UTICA —”This has never been easy for the railroad or its supporters,” said Bethan Maher at a Friday afternoon rally in support of preserving the entire length of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad.
The group behind the rally, the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society — of which Maher is executive director — is challenging the state’s plan to remove a 34-mile stretch of the railroad between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid and replace it with a recreational trail.
At issue is communities along the line, such as Utica, which want to preserve the line as an infrastructure and tourism boon. Supporters hope to see trails co-exist with the railroad. There currently is a legal challenge working its way through state Supreme Court against the state’s decision.
“We are invested so heavily in this,” County Executive Anthony Picente said of tourism development around the rail line and the ability to find ways for trails and rails to co-exist. “It’s not about dissing the snowmobilers (who would be able to use the state’s proposed 34-mile recreational trail). There are other ways to cross the state.”
State Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica, said at Friday’s rally that “officials in Albany lost their train of thought when they decided to rip up the tracks. We should be building up our rail infrastructure. … We need to send a message to Albany that this is an ill-conceived plan and it will not stand.”
On a final note at the rally, Mark Mojave, owner of Gerber’s Tavern in Bagg’s Square West in Utica, pointed out to the crowd: “Johnny Cash never sang about a rail trail.”