Relevant Laws and Legislation

Federal Laws relating to the Corridor

National Trails System Act (1968) and the National Trail System Improvement Act (1988)

While these acts are not specific to the Adirondacks or to rail trails, they mark the start of the promotion of trail building around the United States which is important to the idea behind rail trails. Note that several big name trails, such as the Appalacian Trail, are protected by this federal law. The 1988  amendment includes language noting that abandoned rail lines are very suitable for trail use. This legislation shows that rail trails are not a new idea and a quick internet search reveals their prevalence and acceptance in the United States.

Also see Rails to Trails Conservancy Site for more detailed information on the growth of rail trails.

State Laws relating to the Adirondacks

Wild, Scenic, and Recreational Rivers Act

This act is relevant to the corridor as it crosses some of the rivers the act protects. There has been some misintepretations of the act as suggested by Phil Brown in this article. While, from looking at the Table of use Guildelines, it is ambiguous whether new bridges for motorized use would be allowed, it seems fairly clear that bridges for non motorized use would be allowed, as Phil Brown doesn't note a wild classificaiton for any of the rivers mentioned by DEC. The law could also be amended for as valuable a resource as the Corridor.

Wetland Rules

Wetlands in the United States are extensively protected by federal, state, and local laws. Looking at maps put out by both federal agencies and DEC, it is clear that most of the Adirondacks is wetland, or areas supporting semi-aquatic vegetation at a minimum (DEC). DEC's site on acquiring permits says explicitly that getting permits to do any sort of construction in wetland areas is difficult. While the state probably has the right to repair the Corridor, it cannot do so without the proper permits, nor can the various groups advocating for different uses of the Corridor, until they "demonstrate overriding economic and social needs for your project that outweigh the environmental costs of impacts on the wetlands" (DEC) (UMP 97-98).

Image of train accident on the Beaver Flow River near Sabattis, NY, possibly on the Corridor. While this is an extreme example, its possible that a few snowmobiles might go in the water along the Corridor. Image from Adirondack Museum (Image is a link).

Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (p. 46-50)

This document sets guidelines for the use of state land in the Adirondacks. This document classifies the railroad as a “travel corridor” setting it apart from all other “trails” on State Land as they are part of other zones. Due to this classification, DOT has some influence over what happens to the Corridor. This plan requires a Unit Management Plan for the rail line to establish what construction and changes are acceptable.

Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor Unit Management Plan/EIS

This plan details the current state of the Corridor and the possibilities for its use. As of 1996, it seemed that allowing the rest of the Corridor to gradually become a tourist train seemed like the best alternative given its large initial growth. However, almost 20 years later rail service only extends along part of the Corridor, leaving the segment from Big Moose to Tupper Lake relatively unused. The plan is now being amended in the hopes of taking best advantage of the Corridor, and many groups have formed to support their desired outcome.

An amendment to the UMP would accomplish several purposes. According the the presentation given at four public comment sessions this past Fall and posted on the Corridor's webpage, such an amendment would (slide 26):

  • Evaluate use of the Tupper Lake to Lake Placid segment for a recreational trail
  • Examine opportunities to maintain and realize the full economic potential of rail service between Remsen and Tupper Lake
  • Review options to create and expand alternative snowmobile corridors and other reacreational trails to connect communities from Old Forge to Tupper Lake