Parks & Trails New York

Saratoga Greenbelt Trail

First Wilderness Corridor

This is a region designated by the New York Department of State. The designation is defined by a plan you can find on its website. You might see that the stated motivation seems backwards - increase the vitality of the region in order to enhance the viability of the railroad business. Here, we suggest the motivation should be the opposite, which makes a lot more sense.


We're framing the discussion about ending the train operations as a way to save the First Wilderness Corridor. The FWC is a great concept, a great way to promote this special region of the country. It has slick brochures, a nice website, and has made other investments in marketing. It is also a vehicle to apply for grant money to make improvements in the neighboring towns. We like that its focus is not limited to just areas within walking distance from the rail stations.

The Corridor has a weakness, however. The centerpiece attraction - the railroad - is losing money. It's future is in doubt. It has even brought controversy to the county with a proposal to store oil tank cars up the tracks. This is horrible P.R. for a tourist destination. (We don't think it's going to happen - a mountain of opposition is building.)

Worse, the railroad doesn't seem capable of boosting business at any distance from the stations. From what we've learned from business owners, it doesn't. Even businesses right at stations are not benefiting, since the train only stops in North Creek. The North End Local is not getting significant ridership.

But of course, we bring good news! The railroad can be replaced by a rail trail. Very good news: a rail trail will bring more people to the corridor. Trail users have more flexibility to go where they want, when they want; they will have an affect all along the corridor and in neighboring towns. It will take days to fully explore a trail of this length: heads in beds, as they say in the tourism biz.

And here is a magic word that always gets the attention of local governments: snowmobiling. The train cost snowmobilers 88 miles of trails, including connecting trails. It cost Thurman their connection to Warrensburg, for example.

We presented the case for a new centerpiece attraction for the First Wilderness Corridor to the Warren County Board of Supervisors on September 18, 2015. We intended it as just an introduction, but we seemed to connect well with their thinking about the precarious state of the corridor.

The southern 14 miles of the rail corridor is owned by the Town of Corinth. Their interest is different than Warren County's. The railway was used until 2003 by the International Paper mill, when it ceased operations. It was later demolished and is currently a large brownfield site. Corinth is seeking an industrial buyer, for whom railroad transportation may be required. Our view is that upstate New York has a large supply of such sites, so it might be a very long wait; it's already been over ten years. Corinth ought to allow interim use as a trail.