Railroad feud: when bureaucrats school the public

train hearings 2

A crowd packs a meeting room in Ray Brook to offer widely different views about the Adirondack rail corridor. Photo: Brian Mann

This week, I’ve gone spelunking in the wild, ferocious world of the Adirondack rail-trail debate.  Trust me, it’s a rabbit hole of zeal and rhetoric that Lewis Carroll couldn’t have dreamed up.

Because I live in the Adirondacks and have good friends on both sides of the debate, my Facebook page and my email box are full of people chiming in and sounding off.

The trouble here isn’t that people have strong opinions.  That’s great.  In fact, I think the debate has inspired both sides to come up better, more exciting ideas.

The problem is that both sides — those who want a new recreational trail and those who want a refurbished tourism train — have gotten downright mean, each accusing the other at various times of dishonesty, bullying and mean spiritedness.

Remember what’s at stake here.  Two essentially fun ideas about a really cool asset in the Adirondacks.

And remember that both sides have legitimate arguments to make, the one camp pushing for a vision of a rail line that ferries visitors into the heart of the Adirondack wilderness, the other camp pushing for a less costly multi-use trail that would also open new kinds of access.

Yes, both sides have stretched their arguments on occasion, picking and choosing numbers to fit the story they’re trying to tell.  But no more than people always do when trying to win a debate.

I’ve seen plenty of spin here, but no outright deception and nothing I would describe as underhanded — from either faction.  Both groups, in fact, clearly believe that their narrative is true.

Which brings us to this week.

State officials decided not to buy into the us-versus-them-take-no-prisoners narrative that’s been brewing.

Instead of holding a series of rail corridor meetings where people spouted off and hissed at each other, repeating the same old arguments, the DEC and DOT held a much more holistic series of planning meetings.

Participants broke up into small groups.  The public had an opportunity to  talk one-on-one with state experts from the Conservation and Transportation departments, offering their opinions, sharing their views of the facts.

I heard a few people complaining about the format, some passionately.  They demanded an old school forum.  They demanded that their questions and suspicions be addressed immediately.

And I get it.  Normally, I’m not a huge fan of bureaucrats trying to stage manage events like this, but as far as I could see the exercise actually worked.

People had a chance to be heard and to shape an important public discussion, without raising the temperature even higher.

So this is one case where maybe the public can take a page from the government bureaucrats.  Take a deep breath.  Remember that the people on the “other side” are actually your neighbors and friends.

Remember that we’re talking about a tourism rail corridor, not the future of Mideast peace.

And do your best to listen and to think hard about your own positions and your own tone.  Remember that, whatever your position, you’re asking the other camp to make some big, painful concessions.

Train supporters are asking the public to pony up a lot of money to pay for their vision of a tourism railroad that runs through the heart of the wilderness.  And to trust them with another decade or so of management of this valuable corridor.  That’s big.

Trail supporters, meanwhile, are asking people who care deeply about this train line — its history, its potential — to give up a dream that they’ve struggled mightily to bring to life.  That’s huge.

I could be wrong, but I suspect that the “winning” side here will be the one that shows the most humor, compassion, and flexibility as this process moves forward.

I know this sounds like a full-blown finger wag.  And yeah, guilty as charged.  But of all the big public debates I’ve covered in the Adirondacks, this may be the one that has the least credible rationale for ugliness and vitriol.

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61 Comments on “Railroad feud: when bureaucrats school the public”

  1. Pete Klein says:

    I would not be surprised if DEC and DOT decide not to embrace either side but pull the plug on any plans to extend train service beyond where it now exists and not spend any money on any of the sections where train service does not exist.
    As far as snowmobiles are concerned, there already is the C 7 trail, such as it is now and will be.

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  2. I understand the romanticism about train travel. I really do. I prefer taking Amtrak to Montreal, even though it takes almost twice as long as Greyhound, because I love train travel. I just think that tourist trains in particular have not captured the public’s imagination in that same way. As the radio report said, the tourist train has been around for 40 years and never really caught on. Why is $15 million more going to change that dynamic?

