Sunday, January 12, 2020

Viewpoint: Convert Hudson River Rails to Multi-Use Trail

Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates riding an area near Lake Colby in 2013

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.

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Peter Bauer is the Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks.

He has been working in various capacities on Adirondack Park environmental issues since the mid-1980s, including stints as the Executive Director of the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and FUND for Lake George as well as on the staff of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century. He also worked at Adirondack Life Magazine. He served as Chair of the Town of Lake George Zoning Board of Appeals and has served on numerous advisory boards for management of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve.

Peter lives in Blue Mountain Lake with his wife and two children, enjoys a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities throughout the Adirondacks, and is a member of the Blue Mountain Lake volunteer fire department.

Follow Protect the Adirondacks on Facebook and Twitter.




41 Responses

  1. Boreas says:

    Peter,

    I generally agree. My biggest concern would be how deep into the northern section of the Sanford Lake Railway snowmobiles should be permitted. Perhaps Newcomb itself and its potential as a snowmobile hub would be a better terminus for snowmobiles rather than allowing motorized access all the way to Tahawus along the Hudson. I would prefer to see any motorized access, including Class 2 connector trails, stay closer to currently used roads and highways.

    But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The rails still exist. Perhaps an investor with pockets as deep as Elon Musk will come up with a bold plan of using electric hybrid, driverless technology in 6-12 passenger “pods” to run on the slower Class 2 rails. These pods would be similar to camping trailers with tables and recliners if people wanted to sleep. They would also be permitted to stop for short periods, traffic permitting. Perhaps they could be designed to be removed from the rails for an extended period for traffic to pass. These pods would be available for use as a charter using only a credit card thus allowing flexibility in scheduling. But it would not be cheap. Practical? I guess I just awoke from my daydream.

  2. Skip Holmes says:

    With cyclists increasing interest in finding safer routes to ride on roads or trails that may not be paved this rail trail provides an opportunity to do just that. An increasing segment of the bicycle market is gravel bicycles. There are now numerous organized events all over the US where cyclists are paying money to ride in these events.

    This trail from Saratoga to North Creek and perhaps all the way to Tahawus can provide an amazing experience as well as bring needed business income to existing or new locations along this trail. The existing train stations are located at ideal distances to provide food, beverages and information.

    I have xc skied portions of this rail line during the winter and the solitude and vistas are special. The grades are not challenging and it would be feasible to have xc skiers ski a portion of the trail and get a return shuttle ride to the starting point. In a similar manner cyclists could do the same. Perhaps the rafting companies wold see this as an additional opportunity with their shuttle buses.

    I previously organized groups of cyclists to take their bikes on the train to North Creek, have lunch and then ride back to Saratoga. they all enjoyed the scenery along the tracks as well as the back roads on the return to Saratoga. As much as i like teh trains and their sustainable transport mode I believe that the time has come to move this rail line to a new purpose.

  3. Funkmasterbeavis says:

    Removing the tracks ANYWHERE in the Adirondack Park will be New York’s next Penn Station moment. New York could have stepped in to prevent the demolition of Penn Stations and it’s replacement by a true eyesore, Madison Square Garden. Once the tracks are torn up there will never be a feasible way of jumping through all the regulatory hoops to replace them. Some day future generations will lament the short sightedness of people so quick to throw history away for so little gain.

  4. Eric says:

    I for one welcome a trail along this rail route. Although I enjoy road biking, I yearn to get away from traffic and the constant worry of getting hit. I have traveled to other states for the sole purpose of riding rail trails. I have never traveled for a short train ride from one unwalkable city to another sparse city. When the monsters were younger we did take the train from Utica to Old Forge, but Old Forge is very walkable and full of things to do. NY is all about tourism, and the fresh money it brings. I am convinced a rail trail through these areas mentioned would benefit citizens as well as tourism a lot more than the railroad.

