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Village rail trail meeting draws questions, provides few answers

October 21, 2016
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer ( , Lake Placid News

SARANAC LAKE - Village of Saranac Lake Trustee Rich Shapiro held the first open meeting related to the rail trail on Tuesday, Oct. 18, at the Harrietstown Town Hall. About a dozen people filtered in and out, some leaving with the same number of questions they entered with.

Shapiro held the meeting to gather input from the public on potential access points and amenities, and asked the people gathered for recommendations on where to put amenities such as benches along the trail.

Shapiro explained that three meetings of the rail trail stakeholder group had been closed to the public and press, and another meeting scheduled for Friday, Oct. 28 would be the same. He said that meeting is set to be six hours long.

Article Photos

Railroad tracks between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid
(News photo — Andy Flynn)

He also said the reason he was hosting the meeting Tuesday was to open the process a bit and take comments from the public.

Several people raised questions about the trail, and Shapiro said the stakeholder group isn't far enough along in planning to provide many answers.

"It went fairly well," Shapiro said. "A lot of things for me to bring back to the stakeholder's group.

"A lot of the concerns people have are in areas that we have not yet addressed in the stakeholder's group, so I didn't have answers for them. I think some people came to this meeting to get answers as opposed to providing input.

"But that was just poor communication on my part as to the purpose of the meeting. But I think it went well and we'll have another meeting next week and see who shows up."

Shapiro said the Tuesday, Oct. 25 meeting, which will be from 4 to 6 p.m. at the village offices in the town hall, will have the same agenda.

Shapiro provided maps of proposed access points and attractions, and explained that at least one of the proposed access points, which would be behind Will Rogers, would have to be created from scratch. That access point is meant to drive trail users to the Lake Flower shopping district.

He said that some of the decisions were easy for the 2.3 miles of trail that will be within the village. There's enough road crossings that emergency vehicle access is a non-issue for the village.

Several of the attendees raised concerns about snowmobiles and wondered who would be responsible for enforcement if snowmobiles speed or cause an accident. Shapiro said he believes the state Department of Environmental Conservation would carry that burden. He also said that so far, the snowmobile advocate on the stakeholder group was only pushing for snowmobile access at the rail depot.

Shapiro also said that the trail would have an overall brand, but hopes that each municipality can add to that.

"For within the village, for the stuff we have control over, we can drive a lot of that and direct it," he said. "If we want to spend more money and put more bells and whistles in, that would be welcomed with open arms."

Last week, DEC spokesman David Winchell said it would be up to each of the three villages and four towns the trail runs through to come up with input on access points and amenities. However, Shapiro is the only representative to the stakeholder group that has announced public meetings. Shapiro said he had no indication of what the other municipalities were doing in terms of gathering input.

The stakeholder group is made up of representatives from each of the seven municipalities, as well as staff from the DEC, the state Adirondack Park Agency, the Olympic Regional Development Authority, the Office of General Services, and local trail, ski and snowmobile groups.



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