North Elba won't pursue side-by-side rail trail

As the debate over the rail corridor in the Tri-Lakes continues, one municipality is backing off a plan to construct a recreational path alongside the train tracks between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake.

The town of North Elba has learned that it cannot consolidate a pair of federal grants in order to complete phase one of the project, which would construct a bike path from Lake Placid to Ray Brook.

The town's plans were popular among local cyclists, but some opponents of the rail corridor wanted officials to wait for the future of the tracks to become clearer.

Speaking Tuesday, Tony Goodwin of Keene told officials from the town of North Elba they should delay plans to use federal funding to construct the bike path.

"Because the grant money will go a whole lot further in terms of producing a real community recreation trail once we get the rails removed," he said. "We really believe that in this climate and with the recent decline of ridership here and other problems, that pressure we're working on putting on the DOT will, at some point in the fairly near future, get the decision that the rails will be removed."

Goodwin says there's no guarantee that the state Department of Transportation will authorize removal of the rails, but he feels strongly that the economic climate in New York will eventually put an end to what he calls recreational train riding.

In making his case to the board, Goodwin was joined by an old foe - Lake Placid resident Jim McCulley. The two have sparred in the past over things like motorized access to the Jackrabbit Trail, but this time, they were on the same page.

McCulley came to the meeting armed with a box of tax returns which he says show the Adirondack Scenic Railroad being subsidized between $300,000 and $600,000 annually.

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