The Adirondack Railway Preservation Society recently met with the North Elba Town Board. They came to learn why the town has refused to support an extension of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad and had indefinitely shelved a proposed Rails and Trails project last year.
After long discussion, the answer eventually came down to dollars and sense. Board members expressed concerns that the tourist train is not economically viable. The railroad operation, in it's present form has had little or no significant economic impact on the community.
They didn't like what they heard.
"It's fair to say there are mixed feelings about the railroad in Lake Placid," explained North Elba town Supervisor Roby Politi. "I think the people feel it's a nice attraction, but a financial boondoggle."
Despite engineering studies and proposals for a recreation path that would parallel the railroad corridor between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, there has been little action in recent years.
It's just common sense. Who would want to travel an eight-mile recreation path that must be shared with a noisy, diesel belching locomotive less than a few yards away?
Local politicians are finally listening to the people and exhibiting a bit of common sense with the realization that the rail corridor has a more viable opportunity and a greater economic impact if it is utilized as a recreational path.
The Adirondack Railway Preservation Society, which administers the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, has been seeking support for an extension of its tourist trains, and to possibly provide freight service.
Rail enthusiasts are seeking funding for federal stimulus funds to compete the connection from Saranac Lake to Tupper Lake, where a fully restored train depot awaits passengers.
What is lost in most discussions is the tremendous span of economic opportunities available if the rail corridor were converted into a 100-mile recreation corridor.
The corridor could serve as a connector to numerous snowmobile trails in the winter, and to the Jackrabbit ski trail system. It could also see winter use in terms of horse and sleigh or dogsled tours. In the warm weather months, the route could serve mountain bikers (who have notoriously little opportunities in the park), paddlers (who now have the means to trailer boats behind a bike) and thru-hikers.
Similarly, the level, graded route would be ideal for individuals with impaired mobility as wheelchairs could easily navigate the route.
Such opportunities could be developed into lodge-to-lodge vacation packages, which may help to alleviate some of the tourist congestion that occasionally plagues Route 86 from Lake Placid to Saranac Lake.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I am a trackside resident in Ray Brook. Thus, I was interested to learn that homes located adjacent to an active railroad are devalued by at least 30 percent of their fair market value.
However, a house on the same property, if it were in close proximity to a recreation path will have a resale value that is 20 percent above other comparable properties.
The rails-to-trails concept has proven successful in many parts of the nation, while rails-with-trails efforts have struggled. It's high time to take a fresh look at the old tracks!
In other local news, the NYSDEC has announced that Indian Pass Ranch, LLC recently plead guilty to two Environmental Conservation Law misdemeanors stemming from a September 2007 discharge of sediment from a dam into a tributary of the West Branch of the Ausable River, Under a plea settlement and consent order, Indian Pass Ranch and Joe Barile paid a total of $62,250 in fines and penalties.
Indian Pass Ranch, LLC, which is owned by Joseph Barile of Lake Placid, is the former John Holley property located on the Adirondac Loj Road. The property includes a small pond that was developed by damming the North Meadow Brook.
The spillway of the dam empties into the West Branch of the Ausable River. In September 2007, Mr. Barrile discharged sediment from behind the dam into the brook, unlawfully and without a permit.
As a result, over 40 years of accumulated silt and sediments were carried downstream and entered the Ausable River - silting over stream bottoms and endangering prime trout spawning grounds.
Fittingly, $22,500 of the fine was provided to the Au Sable River Association to be used for the conservation and maintenance of the river.
What were they thinking? Two Lewis County men have been charged in connection with the destruction of a lean-to in the remote Five Ponds Wilderness Area according to the NYSDEC.
Shawn Roggie, 38, of Croghan, and David Lambert, 44, of Lowville, were camping and fishing with friends at Cage Lake in May when the incident occurred. An investigation by DEC Forest Rangers and the DEC's Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation determined that Roggie used Lambert's handgun to shoot multiple holes in the lean-to roof and later climbed on to the roof and ripped off shingles. DEC staff also found dozens of beer cans discarded in the vicinity and the nearby out-house tipped over.
The Cage Lake lean-to was rehabilitated last fall by volunteers involved in "Lean2Rescue" and DEC staff. It is located in a remote region of the Five Ponds Wilderness Area and is accessible by a journey of at least five miles. Repair materials must be carried in since motorized use is not permitted in wilderness areas.
Both men are due in Webb Town Court on Sept. 22. DEC staff estimated the cost of repairs at approximately $1,200.