On the trail issue, it is more complicated. The UMP calls for a north-south trail and says it should move outside of the travel corridor to adjoining state lands and private lands (through easements), as needed, to avoid obstacles. However, neither DEC nor DOT has defined this trail with specific delineations on maps or on the ground.
What is needed south of Saranac Lake is detailed trail planning to determine the best physical layout, development costs and legal and operational issues. This will require an inter-agency effort with key stakeholders, including local governments and recreational users.
The rails and related infrastructure should be preserved and rehabilitated. They are important economic-development assets and are part of a system listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.
At the same time, the state of New York, with local government and not-for-profit partners, should complete a pragmatic implementation plan for the current UMP that clearly defines a north-south trail system to meet the needs of recreational users, including snowmobilers who have full access to the corridor during the winter.
We are pleased that the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society recognizes that trains should be used as for recreational access, moving people and their kayaks, canoes, mountain bikes and other gear to launch points and trail heads along the corridor.
Just imagine how the rail line and a trail system between communities could help our region become a stronger destination for paddlers, mountain bikers and hikers.
Building synergy between rails and trails is a core objective of the current UMP. We don’t need to waste valuable resources and time revising that document. We need to make it work for both rail- and trail-related activities and for the communities along the corridor.
A man I greatly respect has said, “People in the Adirondacks would rather fight than win.” While we have moved beyond that in most areas, through such good efforts as the Common Ground Alliance and the Adirondack Futures Project, the rail-versus-trail argument is a perfect example of preferring fighting over winning.
Stephen M. Erman is president of the Adirondack North Country Association Board.