ARTA tactics and leadership in question

To the editor:

There has been much purported by ARTA (Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates) leadership about the economic windfall taxpayers will reap by ripping the railroad out of the Adirondacks and building yet another trail. ARTA refers to a distorted “study” it funded for and paid for to show how incredible the economic, recreational and cultural benefits would be.

Unfortunately the “study” is rife with inflated economic impact numbers, purposely downplays the economic benefit being developed by the railroad, and inflates rail construction costs while understating and misleading trail construction costs. Engineer estimates to remove the trails and build a trail were in the $16 million range (about the same cost to repair the track), but ARTA repeatedly states that the salvage of materials would pay the whole project.

Last week the state comptroller issued a report on snowmobile trail funds use. An officer of a Herkimer County club was found to have falsified records and wrongly diverted funds. The Lewis County trail coordinator is facing charges for stealing materials. Franklin County club officials wrongly paid themselves as officers with public funds. In Beaver River, the Thompson family are directors of a club that inappropriately paid them more than $62,000 in public funds to groom the rail corridor trail. (Sources: January 2013 comptroller’s report; Nov. 21, 2012 Watertown Daily Times article, “Lewis County trail coordinator accused of using county-funded gravel”)

Having read Scott Thompson’s rip-up-the-rails letters in this paper for years, I can now better understand some of the motivation behind them.

The majority of us do not snowmobile, nor do we care to hike or bike 90 miles through black flies or bad weather as a “recreation.” Well over a million passengers have supported the railroad by purchasing tickets and riding the trains. They did not sign a petition or click on an icon at a website. Finish the railroad; ignore the ARTA studies and spin.

David H. Link