By Tim Rowland
The Adirondack Park Agency on Thursday advanced plans to redevelop an historic 119-mile rail corridor connecting Remsen to Lake Placid into a recreational trail for bicyclists, skiers and snowmobilers to the northeast, and a scenic passenger train for tourists to the southwest.
The Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor Unit Management Plan will now be open for one last round of public comments as it relates to compliance with the Adirondack master plan, with final approval expected in May. “Everyone is interested in getting this project moving,” said John Schmid, senior natural resource planner for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
The plan drew some brief discussion during Thursday’s meeting about its potential impact on climate change. APA Board Member Chad Dawson said the DEC has been charged by law to take the lead on climate mitigation, but the plan is largely silent on the issue.
“Climate change is hardly mentioned in the UMP,” Dawson said. “There are really a lot of bigger questions, positive and negative, and that’s not addressed here at all.”
Schmid said climate change was on the radar of planners, and in the comments there was discussion over, for example, the carbon emissions of snowmobiles. But he said the number of vehicular trips—be they car, snowmobile or train—is hard to predict.
“It’s a very difficult thing to quantify (and) it’s speculative in a lot of respects,” Schmid said.
Once an afterthought, board members said that climate change now needs to be one of the first questions addressed. “It ought to be the headline issue every time we consider a land use,” said board member John Ernst.
Development of the Remsen-Lake Placid UMP, which is a blueprint for how the state land is to be used, has been one of the park’s more watched and commented-upon projects in recent memory. The public comment period for the plan, which ended in January, attracted 700 comments, Schmid said.
The project itself has encountered other obstacles, inspiring lawsuits and a general showdown between recreational users and railroad buffs.
In the end, the DEC and Department of Transportation gave a share to both sides, proposing that the rails be ripped up between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid for a recreational trail, while the line from Tupper Lake to Remsen will be fixed up for tourist trains.
“Tupper Lake will be getting special treatment as the junction between the two,” Schmid said, with a 550-foot raised passenger platform, maintenance yards, parking and snowmobile access.
Schmid said planners believe Saranac Lake will be the primary jumping off point for cyclists, while at Lake Placid talks are evolving for shuttles that would take riders to other nearby trails.
The railroad portion of the work is expected to be completed by 2021, with the recreational trail by 2023. All told, Schmid said it will be a valuable asset for attracting new businesses and lodging to the communities it touches.
The UMP, and a sister Historic Preservation Plan, pays particular homage to the railroad’s history, and will salvage infrastructure for historical interpretation.
The line was built in 1892 and became popularly known as the New York Central’s Adirondack Division. It was built by William Seward Webb, a physician-turned-Wall Street executive, and son-in-law of railroad magnate William Vanderbilt. Webb was pressed into service when the president of Wagner Palace Car Co., of which Vanderbilt held controlling interest, was crushed between two of his own cars.
The line operated until freight service ceased in 1972. It was acquired by the state two years later. A 1996 UMP called for the line to become a scenic railway with adjoining recreation where possible, but that plan was never fully realized.
There is still one more public comment phase to go, that being on its legality as it relates to the Adirondack Park’s master plan. Comments will be accepted through April 20, and can be emailed to SLMP_comments@apa.ny.gov. A copy of the plan is available on the DEC’s website.
Scott Thompson says
As a business in the Town Of Webb, it is blatantly Obvious there is a direct correlation between places to ride and filled beds. Whether it’s hotel/motels, seasonal rentals or the 80% second homes that support everything in our area; we all know that just because people can get here does not mean they will come unless they can enjoy their chosen activity and in the Winter, that is primarily Snowmobiling.
Being able to “Go somewhere” is the main attraction. Brantingham, Cranberry Lake, Raquette Lake, Moose River plains, Long Lake: all great destinations, but when there are low snow conditions there are issues. Sections of plowed roads, primitive trails, lake crossings, sharp corners and dips and dives that are difficult to groom. Then there is C7, the Corridor. Flat, easy curves, good drainage, no plowing, good visibility, no water to cross, but there is a problem; the rails and ties. With the rails and ties gone it would only take a few inches of snow and there could be 90 miles of uninterrupted ride. Worth coming for? You bet.
So who wants more restored railroad? ALL the public hearings ( still available on YouTube ) almost no one speaks in favor of more railroad and enthusiastically endorse the Rail Trail year round. Many local businesses from each area spoke for support of the trail. Who , as State presenters put it, thinks the current plan is best for the Corridor use. Town of Webb administrators? How would anyone know as no one came to the hearings. No one in the State will step up and say why that is their thinking when it is so openly opposed by the public with the concern to attend hearings.
It’s not more efficient, it’s not faster, it’s not less expensive, does not create much local employment and does not fill beds! So why?
You can still write to you representatives, maybe they know??
Scott Thompson says
For those addressing environmental quality issues: While Snowmobiles have become MUCH more efficient and clean, the reality is they will still be using the corridor as a trail as they have for decades and even though their numbers and duration would increase over the Rail Trail, trains will just add another season of the worst kind of emissions and the RR restoration will add hundreds of thousands of creosote soaked cross ties evaporating and leaching into the environment.
Yes remove the rails for trails
Hope C Frenette says
Just what we don’t need. Mass transit to the Adirondacks. Certainly isn’t doing any good right now. We do not need a train to bring more people to the Adirondacks or more viruses. Keep it in the cities where it belongs. Mass transit for the masses. I’d rather 1000 snowmobiles coming down the tracks than 1 train car. They will all be electric or clean diesel in a few years anyway.
David A Robinson says
Bicycling is a growing sport in the united states. Rail trails are very popular and draw many people. Studies show rail-trail usage by bicyclists, walkers, joggers, and people out for a stroll to be very high. Studies show that people who use rail trails also spend in communities they visit. Hotels, motels, campgrounds, restaurants, groceries, area attractions have shown to have far greater revenue when a rail trail is located close to their communities.
Bicycling is a human-powered sport, as is walking, jogging and strolling with friends, family, and children.
A rail-trail would fit into the Adirondack Park’s clause of ” Forever Wild ” since it is not mechanical with fuels and exhaust that would pollute.
A rail-trail would benefit all stakeholders.
Virginia Thompson says
We are the owners of the Norridgewock Lodge in Beaver River. The only business between Big Moose and Tupper Lake. We find it very strange that during this whole process not one person from the state has ever reached out to us to ask what we thought about this debate. Of course we would like the rails removed between Tupper and Big Moose. We would be out on our bikes today!
I thought you guys were famous for your rail contraptions (often bicycle based) from way back?
Scott Thompson says
By necessity, not choice.
Thomas Shaver says
Please open this up would love to ride the rail trail when conditions are not great
John Boy says
I have ridden the RR bed north of Big Moose station when the snow cover on the rails is iffy. I curse everytime my ski’s on my snowmobile find the rails under the snow. Just from a safety stand point I wish the rails were gone! If the RR bed was converted to a rail trail I might even bring my E Bike with me when I visit in the summer. I say E Bike because the speed/place of this project looks to be I will be too old to ride a bike with out assistance for a older senior lol. I am sure another nuisance is in the works any way by the RR buffs which is a way for them to force NYS to waste money on rebuilding the RR bed from Big Moose station to Tupper just so NYS can get them off there backs for the rail trail project from Tupper to Lake Placid. Suck it up NYS if you give the RR Buff’s crowd an inch they will want a mile. Please NYS do not waste the $$ on the rebuild you already did that in the 90’s Life long NYS resident and taxpayer