by Leachim Remraf
MASSAWEPIE, NY—Citing timely and implicit organization and planning for development of the Remsen–Lake Placid Railroad Corridor, representatives from ARTA (Adirondack Rail Trails ANALysis) announced on April 1, its plans for RATRACE (RAil TRail Activity CEnters) to be built in the corridor between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid.
Situated in the backcountry, the centers will be relatively modest structures placed to provide comfort and convenience services for the anticipated 400,000–1.6 million visitors using the rail trail annually.
ARTA officials say they expect the cost of each center to be $1.4–$1.7 million, which they believe will be readily and gladly paid by the municipalities along the way.
“The towns cannot be expected to handle the tremendous influx of rail trail enthusiasts,” said ARTA planning consultant Pi Indiskai.
“The RATRACE will keep rail trail users from clogging the streets and businesses of quaint Adirondack villages,” he said.
“In due time, the centers will add a non-competing bed and breakfast component. That will save the towns and private developers from dealing with the APA, since the lodges will be built adjacent to the corridor where the APA prohibits development.”
RATRACE is the first development program to emerge since DEC officials presented to the APA a proposal to remove the rails between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid.
Disputing claims that ARTA is solely focused on decimating the railroad out of spite, ARTA ex-official Ima Nimby said, “We don’t want just to put the railroad out of business, we want to be right. We’ve put years of effort into fabricating, misleading, and petitioning, and we can’t back off from that now.”
Sources high in ARTA’s Distortion and Rationalization Division report that the plan has widespread support with local officials in Beaver River and Star Lake.
Once implemented, they say, RATRACE will resolve the drawbacks associated with backcountry recreational travel in the corridor…
Problems such as distance, changeable weather, EMS access and services are minor summer issues, according to ARTA officials.
They say the real focus is extending the snowmobile season five to seven days.
“Those issues melt away like spring runoff,” laughed Ray Fourmey, ARTA Snowmobile Program Manager.
“Snowmo-bilers want to cruise 75 miles straight and flat to lunch. That’s what the corridor trail will provide. It will be maintained, more or less regularly, by the towns and volunteers,” he added.
“Surely that will dilute reliance on natural snowfall.”
ARTA spokesman Waddi Saye confirmed a larger strategy, stating, “Once those rails come up and the RATRACE takes hold, we can move on to the Tupper Lake–Big Moose section of the corridor.
“Sure the distances are greater and wilderness areas make it more remote, but that doesn’t amount to a weed in French Louie’s pipe to snowmobilers.”
ARTA officials maintain that the 20,000 train passengers per year to Thendara and the 10,000 rail bike customers in six weeks at Lake Clear represent insignificant summer businesses.
Further, sacrifice of these folks will be reasonable compared to the millions of snowmobilers siphoned north from Old Forge and Big Moose.
Add to that the millions of Canadian snowmobilers flooding south from the border (ARTA is reportedly petitioning the NYS Legislature to add an additional “A” to “Adirondacks”).
ARTA supporters have proven, through more than two hours of internal discussions, that snowmobilers using the corridor trail will enhance business for the Webb–Inlet Trail System.
“Furthermore,” says ARTA snowmobile expert Rusty Trakenslider, “Eventually clearing the corridor of rails from Remsen north will actually increase permit sales in Old Forge.
It’s simple, he said.
“Many snowmobilers now are relegated to the frozen lakes to cruise over 100 mph. But imagine the straight shot of a permit-free corridor slicing right through that country. If they slow down to avoid cross traffic from the trail system, they’ll see the beauty of those trails and want to buy a trail permit for when they’re old.”
Although the railroad corridor is a registered National Historic Landmark, ARTA spokeswoman Dawn Hoffanueaige observed, “So what?”
She explained the non-issue as follows.
“It’s just old stuff that costs too much to maintain. Hopefully this will mark the end of the decrepit old railroad, and other taxpayer supported relics like Fort Ticonderoga and Niagara, and the Statue of Liberty. RATRACE will provide new stuff for new users.”
Disabled American veterans also have been invited to join in the RATRACE, easing concerns that refurbishment of the railroad is their only hope for access to those backcountry areas.
“Sure, they could ride the trains to see the backcountry,” said ARTA Activities Director Hugh Wountbewithus, “but the rail trail will help mainstream the handicapped by putting them out there with our people.
“They’ll be trekking, pedaling, pushing and wheeling their way through the wilderness. When happily exhausted, they well might find a RATRACE shelter.
“And let’s not diminish the experience of being strapped on the back of a rushing snowmobile,” he continued. “What a thrill for them.”
Wountbewithus noted that viewing wilderness through train windows is about the same as watching a video, and those physically incapable of traveling the trail will be satisfied with bus tours on the main roads of the Adirondacks, viewing similar scenery.
The timely rollout of RATRACE, it is hoped, will pressure the APA and DEC to quickly get the rails pulled up from Tupper Lake to Lake Placid.
Although the Saranac to Lake Placid section involves repayment of $3 million in grant funding, ARTA directors are confident that state and federal officials will donate those monies to the RATRACE.
With user data rolling in which will document up to four million visitors per year, they maintain that it’s a good, reasonable investment.