Perhaps our experience with a rail trail can be of some value as we consider such a trail for the Adirondacks. Wayne County owns a three-mile section of a former rail line that ran from the coal fields of Pennsylvania to a coal trestle in Sodus Point. The county sold off the track and converted the line to a recreational trail.
I would say 90 percent of the traffic is motorized. In the winter a snowmobile club does a nice job of grooming the trail, and in the summer it is mostly an ATV run. There are some hikers, bikers, and horseback riders, but they are in the minority.
The trail is mowed once a year but does get overgrown by midsummer. The trail has washed out badly over the years, and it has recently needed a massive amount of excavator and dozer work to repair significant damage from heavy rains. A couple years ago, an undetected washout caused an ATV rider to crash at night. He sustained life-threatening injuries. Quick response by emergency workers averted a tragedy.
I am not speaking for or against the Adirondack rail trail proposal, but I think our experience is cause for reflection.
Who maintains the trail? What about emergency services? Who mows and patrols the trail for the inevitable fallen trees and washouts?
I agree that for cyclists on mountain and hybrid bikes a trail such as this would be a delight. Also for snowmobilers and businesses that cater to that crowd, taking up the tracks would be a boon. But the trail would not appeal to snowshoers, skiers, or hikers.
Jim Miller, Sodus