Rail trail offers greatest benefits

Rail trails can be economic boons. BigStockPhoto.com
Rail trails can be economic boons.

Much attention has been given to the new “rail bike” concession operating on a six-mile section of the rail corridor that runs through the Adirondacks. The rail bikes ride on the tracks and accommodate from two to four customers. The charge is $25 each to pedal these large, heavy machines single-file between Saranac Lake and Lake Clear.

If that experience is fun, and it appears to be, I can only say that the best is yet to come. When the tracks are removed and the corridor becomes a recreation trail, we will be able to ride real bicycles as far and as fast (or as slow) as we wish. We can pass slower cyclists and let faster riders pass us. We can stop to fish, swim, picnic, or contemplate beavers and loons. We can exit the corridor and ride on a network of scenic backcountry roads.

All free of charge and on our own schedules.

As novel and newsworthy as this tourist attraction may be, a continuation of the rail-biking operation between Saranac Lake and Lake Clear would constitute a monopoly. Keeping the tracks in place for rail bikes would prevent many other uses of the corridor, while a recreation trail connecting our Tri-Lakes communities will offer something for almost everyone—bike and trike riding, hiking, strolling, jogging, bird-watching, wheelchair use, and much-improved snowmobiling in the winter.

There are now twenty-two thousand miles of rail trails in the United States, and the number is growing rapidly. These trails have boosted local economies, improved public health, and provided recreational enjoyment for all ages and physical abilities.

After years of study and debate, it’s time to turn our little-used rail corridor into a world-class recreation trail.

David Banks, Lake Clear
David Banks serves on the board of directors of Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates.

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