    Train supporters talk about access. But I don’t like the fact that taxpayers will have to shell out a lot of money to revamp the tourist train system but then if they want to use it, they’ll have to pay another $15 or $20 to a private company for a ticket. Once taxpayers pay for a new multiuse trail, they can use it at no additional cost. AND a multiuse trail will be used all year round, not just a few months. To me, all those things equate to greater access.

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  3. (Sorry forgot to add this part)

    I just think public money should be spent on a public good (trails that anyone can access at no extra cost) not to prop up private profits.

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  4. Peter Hahn says:

    I’m with Pete K. Even with a community consensus it would take the state years to think through what to do and how much money to spend. With passionate divisions any decision will deeply anger one group. The most likely course is to do nothing until passions die down on one side or the other. That might take 20 years.

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  5. Paul says:

    The rail line if developed and managed properly could be a unique asset that would draw in tourists (hikers and paddlers and others) and it would compliment all the other wilderness assets that are going to be developed and promoted now and in the future.

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  6. Matt says:

    The trail if developed and managed properly could be a unique asset that would draw in tourists (hikers and paddlers and others) and it would compliment all the other wilderness assets that are going to be developed and promoted now and in the future. – See more at: http://blogs.northcountrypublicradio.org/inbox/2013/09/11/railroad-feud-when-bureaucrats-school-the-public/#comments

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  7. I don’t see how tourist rail would “compliment” other wilderness assets. Apparently no one else, at least among movers and shakers, does either because it hasn’t worked in 40 years of trying.

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  8. The Original Larry says:

    Yeah, sure, I can just see the canoe-carrying crowds boarding the train now. This train thing is an expensive pipe dream. There’s no money in it and it will suck down tax dollars forever, without generating enough business to even be self-supporting. If it could be self-supporting we would have seen some evidence of it by now.

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  9. dave says:

    I don’t think we should act as if the only thing at stake here is one cool idea or the other.

    Public funds are at stake. My money. Your money. How we use that money, and if we use it responsibly, is at stake.

    For me, it basically comes down to this. Does it make sense to continue to subsidize an idea that has had a legitimate chance to produce results, and hasn’t… or does it make more sense to give another idea a try, one that just happens to have the added benefit of costing us less.

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  10. Pete Nelson says:

    I have some sympathy for Brian’s finger-wagging, but this is about much more than two fun ideas; the stakes are much higher. It’s not even remotely a simple matter of some interest group winning and some interest group losing. This is and should be a critical debate about the economics of a significant swath of the Adirondacks including some of the largest communities in the park. Off hand I’m not sure that any of the current debates in the park – not even the land classification of the Upper Hudson/Essex Chain – is as relevant to the health and welfare of the people who live here as is this debate.

    If the ARTA folks are right – in fact if they are anywhere in the ballpark whatsoever with their economic forecasts – then the recreational trail is not merely some fun idea, it is an economic game changer that dwarfs the potential impact of any economic initiative undertaken in the park since your well-reported prison boom. After suffering all the (much more strident) vitriol we have seen over the Adirondack Club and Resort project, it would pay to remember that the economic impact of this rail corridor, fully utilized, simply dwarfs the ACR over time. I’d like to see Tupper Lake thrive. Wouldn’t we all?

    But are the ARTA folks right? Is this really just about the “he said/she said” of two passionate groups or is there a difference? State cost estimates, statistical models for usage and revenue, comparable projects, the history of rail use in the corridor in the last twenty years and rail-trail trends across the country, all these favor a recreational trail. And honestly, if you undertake an objective and reasonably sound analysis it’s not even close. That’s why I’m very confident in the State’s process.

    Recreational trails have had transformative effects in Vermont, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota. Colorado and on. Is New York State somehow immune to these effects? Will we lose this opportunity in a “he said/ she said” debate of the kind endemic in the Adirondack Park?

    I hope not. Sure, Brian, let’s check the vitriol at the door, if we can by some miracle. But this is a much more serious matter than cool ideas and fun.

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  11. Paul says:

    Brian (MOFYC). what has been tried over 40 years? A short tourist spur is not a full length RR running into the best parts of the line transporting paddlers and hikers to remote locations along the Line? You need new rail side trail heads and put-ins for paddlers to compliment the Wilderness assets that line that corridor. but ripping up the rails and building a long flat bike trail will have a positive impact also but not be very unique. Sure build another rail trail and see what happens.

