotel Saranac. Guides like me will eagerly join in the effort. And to make sure this railroad is viable, let’s not commit the monumental stupidity (I apologize for that word but don’t see a way around it) of cutting off the line at Tupper Lake, where at present relatively few tourists are bound, and prevent trains from reaching the high-demand tourist destinations of Lake Placid and Saranac Lake. We have thousands of miles of footpaths and rural roads for hiking and biking in the Adirondacks. We do not need another trail. We need public transportation! Those spoiling to create a first-rate bike trail need look no further than the old Delaware and Hudson line through the Bloomingdale Bog. This is a rail trail already. How many cyclists use it? But it could be improved and promoted, and cyclists and walkers could travel along it from Saranac Lake to Bloomingdale to Onchiota and beyond. It passes through prime habitat for moose, gray jays, boreal chickadees, yellow-bellied flycatchers, and spruce grouse. If the Adirondacks need a world class rail trail, let that be the one! Leave the Utica to Lake Placid rail corridor alone. It offers the Adirondack region a greener future, not a trail that will destroy our last best hope for public transportation to reach the Adirondacks’ most popular tourist destinations.

    Please, make a decision that we can all be proud of.

    With thanks for your efforts,

    Ed Kanze
    Seventh generation Adirondacker, writer, naturalist, videographer, and licensed NYS Guide

    • Boreas says:


      Although eloquent and cogent, the same letter posted multiple times will not make it more than it is – one man’s letter to the State stating his opinion.

  9. Boreas says:

    “The primary driver of the rail trail movement is as a cheap way to put in a trail – cheap only IF you place no value on rails.”

    I don’t believe any rail-trail conversion advocates “place no value on rails”. That is painting these people with a really wide brush. Rails are extremely valuable, but not everywhere rails exist, as you assert. The simple fact is that in many cases, communities are better served by roads. Railways are only more efficient if they are actually used heavily. Otherwise they are land tied up for a single use. Since the introduction of rails, I believe the steady march of time and civilization has demonstrated where rail is essential and where it is not. Simple evolution of the technology.

    In addition to freight and public/personal transportation, roads can be used by tourists, pedestrians, cyclists, emergency vehicles, small-business access, etc., etc.. Roads are simply more useful in many situations in the US. Rails become more valuable in corridors with high populations and manufacturing or resource extraction areas because of their efficiency and safety. But as these important transportation needs dwindle in areas of decreasing population and minimal shipping requirements, the efficiency of rail becomes offset by its expense to maintain and its environmental impacts. The less they are used, the more the offset.

    Many short-line rail spurs have been “ripped up” and salvaged over the last century – most of which were NOT replaced with trails but just left to re-naturalize. Why? Because they no longer served their purpose and salvage steel was considered more valuable in times of both war and peace than minimal rail usage. Just about any drive you take in upstate NY can reveal signs of abandoned railways in the forest beside the road. Recreation and the environment were not even part of the equation when they were reclaimed. When one adds these considerations to the equation – especially within the Forest Preserve – minimally used rails are only going to become more scrutinized in the future. Speculation on the potential rosy future of these rail lines with no recent history to support it is simply that – speculation.

    With regard to climate change, worldwide coastal flooding, massive environmental changes, possible famine, and worldwide political instability are probably going to take much attention away from the road vs. rail argument, let alone the 34 mile stretch of railway many of us in this area are focused upon.

    • Larry Roth Jr. says:

      Boreas –

      Your last paragraph is a good description of exactly what is happening now – and why we have to act now to keep it from getting worse.

      Your dismissal of rail as part of the solution is part and parcel of why nothing is getting done – because all you are looking at is where you are and what you want. Your trail is not part of the solution – and your casual acceptance of the status quo is the problem.

    • Larry Roth Jr. says:

      Boreas, your last paragraph illuminates the problem, but I don’t think you fully grasp what you are saying.

      What you describe is happening now – and it’s going to get worse. It will be be getting harder to do what we need to do to address climate change because we’ll be too busy trying to survive the consequences.

      The rail trail will do nothing to help, and your dismissal of rail as part of the solution is an example of the tunnel vision that is the real problem. You are only looking at where you are now and what you want now – and that’s how we got in this situation.

      • Larry Roth Jr. says:

        Oops – I have a really bad internet connection here, so my apologies if seem to be double-posting. I can’t tell if my comments are getting through.

        That darned infrastructure stuff….

    • David P Lubic says:

      I think you have some errors in your thinking.

      A big question to ask is whether the severe loss in rail mileage was “natural.” I argue it wasn’t. Why should it have been, considering the efficiency rail has? We’re talking uge capacity, simple, even elegant passive self steering, reliable and simple route switching, much greater overall safety, and rolling efficiency that approaches that of “frictionless” maglev. So why did it go away?

      The reason is the inefficiencies of the competition, in particular roads, were and still are hidden with subsidies. The motorist has never paid the full cost of driving, nor has the trucker.

      Your gas taxes and tolls, the counterpart of railroad tickets, only pay about 60% or so of the cost of the road system. That currently amounts to about 53 cents per gallon, based on cash flow, which doesn’t include depreciation or deferred maintenance, much less externalities like oil wars. And on top of that, the road system doesn’t even pay property taxes, something a private railroad has to do (in fact, the road system removes its acreage from the tax rolls).

      That’s a huge advantage, and it points out that the game is rigged against railroads. That they have survived at all in spite of that is proof of their actual technological efficiency.

      You also have a misperception of rail application, saying it’s only good if you have an anthill to serve. What you’re describing is simply how well a railroad can scale up. What you don’t see is that a railroad can live, if not prosper, on lighter traffic levels.

      I’ve known about some shortline roads that managed to survive on as little as three trains per week. Now they weren’t really profitable at that level, and they couldn’t afford to maintain things properly (and the track in particular showed it), but they did make enough to meet the payroll and pay running costs and those property taxes. They certainly couldn’t do that indefinitely, but in at least one case, a new management that aggressively sought business far more than the old one turned things around, and that three-day a week railroad now runs as often as eight times PER DAY. I should know, it runs only about two blocks from my house, and I remember the horrid track it used to have.

      It’s a completely different railroad today.

      And they are going to get a nice plum here. We have a plant from the firm Proctor & Gamble that’s opening up. It’s a huge affair, and it’s being located on this railroad. In fact, I understand a lot of track material has been delivered there, enough to build a decent sized railroad yard and plenty of spurs to get cars into the plant. It’s a big job gainer here–and the odds are good it may not have come if not for the availability of rail service.

      Now I know you have some people who claim to be environmentalists, and they wouldn’t want any such plant in the Adirondacks, but I also consider them extremely shortsighted. They are still stuck on the idea that everybody wants to drive. As Mr. Kanze noted, that’s no longer the case. It’s not the days of “See the USA in your Chevrolet,” nor of “American Graffiti,” nor “Highway Patrol.”

      There is a passage in the Bible about how “That which was old is new again.” That is beginning to apply even in the country of the auto and the oil industry.

      Sometimes the way forward is backward!!

  10. Alex Duschere says:

    I agree with the author in his clear and precise reasons why the rails,corridors, but rail activities should not only remain but be refurbished and used as they were intended. I see no reason for hikers and cyclists can’t be satisfied with the network of existing trails.You can not utilize all the trails and abandon them with reasoning that they are “old news.” How many times will a person utilize a rail corridor prior to feeling the same way. Leave the rails and corridors alone. How many roads and highways through the forests will be needed to transport goods to their destination in the future.

  11. Hope says:

    “Trying to live solely on tourism is like trying to live solely on junk food.” You do realize, Larry, that other than government employment, tourism is the Adirondacks main industry. Manufacturing is long gone most likely to never return. So, excuse us while we make the best of our junk food diet. Most of us don’t live here because of the access to mass transportation and factory employment. We can do that anywhere. Trying to make us into anytown, USA will not serve our communities well. Let’s just give the 34 miles of Trail a try. If it doesn’t work you can put the tracks back. It’s been done before. What are you afraid of? The train group has had 20 years of access to the rails and not much to show for it in spite of community support. It’s time for something new. Your afraid that the trail will be so popular that the tracks will never go back and that the rest of it to Old a Forge will be next. I’m willing to see how it goes for the next 5 years. Don’t worry the corridor will be available for a train as well with the new ASLMP definition of Rail Corridors.

  12. Ed Sherman says:

    Rails & trails ! Let’s share ! They are both important for the economy !

  13. Joe Hansen says:

    Hope, once again I commend you on your well thought out comments. A trail would be well used by many as opposed to a pipe dream by some nostalgic old men. There is not the density of population for a passenger rail and not the industry for freight trains. A tourist train is a costly novelty that few would desire or could afford to use frequently. I am not “hating” on anyone but this how I see it.

    • David P Lubic says:

      Except not all of us are old guys. There are young guys, too.

      And believe me, some of the track work is NOT for old men!

      If you buy that line, explain how the Strasburg Rail Road (and some others), with its century old coal burning steam engines and wooden passenger cars, is still in business. The people who were the nostalgia hounds for that disappeared for the next world years ago, yet the road does quite well with a younger crowd.

  14. Garet B Church says:

    A wonderful, provocative and sane article. It makes me rethink the rails to trails debate entirely. Thank you so much.

  15. Larry Roth says:

    Hope, Tony, at the risk of telling you more things you are apparently not willing to hear or acknowledge, let me make a few points.

    1) I am not concerned with keeping the rail line to the exclusion of everything else. In case you haven’t noticed, I support building your trails – despite the expense – while keeping the rails, because I and others think the investment is worth it. We also think it’s better for the long term future of the region. You are the ones demanding your way and nothing else. Period.

    2) You talk about the railroad having failed despite 20 years of effort. You ignore that in that time the railroad has gone from a handful of miles to being able to move equipment over the whole line. The only thing that has stopped complete restoration of passenger service is the failure of the state to deliver on its end of the deal, as was planned going all the way back to 1996. The ASR has been able to build ridership into the tens of thousands every year, and it keeps growing. And that’s what really worries you – that it is so close to success. You fail to mention the constraints holding the ASR back – 30 day operating permits, no long term leases, only seasonal operation, no freight. Let’s have some real promotion. If the governor can find millions to turn an abandoned tourist trap into another Adirondack Gateway, surely he can find money to promote the gateways of the Utica and Saratoga Springs Stations – and do more for Amtrak while he’s at it.

