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RR days are numbered

DEC begins planning of rail trail with stakeholders

September 7, 2016
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer ( , Lake Placid News

RAY BROOK - In the face of a lawsuit, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has formed a stakeholder group to determine the design and use of a 34-mile section of railroad that will be turned into a recreational trail.

In a press release Tuesday, the DEC said rail removal and initial trail construction will begin next summer. The Adirondack Scenic Railroad would have to end its excursion trains between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, but its southern operations would not be affected by the trail. Eventually, the state plans to improve the tracks to let it run from Utica as far north as Tupper Lake. Rail Explorers USA also operates rail bikes from Saranac Lake to Lake Clear and Tupper Lake, and those operations would also be eliminated when the rails are removed.

However, the nonprofit Adirondack Scenic Railroad has filed a lawsuit in Franklin County court accusing the DEC and the state Adirondack Park Agency of violating historic preservation and land use laws. The railroad also updated the lawsuit in July to include the state Department of Transportation, which has jurisdictional oversight of the rail corridor. There is an oral argument hearing set for Sept. 28. It is unknown if a judge will halt the trail process until the lawsuit is sorted out in court.

Article Photos

The construction process of turning these railroad tracks — looking toward Lake Placid from state Route 86 in Saranac Lake — into a rail trail will begin next summer.
(News photo — Andy Flynn)

DEC Region 5 Director Bob Stegemann announced the group Tuesday. It is made up of elected local officials and representatives from user groups, such as bicyclists, snowmobilers, cross-country skiers and the Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates.

The top elected official or designee of each of the four towns and three villages along the trail route, which will run from Lake Placid to Tupper Lake, are also part of the group.

In addition to the local elected officials and interest groups, the DEC said in a press release that DEC, DOT, APA and state Olympic Regional Development Authority staff would be included as well.

Several local officials were quoted in the press release, including town of North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi, town of Tupper Lake Supervisor Patti Littlefield, Saranac Lake village Trustee Rich Shapiro and ARTA board member Lee Keet.

ASR board President Bill Branson and Rail Explorers co-owner Alex Catchpoole had not returned calls requesting comment by press time.

DEC has outlined issues of concern that need to be addressed before the trail becomes operational. It also said more stakeholders may be brought into the fold. The issues outlined include the following:

-Type of material used to surface the trail

-Parking and trail access points

-Trail amenities

-Signage: interpretive and directional

-Road crossings


-Illegal motor vehicle and motorized vehicle use

-Train stations

-Emergency response

-Historic preservation



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