Trail Coordinator Report

Heavy Snows

Over the past couple of weeks the weather went from “summer-like” with high temperatures in the 70’s for a good portion of Upstate NY, to winter making its return in a big way!  Heavy snows, especially in the eastern portion of NY put an incredible amount of strain on some clubs there to get out to open trails.  Dealing with their own personal life issues such as family, jobs, digging out their own homes & businesses, making sure their farm livestock (in many cases) were attended to as required, removing the heavy, wet snow from their own home and/or barn roofs, and then anything else that pops up in a severe weather event like the one gave them on March 2nd.  All of these important items had to be attended to before the club volunteers could even think about taking care of the trails.  And then when they got that opportunity, what did they find?  Trees or large limbs were down EVERYWHERE, sign stakes that were standing in unfrozen wet ground were knocked down from the winds and the snow banks to get to the trails were pretty big.

 My point here is that there were some complaints that came in over the day’s right after the storm wondering why the trails weren’t opened yet.  In most of those calls that I received, the callers didn’t really think about everything else that was involved which may have left some club volunteers from getting out to open back up in the timeframe that the clubs themselves even wished could occur.  Most of the callers had a better understanding of the issues surrounding the situation, and the clubs then stepped up to take care of their trails so everyone (including the volunteers who sign, build, and groom the trails) could get out to ride.  Many times, callers complaining about clubs don’t truly understand the plight of the club volunteers.  I see social media posts pointing to the clubs’ volunteers exclaiming that “getting the trails in shape right away is what the club gets paid for” or suggesting “that’s your JOB, isn’t it?”..  THAT IS UTTERLY LAUGHABLE!  Club volunteers have lives outside of their clubs, and others who may not help at all should really start looking deep down to comprehend that, respect that, and step up to volunteer themselves.  It would truly give most a different perspective on what is really the situation with the trail system here in NYS.

Saying all of that,...yes, at times there are legitimate signage complaints about clubs that are then followed up on utilizing the NYSSA Safe Trails Education Program processes.  I don’t wish to discourage anyone from contacting NYSSA with a trail complaint if trails aren’t signed properly, because that’s what STEP is all about.  And all signing complaints are taken seriously and inspections are set to check into the complaint.  Trail rides are also undertaken by me or other certified advisers, which more often than not proves that the signs are up and that the clubs generally understand the signing handbook guidelines.  Many times, a few missing signs or incorrect signage is identified and passed onto the clubs to take care of themselves.  Most clubs are accepting of the findings and get right out to correct their oversights.  No club WANTS to have unsafe trails, in my experience speaking to most of the 231 clubs who are responsible for trail maintenance.

Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor UMP multi-use plan

The lawsuit from the railroad vendor against the NYS DEC, DOT, and APA was a major news item this past fall, and is ongoing in that the State is appealing the Judge’s ruling against the State’s Unit Management Plan (UMP) to transform the northernmost section of the Travel Corridor into a Multi-use Rail-Trail between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid, where snowmobiles will continue to be allowed.  One of the 3 major points that the Judge made in ruling against the State was his interpretation of the term “Travel Corridor”, with the others being the Corridor’s historic preservation designation and 2 sections that were not yet owned by the State.  In perfecting their appeal of the Judge’s ruling, the State is undertaking initiatives to correct and/or to clarify the issues brought forth.  Steps to secure full ownership of those sections not yet owned by the State, obtain Parks’ approval to keep the Corridor’s historic designation for the design of the old railroad corridor, and to update the State’s definition of a Travel Corridor are all well underway.

Recently, the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) presented within their monthly meeting agenda and subsequent vote to approve a clarification of the term “Travel Corridor definition” within the Adirondack State Land Master Plan (ASLMP).  The clarification amendment provides that a travel corridor is not just a railroad corridor and that rail-trail conversions as well as snowmobile use is acceptable.  There will be 3 public meetings on this ASLMP amendment as well as a call for letters of support.  Watch for this important CALL FOR ACTION email alert from NYSSA that will give all of the particulars as well as the process to submit user-group comments.  This new amendment includes a few alternatives which the State could undertake, with the favored alternative for the snowmobile community to include “redeveloping a segment of the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor or any newly acquired rail corridors with existing rails into rail trails. Use of portions of the Remsen-Lake Placid Corridor for travel and recreational uses, including rail and snowmobiling, has existed since the corridor was classified. However, the lack of clarity within the definition and guidelines for management and use, specifically for the Remsen-Lake Placid Corridor, prevented the removal of any segment of the rails”.  This alternative would also mean that a proposed plan for the State to secure ownership of a railroad in Essex County which connects to Warren and Saratoga Counties would also meet the definition of a rail-trail conversion, giving 88 + miles back to the system in those counties which were lost when the scenic train there started up back in 2011.  Stay tuned for more info in the form of an email from NYSSA.