A hearing Monday on a lawsuit challenging New York’s plan for a rail to trail transition along the Remsen to Lake Placid rail corridor was delayed after the judge requested more information pertaining to ownership of land along the route.
Last February the Adirondack Park Agency approved a plan to create a rail to trail conversion along a 119-mile Remsen to Lake Placid rail line through the center of the Adirondacks. Thirty-four miles of track between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid would be converted to a multi-use recreational trail. Tracks between Remsen and Tupper Lake would remain and be improved. The plan was formally announced by the governor’s office in May 2016.
The Adirondack Railway Preservation Society filed an Article 78 suit challenging the approval of the Unit Management plan. The group says the plan violates the state Land Master Plan, historic preservation laws and the APA Act. It also claims the state failed to exercise “due diligence” in determining title and right of way along the route.
Trails with Rails Action Committee supports keeping the tracks intact. Coordinator Bob Hest was at the hearing in Malone. He says Judge Robert G. Main Jr. wanted to know the easement conditions granted by landowners when the railroad was built. “The judge's question I think took both parties by surprise. During the proceedings the judge said if the easement was granted for railroad use and the railroad infrastructure is removed, what is your comment? And the attorney for New York State said well if there’s no rail infrastructure then the easement for railroad use is extinguished. And the judge said I’d like to meet with counsel in my chambers.”
Hest noted that the judge wants lawyers from both sides to determine whether new trails would violate rail easement agreements. “If there is no longer a railroad that uses that there’s going to be an issue. Each private land owner they're probably going back to their deeds and wondering what’s in them and think about whether they want a trail across their property that uses the railroad right of away. It’s an interesting twist.”
Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates supports the state’s plan to convert the rail corridor. Founding Director Tony Goodwin isn’t worried about the latest proceedings because he says there are very few parcels at issue. “In 1974 New York State took the entire corridor by eminent domain and it somehow appears that the property owned jointly by Essex County and Franklin County and the property that was owned by the Lake Placid Historical Society were not included in that eminent domain taking. Both of those entities have indicated that they will not make any move to claim the land for themselves and say they can say how it's used which means they could cut off the trail. The judge questioned that saying well if they could then the trail wouldn't work.”
The Adirondack Railway Preservation Society issued a statement that described the court proceedings. It notes that the state has 30 days to provide the additional information, after which its lawyers will have an opportunity to reply.
Statement released by The Adirondack Railway Preservation Society February 1, 2017: