Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Trail Towns update planned for Adirondack Rail Trail, meeting set for Oct. 12 in Saranac Lake

The Adirondack Rail Trail Association (ARTA), the Saranac Lake Chamber of Commerce, and the New York State Snowmobile Association will hold a “Trail Towns” update on the status of the Adirondack Rail Trail for Tri-Lakes businesses and community leaders on October 12 at 3 p.m. in the Harrietstown Town Hall in Saranac Lake. The presentation and subsequent discussion will share ideas with attendees on how the communities and businesses along the corridor can coordinate their visitor services, outreach and messaging, and common support services as the rail trail comes to life.

The first issue of a new brochure with trail map will be made available at the meeting. The second issue, in early 2023, will promote businesses and attractions along the corridor. The 34-mile Adirondack Rail Trail, currently being constructed by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation on an old railroad bed, will connect the Tri-Lakes communities of the northern Adirondack Park as never before. The first 9-mile section, between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, is scheduled to open, with proper signage and amenities, in mid-2023. The entire trail connecting Lake Placid and Tupper Lake should be surfaced and open by 2025. Even in its unfinished state, the trail already sees moderate use. For winter activities it is fully operational with skiers and snowmobilers using the trail and visiting local businesses. For warm-weather users, the surface is rough but is now being used by local walkers and fat-tire and mountain bikers.


According to a study commissioned by the Rails to Trails Conservancy, when fully complete the trail will attract over 250,000 new out-of-town visitors and more than 100,000 local users each year. The economic benefit to the region in the warm weather months alone should be over $20 million in new visitor spending annually. Snowmobiling benefits should add substantially to this figure, as the trail now makes the winter connections from Old Forge, Tug Hill, Malone, and points north much simpler and safer than ever before. The Adirondack Rail Trail will bring environmental, economic, and quality of life benefits to the Tri-Lakes region. Planning for these opportunities requires cooperation now by the seven local governments along the corridor and by the businesses that will benefit from this new traffic and tourism spending.

ARTA will help with this coordination, will publish brochures with trail maps and business directories, and will maintain interactive maps with current trail conditions. ARTA will also offer to represent the multiple Trail Towns in negotiations with concessionaires, sponsors, advertisers, each other, and state agencies to maximize the economic and quality of life benefits of the trail. This will include such things as snowmobile trailer parking locations, connector trails, restroom facilities, in-town branded signage, and promotion of amenities, essential services, and participating businesses.


ARTA is a twelve-year-old 501c3 public not-for-profit with a 14-member local board. In addition to grant funding, ARTA is currently supported by tax-deductible donations. Local business advertising in the next version of the trail map will also provide essential support. ARTA board members include representatives of the Tri-lakes business community, the local snowmobile clubs and the state association, and community leaders. The association’s charter provides for representation from all the Trail Towns along the corridor. ARTA board membership participation will also be addressed on the 12.

This introductory meeting is open to all local businesses, community organizations, government agencies, and community leaders. For more information, email


In other news: Adirondack Rail Trail Association appoints Brian Woods as Executive Director


All photos provided by ARTA.

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23 Responses

  1. Larry Roth says:

    I would be very interested to see if there is going to be any independent verification of the claimed economic benefits for the rail trail once it fully opens. I would also be interested to see how any economic benefits hold up over time.

    It will also be interesting to see how well the trail holds up over time and who will be doing the maintenance it will require. The trail may be ‘free’ but that doesn’t mean someone isn’t going to have to pay for it.

    • Ben says:

      you could say all the same crap about the rails & the ASR.

      • Larry Roth says:

        As it happens, it’s a lot easier to get information on that for ASR: ticket sales, money spent on maintenance, payroll, etc.

        Who ‘owns’ the rail trail? Who will be paying for upkeep and tracking usage numbers? Is ARTA going to be in charge of operating the trail and maintaining it? Where are they getting funding from if so? The new ARTA director Brian Woods has a real challenge ahead of him. Great claims were made for the rail trail.

        These are questions that will have to be answered. Given that the state allowed the rail corridor to disappear after assuming ownership, and that ASR did the hard work of clearing brush, cleaning up, and maintaining the track and the corridor along it, the rail trail people have yet to demonstrate what their stewardship is going to look like.

    • Boreas says:


      I have no doubt contrasts will be made between the “rail” end and the “trail” end. Ad infinitum.

      • Larry Roth says:

        It would be interesting to see if anyone at the meeting is willing to work with ASR to see how both can work together for mutual benefit. As long as ARTA remains determined to get the tracks pulled all the way back to Thendara (and there are those who want it erased all the way back to Utica), the rail trail will never reach its full potential.

        What Brian Woods has to say on that will be telling.

        And any Olympic Bids are pretty much off the table now that there is no longer any possibility of Lake Placid to the national rail system.

    • Larry Roth says:

      Speaking of numbers, here are some from a contractor rehabbing the rail line up to Tupper Lake. The state could have done this at any time – there was money for it until 911 changed everyone’s plans.

      And for those who complain that it was too expensive and a waste of money, the construction of exit 3 on the Northway was estimated at $50 million – just so people could get to Albany International Airport 5 minutes faster.

      Tartaglia Railroad Services
      We are nearing completion of a $19.7M contract to rehabilitate 92 miles of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad between Snow Jct. and Tupper Lake, NY, for the New York State Department of Transportation. We have already completely rebuilt 45 miles of track between Big Moose and Tupper Lake, NY.
      Work began work in 2020 – it included:
      – Replacing 83,951 ties
      – Replacing 2,743 feet of rail
      – Replacing 82,580 bolts
      – Placing 65,630 tons of ballast
      – Surfacing 447,278 feet of track
      – Replacing three public grade crossings
      – Replacing 17 private crossings
      – Cleaning over 28,000 feet of ditches
      – Miscellaneous turnout and siding work

      At times, we had three separate crews working to complete the work, in cooperation with subcontractor Storer Excavating & Trucking of Stockton, NY.
      Logistics and material supply was pretty difficult for a section of this project, where the railroad is a 26-mile stretch without a single access point in between.

      Our Director of Operations, Christian Henrici, said, “I am overly pleased with our dedicated employees who made completing this project possible, despite the remote location of the project.”

      To date, we have worked over 53,500 manhours – all without a reportable injury!
      Keep up the great work, guys!…/0Fr-BSagnVZ9VuZwQfQHoQaYx8DSEwLa…

    • Brian Woods says:

      Hi Larry. ARTA is a community-based organization that seeks to work not only with existing partners to demonstrate the economic benefit of the Rail Trail on our communities but also with the business community to find ways to augment the benefit in a sustainable fashion. In the near future, we will be looking to increase our volunteer numbers to support the DEC in the routine maintenance of the trail. If you’re interested in working with us to support these efforts, send me an email:

  2. Larry Roth says:

    One more thing:

    Whatever benefits the rail trail actually produces, there are also the opportunity costs to consider. Here’s a few.

    Every mile of rail torn up is a further commitment to highways and everything that entails.

    It takes three times as much energy to move stuff over roads versus rails – and that’s true whether the vehicles are running on fossil fuels or electricity.

    A trail will never take trucks off a highway.

    A trail can’t fill in when a climate event or some other disaster takes out a highway. (And a railroad can be repaired a lot faster than a highway.)

    The dirty little secret of tourism is the carbon footprint of the travel it takes to get tourists to a destination.

    There may be money in tourism – but the jobs are often low wage with no benefits, and are seasonal. They also suffer in tough times because people will put off tourism as a luxury.

    Passenger rail can support tourism as well as regular travel – as well as business opportunities based on rail service.

    Everything that competes with rail is subsidized by taxpayers – and so are trails. If rail was treated like other transportation modes with the same kind of support, there might not be so many abandoned lines.

    • Steve B. says:

      The rail line has been abandoned for decades as a freight line. Obviously the economics worked against the process. Consider as well that it served very few communities (Old Forge, Tupper, Saranac and LP) and that transfer to truck was still still required for those along the Fulton Chain, Long Lake, etc… well as other outlying communities not adjacent to the the rail line. The transfer process train to truck would have induced its own costs that drove the expenses up as well.

      I do lament that that the U.S. mostly abandoned rail as a viable method to move freight and people, but thats an argument that took place many decades ago and too late now.

