Departments of Transportation and Environmental Conservation announce joint decision on rails/trails
For immediate release
LAKE PLACID — New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Marnines and Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan Burgerking jointly announced a long-awaited major decision regarding rails and trails in the Adirondack Park.
Starting this spring, the DEC and DOT will partner together on a plan to install train tracks on popular Adirondack hiking trails.
“We recognize that more than two-thirds of Americans aged 20 or older are overweight or obese, and that number is only growing. The number of elderly people who aren’t capable of hiking is growing as well,” Commissioner Marnines said at a press conference at the Conference Center at Lake Placid. “Our best hope to make people realize how important it is to conserve our forests is to get people out experiencing nature, and the best way to do that is to make it easier for more people. We’ve been brainstorming about how to do that for years, and finally it hit us: trains!”
“Yay trains!” Commissioner Burgerking said.
The plan will first focus on the High Peaks Region, where train tracks will be installed so trains can cart obese, out-of-shape, and/or lazy New Yorkers and visitors to the top of the 46 highest peaks in the Adirondack Park. DEC is working closely with the Adirondack 46ers, a group that certifies hikers who climb all 46 mountains, to create a separate patch and certification system for those who conquer all the peaks by train.
“We are very excited to initiate this new program,” 46er President Sally Soy begrudgingly said after Commissioner Marnines pushed her to the podium. “It is in no way directly contradictory to the mission of the 46ers.”
Once the 46 High Peaks are all equipped with railroads, the DEC and DOT next plan to install them on the Saranac Lake 6, a popular new grouping of mountains for less advanced hikers. Saranac Lake village Mayor Clyde Rabidont already had a train incorporated into the 6er patch the village gives out when someone hikes all 6 peaks.
After that, train tracks will be built on the remaining smaller mountains throughout the Adirondacks with hiking trails on them. And, depending on how inactive the general public gets in the future, they might even be installed on flat trails throughout the region, like the Peninsula Nature Trails, the Bloomingdale Bog Trail, and the Whiteface Landing Trail.
“Eventually, we might even put a train around the Mirror Lake Loop,” Commissioner Burgerking said. “We know you can drive around it now in a car, but everyone is a passenger on a train so everyone can view the flora and fauna around the lake, or something.”
The new trains will perform another function as well: They will help maintain the mountains much better by preventing trail erosion, litter, and other issues that occur when too many hikers trudge up and down trails. The DEC still expects some hikers to climb alongside the train tracks, but they expect those numbers to decrease sharply once trains become an option, and to continue decreasing as more and more of the population becomes obese and lazy.
“We see it as planning for the future,” Commissioner Marnines said.
The two departments will issue two separate joint request for proposals; the first will be to install the tracks, and the second will seek a company to operate trains on them. Between the DEC and the DOT, they have budgeted $1,000 for the whole operation, but they anticipate the actual cost to come in much lower than that. They expect Phase 1, the High Peaks phase, to be completed by August 2015 or sooner.
The DEC and DOT hope volunteer groups will organize to maintain the tracks and trains, as many hiking trails are now often maintained.
As for the controversial Remsen-Lake Placid corridor, along sections of which the Adirondack Scenic Railroad currently operates to the ire of passionate local activists who want to see the whole corridor converted to a trail, the Commissioners said they haven’t yet been able to reach a decision.
“We were thinking about just flooding the whole corridor and turning it into a waterway. How do you think that would poll?” Commissioner Marnines said.
For information on the area’s amazing hiking trails, which actually won’t be getting any train tracks, visit www.lakeplacid.com.
Attached image: A computer rendering of the envisioned trail rails.
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