Parks & Trails New York

Saratoga Greenbelt Trail

Upper Hudson Rail Trail

This is a proposed multi-use trail that will run 87 miles between the exciting city of Saratoga Springs and the heart of the Adirondack Mountains. Development of this awesome trail requires taking advantage of a narrow window of opportunity. We need your help! Make sure you visit the Action Page. At the very least, visit our Facebook Page and click the "Like" button.

The route uses the corridor of a railroad that ceased most operations in the 1950s and 1960s. It is currently used for excursion trains to North Creek. Freight operations are sparse, conducted as far north as Tahawus. The railroad operator is a division of Chicago-based Iowa Pacific Holdings operating as Saratoga North Creek Railway. They have generated some controversy recently by announcing they would be storing 300-500 oil tank cars somewhere beyond North River, on miles of track along the Upper Hudson River.

Conversion to a trail requires a decision to cease rail operations. This may seem unlikely, but we believe it's inevitable. We are just trying to encourage a timely decision. And, after all, it just happened in the northern Adirondacks: the state has decided to end railroad operations between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid and replace it with a multi-use trail, an idea that was promoted by ARTA, an organization similar to ours.

The ownership of the corridor is divided among the Town of Corinth, Warren County, and Iowa Pacific Holdings. Each owns a different section, as indicated approximately by color on the map at left. The trail will link to the Saratoga Greenbelt Trail system.

Iowa Pacific operates the lower sections under agreement with Corinth and Warren County. The five-year agreement began in 2011 and ends on June 15, 2016. They agreed to run tourist trains, but they said profitability would depend on developing a freight business. In March, 2015, they revealed that no significant freight business had been developed, that ridership was declining, and they were losing over $1 million a year.

This is not for a lack of effort; Iowa Pacific is a world-class operator of regional railroads. But in view of these losses, most observers are no longer hopeful about restoring any sort of meaningful rail service. The oil tanker storage idea is seen as an act of desperation, and is unlikely to succeed: everyone with an interest in preserving the character of the Adirondack Park is lining up against it.

A regional marketing effort has been introduced over the past five years, the First Wilderness Corridor. It's focus is to improve tourism in the towns bordering the corridor. The railroad is the centerpiece attraction of this larger initiative. However, a survey of businesses in the corridor is revealing that no benefit is seen from the railroad except near North Creek.

The situation, then, is that the First Wilderness Corridor is a great marketing effort for the region, but the centerpiece is a weakness: Rail operations are not benefiting most businesses in the corridor. The rail operator itself is not benefiting from its operations.

We are proposing a new centerpiece attraction to the First Wilderness Corridor that addresses both concerns - a multi-use trail. We can confidently predict about ten times more visitors to the region, by considering similar trails elsewhere. Furthermore, these visitors will have greater freedom to travel when and where they like - a boon to the entire region, not just North Creek. Multi-day and return visits are likely, putting "heads in beds". Surveyed businesses greatly prefer the trail option.

Visits will occur in all seasons, too. Snowmobilers will regain 88 miles of trails that were lost when Iowa Pacific began winter operations, according to NYSSA.

Much of the investment in the First Wilderness Corridor will be preserved with the trail option. The stations will be waypoints, frequently visited, true departure points for travel elsewhere. The marketing effort will blossom to include the entire region. As a centerpiece attraction, it will have the stature of other great rail trails in the Northeast.

This is the economic argument, only half of the story. As anyone who has lived along a rail trail knows, they make communities more attractive and encourage a healthy lifestyle. Priceless. Well, there is an economic effect to this as well: property values go up, and recruiting businesses and employees to the area becomes easier. This is recognized by the Warren County EDC.

Our campaign is focused on a favorable decision by the Warren County Board of Supervisors. They must consider the future of the corridor as a new operating agreement with Iowa Pacific is negotiated, if indeed Iowa Pacific wishes to continue (currently in some doubt). The Town of Corinth's interest in their portion of the corridor is mainly over the prospects of developing the brownfield site previously used by a paper mill. The resolution of Iowa Pacific's ownership of the Tahawus section can take one of several paths.

If you've read this far, you're interested! Take one more step, and visit our Action Page.