It’s your travel corridor

On July 19-21, a group of railfans traveled to our region and rode the rails of the state-owned Lake Placid-Remsen Transportation Corridor in their little “motorcars,” also known as “rail cars” or “speeders.” Since then, many of them have written guest commentaries published in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. Their message has been consistent with other ardent railfans writing to the Enterprise, that rail service offers future value to the region that justifies keeping the rail infrastructure intact along the full length of the corridor.

A little perspective may be of value as the community considers their comments. Owning a motorcar demonstrates extraordinary commitment to railroading as a hobby. A quick review of shows what it takes to acquire, restore, maintain, and operate a railcar, and these writers go far beyond “guys who like trains.” While respecting their perspective, we should keep in mind that listening to them about trains is like asking a man who wears New York Yankees pajamas to bed every night about the value of baseball.

By way of contrast, the board members of Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates (ARTA) come from all walks of North Country life, including business, law enforcement, journalism, education, outdoor recreation, and public health. Some of us are snowmobilers, and many are casual bicyclists, hikers, and skiers. Unlike out-of-state railfans, we’ve worked at Adirondack jobs, contributed to Adirondack charitable efforts, supported Adirondack schools, and paid Adirondack taxes. ARTA is unified by one goal-our shared interest in this corridor serving the needs and interests of people who live here.

After nearly two decades of experience with the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, few if any can be satisfied with their contribution to the region’s economy. Despite their dedication, diligence, and resourcefulness, their ridership north of Old Forge is dismal, and they teeter on the brink of insolvency. Amazingly, they argue (without evidence) that massive expansion of their operations to a scale far beyond that of other scenic railroads in the U.S. would result in their finally becoming successful. This is like arguing that a restaurant serving six diners per day should open another such restaurant across town. Of course, none of this expansion would be investor-funded, because there are no investors. Instead, the Adirondack Scenic Railroad and their supporters insist that their failing business be expanded and then propped up by taxpayers.

Ultimately, it’s not about out-of-town railfans and it’s not about ARTA-it’s about you. Local businesses, local governments, and people living in the region overwhelmingly support development of the Adirondack Rail Trail because they recognize that it will cost much less and contribute much more to their region, their economy, and their quality of life. The debate over the best use of the Remsen-Lake Placid travel corridor will ultimately be decided by the state. But, in doing so, the state must listen to you. The state’s decision criteria must be based on considerations that matter to you. No “back-room deal” will be accepted by the people who most appreciate the importance of this issue to the region.

As the state’s process goes forward, we urge you to speak up, and to write letters. Let the state know what would be the best choice. Share your views with your elected officials. Insist on a decision that serves your region, rather than a handful of rail hobbyists who’ve already had a more-than-ample opportunity to make rail service work along this corridor north of Old Forge. The Adirondack Rail Trail will improve our lives in ways that rail service never has, and never would. It’s your corridor. Make it work for you.

David Banks is a resident of Lake Clear and a board member of Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates.