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P.O. Box 1081, Saranac Lake, NY 12983 / info@TheARTA.org                               

Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates

Latest News

Hearings over, State bias claimed

The NYSDOT and NYSDEC held four open hearings (see article below).  At each hearing the State made a presentation that suggested that construction costs for a rail-trail would be roughly the same as those for rail reconstruction, that what they claimed were similar tourist train and rail-trail operations suggested that both alternatives would attract tens of thousands of visitors, and that the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act would prevent any future rail restoration should that be desired.  Since these hearings there has been a public outcry (see just one such comment here) over what is seen as the State's bias in favor of rail service, especially south of Tupper Lake.  Multiple writers have pointed out that the "comparable" tourist train operation was in a major metropolitan area, not Utica north, and the "comparable" rail-trail was not yet even finished.  Subsequent to the hearings after many inquiries the State admitted that its claims about the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act were false and that rail service could be restored at any time it seemed needed.  ARTA pointed out that it had submitted a written proposal to the State from Iron Horse Preservation Society that, if accepted, would have allowed for construction of the rail-trail for no cost to the State. Further, ARTA noted that the estimates the State had presented for rail reconstruction would allow trains to travel at only 25mph, way too slow for the trip from Utica to Tupper Lake. 

All in all, the suspicion of State bias has tainted the entire process.  ARTA will continue to press the State for a fair and unbiased decision based on facts.

Hearings to Start Soon

The NYSDOT and NYSDEC have announced the public comment period and four open hearings.  Click here for details and see subsequent article for the background.

Public comment on amending the UMP is being accepted until December 15. Comments can be sent by email to nystravelcorridor@dot.ny.gov, mailed to NYS Travel Corridor, NYS DOT Freight and Passenger Rail Bureau, 50 Wolf Road, POD 5-4, Albany NY 12232 or provided verbally during four public comment meetings scheduled to take place:

*  October 28,6:00-8:00 PM in Utica at the State Office Building
*  October 29, 1:00-3:00 PM in Old Forge at the View
*  November 6, 6:00-8:00 PM in Tupper Lake at the Wild Center
*  November 7, 1:00-3:00 PM in Lake Placid at ORDA

State announces plans for the Remsen-Lake Placid Corridor

New York State’s announcement made on July 9th sets the stage for the construction of a multi-use recreation trail that will link the Tri-Lakes, extending 34 miles from Lake Placid to Tupper Lake. 

Credit is due to Commissioners Joe Martens and Joan McDonald for their leadership, the Governor’s staff for their active contributions to the final proposal, the twelve municipalities who passed resolutions pressing the State for this review, and the 408 businesses and over 12,000 citizens who signed petitions asking for a rail-trail.

Our studies suggest that this initial 34 mile segment will attract no less than 56,000 new annual visitors and ultimately as many as 250,000.  The impact on our local economies will be very significant, adding between $5 and $20 million in new local spending.  For local residents the trail will provide a new, safe, way to recreate and commute.  We anticipate that new amenities and businesses will sprout up to serve the users of the trail, with resulting opportunities for employment and investment. 

We are obviously disappointed that the section south of Tupper Lake was not included in the State’s plan, especially since this is the most spectacularly scenic stretch of the corridor.  And leaving the unused rails in place precludes much of the potential winter benefit towns like Tupper Lake and Piercefield would get from snowmobilers coming north from Old Forge.  However, we believe the first 34-mile section will demonstrate how valuable a rail-trail can be to local communities, with natural pressures to extend its reach.

ARTA will continue to work to make this trail a success.  We will participate in the coming hearings and will continue to press the case for the full 90-mile trail, for connector trails to the Rollins Pond interior trail network and to the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, for amenities and signage along the trail that highlight its unique history, and for promotion of the trail to help us reach our visitor goals.

But despite some disappointment this is a time for thanks.  To all of you who have lobbied, petitioned, signed resolutions, published editorials, or otherwise helped with this step in what has been a three-year struggle, our thanks.  The latest news is linked here. 

