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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Groups spar over Lake Placid train

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

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

Two nonprofit groups are sparring over the future of a rail corridor near Lake Placid, each accusing the other of spreading misinformation.

The spat began this week when Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) issued a news release in support of keeping the railroad tracks in place. AARCH noted that the corridor is on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

In response, Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates wrote a letter to AARCH, asserting that placement on the historic registers is no bar to tearing up the tracks.

“We are writing to suggest that whatever legal advice you are getting on this issue appears to be wrong, and as a result your position takes on a political nature which we believe is inconsistent with your mission,” ARTA’s steering committee said in the letter. (One of the signatories was Dick Beamish, founder of the Explorer.)

In reply to the letter, AARCH’s executive director, Steven Engelhart, accused ARTA of misconstruing AARCH’s position.

“The one thing that we agree with you on is that National Register status of the corridor will (in and of itself) not prevent the removal of the tracks,” Engelhart wrote in a letter released today. “Because we know this to be true, we have not made statements to the contrary. Why you’ve attributed such statements to AARCH is beyond me.”

You can click the links below to read the three documents in full.

AARCH press release

ARTA letter to AARCH

AARCH response to letter

The tracks are part of the defunct Adirondack Division of New York Central Railroad. From May to October, Adirondack Scenic Railroad runs a tourist train between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, and it hopes to extend the run to Tupper Lake.

Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates formed this past summer to push for removing the tracks and establishing a recreational path between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake that could be used by cyclists, joggers, snowmobilers, and others. Eventually, they say, the trail could be extended to Tupper Lake and perhaps beyond.

Backers of the train say a recreational trail could be built alongside the tracks. This seems like a good compromise, but there are serious questions about the legality, environmental soundness, and financial cost of this solution.

Click here to read a story in the November/December issue of the Explorer about the formation of ARTA and the debate over the train.

Phil Brown

Contributor Phil Brown was editor of the Adirondack Explorer from 1999-2018. When he isn't at his desk, he's usually out hiking, paddling, skiing, or doing something else important.

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One Response

  1. Mark says:

    I took the ride once and to be honest I didn’t find it very “scenic” at all. As I recall most of the trip all I could see were the trees just off the sides of the tracks and no real panoramic views of anything else. They could do without playing that “Sam the railroad cat” song over and over again too! I suppose it’s nice for younger kids though. At least they get to take a train ride and learn a new song.

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