Ben's Opinion

Throughout this project we have learned a lot about different aspects of the Corridor and how different people value it. One thing not mentioned so far in our website is how converting it to a trail would significantly change its status in the UMP, possibly requiring approval from the State Legislature according to the CA Report linked to in “Economics” (3). Its status as a travel corridor is significant not only because it gives it its common name (the “Corridor”), nor because its best use is mechanized transport, from wheelchairs to snowmobiles. Being a travel corridor indicates how it is a world apart from other trails in the park and I think it should remain that way, regardless of its use, to remind us of its historical importance.

The main point of contention in the current debate over “rails or trails” is the economics of either scenario. While nobody knows for sure which option will produce more new spending, though current studies indicate that the trail option has a greater likelihood of doing this, we do know two things for sure: a. upgrading the corridor for either use will create both more short term and long term jobs, and b. regardless of the use, upgrading the corridor will boost the economy of the surrounding region through increased tourist and hopefully local traffic as well. While people argue, the corridor remains unused, and only snowmobiles can take advantage of its full length for a couple of weeks in the winter.

Environmental concerns are a toss up as well. While nonmotorized summer trail use would produce less emissions than a train, assuming equal numbers of people getting in their cars to drive to a station or a trailhead, it would be offset by increased snowmobile use in the winter when rails would no longer impede grooming. Upgrading the corridor would cause some adverse effects to the surrounding wildlife but so would any construction, and increased use would change the atmosphere of the corridor. Such concerns are valid, but neither favors rail or trail: they favor letting the corridor return to nature, which doesn’t take advantage of such a valuable right-of-way and which nobody is ready to do.

Overall, my biggest concern here is that nothing is happening: nobody other than Next Stop! Tupper Lake has any money to speak of, and they only have a couple million, far short of the minimum price tag of $10 million for either rail or trail. Perhaps turning the corridor into a trail would take away from its historical significance as a rail line, but if no one uses it, what good is its historical significance? It cannot generate money either, and it may take several years after it is upgraded for it becomes more popular and start to create new spending. As evidenced in the reports on the corridor, a parallel rail trail is irrelevant when people don’t even have enough to pay for one.

I am in favor of letting whoever can get their money together first, be that rails, trails, or both, do what they can with the corridor. While the Adirondacks already has a lot of trails, none of them are fully developed rail-trails as this one could become. Still, while I’m personally biased towards trails as the rail trail in my hometown is our biggest resource and always has cars in its parking lot, I think any option would be better than none. The suggested amendments to the UMP allow for this with a possible trail between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake and extending the rail service from the South to Tupper Lake. Why not let whoever gets there first keep going?