Pressure on Senator Little to move corridor review forward

The pressure is building on Senator Betty Little to press the State on its inaction.  The State held what turned out to be hearings to decide if they should hold hearings last summer, despite their own management plan call for such reviews every five years.  Now towns and outside advocacy groups are losing patience.  In a recent letter to Senator Little (linked here), Supervisor Bob Bevilacqua of Harrietstown asked the senator to intervene.  In another letter (also linked here), Robin Dropkin, Executive Director of Parks and Trails New York, also asked Senator Little to intervene.  Editorial support for revising the unit management plan (UMP) has been overwhelming (see Articles).  The time has come we think.

AdirondackRailTrail.org goes live!

The official website for the Adirondack Rail Trail is now live, with an interactive trail map, connecting hiking, biking and snowmobile trails, local businesses, etc.  Over time, all local amenities along the trail - restaurants, motels, bike shops, healthcare facilities, beaches, etc. will be added as icons with interactive links describing the business, service, or amenity.  If you want to have your business or a local amenity added simply go to our sign-up tab and you will find a separate place to indicate your interest at the bottom of the form.

ARTA asks Senator Betty Little to take the stand asked for by her constituents

In an open letter to Senator Betty Little, Joe Mercurio, ARTA's President, asked Senator Little to do what 12 municipalities, 400+ businesses, 12000 individuals, and all of the key local editorial boards have asked - get the State to open up the rail corridor management plan for review.

The Saranac Lake Chamber of Commerce joins appeals for UMP review

The Saranac Lake Chamber of Commerce has joined 11 elected bodies in asking the State to promptly open the Unit Management Plan for the Rail Corridor for review, public input, and action.  The tally so far is shown below:

Resolutions passed by Review UMP Remove rails Restore Train
Village of Lake Placid ü
Town of North Elba ü
St Lawrence County ü
Village of Saranac Lake ü
Village of Tupper Lake ü ü
Town of Tupper Lake ü ü
Town of Webb ü
Town of Harrietstown ü ü
Town of Piercefield ü
Beaver River Property Owners ü
NY State Snowmobile Association ü
Town of Colton ü
Town of Santa Clara ü
Saranac Lake C of C ü

 

The Adirondack Rail Trail will create 387 local jobs!

A major reason for Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates' advocacy for the 90-mile Adirondack Rail Trail linking Lake Placid with Old Forge is the economic benefits it will bring to our communities. On average, every "new" dollar spent has $2 of economic impact. This, in turn, translates into jobs. Studies show that one permanent job equivalent is created for each $75,000 in new tourist spending. the Adirondack Rail Trail will bring in $27.5 million in new spending at the midpoint of current estimates and create 367 new local full-time job equivalents. For more detail click here.

The Village of Tupper Lake asks for the Adirondack Rail Trail now

At a meeting on October 22 the Tupper Lake Village Board passed a resolution asking for immediate conversion of the rail corridor from Old Forge to Lake Placid to a multi-use, multi-season recreation trail.  This puts the count of formal votes by municipalities and associations along the corridor as shown in this table:

Resolutions Passed

Towns of Tupper Lake and Harrietstown ask for the Adirondack Rail Trail now

At meetings on September 23 and 26 the Town Boards of Tupper Lake and Harrietstown asked that the State immediately convert the rail corridor between Lake Placid and Old Forge into a recreation trail. 

400 local businesses ask State for Adirondack Rail Trail

A list of 400 local businesses have asked the State to build the Adirondack Rail Trail now!  The full list and their petition is attached here.

ARTA Releases Adirondack Rail Trail Proposal

On September 6th, 2013 ARTA released a detailed proposal for the construction of the Adirondack Rail Trail and an associated PowerPoint Presentation.  At the same time, ARTA sent printed copies of this proposal to all of the relevant State agencies, Assemblymen and Senators, Town Supervisors, and news organizations along with a press release.  In addition to the detailed proposal, ARTA released a large-format flyer showing the proposed trail and amenities along the way, as well as a detailed trail map.

ARTA is calling on its members to write to the corridor management review team (see below) in support of the Rail Trail proposal.

Corridor management plan hearings in September, 2013

A joint NYSDEC and NYSDOT task force will take public comments in September on the future of the Remsen - Lake Placid Rail Corridor

Public hearings will take place:

·         Monday, 9/9, 6-9 p.m. at 183 Park Avenue in Old Forge

·         Tuesday, 9/10, 1-4 p.m. at the DEC, 1115 State Route 86, in Ray Brook

·         Monday, 9/16, 1-4 p.m. at 207 Genesee Street, In Utica.

·         Tuesday, 9/17, 6-9 p.m.at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake

 Written comments also may be submitted by Sept. 25 to

NYSTravelCorridor@dot.ny.gov, faxed to 518-457-3183, or mailed to

Raymond F. Hessinger, Director, Freight & Passenger Rail Bureau, NYS Department of Transportation, 50 Wolf Road, POD 54, Albany, NY 12232.

Santa Clara joins in calling for review of the corridor plan

The Town of Santa Clara has joined the other towns and villages along the proposed Adirondack Rail Trail in asking for State action.  Here is a summary of resolutions to date:

Resoultions passed

Hundreds came to help us celebrate

After almost two years of prodding, over 12,000 petitions, resolutions by nearly every town and village along the corridor, articles and editorials in favor of the Adirondack Rail Trail in all of our local papers, New York finally agreed to review its management plan for the rail corridor connecting the Tri-Lakes Area with Old Forge.

On Friday July 26th at Heaven Hill Farm, Lake Placid, several hundred  Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates came to celebrate and help us plan the next step: getting the great Adirondack Rail Trail approved for construction!  

A special guest, Jim Weaver, Tioga County (PA) Planning Director presented the economic benefits of Pennsylvania’s famous Pine Creek Rail Trail.  

New York says the corridor management plan will be reopened

Breaking news: on June 6th the State announced that the management plan for the travel corridor between Remsen and Lake Placid would be reviewed by an inter-agency task force led by the NYSDOT. The State's press release is linked here.

Albany Times Union in editorial calls on State to choose rails or trail and endorses trail.

See this link for the editorial

ARTA joins in demanding State review of the rail corridor management plan

On April 26th ARTA file a formal request with the State departments of Environmental Conservation and Transportation, and the Adirondack Park Agency, joining with the twelve municipalities and non-profit groups (see news item below) in asking for State action now.  ARTA's press release is linked here and ARTA's letter to the State agencies can be found following this link.

State budgets $2 million for Catskill Rail Trail

The state budget adopted by the Senate includes $2 million for the Catskill Mountain Rail Trail project in Ulster County.
“The growing popularity of rail trails presents a great economic development opportunity,” said state Sen. Cecelia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg.  “Local rail trails attract hundreds of thousands of visitors who pump millions of dollars into the local economy, help to grow local businesses and create new jobs.”  For more, click here.

Olympians endorse Adirondack Rail Trail

Local Biathalon heroes Tim Burke, Anneilies Cook, Haley Johnson Stewart, and Lowell Bailey have leant their support to ads promoting the construction of the Adirondack Rail Trail. The ads (click here for a preview) will appear through the rest of this year in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, the Adirondack Mountain Club's ADK Magazine, the Adirondack Explorer, Adirondack Life magazine andother.

Colton joins in calling for removing the rails

The Town of Colton has joined the other towns and villages along the proposed Adirondack Rail Trail in asking for State action, either immediate reopening of the corridor's Unit Management Plan (UMP), to allow all alternatives to be reexamined, or for immediate removal of the deteriorated rails and ties to convert the corridor to recreational use.

The chart to the right summarizes the formal actions taken by the affected towns, villages, counties, and citizen associations.

A complete set of resolutions as passed originally is linked on our Information Links Tab.

ARTA adds two board members

ARTA's Board of Directors grew to ten in early 2013. 

  • David Banks was the first pharmacist at the federal prison in Ray Brook. He and his wife Stephanie competed in the first two Adirondack Canoe Classics.  Stephanie taught French and Spanish in Lake Placid at North Country School and the National Sports Academy.  She is now retired from teaching.  David completed a Masters in public policy in 2000 and a Ph.D in 2004. They moved to Lake Clear in 2007 and resumed canoe racing.

  • Maureen Peroza is a former railroad enthusiast turned Trail Supporter.  Until her retirement, for 30 years Maureen taught speech therapy, kindergarten, grades 2 and 5 in the Tupper Lake School System. She authored and implemented Adirondack studies into daily curriculum.  Maureen is a Wild Center Member, an ARISE member and an APO member. She is also an Independent gardener working for several Adirondack Great Camps.  An avid outdoor woman, Maureen is a biker, marathon and 1/2 marathon runner, hiker, camper, downhill and cross country skier, and she is currently training for a Mt. Kilimanjaro trek in Aug 2013.

ARTA garners its 10,000th supporter!

On December 7th the 10,000th petitioner to the state for a recreational trail added her name to the petition started in September 2011.

Bicycle travel and tourism are booming

The Adventure Cycling Association has released a paper with nine indicators that bicycle travel and tourism are booming and that more and more bike paths are being built.

More obfuscation

The Adirondack Railroad Preservation Society (ARPS) and Iowa Pacific have announced a venture to bring "high end excursion passenger service between New York City and Lake Placid, utilizing restored Pullman railcars and sleeping cars" with "white glove service for the discerning traveler."  Their announcement is clearly in response to the cascading litany of towns and villages who want the corridor's use reexamined (see below), but to include recreation as an option.  They ignore the $43 million needed to put the tracks and ties in shape (NYSDOT estimate) and the fact that such service would do NOTHING for the towns and villages the occasional train full of high rollers would pass through.  And that we had Pullman service in the railroad operation that failed 40+ years ago.

Go to our Article tab to read more, especially the OpEd pieces from Nov 7, Nov 14, and Nov 15.  For a history of the rail line go to the article on Nov 12 by Tony Goodwin.

Harrietstown calls for rail corridor UMP Update

The Harrietston Town Board voted on November 16th to ask the State to reopen the Unit Management Plan for the train corridor between Lake Placid and Remsen. The Enterprise article is linked here.

Piercefield Board: Remove train tracks

The Piercefield Town Board voted to officially request that the state remove the train tracks between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake. The vote was taken on October 11, 2012.  An article in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise has the full story.

Tupper Lake calls for rail corridor UMP Update

The Tupper Lake Town Board voted on October 11th to ask the State to reopen the Unit Management Plan for the train corridor between Lake Placid and Remsen. An article in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise has the full story.

New York State Snowmobile Association: Remove train tracks

On October 6, 2012 NYSSA's board adopted "A Resolution In Support of the Efforts of The Adirondack Railroad Trail Advocates to Establish a  Multi-Use Trail Along the Adirondack Railroad Transportation Corridor". The resolution states that the "NYSSA Board of Directors does hereby support the efforts of The Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates to have the rails removed" so a recreational trail can be created, and has sent copies of this resolution to the Governor, his commissioners, elected officials, and to the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages.

Lake Placid Village Board: Remove train tracks

The Lake Placid Village Board joined the North Elba Town Board in officially requesting that the state remove the train tracks between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake. The vote was taken on September 24, 2012.  An article in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise has the full story.

Saranac Lake calls for rail corridor UMP Update

The Saranac Lake Village Board voted on September 24th to ask the State to reopen the Unit Management Plan for the train corridor between Lake Placid and Remsen. An article in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise has the full story.

