Why we’re asking these thorny questions about the Adk Railroad

NCPR's coverage of the rail-trail debate comes as New York state is gathering public comments about the future of the rail corridor.  (Photo:  Brian Mann)

NCPR’s coverage of the rail-trail debate comes as New York state is gathering public comments about the future of the rail corridor. Photo: Brian Mann

The last couple of weeks I’ve had a lot of conversations — on the phone, via email, in person, and on social media — with supporters of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad about the fairness of NCPR’s reporting on the rail-trail debate.

Our latest story appeared Wednesday morning.

The concerns fall into a couple of broad categories.  Firstly, some folks are worried by the fact that this public radio station has prominent supporters  and donors who are also leading members of ARTA, the pro-trail group that wants to dismantle the Scenic Railroad.

Secondly, NCPR continues to ask thorny questions about ASR’s track record (I know, sorry), operating on sections of the line from Old Forge to Lake Placid over the last twenty-plus years.

Some pro-train advocates think these questions, by their very nature, are unfair and inappropriate.  They think maintaining the railroad is a no-brainer and they’re dismayed that critics have been given so much attention and air time.

So let me address these two concerns in order.

IS NCPR SECRETLY SUPPORTING THE TRAIN (OR THE TRAIL)?

It’s true that we have some good friends and donors, including Lee Keet from Saranac Lake, who are part of NCPR’s community while also serving as high-profile leaders of ARTA.

But it’s also a fact that we have a huge cadre of support — financial and otherwise — from passionately pro-train folks, from Lake Placid to Old Forge and beyond.

It’s also true that we have a carefully crafted system of ethical and professional “firewalls” in place to protect our reporting from financial influence or political pressure.

In fact, NCPR has a long history of infuriating people who consider themselves to be our friends and core supporters.  We don’t do it cavalierly, but we do it cheerfully when the facts and the story make it necessary.

Sometimes those folks drop  out of our community.  Usually they don’t.

Finally, it’s important for both sides in this debate to remember that the rail-trail fight in the Adirondacks is a relatively small issue in the context of the stories we cover over our huge region.

Our reporters are in the field covering high-intensity and high-dollar issues all the time — from hydro-fracking to the rooftop highway to big Adirondack land purchases.

In doing that work, we’ve developed strong procedures for protecting our work from undue influence.

SO WHY KEEP ASKING TOUGH QUESTIONS?

So assuming we’re not in the tank for either side, why ask these questions at all?  Why dig into the Scenic Railroad’s business plan?  Why give them the third degree over things like their financial health?

The first answer is that we plan to continue asking similarly tough questions about the rail-trail idea.  We haven’t yet kicked the tires adequately on claims being made by ARTA about the cost and benefits of creating a long trail.   That will happen this winter.

But it’s also true that in this story the Scenic Railroad is sort of like the incumbent politician in a political race.  They’re the group with the history, the long years of struggle, with some big successes and some pretty big stumbles.

ASR now plans to ask New York for a 20 year commitment for use of the publicly-owned corridor, and for roughly $15.2 million in funding to restore a set of rails that would be used almost exclusively by their trains.

It’s NCPR’s job to provide skeptical, hard-nosed, fact-driven reporting about the Scenic Railroad’s internal workings, so that the public (again, including supporters) can reach informed conclusions about whether that investment is a good idea.

We also strive to be scrupulously fair and respectful.  But train supporters, as much as critics, deserve to know as much as possible about the project, its strengths, its weaknesses, and any unanswered questions.

One final note.  Folks following this story closely will note that the version on NCPR’s airwaves differs a bit from the version that appeared in the pages of Adirondack Explorer magazine.

This is because the magazine has a longer lag time and went to press before I uncovered some key bits of information, including my interview with Iowa Pacific executive Ed Ellis, and my opportunity to view a part of ASR’s business plan.

HOW TO REACH US IF YOU DO HAVE A CONCERN

As always, if folks do still have concerns about our reporting, or hear something that just doesn’t sound right, we welcome feedback.  I’m at brian@ncpr.org.  Martha Foley, our news director, can be reached at martha@ncpr.org.  Station manager Ellen Rocco can be reached at ellen@ncpr.org.

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127 Comments on “Why we’re asking these thorny questions about the Adk Railroad”

  1. Peter Hahn says:

    I for one, and Newt has asked for this several times, would like a realistic discussion of the two business models. I realize there are two competing rosy futures. Teasing out what is realistically likely is probably impossible.

