To the editor:
I am writing to encourage our elected officials to seriously consider supporting the Adirondack Rail Trail that would connect Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake and Old Forge. I have resided along this rail corridor for over 30 years and am very frustrated at watching it deteriorate and go unused year after year.
The corridor, which is currently of little use to anybody, has the potential to be a valuable asset to our communities. The proposed rail trail would be a popular tourist attraction, drawing visitors from all over the country, and it would provide our residents with a host of healthy outdoor activities in a safe and scenic environment.
Economically, the facts speak for themselves. A recent study commissioned by the Adirondack Scenic Railroad said that restoring the entire 141-mile railroad line from Lake Placid to Utica would attract 7,000 new visitors to the area each year and cost tens of millions of our tax dollars to complete. Another study by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy estimated that a rail-trail just between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid would attract 240,000 visitors annually who would spend $20 million while they are here. And this 34-mile section of trail joining Placid and Tupper would likely cost nothing to complete, thanks to the salvage value of the old tracks.
It should be noted that these estimates of annual trail usage do not include the increase in snowmobile traffic that would surely take place once the rusting rails are removed.
I have supported restoring train service in the past, but I recognize a good idea when I hear one. I now fully support a recreational trail on this corridor. Replacing these rotten ties and rusty tracks for modern rail service would cost millions of dollars that are not available. For good reason, no company has expressed an interest in restoring regular passenger or freight service to the Adirondacks.
The unit management plan for this corridor was approved in 1996 and includes the option of converting it to a recreation trail if no viable rail proposals were received after a five-year marketing period. This means the management plan should have been reviewed in 2001. Yet no such review has been undertaken for more than 16 years!
The debate over rails vs. trails has gone on long enough. It is time for the state of New York to review the management plan and decide the best use for this corridor. It's time to capitalize on this extraordinary economic and recreational resource. The facts should be thoroughly reviewed by the gatekeepers of this corridor - the state Department of Transportation and Gov. Cuomo - and action taken before any more time is wasted.
I have resided in the Adirondacks all my life and have four adult children who have all moved away to find work. I believe we need to do something that will revitalize our economy all year long and that this unused scenic byway could be one key to making that happen. I urge the elected officials of our communities to petition New York state to immediately review the unit management plan for this corridor and decide how our communities may better benefit from this untapped resource.
I openly support the proposed Adirondack Rail Trail and encourage others to register their support at www.thearta.org.