Albany Times Union calls for track removal

The influential Albany Times Union, in an editorial dated September 17, 2012, entitled 'The little train that shouldn't", called for the conversion of the rail corridor between Old Forge and Lake Placid to a recreation trail.  Citing the relative costs and rewards of rail restoration versus trail conversion, the Times Union noted the up to 30x advantage of a rail-trail.

North Elba town board: Remove train tracks

The North Elba town board has officially requested that the state remove the train tracks between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake. The vote was taken on September 11, 2012.  An article in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise has the full story.

Press Briefing

Robert P. ThomasOn August 20th, Robert P. Thomas, a Partner in the Transportation Planning firm Campbell Thomas and Company, gave a press briefing on the trails that his firm had helped develop and their impact on local communities.  His conclusion overwhelmingly supported the economic benefits of rail conversions. The video of this presentation is available here. 

Rails to Trails Conservancy report foresees 244,000 visitors and $19.8 million in new local spending each year

On July 11th at the Harrietstown Hall the Rails to Trails Conservancy (RTC) presented the results of a major study on building a recreation trail from Lake Placid to Tupper Lake as the first step in a longer trail connecting Lake Placid to Old Forge. In late 2011 ARTA hired the RTC to answer many of the questions left unanswered by previous studies.  Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC)  is the country’s expert on rail/trail conversions: with more than 150,000 members.  RTC’s expert staff has helped hundreds of community-based organizations and federal, state and local government agencies build trails. RTC’s National Trails Database includes Information on more 721 rail-trail projects. RTC represents more than 20,000-plus miles of rail-trail throughout the country.

Questions that RTC addressed include what the net visitor increase would be if a rail-trail were constructed that mimicked some of the similar trails in the region and what would the cost of construction be using similar techniques.  The 2011 Camoin report failed to adequately answer these questions because Camoin’s methodology only considered new biking visitors  (all other potential trail users were not counted) and Camoin assumed visitor traffic would be proportional to trail length, e.g. a 100-mile trail should attract 4x as many visitors as a 25-mile trail,  But this assumption is questionable, e.g., the Heritage Trail is only 21 miles long yet attracts 394,000 visitors and the Virginia Creeper Trail is 2½ times as long but attracts 35% as many.  Also, Camoin did not consider cost savings that could accrue from use of volunteers, contributed materials, or alternative designs.  RTC's methodology compares our terrain and visitor opportunities to similar trails now built and models expected results on a composite of these.

The RTC study concluded that a trail can be built from Lake Placid to Tupper Lake at no cost if the rails and ties are salvaged from Saranac Lake to Old Forge at an estimated $65,000 per mile of cost recovery.  The first leg of the recreation path, to Tupper Lake, will attract an estimated 224,000 visitors who will spend $19.8 million per year.  For the full report click here and for the full presentation made on the 11th click here for a PowerPoint version and click here for a PDF version.

ARTA calls for Douglas' removal

Garry Douglas is co-chair of the North Country Regional Development Commission (NCREDC) and President of the North Country Chamber of Commerce.  In both roles he is charged with promoting economic development of our region.  Despite this, he has overtly pressed for restoration of rail service and suppression of alternatives, using inappropriate means, despite overwhelming evidence that rail restoration would drain taxpayers with almost no return. 

For example, Mr. Douglas sent flyers later traced directly to him that claimed support for rail restoration by the Town of Harrietstown, Village of Saranac Lake, Paul Smith's College, Wild Center, Adirondack Observatory, and others, all of whom have denied such support in written responses to ARTA's query.  More recently, Mr. Douglas sent public letters urging train advocates to come to public NCREDC meetings to drown out anyone with opposing views.  This is conduct unbecoming to any public official but totally unacceptable in someone charged with promoting economic development.

IRS Grants ARTA 501c3 Status

The IRS has accepted ARTA's application for 501c3 status which means that donations to ARTA will be tax deductible by the contributors.  Supporters are encouraged to go to the Donate tab to learn how to help with our efforts.