    I am struck always by the math that ARTA’s argument is that economically, $ARTA minus $Train is positive. i.e. They think they will bring in more money so there will be a net gain. It is very possibly true. On the other hand, if ARTA built their trail on some other rail bed, and there are many other places they could built it in a 6 million acre park, it would $ARTA plus $Train, and the snowmobilers would still get to use the tracks when there is enough snow. That would be a lot more money for the region.

    Hot debate. Like/Dislike Thumb up 15 Thumb down 17

  2. Matt says:

    Peter,

    You are correct that having both in this region would be ideal. However, the rail is now and for the foreseeable future doing nothing for communities like Tupper Lake. There is no money earmarked for the restoration to get the train there. So, you could build a trail elsewhere, keep the train which is making progress at a glacial pace, and the communities along the unused portions of the line will continue to see no benefits.

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  3. I am flabbergasted that any serious person would question why you would explore an issue like this that’s important to the region.

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  4. Brian Mann says:

    Hi folks – Just wanted to note that I removed Pat Gallaher’s comment at the poster’s request.

    Brian, NCPR

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  5. Jim McCulley says:

    Peter what rail bed goes from Old Forge to Lake Placid the two busiest tourist destination in the Park? Where is this comparable trail? Where is a trail that goes through to of the largest communities in the Park that both need economic growth?Even the minimum amount the ASR says it needs 15 million would lead to just 30 mph train service. Not a viable transportation system in a state that has so many needs for funding in the viable transportation system called roads.
    We now know from the North Elba experiment that you can’t have a side by side trail. So the real question is do we continue to waste millions on a failed 19th century business? Or do we create a future with a proven track record in and around the Park for bring tourist. Trails bring tourist period. Tourist bring money the state has seen to it, our only source of private sector income will be in the form of tourist dollars.
    The ASR’s own economic impact study says only 7,000 new visitors if train service restored. And the great Pullman story from Chicago to New Orleans seems to be carrying between 8-15 people per trip from reports. Thats 2-3 trips per month. Nothing adds up yet people are willing to throw good money after bad for no gain. It’s sad we no longer have adults that can say no to bad ideas.

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  6. Peter: the main difference between trail and tourist trains is that tourist trains require a large public subsidy year after year after year for maintenance and trails do not. I’m okay with that for mass transit trains but much less so for tourist trains. They tried the tourist train idea for several decades. It didn’t work. Ok fine. Let’s move on.

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  7. AdkJack says:

    I am really curious what people like Dave Gibson, Dan Plumley, Peter Bauer, and Neil Woodworth feel about what has to happen to the rail bed should the train be abandoned. I think an investigation of this Forest Preserve issue would be very helpful to the debate.
    I also think a genuine discussion of the challenges of a side by side trail/rail would also be interesting. All we’ve heard about that option is that it is impossible. That is merely an opinion not a fact. That option shouldn’t be discounted off hand until there is a clearer picture. Let’s hear from engineering experts on the challenges of cantilevered trails etc.
    If I’ve learned nothing else in my 60 plus years I know that if politicians want something done, they find the money to do it. Saying the state is too poor to do something just isn’t true.

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  8. Newt says:

    I think Brian’s report on the ASR was tough, but fair.

    I’m looking forward to him doing a similar job on ARTA, though I am a supporter. There are some questions I would like to see more clearly answered, e.g., How much will conversion and maintainance cost, and how, other than selling the tracks, would it be paid for. I wish it could come sooner than this winter.

    I was away when the hearings were held. Mightn’t be a neat idea for our area public TV and radio stations to sponsor a public, on-air debate on the topic?

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  9. Mervel says:

    A lot of grey hair in that photo. Is that a reflection of the north country or the people agitated about the trains.

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  10. ThisGuy says:

    Those grey heads were the only folks who could make it to the hearings held while most people were working.

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  11. Hope Frenette says:

    The fact is that North Elba has dropped it’s quest to build a side by side rail and trail due to environmental concerns, escalating engineering and construction costs, additional permitting requirements and general lack of interest in spending any more money on what Supervisor Politi termed “a taxpayer boondoggle”.

    Additional facts are that North Elba, Harrietstown, Tupper Lake, Piecrefield and Colton have all voted to remove the rails in favor of a recreation trail. These are elected officials who have listened to their constituents and voted accordingly. They are all up again along with some new faces for this election season. Let’s see how it pans out. There are not too many railroad advocates running but there are a few.

