Letter to the Editor

To the editor:

My name is Don Chaudruc, I am the road foreman for the Adirondack Scenic Railroad as well as, what I consider to be, a hard core snowmobiler and outdoor enthusiast. The President of the railroad, Bill Branson has been telling our group for some time now, to take the high road and don’t get involved with rail to trail debates with ARTA as it’s not our railroad, its New York State’s.

Unfortunately I’ve had about enough of ARTA misleading the good people of the Adirondack Park with false information. When they need a public voice, they make up “facts and figures” week to week to fit their agenda. I think everyone is entitled to have their own opinion on any matter, and that is one of the many great gifts of America. But at least have the facts on whatever subject you’re discussing, not a bunch of rubbish.

I have to get the facts out for people to know and understand. ARTA has claimed (in writing) that the Adirondack Railroad hauls roughly 14,000 people a year. That is so far from the truth it’s hard to believe they would write such a thing. The railroad hauled over 70,000 people in 2012. I don’t believe there is a retail business in Old Forge that can say they don’t see people wearing yellow RR stickers during the operating season. Fact: the railroad brought over 10,000 people to the town of Old Forge alone this past year. This figure does not include all of the regular daily riders, canoe/kayak trains with Tickner’s or the mountain bike/hiker trains to Carter Station. These are people that were transported from Utica by train or came for a special event like the Railfan weekend. Most people board the train in Utica at 9 a.m. and arrive in Thendara about 11:30 a.m. I believe all the retail shops prosper from the visits of our riders. And it’s safe to say that 100 percent of our riders need to eat while in town as we sell no food on the train. Hmmm…that would be 10,000 plus lunches.

ARTA tells you what they think they could do one day. Well, the railroad is already doing it and not wasting time with self-serving misinformation.

ARTA would have us all believe and have put in print their so called numbers. On page 54 of their Economic Impact Study, the average number of trail users is 354,000 per year. Let’s break that down. I’m going to put my own estimate in this part: let’s say 250 sleds a day use the corridor all 113 days (Snodeo to April 1) without missing one. We all know between rain, lack of snow, slow time during the week, this is a high number. So 28,250 sleds used the corridor (lets also remember the snowmobilers are using it already and have been for decades). So now let’s subtract the sleds from the 354,000 visitors. Now we have 325,750 users and are in April. Even ARTA’s trail of make believe, as I like to call it, has wash outs from the beavers, mud, mosquitos and black flies in April and May (remember you’re in thousands of acres of wetlands). Now as any resident of the park knows, after Columbus Day it’s a ghost town until the snow comes. But let’s give ARTA the benefit of the doubt and say the same 250 people a day use the trail in the off season (106 days) everyday in the rain with the black flies, in the mud, during hunting season. That’s another 26,500 people that are visiting the trail. Any sensible person knows this could never happen.

But let’s say for the sake of argument that it did. That leaves us still with 299,250 visitors. Now the prime season from June 1 to Columbus Day is 137 days and let’s say it only rains 20 percent of the time (27 days out of 137). That would mean ARTA is suggesting that in the 110 prime days of summer, 2,720 NEW people would use the corridor every single day. That includes 109,000 locals as per their plan on page 54. According to the 2011 Adirondack Park Agency statistics from April 2010, there are 130,137 residents in the entirety of the Adirondack Park. ARTA is saying and printing that 109,000 local residents will visit the trail. This makes no sense whatsoever and is, in fact, impossible. Please note that this is their “average” estimate. How many people do you see on the Tobie trail on a nice day? 30? ARTA’s high estimate is printed at 800,000 with locals at 278,000 (how could 278,000 locals use the trail if there are only 137,000 in the park)?

In their own pictures, trail width is quite clear. Fact: the corridor would have to be made 4 to 6 feet wider for their world class trail. Can you imagine trying to do this in “The Bob”? The environmental cost of this would likely destroy their plan right there. So why don’t they talk about that? Perhaps the numbers really don’t work after all? Any of them.

ARTA is advising people of the 10,000 signatures that they have collected. I can’t give that any credit at all as I’m sure all 10,000 were only given ARTA’s version of things and not the facts. I have been in the Norridgewock in snowmobile season and have personally seen ARTA’s leaders offering discounted drinks to those who sign their petitions. Fair play? I think not.

Let’s talk about railroad rider ship. Fact: the railroad carried 70,777 passengers in 2012 vs. the 10,000 riders ARTA has been broadcasting that the railroad carried. More misleading information. In truth, 70,000 plus people signed the petition to keep the railroad by taking hard earned money out of their pockets and paying to ride the train in 2012, not just signing a name on a piece of paper.

ARTA also has printed on their website that the Town of North Elba wants to rip up the tracks, yet as recently as last month the town is saying just the opposite. On Dec. 12 2012 the Adirondack Daily Enterprise wrote an article “Town of North Elba Recommits to Trail Beside Rails”. Rails AND Trails, not rip up the track. This is just another example of how ARTA writes whatever they want in an attempt to make their point. But why print the truth?

I think I got ahead of myself here, let’s go to what could be the real problem for all of us here.

Let’s look at the NYS Official Remsen to Lake Placid Corridor Plan, on page 134 it reads to the letter.

“Dismantle the Corridor”

“The `travel corridor’ classification of the Remsen-Lake Placid Corridor would be rescinded. Corridor lands would either be sold or State agency jurisdiction over them would be transferred.

After consideration and action by APA, OPRHP and SEQR, the rails, ties and other structures within the Corridor would be removed, though the possibility of preserving one or more of the existing historically important station buildings would remain. Those Corridor segments which adjoin private lands and are deemed inessential to resource protection or public use needs would be sold. Jurisdiction over those segments which adjoin or otherwise complement existing Forest Preserve lands would be transferred to DEC. The action could be accomplished within five years.”

This is clear and provided in black and white: “rescinded" and transferred. Most of the corridor would become Forest Preserve/Forever Wild and that means no sleds or motorized vehicles (As Dick Bird pointed out in a recent letter to the editor). This concerns me as a hardcore snowmobiler.

I have heard that one of the biggest complaints people have about the railroad is it never gets finished. We started with four miles and are now up to 80 or more with 60 left to go. That’s not all that bad for a volunteer, not-for-profit organization.

But, as the honest person I am, I would have to agree to the extent that is isn’t finished. How do you think the hundreds of volunteers like myself feel? No one wants it finished more than us. The State of New York (owners of the rail corridor) told the Board of Directors of the Railroad in 2001 the railroad would be complete within five years. This upsets us as well as you, but no one, including the State of New York, could have seen the events of 9-11, the crash of the economy and so on, coming down the pike. We need to stay the course and the State of New York needs to finish the railroad. In doing so, the economies of all the towns along the railroad would benefit as it clearly as does Old Forge.

The railroad would carry hikers, mountain bikers, fisherman, and outdoor enthusiast like myself and drop them anywhere they wanted along the route. And let’s not forget all the elderly and physically challenged who could only see the heart of this 6 million acre treasure by rail.

But ARTA would have you believe hikers are going to walk the 36 miles from Tupper Lake to Beaver River for their first chance to buy a bottle of water along the route. Not likely.

The railroad is a main artery in the tourism of the region. To even think of destroying it is clearly not in our best interest. Could Lake Placid ever have another triumphant day in history like the 1980 Olympics without the mass transit of the railroad? Not a chance. Think about our future and the future of younger generations. We all need the economic stability the railroad could provide, and please remember this great park in the Adirondack Mountains already has thousands of miles of snowmobile and hiking trails. We only have one railroad; let’s make it all it can be for our future and the people that will follow.

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