A rail trail for the economy

To the editor:

A major reason for Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates’ advocacy for the 90-mile Adirondack Rail Trail linking Lake Placid with Old Forge is the economic benefits it will bring to our communities. Rail trails attract visitors who love to use them, people who also spend money while visiting – money spent on meals, lodging, repairs and other services, gifts and souvenirs, boat and bike rentals, guides, fuel and services. Every dollar spent gets multiplied as it flows through the community. The barber’s extra money gets spent on local goods and services, just as the hotelier’s or the restaurateur’s does.

On average, every “new” dollar has the impact of $2 in its economic impact. These circulating dollars create businesses and business expansions needed to satisfy the increased demand for goods and services. This, in turn, translates into jobs.

Studies by the Pennsylvania Tourism Office and a team of economists in Fort Collins, Colo., among others, suggest that one permanent job equivalent is created for each $75,000 in new tourist spending. Based on these figures, at the midpoint of current estimates of new spending by rail trail visitors, the Adirondack Rail Trail will create 367 new local full-time job equivalents.

Those 367 new jobs not only help the local economy, but they also help make our communities more sustainable. With those jobs come kids for our schools, taxes to support our infrastructure, and volunteers for our boards, ambulance and firefighting services, and other not-for-profits.

Some of those jobs will be in businesses that had to expand to meet the new demand, but many will be in businesses that did not exist before. Bike and snowmobile repair shops, rental and guide services, new lodging places along the corridor, cafes and restaurants, and so on. These new businesses and the expansion of existing businesses make our communities more interesting as a destination, even if not solely for the rail trail, and therefore also help us thrive.

Best of all, it will cost us very little to create one of the finest recreational trails in the United States. So if we are truly seeking economic growth, new places for people to work, and new reasons for people to come to live with us, the Adirondack Rail Trail is the single biggest job creator we can seize today.

Lee Keet

ARTA Board of Directors

Saranac Lake