I would like to thank Gary Beaudette for his letter in your paper on Oct. 17 regarding people working together instead of against one another on the rails-to-trails debate. Gary's solution makes perfect sense. Gary's common-sense approach is refreshing and how things get done. It starts with one person trying to find solutions as to how things can be accomplished. Kudos, Gary!
Many Tupper Lakers, via Next Stop Tupper Lake, have been working for years to see the rail line between Tupper and Saranac Lake upgraded to handle passenger trains. These extremely dedicated volunteers even rebuilt the Junction depot. Gary, like many other Tupper Lakers, want to see a fair and equitable solution to this debate. It has been my opinion for years that we can have both rails and trails.
I believe that we stood and hopefully still stand to get grant funding to do this, even though our town board voted 3 to 2 to revisit a so-called unit management plan. I believe this vote by the Tupper Lake town board showed very little forethought. If the three members of our town board who voted to revisit this UMP can't see through the guise used by Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates to see a new UMP calling for the removal of the rails, then we as a community are in trouble. I don't believe the state will ever tear up the existing rail line because it is the only means of a possible high-speed transportation venue in and out of the heart of the Adirondack Park. We will never see a new interstate highway constructed into the Park with the very strict regulations we live under.
I am asking the Harrietstown board not to pass a resolution asking the Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Transportation to reopen the unit management plan of the Lake Placid-to-Remsen rail line. This so-called revisiting of the UMP by ARTA is a guise! I read Joe Mercurio's and Richard Beamish's remarks in your paper on Oct. 26 and disagree with both. I have never seen Dick Beamish support anything in these Adirondacks that would enhance them economically. He opposed the proposed state correctional facility in Tupper Lake years ago, and he is from the same ilk as those who don't want the Adirondack Club and Resort in Tupper Lake. I urge you to listen to Steve Erman. Steve Erman has spent his adulthood working for the Adirondack Park Agency as its economic specialist, trying to help us survive! Steve Erman has far more insight into the untold dangers of opening up a UMP than almost any other person, with the exception of myself and some others from the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages. We realize the dangers of even more restrictions upon the lands within any UMP!
What would happen if the DOT gives up its ownership of the so-called Lake Placid-to-Remsen rail corridor? If those lands were to revert back to its original owners or new owners, do you honestly believe that anyone will be able to traverse those lands? I believe that no one will be allowed to travel through those lands on foot, bike, all-terrain vehicle or whatever.
Everyone needs to be extremely careful as we move forward, and any board would be doing the majority of residents a disservice by requesting the state to reopen any UMP. Sometimes things are better off left alone. Think of it as a Pandora's Box: Once opened, who knows what to expect. I would much rather listen to Steve Erman's and the Adirondack North Country Association's advice than that of Dick Beamish or Joe Mercurio any day. I ask all boards to reconsider their votes on this subject before your constituencies suffer.
Wherever economic growth is, there is mass transit providing a way to get products in and out of a region economically. The former Tupper Lake plastics could have saved over $250,000 per year with rail service versus trucking. Should we not consider the possibility of this benefit someday for some other business that would employ our people?
Our elected officials should pick up where I left off nine years ago and try to get more trails on both public and private lands in our area. If they did this, it would go a long way toward bringing more people here for various recreational activities while allowing the rails to remain in place. What about trails alongside state highways within the 100-foot right of way? What about turning old, unused skid trails into multi-use trails on the vast private timber holdings in our area? Our elected officials need to discuss such possibilities with neighboring communities so it can become a reality sooner than later.
No one can convince me that by having trails only, we'll see an additional 250,000 more people here per year. I base my opinion on my many years of serving people throughout the Adirondack Park. Do you remember what we were told by the state when they bought some of the Whitney lands for public use? The additional influx of people is nowhere near as great as we were told.
If the rails are removed and scrapped, what will their value as scrap be when compared to the future costs of these very same rails ever having to be replaced in the future? That cost would be simply outrageous as compared to simply upgrading the existing line now.
I ask all sides in this rail-to-trails debate to work together, and we will all benefit. You, the members of ARTA, should become less self-centered and avaricious toward wanting only what you want and letting all others and their differing opinions from yours "be damned." Let us work together now to get funding to do both where all sides then succeed and our area benefits far more greatly by it.
Dean D. Lefebvre lives in Tupper Lake and is a former Tupper Lake town supervisor and former chairman of the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages.