Proposed Amendment Could Get Adirondack Rail Trail Back on Track

The Adirondack Park Agency is proposing an amendment to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan that would allow rail trails along state-owned rail corridors.

Last September, a judge overruled the 2016 Unit Management Plan affecting the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor, stating that the definition of a travel corridor under the Adirondack State Park Master Plan does not include trails. This narrow and shortsighted interpretation seemingly jeopardized New York State’s $8 million effort to remove 34 miles of track between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake to construct a rail trail. In November, the State Attorney General’s office filed a notice to appeal the decision, possibly leading to a long and potentially difficult legal battle against the Adirondack Scenic Railroad.

Undeterred, in March, the Adirondack Park Agency and the State Department of Environmental Conservation released six alternative amendments to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan that would clarify the definition of a travel corridor in state-owned lands in the Adirondack Park. The alternatives ranged from no action to revising the definition of a travel corridor to open up trail development on all current and future former railroad corridors owned by New York State. The preferred alternative excludes former rail corridors because some of these rights of way traverse wilderness and wild forest classifications, protected areas where conversion may cause adverse environmental impacts.

The Adirondack Park Agency recommended Alternative 6, which would revise the definition of travel corridors to explicitly allow trail conversion on the Lake Placid-Remsen Travel Corridor. This preferred alternative limits travel corridor rail trail development in the Adirondack Park to rail corridors with existing rails.

The Adirondack Park Agency is accepting public comment on the proposed amendment to the Adirondack State Park Land Master plan through May 7. The agency has scheduled public hearings for April 11 at the APA headquarters in Ray Brook, April 24 at The View in Old Forge, and on April 25 at DEC headquarters in Albany. All comments and the recommendations of the APA staff will be submitted to the APA Board, which will then decide whether to accept the changes and recommend the amendment to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan to the Governor.

Parks & Trails New York has long supported Adirondack Rail Trail development efforts led by Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates (ARTA). PTNY believes that the APA’s preferred alternative 6 is an appropriate measure that realizes the vision of ARTA’s diligent advocacy and New York State’s commitment to much-needed economic development and tourism in the many struggling communities in the Adirondack Park. The 34-mile Adirondack Rail Trail will be the envy of the nation once it’s complete.