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Trails committee weighs in on railroad corridor

July 16, 2014
By SHAUN KITTLE ( , Lake Placid News

A Trails with Rails Action Committee spokesperson says the group is looking for a win-win solution on the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor debate.

TRAC spokesman Bob Hest, of Mountain View, said the state's recent announcement to reopen the unit management plan for the corridor will hopefully ignite public discussion on the matter. The state proposed converting the Adirondack railroad corridor between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid to a multi-use recreational trail while boosting rail service along the rest of the corridor as far north as Tupper Lake.

TRAC was formed in May 2013 and has about 40 members.

Article Photos

Railroad tracks looking toward Ray Brook and Lake Placid from state Route 86 in Saranac Lake
(News photo — Andy Flynn)

"We're trying to find the best economic use of the corridor," Hest said. "Many of us believe that rails with trails is a better economic use, but there's a lot more to it than just a single-mindedness about it. There are trails both in the corridor and out, and amenities that would have to be developed."

Hest, who was a senior executive for Canadian National Railway for a decade, said removing the tracks could be cost prohibitive, and the likelihood that the state would allow them to be replaced once removed is slim.

"It's here. It's grandfathered. It's a cultural, historic resource," Hest said. "It would take some time to get rid of it, but it would never be rebuilt. That's my personal assessment."

Hest said the best thing to do is to study and explore the options for the corridor before moving forward with a plan - a plan that he hopes would keep the tracks in place while also developing a complementary trail system.

In some places that would mean having a trail next to the tracks. In other places, the trail would have to diverge from the corridor to circumvent features like lakes and wetlands.

"With not a whole lot of work, different areas could be connected to make a really interesting network of trails," Hest said.

Hest said his group has collected data and has submitted that, along with maps and drawings, to the state departments of Environmental Conservation and Transportation. The submissions attempt to offer perspective regarding options for the corridor.

Hest warned that information distributed by special-interest groups can be misleading, which is why he said TRAC prefers to bring the conversation straight to the state level.

The group intends to participate in all public hearings that are scheduled as part of the UMP process, and it will provide comments and information regarding trail developments and existing and potential amenities that have been identified in fieldwork within and alongside the travel corridor.

"We're just trying to preserve an economic asset that we have already, and see that we make the best use of it," Hest said. "To do that, you need more than a petition. You need to do your homework."

Another TRAC member, Dan Mecklenburg of Tupper Lake, said he has been involved with bringing new trails to the Tupper Lake area for several years. He was the vice president of Next Stop Tupper Lake and is a board member of the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society.

Mecklenburg has contributed drawings to the TRAC effort, showing how trails could be created along the rail corridor from the Tupper Lake train depot.

"We've met with the DEC, and they've found some alternate ways to do things where it would be less complicated, following existing trails around lakes and stuff," Mecklenburg said. "It's better to stay within the corridor where possible, but if you come to a place where you have a narrow fill across a lake, like Lake Colby, there is now an existing trail that goes around the lake, so that would take care of messing around with filling things in to get across the lake."

Mecklenburg said he doesn't think the state would ever agree to remove the tracks along the entire corridor.

"That's absolutely asinine," Mecklenburg said. "It's on the historic register."



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