Planning for a 34-mile recreation trail between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake is going forward despite a lawsuit by the railroad company that currently runs a tourist train on part of the route.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation has released a conceptual plan for the trail, which would be built on the northern-most section of a late-19th-century rail line that runs from Utica to Lake Placid.
"The Draft Adirondack Rail Trail Conceptual Plan is an important step in developing a unique, world-class outdoor recreation trail like no other in the Adirondacks, New York state or the nation," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a statement.
The state's vision is for a trail, much of it through state Forest Preserve lands, that would be open to walking, hiking and bicycling, and skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling in the winter.
DEC Region 5 Director Robert Stegemann said planning can go forward in the face of the lawsuit because no work would be done on the tracks. "We ultimately believe we will be successful," he said of the court case.
The Adirondack Railway Preservation Society, which runs tourist trains from Lake Placid and Old Forge, has sued the DEC, state Department of Transportation and the Adirondack Park Agency over the plans, which all three state agencies have approved. Acting state Supreme Court Robert G. Main Jr. of Malone is weighing the case, and has said no work to remove tracks can be done until the case is decided. The case is being heard in Franklin County.
In addition to taking up the tracks between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake, the state plan calls for rehabilitating the tracks between Utica and Tupper Lake, most of which has been unused for decades.
The draft conceptual recreation trail plan includes design recommendations, such as that the recreation path be 10 feet wide, built of stone dust, with minimum 2.5-foot shoulders. The trail would comply with handicapped-access requirements "to the maximum extent possible."
Leaders in municipalities along the route generally support the plan, and municipal hearings are planned for next week to take input on the design: May 1 and May 2 at 5:30 p.m. at the Saranac Lake Free Library; May 3 at 6 p.m. at the Goff-Nelson Memorial Library in Tupper Lake; and May 4 at 6 p.m. at the North Elba Town Hall in Lake Placid.
In addition, DEC will hold public meetings on the plan at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 9, at the Tupper Lake Emergency Services Building and Wednesday, May 10 at 6 p.m. at DEC regional headquarters in Ray Brook.
Written comments will be taken until June 2 at [email protected].