- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 5, 2014

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - The Glens Falls Post-Star on the proposed Adirondack Rail Trail recreation path.

Feb. 1

This is the year for New York to create in the Adirondack Park one of the country’s most stunning bikeways.

The trail, running about 80 miles from Old Forge to Saranac Lake and through some of the most gorgeous natural scenery in the nation, already exists. It is already cleared and leveled and wide enough not only for bikers in summer and for snowmobilers in winter.

The only thing needed to make this rail bed ready for recreation is to tear up the ties and rails that lie on top of the right of way. Although that sounds like a lot of work - and it is a lot of work - it carries an unexpected benefit. The salvage value of the rails is so great, the money realized from selling them will go a long way toward paying for the work of removing them.

Now is the moment for the Adirondack Rail Trail, because of growing participation in active tourism. More and more people want to do something active when they visit a place - especially a beautiful place like the Adirondack Park - and more and more of them are choosing bicycling.

Bike trails are flourishing nationwide, because they combine exercise and natural sightseeing and because biking is a moderate activity families can do together. Unlike climbing in the Adirondack High Peaks, bicycling allows for participation by people of all ages and body types.

Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates, a nonprofit organization, brought together diverse factions - snowmobilers, cross-country skiers, bikers, environmentalists, tourism promoters - to push for the trail. Communities along the rail corridor have either endorsed the project or called for the state to review its management plan to determine its best use.

Hearings were held in September, but since then state officials have kept quiet about the project.

Advocates for the trail suggested state Sen. Betty Little opposes the project, and is holding it up.

Little said she wants to weigh things carefully, would like to see a compromise between trail advocates and those who want to keep the tracks in place, but is not holding up the decision-making process.

Little said infrastructure is scarce in the Adirondacks, so removing a railway should not be done hastily.

We would agree, except the railway has been in place without being used regularly for decades. Excursion trains have been running on the southeast section of the line, between Utica and Big Moose, and on the northern end between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid.

The best compromise is to embrace the existing reality: Allow the excursion trains to continue where they are working, but take up the tracks along the 80-mile stretch from Old Forge to Saranac Lake.

This would not be a removal but a transformation of transportation infrastructure.

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