Saturday, May 22, 2021

A look back at the rail trail’s history, debate over it

tearing up the tracks

Work is underway in the Saranac Lake area to remove the railroad tracks and replace them with a recreation trail.

As many people know, this project has a long and contentious history.

Here’s a look back over some of the discussion, a random sampling of the hundreds of  from our archive:

From 2013: Pete Nelson gives his support for the trail

From 2013, NCPR’s Brian Mann reports on communities lining up on both sides of the debate

From 2014: Rather than focus on one rail trail, Jack Drury makes the case for “exploring the idea of an Adirondack Park Community-Based Trail System.”

From 2015: The state plans to give Adirondack Scenic Railroad one more season to run its tourist train between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake.

From 2017, the DEC released the draft plan for the trail

From 2017, Former Explorer editor Phil Brown reports on the lawsuit brought against the state by the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, which it won later that year, as reported by Explorer reporter Mike Lynch. The next steps were laid out by Lee Keet in this post.

From 2018, Tony Goodwin breaks down the argument for using the rail corridor for transportation

After all that, fast forward to last year, when trail construction (and track rehabilitation between Big Moose and Tupper Lake) began.

Click here to explore all posts tagged “Adirondack Rail Trail Debate in our archive.

Photo by Mike Lynch

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Melissa is a journalist with experience as a reporter and editor with the Burlington Free Press, Ithaca Journal and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. She worked as a communications specialist for the Adirondack North Country Association and is currently digital editor for Adirondack Explorer, overseeing both the Explorer's website and its community forum the Adirondack Almanack. She enjoys hiking, camping and other outdoors activities, and spending time with her husband, their twin daughters, and rescue animals -- two dogs and two cats.

3 Responses

  1. Stanley Montgomery says:

    Although the Adirondack railroad between LP and saranac lake was a little to high for the tickets people still got to see some wilderness and see how it felt when people came on it before and during the 32 Olympics,it is part of history just as much if not more than the Olympic sites, along with johns brown farm and others, as far as the trail goes they could have had both rail and trail, with just a gravel bed nobody is going to use it ,Evan in lake George and Glens falls area they paved where tracks were pulled up, great for running biking and mothers with running strollers, I am afraid by time it gets around it will be overgrown and need a lot more work and who’s going to pay for it,also the injury and rescue end of it that should be free because the trail is free, I just don’t know what the future of it going to be but it doesn’t look good with all these questions that need to be address ,we will have to see

  2. Lee Keet says:

    The local rail-trail movement actually got started in 2010 when ARTA (Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates) was formed and held a public forum in Lake Placid. The crowd was enthusiastic about a recreational trail, so ARTA commissioned a 2011 study by Camoin Associates that concluded that the status quo was the worst possible outcome and that either rail restoration or conversion to recreation was the right decision.

    In 2012 ARTA commissioned the Rails to Trail Conservancy to do a more detailed study. That study said that a recreation trail would bring over 200,000 new visitors to the region who would spend $20 million locally. Armed with these studies ARTA recruited 13,000 individual supporters and 400 businesses via signed petitions in support of a recreation trail. ARTA supplemented this with resolutions from all of the communities along the corridor from Lake Placid to Tupper Lake and presented the petitions and resolutions to the State. The result was a series of public hearings leading up to the first attempt to modify the 1996 Unit Management Plan to allow for the rail conversion,

    The UMP revision put forward by DOT, DEC and the APA was successfully challenged in court, primarily becsuse the definition of “travel corridor” did not include rail trails. ARTA then supported the modifications to the State Land Use Master Plan that rectified that technical detail, resulting in the new UMP that is currently in force.

    ARTA continues to support the rapid construction of the Adirondack Rail Trail, including its extension beyond Tupper Lake south to Thendara. ARTA beleives that the state’s plans to rebuild the rail line south of Tupper Lake were hastily hatched without adequate SEQR environmental or economic studies and are not in the best interests of the corridor communities, will fail to attract either a responsible rail operator or meaningful ridership. and will supress use of the corridor for recreation, especially snowmobiling on that critical C6 snowmobile trail.

  3. ben says:

    Sad thing is we will have to put up with the rails between Old Forge & Tupper Lake. The ASR has had 30 years to provide passenger service to Old Forge & they have DONE NOTHING! They’ve had 30 years to try & coordinate AMTRACK schedule with their schedule & they haven’t done a dam thing. The state spent millions of dollars to rehab the rails between Thendara & Big Moose, for what at most 8-10 trains during the season. That provided NO economic impact to the Big Moose area. Ask any business in Old Forge what they miss most about the tourism business during this covid pandemic & they don’t even mention the ASR. Go ahead state spend millions of dollars to rehab a rail line no one will use. IN 5 years we’ll finally be tearing them out & extending the rail trail all the way to Old Forge, where is should have gone all along

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