  5. Mark says:

    The previous comments are very thoughtful and morphing the Saratoga to North Creek corridor so that it has a trail system make so much sense. However, like some, I am concerned about tearing up the rails. Doing so essentially ends any hope for introducing “next generation” rail service. Yes, it is true that traditional rail use in that corridor using diesel engines, etc have proven nonviable, but I think we should be open to new rail service technology that may change that landscape – it is hard to predict the future but there are a lot of smart folks thinking of new and efficient ways to do things and new rail technology is evolving – perhaps this should be researched in-depth by key decision makers. Clearly, pulling up the rails would end any future rail service possibility.

  6. Susan Cohen says:

    My husband and I have actively sought out bike trails for part of our vacation and recreation plans for over 10 years now. Part of the experience is enjoying stops along the way meeting locals and fellow bikers, and partaking in local businesses. We love staying at local motels or b and bs so we can extend our stay. It’s always a joy to see how a bike trail brings out families, couples, casual bike riders, and walkers – it’s a destination that costs the participants nothing but adds so much to all involved.

  7. David Olbert says:

    The rails should remain in place until every possibility of moving product from Tahawus has been exhausted. The biggest eyesore left is the cob rock pile and rail would make that go away sooner. Then there is revolution rail a viable business that has made significant contributions to North Creek and the surrounding area.

    • Boreas says:

      David,

      I have to agree with you. The mine at Tahawus seems to be a situation often ignored. What is its future? If it isn’t going to be mined, shouldn’t it be “naturalized” back into the forest? The rock piles must have come from pits somewhere – shouldn’t all those pits be filled? Topsoil? Planting trees? Water remediation? The proposed 3 billion dollar bond act could be used for this remediation.

      If these things will be done in the near future, as you say, couldn’t rail be part of that? I would think large mining equipment would make easy work of much of this. You can transport large machinery via rail (assuming the rails are in decent shape). Topsoil and fill could also be transported to the site if needed. Once the mine is reverted to a more natural state, then consider removing the rails.

  8. Terry Dearmas says:

    Would the section of the rails be left intact for Revolution Rails if the multi-use trail is continued further than North Creek?

  9. LeRoy Hogan says:

    Always never the mention of the success of the rail bikes while they were running in the Adirondacks and now their success in the Catskills while paying a lease to Ulster County. This means the rail is directly making revenue which a trail will never do unless hikers buy access permits.

    Imagine having someone like Catskill Mountain Rail Road in the Daks that pay a lease and completely fund the maintenance of the rail like they do in Ulster County, NY. That means no tax payer funding.

    • george says:

      A bike business right next to the trail could do better business renting bikes for people to ride, just as easily as the rail bike business.

      • Dana says:

        Plus the ability to pass!!

      • LeRoy Hogan says:

        That’s why a rail with trail makes perfect sense so you can rent either type of bike. Just swap rail bikes when passing is needed.

        • george says:

          waste of space to have 2 different types of bikes available. But then again rail folks are a waste of space & time. Make a trail & let’s get on with it. Let’s see do I rent a bike that only goes 1 direction & is limited in how far I can ride ; or do I bring my own bike & ride back-n-forth & go as far as I want, or do I rent a bike & accomplish the same thing. Which do you think people will want!

  10. JCurtis says:

    Now is the time to get rid of the tracks while there is momentum to do so, otherwise as long as the tracks are there it will be tempting for opportunist politicians both locally and in Albany to come up with more schemes to park contaminated rail cars there or activate it to use for some crackpot government financed scheme to access and promote potentially polluting industries or other unsuitable developments.

    We have to start looking at the “carrying capacity” of Adirondack resources, the way for instance responsible ranchers in the west look at ranch land. How many acres will it take to support a cow and her calf that will be sustainable over time. What is the carrying capacity of the Adirondacks for responsible management? It is mostly mountains and rocks, with little open space for industrial development and large housing developments. It cannot support a large human population depending on large scale industrial jobs, contradicting cries that will be coming from politicians at the latest population numbers showing population declines here. Shortly, politicians will be crying for more funding to create large scale industrial jobs.

    Real reasons for Adirondack population declines are bad weather, industries moving to southern states where the weather is better and transportation easier due to lack of long, bad winters and flatter terrain. Also, retirees are moving south to escape the cold, and there is the trend here for smaller families. Other states have high taxes, too, for instance Texas, but that hasn’t hurt their population gains. It is just warmer and flatter there. I am surprised that environmentalists and agencies such as the APA have not started to look at Adirondack carrying capacity to evaluate potential land uses. It appears that their training and mindset is outdated and ineffective.