    3) If you want to talk about failure, let’s talk about the decades the state has spent building hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails, the millions that has cost, and the billions the state has spent on highway projects over that same time. And yet Adirondack counties continue to shed jobs and people. So, more of the same is the answer?

    4) You say there’s no demand or room for freight in the Tri-Lakes or factories? There’s no freight because the Tri-Lakes are not currently connected to the national rail net, and the state won’t allow freight operations in any case. That doesn’t mean there isn’t need or room. If I recall correctly, you currently have an existing industrial complex sitting idle in Tupper Lake, plenty of land around it that was once heavily commercial/industrial – and it’s right next to where the rail corridor is. In fact, there’s a stub end of track that used to run right to it. It wouldn’t be all that hard to make it into a freight transfer location, which is hardly heavy industry. How much extra does your construction business have to mark everything up because of the cost of bringing everything in by truck? What of the other businesses in the area that get everything by truck? What would it mean for the future of Tupper Lake to have those jobs and those lower costs?

    5) You say there are no traffic problems in the Tri-Lakes – but you won’t ride your bike on the roads because of the non-existent traffic? Why then did Lake Placid get into a fight with the Adirondack Museum over land the town wanted for more parking? What happens on Fourth of July weekends and Labor Day weekends? What happens when there’s a big sporting event or show in Lake Placid? And how come there’s never enough parking at the trail heads?

    6) You really didn’t pay too much attention to my points on aging in America. You plan to grow the community with retirees – who will be on fixed incomes and will put increasing demands on community services as they continue to age. You have no ‘mass’ transit and limited transportation services as it is. You really expect them to want to keep driving as they get older – especially in the conditions winter can bring? Better start thinking about more senior housing, and homecare providers. Those are the kinds of jobs you’ll be creating – if your kids are still around to take them, and if those seniors don’t finally decide to move to Florida. How many of them are going to be riding bikes into their 70’s and 80’s – and how many miles are they going to put in? Do they really need 34 miles of trail?

    7) Your fall back plan seems to be to cater to people who will move to the area because they don’t need to make a living there – they have the money to live any where they choose. That’s one way to grow the economy – but maybe not the community. Why are they going to have any concerns about anything other than their own needs? They don’t need to worry about jobs, they don’t need to support development, they can send their kids off to private schools, and they don’t want to pay taxes to support community needs that don’t benefit them. That tension has been stressing the area for decades.

    8) Tony – thank you for acknowledging how long I’ve been concerned about the future of the region. (Point #2 up there is partly in response to you.) My understanding is you’ve been involved even longer – in trying to get rid of the rails and any other development you believe conflicts with your idea of wilderness. I find it interesting that neither you nor Hope chose to address the climate change aspects of my commentary, despite the importance of that for the region – and the world. Your dismissal of freight loads coming in or out of the Adirondacks by rail ignores the need to make shifts in our transportation policies – and ignores what could be done now and in the future.

    9) I’m not disparaging tourism – I’m trying to tell you that you need to make it more diverse, and you also need more than just tourism to have a robust economy. (And for some reason, you guys never even admit the existence of the Rail Explorers and the thousands of riders they drew.) There is not an infinite supply of cyclists or snowmobilers waiting to fill every mile of new trail – and you’re trying to compete with every other mile of trail within hundreds of miles. (It’s the same fallacy that building a casino is an automatic gold mine, just like building a giant mall or a convention center.) As I point out, leverage what you have that no one else can match.

    10) Hope – you keep saying all you want is a safe place for you and your friends to spend time with their grandkids on a nice safe rail trail. (The grandkids that are just visiting because their parents no longer live in the area. No services, no jobs, etc. etc.) Let me tell you how I spent yesterday.

    I rode what might be the last passenger train – unless sanity breaks out on all sides – out of Saratoga Springs up the North Creek branch yesterday. There was a dome car and a regular coach with lounge seating – facing seats with a small table between. The train was nearly full – and some of the passengers didn’t even know it might be their only chance to ride it.

    I saw a little girl all lit up and grinning; she was both nervous and excited because this was her first time ever riding a train. Her introduction to the Adirondacks by rail is going to be a lifetime memory.

    I saw people of all ages, from infants to seniors. They didn’t need to be able to climb on a bicycle or have a truck to haul their snowmobiles around on. All they needed was a ticket to have a quality, relaxing experience, and enjoy the scenery.

    I sat with a mother and daughter who were taking a chance to spend some quality time together. They told me how when they lived in Ohio, the scenic railroad in the Cuyahoga Valley was always packed.

    I sat across the aisle from a young couple who had come up from New York City. They can ride trains any time they want – but they came up to Saratoga Springs just to ride a short trip up to Thurman and back.

    I ran into a woman who was riding the train with her adult children – she’d come in from Idaho on a visit, and this was one of the ways they were choosing to spend time together.

    There was food service of snacks and drinks. Despite the chill and snow outside, it was comfortable inside – and the views were great. And there was one other thing – rest rooms. I couldn’t help but think what quality time would be like on a rail trail when the grandkids suddenly need a toilet – and the trail is running past people’s backyards at that point, miles from the car or a trailhead portapotty…

    I talked with some of the people working the train. They enjoy what they’re doing – and now it’s up in the air. I talked with a third generation railroader – one of his grandfathers worked at North Creek, the other at Tahawus. I wonder, Tony, how he’d react to your claim that “Rusting rails and rotting ties are not history!”

    The last time I rode the Adirondack Scenic Railroad out of Utica in the summer, it was a similar crowd – people of all ages having a good time. I saw a whole group of seniors out for a trip – and buses waiting for them at Thendara to take them around. I saw a young boy who was excited by being able to open a window and look right out at the scenery. The trip back was no problem, despite an afternoon thunderstorm – trains are an all-weather way to travel.

    While I was waiting at Utica to board the train north that morning, I watched several long CSX freights moving goods across the state. Amtrak was scheduled through later. On my way to the station from the parking lot when I first arrived, I walked through a large farmer’s market that was just setting up for the day at the station.

    You would exclude all of this, all of these people and their desires, all of these possibilities. You’d write off all of this kind of tourism and economic opportunity. The only reason we can’t have this and your trails too isn’t because it’s impossible or too expensive. It’s because you are unwilling to look beyond your own interests and beliefs to a wider world. But, there seems to be a lot of that going around.

    We can do better. We must do better.

  16. Jan Hansen says:

    It is time for folks advocating refurbishing old tracks to take off their engineer hats and face reality.
    Where are the businesses and population that would support the trains? Rail trails are successful. It is time to build them.

    • James Falcsik says:

      Nice condescending statement about rail supporters. No population to support the railroad operation? Where is your population for the trail? Rail trails are successful at what?

  17. Larry Roth Jr. says:

    It depends on what you mean by success.

    Rail trails are successful in the same way that roads are – completely supported by taxpayers.

  18. Ron Hoffman says:

    To whomever had the really long comment that included calling out investments in Snowmobile Trails as a waste you’re poorly informed about snowmobiling.

    First off, snowmobile trails are funded by registration funds. I fact the state has tried to steal that fund in the past. The volunteer run clubs have dramatically improved the trails in NY, keeping riders in the state and bringing in many from PA and OH.

    If you’re wondering why the benefits haven’t reached the ADK communities, my guess is that the APA can be thanked for that. If there were legit trails crisscrossing the ADK’s that didn’t involve lakes they would definitely get ridden. I assure that the clubs would be happy to build and maintain them!

  19. Todd Eastman says:

    Larry, it is clear you never worked in sales?

  20. Ben says:

    It’s all about money & what tax payers should pay for. The rail folks don’t want tax payers to spend a dime on building a trail; yet they want that same tax payer to keep funding then to survive. Iowa Pacific couldn’t survive running a train from Saratoga to North Creek and their freight runs out of Tahawus Mine never came to be. Now Iow Pacific wants Warren County to pay them 5 million. For What!
    And now onto the ASR, a worse run, worse fund rail line on the other side of the Adirondacks. They’ve had 30 years of tax payer funding to try & make something work & they’ve failed. The last tax records available for public viewing showed, 100K owed to the Polar Express Folks for use of their name; 40k in other outstanding debits & only 56K in assets. You mean if almost 30 years of running the best you can do is 56K. How many millions in tax dollars has NY shoved into your survival? How about this: Fund yourself 100%. Fix/maintain the rail line on your own! The state tells you what the requirements are for maintaining/sustaining the rail corridor & YOU FUND IT YOURSELF! NO more tax dollars! If you don’t want tax dollars used in a trail, I don’t want tax dollars used to keep you afloat!

    • Scott D says:

      +1. This really is the crux of it for me. Why keep throwing good money after bad? In reality, the best thing for taxpayers (the vast majority of which have no interest in either side) and the environment for that matter would be to cut off all funding right now and do nothing.

  21. Tony Goodwin says:

    Responding to Larry Roth’s long reply to my earlier post.

    1) I am still mystified how rail supporters can read the same words I read in the 1996 UMP and come to the conclusion that the State was obligated to restore the entire rail line: “Rail development will largely depend on PRIVATELY SECURED FUNDING SOURCES because, although there are potential public sources, government funding can not be guaranteed.” (Page xvii) What part of the capitalized words don’t you understand?

    2) The UMP also recommended a long-term lease for the chosen operator. Ray Hessinger, the DOT’s representative for the UMP amendment process, stated at an APA meeting that ARPS had indeed been offered a long-term lease, but the two sides were not able to agree on the terms – hence the 30-day permit situation. If ARPS did not like what was offered, it was under no obligation to continue to operate. In fact, they could have continued to operate on the private track between Utica and Remsen where most of their business currently is. Instead, ARPS voluntarily chose to continue operating under a less than satisfactory agreement and then complain about that arrangement for the past 20 years.