    I heard someone today go on and on about keeping the tracks for future freight delivery to our industrial sites like we are about to embark on an industrial renaissance here in the Adirondack Park. Manufacturing of any significant quantity that would require a train is not happening. Information is the new “industry” and Broadband is the new “infrastructure”. That is where industrial investment should be made. Large scale manufacturing of physical products is dead in the Adirondacks. It’s time to move on.

    Hot debate. Like/Dislike Thumb up 16 Thumb down 13

  12. Bill Hutchison says:

    Thorny questions? I have a few: Why does ARTA insist on ripping out the ONLY railroad in the Adirondacks when they already have hundreds of miles of trails? What about those who want to see the Adirondacks without having to drive—or can’t drive? Why does ARTA stubbornly insist on trail-only instead of trying to work the the railroad and its supporters?

    Also, why does NCPR risk compromising its status as an impartial organization by appearing to have a cozy relationship with ARTA? I think the quote from Brian Mann, below, is very revealing:

    “It’s true that we have some good friends and donors, including Lee Keet from Saranac Lake, who are part of NCPR’s community while also serving as high-profile leaders of ARTA.”

    ARTA also mentioned NCPR’s Brian Mann as the apparent source of a railroad planning document it says it “foiled” them into getting. It’s all on the Adirondack Rail Trail Facebook page. Is this the action of a person who purports to represent the public good? This looks like a clear conflict of interest to me.

    The idea of a trail is a good, but not in place of the railroad. ARTA and its followers have tried to bully their way through this issue. Why would anyone be surprised that the railroad or its supporters would fight back in the the face of this strong-arm approach?

    As for NCPR, I think they would be wise to distance themselves from any perception of an improper relationship with ARTA or the railroad.

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  13. Eric says:

    This seems like a no-brainer to me. Keep the rail from Utica to Big Moose. Remove the tracks from Lake Placid to Tupper and create a rail trail that not only tourists would use, but locals would use over and over again. Bike rides from LP to Saranac for families would be a pleasure. People living in one town and working in the other could bike to work every day. Now that would be great!

    As for the rest of the right-of-way, I assume it would also become a trail one day.

    And let’s stop dreaming about a train from Utica to Lake Placid. It will NEVER happen. No new industry will need freight, and the cost of this very long ride for families who now take the Polar Express would be prohibitive.

    I actually think the rail people are being very selfish because the ASR would still be running from Utica. They need to understand that cycling is huge, and this rail trail will bring lots more tourists to the area than the train (now many tourists would not come to LP and SL if there were no train – very few).

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  14. Peter Hahn says:

    Jim McCulley. Lake Placid doesnt need snowmobile business. Old Forge does. The trail needs to connect Old Forge with anywhere it can connect to that will attract people. Yes people would like to drive to Lake Placid in their snowmachines, but that cant be the only destination that would attract visitors.

    I realize the Lake Placid snowmobilers would like the trail to connect them with outside destinations. That by itself doesnt do anything for the economy though. If the argument is “what is best for the economy of the region?” there needs to be more clear-eyed thinking.

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  15. Hope Frenette says:

    Seems, Peter Hahn, you are forgetting about Saranac Lake, Santa Clara, Tupper Lake, Piercefield, Colton, Long Lake and Beaver River. These are all communities who will benefit from the Trail. Where is the flat, level off the road trail that connects all these communities? This is the goal of the rail trail. To connect communities so that you could travel between them or the whole distance. It is not just about Old Forge and Lake Placid. And, it’s not just about snowmobiling.

    Over 400 businesses and 12,000 individuals seem to indicate that there is a demand for the type of venue ARTA is promoting. Certainly the businesses seem to think this venue is worth pursuing not to mention all the individuals. Why is that so hard to fathom? Have you done the research into other areas that have been revitalized by a Rail Trail? Why don’t you? We have and we like what we hear and see. If we thought it was a bad idea we wouldn’t pursue it. If the communities weren’t receptive it would be over by now. Let’s get through the hearings make a decision and move on.

    This whole idea would be dead in the water if we didn’t have the support we have. We wouldn’t have even gotten this far. Don’t dismiss the interest as inconsequential or as “a distraction” as one rail fan is know to say. Truly we think it’s a great idea and worth the aggravation and effort to pursue.

