Membership in the Adirondack Rail Trail Association (ARTA) continues to grow as the organization now reports they are very close to having 1000 supporters.
The ARTA continues to advocate for redevelopment of underutilized, state owned track that is currently leased to a privately run scenic railroad operation. There has been a great deal of debate over the best use for this near 30-mile corridor, but for the most part, the rail trail conversion concept has continued to gain traction. The scenic railroad appears to have struck back, according to two recent Adirondack Daily Enterprise articles.
ARTA Advocates, frustrated by erroneous statements made in the article, have responded accordingly. A statement from ARTA is below. (lightly edited)
“The goal for all of us should be to find a solution to the use of the rail corridor that benefits our citizens and businesses most—everything else is irrelevant. The economic-impact study by Camoin Associates concluded as follows: (1) Either the multi-use recreational trail or an extended tourist railroad would be better than the status quo, (2) A dual system of rail-with-trail would be impractical and excessively costly if not impossible, and (3) A recreational trail was the clear winner in terms of jobs and economic benefits.
ARTA believes there that removal of the rails is not inconsistent with the State Land Master Plan, would cause the right of way to lose its classification as a ‘Travel Corridor’ or cause portions of the right of way to be absorbed into adjacent Forest Preserve Units and have to be governed by their Unit Management Plans (UMPs).
The UMP covering the 119-mile travel corridor from Remsen to Lake Placid will have to be amended and updated, but then, updates are required every five years anyhow. Under the State Land Master Plan, UMPs can be changed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation—and should be from time to time. The Adirondack Park Agency Act specifically authorizes amendments.
Both the Plan and the UMP for the rail corridor make it abundantly clear that it is the corridor itself—i.e., its continuity and length, its historical significance and its setting—that is the ‘unique state land resource.’. Not rails and ties. And for that reason, the corridor is supposed to have its own classification and its own UMP. It would be contrary to the State Land Master Plan for the corridor’s management to become subject to the management plans for adjacent units of Forest Preserve.
The land (railroad right of way) is owned by the State of New York. It is either Forest Preserve or not, and removing rails and ties does not change its status.
ARTA contends that the argument over whether or not the rails and ties themselves are part of what is listed on the National Register of Historic Places is simply a red herring.
Editors note: There have been several National Historic rail corridors across the US that have been converted into trails. Perhaps most significant of them all is the Golden Spike National Historic Site, a park under the management of the National Par Service, where much of the rail has been replaced by trails. Of interesting note, one of the most influential Rail Road Tycoons, and featured prominently in the historic photo of the famous meeting of the transcontinental railroads, is Thomas Durant – Father of William West Durant, who constructed several Adirondack Rail lines and Great Camps.
ATRA also believes that because the entire right of way is listed, any “project” that involves state agency action within the listed right of way will require going through a process set up by the New York State Historic Preservation Act of 1980. The listing does not prohibit the removal of the rails and tracks, nor does it prohibit turning the right of way from one used by trains to one used by bikes, snow mobiles and pedestrians.
Thus, they contend that the Historic District, and its historic resources, will be better protected and enhanced by what you propose than by neglect or the continuation of the current poor quality and inadequate use and maintenance of the right of way.
– ARTA Steering committee: Dick Beamish, Tony Goodwin, Hope Frenette, Lee Keet, Jim McCulley, Joe Mercurio