    3) In earlier posts I have explained the math that makes a train with a 120-ton engine pulling 30-ton cars (even with it’s 4:1 efficiency) needs to carry about 200 passengers to do better than a 20-ton bus carrying 50 passengers. Amtrak only claims about 70 passenger miles per gallon, and you get better than that with two people in a Prius. Additionally, sending freight to Tupper Lake via Utica would add enough circuity into most shipments to negate any energy savings. No, a railroad through the Adirondacks is not a solution to climate change.

    4) I’m glad that you enjoyed the last run of the Saratoga North Creek, and that it was a full train. Earlier runs had only a handful of passengers. In the days before Amtrak, there were many “last runs” of traditional passenger trains, and most were also full – just that no one had ridden the day before, or the day before, or….

    • Larry Roth Jr. says:

      Tony – let me respond to your response.

      1) No mystery about it – there would be rail service to Tupper Lake today if not for 911 and the money that had been budgeted for track work getting redirected. As it is, you might have noted I was talking about everything but rail getting subsidized – it’s time to change that. We have the rail system we have because of the way government sets priorities. What part of the 21st century do you not understand?

      2) I don’t speak for the ARPS, but I’m guessing the terms the state would agree to were not acceptable and without knowing what they were, it’s ridiculous to complain the ARPS should have just given up when their mission is to restore the entire corridor – which they have still largely managed to do. You’ve spent the last 20 years or more complaining they should just go away completely, if I recall correctly.

      3) Yes, you do have math in your earlier posts, and I believe it has been debunked before – but let us address a couple of points you ignore. You pay no attention to the new technologies that have made trains more efficient and are lowering green house gas emissions – to zero in several cases. You also dismiss a little too easily how much more efficient railroads are at moving freight – and don’t have any math to back it up. Yes, I know the state currently will not allow freight operations on the line – it’s a matter of setting priorities. It’s time to rethink them. You really have sending freight up to Tupper from Utica as too circuitous? Are you talking about trucks coming off the Northway, through Keene Valley, Placid, and Saranac as being more direct, so better? Interesting that you have no problems filling the tri-lakes highways with trucks – or what that means for Climate.

      4) On that last run – you’re still stuck in the days before Amtrak, the age of Richard Nixon. People are looking forward to first runs again – look at Brightline in Florida. Look at calls to start seasonal Amtrak service to the Berkshires via Albany. Look at calls to restore Amtrak service along the Gulf Coast. Look at the Borders Railway in Scotland. You know, there have been many rail trails that have launched with big crowds and a lot of excitement – and then the crowds dwindle away, and the expected tourist money never quite matches the estimates, and there’s no alternative except to get in your car and drive away, dodging the trucks on the highway that’s all you’ve got left for real transportation…

      Tony – your arguments all boil down to “No trains. Never again. Not here.”

  22. J Penrod says:

    Excellent article and spot on insights. This country will be in dire straits if we forego our rail systems,,,,,they need to be increased, not decreased!

  23. Curt Austin says:

    I was talking with my father a few years ago about his home town – Hamilton, NY, 30 miles south of Rome and Utica. He happened to mention that someone lived near the train station. “Train station?”, I asked, “There was a railroad through Hamilton?” He said of course it had a station. Any self-respecting small town had one. It was the only way you could travel very far.

    Automobiles were becoming common as my father grew up, but not everyone had one, they weren’t very good, and the roads were poor – not even plowed in the winter. Cars and roads got better, but he told me it was bus service that put rail passenger service out of business in Hamilton in the early 1930s. Trucking ended freight service in the late 1930s. Virtually all corridors like Hamilton’s met this fate around this time. In the 1950s in the Adirondacks with a few exceptions that no longer exist.

    If railroad service were restored to Hamilton today, would it fare any better? Of course not – nothing has changed in its favor. I know it’s possible to quibble about that assertion, like efforts to reduce carbon emissions, but it’s easy to quibble with those quibbles (count the passengers on an Adirondack Trailways bus).

    That’s the baseline and the trend, with recent experience to back it up. Trail advocates are not trying to kill off a viable transportation system. Like folks in Hamilton, they accept reality.

    • Larry Roth says:

      The reality is that railroads have a viability problem only because everything that competes with them is subsidized. How far would bus service have gotten if they had to build and maintain the roads they use? Ditto for trucks? We support them with taxes and user fees – so why should railroads be the exception? The rest of the world gets it.

  24. Ron Hoffman says:

    As I understand it the trail will start with a 35 mile section from Lake Placid to Tupper Lake. As a long time cyclist who has done mountain biking, road riding, and tried to raise a child to become a cyclist, here’s how I see the usage playing out:

    1) Most of the trail usage will be within 5 miles of easy access points (towns and campgrounds) because runners and even most casual cyclists won’t venture much further than that. This number of users alone will vastly outnumber the people currently paying to ride the train.

    2) Someone will start a shuttle operation and make out nicely. A decent number of riders will seize the opportunity to ride the 35 miles casually in one day with a stop somewhere for lunch (packed or trail side cafe). Then get a ride home in a van. This opportunity will definitely draw people into the area who would otherwise not be there.

    3) A smaller portion of riders will look at 35 miles of flat riding through the ADK’s and do an out and back that involves an overnight at the opposite end. These are the folks you want to cater to as they will be spending significant money at both ends of the trail.

    4) When the trail is extended to Old Forge (and dare I say Utica?) that’s when you’ll be shocked at how the small percentage of riders across the world looking to do multi-day bike packing trips adds up to a significant economic impact. Trust me, there are 1000’s of people out there who will travel a long way to take advantage of an opportunity like that. Bike packing is on the rise and bike manufacturers are making more and more bikes specifically suited to this type of riding adventure.

    5) Motivated communities along the trail will build beginner friendly trail systems to draw people off the trail and encourage them to spend a day in their town. Riders will appreciate the change of pace from the rail-grade surface. If a side trail goes to a lake, waterfall, or beautiful mountain view – all the better.

    The more I think about it as I type this comment the more excited I get about the possibilities for this trail. Done right it has so much potential.

    • chris says:

      Interesting analysis, but as they say, “In god we trust; all others bring data.”

      Are there any comparables in terms of rail trails getting the usage you expect? It is tough to think of a comparable rail-trail anywhere else. Aren’t most of them along rivers or canals rather than through the woods in the middle of a big state park?

      What is the usage on the other rail-trails in terms of who, from where and for how long?

      The one thing I suspect about other rail trails, in general, is that they have more story (historical events tour), more breathtaking scenery (canal paths or big-open park vistas) and less “competing” trails (as the ADK’s are so full of outdoor activities already.

      I’m not nay-saying the idea that bikers will use it, it just seems hard to see the it would bring in a lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t come to the park already.

      • Ron Hoffman says:

        Weill, I can say that if the trail existed I would have ridden it at least once and thus spent time in Tupper Lake. As it is now, I haven’t even driven through Tupper Lake in at least 20 years.

        Being active in bike communities in both the Albany and Binghamton areas, I am 100% certain that people will go ride it once it is built.

        A key point though is the 35 mile length… if it were only 10 miles then I’d say that only people who were already planning to go anyway would be using it. Because it is that long and Lake Placid is at one end of the trail it becomes something worth going out of your way to do.

        I’d also point out that the goal for all rail trails is to be unique compared to other trails. Hence my suggestion to build beginner friendly (a.k.a. modern singletrack) to beautiful spots along the way. I also think the environment would survive if trees were cut down in a few strategic spots to improve the scenery (but you’d have to get that past those who are over-protecting the ADK’s). Note I am not advocating clear cutting a mountain here, just taking down a thin set of trees to open up a viewing spot.

        • chris says:

          No data; just your opinion. Got it.

          • Hope says:

            There will be no data on a rail trail in the ADKs until it is built. That’s exactly what NYS plans to do. There is plenty of data on other rail trails across the nation that you can research and 3 separate studies already done on this corridor you can also review. The fact that you keep asking for data and then poopoo it because it doesn’t fit your narrative just indicates your bias. FYI, just to confirm my bias, I choose the trail over train given the choice. NYS has presented the 34 miles between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid as the section to which this trail will be built. I hope it is widely successful and leads to conversion of the rest of the corridor south. If it fails I will have no objection to the rails going back in.

            • James Falcsik says:

              Hope, these are studies that have been commissioned and paid for largely by the trail advocacy and for the subject rail corridor, your founder, Lee Keet, had a hand in paying for all three you reference. This is a fact you cannot escape. These are not studies that seek the truth about economic impact, rather, the purpose is to support your position to destroy the railroad asset.

              • Boreas says:


                As Hope said, hard facts can not be obtained on this trail until it is a trail and we have some hard data. It could be a success, it could be a disaster. We do have hard data on the last 50 years of rail usage on several lines in the area. This is why a trail is now being planned for the 34 mile section.

                • James Falcsik says:

                  Boreas; I clearly understand there are no “hard facts” for this trail. The only hard economic facts available for the Remsen-Lake Placid rail corridor are those produced by ASR, at more than 1 million riders in the last 20 years, and Rail Explorers data, including all the addresses and zip codes of their paying customers in their short ADK experience.

                  Does it matter to you whether or not these “studies” or estimates are based in reasonable, proven metrics, with economic rules applied that serve to provide readers, the public, and elected officials with something understood as fair and respectable with accurate data? Would you prefer to accept estimates that serve to promote something that tosses the rules aside and tweaks the outcome to further the cause? I don’t suggest this with a cavalier attitude or without reason to suspect a problem.

                  Chris is asking for data and indeed there are specific studies available to read for this trail proposal. There are several important facts to consider about those studies Hope provides reference to. This is not my opinion; if you are interested you can research this on your own.

                  In the ARTA/RTC study link Chris posted, on page 54 (pdf page 56) is a chart of comparison trails; the Virginia Creeper Trail is noted as having 33% of users being overnight visitors. The actual data produced for the VCT identified only 9% overnight visitors, and went further to state the primary purpose overnight visitor was only 4%, which actually worked out to less than 6000 visitors. Need a link? Look on page 68 (pdf pg.74) and find their posted number is 5,725 “total visitation and person trips” for PPOV. The ARTA/RTC study misquotes this metric by 27%.

