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Adirondack Explorer

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Monday, March 1, 2010

Remove rail; promote growth

I read with interest in your last two issues about the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. The first article detailed different possibilities for the corridor, including the plan to extend the ten-mile-long tourist line, now operating between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, another twenty-five miles to Tupper Lake.

The January/February issue included a debate about removing the tracks versus keeping the tracks. It was quite telling that Dan McClelland, who advocates expanding the tourist line, agrees that Tupper Lake would get more business if the tracks were removed for snowmobiling in the winter. And he doesn’t really dispute the argument that this “recreationway” would also attract more tourists in the spring, summer, and fall if it were used as a trail for bicycling, hiking, etc. His reason for extending the train service, at endless additional costs to the cash-strapped state, seems to be based largely on nostalgia and the fact that this is the last railroad operating in the Adirondacks. He obviously doesn’t understand why it is the last one!

Almost everywhere that rails have been converted to trails they have attracted large numbers of tourists. As one of many examples, Mr. McClelland should listen to the mayor of Rockmart, Georgia, who had this to say about the new Silver Comet Trail in his area: “We had more tourism in the last twelve months of the trail than we had in the last thirty years of the train.”

Since the mid-1970s, taxpayers have spent an estimated $40 million to restore tourist service on the upper and lower ends of the Remsen-to-Placid line. The more money the state continues to squander this way, the more we will hear from the Adirondack Scenic Railroad that “we can’t take the tracks out now since we’ve already invested so much money on them.” If the railroad boosters prevail, we will lose the potential benefits of an urgently needed recreationway for another thirty years.

Instead, let’s take advantage of this incredible opportunity. Let’s work together to create a recreational trail that will connect our communities, boost our economy, and make Tupper Lake a true tourist destination.

Jim McCulley, Lake Placid
McCulley is president of the Lake Placid
Snowmobile Club.

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