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  16. The point is that the Corridor connects many points of interest and serves both ways as a trunk to the branches in a VERY large area. Snowmobiling will be that much more active, but the bicycle and pedestrian traffic attracted by these trails is huge. Most of the non-snow business will not come from those ON the trail, but those accessing the Trail along the roads, businesses, and communities already needing the extra traffic. Think of this as an attraction like the Olympic area, like a partnering of an entire region of natural attractions, like nothing we have had before, but you can Google up Rail Trail and read about. The Katy, Pine Creek, Down East Sunrise, Cape Cod and on and on. The Corridor ( Old Forge to Placid) has not been a viable railroad since the 40′s. What do you think has changed to make it so now??

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  17. Brian M says:

    Wow, someone really thinks a trail to LP won’t do anything for the economy? People would love to hike, bike, or snowmobile to LP and spend their money there.

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  18. Bill Hutchison says:

    Scott Thompson: Study your history. The New York Central operated passenger service on the Lake Placid line until at least 1965 and freight service did not end until the late 1970′s. The railroad existed well beyond the 1940′s.

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  19. Philip Williams says:

    The “ARTA vs Railroad” story only has legs because the Adk Daily Enterprise has flogged the “conflict” relentlessly. By printing “opinion pieces” from ARTA board members, and then responses by railroad supporters and others who (like me) find the ARTA positions to be delusional, the paper has tried to create an illusion that there are “two sides” and they are covering both, in the vein of Fox News. The sad truth is that whatever you think of the railroad, ARTA’s suppositions, premises, assumptions or whatever are pitifully irrational and unsupported. If the railroad vanished tomorrow, ARTA’s delusionl falls of its own weight. ARTA consists of nothing but a box of envelopes, a roll of stamps and a tedious argument. If ARTA were serious they could organize a bike ride on the existing bike routes (NY 3 Lake Placid to Tupper Lake) and NY 86/30 (Saranac Lake to Paul Smiths) for this or the next Saturday to show everybody what a great idea this all is. Please somebody impartial be there to count the bikes.

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  20. This sounds like a challenging idea. Too late now to arrange a bicycle really, but if the Railway is covered, say 2nd or 3rd weekend in February, I will sponsor a sled-in at Norridgewock. Offer a couple rooms for any one ( you choose and have to come ) in the media to come and cover it. If we don’t get over 300 in a day, I’ll resign from ARTA.

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  21. Jim McCulley says:

    Peter, you may want to talk to Lake Placid business owners about whether they need snowmobile business or not. I know when we have low snow winters Lisa G complains mightily about the lack of snowmobiler business. Ask the hotel owners that only do business on weekends all winter if they need more customers. Ask the well over 100 business that signed to ask for track removal.
    Lake Placid will never be an Old Forge snowmobile destination per say since the community is not set up to allow snowmobiles into the community due to congestion. The hotels could not handle the parking of the large trailers they can barely park the guest they have now.
    What will happen though is community’s like Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake will get those riders that come to stay in this region. Saranac lake is looking at new hotels and refurbishing old ones. They will need snowmobilers for business to survive. And since I have now heard from numerous sources that a new hotel is being eyed for Tupper Lake. The trail will be one of the determining factors for the investment group on whether to proceed or not. No one will build for rail business.

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  22. ThisGuy says:

    Phillip Williams- it’s not ARTA vs railroad. It’s trail vs railroad. I think the 400+ businesses in the trilakes and the dozens of local governments who have passed resolutions in support of removing the rails have made up their minds. I haven’t seen a list of businesses or local goverment resolution in support of the train.

    Arta is advocating for the trail, but they don’t own the idea. You are right to be skeptical about any prediction or assumptions, which us why the state needs to reopen the management plan so facts can be assembled in a transparent process.

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  23. Walker says:

    “Over 400 businesses and 12,000 individuals signed…”

    We hear these numbers again and again. Not like it means much to sign a petition. ARTA folks tried hard to get me and my wife to sign one day, so hard that if we hadn’t had a strong opinion one way or the other, we probably would have signed the thing just to get the guy off our backs.

    How many individuals and how many businesses have actually made cash contributions to ARTA? You never hear that figure.

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  24. ThisGuy says:

    Walker – I was wondering how train supporters would eventually try to dismiss the petition numbers. “Not like it means much to sign a petition”. Really?? You go around signing petitions that you don’t agree with? I have never signed one I didn’t agree with with, I dont care how pushy someone is. That’s the whole point of a petition; you sign if you agree. Doesn’t mean you have to have a “strong opinion”. You sign to show your support. If it were that easy, why hasn’t the railroad produced any petitions?

    I think the list of businesses is particularly damning for the railroad. Small local businesses don’t take a stand on a controversial issue like this without thinking things through. I seriously doubt this “open for business” governor is going to ignore the position of these businesses in favor of a tiny non profit who is asking for tens of millions from taxpayers to expand an unproven experiment.

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  25. The Original Larry says:

    “the state needs to reopen the management plan so facts can be assembled in a transparent process”

    Good luck with that, in New York.

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  26. Dick Beamish says:

    What is the best argument for converting the 90-mile rail corridor from Old Forge to Lake Placid into a year-round recreation trail that will be a tourist destination for bicyclers and snowmobilers? How about a level, safe, scenic pathway on a rail bed perfectly suited for this purpose. For me, the most convincing argument for the rail trail is seeing what other, comparable rail trails have accomplished in the way of economic revitalization for comparable communities elsewhere. Take the 34-mile Virginia Creeper Trail as an example. That’s the same length trail as the segment of our rail corridor from Lake Placid to Tupper Lake. The Creeper Trail runs through a comparable landscape in the far west corner of Virginia on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The trail attracts some 150,000 users a year who spend many millions of dollars while there. One of the towns halfway along the trail is Damascus, a town that once propsered from mining and lumbering. When those activities dried up, Damascus went into a long slump. Sound familiar? Maybe something like the slump Tupper Lake has been in since logging ended there in the mid-20th century? Or like the long, painful slump experienced by Saranac Lake when the TB-cure era ended in the 1950s? Well, Damascus residents I’ve talked with tell me that their town was saved by the Virginia Creeper Trail. It has come back from being virtually a ghost town to a thriving little community with an abundance of bike shops, restaurants and B&Bs. then think of what the Adirondack Rail Trail could do for us here. It would not solve all our economic problems, but it will surely be a shot-in-the-arm. Compare this to the economic benefits from the tourist train, which in the Tri-Lakes area have been nil. We tried the tourist-train experiment and it didn’t pan out. Isn’t it time now to try something that has proved itself over and over again in other parts of the country?

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  27. Brian Mann says:

    Hi folks –

    I want to reply to a couple of things that Bill Hutchinson wrote above.

    First, I want to point to a technique that Bill uses that is (sadly) pretty common among people whose purpose is to muddle an issue rather than clarify or debate honestly. It’s called selective editing.

    Bill includes a sentence that I wrote, being absolutely transparent about NCPR’s long-standing relationship with Lee Keet, who is involved with ARTA.

    He says that sentence is “very revealing.” And he’s right. It’s revealing because our job at NCPR is to reveal stuff accurately and in full. It’s at the heart of our ethical and professional mission.

    But I also wrote that we have equally robust, longstanding relationships with pro-train ASR supporters. Those folks also give us money, and participate in various projects that we undertake.

    I also wrote in detail about the professional and ethical firewalls that protect our reporting from outside influence.

    Bill neatly excludes that part from his argument.

    He doesn’t wrestle with it, doesn’t confront the accurate facts, doesn’t engage in a straight-up conversation about how stories like this get written.

    He just snips out the part that doesn’t serve his argument and ignores it. Which again is all too common in on-line discourse.

    Bill also suggests that ARTA’s Facebook page says that I provided their organization with a copy of ASR’s business plan.

    He doesn’t provide a link, and I can’t find what he’s referring to, but I can say that we haven’t ever provided ARTA with any information, period. We have no relationship with ARTA, period.

    The facts are as follows: I obtained a partial PDF copy of ASR’s business plan from a source at ARTA who told me that they had acquired it from state officials through a FOIL request.

    I didn’t report on the plan in detail because I can’t tell if it includes all the relevant information, or if it’s in fact the latest version.

    But again, the chunk of the business plan that I do have came to me from ARTA, not the other way around.

    As soon as I acquired it, I contacted ASR again to ask them to provide me with a more accurate, complete version, as they had previously promised to do. They declined.

    Those are the facts.

    I want to point to one other thing that’s missing from all of those posting here who have echoed Bill’s concerns that my reporting is biased. No one has pointed to a single factual error or biased element. Not one.

    There’s been a lot of innuendo and suggestions that tough, skeptical reporting must be a sign of bias. But not a single actual complaint about a specific error or an instance of unfairness.

    Obviously, we welcome criticism and fact-checking from listeners. But we also expect those who lay ethical concerns at our doorstep to have their own facts straight, to pay fair, and to do their homework.

