To the editor:
Steve Erman's "It Needn't be Rails vs. Trails" says if the current corridor management plan were to be "fully implemented," it would "satisfy a very wide range of interests."
The management plan clearly states that there cannot be a trail parallel to the rail bed for much of its length. And from what I know of the adjacent terrain, there is no possibility for a parallel route both flat enough for bicycling and wide enough for frequent snowmobile traffic. Mr. Erman says that according to the management plan, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the state Department of Transportation are responsible for looking for alternate routes - to include easements across private land where necessary.
Nice way to pass the buck. From my knowledge of the land on either side of the corridor, I seriously doubt whether any such routes exist. If there indeed are such routes, to date neither the Adirondack North Country Association nor the Adirondack Scenic Railroad have, with one exception, offered even the slightest hint of where these alternate routes might go. That one exception vaguely mentioned a new trail between Inlet and Raquette Lake: locations that are nowhere near the corridor and cannot be connected to the corridor.
Mr. Erman also fails to mention that their funding application is for a whopping $15.2 million. If approved, this will bring the total New York state funding for this project to more than $50 million. The $15 million will only produce a 30 to 35 mph railroad that will take six hours to travel from Utica to Lake Placid. If that same train stops to drop off and pick up recreationists at remote locations, the trip will be a lot longer.
ANCA has promoted their funding application to local elected boards as "rail with trail"; but since the "trail" part does not appear to be possible, the overall premise of their application has little or no credibility. That leaves us with just the "rail" service that few would use - it being even slower than the 19th Century-speed passenger service abandoned more than 50 years ago. Keeping the rails in place, however, precludes the creation of a recreational trail that will be unlike any other trail in the Adirondacks.
Based on the experience with other rail trails, this unique recreational opportunity will actually help the economy by attracting many new visitors to the area.