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Adirondack Explorer

Friday, March 2, 2018

APA seeks to revive Lake Placid rail-trail proposal

The Adirondack Scenic Railroad’s train on its way to Saranac Lake. Photo by Susan Bibeau.

The Adirondack Park Agency will consider amending the State Land Master Plan next week to allow the state to create a thirty-four-mile rail trail between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake.

The APA approved the rail trail in 2016, but a state judge ruled last fall that the trail would violate the State Land Master Plan.

At issue was the plan’s definition of Travel Corridor. The APA said the railroad corridor would remain a Travel Corridor even if the tracks were removed, but acting State Supreme Court Justice Robert G. Main Jr. disagreed.

“The SLMP expressly defines travel corridors in terms of either automobile or railroad transportation,” Main wrote. “Notably absent is any reference to hiking trails, bicycle traffic, snowmobile traffic, or any other recognizable recreational use.”

To address the judge’s objection the APA staff is recommending that the definition of Travel Corridor be changed. A subcategory, Railroad Corridor, would be added, defined as “the fee or easement lands that include a railbed for the Remsen-Lake Placid railroad and any future acquisition that may be considered for classification as a travel corridor, existing either (1) for the operation of rail cars, or (2) to serve as a rail trail.”

The proposed amendment to the master plan is in a draft environmental impact statement prepared by the APA staff. If the APA board approves the document, the agency will hold hearings next month before making a final decision. The hearings are tentatively scheduled for April 11 in Ray Brook, April 24 in Old Forge, and April 25 in Albany.

The state-owned rail corridor extends for 119 miles from Remsen to Lake Placid. The state wants to divide it into two segments—an eighty-five-mile rail segment and a thirty-four-mile trail segment.

The Adirondack Railway Preservation Society sued to block the proposal. The society owns the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, which has run tourist trains in the Old Forge and Lake Placid areas. If the rail trail is built, the Lake Placid train will be put out of business. The state’s plan, however, would allow ASR to run its Old Forge train all the way to Tupper Lake once tracks are repaired.

Click here to download the APA’s draft environmental impact statement.

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Phil Brown

Phil Brown has been editing the Adirondack Explorer since 1999. When he isn't at his desk, he's usually out hiking, paddling, skiing, or doing something else important. You can follow his adventures and his musings on the Adirondacks in the Explorer and on this blog.

16 Responses

  1. LeRoy Hogan says:

    Let the rules satisfy but one camp and not of many.

  2. Steve Urquhart says:

    Thank you, APA staff, for your common sense

  3. Scott Thompson says:

    In the 70’s the State purchased this corridor and the DOT said it did not feel rail service would ever be practical

    • Larry Roth says:

      Yup, the 1970’s.

      So here we are 40 years later. Things change. In the 1920’s people would have thought ripping out the tracks for a trail was crazy.

      Given the way the winters have been lately, ripping out a working rail line for snowmobiles 3 months of the year, and a trail the rest of the year in an area full of trails looks more and more like a bad idea.

      It’s the 21st century. The climate is changing, demographics are changing, and trying to keep to the same old same old isn’t going to work.

      • scott thompson says:

        Define “Working”.
        There is not one in ten businesses that would trade one month of Snowmobiling business for eleven of Snowmobiling.
        This is another case of “swilling at the public Troth”

        • scott thompson says:

          eleven of train.

        • Larry Roth says:

          Mr. Thompson –

          Your math is almost right.

          You’re talking about one month of snowmobiling business, given the winter weather that’s now becoming the norm, and zero months of railroad business, given that you want to rip out the tracks. This is a case of shooting yourself (and everyone else) in the foot.

          And it’s not just the rail corridor that’s a problem. The snow doesn’t get as deep as it used to, it doesn’t last as long, there are more rain events that hit all the regular trails, not just the rails. And it’s going to get worse.

          If you still want to rip out the tracks, please show us how you plan to guarantee three solid months of snow to justify it, and how you’re going to make up for the loss of train business for the other nine months.

      • scott thompson says:

        Before anyone makes a decision, they should spend time at the affected businesses, interview patrons (why do they come), assess activities and expenditures realizing this will translate to permanent residents, schools, municipal services and sustainable business. The beauty of a trail is that when one activity ends, another begins and if there is a “glitch” on the corridor it can all keep going. ” we need more reasons to come, not more ways to get here.” ( Not 100% true for Beaver River, but the trail would bring the Snow and Boat seasons more closely together)

    • Dan Bogdan says:

      Someone in the State thought rail service would be practical because NYSDOT documentation stated that “..the property was acquired by appropriation in the name of the people of the State of New York in fee for purposes connected with a rail service preservation program pursuant to Section 18 of the Transportation Law as made applicable by Chapter 118 of the Laws of 1974”.

  4. scott thompson says:

    What is the scenic train ride if not motorized recreation?

  5. Larry Roth says:

    Let’s make one thing very clear.

    This is an admission that the Alt 7 plan the state was prepared to implement after hearings, etc. and multiple reviews was flawed from the beginning. The judge made the right call in rejecting it.

    This is akin to, if you can’t win the game under the rules, change the rules. It still does nothing to address the problems with state historic preservation laws, and it may or may not sweep the easement issues away.

    This should have everyone who is worried about the state playing fast and loose elsewhere in the Adirondack Park up in arms. If they can do this here, they’ll do it anywhere else they want to.

  6. Hope says:

    The APA has amended, rewritten and clarified rules, SLMP and UMPs since inception. Nothing new here. They didn’t like large boathouses so the changed the rules. Didn’t want buildings close to the lake so they tightened up the regs. They want to be able to use the Rail bed as a railroad, Rail Trail or rail and trail so they are clarifying the definition. As long as they follow procedure they can make these or any other changes that they want.

    • Chip Ordway says:

      What amazes me here is the out and out gall of the ARTA members (and yes, Hope, that indeed includes you) as to not admitting that the judge called out the original plan and basically trash canned the whole thing. Remember your cohort Jim even accusing that the whole case was “Judge Shopped”? That’s a pretty big accusation.

      So instead of admitting that the plan was flawed, you guys have basically just said “OK, well screw it…we’ll just ignore what he said and just change the rules so we can scoot right around his issues instead of addressing them. God only knows that if a group tried to pull that slimy move against a cause that you were out for, you’d be crying out loud from here to Albany and back again until you got “justice”, but in THIS case? It serves your purpose, so you just turn your head and let it pass…knowing full well that it is an underhanded way to grab what you want. Laws and legality be damned.

      In other slightly related news….I can only imagine the conflict you must feel with the recent results of the proposal to finally start hauling the tailings out of the former National Lead property in Tahawus. I mean, I *know* you’re pushing out word against the railroad there, too, but my heavens…the proposal involves a Tupper Lake business? Aren’t you all about local business and the like?

      Like I said….it must be hard to be torn between both sides on *that* one, eh?

  7. scott thompson says:

    Right. Funny thing is these definitions are Administrative Law, not legislative law and within the framework are quite flexible. Historic preservation? The required hearings have been held. I believe only three are required and then only if federal funds have been used for the preservation.

    • Larry Roth says:

      As to Historic Preservation, the hearings might have been held – but the judge found the results to be a travesty, remember? I believe the state was arguing it couldn’t actually come up with a preservation plan until it started dismantling the corridor.

      Administrative law is quite flexible – all the more reason for it to be fact-based. The court verdict showed the Alt 7 process was not. Is it going to be different this time, or is this just another attempt to make an end run around inconvenient facts?

  8. Larry Roth says:

    A quick look at the Draft EIS shows a same critical deficiency as in previous travel corridor EIS.

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