Railroad tracks between Lake Clear and Floodwood Road
Village officials here are looking to the state of New York to take the lead in the fate of the 118-mile railway between Remsen and Lake Placid.
Members of the Saranac Lake Village Board Monday, Sept. 24 voted to ask the state Department of Transportation (DOT) and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to “quickly review and update” the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor Unit Management Plan (UMP), which was last updated in 1995.
“In order for anything to happen to the railroad, this has to be updated regardless of what we do,” Rabideau said. “They haven’t done it in 17 years, and it’s my information and understanding that it should be done every five years.”
The corridor is a railroad right-of-way currently used by the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society for tourist excursions along portions of the track, around Thendara (near Old Forge) and between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. For the most part, the right-of-way is 100 feet wide (50 feet on either side of the tracks).
ARPS favors building a multi-use recreation path next to the rails between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid. Others favor taking out the tracks and replacing them with a recreation path.
In the summer, both groups in the railway controversy — Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates in favor of ripping up the tracks and the ARPS/Next Stop! Tupper Lake in favor of keeping them — had lobbied the Saranac Lake Village Board to choose a side.
Village leaders decided to do some homework first and build consensus among the railroad corridor’s stakeholders. Mayor Clyde Rabideau and Trustee Tom Catillaz even road a high-railer (pickup truck) from Saranac Lake to Tupper Lake to see if it was feasible to build a recreation path alongside the tracks.
But instead of setting up a meeting with stakeholders, which was expected to happen later this fall, village leaders want the state to hold those meetings, which is typically a part of the UMP-updating process.
Trustee Elias “Allie” Pelletieri asked the mayor if this resolution means the village is not doing any more homework on the railway corridor.
“I just would hate to close the door of us not taking comments or not taking information,” Pelletieri said.
“It doesn’t negate us from doing anything,” Rabideau said, adding that they will still be exploring the issue and waiting for the state to complete its UMP updated report, which they could use to choose a side in the issue.
The railway corridor is owned by the state and managed by the DOT. It is currently being leased to the ARPS to operate the Adirondack Scenic Railroad tourist trains. Most of the section between Old Forge and Tupper Lake is only used twice a year: to transport the train to and from Lake Placid in the spring and fall.
Village officials expect that the hearings held during a unit management plan update “will provide an on-the-record process allowing the stakeholders the opportunity to express their respective points of view and for unbiased fact-finding.”
Voting in favor of the resolution were trustees Barbara Rice, Pelletieri and Catillaz. Trustee Paul Van Cott left the room during the discussion and vote because he works for the Adirondack Park Agency.