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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / Adirondack Park Agency amends definitions to include trails in travel corridors NEWSWIRE

Adirondack Park Agency amends definitions to include trails in travel corridors NEWSWIRE

By Dan Kittay | December 17, 2018

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SARANAC LAKE, N.Y. — While New York State came one step closer Friday to achieving its goal of removing some of the tracks used by the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, there are hurdles remaining before any such plan could be implemented.

“It was not a surprise. It doesn’t mean anything yet,” says Bill Branson, board president of the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society Inc., which operates the railroad. The 2017 legal decision by Judge Robert Main Jr., which halted the state’s 2016 plan to remove the tracks and create a rail trail, cited the state’s definition of rail corridor as inconsistent with the plan. While Friday’s action amended the definition, Branson notes that the decision also cited issues with whether the state had title to all of the land in question.

In addition to some properties around Saranac Lake, “it appears there are questions about land ownership in Lake Clear, among other places, and not just a few of those. They need to clear up the title issues,” Branson says.

The judge had also noted issues of historical preservation, which will need to be addressed by the state, he adds.

“They’ve got a lot of things to do before they can touch anything,” Bramson says.

The Adirondack Park Agency board voted unanimously to amend the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, which governs the state-owned tracks that the railroad leases for its operations. The amendments included the addition of a rail trail to the definition of rail corridor. The amendments also changed the definition of the entire 119-mile Remsen-Lake Placid Corridor from “… a series of linear, State-owned parcels…” to land that “… includes state-owned parcels, and parcels to be acquired by the State within the corridor…”

Branson says that some of the titles of privately owned property along the route contain provisions saying that if there are no railroad tracks on the land, the easement granted to the state for the railroad no longer exists.

“If what we’re being told is true, it’s going to be very costly and take a lot of time to negotiate with all these owners, assuming they’re even willing to sell.”

Some of the tracks go through areas near private beaches, and wilderness plots near large estates.

Other parts of the amendments govern which types of recreational uses, including powered vehicles, would be allowed in an area where tracks do not exist.

While the amendments do not require that tracks be removed, they potentially give new life to the state’s plans. Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a news release that the new language will allow the state “to improve and enhance these critical travel corridors to accommodate and support increased recreational use…”

At the board’s State Land Committee meeting on Thursday, board member William Thomas had asked a number of questions about the proposed amendments, and the potential economic impact of removing the tracks. Prior to the full board meeting on Friday, Thomas says his concerns had been addressed by an Adirondack agency staff presentation, although he notes that “once the tracks are removed, they are never coming back.”

The degree of emotion expressed in the public comments received by the agency prior to the meeting shows that railroads are important to a lot of people, and made the decision “difficult,” he says. Thomas voted for the proposal.

The amendments are expected to be sent to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in early January, says agency representative Keith McKeever. Cuomo and other state officials will decide whether to restart the process of getting the rail trail conversion approved.

“As long as they do whatever they’re doing lawfully, then fine. We called them out the first time around because what they did was unlawful. And we were right. Whatever it is they choose to do, we assume they will do a better job this time than they did the first time,” says Branson.

5 thoughts on “Adirondack Park Agency amends definitions to include trails in travel corridors NEWSWIRE

  1. Typical, The State loses their argument to rip up the rails, only to change the rules to make it more favorable for them. A sad state of affairs. Rails, once gone, very rarely come back.

  2. While it might seem that this amendment is just a capricious “changing of the rules”, this amendment is really just belatedly doing what the 1996 plan that currently governs use of the Corridor said should be done. Page 53 of the 1996 Unit Management Plan (UMP) states, “The travel corridor description should be amended to more clearly reflect the recreational theme of the management that would be pursued on the Corridor if rail operations fail to materialize.”

    As for the land ownership issues in Lake Clear as cited by Mr. Branson, I have looked at the deeds to those properties. While the deed conveying title to a piece of property is probably the most important legal document held by many individuals, those deeds are often seriously out of date in their references. Some of the deeds still refer to the “…right-of-way of the Adirondack and St. Lawrence Railroad.” Others at least reference “New York Central”, and some are even up-to-date enough to say “Penn Central”. Properties that extend from the highway to the shore of the lake are described as two separate parcels. One parcel is described from the road to the south bounds of the railroad right-of-way. The other is described from the north bounds of the railroad right-of-way o the lake shore. Yes, the deeds do say “right-of-way”, but that in itself doesn’t imply that the owner the property has any residual rights to the strip of land that divides the two parcels. The property that the NYSDOT must acquire belongs to North Country Community College, (a state school) so this is just a transfer from one state agency to another.

    As for the historic register issue, the state historic preservation entity, Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) has already signed off on the initial historic mitigation plan – OPRHP just did it after the 2016 plan was advanced. The judge thought this should have happened before. Since then, the DEC and the Office of General Services have hired a consultant specializing in historical interpretation. That consultant has inventoried dozens of historical elements that could be interpreted. The only question will be how many initially, and how many later as experience and additional (probably private) funding dictate.

  3. So good to see Tony/James Goodwin jump right in with a comment when this gets published online. For those of you keeping track, remember that he is one of the board members of the group trying to get the tracks torn out.

    Notice I didn’t say *what* tracks. It’s funny, because over the last few years, each and every one of the ARTA (their umbrella group) board members has been quoted as both telling the rail advocates that they should “accept the compromise” that was shot down by the NY State courts, and also that the rails should come out from Lake Placid to any given location from Tupper Lake to Big Moose to Thendara to Remsen. Each and every one of the board members in question have their own agenda, and the only common denominator is to have the rails removed. They’ll say one thing, and then down the road they’ll change it around or say something different entirely.

    Tony is a trail advocate who has been fighting for *years* to fight for Adirondack trails. Want to know more? Click here:

    http://lakeplacidnews.com/page/content.detail/id/523124/UP-CLOSE–Keene-s-Tony-Goodwin-a-force-of-nature.html?nav=5005

    Tony shares ARTA board member status with Snowmobile advocates who want the entire Remsen to Lake Placid corridor for their very own racetrack. As stated above, the common bond between them is to have the rails removed, but once that happens, does anyone *really* think that they will be cooperating with each other? Highly doubtful.

    As for Tony and his fellow ARTA board members, he has been quoted as saying that he doesn’t speak for his fellow board members when each is publicly calling out for XXX-to-YYY section of the line to be torn up. How’s that for an organization? Good to see that they’re all on the same page, right?

    The bottom line…take anything that he posts in these comments with a grain of salt. He has posted false and inaccurate information in the last few years in thie whole soap opera and has been debunked plenty of times, yet continues to come back and repeat the process. Just Google for old News-Wire articles on this very website with his name and read the comments. Also checkout the various postings he spread allover the railroad.net boards, only to finally be banned from there.

    He has crowed in the past about his “50 year subscription to Trains Magazine”, and will claim that he’s out for historic interpretation, but yet he’s totally fine with the eviction of a working railroad company (the Adirondack Scenic) and the proposed destruction of a *working* historical asset. One day, maybe that will make sense, but I doubt it.

  4. Chip, thanks for the link to the LP News article, but I don’t see how that is relevant to this debate.

    I am still waiting for you or some other rail supporter to specify precisely what “false and Inaccurate” information I have supposedly posted. Okay, I was wrong on one letter regarding historic speeds of trains on the NYC from Utica to Lake Placid, and I quickly offered a correction that the newspaper published. However, the faster ones were only seasonal trains and then just for a few years, while most took a full six hours – the same time stated in the proposed timetable in the ASR’s business plan.

    You and others try to claim that, once the tracks are gone, the environmentalists on the ARTA board will try to get the line classified as “wilderness” and stop nearly all use -train or snowmobile. You have no evidence to support this claim; and I can say that over half of the ARTA board are snowmobilers who would never make any effort to end the “travel corridor” classification that was just amended to make it clear that recreational motorized vehicle use is permissible should the track be removed.

    While ARTA is perhaps a somewhat loose coalition that has never had some authority approving every Facebook post, from the very beginning ARTA has always officially said that the ASR should be able to continue running their seemingly successful tourist runs on what is one of the longest tourist runs in the country. Extending to Lake Placid, however, becomes “transportation” not “scenic tourism” and that just won’t ever be a sustainable service. Evidence for that claim: a shorter run from a larger market couldn’t sustain the Saratoga North Creek operation.

  5. Stop playing the “I’m so innocent” card, Tony. You have been given full rundowns of all of the tripe you have spread, complete with corresponding links. You may love hitting the same inaccurate bullet points every single time, but I’ve got better things to do than to play your game. Go back to the other times you’ve commented on these Newswire articles and find what you’re claiming you’ve never seen.

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