                  Why is this so important? ARTA has repeatedly compared the Adirondack rail trail proposal to the VCT for visitor and economic expectation. ARTA’s Dick Beamish visited the VCT and wrote about his experiences in two guest commentaries 13 months apart; one in the ADE and the other in the ATU. In both opinion pieces he stated clearly the VCT produced 100,000 overnight visitors. Again, 100,000 vs. 5,725 actually reported. The ADE printed a retraction and correction once DIck was pressed for his data source because all he could say was his numbers were “erroneous”.

                  The other item to consider is of the four studies Hope mentioned, three reference data commissioned by Lee Keet. The ADK Action study was originally started by Barton and Logiduce but was suspended; ADK Action paid to continue the study but contracted Camoin to complete the work. Lee Keet was the boss at ADK Action when this work was resumed. Here are the 2011 results:

                  “In summary, extension of rail service to Tupper Lake is projected to produce $758,000 in net new annual regional spending and 13 jobs, plus a one-time employment boost of 171 job years during the construction phase. Similarly, the conversion of the corridor to a recreational trail is projected to create $1.2 million in net new annual spending and 20 permanent jobs, with a one-time employment boost of 300 job years.”

                  The ARTA/RTC study was commissioned and produced in July 2012 and ARTA paid $25K to have this work completed. (Source: IRS Form 990 ARTA 2012, Page 2, Line 4a.) This summary produced a little more than a year later projected $19.8 million in economic impact. From $1.2 million to $19.8 million?

                  The study produced for Empire State Development, again by Camoin, was the study most reference by the DEC for Alternate 7. This Camoin work used data from their own previous ADK Action study, the ARTA/RTC study, and the Stone study. The DEC refused data provided by ASR and Rail Explorers.

                  Again, economic impact studies are most often designed around the parameters provided by the paying customer. They are produced to support or fortify a political position or agenda. It is my opinion from the facts above Lee Keet/ARTA paid for a second economic impact study (the 2012 RTC study) that included errors and produced a more favorable outcome for the rail trail proposal.

            • chris says:


              “Data” can be studies, comparables and estimates with numbers. “Opinion” is ‘I would, so trust me that (vague generality) others would.’

              Chip refences an ARTA financial estimate that is then converted to a number of daily visitors. Both are estimates, but at least they have calculations we can talk about to assess better rather than just throwing individual opinions around.

              I’d love to see a great riding trail. I’m not really sure I’d like to see it replace the train. But until I see numbers between the two that I can compare, I can’t make up my mind. So I’m asking for some numbers to help me decide.

              • Hope says:

                There are studies available by The National Rail to Trail Conservancy(ARTA) Camoin Associates (NYS and ADK Action) and Stone Consulting (ARRPS) all available for review at

                • Larry Roth says:

                  Here’s a study you will NOT find on the ARTA website

                  “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 from a pro-rail group. This is from the Rails To Trails Conservancy!!! This has been available at their website since 2013. ARTA has no excuse for ignoring it. You can see why they would want to though. They don’t want anyone to know:

                  “Rails-with-trails are valuable assets in providing safe transportation networks for pedestrians and bicyclists. This report examines the characteristics of 88 existing rails-with-trails in 33 states, based on a survey of trail managers and the results of RTC’s ongoing study. It provides a collection of data, examples and practical tools to assist trail planners and advocates in increasing awareness of the rail-with-trail concept, and advancing local and state policies and practices that support rail-with-trail development.”

                  You want numbers, data, examples? Here you go:


                  The report is a pdf file at:

            • Keith Gorgas says:

              Factually, Hope, we have a rail trail in the Adks, a beautiful one that extends from Saranac Lake to the Canadian border. A few bars along the way profit from the snowmobilers who use it, but as beautiful as it is, and I’ve been over the entire trail quite a few times, it receives little use and contributes little to the economy.

            • Larry Roth says:

              Hope, if you want to agree to put the rails back if the trails don’t work, here’s how we could do it.
              1) set firm targets for users – how many, where they are from (visitor/local). Meet those numbers or fail.
              2) set up ways to document all of the above in ways that can be independently audited and verified. If you can’t, it’s a fail.
              3) set up ways to track the direct and indirect revenue from the trail, and measure it against costs of maintaining the trail. Determine what ratio should be considered a success – and how you get revenue directed to upkeep. Again, audit, etc.
              4) post a bond or set up an escrow account holding sufficient funds to restore the rails if you can’t meet any or all of the above tests. Set a firm deadline.

              These are the kind of tests you insist the rails must meet. Can you do the same?

              I’m willing to compromise. How about the state pays to finish restoring the rails and builds trails around them, and we do a real comparison – including letting the railroad do all the things it could do? Recreation, transportation, sustainable development and all that? See how rails and trails do together first before throwing either out. If you want the area to thrive, how about making a real investment in it?

              • chris says:

                Larry, those figures, estimates and assumptions should be at the heart of the initial discussion discussion. All I see is a made up “business plan” that doesn’t seem remotely plausible. But there are no breakdowns to discuss it. 244 thousand new visitors as a “medium” planning number seems totally unmerited and without knowing how it is arrived at, it has to be dismissed out of hand.

                I’m looking for valid numbers so I CAN support it. But the ARTA does not let me do that.

                • Larry Roth says:

                  That’s always the problem. All they have are estimates until there’s an actual trail, and by then it’s too late if you’re wrong.

                  You can get any kind of numbers you want, based on what your starting assumptions are.

                  If I recall correctly, the final Environmental Impact Statement for the trail admitted the economic projections alone did NOT justify the trail – they threw in some “quality of life” benefits to fudge the difference.

                  No one in ARTA will mention that. Their main goal is to get rid of the rails. The trail is the excuse. It’s why they refuse to consider Rail with trail.

      • James Falcsik says:

        Chris, you are on the mark when asking about visitors that would come to the AP anyway..somewhere between 8 and 10 million by published reports. That is a lot of visitors that cannot be counted. Their economic contribution is already attributed to the regions economy. For a statewide asset like the railroad corridor, only out of state users should be counted in the economic studies; at least that is what NYS DOT stated (although we know that is false).

        The Erie Canal Trail posts just 2.5% primary purpose overnight visitors. Most users live within 5 miles of the trail. The average user is on the trail less than an hour a week with one visit being most common.

        Virginia Creeper Trail posts 4% PPOV; extant since 1984. Large area of state parks and the junction of seven major trail systems in Damascus VA. Average income and property values well below VA averages.

        Great Allegheny Passage; extant since 1990 and some sections opened as early as 1987. Population losses in most trail towns in double digits. West Newton, PA, town raised taxes on residents in January by 20%. High percentage of empty store fronts in town No region wide personal income data, just gross sales of nearby businesses used to estimate economic impact, and this includes local users, which actually contribute net zero to economic growth. 85.5% of users begin and end their trip at the same trail head.

        Burke-Gilman Trail in Washington State, extant since 1979. 35 year study of property values (1979 to 2013) indicate properties further away from the trail appreciated in value nearly three times more than those immediately adjacent to the trail.

        Broad demographic data provided by Citi-Data is one source that can be useful for straight-up raw info on how one community stacks up to another.

        Keep in mind also data provided by the trail advocacy is paid for by the same groups and they generally do not waste their money for an outcome that will not benefit their cause. I presume that is why ARTA needed three data sets to get their numbers.

        If you would like references to any of the above info I can provide links. You may also want to read “Economic Impact Studies-Instruments for Political Shenanigans?” by John L. Crompton which provides in detail how important it is to identify a true visitor to a recreation venue in order to properly estimate economic impact:

        • chris says:

          Thanks for the data. Any total numbers on those other trails? I can’t find any.

          Personally, I think it would be awesome to have a biking rec trail like that, but I just can’t see any way that the numbers add up to much.

          The ARTA figures of 244,260 overnight visitors sounds wildly optimistic for something that is basically open a few months a year and is surrounded by lots and lots of great riding.

          Again, locals might find it a nice addition to their other treks, but not more than once or twice a year given the variety of other routes. I’d rarely take the same route more than once a year, unless it’s my local exercise loop.

          • Chip Ordway says:

            ARTA is well known by now to, shall we say, “inflate” the numbers to try to suit their vision, but they took the cake with the $500,000 financial delusion.

            Read this:


          • Hope says:

            Those are not ARTA figures but figures from a study by The National Rail to Trail Conservancy. ARTA did not dictate the study results. The NRTC is a highly reputable organization with the appropriate expertise and data to conduct such a study.

            • Larry Roth says:

              Here’s some more numbers from the NRTC:

              “At the time of publication (2013), RTC located 161 rails-with-trails in 41 states, a 260 percent increase since 2000. Rails-with-trails represent almost 10 percent of all rail-trails in America. Another 60 rail-with-trail projects across the country are currently in various stages of development.

              Out of the tens of thousands of fatalities on railroad corridors in recent decades, only one involved a trail user on a rail-with-trail. This suggests that a well-designed pathway provides a safe travel alternative and reduces the incentive to trespass or use the tracks as a shortcut.

              Class I railroads continue to express formal opposition to the concept of trail development within or adjacent to their corridors. However, smaller private railroad companies and public rail authorities have reached agreements with trail managers on rail-with-trail development that have satisfactorily addressed any concerns about risk and liability.

              There is a growing trend of rail-with-trail development alongside local and regional transit corridors. Fifteen percent of the active rails-with-trails identified in this study are located adjacent to mass transit corridors.

              The vast majority of the rails-with-trails interviewed for this report are insured by an existing local umbrella policy, similar to most rail-trails and greenways.”


            • Bill Hutchison says:

              And they apparently produced a wildly optimistic figure.

            • James E Falcsik says:

              Hope, let’s get this straight. The link Chris has in his post; was this the Rail Trail Conservancy study that was commissioned by ARTA? In 2012 ARTA paid $25K to the RTC in exchange for a study, and an additional $2.6K in associated printing cost?

      • Paul says:

        Most of the ones I have ridden on are much different than this and in much different types of areas. Not that this one wouldn’t work. I just think you will have a hard time finding true comps.

