The debate over the future of the rail corridor between Remsen and Lake Placid is one of the most heated I’ve seen in the last decade.
Now Garry Douglas, head of the Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council, is tangled up in the furor.
Advocates of converting the railroad to a trail system are demanding that Douglas step down from the NC REDC because he has pushed so strenuously in favor of maintaining and enhancing the railroad.
They cite in particular a letter, published in the Tupper Lake Free Press, where Douglas urged rail road supporters to “come out in force to drown out recreational-trail supporters” before a public meeting.
This from the Plattsburgh Press-Republican:
Douglas said the letter to the Tupper Lake Free Press was meant as a personal correspondence to Next Stop Tupper Lake Chairman Dan McClelland, who is also the newspaper’s editor.
But that email was published.
“Nevertheless, in hindsight, it went a step too far in mixing my roles. I feel badly about that and apologize,” Douglas said.
“I will, however, remain active and passionate, and I have no problem with others of differing perspectives doing likewise. Somehow, in the end, this can usually lead to better outcomes, finding the best ways to achieve two aims instead of one.”
Jim McCulley, Lake Placid Snowmobile Club president, is on the Trail Advocates Board of Directors.
“Douglas’s job as co-chair of the Economic Council is to take input and then go from there. We just need an honest debate here,” he told the Press-Republican.
This dust-up speaks, in part, to the vagaries of the Regional Economic Development Council system, which has enormous influence over state funding for projects, but which is staffed by volunteers — including Douglas — who have a vested interest in many of the region’s activities.
It is also unclear how the REDC groups will resolve controversial issues, as we saw with their debate over the so-called rooftop highway project.
So what do you think? Do you have questions about Douglas’s role? Or about the structure of the process in general? Or is the system working? Comments welcome.