New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved a $23-million plan that will essentially split a 119-mile travel corridor into a scenic railway south of Tupper Lake and a multi-use trail north of Tupper Lake.
The plan, which affects the corridor from Remsen to Lake Placid, was signed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Department of Transportation and, according to the state, will maximize the use and economic benefits of the corridor. The state will also immediately invest in the implementation of the plan, including $15 million to upgrade the rail line between Big Moose and Tupper Lake and $8 million to build a multi-use trail between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid. The rail line will be rehabilitated and the trail will be built within the next three years.
“From Tupper Lake to Lake Placid, the Adirondacks is home to unparalleled natural beauty and today we are building on what makes this region so special,” Gov. Cuomo said. “By rehabilitating the railway and building a scenic trail, we are better utilizing the corridor and its surrounding lands to create more economic and recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike. I am proud the state is moving forward on this important project and this is yet another example of our commitment to ensuring the Adirondacks remain a first-class tourism destination for generations to come.”
The funds committed to implement the final plan will enable the scenic railroad to expand continuous operations for 45 miles on fully-restored rails. Additionally, the plan calls for a longer-term lease for the railroad operator. The railway will continue operations on the Tupper Lake to Lake Placid segment through November 2016. The removal of the tracks and the development of the 34-mile community connector trail will begin after November 2016.
The plan also calls for linking Lake Lila to the active rail corridor and establishing railway stops in adjacent communities for visitors and recreationists.
“This proposal will strengthen the existing excursion railroad from Utica and extend its operation to Tupper Lake—a distance of more than 100 miles,” said New York Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew Driscoll. “At the same time, we will work to mitigate impacts and to preserve the character of communities along the rail corridor.
The preferred alternative of the 1996 Unit Management Plan, which governs the use of the 119-mile Remsen-Lake to Placid Travel Corridor, called for rail use to be developed along the entire length of the corridor and encouraged the development of a parallel trail where feasible. However, in recent years many individuals, recreation groups and municipalities along the corridor, expressed an interest in re-examining the Unit Management Plan and evaluating the development of a long-distance multi-use recreation trail. At the same time, the attempt to develop a trail parallel to the rail between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake was determined to be infeasible, as it would necessitate excessive disturbance of sensitive wetlands.
The Adirondack Scenic Railroad, which operates along the corridor, vowed to fight the decision based on its elimination of currently operational track and that the plan “would only allow us to bring families, senior citizens and people with physical challenges to Tupper Lake and tell them to walk the last 34 miles to visit the Olympic sites in Lake Placid.”