Rail trail fights deficit disorder

To the editor:

Most of us have heard of or read the book “Last Child in the Woods,” wherein Richard Louv chronicles the nature-deficit disorder our youth have. Their eyes and attention are focused on their “I” things. Children who aren’t comfortable in the out-of-doors don’t understand it, nor are they curious about it. This leads to a disregard for it and ultimately abuse of it. This could lead to a generation that has little appreciation of the beauty of our Adirondacks or its value as a spiritual resource.

The proposed 80-mile rail trail from Old Forge to Saranac Lake through pristine Adirondack backcountry would be a start of a cure for this type of disorder. Anyone who has cycled on a rail trail with young kids has smiled at their quiet gaze at a hillside of trillium or quietly stood silent as they listen to the spring peepers. These are young minds at work, absorbing, taking it all in. These are priceless opportunities, teaching moments. And yet a group of railroad buffs would like to take this opportunity away from our children under the guise of providing an important service to the community.

A recent quote from Rodney Bartgis, biologist and state director of the West Virginia Nature Conservancy, pretty much illustrates the need for a rail trail if we want future youth to have any appreciation or our wild heritage. Mr. Bartgis says, “Kids have an instinctive interest in nature and wildlife, if given opportunities to enjoy it. For adults that want to share quality time with their kids, do it outdoors and on foot. You’ll see and hear much more while walking, cross-country skiing or biking than you ever will from a four-wheeler or car” (or rail coach). Here is a man with 30 years of outdoor experience with youth advocating that we get back to a simpler method of enjoying the woods, a method with far less environmental impact than a railroad.

Doug Ralston

Big Moose and Chagrin Falls, Ohio