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  12. Paul says:

    Pete, tourist trains in CO taking hikers into remote areas have also proven to be incredibly unique tourism draws.

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  13. Paul says:

    I should also say that drawing in thousands more snow machines into those wilderness areas will also have a positive impact economically. So the rail trail has that going for it on the economic benefit side of the equation.

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  14. George says:

    The railroad stopped passenger service on this line in 1964 and frieght service stopped in 1972 when the railroad Co went into bankcruptcy. If there was ever a time that the RR would/could have been profitable it was in the post WW 2 era (pre APA) . If it didn’t make it then, why would anyone think (looking at it objectively) that a tourist train would have any chance this day in age?
    I’m not a trail advocate and I did ride the train once when it was refurbished around the 1980 Olympics. That was enough, the ride between TL and LP is far from scenic. And I have X-country skied the tracks from Sabattis in to Lake Lila a few times many moons ago and it is also less than stellar scenery.
    Economically I think the trail is hands down the better option.

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  15. BRFVolpe says:

    Paul and George, you do not mention that just before the 1980 Winter Olympics, and for a year or so later, the railroad was running from Utica to Lake Placid, and then went belly up. Understandable because this is never mentioned in media reports. Locals say the “investors” just walked away after finding that track maintenance after seasonal washouts cost money. So they pocketed their share of public money after the hype, novelty and Olympics faded.

    Can anyone find out what really happened to the railroad during the 1980 Olympics? If it went bankrupt, isn’t that public information? If they didn’t, are the shysters still at large, sniffing around for another low hanging taxpayer-funded plum?

    We have two bankruptcies, one freight, one passenger. The railroad is no longer an enterprise that can be be sustained without huge initial public monies, and yearly public subsidies to undergird the wilderness maintenance that is necessary from Big Moose north.

    Except for the short, seasonal tourist runs, the railroad from Big Moose to Saranac should remain in the romantic memories of railroad history.

    I only ask that the Railroad would open up from Big Moose to Saranac long enough for me to ride up and back with my family. Because we didn’t in 1980. From then on, hopefully we can bike, hike and x-c ski year-round.

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  16. Walker says:

    If the scenery is less than stellar on skis, then it is less than stellar on a bike. So why would hordes flock to ride it?

    And from what I understand, the ridership from Utica to Old Forge is pretty substantial. The problem with the rest of the line is the condition of the tracks. If that was improved, ridership would improve.

    The reason railroads were going bankrupt in the 70s and 80s is that we were pouring public money into improving highways, which pulled freight and passenger traffic away from the rails. No form of transportation works without expensive subsidies.

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  17. Paul says:

    The RR has never been run as a full length train dedicated to some kind of tourism related activity. The earlier financial issues and the ones related to running it piecemeal are not that instructive.

    Up-ending a going concern is not going to be trivial. This is not like most other rail to trail projects.

    The DOT has to understand that once the rails are gone any RR related use is gone forever as well. I have never heard of a trail to rail? Anyone?

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  18. Paul says:

    “And from what I understand, the ridership from Utica to Old Forge is pretty substantial. ” This might be due to the fact that at that end the train is finally starting to get into some more remote and interesting territory.

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  19. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    There is an analogy already existing in the Adirondacks. The Saratoga and North Creek railroad and the Warren County Bike Trail. The Bike trail was built in the late 70′s or early 80′s on an old rail bed connecting Lake George and Glens Falls and it is used by tens of thousands of people throughout the year. A few years ago a trail along the Feeder Canal tow- path between Glens Falls and Hudson Falls was built and is easily connected to the Bikeway.

    The S & NC RR has gotten million$ in subsidies and after many years has started to see some success but it suffers from periodic washouts and de-railments.

    Brian Mann should put up his kayak and bring his bike down and try the bikepath. Then go and ride the train from Saratoga to North Creek and give us a comparison.

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  20. Paul says:

    This format is interesting. It is my experience when you break it up like this shyer people seem to not get their views heard. You know how there is often this dominant (or several) person that seems to set the agenda for the group? Brain did folks seem to think that they all got to express their views.

    The person running this is a RR guy right? So in this case for the trail to happen he will have to agree to make the size of his domain smaller. Wonder how that will go over?

