By Gwendolyn Craig
A 34-mile recreational trail between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid is expected to be finished by 2024, a trio of state agencies announced in a news release Thursday.
Called the Adirondack Rail Trail, the project will allow hikers, bikers, skiers and snowmobile riders to use the corridor where former railroad tracks were. The state Department of Transportation broke ground earlier this month on the $1.9 million project to remove the railroad tracks, unused since 1972.
A related project rehabilitating a rail line between Big Moose and Tupper Lake is also underway, and once completed will be the nation’s longest scenic railway.
According to a state Comptroller’s report in August, a $19.1 million contract to Tartaglia Railroad Services was approved to connect about 85 miles for a scenic railway. Records show the contract start date was Aug. 25 and the end date is Nov. 20, 2021.
After that is finished, based on the timeline in the news release, construction on the recreational trail is set to begin in 2022, in phases. The state Office of General Services is leading the trail’s design so that it is in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. DEC is expected to take on daily management of the trail.
This funding and project work is moving forward despite the growing state budget deficit, which is mostly due to the coronavirus pandemic. It had been nearly five months since the public had heard anything more about the Adirondack Rail Trail. In May, the Adirondack Park Agency signed off on it after approximately 800 public comments were reviewed.
Commissioners of the Transportation, Environmental Conservation and Office of General Services all expressed excitement over the project’s groundbreaking in a news release on Thursday.
“The Adirondacks are one of the great treasures of New York State, and the careful redevelopment of this historic railroad right-of-way will make it easier for people to enjoy the region’s grandeur – regardless of whether they are hiking, riding a bicycle, snowmobile, or taking a scenic train,” said Marie Therese Dominguez, DOT commissioner.
Something to celebrate
The recreational part of the trail is something a group called Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates has been hoping for, for over a decade. Board member Chris Keniston lives in Tupper Lake and watched contractors start to rip the railroad tracks just outside his home this week.
Keniston was so happy, he went outside with his brother Mike and had a toast over the tracks.
“The bottom line is, I’ve lived on this corridor for almost 45 years of nothing,” Keniston said. “It’s going to be a great asset for this area and certainly Tupper Lake,” he added of the recreational trail.
Keniston, who is an avid biker, said he believes the trail will attract new business, like bike shops. It may even help alleviate some of the crowds in the High Peaks, he said.
The timeline for the recreational trail, however, Keniston called “absolutely ridiculous.”
“I can’t fathom that we need to wait another three years before this is going to be completed,” he said. “The government can certainly move at a snail’s pace at times.”