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North Elba: Tear up the RR tracks

An Adirondack Scenic Railroad train pulls into the Lake Placid train station from Saranac Lake.

An Adirondack Scenic Railroad train pulls into the Lake Placid train station from Saranac Lake. Photo by Andy Flynn.

— Members of the North Elba Town Board Tuesday, Sept. 11 decided to send a strong message to the state of New York: Tear up the railroad tracks.

Although the vote was close at 3-2, all board members agreed that the town’s priority is a recreational path between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake.

“Whether the tracks are there or not, we’re building a bike path to Saranac Lake,” said Councilman Jack Favro at the board's meeting at the North Elba Town House in Saranac Lake.

“Well said,” added Councilman Jay Rand.

For months, proponents and opponents of the railroad tracks have lobbied local governments to choose a side. Town and village officials have been asked to back either the Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates (ARTA), favoring removal of the tracks from Lake Placid to Old Forge and the creation of the Great Adirondack Recreation Path, or the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society (ARPS) and its allies, favoring restoration of the tracks and rail service along the 90-mile corridor.

“It’s certainly an emotional topic,” said North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi.

Bolstered by comments from Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a recent trip to Keene, Councilman Bob Miller presented a resolution to the board that essentially said the state should remove the railroad tracks in the town of North Elba. Most of the tracks between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake — used during the summer by the ARPS-operated Adirondack Scenic Railroad for tourist excursions — are located within the town.

“My thinking is we need to tell the governor what we want,” Miller said.

When Cuomo was in Keene on Aug. 29 to deliver $640,000 for a new firehouse, an Adirondack Daily Enterprise reporter asked him about the controversial issue. The governor said the decision should come from the region, not the state, meaning the North Country Regional Economic Development Council that was formed in 2011.

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