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  21. Hope Frenette says:

    Seriously Brian. Two cool ideas? This is not anything short of economic survival for several towns in the Adirondacks. Sorry it doesn’t make your “grade” as an important issue. At least not as important as your Prison Economic Manifesto. Now that the prison economic engine is leaving the station you think we should bank on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad to make up the difference? The time is now to make a change and move our communities forward. Building and maintaining the rec trail also improves the railbed, keeps bridges, culverts and other rail infrastructure in place and allows the public to benefit from Taxpayer investment. The railbed as is is in deplorable shape right now and would need total rehab anyway to rebuild. Use it as a trail, if it doesn’t work put the rails back and this time they will be the new modern ones that the trains don’t derail on like the problem they keep having in North Creek.

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  22. Brian Mann says:

    Hope –

    You’re being disingenuous. I never suggested that this isn’t an important issue. Never once, ever.

    On the contrary. I’ve reported on this as much or more than I’ve reported on prisons — despite the fact that it is arguably a more significant thing that so many of us in the North Country earn our livelihoods incarcerating other human beings.

    And yeah, I guess I have to acknowledge that I think on a moral level it would be cool if people in the Adirondacks were as passionate in their thoughts and debates about our prison industry as they are about this rail corridor.

    But I don’t think this is an insignificant issue. It’s just not — I’m not budging an inch on this — the kind of thing that we need to be mean to each other about over.

    It’s a train. Or a trail. Neither project is going to make (or break) the fortunes of any community along the route. I defy either side to show me numbers suggesting otherwise.

    And are both ideas “cool”? Heck, yes. If the train folks can make their vision work, it would be amazingly cool. Same holds true for the trail side.

    So now we’re having a conversation about which to try next. Great. It’s important and we’re covering it energetically. But it’s not important enough to draw knives (or write snarky emails) over.

    –Brian, NCPR

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  23. Hope Frenette says:

    Sorry for being snarky but your article, in my view, was disengenuos to both sides of the debate. Passion is a good thing and tends to make things happen. Passion is what brought this issue to the table and no matter what happens or which side prevails I hope that it results in project moving forward at a faster pace than we have seen the railroad move in the last 17 years.

    The Gov wants tourism boosted in NY and I’m all for it but I also want community growth and I’m pretty sure that nobody has moved into Lake Placid or Saranac Lake because they can ride a train but over in Tupper we are getting people interested in buying property because we just might get a trail. That is why you have over 75 businesses from Tupper who have supported the trail option. Not because they hate the train but because they are seeing things are happening on the speculation that we might get a trail. There is commercial interest in Piercefield because we might get a trail. Lest you think this about ACR potential, the interest is in “Junction ” property both residential and commercial.

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  24. Eric says:

    This is such a no-brainer. Keep the railroad from Utica to Theandra and perhaps extend it to Old Forge. So the railroad people still have a railroad.

    But Priority A is to rip up the tracks from Lake Placid to somewhere past Saranac. Why? Because we should do what is in the interest of most of the locals. And how many locals have taken the tourist train more than once in their lives? Or have never taken the trains and never will?

    But with a bike path, they and their kids can ride the trail FOR FREE, over and over and over again. Not to mention the thousands of tourists (and not hard-core cyclists) that would ride between the two towns.

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  25. Paul says:

    “Now that the prison economic engine is leaving the station you think we should bank on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad to make up the difference? ”

    Hope, this is really a good example of how people in this debate are not listening to each other in many instances. Please show us where Brain Mann ever advocated for the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. Where? What are we not even allowed to talk about it anymore?

    If people are considering buying land in and around Tupper Lake based on the possibility of a trail like this they really need to reconsider how they make their investment decisions.

    BTW since when is something described as “cool” not considered important?

    Wasn’t there a company that was talking about Pullman service on this RR line? People actually do this in places where you can fly or drive or take another type of train (http://www.travelpullman.com/). That is why people might use a hiker or paddler train to reach new destinations for hiking and paddling that they can get to other ways. That is what tourists do, they do cool stuff for fun and they pay for it!

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  26. Peter Hahn says:

    This is not a no brainier

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  27. Paul says:

    Eric, in your comment it sounds like you might be acknowledging that a RR can be viable if done more like it is at the southern end. That is where the RR is beginning to get into remote places that makes it a much more interesting proposition. The argument could easily be extended to say that what it really needs to flourish is to be fully functional?

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  28. Hope Frenette says:

    Yeah Paul some tourist might pay for a cool train trip with their canoe but more people might buy a second home in Tupper So they can ride their snowmobile or bike on a trail. I know you find that pretty hard to believe considering your comment of real estate investment in Tupper Lake. I think Tupper will take the snowmobiler tourist over the Pullman tourist anyway of the week.

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  29. Eric says:

    Paul – I believe Amtrak loses money on every single one of their lines except for the Northeast Corridor which actually makes a ton of money. Utica to Lake Placid is not exactly going to be a second Northeast Corridor.

    Why can’t the rail advocates just be honest and say something like “restoration of the rail line will be wonderful thing, even if it costs tens of millions to build and will lose millions of dollars every year.”

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  30. Eric says:

    Hope – nice comment! You are so stating the obvious, but apparently, not obvious to everybody!

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  31. Paul says:

    Eric, that is true about Amtrack. I am curious to know how a full blown adventure train like this one in Colorado manages financially. It is similar to a possible hiker/paddler/tourist train that could ride these rails:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durango_and_Silverton_Narrow_Gauge_Railroad

    If you want to try something cool grab your back pack and get on a plane and ride this RR and spend a week or more hiking in this area. Or bring your mountain bike on the train if you prefer.

    Hope, my point was that I would not reccomend buying a second home in the hopes that a trail is in the near future. Buy a place in Tupper on the water there are some great places on the market now. I bought a second home in the area and I didn’t need a trail to seal the deal. But that is just me. A second home in Tupper is a good investment rail or trail. Hope, you seem to be getting so riled on the topic that I am not sure you are understanding anyone’s comments clearly.

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  32. PNElba says:

    I’ve decided to switch and support the multi-use trail as long as it is closed to motorized vehicles.

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  33. Walker says:

    PNElba, the whole point of the “multi-use trail” is snowmobiles. The hiking/biking stuff is just to pull in more downstate support.

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  34. GJB says:

    My interests fall on both sides of the issue. I have hiked over 100 miles of trails in the past year across the north east and I also an avid model railroader (I display at shows throughout the state) so I would likely use either that was built. I have been following the debate closely and would like to kindly share my input. Please keep in mind that I view myself as “neutral” and that I am not affiliated with the trail groups or the railroad.

    1. I own several books on railroading in the Adirondacks and one thing that people need to remember is that the operation of the ’80′s and that of today are different entities. While its is the same “railroad” in regards to the right of way it is operated differently. The operation of the ’80′s was rushed for the Olympics, used inferior products- specifically poor ties and did suffer many derailments. I’ve noticed many comparisons to the derailments in North Creek and from the past of the line, however to my knowledge the only derailment on the Adirondack Scenic was a few years back on Mohawk Adirondack and Northern track in Utica marsh. The current operation has only one derailment in 20 years (not 40) and that was on rail not maintained by them. To me, this says that although it has take a long time, that the railroad is doing better on their upkeep than their predecessors or other tourist lines. Also, being that it is a different entity that that of the 80′s, funding had to be used to buy equipment, and it isn’t cheap. Do a search on prices for used locomotives. That is a huge start up cost but slowly the railroad is making progress. The ride now goes to Big Moose. It does no good to rehab track without equipment to run on it. I know I didn’t sound too neutral there but I noticed some slight misconceptions.

    2. In 2007 the DEC had a plan on a different trail through the Adirondacks the North Country National Scenic Trail. If I recall, the plan for this crossed through 7 states and through the Adirondacks. There were three options through the Adirondacks in the plan, none of which involved removing the rails and even encompassed the use of existing trails for a portion making it easier to accomplish. It would bring the same benefits to the region that the rail trail would. As I said, I would use a trail through the Adirondacks. Why isn’t anyone thinking of completing this trail first? If it proves viable, then approach removing the rails. For now it keeps both sides happy. It also provide two different routes and therefore double the impact on the economy. I provided a link below.

    http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/lands_forests_pdf/ncnsti46.pdf

    3. Also keep in mind some of the issue that the railroad has will also have an impact on the trail. Washouts from rain or from beaver dams do not discriminate and will still be an issue no matter which is decided on.

