August 14, 2012

In My Opinion: New studies support Rail Trail

A wonderful opportunity has been staring us in the face for 40 years: the opportunity to create a new recreational dimension in the Adirondack Park and provide important economic benefits to the region.

This is the proposed Adirondack Rail Trail, which would run 90 miles through the heart of the region from Lake Placid to Old Forge.

The Adirondack Park — the largest American park outside Alaska — offers thousands of miles of hiking trails and seemingly unlimited waterways for boating and paddling. But nowhere in the Adirondacks is there a level, compactly surfaced, long-distance trail that connects our communities, traverses wild and beautiful terrain and can be enjoyed by people of all ages and physical abilities.

Such a trail would be ideally suited for just about everyone, including cyclists, walkers, runners, athletes in training, parents pushing strollers, people in wheelchairs, families with young children, senior citizens enjoying regular exercise and nature lovers of all stripes.

In winter, with the obsolete tracks removed, it would provide a greatly improved trail for snowmobilers and an economic boon for communities like Tupper Lake that otherwise shut down in winter.

Bicycling the nine miles on Route 86 between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake is a distinctly unpleasant experience due to the noise, pollution and distraction of the cars and trucks whizzing by. But with the tracks on the rail bed removed — or with a recreation trail beside the tracks to allow continued use of the tourist train — the public will have a safe, serene, scenic bikeway connecting these principal Adirondack villages.

And that’s just the start. With the tracks up and the trail extended the next 25 miles from Saranac Lake to Tupper Lake, you’ll be able to cycle with ease (no more than a 2 percent grade) through some of the loveliest lake-and-forest country in the Northeast. That’s at most three hours of nonstop pedaling between the villages.

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