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Adirondack Scenic Railroad train in Old Forge. Photo: Bradley O'Brien, CC some rights reserved
Adirondack Scenic Railroad train in Old Forge. Photo: Bradley O'Brien, CC some rights reserved

State to review Adirondack rail plan

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State officials say they'll hold a public review of the management plan for the railroad corridor that stretches from Old Forge and Remsen through the heart of the Adirondacks to the Tri-Lakes.

The decision, announced yesterday, was a victory for critics of the seasonal tourism railroad, who say the 119-mile corridor should be remade as a year-round multi-use trail.

Supporters of the train have argued that the review is unnecessary and say public hearings could delay funding and development of the rail line.

Brian Mann has details.

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This will give the public and the special interest group and people who have a vested interested in the outcome -- mostly who have businesses along the corridor -- a way to get their input in.
--Lee Keet
The state plan that governs the railroad corridor was created in the 1990s.  Lee Keet from Saranac Lake is one of the co-founders of a group called Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates.  He says yesterday’s decision was a big step forward.

"It's what we've been asking for for two years," Keet said.  "This will give the public and the special interest group and people who have a vested interested in the outcome — mostly who have businesses along the corridor — a way to get their input in."

View of the Floodwood Pond area from the tourist train (Photo: NCPR File Photo by Brian Mann)
View of the Floodwood Pond area from the tourist train (Photo: NCPR File Photo by Brian Mann)
Town, village and county governments along the corridor have passed resolutions urging a full review of how the corridor is being used.

In a statement released yesterday, Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald says state officials will “engage local communities about the best future use of the Remsen-Lake Placid travel corridor.”

Joe Martens, who heads the Conservation Department, said “residents, local officials, visitors and other stakeholders” will have a chance to weigh in on the corridor’s future.

This news was unwelcome for railroad supporters.  Bethan Maher, executive officer of the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society issued a statement sayig she “does not feel that revisiting the [corridor plan] is necessary."

But Maher added that she “remains confident that the state will once again” support maintaining and upgrading the rail line.

Steve Erman with the Adirondack North Country Association has been a strong supporter of the tourism railroad. 

He also issued a statement saying that his group is “hopeful” that the updated plan will still call for “rail retention.”

Debate over the future of the line, which includes roughly 100 miles in the Adirondacks and nearly 20 miles in the Tug Hill region, has grown increasingly rancorous.

Critics of the tourist trainhave described the current railroad operation as a taxpayer subsidized boondoggle.

Critics of the multi-use trail, meanwhile, say that plan doesn’t respect the region’s railroading history and they question whether another trail in the Adirondack would attract significant numbers of visitors.

Should the Adirondack train keep rolling or be replaced by a rec path?  (NCPR file photo)
Should the Adirondack train keep rolling or be replaced by a rec path? (NCPR file photo)
In their statement, state officials said the public hearings will "take into account issues that have developed of the past twenty years by providing an opportunity for all interests to be part of the process.”

It’s unclear when the first public hearings will be scheduled.

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