    Finally, I want to correct one of Bill’s factual inaccuracies. He argues that ASR is the only railroad in the Adirondacks. It is not.

    There is a railroad operating currently in Warren and Saratoga counties and another currently being rebuilt in southern St. Lawrence County.

    –Brian Mann, NCPR

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  28. Hope Frenette says:

    Brian is correct. ARTA acquired the ASR business plan via the FOIL process. We shared with him the pages we copied in to a pdf. File. Those pages come from the actual report submitted to the DOT during the hearing process.

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  29. VIABLE/ adj, capable of surviving without outside support.:Workable : Having a reasonable chance of succeeding.

    You see, you need to read and understand a comment before responding to it. FYI, I live 75′ from the rail.
    My grandfather was postmaster and snatched the bag from the pole every day. My father worked MOW. It’s not that hard to know the history when you have lived it.

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  30. Lee Keet says:

    I have refrained from jumping in because the arguments I would make for a trail have been more than adequately made by others. However, some of this discourse has impugned both me and NCPR and has suggested that ARTA is a hollow shell.

    To the first point, it is true that I am an NCPR supporter and my family foundation has contributed to the station. This has garnered me no favors with respect to reporting or advocacy, and recently our foundation was even refused an underwriting slot – i.e., our money was rejected – because of the presumed (even if untrue) taking of positions it would have implied. Ellen Rocco, her staff, and especially Brian Mann operate at the highest levels of journalistic ethics, which is one reason I am a fan and supporter.

    For the record, in addition to my day job I serve on six other not-for-profit boards in the Adirondacks (my wife is on three more) and we provide volunteer time and financial support to all. I have never asked for any favors in return and would not get them if I asked.

    Now, as to ARTA, where I serve as Treasurer, the claims of “hollow shell” are ludicrous. We are a NY corporation operating under the 501c3 not-for-profit reg’s, which means that our financial statements are open to public scrutiny, as are all such corporations. We have a wonderful 11-person board made up of local residents from across the Adirondacks (see our website for bios). We have no paid staff, but lots of contributed time. Our finances are provided by donations from supporters. In 2013 so far we have received over $20,000 in donations from approximately 300 people, i.e., under a $70 average gift from lots of people. We have spent this money on studies, on publishing ARTA’s plan for the rail-trail, on keeping the ARTA website up-to-date (see http://www.TheARTA.org), and on some publicity. The approximately 12,000 people and 400+ businesses who have signed ARTA’s petitions are listed in the 132-page proposal we made to the State for the trail (which, unlike ASR’s plan, is available for public scrutiny on our website). I am unaware of anyone who signed our petition under duress or false premises, and would assume that since their names are public they would object if we have mis-represented them. None have.

    Finally, I welcome Brian Mann’s scrutiny of ARTA, its finances, and its plans for the trail. As has been repetitively noted, we have tried to address this issue from the perspective of what will most help our communities, using the best research and facts that we can garner. Our conclusion, based on multiple independent analyses is that there is a 30:1 advantage in new visitor spending for the trail versus train restoration, at a final implementation cost of close to zero.

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  31. Walker says:

    “I was wondering how train supporters would eventually try to dismiss the petition numbers. “Not like it means much to sign a petition”.

    I dunno, Guy, I just think it would be way more revealing to know how many individuals and businesses have given money to ARTA. If it’s anywhere near 12,000 and 400, you know they’d be trumpeting it to the sky.

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  32. Walker says:

    “The approximately 12,000 people and 400+ businesses who have signed ARTA’s petitions are listed in the 132-page proposal we made to the State for the trail…”

    Interesting. I wasn’t aware that it was published; I wonder how many of the signers were. It might be interesting to ask some of those businesses about their views of the matter.

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  33. Walker says:

    “VIABLE/ adj, capable of surviving without outside support.”

    Thinks that are not viable based on this definition: the Interstate Highway System, the Adirondack Park, the U.S. oil industry, U.S. agriculture, etc., etc., etc.

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  34. ThisGuy says:

    Walker – the state will be considering public support for the rail vs trail. Do you think they care how many donated to a particular organization? On the other hand, if rail supporters would have had those petitions in their favor, I guaruntee they (including you) would be trumpeting that to the sky.

    Remember, This isn’t ASR vs ARTA. This is an aimportant public debate about best use of the corridor. It’s rail vs trail.