    As I said, I will support whichever is chosen. It is my belief that having a railroad brings in money from people who take the train, having a trail brings in money from people who use the trail but having both brings in money from both. Both would be assets to the region if fully completed.

    If anyone wants to debate anything I wrote, please do so politely.

    -Greg

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  35. Pete Nelson says:

    Brian:

    In your above comments you said this: “Neither project is going to make (or break) the fortunes of any community along the route. I defy either side to show me numbers suggesting otherwise.”

    Apparently you have not been reading ARTA’s materials. The Rails to Trails Conservancy study says this:

    …the first section of the rail-to-trail conversion, utilizing the 34-miles of rail-bed connecting Lake Placid and Tupper Lake, could attract between 75,000 and 800,000 visitors annually, with a midpoint of 224,260 visitors. Out-of-area visitors will spend between $63.86 and $99.30 per day, with an average of $86.02. At the midpoint spending level, visitors will add $19.8 million in annual revenues to the local economies.

    “Make or break” is a bit too facile a standard. But a $19.8 million yearly direct economic infusion split among Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake and Lake Placid is a game changer, far outstripping any other economic initiative you can name. This figure does not include the impact of increased snowmobile activity, estimated at north of $7 million per year. Therefore, simply put, consider your defiance answered.

    What is the counter argument to this? Obviously it can only be that these numbers are a fiction. That in turn requires one to discount the credibility of the Rails to Trails Conservancy and their studies. But their track record is very good and their is methodology is sound, so rhetoric alone will not discount these estimates.

    You’re right about the importance of the prison issue and you’re specifically right about the relative moral importance about that issue versus this one. I understand why you are defending the value of that project and I understand (and supported) your laudable professional investment in it. But it has nothing whatsoever to do with the value of this issue, which stands on its own.

    Hope Frenette is right; this is really serious business.

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  36. Kent Gregson says:

    I don’t have your answers. Let me clear up a few things though. Recent Warren County railroad history; The Upper Hudson River Railroad where I conducted the train for 10 years ran for 12 years on Warren County’s tracks. Most of that time we were going from North Creek to Riparius (less than 8 miles). For several years I was instructed to tell the passengers that next year we’d be going all the way to Saratoga. Eventually we got to Thurman, Hadley and Corinth, but not Saratoga. Warren County supervisors complained that it was a “train to nowhere” as it dragged it’s feet on making the connection to Saratoga. Eventually the Upper Hudson River Railroad ran out of money and lost the contract with Warren County. The winner of the contract was Iowa Pacific Holdings who stipulated that they’d get going just as soon as Warren County made the connection to Saratoga. That got the connection made finally and the Saratoga North Creek Railroad has been running mostly from Saratoga to North Creek for a couple of years. Iowa Pacific is also the parent company of the Durango train and the Pullman car trains as well as several other railroads here and abroad. The connection to Saratoga has helped North Creek a lot, but it took time, more time than people had patience. This stuff is tricky. There was a study done to determine whether the tracks should be torn up and scrapped for a trail. It was determined that the tracks were so remote that the scrap value of the rails was a small fraction of the cost of the project. Also notable is that it took over twenty years to get this 90 miles of track back up and running. Railroading is seeing a resurgence since it’s so much more efficient than trucking and as one railroad boss said the railroad doesn’t have to get out and sell their service when the price of diesel goes over $4/gal. They only have to answer the phone.

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  37. Hope says:

    GJB, The NC National Scenic Trail plan is for a foot path that travels thru several areas of the Adirondacks. The trail that ARTA is proposing is a recreation trail that will be flat (<2% grade), wide enough for bicycles and snowmobiles to pass each other and connect major and minor communities from one end of the Adirondacks to the other. A foot path, while nice for hikers, is not what is being proposed here and would not have the same economic value that has been indicated in several studies over the last few years. The key provision here is that we are trying to build a venue for as wide a use as possible within reasonable costs and environmental responsibility. There are no venues where average bicyclers of any age can ride a safe, level path away from traffic. The travel corridor is trail C7 the main artery thru the park for snowmobile traffic yet it is barely used because of the rails. Snowmobiling cannot be ignored as a significant economic impact in the Park. It is a billion dollar industry which recent studies have shown that has it's largest economic impact in the Adirondacks.

