By now you’ve probably heard about the decision to replace 34 miles of state-owned railroad track between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid with a recreational trail, but are you confused by all the different groups involved in the debate? To help you make sense of the ongoing controversy, we’ve outlined the key players on both sides of the track.
1. Adirondack Railway Preservation Society (ARPS)
The ARPS is a nonprofit organization that currently manages the Adirondack Scenic Railroad and its tourist trains. In 1992, New York State allowed the ARPS to restore parts of the state-owned railroad. What started as a small scale effort evolved and included more upgrades, repairs, and operating trains. Eventually, the ARPS turned the Adirondack Scenic Railroad into the popular tourist attraction seen today.
Naturally, the ARPS is the railroad’s main supporter. Since the DEC and DOT announced the management plan in 2013, the ARPS has opposed their efforts and advocated for a different plan. If the plan doesn’t change, the ARPS will have to shut down the tourist train that runs to Lake Placid.
In response to Gov. Cuomo’s approval, the ARPS publicized their lawsuit against the rail-trail project. The lawsuit consists of three parts, but the ARPS’s main goal is to have the state reconsider the approved plan.
2. Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH)
The AARCH is a nonprofit historic preservation organization that operates in the Adirondack Park. The organization was formed in 1990, and it is committed to preserving the “Great Camps,” old Adirondack settlements, farmsteads, and more.
The AARCH has continuously voiced its disapproval of the state’s rail corridor management plan. Since the railroad is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the organization believes the track shouldn’t be removed. For the AARCH, the endangered 34 mile track is worth saving because of its historic value to the Adirondack region.
3. Preservation League of New York State
The Preservation League of New York State is a private organization dedicated to the advancement of statewide preservation efforts. The League was founded in 1974 by like-minded preservationists. According to their website, the League provides “services to those who wish to identify, preserve, protect, reuse, and promote historic resources.”
The League supported the efforts of the ARPS earlier this year when it listed the Adirondack Scenic Railroad and the endangered track on its annual “Seven to Save” list. This designation raises awareness about important preservation issues, and the League hoped to spark negotiations between both sides of the debate.
4. Rail Explorers USA
Aside from the ARPS, one of the other groups directly affected by the rail-trail project is Rail Explorers USA. In 2015, Rail Explorers USA opened its rail-bike business on parts of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. The new attraction allowed people to use a special rail-bike to pedal along a railroad track.
The state plans to remove the 34 mile track by this December, so Rail Explorers USA can offer their rail-bike service until November. If the plan moves forward with no problems, then Rail Explorers USA will have to relocate to another section of track.
1. Gov. Cuomo, the DEC, and the DOT
According to New York State’s official site, the DEC and DOC have specific missions:
- “The DEC’s mission is to conserve, improve and protect New York’s natural resources and environment.”
- The DOT’s mission is to “ensure our customers – those who live, work and travel in New York State – have a safe, efficient, balanced and environmentally sound transportation system.”
In 2013, the DEC and DOT reevaluated the management plan that governs the endangered track. The departments wanted to figure out the best way for the railway to support local communities. They soon drafted a new management plan that proposed the multi-use trail and suggested repairs on a different track. Gov. Cuomo approved of this plan, and in a press release, stated, “By rehabilitating the railway and building a scenic trail, we are better utilizing the corridor and its surrounding lands….”
2. Adirondack Park Agency (APA)
The APA is a government agency that was formed back in 1971. The agency works on land and policy issues in the Adirondack Park, and it helps develop land use plans.
Back in February of this year, the APA voted 9-1 in approval of the DEC’s and DOT’s rail corridor management plan. This decision was a big step forward for the plan, and all it needed afterward was Gov. Cuomo’s approval, which it received.
3. Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates (ARTA)
The ARTA formed in 2010 in order to promote the development of a recreational trail between Lake Placid and Old Forge. The first part of their plan involves the rail-trail project between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake.
For over a decade, ARTA co-founder Jim McCulley has been a strong advocate for the removal of the train tracks. “This obviously generated a lot of controversy but I think it was a good compromise and this is going to help the regional economy…,” McCulley told WAMC. The ARTA believes the trail’s economic and recreational value will benefit the Adirondack Park for many years.
4. Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA)
The ORDA was originally created by the state to operate and care for Lake Placid’s Olympic sites during the 1980 Winter Olympic Games. The Authority now manages the region’s Olympic and mountain facilities for visitors.
The Authority’s role in the rail-trail project will be to help manage the new multi-use trail. According to an interview with the Oneida Dispatch, ORDA CEO Ted Blazer said, “This long-distance, multi-use recreation trail…will complement our facilities like no other here in the Olympic Region.”
Now that you know more about the individual groups on both sides of the debate, which side do you support?
- Governor Cuomo’s Office – Governor Cuomo Announces Plan to Create a 119-Mile Travel Corridor to Boost Tourism Between Remsen and Lake Placid
- Adirondack Almanack – Railroad Seeks To Block Adirondack Rail Trail
- New York State – Agencies
- Adirondack Park Agency – About the New York State Adirondack Park Agency
- NCPR – Adirondack Park Agency approves controversial “rail trail” plan
- Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates – About ARTA
- WAMC – Approval of Adirondack Rail and Trail Plan Continues Controversy Over Travel Corridor
- Oneida Daily Dispatch – Trail advocates win; railroad loses: Tupper Lake – Lake Placid tracks to be removed
- Preservation League of New York State – The Preservation League: a long history of effective leadership
- Adirondack Architectural Heritage – About Adirondack Architectural Heritage
- Adirondack Scenic Railroad – Our History