  25. Johnl says:

    Just shoot me. PLEASE!!
    Has ANYONE changed their minds after reading the 65 comments on this subject? Here’s all you need to know. If you think a passenger and freight train service on these routes will be able to make money on its’ own, you need to take something for your delirium. Whether or not the rails should be actually removed and an official ‘trail’ replace it, that should be the only real debate.

    • David P Lubic says:

      I feel you pain.

      If you think reading this is tough, think of all the writing some of us do!

      You do bring up an important point, the railroad might not be able to survive on its own as a for-profit enterprise.

      But an important question to ask, is why should it have to do so when highways and the trail system are subsidized by tax dollars? Why should the railroad have to do something not required of the road and trail system?

      Why the double standard?

      This brings up something else I’ve had on my mind.

      I’mam looking at the comments here, and one of the things I see is how upset the trail people are with the railroad and its supporters. Jan Hansen in two spots says we rail supporters are old guys with engineers’ hats. Todd Eastman claims Larry Roth hasn’t worked in sales, as if that is relevant. Hope Frenette and Ron Hoffman want to kick out the railroad for a trail when there are already thousands of miles of trails in New York, including 3,000 miles of trails rated for snowmobiles alone in the Adirondacks I don’t see how yet another trail is likely to be a silver bullet for the economy, while a railroad is a pretty scarce resource these days.

      And Boreas, whom I’ve been told is otherwise a great advocate for the Adirondacks, ignores that things have changed, apparently thinking we are still in Eisenhower’s America–and goes so far as to dismiss the eloquent thoughts of a fellow Adirondacker who is also a trail person and business owner who has a stake in the area at least as great as his.

      And I think that’s the root of much of this.

      The truth is, things HAVE changed.

      Mr. Kanze commented that a lot of people aren’t as enamored of cars as their ancestors or predecessors were. I can say that includes me, and I’m about Hope’s age. It’s been documented before, so I won’t go into that just now.

      What I do want to add, what I want the trail people to ask themselves, is why is the railroad and others (as pointed out by Larry Roth) getting so much attention now?

      I remember how things used to be. I remember how when a railroad would be abandoned, there would be no big deal. There would be a newspaper story about how the old iron horse was put out to pasture, that progress never stops. There would be some rail enthusiasts getting last pictures, and maybe the last trip would be in the paper, too. Boreas essentially described that in his comment about how the rail lines were reclaimed by nature (and by the land owners as the reversion clauses kicked in on easements).

      But that’s not the case now, not here, and not in most rail trail cases today.

      That support to preserve rail lines wasn’t there before, but now it is. Amtrak has long reversed the national rail passenger decline, and even freight railroads are having to expand again.

      And we rail supporters are told we’re a bunch of old fogies.

      Somebody please explain how this railroad and others have gotten stronger and stronger support, if we are supposed to be geezers who are shuffling off from this world. Explain how the volunteers who do the maintenance on sections of the track are supposed to do that if they were supposedly with walkers, as some comments seem to suggest.

      Larry Roth, in a response to Tony, said Tony was “still stuck in the days before Amtrak, the age of Richard Nixon.” I dare say some of us are stuck in the days of Eisenhower!

      In any event, the challenge remains. . .how come this fight is going on now, when it wouldn’t have happened years ago? What has changed, and what do you think is driving the change?

      And with it, is it fair, is it right, that the railroad should not be considered worthy of some sort of state support, especially if we do have what may be trail saturation in the Adirondacks, along with declining snowfall and declining snowmobile registrations? Is it a good idea to rely so heavily on trails when the world seems to be changing yet again?

      • Ron Hoffman says:

        Did I miss something? Is there an existing 30+ mile long rail trail somewhere in the Adirondacks? Equating the existing “trails” to a rail trail seems absurd to me. Rail trails are unique in that they are extremely accessible to almost anyone because of their wide width and level grade.

        Also, in whose universe does the Adirondacks already contain 3000 miles worth of snowmobile trails? That’s the most ridiculous thing I have heard yet in all these comments. Since I was a life-long snowmobiler up until a few years ago, I will say that rail trails hold no appeal to a snowmobiler… unless they are the only viable option for getting from one place to another.

        The lack of a snowmobile trail system that truly connects the many towns of the Adirondacks is a crying shame. All that exists now north of Old Forge are a few stretches of trail between lakes. In case anyone hasn’t noticed, people tend to die when they take their sleds on a lake so if a connection depends on a lake it is worthless.

        Man, no wonder people leave New York in droves… too many people here live in an alternate reality. Let’s raise taxes (even higher) to re-build railroads no one will use… it will even help the environment. Nuts!

    • Tony Goodwin says:

      I agree that none of those posting have changed their mind. I regret that I even bothered.

      • Boreas says:

        You should have no regrets Tony. Despite the number of posts, not that many individuals have posted. The people who post here typically post because they have strong opinions, not because they are looking for someone to change their mind. It is the people who read but don’t post that will likely have more influence on these matters in the end. The so-called Silent Majority.

  26. Charlie S says:

    ” will require the building of vast parking lots to accommodate the cars that will come to park and bring riders to the so-called rail trail.”

    I was just reminded of the High Peaks area along Rt. 73…how it looks like a parking lot for the Grand Wazoo Super Mall in anywhere USA on sale days when prices are reduced 50%. That sure is a heap of gas being spewed just so those trails can be utilized. I don’t imagine it will be any different for rail trails and yes the earth is cooking and yes every thing has been about the automobile for the past umpteenth years…is why all of the roads and congestion which is far worse in some areas than it is in others and which is a major problem for sure there’s no question. And now we have a big push all over again for doing things the old way because of a newly empowered segment of this society which is just downright afraid of change for whatever their reasons most of which have ties to a monetary note or religion or is just plain old out of ignorance I would wager a years pay on. I’m sorta on the fence on this one but as one who habitually looks ahead even more than a Halley’s Comet cycle I don’t feel good about this urge to remove rails and turn them into trails which will take oil and gas, ie…carbon emissions… to get to.

  27. Charlie S says:

    Larry Roth Jr. says: “You are only looking at where you are now and what you want now ”

    This is wherein the problem lies in all areas regards our social, environmental and political affairs. “What can I get out of this now?” Not “What can we do that will assure prosperity for future generations?”

  28. Charlie S says:

    Hope says: “Manufacturing is long gone most likely to never return.”

    I wouldn’t bet on it Hope! Remember Trump is trying to get all of those pollution-inducing manufacturing jobs back into this country so he can appease his constituency. It’s all about jobs jobs jobs! If he wins on this you can bet Clear Stream will soon thereafter be call Jet black stream. This is a play on words of course but what I mean is… the one thing nobody ever seems to talk about when griping about all of those manufacturing jobs that went overseas is the pollution that went with them. Sure there’s less employment but there’s less pollution also. It’s only a matter of time when robots will be doing most of our work anyway….if the giants get their way. We keep relying on cars to get us from A to Z… it’s only a matter of time before it catches up to us. Look at some of those Asian countries, India and China, what with their over-reliance on gasoline powered contraptions! Trains seem like the ideal means of transportation when thinking about the pollution problems they’re facing over in those parts of the world..

    • JohnL says:

      I’m disappointed in you Charlie. I thought you were truly worried about pollution ON A PLANETARY SCALE. You imply that it’s a good thing for jobs to go overseas. However, since most of the rest of the world does NOT have the pollution busting regulations we have here, if manufacturing moves overseas, then world wide pollution goes up, even though we may see less in this country. Ergo, it’s in our interest, and the interest of the world as a whole, to have manufacturing in the U.S.
      P.S. If anyone else feels like getting off subject, feel free.

      • Larry Roth Jr. says:

        Funny thing about that pollution stuff.

        China is going big on wind and solar; they know their coal-fired plants are killing them. They’re also subsidizing electric cars.

        What neither of you seem to have picked up on is that China is building the world’s largest high speed rail network, as well as other kinds of rail systems. The New Silk Road is a freight line that reaches all the way to Europe.

        And India is starting to upgrade their rail systems now, including HSR.

        It’s the US that’s going backwards.

        • James Falcsik says:

          Larry there are many states and municipalities in the US that invest in railroads as part of sound economic policy. The money invested comes back in many multiples from jobs and tax revenue in the form of a diverse economy.

          Pittsburgh was for years the epicenter of the rust belt. It was very difficult around here in the 1980’s. Since then the region invested in many different industries and services; medical, research, manufacturing, transportation, software, etc. As the railroads downsized and spun off branch lines, many were purchased by upstart companies that knew how to improve service and attract business. County governments contributed by purchasing the lines at fire-sale prices and then plowed investment funds…tax money… into rebuilding.

          Yes, some lines became rail-trails and these are part of the landscape. Here is how PA recently demonstrated the importance of our railroad industry:–54282

        • Charlie S says:

          I knew about China and India Larry and yes I totally agree we are a backwards nation in many areas while other parts of the world are advancing in a forward manner. I suppose we can pin that on campaign financing and/or big money. I suppose we can pin that on the puppets in power.

        • JohnL says:

          Gosh Larry, thanks. Thanks for reminding us that we should be modeling our economy after the Chinese. And, because they have 1.4 Billion mainly impoverished people to move around the country (or they’ll revolt and overthrow their communist dictators), we should follow their examples regarding high speed rail transportation. Nah, that would be apples and oranges. I’ll pass on that, but thanks.

      • Charlie S says:

        I did not say that “it’s a good thing for jobs to go overseas” though the implication is there. What I did say is nobody ever talks about how much less pollution there is in our streams and soil and air due to manufacturing going overseas and yes you are right JohnL….what happens overseas effects us here. No arguments from me I was just saying! I suppose we could bring factories back here but what is the difference if we do the polluting or China or India does it?

        You say: “it’s in our interest, and the interest of the world as a whole, to have manufacturing in the U.S.”

        How so if if we’re all effected globally no matter where the pollution comes from? Wouldn’t that be an ego thing if we know the rest of the world is effected by our pollution yet we’ll do it anyway just so Americans can have jobs. Just an awareness and if I went off subject I didn’t mean to stir up that pot it’s just my mind is all over the place most times.

        • Hope says:

          Charlie S won’t be happy until all the people who live within the Blue Line are gone and all that is left is the train giving tours and souvenir shops in the hamlets, just like Yellowstone or other National Parks.

