WOW! Thanks, all you Tupper Lakers, near and far, for signing up at TheARTA.org website and showing your support by writing letters to the editor and talking it up with your friends and families. There is a lot more support for the recreational trail in Tupper Lake than our local press will give credit for. Many people whom I have spoken to over the last month are in support of the rec trail without rails.
I wanted to share with you all some insight over train travel in Italy. I have just returned from a wonderful trip to that beautiful country, and it has confirmed my support for the recreation trail instead of the side-by-side train track and trail. First, we had the opportunity to ride on the Eurostar Italia train, which is the "fast" train, from Padova to Florence. To get to that train, we had to drive 30 minutes from where we were staying in the popular community of Asolo to the train station in Castelfranco (population around 30,000). Then we got on a small, local train to Padova (population around 35,000). From there we boarded the fast Eurostar Italia train, which stopped only once in Bologna before it continued on to Florence. Both Bologna and Florence are large cities in Italy. This 3.5-hour (one way, including changing trains) ride cost about $112 round-trip per person - not exactly a cheap ride, and Italy's trains are heavily subsidized, adding to their current economic woes.
Another trip we took was to the Italian Winter Olympic venue of Cortina, located in the Dolomiti (Italy's Alps). On this trip we drove, as there is no train service to Cortina. The best way to get to Cortina, using public transportation, is to take the fast train, or fly into Venice and hop a bus to Cortina. There is a slow train you can also get in Venice which will drop you off in a town about 35 kilometers away, but then you have to get on a bus to get the rest of the way. When I asked a local hotelier about trains to Cortina, he told me that they would be too slow and too expensive to operate in this mountain town.
Cortina is a very popular year-round vacation resort. It is huge, larger than Vail, Colo., and it is an awesome venue for all kinds of recreational pursuits such as skiing, hiking, climbing, fishing, etc. There are many small mountain villages throughout the valley of the Dolomiti, and they all have something in common: a dedicated bicycling-hiking-walking trail which connects them all. Most of this trail does not follow the road but meanders across fields, forests and through pedestrian areas of the many villages along the valley. The views are breathtaking. There are bicycle rental shops along the trails as well as cafes and other shops and venues. We were there in the off-season, but it was a beautiful weekend and there were all kinds of people riding bikes, pushing strollers and walking along this trail. Some of it was paved through the main parts of the villages, but other areas were just crusher run. Even seniors were out walking on this trail.
My point here is that Italy, a country with train service to most all their more populated areas, recognizes that there are some instances in which the cost of the service (train) far outweighs the value (getting people to the venue), yet they invest in a recreational trail to connect their all their villages to enhance their guests' as well as their citizens' experiences.
We stayed at a small hotel which was situated right on the trail, and as we sat at their outdoor cafe, we watched a multitude of bikers and hikers use it. We also spent half the day walking on this trail through the valley to a wonderful small mountain lake. It was the highlight of our trip.
Open your eyes up to the possibility of a world-class recreation trail through one of the most beautiful areas in our state. Ask yourself, "How many times will I ride the train?" especially if it costs $100 round-trip and five hours of your time to get to Utica? Even if it costs $20 round-trip to Saranac Lake from Tupper, how many times will YOU ride it if it takes an hour to get there? Thousands of people will come to this trail, some many more times than once. What about enhancing recreational opportunities for our own citizens in these communities? There are hundreds of people living right here in these communities who will use the rec trail every week. Think about it. Join us at TheARTA.org, and show your support.
Hope Frenette lives in Tupper Lake and is a Steering Committee member of the Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates.