H’town board calls for trail, not rail

SARANAC LAKE – The town of Harrietstown board has jumped on the Adirondack Rail Trail bandwagon.

The board voted 4-0 Thursday to approve a resolution that calls for the state to replace the railroad tracks between Lake Placid and Old Forge with a multi-use recreational trail.

“The current use of the corridor has not produced the promised economic benefits,” the resolution reads. “On the other hand, a safe, easy, scenic recreational trail will become a major tourist destination throughout the year, creating jobs and expanding economic opportunities across the region.

“For the good of our economy, we ask that (state Department of Environmental Conservation) Commissioner (Joe) Martens, (state Department of Transportation) Commissioner (Joan) McDonald and Governor (Andrew) Cuomo bring about the rail-to-trail conversion of the Lake Placid-to-Old Forge rail corridor as soon as possible.”

In November, the board had approved a resolution asking DEC and DOT to reopen the management plan for the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor. The two agencies, after taking public comment on the issue at four meetings earlier this month, are expected to make that decision later this year.

“Everyone on the board has been pretty staunchly in favor of removing the rails and putting a trail in,” Harrietstown Supervisor Bob Bevilacqua said Friday. “It will be better for the people of the area, it will be better for the economy, and the train really hasn’t met the expectation we were hoping it would have.”

Earlier this week, the Saranac Lake village board voted down a similar resolution because several of its members felt the UMP process should be allowed to run its course.

Bevilacqua said his board wanted to make a stronger statement and tell the state “that when they open the UMP, that in our town board’s opinion, the rails need to come up.”

The potential for a longer snowmobiling season once the rails are gone could provide an economic boost to businesses in Lake Clear and Saranac Lake, Bevilacqua said.

Bevilacqua said representatives of Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates spoke in favor of removing the rails at Thursday’s meeting. So did Lake Clear resident Floyd Lampart, who recently returned from an 11,000-mile cycling journey around the perimeter of the continental U.S. No one was there to speak on behalf of preserving the railroad tracks, Bevilacqua said.

The resolution the board approved was not on originally on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting. Bevilacqua said that’s because Wednesday was the last day to send comments on the issue to DOT and DEC.

“I thought it would be too late, so I didn’t put it on the agenda, but we ended up putting it on during the meeting because the agenda had already gone out,” Bevilacqua said.

Councilwoman Nichole Meyette was absent from Thursday’s meeting.

Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or