          • Chip Ordway says:

            It’s always so much fun to see you get so opinionated and combative when you are confronted. you bash Larry for “posting the same stuff repeatedly”. Well, Hope, at least he sticks to his actual facts instead of you and your continuous posting of whatever bullocks that you see fit to try to get more people onto your bandwagon. Keep it up….you’re doing great.

            • Hope says:

              Taking a page out of your book Chip.

              • Chip Ordway says:

                Hope, if you had indeed taken anything from my book, then you’d already be e way ahead in the “factual posting” game than you currently are now. Feel free to take from my book….you might start building some credibility.

          • Charlie S says:

            I don’t know where you get this from Hope.

  29. Charlie S says:

    Joe Hansen says: “There is not the density of population for a passenger rail and not the industry for freight trains.”

    Yeah but…things change on a dime Joe. This is now which will more than likely be different by the time you’re an nostalgic old man. Nothing ever stays the same. All of these fitness gurus that we follow might eventually disappear. I mean after all fact is obesity is a problem and getting worse, especially here in the good old USA, and it is a most common theme for to see a person in a seated position staring at a lit screen than it is to see in the woods lean and mean itching to keep ‘green.’
    Don’t get me wrong I like the idea that down the road more and more people will be thinking lean and green and open space and more woods, less roads, but we must start taking steps to achieve this end as society seems to me to be downgrading into a sappy state, a stupor of sorts….a laziness seems to be enveloping us. I think it has something to do with all of the carbon emissions we’re breathing day in day out.

  30. Tony Goodwin says:

    Larry Roth, two points:

    1) Tier IV diesel emissions standards only apply to sulphur and particulate emissions. The greenhouse gas, CO2, is still emitted just like from any internal combustion engine. These are not “zero emission’ locomotives.

    2) Most of the freight you propose to be trans-loaded in Tupper Lake will eventually go to Saranac Lake and Lake Placid which are much closer to the Northway. And any “trans-loading” operation has costs that must be passed on to the consumers. No savings in either CO2 emissions or prices there.

    • Larry Roth Jr. says:

      Tony – you skipped right over biodiesel and hybrid locomotives that can reduce net emissions – but you also ignored what the Netherlands are doing with their rail system running on wind power, and the hydrogen fuel cell train sets Alstom is developing. See, it’s not just diesel any more.

      Even for you, this latest comment is looking pretty weak – or doesn’t that mileage on the Northway count in your calculations?

      Transload works because of the lower energy costs of shipping tonnage by rail in the first place, because it takes fewer humans to move the same tonnage, because of the number of trucks one train can replace, and because of the savings from keeping trucks from pounding the highways to pieces.

      There’s always the last mile problem – but if it is just a mile, then you can start looking at electric delivery vehicles. The trucking industry is – and they’re also looking at hydrogen as well. But rail still has the other advantages I cited.

      You really should take a look at what Solutionary Rail is proposing. It solves two big problems – clean transportation and clean power.

    • James Falcsik says:

      Tony, freight trans-loading is very common as a low cost alternative to long haul trucking. There are small single track docks that serve one customer in a 10 or 15 mile radius and then there are trans-load centers that serve multiple customers and offer covered storage, cold storage, and a host of services for aggregates, etc.

      We have trans-load facilities at major interstate intersections that provide service in both directions. Your area would see a benefit most likely from propane or heating oil. You need to post some hard costs if you want to say “no savings” for a small delivery of 8 miles when the load might come from 1500 miles distant.

  31. Jim S. says:

    I’m tired of all this gobbledygook, I’m going for a bike ride!

  32. Paul says:

    This is ridiculous. It’s like the same 2 or 3 people making the same 2 or 3 arguments over and over (myself probably included).

    Is there going to be an appeal in this case? Is there grounds? Or is this whole thing over anyway? What can happen in court is all that matters at this point. The breaks are full on for a trail at this point so it’s the RR’s opportunity to do all the great things they claim they can do. Maybe stop writing long diatribes online and get to work? Restore the RR from Tupper to the south end where it is doing pretty well. See what happens. Nothing stopping that except $ – which seems like a never ending problem.

    • ben says:

      The state is going to appeal the last judges decision; the state is reworking the items the judge had a issue with; the rail folks CANNOT do anything without state permission on the railroad south of Tupper Lake. Option 7 of the UMP that was tossed by the judge stated that a rail operator needed to be found/hired to put money along with the state into managing/.maintaining the rail line. That hasn’t happened & cannot happen since Option 7 was tossed! SO we are at a stalemate: The rail folks will still get their limited use permit to operate to Big Moose station & no farther. No trail work can begin, so right now it’s status quo! But then again the state can just keep tightening the screws to the ARPS/ASR & put them out of business in a year or so!

  33. Larry Roth says:

    In case anyone has forgotten about the climate aspects of this discussion, one of the things we can expect to see is more extreme weather events, and changes in expected weather patterns. Late spring blizzards aren’t unknown, but when they are no longer unusual, it’s worth asking “What’s really going on here?”

    Look at the damage this is going to cause, the disruption of travel and business, and take another look at the idea of redundancy and resiliency. This is what the future looks like.

    And keep in mind, this isn’t just a local issue. This is bigger than whether or not a few people get to have a trail. Lifeboats versus deck chairs on the Titanic, right?

  34. howard says:

    This whole argument is VERY OLD at this point. The state has made a decision to build a trail. It’s been derailed a bit by the courts decision, but the state is going ahead & appealing that ruling, while they go ahead & make the changes necessary to meet the original judges concerns. Heck they are re-writing the SLMP! I don’t think it is a question of “if” a trail is going to be built, but more of a “when” it will be built. Now the rail folks still get to keep their scenic rail line in the south & they should put their effort into FIXING IT, finding a rail operator to WORK with the state to fix up the line north to Tupper Lake and then MAKE it work, because if you don’t, it won’t survive much longer, because I seriously doubt the state is going to continue to fund millions of dollars into a rail line, that is after almost 30 years of operation still is in debit every year.

    • JohnL says:

      Wow. Gouge my eyes out, pull my fingernails (slowly), and THEN shoot me. I’m officially going to stop helping you all on this one.

  35. Larry Roth says:

    This argument is old only if you ignore everything that is now happening in the world. It should tell you something that for the State to go ahead with the decision, they have to rewrite the law and deliberately exclude everything that shows why it is a bad decision.

    We can’t afford to throw away the kind of transportation we need, that the rest of the world is investing in – things have to change. The trail won’t help us survive the 21st century by itself – but it can be part of the solution while we can still spare the resources. Build the trails – but keep the rails. Recreation and transportation. It’s not an either/or choice.

  36. Charlie S says:

    Paul says: “Maybe stop writing long diatribes online and get to work?”

    Larry may be long-winded Paul but he sure as heck makes a lot of sense to me.

    • Paul says:

      Charlie, It’s funny you usually support things that make the Adirondacks more “wild”, getting rid of the RR would qualify. I am surprised. I agree with him as well give the RR a real shot with a full line. The folks that diss the failure of small spurs is because they are small spurs. But I disagree on the transportation thing, I suspect a well run ASR on the full line would bring more cars and people to the park.

      • Larry Roth says:

        Well, bringing more people to the park is the whole point of the Rail trail – unless they’re going to ride bikes or snowmobile the whole way, they’ll be in cars or buses. The trail is supposed to flood the area with visitors and sell homes too, according to Hope. So, more traffic – if it actually works the way they claim it will.

        Without the rails, the highway is the only way they’ll be able to get there. Without the rails, no way to get trucks off the roads.

        Of course, Hope also says there are no traffic problems in the tri-lakes, but the roads are too dangerous to ride a bike on…

        Whether or not the ASR at full potential would put more cars on the roads is debatable. If it stimulates the local economy, that alone would draw more people, and some of them would probably drive rather than take the train – but they would have a choice, which they don’t now, and never will if the rails are removed.

        Both sides are expecting trail only or Rail with Trail to boost the region. The question is, which one is more likely to succeed, and which will be more sustainable? The fact that rails do transportation as well as recreation, and allow for trails too ought to make it an easy choice.

        It’s why the trail-only people insist it can only be one or the other – or perhaps I should say the anti-Rail people, since that seems to be their real goal. They just want the rails gone.

      • David P Lubic says:

        Charlie and Paul (and everybody else here), I highly recommend reading “Allies of the Earth, Railroads and the Soul of Preservation,” by Alfred Runte.

        He’s a historian with a specialty on the national park system, and he thinks railroads can help preserve wild places by allowing people in without the impacts of so many cars. I think he makes a good case–and the book’s a good read, too!!

        Oh, and he’s from Binghamton, N.Y. He’s almost from your back yard!

  37. ben says:

    The TRAIL FOLKS are looking to the future. A future where there is a great multi-use trail from Tupper Lake north to Lake Placid & where just maybe a train runs from Utica all the way to Tupper Lake. But that second thing only happens if the rail folks figure out how to see what’s ahead of them & stop looking at the past!

    • David P Lubic says:

      What do you think we rail people have been doing? We have been looking at a future, in which people prefer not to drive as much (which is changing in the present, by the way). We have been looking at the future and seeing the snowmobile numbers declining (going on well into a second decade now, though not always consistently). We’ve been looking at the future and seeing road problems and deferred maintenance because we don’t charge the motorist what we should (and that would change a lot of things).

      And we see we have a mode of transportation that has efficiency, capacity, and all weather capability better than anything else before or since–only the inefficiencies of the competition have been hidden for the better part of a century with subsidies, while railroads are supposed to pay all costs, generate a profit, and pay taxes, too. It’s a double standard that’s still rigging the game.

      And yes, we have a wonderful history that is worth preserving–for the future.

      On the other hand, the trail crowd has refused to acknowledge any of this, and continues to assume all of us will just keep on driving, and continues to say the sled biz is still (cue Lawrence Welk), “A wunnerful, a wunnerful.”

      Who really is looking into the past?