 

Lake Placid News Straw Poll

The Lake Placid News online straw poll is over.  More than two out of three respondents want the rails removed and replaced with a recreation trail.  This is despite North Elba's board proceeding with a side-by-side path from Lake Placid to Saranac Lake incurring $4.4 million or more in costs and producing serious environmental damage to wetlands.  Perhaps these results will help them rethink this terrible plan.

 

$36 million to attract 7,000 visitors a year?

The recently-released Stone Consulting study sponsored by the North Country Chamber of Commerce and Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) reaches some very interesting conclusions, none of them good for rail advocates.  First, Stone projects just 7,000 additional visitors to the Adirondacks each year if rail service is restored from Utica to Lake Placid.  This is at a one-time cost (presumably to the taxpayer) of $16,533,915 and an annual operating expense thereafter of $1,933,988.  Over ten years that is $35,873,795. Even if we had $36 million to spend,  a key question for those of us who must pay the bill is can we find better ways to attract more than 7,000 visitors at lower costs?

Consider the Wild Center, aka Adirondack Museum of Natural History, in Tupper Lake.  It was built with roughly $8 million of taxpayer aid and attracts well north of 50,000 visitors every year (nearly 100,000 in its honeymoon year).    Over a ten-year period this works out to less than a $16 per visitor annual subsidy. 

 Now, let’s do the same math for restoring train service.  Over ten years, restoration and operations cost total $35,873,795, or $512 per year in subsidies for each new visitor.  A Wild Center subsidy of $16 per visitor over ten years seems like a reasonable use of funds to help the local economy.   But the railroad per-traveler subsidy drops from $512 to $276 (in 2012 dollars) after the fixed cost of restoration is amortized and then lasts forever.  And note that restored train service will still be seasonal, so there is nothing in those subsidies for our winter economy.

The cost could be even higher.  The 2011 Camoin study’s detailed engineering estimates projected $311,764 per mile to restore the tracks between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake to Class III (average 30 MPH) service.  At this rate the full 91miles from Lake Placid to Old Forge would cost $28,370,588.  The Camoin number is closer to, but still way under, the NYSDOT 2008 Capital Needs for line restoration estimate of $43 million.  Using this number the subsidy goes to $891 per visitor per year.  There has to be a better way.

 Even if we had the money, would we rebuild a railroad to carry an additional 7,000 people during a small part of the year on a six-hour trek from Utica to Lake Placid?  How much would we have to spend to increase tourism through other means, perhaps by doing promotions to bring more people to the Wild Center, the Adirondack Museum, Great Camp Sagamore, etc.?  And if we are going to build, what is a new attraction that we could build for less to attract more?

One answer is a recreation trail right on that same rail corridor.  In just a few more weeks the Rails to Trails Conservancy is going to deliver its report on what we can expect if we convert that mostly unused rail bed to a biking, hiking, handicapped-access, ski, and snowmobile trail.  The results will surely mimic other such conversions, for example the Down East Sunrise Trail in Maine.   This 84-mile long single track corridor looks a lot like ours.   Their rails and ties were removed so the trail could be built on the rail-bed, just as is proposed here.  Construction cost was offset by rail and tie salvage recovery, i.e., salvage paid the entire construction bill.

Summer Expo in Saratoga Springs

Dick and Rachel Beamish just returned from two busy days at the Summer Expo in Saratoga Springs, sponsored by Adirondack Sports & Fitness Magazine. They manned a booth with the help of Doug LaDuke and together enlisted 982 new supporters

 We now have over 8,000 supporters!

We started collecting signatures at our very first rally in Lake Placid on August 30, 2011.  In the short time since we have added 8,000 supporters.  These names and adresses are being sent to our elected officials in batches of 1,000.  When we are ready with the other needed items (RTC study, town endorsements, etc.) we will take the entire list and a request to re-visit the Unit Management Plan (UMP) to the NYSDEC and NYSDOT.  The 1995 UMP anticipates a recreation trail in the event the tourist train does not meet expectations or commitments, which is clearly the case.