Tourists enjoy the Adirondack Scenic Railroad at the Union Depot in Saranac Lake.
The Saranac Lake Village Board is planning to invite stakeholders in the controversial Great Adirondack Recreation Trail to a meeting to begin the process of reaching a consensus on the issue.
Upon the recommendation of Mayor Clyde Rabideau, trustees agreed to take the lead on finding answers to the many questions surrounding the creation of a recreation trail along the Adirondack Scenic Railroad from Saranac Lake to Old Forge. The project, as proposed by the Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates (ARTA), would include tearing up most of the railroad tracks.
During the July 23 Village Board meeting, ARTA officials asked board members to pass a resolution supporting the recreation trail. Knowing that there is a group in Tupper Lake – Next Stop! Tupper Lake – interested in rebuilding the tracks and extending the Adirondack Scenic Railroad from Saranac Lake to Tupper Lake, Rabideau said he would consider the resolution after speaking with some Tupper Lakers to get their views. He received 22 emails on the topic from Tupper Lake residents, most of them supporting the trail, plus Historic Saranac Lake officials, who were in favor of keeping the rails. The mayor also said he did some homework on his own and found more questions than answers.
“I also felt that there really wasn’t any definition of the proposed use of the trail, such as ATVs, four-wheelers and other motorized use,” Rabideau said. “Are there any restrictions? Are ATVs and four-wheelers allowed? Will they go through our village and be noise problems with these vehicles?”
What are the implications with going through Forever Wild lands with the trail? Can the tracks be torn up even though the rail corridor is on the National Register of Historic Places? These are some questions that Rabideau would like answered.
Due to the fact that the opposing sides of this controversy – ARTA and the Adirondack Scenic Railroad supporters – are continually using the media to argue their cases, Mayor Rabideau said he would like to create a fact-based dialogue. Until then, it is “premature” for the Saranac Lake Village Board to pass a resolution at this time supporting either side of the issue.
“Consensus building with all the stakeholders is really a prerequisite for further action,” Rabideau said. “In the village of Saranac Lake, we really do welcome the opportunity to join the dialogue that includes all the advocates and opponents of ARTA’s vision along with representatives from local and state government and interested regional non-government organizations. I think that, as a village, we should encourage the development of the common understanding of the facts involved in this regional issue and a full analysis of the alternatives for resolution of this issue based upon the facts with a goal of providing the state-appointed elected leaders with a suggested plan for the future use of the Adirondack Railroad corridor.”
Trustees agreed that they need to find out more information before making a decision whether to back any proposal for a recreation trail along the railroad corridor. All trustees were present, except Paul Van Cott, who left the room for that portion of the meeting.
ARTA was formed in 2011 to create a world-class recreation trail — a rail trail — along the 90-mile railroad corridor between Old Forge and Lake Placid. The town of North Elba is currently in the process of building a recreation trail beside the tracks between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, where the Adirondack Scenic railroad operates a seasonal tourist train.
The Adirondack Scenic Railroad also operates tourist train rides in the Old Forge area and uses the entire line to transport its Tri-Lakes train to and from its southern operations in the spring and fall.