Adirondack rail advocates get support from preservation society

The Remsen-to-Lake Placid Travel Corridor has just been placed on the 2016 list of historic properties to be saved, by the Preservation League of New York State, creating a potential pause to rail removal being proposed from Tupper Lake to Lake Placid.

The Preservation League draws statewide attention to New York’s most important and at-risk historic places through its “Seven to Save” list of endangered places.

The list seeks to draw attention to the plight of New York State historic resources that are in danger of disappearing due to disinvestment and development pressure, among other concerns.

The Preservation League of New York State is an Albany-based organization.

President Jay DiLorenzo said the group is challenging New York State’s proposal to turn 34 miles of active rail line into a recreational trail.

Rail removal would likely not happen immediately anyway, despite Adirondack Park Agency approval of such activity.

This isn’t preventing rail advocates from celebrating Preservation League intervention, however.

“The Adirondack Railway Preservation Society (ARPS) Board of Directors is very pleased,” said Bill Branson, President of Adirondack Railway Preservation Society (ARPS).

The Preservation League is a heavyweight organization, according to Branson.

“We believe the League’s communications and advocacy experience in such matters will help highlight all the issues involved in the proposed destruction of a significant portion of the travel corridor, so that it gets the state-wide attention it deserves,” he said.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) sponsored proposal plans to remove 34 miles of designated historic trackage in the travel corridor to create a multi-use recreation trail.

The Adirondack Park Agency recently considered the plan and ruled that it conforms with the Adirondack State Land Master Plan.

This was a major hurdle to be surmounted by rail removal advocates.

Since the Unit Management Plan adopted in 1996, rails with trails has been the preferred New York State policy.

Bill Branson believes that rail-friendly policy should continue.

He also said rails and trails can coexist without sacrificing either.

“There are many residents and visitors to the Adirondack Tri-Lakes region who have written their support that New York State fulfill the principles adopted in 1996. We look forward to working with members and staff of the Preservation League and others to achieve a robust rail operation and complementary trail system that supports economic and recreation opportunities for residents and visitors of all ages and abilities throughout the length of the travel corridor,” Branson said.

The Preservation League noted that 70,000 passengers on the line included 21,000 on the Lake Placid to Saranac portion of the railroad in 2014.

It also noted that the Adirondack Scenic Railroad provides $3.7 million in direct economic impact and leverages an additional $5.4 million.

In addition to the financial impact, the collapse of the historic rail corridor would threaten the preservation and public use of stations, depots and other rail infrastructure—including historic stations at Saranac Lake and Lake Placid currently in active use.

“The removal of the tracks from an active railroad line to produce multi-use trails is without precedent,” according to the League.

The League has been working with Historic Saranac Lake and Adirondack Architectural Heritage to ensure that the regulatory obligations of the State Historic Preservation Act are followed when considering the impact of proposed changes on National Register-designated resources.

“Seven to Save designation will allow the League to work toward an outcome where both rails and trails deliver a robust recreational trail system to the Adirondacks,” said League President Jay DiLorenzo.

The Adirondack Preservation Society operates the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, offering an authentic and unique experience with a ride on a heritage railroad through the six million acre Adirondack Park.

This rail line has the ability to safely and predictably transport any individual without exception into the wilderness of upstate New York, affording every passenger the opportunity to view and enjoy Forever Wild spaces that are otherwise unreachable.

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