Yes, build the Hudson River bike trail from North Creek to Saratoga Springs. Build it, and they will come. They did not come for the ill-fated commuter trains, snow train, tourist trains or rail service that was going to haul millions of tons of aggregate from the Tahawus Mine in Newcomb. A groundswell of support is emerging for the transition of the dormant 55-mile-long Saratoga and North Creek Railway to the new Hudson River bike trail.
A new public trail from Saratoga Springs to North Creek would connect dozens of small communities such as Corinth, Lake Luzerne, Hadley, Stony Creek, Thurman, Athol, The Glen, Warrensburg, and Riparius among other hamlets and businesses along the rail line. Such a trail would be very popular and heavily used. As we’ve seen with the Warren County Bike Trail between Lake George and Glens Falls, businesses would gravitate to the trail.
What makes this trail especially appealing is that more than 30 miles would run along the Hudson River, where each bend provides a different great view. Running along the banks, this trail would delight as one of the loveliest public trail systems in New York.
From bases in Saratoga Springs or North Creek, bicyclists, runners and walkers, among other users, would enjoy a stunning trip with long unbroken sections at the north end. In the summer there are more than a dozen places to swim. In winter months, the trail would be available for cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and fat bike riding on snow.
Rural America is inextricably connected to the global economy, though powerless over it. Rural America is littered with discarded industrial facilities. Decisions on paper mills, mines, grocery stores and pharmacies are not made locally, but are made from afar.
Across the U.S., rural areas have fewer jobs today than they did in 2009, before the Great Recession, while urban-metropolitan areas not only gained back all jobs lost in that downturn, but have added over 11 million new ones. Population growth in the U.S. is heavily skewed towards metropolitan areas.
Americans today are less likely to move than ever before. Employment is no longer the driving force that sees millions of people move great distances. When people do move, quality of life is the driving force. Rural areas that are bucking national trends of stagnation and decline are those that have invested in, built, and facilitated a broad range of social amenities, including restaurants, art centers, coffee shops, parks and nonprofits. Scenic beauty is a vital amenity. Ample public outdoor recreation is another.
The future for Adirondack communities lies in building social amenities that are connected to our abundant and accessible natural resources. There is no new technology or app that will render our forests, lakes, and mountains obsolete. The forest preserve cannot be picked up and moved to China. The forest preserve can’t be closed and shuttered. The public amenities throughout our communities and public lands are the economic cornerstones for our region.
Protect the Adirondacks is working with local government leaders, businesses and volunteers to build support for a feasibility study of the conversion of the 55-mile-long Saratoga and North Creek Railway. We believe that a vigorous public assessment process based on extensive public input should be organized to explore this worthy proposal. We also need to look at the future of the 29-mile Sanford Lake Railway from North Creek to the Tahawus Mine.
Construction is likely to start on the conversion of the railroad from Lake Placid to Saranac Lake to a public multi-use recreation trail next summer. There will be a lot to learn from that experience. Now is the time for Warren County leaders to be proactive and start examining the possibilities of conversion of its rail corridor. The Hudson River Bike Trail is an idea whose time has come.
Photo of Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates riding an area near Lake Colby in 2013 by Nancie Battaglia.
“It’s Debatable” appears in each issue of the Adirondack Explorer. This essay by Peter Bauer, Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks, is a companion piece to “Viewpoint: Tearing Out Railroads Is Not Progress” by Larry Roth, a Ravena resident who works with the nonprofit Solutionary Rail to address climate change by promoting a national rail system.