    Right now the best incomes for Adirondack residents are probably derived from commuting to population centers just outside of the Adirondacks, such as Middlebury, Burlington, Plattsburgh, Glens Falls, Saratoga and Albany. I myself commuted daily to Albany for over 15 years, 100 miles door to door. Also, some people that grew up here and moved away for college and higher paying careers are moving back in retirement, many just seasonal, but it still helps the local property tax base without burdening schools. It seems that in addition to tourism and recreational businesses, small local businesses based on telecommuting and internet sales are Adirondack sustainable, if we can ever get bungling government agencies off their duffs to do something about the lack of affordable high speed internet here.

    • Boreas says:

      Well said! DEC has been tasked by APA with establishing carrying capacities in various areas around the Park. That being said, I have heard nothing of their research. And this at a time where we are eschewing old methods of restricted parking in favor of virtually unlimited shuttle service to trailheads. This leaves the impression that DEC is more concerned with getting more visitors to the trailheads, not fewer.

      • X-C Skier says:

        Let’s be honest about multi-use trails: snowmobile use makes it not only unpleasant for skiing & fat biking (due to the noise & smell) but also makes it unsafe.

  11. Larry Roth says:

    Mr. Bauer paints a wonderful picture of what the Saratoga-North Creek rail line could be like as a trail. He’s not wrong, but he’s leaving a few things out of the picture. A look at the bigger picture is in order.

    1) Has anyone done a title search of all the property along the line? There are things called easements. When the line was built, how many deeds gave the railroad an easement to use the land only as long as it was for a railroad? Remove the tracks and the land reverts to the land owners. It can and has taken millions of dollars to settle easement claims before a trail can even get started.

    2) To call It a trail does not convey an accurate picture of what the reality would be: a road through the region. Typical rail trails are 10 feet wide, plus shoulders. A single-track rail line is 4′ 8.5″ between the rails, plus a little on the sides. The trail would at least double the visible footprint of the corridor.

    3) There’s no such thing as a free trail. It costs money to maintain one – brush clearing, erosion control, etc. With no direct revenue from the trail and no possibility of any, the communities along the line are going to have to find other ways to fund it. The Halloween storm caused damage. What priority is fixing a trail going to get when there are other items that also need repair after weather events, an increasingly likely scenario?

    4) An open access trail has different challenges than a rail corridor. How will it be patrolled? What about trespass, vandalism, assault, littering? How do first responders get to accident victims? How are they going to be funded to prepare for the additional work load that would come from a trail? What about ATVs – block them or not? How?

    5) Weather is a factor. A railroad is pretty much an all-weather operation. A trail’s use is going to be affected by what the weather does. The northeast is becoming wetter; winter snow patterns are changing. That has to be taken into account.

    6) How can the economic impact of the trail be monitored? How do you track headcount, and who they are? If a hundred people use the trail in a day, that sounds great – unless 90 of them are local. If the aim is to attract visitors and their money, that’s not so good. What if 90% of the users only make use of 10% of the trail? The whole trail needs to be maintained, but only one stretch is seeing the benefits. How do the towns apportion that burden? If there’s no objective way to get those measures, you can’t tell if the trail is a net gain or not, or who is losing out.

    7) There are opportunity costs. Above and beyond the expense of building and maintaining the trail, there is the cost of giving up all the things that will no longer be possible. Mr. Bauer appears to have written off any possibility of there ever being an industrial/business need for the railroad, let alone the tourism/passenger service. Remove the rails and that becomes a certainty.

    8) Mr. Bauer proposes an alternative: a future built on providing amenities. Another way of describing that is a de-industrialized economy based on service sector jobs. While that’s not negligible, it’s also an economy that lacks diversity. Anything that drives down tourism will drive down everything. Typically, those kinds of jobs provide neither high pay nor a career and they are often seasonal. It’s one reason metropolitan areas are growing – people are leaving rural areas because there are no opportunities there. The vision of an idyllic natural landscape soothing the jangled nerves of city dwellers who come for escape skips over the reality of living in an economy built on asking “You want fries with that?”

