Adirondack rail trail plan stirs controversy - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Adirondack rail trail plan stirs controversy

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George Smith is an outdoor enthusiast and mainly bikes. He's up visiting the Adirondacks from Albany and says he would come back to ride on a good bike trail if the area had one.

"It would bring in people both in the summertime and in the wintertime you can use it for cross-country skiing. So, I think it's only a plus for the area," Smith said.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Transportation announced they are revisiting an old plan to convert a 30-mile length of train track to a multi-recreational trail from Tupper Lake to Lake Placid.

"I want to stress that it's a proposal. We still have to go through public process, we want to take public comments, it's not final and I'm sure it's going to be amended before a final unit management plan is adopted," said Joe Martens, commissioner of the NYS Department of Conservation.

Advocates for changing the tracks to trail are not considering this a total win; they would like to see the whole 119 miles of track from Lake Placid to Old Forge converted. But today's proposal includes keeping the train rails from Tupper Lake to Old Forge intact.

"The state's proposal strikes us as being a nice attempt at a compromise, but with not a lot of logic from an economic standpoint," said Lee Keet, an Adirondack recreational trail advocate.

The debate whether to tear up the train tracks or leave them be has been a subject of controversy for years. While those who are in favor of tearing up the tracks and replacing it with a recreational trail say that it will boost the local economy, many say the railroad has the potential to draw in tourists.

In a statement, Adirondack Scenic Railroad, a group that wants to preserve the train tracks, said: "The future of the Adirondack region depends on bringing people and business to the area from outside the Park and we cannot afford to eliminate any infrastructure which serves to attract tourists to the area."

Some residents are willing to compromise.

"I know originally they talked about maybe having it next to the railroad tracks. Even if that, any sort of place where you can have a flatter area with no traffic for people to go riding would be great around here," said Bill Frazer of Lake Placid.

Whether it be train or trail, New York State promises both sides will be taken into consideration along the process.

DEC officials say there's no price tag yet for the project. A cost estimate is part of what they will be looking into, along with how long the project would take.

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