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  38. mervel says:

    How many hikers are walking on the railroad bed now?

    I have (I was lost), but I did it for a while, its OK, but there are many many trails in the Park that are more interesting and not used at all, you leave the high peaks and go out south of Star Lake etc, you can hike for hours and see no one and be in really cool country.

    I don’t see these rail beds as being big hiking magnets. But for biking you are talking about mountain biking unless you actually talking about hard surfacing them; which I hope we are not considering for these.

    So the big increase will be in giving the snowmobilers more access to the back country. I am neutral on that, however I don’t understand the environmentalists support for it?

    I do agree with Brian, this should not be something we get so mad about, and no it is not going to change our economy, closing prisons, yes that will radically change our economy, this not so much either way.

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  39. Hope says:

    Mervel, yes it will be hard packed crusher run so regular bikes (not mountain bikes) can be used. The environmentalist support is for the biking part of it. There are not any venues, in the Adirondack Park, for flat recreational riding. There are several mountain biking trails in existence but they are of the technical variety, such as single track, stump jumping, downhill kind of stuff. Not for the average bike touring type.

    Go to http://www.vacreepertrail.us and http://www.vacreepertrail.org to check out the type of trail we are talking about.

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  40. Paul says:

    “…the first section of the rail-to-trail conversion, utilizing the 34-miles of rail-bed connecting Lake Placid and Tupper Lake, could attract between 75,000 and 800,000 visitors annually, with a midpoint of 224,260 visitors.”

    Better start upgrading the municipal sewer systems now.

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  41. Paul says:

    Do the rail trails attract people or are the rail trails something that tourists who are here will use. This 34 mile stretch would take about 3 hours to ride at (not even) a moderate pace. At 225,000 people how many people will be riding per day? In other words how crowded will the trail be? It doesn’t sound like a very peaceful experience?

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  42. Paul says:

    As far as biking opportunities. Didn’t someone say that the Forest Preserve land we bought from the Nature Conservancy has 250 miles of dirt roads on it?

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  43. Hope Frenette says:

    Paul, ARTA didn’t make up the numbers. They came from the National Rails to Trails Conservancy who has data from trails all across the country. The numbers offer a range and even if they are half of what has been predicted we will be ahead of the game. Plus the local resident will also be using this venue over and over again. Also, those numbers don’t include the snowmobile numbers in the winter. Do yourself a favor and check out PowerPoint at http://www.thearta.org and read our business plan. You don’t have to like us or agree with us but we are serious about this trail and what benefits it can bring to our region.

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  44. Hope Frenette says:

    So far over 300 businesses agree with us.

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  45. Hope Frenette says:

    http://Www.adventurecycling.org an organization dedicated to bicycle travel adventures. These folks travel to ride all over the world.

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  46. Dick Beamish says:

    Brian Mann states that “neither project (rail restoration or rail-to-trail conversion) is going to make or break the fortunes of any community along the route.” However, based on the success of rail-to-trail projects elsewhere, it appears that the economic benefits of converting the 90 miles of rail corridor to a year-round recreation trail would give struggling communites like Tupper Lake a real shot-in-the-arm.
    I recently talked with local officials and chambers of commerce in the small towns along the 34-mile regional economy. The trail is said to attract about 150,000 users a year, most from out of the area. There’s one community about half way along the trail, Damascus, that has especially benefitted since the old rail bed was turned into a recreational trail for biking, walking, etc. Like our own Tupper Lake, Damascus, with a population of about 1,000 residents, had gone into a slump after the logging era ended. It had essentially dried up and died. Now it has eight restaurants, a dozen lodging places, several bike shops, and a new lease on life. The Virginia Creeper Trail has become a major tourist destination in that part of Virginia. Next month my wife and I plan to be two more of those tourists who drive a long distance to experience that trail and soak up some Blue Ridge Mountain history, culture and natural beauty in the best way possible–on our bicycles. A great many tourists will be similarly attracted to this area when the 90-mile Adirondack Rail Trail, connecting the Tri-Lakes with Old Forge, becomes a reality.

