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.
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.