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  35. ThisGuy says:

    “Thinks that are not viable based on this definition: the Interstate Highway System, the Adirondack Park, the U.S. oil industry, U.S. agriculture, etc., etc., etc. ”

    Sure, we as a society support things we deem necessary or important even if they need extra support. At and highways seem like no brainers. The question here is whether a tourist train rises to the same level of importance to justify the taxpayers support.

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  36. Walker says:

    “This isn’t ASR vs ARTA.”

    No, and I’m not a member of the ASR. I just think that it would be a mistake to tear up the 110-year-old rails– once they’re gone, they’re gone forever. I’m not convinced that the examples of other rail/trail conversions will apply here.

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  37. Joe Mercurio says:

    If Walker is “not convinced that the examples of other rail/trail conversions will apply here,” perhaps he would be so kind as to tell us why. Or is this just another “throw-away” objection to the rail-trail with no evidence to back it up? Could you expand on your premise, Walker. We’re all ears

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  38. Mervel says:

    It sure seems like this is a project that compromise would be very possible.

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  39. Paul says:

    For the snowmobilers who support the trail side of the proposal I strongly suggest you think long and hard about what you’re supporting
    Environmental groups are waiting on the side lines to end snowmobile use all together. you don’t believe me, see for your self;
    this is what ADK was telling their members to say in their letters to DOT
    •NYS must determine the corridor’s legal status under Article XIV, section 1 of the state Constitution. NYS must conduct a thorough review of the legal history of this railroad corridor to determine if portions of the corridor have been legally abandoned and should revert to the Adirondack Forest Preserve. NYS must state its conclusion in the final UMP. DOT and DEC should seek the opinion of the NYS Attorney General on this issue.
    taken from http://www.adk.org/page.php?pname=action_alert

    this group looks for any reason it can find to end snowmobiling
    http://www.protectadks.org/issues-and-actions/snowmobiles/
    http://www.protectadks.org/2013/01/why-do-we-let-snowmobiles-drive-on-forever-wild-forest-preserve-2/

    sure the tracks can be a pain to navigate on low snow years but at least there is still a trail for us to use.
    If you don’t think these groups don’t have any influence over what happens to snowmobiles in the “Park” its time for you to do some learning.
    If the train stays, so do snowmobiles, if the track goes our future is uncertain!

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  40. Walker says:

    Mervel, as I see it, the only possible compromise is rail-with-trail, which would undoubtedly be very expensive. That is, anything else would put an end to any hopes of getting trains running from Utica to Lake Placid.

    Of course, another form of rail-with-trail would be to have ARTA work on developing a rail/trail in a corridor where the rails are already gone, like Lake Clear to Malone.

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  41. Bill Hutchison says:

    Brian Mann: Here is a “cut-and-paste” I did directly from the Adirondack Rail Trail Facebook page. Pay close attention to the last message. I also have more comments below the Facebook entries.

    —————————————————————————————————————–
    The Adirondack Rail Trail October 26 via mobile

    Make sure you pick up the Nov/Dec Adk Explorer mag.
    Brian Mann wrote a terrific exposé on Adirondack Scenic Railroad’s operation and long term viability. Coming to a newsstand soon.
    Share 5 people like this.
    ——————————————————————————————————————-

    John Callahan: Great publication for the region. Must watch for the article.
    October 26 at 4:35pm via mobile

    ——————————————————————————————————————-
    Charlie Frenette: can you send a link
    October 26 at 5:09pm

    ——————————————————————————————————————-
    The Adirondack Rail Trail: The issue is not out until first week of Nov.
    October 26 at 5:29pm ·

    ——————————————————————————————————————-
    The Adirondack Rail Trail: There will be an updated version posted to the Explorer website soon. Brian got a hold of the ARPS business plan via FOIL so he is updating the article that is in the paper.
    October 29 at 11:21am

    END Facebook Comments
    ——————————————————————————————————————-
    ——————————————————————————————————————-
    But Brian, you say:

    “The facts are as follows: I obtained a partial PDF copy of ASR’s business plan from a source at ARTA who told me that they had acquired it from state officials through a FOIL request.”

    So, which is it? Who got the plan first? ARTA says you got it first (see above) and you say they had it and gave it to you. Which is it? What are we to think?

    Reading the comments on the Adirondack Rail Trail Facebook page naturally made me wonder just what was going on here. And in the highly charged atmosphere surrounding the rail-trail issue it was very easy to be led to a conclusion that things might not be on the up-and-up.

