I am surprised by your reporter’s description of the nonprofit Adirondack Scenic Railroad as “a shoestring operation” [“A trainload of questions,” November/December 2013], especially when you send me requests for a donation to keep your nonprofit magazine afloat! Most of the search-and-rescues and fire protection in the Park are done by struggling nonprofit volunteer organizations.
I am amazed by the way you gloss over the major accomplishments of the railroad. In the last five years they have paid off all long-term debt and have paid down most of their accounts payable. Also within the last two years ASR even bought two locomotives for cash. ASR has also carried 1.2 million passengers since 1992 and has a safety record second to none.
You show too little respect for the qualifications of Executive Director Bethan Maher. She is incredibly hard working. You point out her work with indigenous women in Mexico. She developed her skills there and at her earlier nonprofit work. Both experiences have proven remarkably useful when dealing with a large-scale volunteer operation spread over 141 miles of territory.
Your reporter points out a shortage of volunteers. Most volunteer organizations are short of volunteers. They use the talent that is available even if the few do most of the work.
If the Adirondack Scenic Railroad’s success story was experienced by any other nonprofits in the Adirondacks you would be trumpeting how great it is. Where is your support for our success story?
Doug Masters, Old Forge
Masters is a volunteer for the Adirondack Scenic Railroad.
Brian Mann says
Hi folks –
I think it’s important to keep reminding people that the article in question simply doesn’t do any of the things that Mr. Masters or other pro-trail activists suggest.
I don’t gloss over ASR’s successes. On the contrary, the significant accomplishments he describes in his letter are all ones that I pointed to in detail in my article.
I didn’t disrespect or denigrate Bethan Maher’s qualifications to lead the Railroad. I merely reported the facts about her background and experience and allowed her to speak at length about her role within the organization.
Mr. Masters is correct that many non-profits suffer a shortage of volunteers. But that doesn’t make a shortage of volunteers irrelevant when considering ASR’s current situation and future plans.
Finally, I describe ASR as a “shoestring operation” because a) that matches the facts, and b) the description matches the way that ASR staff and volunteers proudly describe themselves.
The purpose of my business article — both for NCPR and for the Explorer — was to inform all sides about ASR’s financial health and to provide as many facts as possible about the organization’s plans for the future.
It’s obviously up to readers and listeners to draw their own conclusions about what these facts mean.
I will point out that critics of my article (and the radio piece that aired on NCPR) have failed to identify a single factual error, or a single instance of actual bias or unfairness.
I understand that tough, skeptical questions make people uncomfortable, especially when they are passionate about a cause or a vision for the future. Train supporters, in particular, feel unfairly “attacked.”
But it is certainly appropriate for a non-profit company that seeks to use a large public asset (the rail corridor)over the next twenty years, while also hoping to win at least $15 million in public funding to face real scrutiny and rigorous questions.
Meanwhile, we are currently working on a similarly probative article looking at the business plan and specific claims made by pro-trail activists, so that people can also assess that proposal with as many facts as possible.
–Brian Mann, NCPR
Angela Estes says
We used to love you Brian 🙁 NCPR has changed 🙁
Brian Mann says
Sorry – In the first paragraph, I meant to say ‘pro-train’ activists. –Brian, NCPR
Jim McCulley says
ASR 11/15/13 Audit done by Testone, Marshall & Discènza, LLP for the ASR.
GOING CONCERN (CONT’D)
As indicated in the accompanying financial statements, the Organization showed a decrease in
net assets of $81,570 during the year ended December 31, 2012. As of that date, the Organization’s
current liabilities exceeded its current assets by $263,232. These factors create an uncertainty about
the Organization’s ability to continue as a going concern.
Bill Hutchison says
I have not read this article, but it did remind me that there was to be an exhaustive expose of the Adirondack Rail Trail Advocates (ARTA). To my knowledge, there has been none. Maybe I missed it?