Rail trail still the clear choice

A tourist train operates on portions of the ninety-mile rail line. Photo by Susan Bibeau
A tourist train operates on portions of the ninety-mile rail line.
Photo by Susan Bibeau

In the your March/April issue, reporter Brian Mann raised questions about the cost and other difficulties of converting the ninety miles of mostly unused rail corridor from Old Forge to Lake Placid into a recreational trail for biking, running, walking, and much improved snowmobiling [“Rail-trail questions”].

Whatever the challenges of converting the obsolete rail line to a world-class recreational trail in the Adirondacks, one thing is clear. It would be much cheaper than restoring rail service on the line.

State Senator Betty Little believes the tracks should remain in place even though this would preclude the use of the corridor as a popular and economically beneficial recreation trail. She argues that we might need rail service again between Utica and Lake Placid. OK, suppose that Senator Little is correct and that someday there will be a pressing public need for restoring this rail line. The rail bed will still be there and can be used again, if truly needed, for this purpose.

Meanwhile, let’s remove the rusting tracks and rotting ties (which would have to be replaced in any case) and use the corridor for recreational purposes—including a bike trail that would be second to none in the United States. This converted rail corridor would attract hundreds of thousands of users every year, create new jobs, generate millions of tourist dollars for communities along the way, and enrich the quality of life for residents and visitors alike.

Joe Mercurio, Saranac Lake

Mercurio is president of Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates.

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