Rail trails can showcase history

It is never an easy decision to remove railroad tracks, but as far as destroying history I agree with Philip Terrie that a rail trail can actually increase awareness of the industrial past. [“Would rail trail destroy a piece of history?” March/April 2016].

This winter I bicycled the 152-kilometer Otago Central Rail Trail on the South Island of New Zealand. Every few kilometers, well-placed signs tell of local history, often with fascinating photos. A few small train stations are still intact, and at an old gold mine I enjoyed learning how gold was “harvested.” Thousands of people a year travel the trail and read the signs.

The people in Central Otago didn’t want their train line destroyed, but roads made the line obsolete. The rail trail has been a huge boost to this remote area, putting about $7 million (in U.S. dollars) into the regional economy in 2015.

It’s time to begin building a rail trail in the Adirondacks, one that might eventually connect to other areas in the North Country. I bicycle on roads all the time, but having a path dedicated to bicycles is a safe, and social, way to ride. It’s always been difficult to attract tourists to the northwest Adirondacks, but no one has ever tried luring them in on their bicycles. Maybe we’ll find gold.

Betsy Kepes, Colton, NY

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