ARTA wants corridor for one use only

As another Tri-Lakes business owner and supporter of cooperation by all parties interested in the vitality of the regional economy, I also continue to be amazed at the one-sided view and promotion of the Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates.

Supporters of the combined, joint use of the Remsen-to-Lake-Placid travel corridor have not agreed that there is, in any way, a non-viability (or impossibility, as Mr. McCulley states) of the construction of a combination rail-and-trail project. Let’s call it parallel infrastructure for now. And make no mistake; a trail is infrastructure. Construction of a trail alongside of the rail line is an engineering issue. Would this construction project be a challenge? Of course it would. But rather than work with those who support and are already working on this project, ARTA prefers to pass on questionable information and insult supporters and officials who do not agree with their vision of how the corridor should look.

Mr. McCulley is correct. A “rail trail” is not being proposed. The only people that I have seen proposing a single-infrastructure-use corridor is ARTA. Parallel infrastructure, or combined use of the corridor is not a “rail trail.” The Bloomingdale Bog trail is a rail trail.

The proposed parallel infrastructure corridor would connect all of the same hiking and biking trails that ARTA proposes and constantly promotes as one of the reasons for a single-infrastructure-use corridor. There is no proposal to construct any new connecting trails, just a multi-use trail alongside of the existing rail bed. ARTA appears to have no problem promoting their idea of connector trails, but when another group suggests the same thing in a different context, it suddenly becomes a “fanciful” idea.

A rail trail is not flat or straight. It is much wider than a common hiking trail. There are many turns and multiple elevations that people will have to climb, like any other trail in the region or any other rail trail that I have biked. It is a disservice and misleading to people who know little about rail trails to say otherwise.

There have been multiple studies commissioned by and paid for by ARTA, the Adirondack Scenic Railroad and other interested groups. ARTA constantly refers back to “studies” which project/estimate that “hundreds of thousands” of visitors will come to our region to use the trail-only proposal. There is no hard evidence to support this data.

The study done by Stone Consulting in 2011 was sponsored by the North Country and Mohawk Valley chambers of commerce and the Oneida County Visitors Bureau, and was endorsed by the Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake chambers of commerce and Adirondack North Country Association. All of these groups are multi- and not single-interest bodies that work to better the regional economy.

Something that is baffling is the idea that ARTA wants people to believe that a single-infrastructure-use corridor is not going to cost anything or that any money that has been spent on the corridor, specifically on rail restoration, is wasted. The idea that salvage of physical material from the rail bed would cover conversion costs is highly suspect, to say the least. The corridor, regardless of who uses it, is not going to magically maintain itself. Unless the ARTA board is willing to donate cash and time, or a user fee is charged, how will the corridor be maintained? We the taxpayers, of course, will have to support the corridor, just like we are doing right now.

The corridor is open year-round to hikers and has been since the state took possession of it. Rail service stops on the corridor in the winter so that skiers and snowmobilers can use the corridor, as per operating agreements. The money spent on rail restoration got the corridor into traveling condition and also supports the maintenance and expansion of the corridor for non-rail use.

As far as jobs created by all of this public money invested, to my knowledge ARTA has created ZERO jobs also. Regional economic contributions that a parallel-infrastructure corridor will produce would be multiplied, versus a single-infrastructure-use corridor. A train can carry all of the equipment our visitors would want to use after they reach their destination. There is very little difference between looking out of an automobile window for hours and looking out of a rail passenger car window for hours, other than the rail passenger car window tends to be bigger, you can relax and not deal with traffic, all of the family can get up and walk around, the kids can use their electronic devices to entertain themselves, you do not need a parking space to eat, you will see the same scenery as a single-infrastructure-use corridor would provide, and being a parallel-infrastructure corridor, those of us who would rather do all of this with muscle power (walking, biking, etc.) can still do it with minimal distractions from an occasional train passing by.

I find it very disturbing and definitely rude that ARTA board members, when they write letters, see the need to insult people who do not follow their vision of how the corridor should be used. The North Country Regional Economic Development Council and ANCA have a different opinion than the ARTA board members. I highly doubt that Mr. Douglas is train-obsessed. He does have to deal with many different ideas from many different people within the region. There have been other letters in the past suggesting that just because someone does not agree with ARTA, they are strangely not qualified to make decisions concerning the regional economy, but any group that supports ARTA’s position is above judgment. Also, many letters contain misleading statements. Mr. Beamish indicated in a letter not too long ago that the federal secretary of transportation, Mr. Ray LaHood, supported bicycle use, and he does. Mr. Beamish must have forgotten that Mr. LaHood also strongly supports all forms of rail transportation and improvement, and has worked very hard to get it.

Our region faces many challenges on how to improve and strengthen our economy. There are many ideas on how this should and can be done. One thing is for certain: No single rail line, trail, large construction project, roadway improvement, advertising campaign or any of the other fantastic ideas that are being put forth or worked on will accomplish this on their own. Several groups are trying to work together on one of those options by improving a parallel-infrastructure travel corridor; another group is trying to stop them.

Michael McNulty lives in Saranac Lake.