Trail makes more sense for rail corridor

To the editor:

I have closely followed the ongoing Adirondack rail-trail debate over the past two years and would like to offer a few observations in that regard, particularly in the context of the unit management plan hearings currently underway to determine the best use of the Lake Placid-Old Forge travel corridor.

For starters, I fully and enthusiastically support the concept of making over the existing Adirondack railroad right-of-way into a recreational trail that extends from Old Forge to Lake Placid. I realize there a number of people who are instead advocating restoration of the actual rail line, which would negate development of the multi-use recreational trail. I have given their arguments a great deal of serious and objective consideration, and I firmly believe that such a restoration does not make sense. It will culminate in a devastating financial failure, just as the attempt to restore the railroad at the time of the 1980 Olympics did, with taxpayers paying the bill. To the extent that it may attract any passengers at all, it would be an infinitesimal public benefit compared to the broad appeal that a recreational trail would have.

My sense is that the vast majority of Adirondack Park residents favor the recreational trail while only a handful of folks favor restoration of the rail line, consisting largely of individuals with narrow commercial interests, together with others who have strong sentimental attachments to “old railroads” but who lack an understanding of economic realities.

I am hopeful that the unit management plan hearings presently being conducted by the Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Conservation, both highly respected departments of our New York government, will lead to a sensible conclusion.

John Quenell

Paul Smiths