To the editor:
Politics sure does make some strange bedfellows. You just have to look at the variety of interests that have lined up behind the folks calling for the destruction of the tracks that connect the High Peaks to the rest of the nation's rail system. Don't be fooled by the claim that this is based on what's best for the region. This is an effort led by people who agree with P.T. Barnum. He's the guy who said, "There's a sucker born every minute."
They know it will take years before they could even start destruction of the tracks, let alone begin constructing the trail. They greatly exaggerate the cost of restoring the rails by more than $25 million. They vastly underestimate the cost and difficulty of maintaining the trail by claiming that volunteers will continue to keep culverts clean, beavers away and the forest from encroaching on the trail. They don't mention that the railroad performs maintenance on the corridor at a very reasonable expense, to the benefit of all of the users.
Their consultants project an immediate infusion of cash into the region from restoration of the track structure, followed by millions of tourist dollars. But they don't like to talk about the benefits the railroad will deliver.
They, the same people who work tirelessly to add to the "forever wild" areas of the Park and keep out affordable shopping centers, would have you believe that once the tracks are gone, hundreds of thousands of hikers and bikers will flock to the cash registers of every shop and hotel in the area to pour money in. The trail would run through the very areas they fought to protect and bring in many people who shop at Walmart. A curious change of heart, don't you think?
Snowmobiles already use the corridor in the winter months. By ripping up the tracks, the "shoulder" season would be a few weeks longer. But no one except snowmobilers would be safe on the 8-foot trail being proposed. Picture a skier meeting a sled moving 60 mph. They want the tracks destroyed and the existing tourist attraction eliminated so they can ride a few extra weeks. Seems a bit selfish, doesn't it?
The railroad has been here for 20 years and has carried more than 1.25 million passengers. It and its riders have pumped documented millions into the region. In just a couple of years with just over $15 million, it could bring more people and money into the region. AND it can do it by sharing the corridor with snowmobiles. It will carry hikers and kayakers to remote spots that are too difficult to get to on foot.
Maybe they are right and free-spending tourists will flock to this "world class" trail (without services like bathrooms, cafes, phones or maybe they have agendas that don't really serve the greater economic good of the region). You know what they say. "There's one born every minute."