    9) Mr. Bauer cites the popularity of the Lake George – Glens Falls trail. He ignores a major difference: two population centers at each end, one a popular tourist destination in its own right, and the presence of the Northway. This doesn’t apply to the case here. There’s also a case of market saturation. There are already trails in the area, and more under construction across the state. One Starbucks can be a draw; a Starbucks on every corner is overkill. If there are trails everywhere, there’s no need to travel to the upper Hudson to ride one more among many. While this could be a nice trail, it’s not going to be the tourist magnet claimed. (And don’t talk about the benefits of ‘healthy exercise’ while trail promoters are getting all excited about cashing in on e-bikes, essentially electric mopeds.)

    10) Mr. Bauer is looking forward to the removal of rails in the Lake Placid – Tupper Lake corridor for conversion to a rail trail. Among other things, this means the annual 3 million plus overnight visitors that come just to Lake Placid alone will have no choice in the future except to either drive in or fly in. There will be no connection to Amtrak at Utica possible in the future. (No way of shifting loads off of tractor trailers in the park either.) If those city dwellers continue to flock to the region seeking all of that natural beauty, it will come at the cost of increasing traffic congestion, air pollution, and a growing carbon footprint. It’s not just about that quality of life; it’s about the future of the Adirondacks. Ignoring climate change makes no more sense than ignoring acid rain.

    Mr. Bauer’s support for removing the railroad between Saratoga and North Creek for a trail makes sense if you accept his vision of the future; an urban elite coming to the Adirondacks for quality of life they can’t get elsewhere, an economy built on providing amenities in a service economy.

    It is a vision that fails to acknowledge the increasing economic strains in our society, the problem of structural inequality his vision would produce, and seeming obliviousness to the challenge of the climate crisis. It’s possible to preserve the unique environmental assets of the Adirondacks and still keep rail lines. Indeed – preserving the Adirondacks may ultimately depend on that. The argument that “It would be really nice to have a trail!” is not sufficient.

    As someone working to promote the Solutionary Rail concept, I can greatly sympathize with Mr. Bauer’s concerns even if we disagree on the answers. Our proposal is about more than just trains; the kinds of concerns he has are topics we are looking at as well.

    Here’s some links for those who want to see more: https://www.solutionaryrail.org/interviews

    This one in particular should be of interest – how rural communities are depopulating and losing young people as their economies decline, and what rail might do about that.

    Solutionary Perspectives: Rural Communities & Rural Organizing
    https://www.solutionaryrail.org/ruralcommunitieruralsorganizing

    • Barry Scott says:

      Thanks, Larry.
      Keep the rails, never give them up as they are generally what keep a corridor intact. Usually, the rail line makes a trail possible and removing it puts the trail at risk.

    • Curt Austin says:

      As I wrote in response to Mr. Roth’s companion Viewpoint, the weakness of his arguments supporting rail has been revealed by noting the results of a large and expensive experiment. SNCR was a well-funded effort by an experienced short-line railroad company. Nothing favorable to rail has developed since the 1950’s when D&H shut down scheduled service to North Creek.

      I hope it is easy to see the weakness of his arguments against a trail. Security concerns are often raised as if there were not thousands of bike trails already in existence. Why is measuring usage a serious problem? Why is a trail popular with us locals a bad thing? He doesn’t think we’ll want the “urban elite” using the trail, either. The area is over-saturated with bike trails? Where are they? We can’t mention the benefits of a healthy lifestyle because of eBikes?

      Mr. Roth cannot win this debate by ignoring the results of a major experiment on rail – and the underlying mega-trend – while casting aspersions on bike trails, which are universally successful.

      ==========

      Fred Monroe looked into the legal status of the corridor back in 2009, and determined that it is owned in fee by Warren County and the Town of Corinth. But railroad property is notoriously difficult to sort out – how did Durant acquire it exactly? – so the county would be wise to seek a rail banking order. Such an order is being sought as part of the state’s adverse abandonment action for the Sanford Lake corridor, which is composed of easements and a lease over state land. The Rail Banking Statute is in part intended to get past corridor ownership complications.

