New York agency may change rules to allow rail trail on Adirondack right-of-way

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An Adirondack Scenic Railroad locomotive and train.
Alex Mayes
RAY BROOK, N.Y. — The long-standing rail trail battle in upstate New York over a proposal to tear up 34 miles of Adirondack Scenic Railroad track will heat up on Thursday, as the state agency that oversees the land prepares to adopt language making it easier to remove the tracks.

The state-owned land that the railroad operates on is designated as a travel corridor, defined by the state as a highway or a railroad corridor. The Adirondack Park Agency's State Land Committee is scheduled to debate a proposal that would expand the definition of rail corridor to include a rail trail, instead of the current definition of a railroad only. Both would be allowed under the amended definition.

At issue are 34 miles of rail that run from Tupper Lake to Lake Placid, N.Y.

New York state had proposed in 2016 to remove the tracks to create a rail trail. The Adirondack Scenic Railroad, which operates the entire Remsen-Lake Placid line on a permit from the state, sued the state. Judge Robert Main Jr. ruled in 2017 against the state, in part because of the rail corridor definition contained in the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, which governs use of the park

The proposed new definition of rail corridor reads "A railroad corridor is the fee, easement, or right-of-way lands that include the Remsen-Lake Placid railbed or any future acquisition that may be considered for classification as a travel corridor, existing (1) for the operation of rail cars, and/or (2) to serve as a rail trail." The full proposal is posted on the agency website.

If the committee approves the proposal, the full agency will consider it on Friday.

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