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Advocates want Douglas removed from North Country Regional Economic Development Council

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Multi-use trail advocates want Garry Douglas removed as co-chairman of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council for allegedly showing bias toward railroad operations.

In a press release issued last week, the Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates said Douglas has shown an "overt and egregious bias in favor of rail restoration on the corridor between Utica and Lake Placid." The group says studies have proven that a recreational trail would reap greater economic benefits.

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Chris Morris
Tri-Lakes Correspondent

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ARTA President Joe Mercurio says his organization expects economic development officials to work in the best interest of communities and taxpayers. He says Garry Douglas works against that by supporting rail restoration. ARTA’s Dick Beamish credits the council for securing economic development funds for the region. But his organization is concerned that Douglas is “dead-set against the recreational trail” and “blindly” in favor of restoring rail service.

“It precludes one of the great economic development opportunities in the Adirondack Park,” Beamish said. “That is: turning that old rail bed into a world-class recreational trail, a wilderness bikeway, running 90 miles through the Adirondack Park. The number of people that would attract is just mind boggling.”

ARTA has asked the council’s other co-chair, Clarkson University President Tony Collins, to seek Douglas’ removal. Earlier this spring, Douglas touted a study that said the Adirondack Scenic Railroad has a $3 million economic impact on the region. Douglas said in an email he’s willing to reassess his positions, but he added that the council’s strategic planning process has been transparent. The plan includes support for rail restoration projects.

During a recent council meeting in Lake Placid, Douglas said that the group amended its plan to “clearly support trail projects in the region.” He also said he will continue to be passionate about his positions, and he called upon all sides to put personal attacks aside.

ARTA formed last year to advocate for the creation of a recreational trail on the rail corridor between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid. In last week’s release, ARTA indicated it now wants that trail to run along the unused portions of rail between Old Forge and Saranac Lake. Beamish says if the town of North Elba can make a side-by-side trail work between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, his organization is OK with that. “If there’s the money to do that and if it can be done sometime soon, we have no problem with that,” Beamish said. “What we want is a continuous trail that would run from Lake Placid over to Tupper Lake, that 34-mile stretch, and then the rest of the way down to Old Forge.”

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