  12. Hope says:

    Rail is a dead iron horse for passenger service in rural communities. Whether you are a local or a visitor you will need alternative transportation once you get to the station or trying to get to the station. If you already own your own vehicle to get around at home you are going to use it to get anywhere you need to go. Electric, autonomous vehicles are the future. We already have the roads, Americans are not predisposed to waiting for departure when they can go, at Will, in their own vehicle. Shuttle services and buses will be the mass transport of the future. They are already here transporting people door to door to Dr.’s appts., grocery shopping, schools, etc. they should be expanded. The hiker shuttle is a good start but there should be regular shuttle service from Albany RR and Airport as well.
    Ski trains from Saratoga failed because no matter the relaxing breakfast train and shuttle to Gore you still had to schlep your gear to the station, then the shuttle and then to the lift. On the way back it’s in the reverse. Once arrived at the station you are schlepping your gear from train to car to home. And you didn’t stop to support a restaurant in North Creek or Warrensburg, for a snack or dinner, on you way home. Just so much easier to load up the car and go. Especially for a family. The car is also available for storage of extra gear and personal belongings. So, for a novelty, many folks tried it, but once you’ve done it then your done. Skiing is expensive enough without adding additional transportation costs when you already have a vehicle. Money and effort should be expended on the major corridors for passenger service to major metropolitan areas before spending on Rail follies.

    • Todd Eastman says:

      ^^^^^^^^^👍

    • Boreas says:

      Hope,

      I agree. Much of this debate typically dwells on how many visitors will be attracted to the area to increase revenue to the area(s). What one side doesn’t address is the simple fact that locals will use a trail much more than the rail. The rail revenue also depends on attracting people with significant disposable income and leisure time. The trail doesn’t have that requirement. Local users will be able to use it for free or at most a minimal charge. And as you note, there are no schedules to deal with.

      I feel the switch to trails on some segments of these railways would be worthwhile even if it doen’t attract a single out-of-town visitor. They have had rails in their backyard for a century, but unable to use them at their discretion. Aren’t the local citizens entitled to recreation at least as much as tourists with deep pockets? Do we really need to prop up a system that was initially designed for freight and the gentry who didn’t want to deal with horse-drawn stages? Gentrification is already becoming an issue in some of the villages. It is no different a century later. It has economic benefits, but part of the price paid is social.

      • Larry Roth says:

        Mr. Austin’s characterization of Iowa Pacific as a ‘well-funded experienced short line railroad company” is wrong. The management of the company under its owner, Ed Ellis, has been erratic and they have had problems elsewhere that should have been warning flags. The forced removal of cars they were storing on the line cut the revenue they were counting on; it can argued that it was not appropriate, but it did wreck their business plan, such as it was. (P.S. – there was no damage to the region from the cars, and there seems to have been no problems with the same kind of car storage on the rail corridor running up to Lowville from Snow Junction over on Tug Hill.)

        He asks why is security a problem when there are thousands of miles of bike trails. Is he trying to say none of them have ever had any accidents? No criminal activities? Interesting.

        People have to budget for security issues – like they would for any other program. Stuff happens. Build a trail, they better plan for it. I’ve been in touch with people who work on emergency squads, and trail rescues are something they have to deal with. It can be a real challenge. I’ve ridden the corridor by train, and there are stretches that are pretty remote. Get in trouble there and it will be… difficult. Pretending this issue doesn’t exist will not make it go away.

        There’s no problem with local users enjoying the trail – the point is, if the majority of the users are local, arguments about it being a boost for tourism are bogus. If no one knows who the trail users are, no one really has any idea if it’s a benefit for the economy or not – because it will certainly have a cost whomever uses it. If they are depending on outside money coming in to pay for it, they need to be able to prove it or admit it’s not working.

