Letter adds confusion to rail-trail debate

To the editor:

In his letter “What about Bloomingdale Bog trail?” (June 24), Emmett Hoops contributes to the confusion clouding the debate over the future of the Adirondack rail corridor.

Mr. Hoops writes that Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates wants to tear up 130 miles of railroad track. Wrong! ARTA seeks to convert the 90 miles of mostly unused rail bed between Lake Placid and Old Forge into a year-round recreation trail that would be without equal in the United States. ARTA has no problem with the tourist train that operates between Utica and Old Forge.

Mr. Hoops says that ARTA wants to replace the track with a “flat, mostly straight-line bike path,” as if there’s something wrong with that. He ignores the fact that an easy, level, scenic, traffic-free trail through the Adirondacks is just what a great many residents and visitors are looking for. It would be a blessing for people of all ages and levels of ability, whether for biking, walking, jogging, birding, wheelchair use, etc., or for greatly improved snowmobiling in the winter.

Mr. Hoops asks how anyone would maintain such a trail. That’s easy. It would be done the same way that rail trails are maintained nationwide: mainly with volunteers, with some help from local or state entities. (Such maintenance would cost much less than maintaining the corridor for rail service.)

Mr. Hoops says we already have a bike trail and it has had no economic impact on the region. He is referring to the old rail bed running north from Saranac Lake through the Bloomingdale Bog. There is no comparison between this abandoned route and a smoothly surfaced trail that will connect Lake Placid, Ray Brook, Saranac Lake, Lake Clear and Tupper Lake to Old Forge. This Adirondack Rail Trail could become a major tourist destination, drawing hundreds of thousands of cyclists to the Adirondacks who would plan their vacations and weekend trips around this recreational delight.

Mr. Hoops argues that because the Bloomingdale Bog trail is in rough shape, it would be impossible to maintain the much longer Adirondack Rail Trail. He ignores the fact that the Bloomingdale Bog trail has not been maintained for at least 50 years because there has been no call for doing so. In contrast, there is growing interest in creating the Adirondack Rail Trail because of the health, recreational and economic benefits it would provide.

Happily, the state has decided to review its management plan for the rail corridor. It may be expected that this process will separate the facts from fiction as to the best use of this underutilized public asset.

Dick Beamish

Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates

Saranac Lake