Any forthcoming decision about the best use of the Adirondack Railroad corridor between Lake Placid and Old Forge will be regional, according to a story by Chris Morris in Thursday's (Aug. 30) Adirondack Daily Enterprise.
In response to a question from Chris after a press conference Gov. Andrew Cuomo held during a visit to the site of the future Keene firehouse Wednesday, the governor said that he would defer any decision on corridor use to the new North Country Regional Economic Development Council.
That had to be troubling for the members and leaders of the Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates, who want the tracks ripped up and the salvage money used to build a paved path from Lake Placid to Old Forge for year-round multi-recreational use.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo
(Enterprise file photo)
The governor's comment was good news for rail and trail supporters in our region, however.
Why that would be troubling to the rail-to-trail supporters is that the point man and co-leader of the North Country Economic Development Council is Garry Douglas. The council hit a home run last fall with its application to New York state for economic development and brought millions to the North Country for myriad positive projects.
Since before a public meeting here by the successful council earlier this summer on its plans for the second year of the state program, the ARTA brass has been trying to trash the hard-working Douglas, saying he is obsessed with railroads.
In a Guest Commentary in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise last week, Preservationist Dick Beamish, who has a long association with all sorts of environmental organizations in the Park, slammed the economic development coalition for failing to fully see the value of the ARTA plan.
"What blinds them is the obsession of Garry Douglas, the council's co-chairman. His obsession involves trains. Not the high-speed trains this country desperately needs, but the kind of obsolete train service he wants to restore between Lake Placid and Utica," Mr. Beamish wrote.
"This seems to be his pet passion, though it makes no sense economically or any other way."
According to Mr. Beamish, "The real problem here is that you can't have both a train and a recreational trail on a single-track rail bed."
Who says? Mr. Beamish. The Adirondack North Country Association is already doing it on the rail bed between Lake Placid and Ray Brook, with plans to go to Saranac Lake. It will require a lot more money and a lot more work than simply tearing up the tracks, but it's a development that will produce double dividends from both train riders and recreation lovers using it.
By trashing Mr. Douglas, Mr. Beamish somehow believes his group will find favor from the governor or others in Albany for their trail plan. Trying to beat up Garry is not going to win many friends in state government. Mr. Beamish submitted a petition to the North Country Economic Development Council at its recent meeting here at the Wild Center, calling for Garry's resignation. It fell on deaf ears, as it should have.
Garry's a North Country hero. He's a strong and respected voice for progress in our region who is listened to both in governments of Washington, D.C., and Albany.
Like the Next Stop! Tupper Lake committee, the leaders of ANCA and the Adirondack Railroad Preservation Society and other regional groups, Mr. Douglas knows the best alternative for the use of the rail corridor is a rail-and-trail plan - the best of all worlds where train riders will enjoy some of the prettiest places in the Park, and hikers and bikers can find them, too, on a trail alongside the tracks.
Garry Douglas has said publicly many times that where there are good transportation networks, prosperity follows. His wise logic is borne out in many successful examples around our nation.
Garry should be applauded for his belief in the importance of the return of train service to our region, not maligned by Mr. Beamish and others, who, we believe, have ulterior and selfish motives for their push to rip up the tracks.
Dan McClelland lives in Tupper Lake and is editor, publisher and owner of the Tupper Lake Free Press.