Tupper town board votes for trail instead of rails

TUPPER LAKE – The town board here has gone pro-trail.

At a special meeting Wednesday morning, the board unanimously passed a resolution to support the state removing little-used rails along the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor to develop a multi-use recreational trail instead. None of the seven other people in the room challenged that stance. Councilwoman Kathleen Lefebvre was not present.

Town Supervisor Roger Amell opened the meeting by suggesting an amendment to reword the resolution to support only creating a trail between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid rather than Lake Placid all the way to Thendara, near Old Forge.

“I think we should support it in two phases because I think we’re looking at a 90-mile corridor versus a 40-mile corridor,” Amell said. “I’d rather see the first (phase) come out of it and put off the 90-miler.”

Amell said he supports creating a trail from Old Forge to Lake Placid, but he added the amount of work required to make that happen would be costly and labor-intensive.

The board shot down his proposed amendment, and members agreed that the focus should be on getting people to make the trek to Tupper Lake from the south, too.

“The reason I’ve become so involved in this is we really need to support economics in Tupper Lake,” Councilwoman Patti Littlefield said. “We need to get the snowmobilers up here. We need to get the hikers and bikers up here. We need people.”

Councilman John Quinn, who replaced Councilman David Tomberlin in July, agreed. Tomberlin was an outspoken supporter of the train prior to his resignation.

“I don’t think it’s befitting of this board to tell the state how to phase any kind of rail-to-trail conversion,” Quinn said. “If the board is of the opinion that we should support rail-to-trail conversion, we should just say so.”

After voting unanimously to keep the resolution as it was, further discussion prompted an amendment to the resolution.

“I think we need to add something urging the DOT (state Department of Transportation) and DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) to stop delaying this process and open up the UMP with an eye toward converting it from rails to trails,” Quinn said. “The question they’re asking now is whether it should be reopened, and I think we should weigh in on that and say absolutely.”

The rest of the board agreed and passed the amendment.

Village of Tupper Lake Code Enforcement Officer Peter Edwards attended the meeting and agreed with the board’s decision. He said the trail plan has potential and added the recently rebuilt train depot could be part of that.

“Next Stop Tupper Lake wasn’t done for nothing,” Edwards said. “It’s a world-class building. It could be the trailhead. We could have a chamber (of commerce) welcome center there, or businesses. We could do kiosks with trains and history. We could even get little train cars, restore them, and instead of a lean-to they could be a destination for hikers.”

Edwards also said he has spoken to at least 60 business owners in Tupper Lake who prefer the trail over the railroad. The momentum to get a train running has passed, he said, and it’s time to start focusing on outdoor recreation.

“If the railroad was really sincere so many years ago, they would have started here to Saranac and Placid,” Edwards said. “It just shows that clearly, Tupper wasn’t part of their agenda right off.”

Village Trustee Rick Donah also attended the meeting and thanked the board for passing the resolution.

“This carries over to the Adirondack Club and Resort issue,” Donah said. “We’ve been trying to do development here for years, and there’s always somebody running interference on us. We’re not elitists; we’re survivalists.”

Donah urged the village board to take a stand on the rail-vs.-trail debate at its last meeting, and pushed for a vote on a pro-trail resolution. That vote was tabled until next month’s meeting.

“I’ll bring this resolution to the village board for our next meeting,” Donah told the town board. “It’s time for us to take a stand on this.”