        Here’s a comment on that from another forum: “Interesting you mention the Lake George – Glens Falls Trail, the former D&H Lake George Branch that was abandoned and torn up by the D&H many years ago.
        Members of the Warren County Board of Supervisors mentioned that trail last year when they then decided that they wanted to keep the Railroad as a Railroad and would look for another Operator for it.
        They commented that they already had a trail, and they knew how much it cost to build it and how much it costs to maintain it, and for no return on their investment. And they did not want the expense of another trail.”

        If people are going to promote the healthy exercise of biking – and then promote the trail as a place to ride e-bikes they don’t have to pedal – well is it one or the other? And if they want to argue about doing more than one thing at a time, well let’s talk about rail with trail.

        I don’t have a problem with urban elites using the trail – but if someone thinks an economy that can’t support rural elites as the price for that is okay, that I do find a problem. Why don’t they?

        If they want a major experiment on rail, I have one. The two counties that split ownership of the line should sit down and come up with an arrangement for joint management and marketing. They should make the line available to anyone that wants to operate on it at no charge, provided they meet certain qualifications and conditions. No one demands a new business coming in start by paying for the privilege of using the local roads. In fact, they often get tax breaks, new utility connections, and more. They give them time to get established and see where it goes from there.

        They accept the idea that the local government should pay for a ‘free’ trail because it will supposedly boost the local economy and create jobs – so what would be the problem with a ‘free’ rail line if it does the same? Trail advocates talk about quality of life being important – do they think companies would not like to be able to offer it to prospective employees if they can get it in an area that also offers the transportation services they need for their business?

        I am not against trails. As someone who has hiked extensively, I appreciate the outdoors.

        What I am having a problem with is the way trails have been elevated into a magic bullet that will make everyone rich, make everyone healthy, and solve all problems – and all we have to do is just tear out railroads to make it happen. If trails are so magical, why aren’t there more being built from scratch? How are communities without rail lines to tear up supposed to make it?

        I saw the same kind of mindset in operation decades ago, when Urban Renewal was the new “Big Idea”. Tear down all of the old previous century dilapidated buildings in a town, and replace them with a modern mall and lots of parking for all those cars. It was going to be great. People like easy answers to hard problems.

        Travel across upstate today, and they’ll find lots of little towns with a hole in the middle, decaying malls with a lot of empty stores, and acres of empty parking lots. And the big box stores on the outskirts eat the lunch of any local businesses that are still around, and then they ship the profits off to corporate HQ elsewhere.

        There’s no admission of any problems with building, operating and paying for trails, no admission of what removing the rail lines means for the future (or the present for that matter). The constant promotion of it all being ‘free’ is fundamentally dishonest. The common thread among trail supporters is how great it would be for them personally – and therefore great for everyone else.

        There’s no recognition that the kinds of things railroads can do are going to be vital in the years ahead. As I remarked elsewhere, tearing out rail lines for a trail is equivalent to getting rid of lifeboats to make more room for deck chairs.

        Mr. Austin asked what will make more people happy. I asked what do people need. That’s still the question.

        • Hope says:

          Reality is that no one “needs” a tourist train.

        • Curt Austin says:

          Need should win out over happiness? There are rail supporters who see the potential for genuine business commerce with train service – a legitimate need! They believe that this should overwhelm any non-business need. Bicycles indeed seem silly in this context.

          (I don’t agree with this interpretation of “need”, of course. Meeting needs and happiness are closely related, or should be.)

          But the word “potential” intrudes upon this point of view. This is what the debate is about; the rest is distraction. What do we figure is the probability of success of renewed railroad business? Do we want to base the decision on hopeful statements about the future, or actual data?

          ========

          Ed Ellis and how serious railroad companies saw them, too. But this meant they were willing to throw money at the SNCR venture when others would not. But did their demise come from poor operation? No – freight did not materialize and ridership fell throughout their tenure – no surprise to anyone who could look upon this corridor dispassionately. Their fate was sealed upon their initial decision. Our own Justin Gonyo did the best anyone could do as manager, I think – he’s a good guy with lots of experience. and his investors ran Iowa Pacific like a 1:1 scale model railroad – a description I’ve read on rail forums,

          • Curt Austin says:

            Oops: internet difficulties led to misplaced words: … “Ed Ellis and his investors ran Iowa Pacific like a 1:1 scale model railroad – a description I’ve read on rail forums,, and how serious railroad companies saw them, too.” …

  13. LeRoy Hogan says:

    That’s why a rail with trail makes perfect sense so you can rent either type of bike. Just swap rail bikes when passing is needed.

