The New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Transportation (DOT) have announced the release of a draft Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor Unit Management Plan (UMP) Amendment/Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS).
The amended proposal comes after the operators of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, which ran on the line between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, successfully sued the state. They successfully argued that the State’s plan to turn the historic railroad line into a rail-trail did not comply with state historic preservation law or the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.
The decision was handed down by State Supreme Court Judge Robert Main Jr. in 2017. In December, 2018 the state Adirondack Park Agency changed the “travel corridor” definition in the State Land Master Plan to allow for the removal of the rails.
Adirondack Railway Preservation Society President Bill Branson, a vocal opponent of previous plans, was quoted in the state’s announcement: “This extraordinary investment assures the ability to extend accessible passenger rail excursion and scenic services, and their related economic development benefits, to Tupper Lake and the northern region of the Adirondacks. The Adirondack Railway Preservation Society and its large body of riders, volunteers, and supporters look forward to continued initiatives supporting the success of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad.”
The railway was mostly popularly known as the New York Central Railroad’s Adirondack Division. It was developed by William Seward Webb and opened in 1892. The Adirondack Daily Enterprise has a full report on the most recent developments and their implications. The controversy over the proposed conversion of a historic rail line to a rail trail has also been covered extensively at the Adirondack Almanack.
DEC and DOT solicited public input on a draft scoping document earlier this year to help develop the draft UMP amendment and SEIS, which will help determine the future use of the Remsen to Lake Placid Travel Corridor. The plan includes a rail-trail between Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, and Tupper Lake, which would be used by snowmobiles in the winter. The railway would be rehabilitated between Tupper Lake and Big Moose, which could open the way to resuming the connection to Utica.
DEC and DOT recently issued a Final Scope for the proposed Draft UMP Amendment/SEIS after obtaining public comment. The Draft UMP Amendment/SEIS includes Draft River Area Management Plans for the Main Branch Saranac River, Main Branch Raquette River, Middle Branch Moose River, and North Branch Moose River.
Upon final approval of the Draft UMP Amendment/SEIS, New York State can transfer jurisdiction of the segment of the travel corridor between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid from DOT to DEC and develop a multi-use recreational trail in the DEC-managed segment. The new preferred alternative in the Draft UMP Amendment/SEIS proposes:
- Transfer jurisdiction of the segment of the Travel Corridor between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid from DOT to DEC;
- Development of a multi-use recreational trail in the segment to be managed by DEC; and
- Rehabilitation of the railway between Big Moose and Tupper Lake, which will continue to be managed by DOT.
DEC and DOT are holding three public meetings to outline the proposals and receive public comment. The meetings are scheduled as follows:
Tupper Lake: Dec. 3 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Tupper Lake Middle-High School, 131 Chaney Ave, Tupper Lake, NY 12986
Lake Placid: Dec. 4 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Lake Placid Conference Center, 2608 Main St., Lake Placid, NY 12946
Old Forge: Dec. 5 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the View Arts Center, 3256 Rt 28, Old Forge, NY 13420
The Draft UMP Amendment/SEIS can be viewed and downloaded from the DEC website.
The deadline for comments is close of business Dec. 20, 2019. Comments may be provided at any of the public meetings; mailed to John Schmid, NYSDEC, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY, 12233-4254; or e-mailed to email@example.com.
Map of Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor courtesy DEC.