OLD FORGE - Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates signed up its 10,000th supporter Sunday for its proposed Great Adirondack Rail Trail between Lake Placid and Old Forge.
Angela Burleigh of Oriskany Falls became No. 10,000 when she signed the ARTA petition at the annual Snodeo this past weekend in Old Forge, a promotional event for snowmobilers sponsored by the Central New York Association.
The trail ARTA is pushing for would run 90 miles through the heart of the Adirondacks on the old rail bed of the Adirondack Division of the New York Central Railroad. The rail corridor is owned by the state and used by the Adirondack Scenic Railroad: for summer and fall tourist trains between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, and on the rest of the track twice a year as the trains spend the winters in Utica.
Jim McCulley holds a clipboard as Angela Burleigh puts the 10,000th signature on a petition to the governor and other state officials, calling for a 90-mile rail trail between Lake Placid and Old Forge, Sunday at the annual Snodeo in Old Forge. McCulley is a board member of Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates and president of the Lake Placid Snowmobile Club.
(Photo — Lee Keet)
ARTA's proposal is controversial because it would cause the tracks to be removed between Saranac Lake and Thendara, near Old Forge, preventing a planned expansion of rail service through the entire corridor but making it better for snowmobiling, since the rails now get in the way of that activity unless there is enough snow to cover them.
Of the 10,000-plus names on ARTA's petition, approximately 1,800 are residents the Tri-Lakes area. There are now approximately 650 registered rail-trail supporters from Lake Placid, 750 from the Saranac Lake area, and 400 from Tupper Lake, ARTA reports.
ARTA also says about 7,500 of the petitioners are New York state residents, many concentrated in the Albany Capital District, Saratoga-Glens Falls region, and central New York. More than 2,500 sign-ups are residents of other states and Canada.
ARTA's biggest bursts of sign-up activity came last summer at the Ironman competition in Lake Placid, where more than 2,000 people joined the campaign for a rail trail; the Summer Expo in Saratoga, sponsored by Adirondack Sports & Fitness Magazine, where 987 attendees signed up; and this weekend's Snodeo, where more than 600 snowmobile enthusiasts joined the petition drive. The state's cross-country ski center at Mount Van Hoevenberg near Lake Placid was also a major source of support, with 1,032 skiers signing the ARTA petition last winter.
ARTA is a nonprofit organization founded in 2011 to establish the year-round, multi-use recreation trail for bicyclists, snowmobilers walkers, runners, birdwatchers, wheelchair users, families with young children, senior citizens and commuters.
ARTA plans to present the petition to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the commissioners of the state departments of Transportation and Environmental Conservation, with a request that the departments update the state's unit management plan that governs use of the corridor between Remsen and Lake Placid. In recent months, several boards of towns and villages along the corridor have passed resolutions in favor of updating the UMP or replacing the rails with a trail.