TUPPER LAKE - As most other municipalities ask the state to rip up the railroad tracks or at least open up the unit management plan for the Adirondack Scenic Railroad corridor, the village board avoided taking a stand on it Monday night.
"There are problems with opening a unit management plan," Mayor Paul Maroun said in a discussion on the topic after a presentation by representatives from the Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates. "I don't think we're ready to discuss them tonight. This is not going to be voted on tonight, ladies and gentlemen, so I just want you all to know that."
Hope Frenette and Chris Keniston, both ARTA members, talked to the village board about the ARTA's plan for getting rid of the train tracks in the corridor. They touched on some familiar topics while also addressing lesser-discussed questions in the debate.
Chiprle Mecklenburg talks about a trail in Vail, Colo., with a train and a trail alongside one another at a Tupper Lake village board meeting Monday night. In front of her, both Dan Mecklenburg and Bev LaMere argued for improving the railroad tracks and creating a trail alongside it. Tony Goodwin, behind Mecklenburg to the right, argued for getting rid of the tracks and creating a recreational trail. Electric Superintendent John Bouck, back left, also listens.
(Enterprise photo —Jessica Collier)
"I believe in it, and I believe that it's worthy of consideration," Keniston said.
Keniston noted that his group is just looking to remove the tracks from Old Forge to Lake Placid. He said the scenic railroad running in the Thendara and Utica region is successful and appears to be paying for itself, making it different in his mind from the Lake Placid to Saranac Lake run, which isn't as successful.
He said the unit management plan for the corridor, created in the 1990s, gave the Adirondack Rail Preservation Society five years to get the train running. After that, the UMP was supposed to be reviewed, and any portion that wasn't yet being used for the train should be considered for conversion to a recreational trail, Keniston said.
Some have questioned the idea of using money from salvaging the tracks to pay for a recreational trail, which is supposed to make the trail cost nothing, according to some estimates. Keniston said that was an idea that came from the original unit management plan.
"This isn't new," Keniston said.
He said the corridor would create a path that's easy to ride bicycles on, which he believes would bring many people who camp at Rollins Pond and Fish Creek to Tupper Lake for day trips to the Wild Center and other local sights.
Keniston said a family friendly amenity like this would encourage young families to move to the area.
"If you want to bring young people to our community, this is the stuff we need to embrace," Keniston said.
Frenette said the plan would also help bring retirement-aged people like herself to the community because it would provide a safe place for them to recreate and enjoy the forest easily, on their own and with grandchildren. She said that baby boomers aren't looking to sit on a porch in a rocking chair in their retirement; they want to ski, bike, run and snowmobile.
She said an asset like that would help improve the community and drive up home prices.
"It's not just about tourists," Frenette said.
Dan and Chiprle Mecklenburg and Bev LaMere all spoke out against the ARTA's plan, asking why there can't be both a railroad and a recreational trail.
"I don't think it's economically or environmentally possible to ever have both," Keniston said.
Chiprle Mecklenburg talked about a corridor in Vail, Colo., that has a functional train next to a recreational trail.
Frenette said she's familiar with that railroad, and it's largely used for freight, although there is passenger service there as well.
Village Trustee Rick Donah asked Keniston what the strategy is behind pushing to open the UMP, as the ARTA has been doing in recent months.
Keniston said he thinks it's time for the state to weigh in on the debate in a way that allows each of the interest groups to put their cards on the table.
"It's ultimately up to the state what happens here," Frenette said. "The only way we're going to decide this is by looking at the UMP."
Maroun argued that he doesn't believe it's impossible to have both a railroad and a trail. He said he thinks it will just take money and creativity to figure it out.
"It doesn't have to be one or the other," Maroun said. "I've worked with the state a long time, and $45 million, they seem to be able to find it for a lot of different things."
No other board members spoke on the issue at Monday's meeting. During campaigning for elections earlier this month, Trustee Tom Snyder said he'd likely support the trail, and he would definitely support opening up the UMP. David "Haji" Maroun, who starts on the board in December, said during his campaign that he didn't know enough about the issue to make a decision at the time, but he was leaning toward trail support.
No trustee offered a resolution dealing with the rail corridor at Monday night's meeting.
After the meeting, an ARTA member noted on Facebook that there was no significant opposition to their presentation.
"Mayor Maroun adamantly pointed out that there would be no vote," an ARTA member posted on the group's Facebook wall. "I didn't realize he controlled he entire board."
Contact Jessica Collier at 891-2600 ext. 26 or firstname.lastname@example.org.