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Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail

Though there are more than 1,700 rail-trails across America, covering all different shapes and sizes, a small handful stand out as true superstars of the rail-trail movement. Whether for the beauty of their surrounds, their length, or an indefinable charm and character, these rail-trails become beloved attractions drawing praise, and visitors, from near and far.

On this list are  trails such as the Route of the Hiawatha in Idaho, the Katy Trail State Park in Missouri, and Vermont's Island Line. Right now, plans are afoot for the conversion of former rail corridor that, when completed, will immediately force its way into that elite company.

Running through the scenic Tri-Lakes region of upper New York is the Adirondack Scenic Railroad corridor (right). Currently, the line carries a seasonal sightseeing train, which through limited ridership hasn't delivered significant commercial returns in a picturesque region bursting with recreational tourism potential.

Inspired by the ability of rail-trail projects elsewhere to boost recreational tourism, a group of locals last year formed the Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates (ARTA), with the goal of converting a 34-mile section of track between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake into a multi-use trail.

As they prepared to build a case to convince local residents and authorities of what such a rail-trail could bring to the area, ARTA turned to the experts. For the past year, Carl Knoch, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's manager of trail development in the Northeast, has been working closely with ARTA, evaluating the potential economic impact of an Adirondacks rail-trail, and studying ways and means to build it.

Knoch's message to the communities between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake is the same message that has sparked the development of similar projects in his native Pennsylvania: Trails are good business for small towns.

This is not just a gut feeling. Knoch's Northeast Regional Office is a national leader in compiling trail user data to assess the economic stimulus of trails to the towns and villages they pass through. This commercial impact--for hotels, campsites, food outlets and outdoor retailers--and the multiplier effect of an injection into the local economy--has helped promote the development of several renowned trails systems in Pennsylvania and secured the viability of towns once suffering the decline of industry.

Knoch says the Tri-Lakes is perfectly placed to reap the same rewards.

"The 60-mile Pine Creek Rail Trail has seen about $3.6 million annually in new spending since the trail was created, with 138,000 users on an annual basis," he says of a comparable trail in the neighboring state. "What could 138,000 new users do for Saranac Lake and Lake Placid and Tupper Lake? In talking to the folks that own businesses along the Pine Creek Rail Trail, they basically say the conversion of that railroad into a multi-season rail-trail is the salvation of the valley."

When Knoch first began traveling to the Tri-Lakes to discuss a rail-trail conversion, he encountered a good deal of local opposition. But after a number of public meetings and a period of outreach and education, business owners, residents and town officials are now supportive of removing the train tracks to construct the optimal rail-trail.

However the state Department of Transportation (DOT), which has jurisdiction over the corridor, has indicated they plan to leave the little-used corridor, deteriorated in sections, as it is. Undeterred, local officials have begun petitioning the DOT to revisit its management plan for the corridor, which hasn't been reexamined in 17 years, despite the evaporation of rail service in that time. The locals' frustration is evident.

"...[T]he taxpayers are paying huge unanticipated sums each year to subsidize a money-losing operation while simultaneously blocking one of the best economic development options open to the North Country," Saranac Lake resident Lee Keet wrote to the editor of the Times Union recently.

Aware that hard data and the recorded experiences of similar communities tell the most compelling story, RTC recently published a study of the proposed 34-mile section, featuring estimated trail-user numbers and related economic impact based on data gathered from similar rail-trails in the Northeast. This study found that a rail-trail between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake would attract a midpoint estimate of 224,260 visitors annually, each spending between $63.86 and $99.30 per day--worth an estimated $19.8 million to local economies.

The cost of constructing the 34-mile segment would be approximately $2.2 million, which could be offset by $5.3 million of income from the salvage and sale of the tracks and ties. Knoch says the $3.1 million excess could be applied to construction of future sections of the trail, or maintenance.

To read and download the Adirondack Rail Trail study, and other RTC research publications, visit community.railstotrails.org/media

Photos of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad corridor by Carl Knoch/RTC.

 

 


Posted Wed, Oct 10 2012 4:55 PM by Jake Lynch

Comments

Brent Newman wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Thu, Oct 11 2012 11:47 AM

That's fantastic! I am a frequent Pine Creek Trail peddler and I consider the trail to be the single greatest recreation investment in the Endless Mountains and possibly the entire state.

Speaking of which, how are the plans coming along for extending the Pine Creek Trail to Lake Ontario?  

Thomas McBride wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Thu, Oct 11 2012 1:36 PM

"$5.3 million of income from the salvage and sail of the rail tracks and ties"

Where does this amount come from?

George T. wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Thu, Oct 11 2012 3:58 PM

If they build it I will visit from out of state - unless they take too long to complete and the legs give up.  

I enjoy Lake Placid area for winter sports.  Now give me a reason to visit in the 'off seasons'.

Hope Frenette wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Fri, Oct 12 2012 9:22 AM

Help us make this happen by going to our website and signing our petition to Gov. Cuomo. Write to our papers and Town officials and tell them "If you build it, we will come." Like us on Facebook at "The Adirondack Rail Trail". There is a link on our website. In just over a year we have garnered almost 10,000 signatures in support. Please add yours. Thanks.

Chris D wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Fri, Oct 12 2012 9:50 AM

During the "off season" (May-Oct) this is a great area to visit, and an off-road bike trail would be a inducement for me to come back.

The Alchemist wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Fri, Oct 12 2012 10:31 AM

This would be awesome... we could do multi-day biking trips, which would be super fun.

We currently leave our bikes at home when we go up there. :(

Doug Kendall wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Fri, Oct 12 2012 11:26 AM

As a New York resident and RTC member, I have to oppose the removal of this active rail line.  Aside from the questionable revenue estimate from scrap noted by another poster, there are plenty of abandoned rail lines in New York and elsewhere that should be targeted by trail advocates before focusing on active lines.

Carol Cuddy wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Fri, Oct 12 2012 11:33 AM

What a fantastic plan!  I was brought up in Saranac Lake and every time I visit relatives there, I look for places to bicycle ride (with very little luck).  Now I live near Ellsworth, Maine, where we went through the same process to get the 85-mile DownEast Sunrise Trail built along a long-unused railroad track.  We met the same type of opposition at first, but now it has proved itself economically and is a very busy, well used trail which makes the small towns along the trail very happy.  

Phil Hayes wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Fri, Oct 12 2012 2:24 PM

I fell this will be a great boom to the entire area. Can't wait til it finished to be able to snowmobile on a good long trail.

Beth Wohlgemuth wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Fri, Oct 12 2012 4:42 PM

I would love to see this rail trail come to fruition as this is my home state and the beautiful Adirondacks were my playground growing up.  I am a rail trail biking enthusiaist and would definitely come back to the area for this biking opportunity.  This is an area that could definitely benefit economically from this.  

tom hickman wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Fri, Oct 12 2012 5:57 PM

I am all for the creation of rail trails from already abandoned railroads. It is a great use of an idle asset. However, I am not a fan of taking existing railroad corridors and ripping them up for the sake of a trail. The rails can still be used. I feel that it is the decision of the present owners of the line as to the line's future, not the domain of an outside pressure group pushing their own agenda.

Bill hunsberger wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Fri, Oct 12 2012 6:04 PM

This trail is a great idea. We just visited Lake Placid on our way to Quebec and would definitely return to enjoy this trail as part of our normal Fall vacation getaways (from Michigan). As we walked around Mirror Lake I wondered why there weren't more bike trails. I think this would be a boon to the entire area!

Kevin wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Fri, Oct 12 2012 8:27 PM

As a resident of Dutchess County, NY I see the benefits of an active rail trail in our community.

The Dutchess County Rail trail connects us with Ulster County and their Hudson Valley Rail Trail via the Walkway Over The Hudson. It is truly a happy sight to see numerous visitors continue to come to our area and enjoy using what we now have. Obviously the City of Poughkeepsie (on the Dutchess County side) is enjoying this influx of tourists. A recently opened eatery near the entrance to the Walkway comes to mind and the surrounding neighborhood seems to be reviving itself.

The addition of a rail trail in the Adirondac region would most certainly be a boon to the local economy. It brings nice people in to the area who then spend money locally.  

Dick Beamish wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Sat, Oct 13 2012 6:30 AM

The salvage value of the tracks and ties is based on the 80-mile stretch of rail corridor through the heart of the Adirondack Park,connecting Lake Placid and Old Forge. That would produce more than enough $$$ to cover the cost of surfacing the 34-mile section of rail bed connecting the Tri-Lakes communities of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake,and Tupper Lake. The Adirondack Park has thousands of miles of hiking trails and seemingly endless waterways for canoeing and kayaking. This 34-mile rail trail, eventually extending to 80 miles, would put the Adirondacks on the map as one of the premier bicycling destinations in the United States.

George Forero wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Sat, Oct 13 2012 9:23 AM

When the RTC starts advocating conversion of an active rail line (which they are doing here and in some other cases as well), then I think its time to reconsider my membership. RTC is going against the stated case for rail trails - that of preserving the right of way for potential future conversion back to a railroad corridor, if the future need arises. By promoting the taking of an active rail line, they cast doubt about their stance should such a need arise, potentially jeopradizing the use of that argument for justifying rail trails. I think NY DOT is justifiably concerned that, if they allow the partial dismemberment of the Lake Placid rail corridor, they will never be able to restore rail service to the region in the future. By RTC taking the stance that snowmobilers (and bikers) trump legitimate rail use only enforces the logic in that view.

JoAnn Glazewski wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Sat, Oct 13 2012 9:52 AM

Fantastic! I think this area has already the best road biking I'veseen. I love riding the Lowville/Croghan area, Stunning scenery on well paved , lightly traveled roads w huge shoulders. This would add to the options.

Mike Campo wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Sat, Oct 13 2012 12:41 PM

In response to Doug Kendall, a search of Adirondack Scenic Railroad ridership shows that it averages in the 40,000s annually.  This is most likely a small fraction of the number of people who would use a rail trail, bringing a commensurate increase in economic benefit to the area.

Allen Williams wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Sun, Oct 14 2012 3:14 PM

My early life was linked to this rail path.  My grandfather maintained the track, my dad and uncle worked as brakemen and conductors on the line and in the summer of 1961 I worked on the contractor crew which removed the steel and ties from the Malone to Lake Clear portion of the track.  We moved from Remsen to Saranac Lake to be close to dad's home base which meant more access to dad.  I have ridden this road many times between the 1950's to the mid 1960's.  It has many beautiful sections but none of the interesting features which have drawn me to pay for rides on RR trains in Arizona, Pennsylvania and others.  The RR as a commercial success in the Adirondacks days are over.  The lumber industry, mines and Robber Baron tourism were the reason for their early success.  The lumber industry, and mines can now better be served by trucks and the grandsons of the Robber Barons now fly to their great camps.  Hiking, Biking, and even "gasp" snow mobiles have replaced how Americans recreate today.  A bike'hike/snowmobile path is a much better use of this path and the sooner it is implemented the better off the Adirondack region will be.

Dave Luca wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Sun, Oct 14 2012 6:04 PM

As a New York resident and frequent rider and contributor of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, I have to totally disagree with RTC's position on this issue. This is an active railroad right of way not an abandoned one. The overall goal is to restore operations from Utica to Lake placid New York so one will be able to travel by rail,the most energy efficient form of transportation, and reduce auto traffic which is damaging the Adirondacks. One can now load your bikes and back packs on a train in Utica and travel to Thendara and bike and explore the Old Forge area as well as the rest of the Adirondacks. I'm not the only RTC member that supports development of abandoned lines but not active ones. By supporting this project, RTC runs the risk of loosing valuable members!

Bob Moyer wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Mon, Oct 15 2012 6:38 AM

Terrible idea.  The whole philosophy upon which Rails to Trails is based is that it will not encourage abandonment of active rail lines.  The organizations's support for this ill-founded concept could force me to rethink my support and participation.

Ira L Bray wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Mon, Oct 15 2012 11:05 AM

For my Masters' Degree at Syracuse, ESF school now, I did an economic survey of recreational use of the Adironrack Campsites and Trails.  Adding this Rail-Trail option to the area would be an awesome jolt to the economic vitality of this region, and would perhaps attract many first-time visitors.

Doug Kendall wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Mon, Oct 15 2012 1:00 PM

In response to Mike Campo:  my comments are not tied directly to actual current ridership on the ADK Scenic RR or to potential future usage numbers on a trail (although the 40,000 riders are actual while estimates of trail usage are potentially pie-in-the-sky).  What I and a significant number of other commenters object to is that RTC's philosophy has always been to urge conversion of abandoned roadbeds not destruction of existing railroads.  This project violates that principle and as others have pointed out would eliminate the possibility of future use as a rail line.  I would suggest that if trail advocates want a trail on this route, plan a trail adjacent to the rail line and coexist in peace.

Jake Lynch wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Mon, Oct 15 2012 2:08 PM

Gday Brent Newman - re: for info on the extension of the Pine Creek Trail, visit www.geneseeriverwilds.org.

Henry Marcy wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Mon, Oct 15 2012 11:57 PM

The design and development process for the proposed Adirondack Rail Trail should take into consideration the potential for multiple uses -- e.g running, walking, bicycling, skate-boarding, in-line skating, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, etc. -- and responses to that potential.  Indeed, responses should focus on specific ways of separating the different users, especially users operating at dramatically different speeds.  The famed Minuteman Trail in Bedford, Lexington and Arlington, Massachusetts is limited and dangerous primarily because zero thought went into consideration of the consequences of multiple uses.  For starters, the ART should be made -- and can be made -- quite wide.

I would also note that some have the intention of extending the ART all the way south to Old Forge.    

William Latta wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Wed, Oct 17 2012 1:03 PM

It would seam to me that the idea is good. The multi-use rail trail would bring a lot of new people to the areas that border this rail line. The thing that I would like to see is the rail line used along with the trail idea. Both could be a benefit to one another. Tourist, hikers, bicyclists could use the train to get to varies spots along the line. Visitors could ride as they are now. Couldn't the area be widened to accommodate all. Everyone wins.

Andrew wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Thu, Oct 18 2012 8:10 PM

Why trash the line? Build a path along side. That would be a win-win for every one!

Mark Lacari wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Thu, Oct 18 2012 10:00 PM

I object to this. ARTA is a bunch of crooks that just want to see the rails ripped up. Plus the adirondack scenic railroad is expanding back up there. Infact their plan of a rail and trail combo like the western maryland scenic railroad in cumberland is the plan that should be utilized. If the rails are completely ripped up, this project will become another Lamboile Vermont trail, and we all know how thats been looking lately, extremely terrible. Doug Kendall is 100% on the money with his statement "This project violates that principle and as others have pointed out would eliminate the possibility of future use as a rail line.  I would suggest that if trail advocates want a trail on this route, plan a trail adjacent to the rail line and coexist in peace." I support rails to trails stuff, but this crosses the line of the RTC Objectives.

Neil Cyclist wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Mon, Oct 22 2012 3:16 PM

Build it build it build it PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!

Anne wrote re: Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail
on Thu, Nov 1 2012 1:28 PM

My family is already looking at real estate that would be easily accessible to a future Adirondack Rail Trail - this project would create a great deal of excitement, generating tourism,jobs, investment and enhancing property values.

One alternative that has been foated is a luxury Pullman sleeper train to NYC - who are they kidding?

Do this, please. It is exactly the sort of project that is needed to reinvigorate the north country economy.

 

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