TUPPER LAKE - The town board voted 3-2 to ask the state to open up the unit management plan for the Adirondack Scenic Railroad corridor.
Town Supervisor Roger Amell, who generally only votes in the case of a rare tie, cast the deciding vote. He asked the few townspeople in the audience at the meeting how to vote before making his final decision.
Two members of the Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates, who requested the resolution be put before the board, and two members of the Tupper Lake Snowmobile Club - the only members of the public besides the press to attend the meeting - encouraged Amell to vote in favor of the resolution.
Town Councilwoman Kathy Lefebvre and Councilman David Tomberlin have both been ardent supporters of the railroad, and they have both been integral to the local group Next Stop Tupper Lake, which is pushing to renovate the rails while building a recreational trail next to it.
A few years ago, the group raised enough money, volunteer labor and materials to build a replica of the old train depot that the entire Junction neighborhood of Tupper Lake grew up around, on the site of the original. The group is now fundraising and seeking ways to rehabilitate the current tracks and build a trail next to them.
Lefebvre and Tomberlin voted against the resolution, as have many other rail supporters. Tomberlin argued against opening up the UMP, saying that the board doesn't have all the information it needs.
He noted that Next Stop is hosting an event in two weeks, at which the group plans to have representatives from the state departments of Transportation and Environmental Conservation, the Adirondack Park Agency and other involved agencies, as well as shop owners from Saranac Lake. He encouraged his fellow board members to attend that and to postpone voting on that resolution until after it.
But Councilwoman Patti Littlefield said the current UMP has expired and it's time to look at it again.
She said her vote was not in favor of keeping or replacing the railroad; it's just good management practice to take a look that something that hasn't been formally examined in years and that expired almost a decade ago.
"This UMP isn't about whether anyone likes or dislikes the railroad," Littlefield said.
"What are you afraid of?" asked Hope Frenette, one of the ARTA members who asked the resolution go before the board.
Tomberlin said the DOT has said they won't change the corridor's use, so he doesn't see the point of spending the time with the UMP.
Littlefield said many of the people involved in the public debate over the corridor have said the state holds one position or another, but the final decision is up to them. Therefore, she said they should go through their process of public hearings and gathering input from all the parties involved.
"It would be nice to know where they stand officially on it in writing," Littlefield said. "We are all just guessing."
After he cast his vote, Amell said he doesn't think reviewing the UMP will hurt Next Stop's programs. He said he hopes more towns and villages will get on board with the request and the state follows through.
The Saranac Lake village board has voted in favor of reopening the UMP, and on Thursday, the Piercefield town board joined the boards of the town of North Elba and the village of Lake Placid in calling for the tracks to be replaced with a recreational trail. All those votes were 3-2 except Saranac Lake's, which was 3-0.
"We need to focus on economic development," Littlefield said.
After the vote, Lefebvre said, "I think we're going to be OK."
Contact Jessica Collier at 891-2600 ext. 26 or firstname.lastname@example.org.