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P.O. Box 1081, Saranac Lake, NY 12983 / info@TheARTA.org                               

Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates

ARTA was formed in 2010 to advocate for the replacement of failed tourist train service with a world-class recreational trail.

Other than a seasonal tourist train between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake that ran until 2018, the former New York Central line from Lake Placid to Remsen (Old Forge) has been unused for passenger service since 1965 and freight since 1972.

A seasonal tourist train was provided for in the 1996 Unit Management Plan as an experiment that had to prove itself through market development for the benefit of the local economies.  In addition, the operator was committed to upgrading the entire line from Lake Placid to Old Forge to Class III service (60 MPH max) at its expense. This experiment failed: ridership never exceeded 14,000 per annum, the only service was between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, and the New York Department of Transportation continues to expend massive amounts to keep the corridor open and limited train service running.  

An attempt by the Town of North Elba is to construct a parallel bike trail from Lake Placid to Saranac Lake at a cost of no less than $4.4 million also failed. A 2010 study by Camoin Associates presented data showing that a rail-trail would be the better option, but said that anything but the status quo would be an improvement.  A subsequent Rails-to-Trails Conservancy study of the 34 miles between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake said to expect 256,000 visitors and $20 million in new revenues if that section of track were removed and converted to recreational uses.  

Between 2011 and 2015 roughly 13,000 people petitioned the State asking that the corridor be converted to recreation.  The Towns of Harrietstown and North Elba, the two ends of the seasonal tourist train, petitioned the State for removal of the rails and construction of a hike/bike/ski recreational trail.  They were joined by the Town and Village of Tupper Lake, the Village of Lake Placid, the Towns of Piercefield and Colton, St. Lawrence County, and over 400 businesses.

The New York Snowmobile Association strongly supported removal of the unused rails since the corridor north of Old Forge is a key connector to Tug Hill and Montreal, as well as to the Saranac Lake/Lake Placid area.  The rails present a serious hazard to sleds when there is less than a foot of dense snow, which is increasingly the case.  They claim another $7 mm in winter-time benefits to local businesses if the rails are removed.

Multiple hearings supported the conversion of the corridor to recreation.  The result was a decision by NYSDEC and NYSDOT to convert the 34 miles between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake to recreation and allow returned rail service north to Tupper Lake from Utica.  The scenic railway people have said that they do not want to come to Tupper Lake and the recreational trail people say they want the rail-trail to connect to the Old Forge area, but the State is holding to this ‘compromise’.  A final UMP revision was released in the spring of 2020 for review by the Adirondack Park Agency, who then voted to approve the plan as being consistent with the State Land Use Management Plan.

Many corridors have been converted with great local benefits, click here for some samples.

And here are press reports on twenty rail-to-trail conversions, all with superb results.

With the added benefit that property values near trails are always higher.

See our News tab for the latest information. Please send comments to the State  if you want this to be a fair and open process based on facts!

 Adirondack Rail Trail
The trail will initially run from Lake Placid to Tupper Lake via Ray Brook, Saranac Lake, Lake Clear, and Floodwood.  A second stage will connect Tupper Lake to Old Forge.