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  47. Dick Beamish says:

    Somehow in my previous comment some key wording got dropped out toward the beginning. I was writing about the 34-mile Virginia Creeper Trail in western Virginia, which has given the regional economy a significant boost. It is one of many rail-to-trail conversions around the country that has spurred tourism and business development in areas much in need of this help.

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  48. mervel says:

    Thanks Hope,

    For me, I would be very much against any sort of construction that would allow flat surface biking. I think the Adirondack back country should be back country, not a city park. I think you can do that sort of thing down on the canals etc by Utica, but I hope the Park never becomes like that.

    I am biased toward the wilderness concept of what the ADK park is and I fully admit that, I know from Brians many comments that no; the Park is not just about wilderness but it is about multiple use etc, but at the end of the day for me, keeping the last great wilderness in the East as a wilderness is where I would fall in my biases.

    I realize many would disagree. Its not the end of the world either way on this deal.

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  49. Tony Goodwin says:

    I didn’t attend either of the first two sessions, so I will be interested to see how the format works in Tupper Lake this Tuesday. In all of ARTA’s public presentations so far, we’ve been careful to fully recognize that the ASR folks have worked very hard to try and make their dream a reality. I and the other ARTA members also realize that it will be painful for the ASR to finally have to admit that they will not be able to achieve their desired goal of through service from Utica to Lake Placid. Early on (1992) in the planning process, they said they could restore the rail line for 60 mph passenger service at no cost to the state; but reality quickly got in the way of that promise.

    Most of us who live here probably know of a local athlete or two with dreams of becoming an Olympian. Some have achieved that goal while others who worked just as hard have finally had to admit that they will never achieve that goal. Then it’s time to move on, and the ASR can move on to continue making the Utica to Old Forge operation a successful operation that helps the economy of the Old Forge area. Snowmobile interests south of Thendara have also wanted the tracks removed to increase the length of their season, but ARTA intends to stick with its compromise solution that continues rail operations from Utica to Thendara/Old Forge.

    The ASR has proposed that service through the wilderness areas will allow them to provide valuable access to remote locations for hikers and canoers. To date, however, they have not identified any access point not already accessible by car. Yes, the approach to Lake Lila is a bit shorter from the railroad than from the current parking area, but not short enough to warrant paying a fare and then being tied to the train schedule. Hikers could access the trail to Frederica Mt. more easily than from the current parking area. But after a 1.5 mile hike what else does one do until the next train comes by? The Durango to Silverton operation does take hikers, paddlers, and fisherman to remote locations along its 40-mile route – 25 of which are next to a river with no road access. Nevertheless, it is the tourists who ride the train behind authentic steam engines in beautifully restored coaches that pay the bills – not the minority that get off along the way. The hiking tour options offered on their web site all seem to include van transportation as part of the package, so the railroad doesn’t appear to serve all needs of those venturing off of the rail line.

    Promoters of expanded rail service on the corridor have pointed to the apparent success of the Saratoga and North Creek rail operation. There is no question that the S&NC has brought many tourists to North Creek to the benefit of local businesses; but this operation does not qualify as “transportation” since very few have ridden Amtrak to Saratoga before or after riding the S&NC. Furthermore, a “Trains” magazine interview with Ed Ellis, the president of Iowa Pacific Holdings that owns this operation, had him stating that the S&NC operation “covered its above the rail costs.” This means that Iowa Pacific cannot pay for track maintenance unless governments help out. Ellis has said he needs freight service to make the operation profitable (the reality for railroads for at least 100 years), but to date the S&NC has shipped maybe two freight cars and has yet to find a buyer for the tailings at the end of the line in Tahawus.

    Rail service is great where it works, but if it doesn’t work it’s time to look at other options.

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  50. Paul says:

    “Nevertheless, it is the tourists who ride the train behind authentic steam engines in beautifully restored coaches that pay the bills – not the minority that get off along the way.”

    What “beautifully restored coaches”? Tony, have you ever been on this train?

    If this RR were restored along its entire length Pullman service could happen. Folks I have talked with think that would never “pay the bills”? Could it?

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