To the editor:
Residents and business owners in the Tri-Lakes area might be interested in the latest report on the popularity and economic impact of the 141-mile rail trail known as the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) in western Maryland and southwestern Pennsylvania. One of hundreds of rail trails around the country, this one runs from Homestead, Pa., to Cumberland, Md. There are intriguing similarities between the GAP and the proposed Adirondack Rail Trail that would connect Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake and Old Forge, a distance of 90 miles.
One similarity is that each of these long-distance trails involves five counties. The Adirondack Rail Trail would pass through Essex, Franklin, St. Lawrence, Hamilton and Herkimer counties, through unusually wild and scenic terrain.
Last summer, volunteers collected data along the Great Allegheny Passage in 11 trailhead locations. A mid-range estimate for the number of annual user visits was more than 600,000. Just over 57 percent of the trail users are over 44 years old. Groups traveling together are likely to spend an average of $51.36 a day. Some 28 percent of respondents reported an overnight stay, most often at campgrounds and bed and breakfasts. The average amount spent for overnight accommodations is $114. Some 82 percent of those taking multiple day trips planned to spend two or more nights near the trail.
Another relevant study was done by the Outdoor Industry Foundation. Their survey for New York state found that bicycling is enjoyed by 29 percent of adults, or just over four million people in your state. Bicycling was well ahead of paddling (12 percent), hiking (22 percent), wildlife viewing (23 percent) and camping (22 percent). Many of those attracted to the Adirondack Rail Trail for a bicycling weekend or vacation would likely have an interest in camping, birdwatching, paddling and hiking as well.
I think of my own experience checking out the rail bed between Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake. The opportunities abound to combine biking with other outdoor activities. For example, those bicycling the 34 miles from Saranac Lake to Tupper Lake could stop to fish along the way. They could rent a canoe or kayak for some paddling in the St. Regis Canoe Area, on the Raquette River or around lovely Tupper Lake. They could hike up a nearby mountain. The possibilities are virtually unlimited.
Manager of trail development
Camp Hill, Pa.