    • george says:

      so you want monopolize the rail corridor for just one type of activity (rail bikes) and force everyone else to use a trail if ever built. Get rid of the rails, build a trail & everyone gets to use it; not just your elite friends on rail bikes!

      • Steve B. says:

        No, he’s saying do both and it makes some sense if feasible. Duchess County and NY State are funding the Maybrook Rail Trail from Hopewell Junction to Brewster NY as a “Rail and Trail” corridor, keeping the existing (if hardly used) rail line for Metro North to use, as well as installing a paved recreation trail.

        If the right-of-way supports it, it’s a no-brainer to keep the rail infrastructure and just use the corridor as a side-by-side recreation trail. I’ve no idea how much different the corridor is in Duchess County vs. the Dak’s, but it pleases everybody.

        • george says:

          again, build a trail, take the rail wheels off the rail bikes, install regular bike tires & you have your same rail bike abet running on a TRAIL! Now you can use to ride that or a regular bike, all on 1 trail. Plus I don’t need to cut a single tree or build any new bridges, I already have a perfect corridor!

        • Boreas says:

          Steve B,

          The problem with the Adirondacks is the many wetlands. The railbed narrows at most wetlands and goes over a narrow bridge or a narrow causeway that cannot be used for both activities. Filling in wetlands and building bridges nowadays would not be easy to get approval in the Forest Preserve. And both causeway and bridge construction requires significant engineering and cost. That is why it isn’t considered feasible.

          • Steve Bailey says:

            Agree and is why I wrote this ” it makes some sense if feasible”, and this “I’ve no idea how much different the corridor is in Duchess County vs. the Dak’s”.

  14. JohnL says:

    Blah blah blah blah BLAH! Stop it. I’m begging you. Has anyone changed their mind/opinion since this subject first came up on this forum in 1978? My hair hurts! Surely there are NEW SUBJECTS of interest to discuss here.

  15. george says:

    Someday I hope soon the state will makes up its mind & either leave it as rail or convert it to a trail. One side will be happy the other will go to court! Both sides can continue to argue/debate &/or pump their chest thinking they are on the right side of reason. This is human nature! There is NOT a single thing the rail folks can tell the state that would be new news to them. The same goes with the trail folks. It has been hashed out & argued about for years. The state just needs to make a decision & step out with either the status quo: a rail corridor going nowhere or make a change to a trail.

    • Boreas says:

      George,

      The State decided several years ago. The delays have been legal in nature brought on by opponents, not a lack of decision or commitment on the State’s part.

  16. Steve Bailey says:

    As a bit of a reality check on potential rail usage. Its 18 miles on the rail line (one-way) from Lake Cedar to Tupper Lake. It’s roughly 17 from North River to the Blue Ridge Rd., crossing Rt 28 along the way then another 7 up to Tahawus.

    These are relatively long stretches thru pretty much nothing but woods. Likely to be beautiful and scenic, lots of wildlife (maybe), assorted rivers etc…

    But there’s nothing out there between the major road crossings. There’s no infrastructure up on the Blue Ridge Road, nothing at Tahawus and that might just turn off the families out for a nice cycling excursion. Many avid cyclists like myself will eat these trails up, but the tourist dollars are not going to pan out the way maybe the planners and state expects, if only as these trials are relatively remote.

    The thought that comes to mind is the family looking for a bathroom or water source or a place to buy snacks. There’s nothing currently. So maybe “build it and they will come” will be the case and I’ve seen that on other rail-trail systems, but folks need to know this will be, in many sections, a remote trail system with few amenities.

    • Boreas says:

      Steve,

      Much of the push to turn the rails to trails comes from snowmobilers and the idea of snowmobile connector trails – with Newcomb as one possible hub. We are far from removing rails on any of that line, but the State seems to be taking the necessary steps to possibly do so eventually.

    • Steve Bailey says:

      Typo, meant to type Lale Clear

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