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P.O. Box 1081, Saranac Lake, NY 12983 /                               

Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates

Frequently Asked Questions

Claim: We should continue to support tourist trains because they attract tourists and are good for business. 

The Adirondack Scenic Railroad claimed annual ridership between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake of 14,000 riders in its peak year (2010). This number pales beside the potential use of the corridor as a year-round recreational trail. From 1990, when it began running between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, the tourist train 1) provided no noticeable economic benefits and 2) prevented other recreational uses of the line. Yet it continued to receive taxpayer support based on the false premise that it stimulates business.

Claim: If we had extended the train ride from Saranac Lake to Tupper Lake, the train would achieve its potential. More people would have rides it and the regional economy would have benefited.

A 2010 study by Camoin Associates projected a 75% increase in riders by extending train service an additional 25 miles to Tupper Lake. If a ridership of 14,000 in its best year has not helped our economy, what could have been expected with more riders taking a much longer trip to Tupper Lake?

Claim: There was no assurance that a recreation trail would be more successful than the tourist train.

Wrong. A study by Stone Consulting said restoration of train service from Utica to Lake Placid would bring only 7,000 additional visitors per year.  A study by the Rails to Trails Conservancy said that a recreation trail on the corridor will bring 244,000 visitors per year.  This excludes additional winter users - another major opportunity for attracting more tourists.  The  Adirondack Rail Trail will be a major tourist destination in itself, while the tourist train is an incidental activity, something a visitor might do as a rainy-day alternative. The type of outdoor-loving recreationists attracted by the trail, the length of their stay, and their tendency to repeat the experience will spark the regional economy.  For example, 27 million Americans ride bicycles, and many families incorporate biking into their vacation plans. In the Adirondacks, Fish Creek and Rollins Pond campgrounds alone attract nearly 200,000 campers each year, most of whom bring bicycles. The campgrounds will connect easily with the railroad bed, offering campers a short bike ride to Tupper Lake or a longer (but still easy) ride to Saranac Lake.

Claim: That’s all speculation—where’s the hard evidence that rail trails are such a big deal?

The national Rails to Trails Conservancy, which has promoted the conversion of 30,000 miles of rails to trails, has plenty of evidence that rail trails attract large numbers of recreationists and stimulate local economies. For example, the Pine Creek Trail, which runs 63 miles through the “Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania” between Jersey Shore and Wellesboro, last year had 138,000 users and generated about $4 million in sales. The 32-mile Elroy-Sparta Trail in Wisconsin draws some 60,000 users who spend about $2 million a year. The Heritage Rail Trail, which runs 20 miles between York, Pennsylvania and the Maryland state line, attracts 350,000 visitors annually who leave behind $3.6 million. And so on.


What will become of economically-stressed Tupper Lake without the excursion train?

What will make Tupper a tourist destination is not an extended tourist train but a popular bikeway connecting the village to the rest of the Tri-Lakes area--along with Tupper’s emergence as a hub for snowmobilers on a greatly improved trail that links Tupper Lake with Old Forge in the south and with hundreds of miles of other snowmobile trails to the north. The extension of rail service to Tupper Lake from Utica is a folly that will waste millions of dollars of taxpayer money with environmental degradation and no hope of any economic return.


Claim: A train enables handicapped people to enjoy the beauty of the Adirondacks.

The Adirondack Rail Trail will provide those with impaired mobility a perfect pathway for enjoying the outdoors easily, safely and independently. The level trail will be well suited for electric or self-powered wheelchairs, hand-propelled bicycles, etc., and ideal for families with very young and very old members.

Claim: If the rail becomes a recreational trail, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) will mess it up.

Almost all of the 30,000 miles of rail-trails in this country prohibit the use of ATVs, as do most trails on state lands of the Adirondacks.  ARTA will press for  similar restrictions on the converted corridor.

How can we make the Adirondack Rail Trail a reality?

By making sure that public opinion and common sense will prevail. ARTA is conducting further studies and analyses of the costs and benefits of a recreational trail all the way from Lake Placid to Old Forge (Remsen); making its voice heard through reasoned debate; and taking its case to our elected representatives at every level.