      • Paul says:

        David, Look at the Durango and Silverton (and I expect a fully restored ASR as well). Lots more people drive to Silverton to catch the train (did it several times myself when I lived in CO) to use to to get to trailheads. Folks will drive up to LP to ride the rails and then do other stuff that they need a car for. I agree with you on the snowmobile thing. Trying to capture an increasing share of a shrinking market – just a slow death.

  38. Peter says:


  39. Bob says:

    Mommy says to share
    Rails WITH Trails
    room for both

  40. ben says:

    Hey rail folks, why not stop trying to change the minds of the trail folks which you’ll never do; and focus on the people you need to convince; THE STATE DOT! You aren’t doing to well there, since it’s just a matter of “when” they will build the trail! Focus on what you still have while you still have it. Continue to end every year in debit & the state may just pull the plug on you one year. Fix your problems with the ASR, the state has already made up its mind & you aren’t going to change it!

  41. Charlie S says:

    ben says: ” see what’s ahead of them & stop looking at the past!”

    The past isn’t such a bad thing to be looking at ben! Matter of fact I recall a quote from some wise author who once said something that goes along this line, “A society that fails to look at its past is almost certain to repeat the mistakes of the past and is therefor a doomed society.” Now I am uncertain if this is the same exact words but it sounds pretty good and if I just invented them (which I doubt) then I must be a smart man as it sure as heck makes a ton of sense to me.

  42. Charlie S says:

    “the state has already made up its mind & you aren’t going to change it!”

    Which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a thing to triumph over ben!

    • ben says:

      If it’s a decision by the state to build a trail, why yes I’ll jump for joy!. Plus I figure in a few more years, we’ll have a trail all the way back to Remsen.

  43. Charlie S says:

    Thanks for the heads up on that book David. It looks like a very good read but I have so much on my plate literature & other-wise that I have my doubts about getting to it. Now if it was put in front of me…………..

  44. Rennie Elliott says:

    That pretty well covers it, except maybe the discussion of winter transportation for winter sports depends on the highways staying open, trains are only stopped by avalanches, not a problem on this line. Snow blowers and snowplows were invented for railroad use and adapted to highways. Railroads offer not just many more practical uses of new locomotive technology but intermodal freight configurations, portable facilities, emergency response, and bulk freight cold storage, portable warehouses, as our world relies on just-in-time delivery by motor freight this is something that has become the critical difference between survival and third world status. If you have not been paying attention to the news lately, we are dancing on the edge of WW3 again, but our infrastructure is compromised and our industrial base has been exported to foreign nations, which in case you forget, are in alliance with the OTHER side. Where would we get miles of rail to keep mainlines open if damaged? Temporarily cannibalize lesser important routes. If they have all been converted to rail trails it means you will depend on bicycles to move people and freight. That brings up the subject of security, you are safer on a railcar than wandering alone through the woods, from varmints of two or four legged variety. There are plans to depopulate rural New York and other states pushed by the Agenda 21/2030/America 2050 crowd, and I can’t help but think making communities depend on motor vehicle traffic is a way of discouraging not juts froth, but survival in rural areas with no jobs and no affordable housing based upon those available wages. Today’s millennial could live to see the end of privately owned motor vehicles, many forget that driving is a privilege, not a right, and anyone believing rights should be revoked to save lives needs to double check statistics and see the carnage caused by the privilege of driving. I believe the future of motor vehicles is uncertain at best, where railroads are flexible, and limited only by imagination. If the choice is a computer operated car, or a mass transit train run by humans, I’d take the train. A train pass is cheap than owning a car, especially in NY State, there is plenty of locals along the route who could be employed with conveyances to transport rail passengers to their individual locations, winter or summer.

  45. ben says:

    The state is GOING to build a trail, it’s just a matter of when. The rail folks can continue to piss & moan or they can get on board & work with the state & figure out how to make a rail line to Tupper Lake work. Because if you don’t start working with the state, there is NO AGREEMENT in place to fix the rails to Tupper Lake & there may never be a agreement and there MAY NEVER be any long term lease to operate on the southern end either.

    • Paul says:

      All caps doesn’t make it happen. This is stuck w/o a clear answer from the trail people (the state at this point) on how to even respond to the court. When – could maybe be never.

  46. ben says:

    The state is addressing the issues the judge had when he threw out option 7. Fix those issues & A TRAIL happens. You’re probably just another one of those rail folks who couldn’t see the exit door, even if a light was shinning on it!

    • James Falcsik says:

      Exactly how is NYS “fixing” the other issues Judge Main ruled against? Historical and property ownership issues remain.

      This morning the following word was received concerning the NYS-DEC appeal process: “The Appellate Division, Third Department, in Albany County has confirmed that NYS DID NOT file a timely appeal or information to explain why a further delay was needed.”

      It seems to me it is a longer road to being resolved than anyone really knows. or is willing to admit.

      • ben says:

        That may be so, BUT YOU STILL DON’T GET A TRAIN RUNNING NORTH OF BIG MOSSE! I will get a trail eventually, it’s just a matter of when. If you don’t fix the BS line to the south, you’ll end up like the North Creek – Saratoga line. NOT RUNNING!

        • James Falcsik says:

          Ben; I don’t know what ASR’s plans are at this time, but I am sure there will be additional news in the coming weeks about their operating plans for the 2018 season. With no appeal forthcoming, there is no Alternate 7. Lifting rails anywhere on the corridor would be in contempt of the judge’s ruling. ASR will not have to reserve money for court appearances and will be able to focus on promoting and running the railroad. There is no legal reason to hold them back from operating on both ends of the line, provided they can perform the required maintenance for safe operation. Despite what you claim, ASR is in possession of their operating permit, and has been through this whole process. We will have to wait and see what ASR and the NYDOT work out for where and when they will operate in 2018. Does this bring an end to the rail trail controversy? I don’t think so. But for the foreseeable future, ASR has multiple opportunities to move forward for the good of the region.

          • ben says:

            So they have their limited operating permit. Big deal. They were going to get that for the southern end anyways. I DOUBT the state will give them a permit to operate on the northern end. Why would the state spend the money to fix a rail line they intend to pull up once the SLMP & all the other issues from the judges decision are resolved. Once that’s done, on with the trail. Option 7 may be dead, but that doesn’t mean they cannot do it all over again & have everything in order this time around. And as far as the ASR in the southern end. 90K in the whole from last year is a great way to start off the year. How much will they be in the hole after this year?

  47. David P Lubic says:

    This changes a lot, at least for now.

    From the Adirondack Scenic Railroad.

    On April 11, 2016, the ARPS Board of Directors filed with the Supreme Court of New York State, Franklin County, a petition seeking to reverse the actions by the NYS Departments of Transportation, Environmental Conservation and the Adirondack Park Agency that redefined the Remsen-Lake Placid rail travel corridor. The petition sought a ruling that NYS acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner that damaged the ARPS and was not consistent with the State Land Master Plan.

    On September 24, 2017 Judge Main, acting Supreme Court justice, ruled that the actions by the NYS agencies were indeed arbitrary and capricious. He ruled 1) that the 1996 UMP remains the operative document providing guidance for the corridor; 2) that DEC is enjoined from any track removal or alterations until all of the court’s findings have been remedied and; 3) that “the May 17, 2016 approval of the 2016 UMP is annulled and vacated in its entirety, and in each and every part.”

    On December 1, 2017 the NYS Attorney General filed a notice of intent to appeal, to reserve the option to appeal the ruling by Judge Main. The final deadline for the Attorney General to provide information to support an appeal was April 6, 2018.

    The Appellate Division, Third Department, in Albany County has confirmed that NYS DID NOT file a timely appeal or information to explain why a further delay was needed. Pending a ruling by the Appellate Court, NYS can no longer appeal Judge Main’s ruling.

    The Adirondack Park Agency has begun a process to amend the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan to redefine the nature of the Remsen – Lake Placid corridor and any future rail corridor NYS may acquire. It will have no effect on Judge Main’s ruling. It is the beginning of a long process to create an amendment, with an uncertain outcome.

    The 1996 Unit Management Plan remains the authoritative and guiding document for the R-LP Corridor. The Board of Directors of ARPS intends to operate trains as in the past. We look forward to working with our volunteers to provide customers of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad with an enjoyable and memorable experience.

    Bill Branson on behalf of the Board of Directors

    • David P Lubic says:

      So much for the actual appeal!

      Of course, that still leaves the changing of the definition of the corridor to deal with (or as some would put it, changing the rules after you lost the game).

      • Boreas says:

        Some would say the game is simply continuing and is far from lost. The state is in no big hurry, and they still control the lease on the line. If their plans are to eventually remove the 34 miles of rail, I don’t see them putting much emphasis on maintenance for that section. I see “changing the rules” as a better long-term solution than an endless series of legal cases.

        • David P Lubic says:

          “If their plans are to eventually remove the 34 miles of rail, I don’t see them putting much emphasis on maintenance for that section.”

          Then you have a problem.

          That lack of maintenance means it’s going to be that much more difficult for the trail conversion.

          Remember, most of the work on a railroad, a road, or a trail is for the substructure, the roadbed, the embankments, the bridges..

          Beavers work like beavers. Trees and weeds grow and grow. Water is the enemy of everything man made–and it never sleeps.

          Without the railroaders working, and the state not working, how much will it cost to repair that damage for the trail?

        • Larry Roth says:

          Boreas, let me make a comment here.

          I would remind you we got to where we are today because the state pushed through a trail plan that violated a number of state laws – not just the land use provisions for travel corridors, but also historic preservation laws. It ignored easements. The agencies were all warned about these issues, but they went ahead anyway. They were challenged in court on the facts and the law, and the history, and they lost.

          Now the state is rewriting the laws to get around what they couldn’t justify doing in the first place – and they’re still ignoring easements and history.

          Your comments appear to suggest there is nothing anyone can do, because the current administration is not bound by its own laws, and will do what it wants to do at the behest of whatever interests command its attention.

          Your comments also appear to suggest that you do not care about any of this as long as you get what you want, or at best, aren’t happy about how it’s being done but you will tolerate it since you think it’s going your way and you just want it over.

          If that’s not a fair statement, let me know.

    • ben says:

      You only operate as in the past, if the STATE ALLOWS IT! So you still will not run on the northern end.

