By Mike Lynch
A state Supreme Court judge has overturned the state’s decision to tear up a 34-mile section of railroad tracks between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake for the purpose of creating a multi-use recreational trail for biking, hiking, and snowmobiling.
Judge Robert Main issued a decision on Tuesday, saying that the state’s 2016 Unit Management Plan for the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor violated the State Land Master Plan (SLMP), Adirondack Park Agency Act, and state historic laws. The corridor is 85 miles long and stretches from Utica to Lake Placid.
The state has allocated millions of dollars to create the multi-use trail.
Main said the State Land Master Plan defines travel corridors as places for automobile or railroad transportation.
“Notably absent is any reference to hiking trails, bicycle traffic, snowmobile traffic or any other cognizable recreational use,” Main said in his decision. He said the state didn’t offer any support for “ignoring the travel corridor definition.”
The Adirondack Railway Preservation Society, based in Utica, filed the Article 78 lawsuit against the APA, state Department of Environmental Conservation, and state Department of Transportation in April 2016.
Main also wrote that the state doesn’t own a half-mile portion of the corridor through NCCC in Saranac Lake and to the end of the corridor in Lake Placid. He said the state should have done a title review prior to amending the UMP and that the state should have known “that they did not possess fee title to the entire Remsem-Lake Placid Travel Corridor.”
The Adirondack Railway Preservation Society is the parent company of Adirondack Scenic Railroad. ASR was forced by the state to shut down a seasonal tourist train that runs 10 miles between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake this summer as a result of the UMP. A Saranac Lake-based rail bike company, Rail Explorers, was also forced to close operations this summer. Rail Explorers had only operated one season in this location.
“ARPS believes that Judge Main has taken a balanced and objective approach,” the railroad society said in a statement about the decision. “It is unclear, at this time, whether NYS will appeal this ruling. For our organization this action has been a financial strain and has taken away resources from continuing to operate and expand a successful business.
“Efforts will be made to reach out to the communities served along the rail transportation corridor to begin to build packages which will highlight local offerings and provide for increased economic impact.
The Adirondack Scenic Railroad will continue to play a vital role in the tourism industry of the region while continuing the preservation and restoration of the corridor.”
The creation of the multi-use trail has been advocated by Adirondack Rail Trail Associates, which formed in 2010. ARTA has pushed for removing the tracks and establishing a recreational trail all the way from Lake Placid to Big Moose or Old Forge—up to 90 miles.