The DEC is again taking comments on the proposed latest DSEIS and the Remsen-Lake Placid travel corridor. The position of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad has never been anything but clear and, although we sued DEC and prevailed, it is not in that context that I again write.
Many factors influence the health, both economically and environmentally, of the population within the blue line. Additionally, as the Adirondacks are a tourist destination for many, it is NY residents and visitors from elsewhere who find themselves taking in what the region has to offer. It is well understood that the likelihood of any meaningful new road construction is quite low and that road congestion and pollution is considerable during much of the year. Witness the Rt. 73 parking mess. Further, as Bob Stegeman of the DEC recently said: “How do we protect the tourist economy and not turn off people from coming here.” Quite a surprising and ironic notion while at the same time hoping to derail such a significant asset as the railroad which is both economically and environmentally favorable. The bigger picture would not just support but actually instruct that an existing rail asset be enhanced not constrained to accomplish the goals consistent with the Adirondack Park. What agenda would inform any listener to minimize an existing business given the current conversation about traffic, parking, overuse, and demand as we are now experiencing? Ed Kanze’s recent letter to DEC outlines many of these considerations. More troubling is that the DEC employee who is charged with receiving public comments and deciding which are aired or not was also the author of the UMP found to be illegal by the court! Hardly reassuring and couple that with the earlier freedom of information request from the APA comment period where written submissions were 60% favorable to rail or rail and trail and the notion of a fair and honest outcome becomes that much more doubtful. Fully 50,000 postcards submitted by paying passengers of the railroad in support of its mission were not considered but rather counted as one supportive letter!
More positively, the railroad has made a substantial commitment to the region in its acquisition of both a dining and dome car such as those seen in the mountains of the western United States. The dome car particularly, to be delivered this Fall, is one of only eight of its kind in this country. Its unique design further adds to its appeal and it will begin service in 2020 offering an exciting and new dimension for New Yorkers and visitors to the State. The absence of common sense in this regard is breathtaking; why would anyone deny access to such an exciting tourist attraction when that is the primary means of income for the communities of the Adirondacks. When these cars come on line next year, a tourism adventure never seen in the mountains will initiate what is likely to be a new era of travel entertainment choices. Shouldn’t logic and sensibility win the day with such an obvious offering within the great Empire State? It becomes the responsibility of the public to be noisy about what is best for their communities and transportation methods such as those about to be introduced to the Adirondacks simply shouldn’t be ignored.
Sadly, the very agencies that were created to advocate for the Adirondacks have become politicized to the extent that they are unrecognizable from the image of their earliest creation and in this mutation are hobbled in their charge to represent the interests of the people and the environment. Further, it would seem that only those in decision making positions get done those missions which are important to themselves while not necessarily speaking to the greater good. The recent letter in the Adirondack Almanack (June 27, 2019, by Peter Bauer) concerning the APA underscores that the wishes of the ADK residents and merchants are conflicted by interventions and considered only when they are in lockstep with the greater political theme.
It is my hope that reason can be introduced to the debate and that common sense decisions about tourism and the physical asset of the Adirondacks will once again guide and inform policy makers.
Map of Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor courtesy DEC.