      I do note that I have as yet not seen a rail trail conversion that has not seen new business develop that supports the recreational use of the trail. South and North County, Putnam trails in Westchester and Putnam, Harlem and Duchess trails in Duchess County, Walkill Trail, Cuomo bridge with its connections to trails on both sides of the river. There are many others that seem to have a “build it and they will come” reaction. I just watched 2 YT blogs of folks riding the Katy Trail in Missouri. Having read many years ago of how there was not many places to camp, find water, lodging, is now seeing a lot of trail oriented business having been developed. Ditto the GAP trail in PA. Lots more B&B’s etc… now then a few years ago. I think the LP to Tupper trail is going to be great for those communities, certainly more beneficial then a rail line.

    • ben says:

      your scenic train TAKES NO FREIGHT off any highway & never will!

      • Larry Roth says:

        The only thing holding back the full potential of the rail corridor is state policy.

        • ben says:

          Not true. If you & the ASR think hauling freight is such a good idea, you can go get money & upgrade the line to handle freight when you operate the tracks during the summer months. In the winter, IT STILL BELONGS to the snowmobile community, so you’ll never run freight on it then!
          The communities all along the corridor know who brings in the most revenue, & it’s not the ASR!

        • Tom Paine says:

          And the subsidies provided by the NYS taxpayers.

  3. Raymond P. Budnick says:

    There are people that will complain if they are in heaven and the gate squeaks.
    JFK challenged us to make it to the moon before the decade was out. Any chance of surprising us and finishing this by mid 2024?
    Train up from Utica. Overnight in Tupper. Bike to Placid and spend a couple of days. Then turn around and repeat in reverse.
    Can’t wait!

    • ben says:

      you are assuming that the ASR will be able to afford running trains from Utica to Tupper Lake on a regular schedule. How many trains made that trip this year. Maybe 1, so good luck getting any type of regular schedule running. They don’t run a weekly train between Utica & Thendara in the summer months, what makes anyone think they will run a regular train to Tupper Lake.

  4. ben says:

    Let’s see how long the ASR last running to Tupper Lake at the cost they are charging. People can drive their cars from Utica to Tupper CHEAPER than buying a single adult ticket. Bust the ASR jackasses on here will never admit it’s a over priced piece of CRAP!

  5. ben says:

    This debate is at a stage of “It is what it is”! The rail folks got their tracks to Tupper Lake & the trails folks go north from there. From a cost perspective was it worth rehabbing the tracks to Tupper Lake. In my opinion NO! Just look at the cost to run a single train in fuel, oil & other maintenance cost. Unless they are full of passengers they loose money every trip. But that is nothing new to the ASR. Who wants to do a 11 ride up/back from Utica to Tupper Lake in a single day. That allows minimal to no visiting time in Tupper Lake. And to even meet this 11 hr schedule, the trains makes few if any stops along the route. And exactly what can be seen in Tupper Lake with such a short layover. NOTHING!!!!! The rail fans on here want to talk about the line carrying freight. Great whose going to pay for the upgrade the line needs to haul the freight; whose going to pay to rehab or build any freight loading/unloading stops along the line? The state has no interest in that folly, so is the ASR going to step up? The ASR has a somewhat successful business running a train from Utica to Thendara & then rail bikes up to Carter Station. Build on that, improve that, but no you went for the big prize, a train to Tupper Lake. In the end one of two things will happen – The Tupper Lake portion will drive you totally bankrupt or you’ll stop running trains there because it is tooo expensive. Give it 5 more years, the ASR may still figure out a way to screw up their business!

    • Big Burly says:

      I’ve been reading your vitriol for years, misinformed as it is.

      While you continue to castigate rail service, I recommend you read the NYS climate change legislation and the regulations being developed to implement that law.

      Fossil fueled travel by car, snowmobile, motorcycle, truck inside the blue line will be severely curtailed by the overall and specific limits on carbon emissions.

      Doing away with rail infrastructure for all of the economic benefits we should be relearning how to apply seems like cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face

      • Dana says:

        So diesel locomotives are carbon friendly now?

        We already have electric cars, trucks, and bikes. It isn’t that big of a stretch to convert sleds. Even with potential self-contained (no wires) electric locomotives, it doesn’t change their lack of flexibility when tied to steel rails – especially in the wilderness. It isn’t the vehicle, it is the road it rides on that limits its use.

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