    This was further aggravated by the term “FOIL”, which I took to mean ARTA “foiled” the railroad into giving out a copy of their plan. So, here maybe a correction is in order: it should be “FOIA,” which stands for Freedom Of Information Act.

    ———————————————————————————————————————-

    You also said: “It’s also true that we have a carefully crafted system of ethical and professional “firewalls” in place to protect our reporting from financial influence or political pressure.”

    What are these “firewalls?’ How do we know if they are being adhered to? Sorry to ruffle your feathers, but in light of ARTA’s in-your-face tactics and bullying, nothing would surprise me.

    ————————————————————————————————————————

    Yes, there is the Saratoga and North Creek Railroad and that other railroad in Southern St. Lawrence County, but you know as well as I do that neither of them penetrates the heart of the region.

    Maybe I should have been clearer and said that ASRR is the only railroad that serves the heart of the Adirondacks, including the Saranac Lake/Lake Placid?

    In any event, anyone who read my comment would understand what I was getting at. ASRR is the last and ONLY railroad serving Lake Placid. Lose that and it’s gone forever. Meanwhile, ARTA wants to rip out the rails in favor of a trail when there are hundreds of miles of them already in existence.

    ————————————————————————————————————————-

    As to the other stuff, I’m sorry to have struck a nerve, but please be aware that this is, again, a very highly charged situation. Thus, I stand by my earlier comment:

    “As for NCPR, I think they would be wise to distance themselves from any perception of an improper relationship with ARTA or the railroad.”

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  42. ThisGuy says:

    A rail with trail is no compromise . By definition, a comprise is a settlement of a disagreement in which both sides make a concession. Where is the trains concession? It’s merely an unrealistic distration in a debate about the best use of a corridor.

    A true compromise would be for the corridor to be segmented into train section and trail sections.

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  43. ThisGuy says:

    Bill, I believe FOIL is the state law, FOIA is the federal law.

    Again, do you find anything in his report that is not factual? Are you just splitting hairs at this point?

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  44. Mark says:

    Rails and Trails. The most good for the most people. The corridor is 80′ wide. DEC needs to figure it out and budget the trail project. ASR is not compelled to share a business plan. Where is the State’s business plan based on the UMP? DOT owns the corridor, the ASR is a tenant operator on a 30-day revocable lease. Private investors will not make a major commitment to a project which may be booted next month. ASR sold out 30+ Polar Express trains last fall. Almost 7000 people paid to ride the train from Utica to Thendara this year. Thousands more (primarily families) rode excursion trains from Thendara to Otter Lake, Carter Station and Big Moose. Rail AND trail users filled River & Rail Trains and Bike Trains all season. If the rails are removed, who pays to build the corridor trail? Who maintains it? Might the legislature, in the future, vote to ban bikes and snowmobiles from the three wilderness areas traversed by the corridor? A restored railroad is the only possibility for some disabled persons (including veterans) to access those areas. Few can travel 20+miles by wheelchair. What snowmobile trails must NYSSA give up to gain the miles of corridor trail? Rail Trail comparisons are made with systems near big population centers. Pie in the sky comparisons. Rails AND Trails. Does one group need to be trampled for another to flourish?

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  45. Walker says:

    “A true compromise would be for the corridor to be segmented into train section and trail sections.”

    Right. Let’s see…

    Give me your house!

    No way.

    OK, let’s compromise– give me half your house.

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  46. ThisGuy says:

    No. I own my house and don’t need to compromise. We agree to disagree.

    The ASR doesn’t own the railroad. They may lose it all, keep it all or compromise.

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  47. Bill Hutchison says:

    This guy: Factual? How about finding out who got the ASRR report: was it ARTA who gave it to Brian Mann or was it Brian Mann who got it and gave it to ARTA? If Brian Mann gave it to ARTA that’s a huge conflict of interest in my view. If that’s splitting hairs…

    This thing smells.

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  48. Walker says:

    No, the ASR doesn’t own the railroad, but they have put twenty years of blood, sweat and tears into it.

    And to the best of my knowledge, no one has proposed taking up the tracks south of Thendara. Incidentally, there are bike trails that run parallel to tracks between Big Moose and Thendara. See ASR: Bike & Rail.

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  49. Walker says:

    Bill, Brian has addressed that above: Brian got the report from ARTA, and ARTA got it from a FOIL request. That dog won’t hunt.

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  50. Andrew says:

    Keep the railroad intact and build a trail along side.

    Just as sidewalks are built next to roads.

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