Leadership lapse

Mayor Paul Maroun’s comments, as reported by Shaun Kittle on Oct. 24, deserve a response. The story described the 3-2 vote by the Tupper Lake village board in favor of converting the mostly unused rail bed between Lake Placid and Old Forge to a year-round recreational trail through the Adirondacks. The tracks would be removed and salvaged. With proper surfacing, the trail would be ideal for biking, snowmobiling, running, walking, etc.

“I don’t want anybody to think I don’t support snowmobiling,” said Mayor Maroun, whose vote to retain the tracks was also a vote against the future of snowmobiling in his community and an opportunity to revive the winter economy. Removing the tracks to create a smooth, wide, easily groomed trail along the rail bed that connects with Old Forge would make Tupper Lake a major hub for snowmobiling in the northern Adirondacks, with all the attendant benefits to local businesses.

Then Mayor Maroun launched into a personal attack against me.

“I think the people of ARTA have been hoodwinked,” he announced, referring to my role as co-founder of Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates. The mayor held up a how-to book I once wrote with the title, “Getting the Word Out in the Fight to Save the Earth.” This book was published by John Hopkins University Press in 1990. One of its chapters – the one that Mr. Maroun referred to – was about writing press releases.

As proof of my subversive intent, he pointed to a reprinted press release I had written for the Adirondack Council in 1988. It was headlined, “Adirondack Park Recreationway Envisioned,” and it set forth the Council’s proposal to create such a trail on the Remsen-Lake Placid corridor. Motorized use would be prohibited between Horseshoe Lake and Beaver River, where the Council at that time hoped to create a “Bob Marshall Great Wilderness.”

Mr. Maroun seemed unaware that much has changed since then. The Council has in recent years been promoting a “wildlands complex” for that region, consisting of both public Forest Preserve and private land under conservation easement. The Council has also stated it will honor the integrity of the corridor and will not seek to have it incorporated into wilderness. Nor will it attempt to prevent snowmobiling in the corridor.

This “thumbs up” endorsement is from the Council’s 2013 State of the Park Report: “Trail advocates want to remove the tracks to create a hiking, biking and snowmobile trail. The Adirondack Council wants the state to maintain the travel corridor so it can be available as a trail, even if the state decides to remove the rails.”

That Paul Maroun feels he must resort to demonizing his opponents rather than relying on facts and reason to make his case for restoring rail service, reflects a failure of leadership. Tupper Lake stands to gain more than any other Adirondack community from a popular recreation trail. The town will benefit enormously from an influx of snowmobilers in the winter and bicycle-riding tourists in the warmer months. Isn’t this what a mayor of Tupper Lake should be championing?

Yet Paul Maroun continues doing his utmost to thwart real progress in a community that desperately needs and deserves a break. Fortunately, as support continues to build for the Adirondack Rail Trail, his cause now seems to be a losing one.

Dick Beamish lives in Saranac Lake and is on the ARTA board of directors.