To the Editor:
Your editorial on Saturday was headlined “Help a community under siege.” That’s exactly what we are trying to do. Yet you criticized our new organization, the Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates, for working against the best interests of Tupper Lake. You rightly characterize Tupper Lake as suffering economically, but you sure got it wrong when you accused ARTA of throwing up roadblocks to economic progress in that hard-pressed village.
What ARTA wants is to convert the railway from Lake Placid to Tupper Lake into a recreational trail that will commercially benefit the Tri-Lakes Area and enable Tupper Lake to become, at long last, the tourist destination it needs and deserves to be.
If the tracks are removed, as we advocate, and the rail bed is surfaced with compacted crushed limestone, the 34-mile recreation trail connecting Tupper with Saranac Lake and Lake Placid could attract tens of thousands of cyclists every year, maybe even hundreds of thousands to judge by the success of similar rail-trails in other parts of the country. Such a trail would also attract runners, strollers, birdwatchers, handicapped users, families with young kids, the elderly, athletes in training, and nature lovers of all kinds. In the winter, without the train tracks to impede them, the number of days that snowmobilers could use the corridor would likely double, a big step in making Tupper Lake a hub for snowmobiling.
Other rail-to-trail conversions have produced millions of dollars in tourist spending every year. There’s no reason to doubt that this trail, which could be one of the most scenic recreational trails in the eastern United States, would be any different.
Conversely, the tourist train that operates between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake has produced no measurable economic benefits during the eleven years it has been running. It’s hard to believe that extending the train service the next 25 miles to Tupper Lake would make it any more successful in terms of stimulating the local economy. (The idea of building a separate trail alongside the tracks from Placid to Tupper, as the railroad people now propose as a “compromise,” is totally impractical from both a financial and environmental standpoint.
You may disagree with our preferred use of this travel corridor, and you may feel as some (but by no means all) Tupper Lakers do that the best future for the corridor is to continue the train from Saranac to Tupper. That’s fine, especially if you can provide solid facts to back up your position. But to impugn the motives of an organization that is devoted to creating a rail-trail that could only improve the economic condition of the region is irresponsible, shoot-from-the hip editorializing.
(Beamish is a resident of Saranac Lake and a founding member of ARTA)