About two dozen people filled the meeting room in the North Elba Town Hall in Lake Placid Thursday evening to hear about and ask questions about the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s plan for an Adirondack rail-trail plan.
In late April the Department of Environmental Conservation issued its draft Adirondack Rail Trail Conceptual Plan for the design of the 34-mile section between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake. It is intended to connect the villages of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake with new recreational opportunities as old rail lines are replaced with stone-dust trails for activities such as hiking, biking, walking, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and snowmobiling. Several meetings hosted by the three villages have been held this week to review the draft plan. Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall began Thursday evening’s meeting. “Well folks good evening. At this point this is the concept of the trail. Let's look at the presentation. Let’s get a sense of what it might look like in the future.”
Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates founding director Tony Goodwin presented a PowerPoint outlining the draft plan. “This trail will be very different from all of the other trails in the Adirondacks.”
Once the nearly 30-minute presentation was complete a question and answer session began.
Rosalie Fontana: “I am a cross-country skier and I have some concerns about how easy it would be to share a trail with snowmobilers. How safe would that be? And the other thing is that snowmobiles tend to rip up trails.”
Lemuel Hegwood: “Do you expect there to be more snowmobile usage in certain segments?”
Joe Colburn: “There's a lot of things that I'm really excited about to have the trail. I like to ski. I like to bike. I like to run. My concern is what are the plans to mitigate noise pollution for those of us that live right against this proposed trail and I guess air pollution also?
Pete Suttemeier: “Is there any effort to coordinate commercial development at different spots along the way for you know drinks, and coffee, whatever, something like that?
The questions from Lemuel Hegwood of Raybrook, Rosalie Fontana of Bloomingdale, Joe Colburn of Lake Placid and Pete Suttmeier of Keene Valley reflected the unique concerns of the Lake Placid vicinity. Department of Environmental Conservation Region 5 spokesman David Winchell noted that the meetings in Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake offered different perspectives on the draft plan. “The people at the meanings in Saranac Lake did share the concerns with snowmobiles and cross-country skiing. Tupper Lake was more about some of the design down there that we need to work with D.O.T. to improve on, but also illegal ATV use was a big concern down there. One of the things I did like is it's been very positive for the most part. People are really enthusiastic about this trail and can't wait for it to be built.”
Mayor Randall says the DEC plan offers a number of all-season opportunities for the village since the trail will bring people directly into the business district. “Lake Placid’s an outdoor community as you know and we attract thousands of people here that come here to do outdoor activities. So this is an expansion of what we're already doing. It's a little bit different but judging from the acceptance of these types of trails in other parts of the country I expect it will be welcomed and I expect we'll also see many of our own residents will take advantage of the rail-trail especially for bicycling and certainly for snowmobiling.”
The Adirondack Railway Preservation society has filed suit against the state DEC, DOT and the APA contending the rail to trail plan is illegal. A judge is considering arguments that were heard in January and barred removal of tracks until he issues a decision.
The DEC will hold two public meetings on the plan next week. The first is Tuesday in Tupper Lake and the second Wednesday at Region 5 headquarters in Ray Brook.
The deadline to submit comments is June 2nd.