DEC Silent On Possibility Of Rail-Trail Appeal

New York State has filed a notice of appeal in the dispute over its plan to build a thirty-four-mile rail trail between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the state has decided to pursue an appeal.

Acting State Supreme Court Justice Robert G. Main Jr. ruled in late September that state agencies violated their own regulations in approving the rail-trail plan.

On Wednesday, the state filed a notice of appeal in Franklin County, according to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

Tourist train approaches Saranac Lake. Photo by Susan Bibeau.

When the Explorer asked the state Department of Environmental Conservation if this meant the state intended to pursue an appeal, spokesman Sean Mahar emailed a non-committal answer:

“New York State has filed a notice of appeal of the judge’s decision regarding the State’s proposal to construct the Adirondack Rail Trail along the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor.  The state’s proposed 34-mile, multi-use recreational trail on the bed of the former railway between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake is intended to connect the villages of Tupper Lake, Ray Brook, Saranac Lake, and Lake Placid, providing visitors and residents with new opportunities to walk, hike, and bike in three seasons, and cross-country ski, snowshoe, and snowmobile in winter, boosting local economies in surrounding communities all year long.”

Main found that the plan violated the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan and historic-preservation law, and he also cited deed questions.

Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain, noted that the state, to preserve its legal options, had to file the notice of appeal within thirty days of receiving the judge’s order.

“If you have any intention of appealing the case, it’s fatal not to file a notice,” said Woodworth, who is a lawyer. Once a notice is filed, preparing briefs and a court record could take months, he added.

Woodworth predicted that the state won’t pursue the appeal. He said it would be easier and less risky to take steps to address the judge’s concerns. These would include amending the State Land Master Plan, complying with historic-preservation law, and clearing up title issues.

The Adirondack Mountain Club, however, took no position on the rail trail.

The Adirondack Railway Preservation Society sued DEC and the state Department of Transportation, which prepared the rail-trail proposal, and the Adirondack Park Agency, which approved it. 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 tracks will be torn up between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid, forcing ASR to shut down its Lake Placid operation.

The state’s plan also calls for fixing up tracks between Big Moose and Tupper Lake, enabling ASR to run its other trains a longer distance.

Rail-trail decision






About Phil Brown

Phil Brown edited the Adirondack Explorer from 1999 until his retirement in 2018. He continues to explore the park and to write for the publication and website.

Reader Interactions


  1. Aaron says

    The master plan should be amended ASAP to allow work on the rail trail to proceed. It’s obvious that passenger trains are not coming back to the Park any time soon and the beds are perfect for visitors seeking less strenuous activities which nevertheless offer opportunity for adventure and solitude. Communities situated along the path also stand to benefit economically from the YEAR-ROUND access the bed provides as visitors will be dependent on the amenities offered along the way.

    • Chris says

      Trains have been running in the park for more than 20 years, all the way to Big Moose.

      The DEC says its a “former railway” because NYS shut it down last year, but can still operate as such today

        • Chris says

          The line in question is part of the whole railway in the park. It was operating till the DEC became transportation experts (not)

        • David P Lubic says

          Chris is correct. The line may be exempted track and not suitable for revenue passenger trains, but it IS still in service. Maintenance equipment ran up there until the state blew things with this, and the equipment that ran out of Lake Placid would run up and down the whole line to get too and from the maintenance base in Utica. That still qualifies as operational in the eyes of the Federal people who are in charge of things like abandonment proceedings.

          And if you don’t think the Adirondack Scenic doesn’t have to comply with the Federal Railroad Administration, just ask for a look into a locomotive cab and ask to see the “blue card,” the certification that the locomotive has passed the requirements to be operational as per the FRA.

  2. Paul says

    The grounds for an appeal just are not there. I also don’t think the state can comply with what the judge has asked for. Just clearing up title issues alone is difficult. I am not sure the few they have found are all that exist. This thing is a RR ROW amend the ASLMP and remove the tracks and the Tavel corridor may be gone. No trail.

  3. Larry Roth says

    Here’s the thing. This was never about building the rail trail to have a trail. This has always been about using the rail trail as an excuse to get rid of the rails. The misinformation, trash-talking and outright lies coming from the trail ‘supporters’ to demagogue the rails has always had that as its primary goal.

    In the 20+ years the ASR has been restoring rail service on the line, the anti-rail story has always been it won’t work, nobody rides trains, they’re going bankrupt and worse. You never heard them complaining the State wasn’t building trails as the 1996 plan called for – just that the rails had to go. Nothing stopped them from developing trail plans and getting started – but nope. The tracks have to go to make them happy.

    If they’d just give up that obsession and work to build trails with the rails, they’d have a win. They won’t. They want it all.

    • David P Lubic says

      Or perhaps, as some have suggested, the big powers really want nothing at all–no rail, no trail, no pesky tourists, either!

    • Phil Brown says

      How would it help with parking problems at Cascade and other popular trailheads on NY 73 corridor? Do you expect people to drive to Utica, take a train for several hours to Lake Placid, spend the night in Placid, take a shuttle or taxi to the trailhead, spend a few hours on the mountain, take a shuttle or taxi back to Placid, spend another the night in town, then take the next train back to Utica?

      Or do you think it’s more realistic to expect people to drive to the trailhead, climb the mountain, and drive home?

        • Hope says

          Actually DEC is hoping that the rail trail will open up a new active venue that may relieve some of the pressure on the High Peaks and encourage more use outside of the High Peaks in general.

        • David P Lubic says

          Would it, Hope? I would think for a serious hiker that a flat rail trail would be less interesting than a climb to a mountain top.

          In fact, that brings up a double standard I’ve been hearing from the trail crowd.

          A bunch of them have said, repeatedly, that the scenery is boring from a train. Yet the same boring scenery becomes something to see from a bicycle.

          I would think if some part of the country was boring from a train, it would be twice as boring when you walk it at much lower speed.

          Are bicycles and hiking shoes magical somehow? That’s about the only explanation that might make sense!!

  4. Hope says

    Personally, the slower I go the less boring it is. The train doesn’t stop to enjoy a pleasant vista, it just cruises by.
    Not every hiker is a serious peak bagger and many hike the most accessible and easiest trails. Our info from surveys and other research have indicated a great interest in the type of venue that we propose. Being able to take a hike or bike and stop along the way wherever you please to take in a view, examine the flora and fauna, go camping, fishing or hunting is something that many many folks are interested in doing in the Adirondacks. Even riding a fast snowmobile, you can stop at will and take in the environment around you. The train just keeps on rolling by.

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