To the editor:
As a lifelong property owner immediately adjacent to the railway ROW (right of way), I never cease to be amazed at our zero-sum mentality. Full disclosure: I've been a member of Rails to Trails almost since its inception and joined the Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates very early on. I also appreciate the railway and used to take the train up to our camp as a kid (there are still no public access roads to our property) in the 1960s. I remember the "final" train that came through in the 1970s as well as riding on the 1980 train during its short-lived Olympic run. Why is one group's vision more important than the other? To coexist, we don't need to rob Peter to pay Paul.
As far as the rail/trail debate is concerned, the current unit management plan (UMP) is an agreement between the New York State Department of Transportation in conjunction with the Adirondack Park Agency, the Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York state historic preservation office. The current UMP reads as follows: The "118 mile ROW is generally 100 feet wide" with the "northern 104 miles within the Adirondack Park." It already addresses many questions regarding "installation, repair, replacement ... of various Travel Corridor appurtenances," including "Ditching operations ... General repair including subbase, to maintain existing width ... Repair of failed or failing embankments ... Bridge maintenance activities, including concrete repairs" and has the ability to review "Larger scale, planned projects" which may "require coordination with APA and DEC." The corridor IS wide enough for both a railway AND a trail. It may not be the easiest solution, but it is certainly possible. The ability to review and receive environmental as well as construction and all necessary approvals for creation of a side-by-side railroad AND trail is feasible, desirable and attainable. The updated UMP should allow for the review process to include the "APA/DEC and Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) to review and approve improvements to the ROW" Wait, it already does!
In the words of Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along?" Why limit the financial, recreational, employment, educational, historical and other benefits to only one group or the other? It may be a more complex plan, it may even require more resources, but it is more than possible - THIS should be our starting point. Imagine the ARTA AND the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society both working together for the same goal - a refurbished rail AND parallel trail! Environmental concerns can be met, AND dual financial revenue sources can be shared by all which would include, but not be limited to, railway ridership and possible freight transportation, snowmobile, bicycle, hiking, horseback riding, running-jogging, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, etc., as well as recurring (weekly, monthly, annual, etc.) events that could accommodate ALL of the interests above and more. The elderly and handicapped would have a greater choice in enjoying this beautiful ROW (rail travel would provide easier access) as well as offering everyone the greatest choice and benefits that both a rail and trail would provide. Let's not be penny wise and pound foolish, please. You actually CAN have your cake AND eat it, too, in this case.
Edward M. Gosselin, MD, FACEP