To the editor:
As a seasonal resident of the Saranac Lake area, but one that visits year-round, I have been following the rails-to-trails debate with interest as it reminds me of a similar debate 30 years ago in Glencoe, Md., where I live.
The situation isn't entirely the same as the trail line in Maryland was not in use at the time it was converted to a bike-hike trail, so there wasn't a conflict with an existing constituency like the train supporters in Saranac Lake, but it nevertheless created controversy, as any change does. People who lived in the rural hamlets that were originally rail stops objected to the potential influx of outsiders bringing trash, creating traffic and possibly property damage. After six months of hearings and debate, the trail was approved, and 30 years later it has proved to be a great resource for thousands of hikers, runners, cyclists, dog walkers and families with young kids. It has even become part of the East Coast Greenway, a rails-to-trails system from Boston to Florida. Concerns about trash, traffic and property damage have given way to widespread support of the trail, as it has proven to be not only a great recreational asset but something that has enhanced the value of all neighboring properties.
Again the situation differs from the debate in the Tri-Lakes area as there is an active group using Saranac-Lake-to-Lake-Placid rail line, but I can say from firsthand experience that rail trails are extremely popular resources and only enhance the appeal of an area, even one with as many recreational opportunities on the Adirondack Park.