  48. ben says:

    Here’s food for thought: Why would the state expend anymore money to rehab the rail line north of Big Moose, when they (The State) has every intention of ripping the rail line out. Maybe not this year or next, but very soon. Why would the state go thru all the hassle of letting the ASR run a train north of Big Moose, if they are in the process of rewriting the SLMP & getting ownership of all the land under the travel corridor, so they can go forward with a trail. Why would the state expend anymore money on a rail line that barely survives now & after almost 30 years of operation still cannot turn a profit.

    • David P Lubic says:

      Why would they bother with anything at all then? Roads aren’t profitable, trails aren’t profitable, police forces and fire departments aren’t profitable, the school system isn’t profitable, the whole park system isn’t profitable.

      So explain to me why the railroad should be different by having to be profitable in your terms?

      And why do you want to get rid of it when you have 10,500 miles of sled trail in the state now, and with sled registrations dropping over the last dozen years or so?

      • David P Lubic says:

        And in view of those declining sled registrations, and the declining revenue that would accompany that, you need to ask, who’s living in the past?

        • Jim S. says:


        • ben says:

          sled registrations may be slowly declining, but we still generate MORE money per short season than your railroad does in multiple seasons of use. I don’t end every year in the red either, I have to operate on a budget & I don’t get free money from the state. My money ONLY comes from snowmobile registrations & that still doesn’t cover all my clubs expenses for the season. I don’t go to the state or my wealthy benefactors & beg for money! I actual have to deal with the state RAIDING my sled money & have to fight to get that back. So even with declining registrations, a year round trail with just snowmobile use in the winter is MUCH MUCH MUCH better than your pathetic little rail line! But we can keep arguing round & round, the state has a plan & they really didn’t need to appeal the judges decision, they just need to address/fix his concerns & then move out with a trail. He didn’t say they couldn’t do a trail, he just threw option 7 out. Rework it, improve it, fix his concerns & we have a trail! And look at it this way, No option 7, no train to Tupper Lake & nothing says that when the state does get around to building the trail, a train will ever run past Big Moose again. You may have lost your only opportunity to get a train to Tupper Lake. Way to go rail weenies!

          • James Falcsik says:

            Sled registrations are not your only source of funding for the sport and the editor of this publication has debunked that BS many times over. Ben (aka David) did you purchase your sled in NYS? Was it manufactured in NYS? How about the trailer, was it made in NYS? Why do you always think it matters to compare the sleds to the railroad? Your sport will not contribute one dime more or less to the economy of NYS with or without this rail trail. If you would actually read the EIS produced for the corridor you would see that in print.

          • David P Lubic says:

            Ben, if the registrations are declining, that means you’re not going to get more money! At best you might slow the drain, but that won’t stop it.

            That brings to mind, it’s important to wonder WHY the sport is in decline. What is the reason?

            Cost of new sleds? (Around $12,000 I understand, plus–if purchasing new–a trailer and a truck to transport said machine, licenses and insurance on all of that, personal property taxes. . .)

            Limited capability? (Only can be used in winter, while ATVs and UTVs can be used almost all year, and don’t need snow.)

            Climate change? (Snow has been short in the last few years.)

            Cultural change? (Those damned kids on their smart phones!)

            What do you think the reason or reasons are?

            Another trail won’t address any of this.

            • ben says:

              snow in short supply this year. Hmm, seems to me it’s snowing up in the ADK now & has been most of this month. As far as snowmobiling declining, it’s going to have to go a lot further in the whole to come anywhere near what the rail folks call a good year.

              • David P Lubic says:

                Dodge, dodge, dodge, can’t answer the question–which was why?

                If you don’t know, be willing to admit it. Or make a guess. All I was was curious, really.

                I don’t think you even know how bad the decline is.

                And the registrations actually look good compared to sales. Sales are only about a third of what they were in the 1990s.

                In other words, for every customer today, there used to be two others.

                That can only be considered catastrophic for the sled builders.

                • David P Lubic says:

                  If you do have this decline going on–and you’re willing to admit this, and I appreciate it (some other people are in denial, even with the numbers in front of them), then you do need to address those other things.

                  You already have 10,500 miles of snowmobile trail.
                  Another 34 mile trail won’t help. It can’t because the causes of the decline are not a lack of trail mileage.

                  I do think rails and trails can and should work together. Yes, I see the sled crowd as part of the customer base; other railroads help the snowmobile crowd reach trails, carrying the snowmobiles in a baggage car, and unloading them at a trail head along the line.

                  And that’s why I ask the questions again

                  What are the causes of the decline? How would you address them?

                  If you’re serious, you’ll be thinking of those questions.

                  • ben says:

                    I’m going to end this by stating simple facts: You CANNOT run your trains on the northern end anymore. State won’t give you a permit. The state is rewriting the SLMP to allow the trail. The state is dealing with ALL the easement issues. The state is dealing with all the historical crap. There will be a trail & you cannot deal with it. As far as sledding declining in the state I still out perform you & your railroad & will continue to do so,

                    • Chip Ordway says:

                      “Dealing with all of the historical crap”? Yes..just like they claimed they were the *first* time, but oh yes…that was shot down in court.

                      The fact that you’re showing your sledding agenda Unless you come up with some actual facts instead of opinions and the usual ARTA talking points, then your opinions and CAPITAL LETTERS don’t really hold much water.

                    • David P Lubic says:

                      Thank you. Your answer tells me you are not serious about thinking what the real causes of the decline are.

                      That means you don’t really want to reverse the decline.

                      All you want to do is kick out the railroad. .

                    • Big Burly says:

                      @Ben Your statement about the permit on the north end ?? Totally without factual basis. If the Alternative 7 and lack of appeal is any example of how all this will fare you should consider a bet on the success of the RR.

    • James Falcsik says:

      Ben you are incorrect; from what I read, NYS had every intention of rebuilding the line north to Tupper Lake, and actually started the work until it was halted pending the outcome of the court ruling. Well that is over, so resume the work. And if anyone is concerned about spending money, when do government agencies anywhere demonstrate fiduciary responsibility?

      What is the status of the property issues and compliance with historic review and adverse mitigation? Do you know how many properties are involved? You write as if you know they are getting that work complete; well?

      With no trail in the immediate future and currently no rail service, NYS is better off to resume the status quo for tourism economics until these issues are resolved, and a plan that is in compliance with the law is developed. It may turn out differently than what is now being discussed. As for ASR, they are a nonprofit; don’t be too worried about their profit margins, and instead acknowledge their operation does generate economic results for the cost of keeping the rail corridor from being reclaimed by nature.

      Rather than continuing the obstruction and attack on the ASR let them run the trains, promote, and “fix” the railroad for a change. Neither the trail plan nor the railroad venue will ever be as good as it can be as long as the division and attacks between the two communities continues.

      • ben says:

        Yes, run their trains on the southern end of the line, like they currently do. The State shouldn’t spend a single dime on the northern end to rehab any rail, since their intention is to pull it up. Anyways we are going to continue to disagree on what’s best for the travel corridor. You want one thing, the state wants another. You think the state is going to back down & come to your point of view. I DOUBT THAT! And you’ve got a bigger problem this year, the southern end of the line just north of Otter Lake was closed by the DOT/DEC in January due to a washout of the rails. See how long it takes to fix that. If you are such a driving engine to the local economy in the area, pay to fix that problem! Don’t charge the taxpayer like you always do!

  49. Larry Roth says:

    Your point Hope?

    No one is denying outdoor recreation isn’t big business – but is it big enough? (And do you really want to quote something from Zinke, given how Interior under him is turning into an environmental disaster?)

    Four points you still don’t address:
    1) Climate change
    2) Making the economy broader and more resilient.
    3) The aging of America.
    4) Recreation and transportation.

  50. James Falcsik says:

    Wow. The Sierra Club hammers the APA and snowmobilers:

    The effort to redefine “travel corridor” is called “specious”, “biased” and “predetermined outcome” referring to the DSIES.

  51. Christine Beckingham says:

    Old Forge has blended the best of many worlds. Adirondack Scenic Railroad comes up from Utica (where it connects with Amtrak) with passenger and specialty (Holiday, beer, wine, a robbery, ice cream stop, etc.) trains and stops at Thendara. Passengers can be transported to Old Forge for shopping, meals, a visit to the Enchanted Forest or overnight accommodations. Stops are arranged for those who wish to bike, hike and canoe or kayak with pick-up the same day or a future date. You can bring your own watercraft or you can rent a canoe or kayak at Tickner’s in Old Forge, on the Moose River. Canoes, kayaks, bikes & camping gear are also available for rent at Mountain Man in Old Forge and on the Moose River.
    The towns have developed the TOBIE (Thendara-Old Forge- Big Moose-Inlet-Eagle Bay) Trail which offers two trails (14 & 16 miles) from Old Forge to Inlet as well as other, shorter, hiking trails, biking trails, snowmobile trails and lesser traveled roads through the scenic Adirondacks to beautiful lakes, bogs, lookouts and the Moose River Plains which extends 23 miles to Indian Lake from Inlet.
    This is a wonderful example of towns, individuals, communities and the State working together to benefit everyone. The railroad has greatly benefitted the many communities along it’s route, opened the area to tourists and locals who want to enjoy the beauty of the Adirondacks, whether for a day or longer.
    It’s not an “all or nothing” proposition. It is not a simple choice of one or the other. There are issues between Big Moose and Saranac that involve easements across private lands and areas where it is impossible to “just add a trail”, such as the trestle between Big Moose and Stillwater. It’s unfortunate that there is such division and derision that has arisen over this issue. I only mentions these things as I am a native Big Mooser, the great grandchild of one of the original inhabitants and a lover of both the Adirondacks and rail travel.

    • Big Burly says:

      Thank you Christine Beckingham for pointing all of us who care about the economic success of the DAKs to the truth that working together will get the best results for all, residents and visitors alike, of all ages and abilities. Rails and trails complement each other. Let’s get NYS doing the right thing.

      • Beth says:

        I agree with Big Burly. Well written Christine. We are on the same page…Rails and Trails. Old Forge is a good example.

  52. Big Burly says:

    Thank you Mr. Roth ! Well reasoned and compelling.

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