The Albany Times-Union is wading into the debate over how legacy railroad lines should be used in the Adirondacks.
The newspaper focuses primarily on the fight in the Tri-Lakes region, where some activists want the railbed from Lake Placid to Old Forge turned into a multi-use trail.
“This trail is the ideal alternative to a failed railroad,” said Jim McCulley, president of Lake Placid Snowmobile Club and a member of the new Adirondack Recreation Trail Advocates. He said the cash-strapped state has little prospect of paying to upgrade the 80-mile stretch, so aging rails likely will remain useless for years.
Between 2007 and 2010, the society got more than $900,000 in support from the state Department of Transportation and still lost more than $66,000 running the line. “The moment the state subsidy stops, they cannot even turn on the lights,” McCulley said.
This narrative infuriates train buffs and their supporters, who see railroads as an important asset, not just for tourism.
Railway Society Vice President J. Alan Heywood said such thinking is shortsighted. “We have had limited success, but it is not fair to be judged by a track that is a third done,” he said. “We have almost reached critical mass. I used to give dates when we would have the entire line repaired, but every one of them has been wrong. It could still take years. A decade would be my goal.”
…And he said the rail line will become more important in future years, if the price of gasoline rises. “Once those rails are gone, getting them back in is unlikely,” he said.
Railroad fans argue that this debate is nonsensical, given the fact that state officials have shown no appetite for abandoning the tracks or converting them into a recreational path. But path advocates have been successful at keeping the issue alive.
What do you think? Is this a timely debate?