Thursday, April 16, 2020

Adirondack Wild: Plan for Remsen to Lake Placid Travel Corridor Fails to Assess Impacts

A DEC plan for the 119-mile Travel Corridor that runs through the heart of the Adirondack Park does not adequately assess actual and projected impacts on the Park’s public wilderness and natural resources according to the group Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve. At issue is whether the plan complies with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. Adirondack Wild does not believe it does comply. The group filed comments on the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor Unit Management Plan amendment with the Adirondack Park Agency this week. 

The Travel Corridor inside the Park is planned to be divided into two segments: 45 miles of rehabilitated Rail from Big Moose to Tupper Lake and 34 miles of all Trail without rail in the Tupper Lake to Lake Placid segment. The linear route of the former New York Central Railroad runs past eleven units of public Forest Preserve, including areas classified Wilderness, Primitive, Wild Forest and Canoe. 

Details about public recreational uses on the corridor, including seasonal tourist trains, snowmobiling, bicycling and strolling on the Tupper Lake-Lake Placid segment dominate the planning document. “Unfortunately, the DEC has not devoted enough attention to planning for ongoing climate change and altered precipitation in the Adirondacks, nor does the plan assess the impacts of more intensive train and recreational uses on adjacent ‘Forever Wild’ Forest Preserve,” said Adirondack Wild’s David Gibson. 

“The plan does a good job in explaining why two segments are needed, why a trail adjacent to the rail is not feasible, and what must be done to create and connect two segments” Gibson added. “It does a very poor job assessing how climate change may alter uses of the corridor now and in the future.”

“The plan treats air quality and climate change as trivial and insignificant factors in the planning process. That clearly isn’t true. Precipitation patterns and temperatures are already changing. Furthermore, DEC is charged by the state legislature to plan for climate change across the state, but that fact certainly doesn’t come across in this planning document,” Gibson concluded.

“The plan acknowledges that snowpack does not last on the rails because the corridor warms up faster than its surrounding forest, yet fails to discuss the consequences of that fact: that off-corridor snowmobile riding – whether legal or not – will be favored and that other mechanized uses of the corridor will come to dominate the corridor. Actual and projected uses and the capacity of the resources and character of adjacent Forest Preserve to withstand those uses must be better evaluated before this plan complies with the State Land Master Plan,” he said.

“The plan also does a poor job in assessing how building recreational train platforms and flag stops along lengthy, remote sections of track may impact the wilderness immediately adjacent to the tracks as well as public health and safety. Running a seasonal tourist train through this wilderness impacts the wilderness itself. Creating all sorts of stops to leave people along the train route adjacent to the wilderness has impacts on resources, on wild character and on public health and safety.”

“It will be the understaffed, overworked Forest Rangers who must patrol this long corridor and respond to emergency incidents all along the way. The plan does a poor job at reconciling DEC’s desire to promote more intensive recreational opportunities with DEC’s more fundamental and legislated mission to protect the Forest Preserve and to appropriately manage the public’s use of it.”

Adirondack Wild is asking the Adirondack Park Agency to send this plan back to DEC for revisions in order to comply with the guidelines of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. The public has until April 20 to submit comments to: 

Richard Weber
Deputy Director for Planning
NYS Adirondack Park Agency
P.O. Box 99
Ray Brook, NY 12977
Email – [email protected]

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7 Responses

  1. Smitty says:

    Sometimes, the perfect is the enemy of the good. We’ve been waiting many years for the rail trail to become reality. Mr. Gibson’s arguments for further delays (not considering climate change and air quality impacts) just strike me as yet another tactic for needless delay. I’m beginning to worry that I’ll never get to bike what will be a spectacular rail trail, at least in my lifetime. Enough already.

  2. Tony Goodwin says:

    Dave, the snow doesn’t melt because the corridor is an open area. The snow melts faster in the corridor because the rails, unless they are covered by about a foot of snow, absorb some of the sun’s heat and accelerate the melting. Over the years, I have skied to Fish Pond numerous times, but I have never seen any evidence that snowmobiles trespassed off the corridor there. I have also skied to Lake Lila late in the season. I looked very carefully, but could see no evidence that the had been any snowmobiles on that lake. When there was the large washout near Lake Lila, there was snowmobile traffic on the lake because that was a good bypass of the washout. Once the washout was fixed in 2000, that trespass pretty much ended, and was non-existent when I skied there in 2010 or so.

    As for the concern about the train causing overcrowding by dropping off hikers and paddlers at places like Lake Lila, I don’t believe that will be an issue. There is road access to Lake Lila and any other place on public land where people might be dropped off. Taking the train there is much less convenient that driving. For Lake Lila for instance, it’s drive to the station, unload the boat, put it in the baggage car, unload at the stop, carry it nearly as far as from the parking area, and repeat on the return – all while being tied to a schedule that must be met. While a few may do it for the novelty of the experience, it won’t add any significant numbers.

    In short, I don’t see that the implementation of this UMP amendment will result in any significant impacts to adjacent areas of Forest Preserve.

  3. John Boy says:

    Yes I also see another waste of the public’s patience lawsuit coming using
    the in vogue court room darling of a “Climate Change” lawsuit to derail the process that has been looked at and looked over for way to long IMHO . I too look forward to the day I can enjoy that rail trail with no RR tracks on it before I am to old to bike it on with my E Bike.
    I will need an E Bike as I will sadly be to old to pedal the rail trail at the rate this recreational dream is being delayed by court room theater.

  4. Beverly Stellges says:

    Jesum crow!!! Not again!! Remove the darn tracks and makes rail trail! This is ridiculous!

  5. Dave both makes a point and misses a point. The reconstruction of stations with long platforms and the creation of new stations has not been adequately assessed… especially if you actually believe one more person is going to actually ride the rail. Doubtful!
    There will be no increase in snowmobile traffic park-wide but there is likely to be a longer use of the corridor at least between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake.
    “Mechanized uses”? We are now more concerned about bicycle use in the park than the re-use of creosote soaked ties.

  6. Yeah! for a multiple use trail! Saying this UMP somehow should not go forward due to its impact on climate change is like saying we shouldn’t skip stones for fear the lake will be filled with stones.

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