A trail to better life, health
By Robin Dropkin, Commentary
Friday, January 30, 2015
New York has an opportunity to create a multi-use trail through the Adirondacks that would
be a wonderful addition to the constellation of upstate multi-use trails, including the Erie
Canalway Trail that connects Albany with Buffalo.
The state should amend its 1996 management plan for the 119-mile Remsen-Lake Placid Travel
Corridor to allow for the establishment of a year-round Adirondack Recreational Trail between
Lake Placid and Tupper Lake. After further evaluation, the trail could be extended from Tupper
Lake to Old Forge, thereby traversing much of the Adirondack Park.
This kind of recreational amenity has gained wide popularity in the United States during the
past 30 years. The benefits include improving individual mental and physical health,
stimulating tourism, bolstering local economies, and enhancing the quality of life for both
residents and visitors.
The Adirondack corridor also offers a way to tell the inspiring story of the Adirondack Park
during the past 150 years. This rich history includes the role of the railroads, lumbering, health
care, tourism and conservation in making this region unique in our country.
The bicycling experience alone will have great tourism appeal for both the recreational cyclist
and the long-distance adventurer. There are few bike trails that can transport users to a variety
of mountain, lake and forest environments with a wilderness feel.
Bicycling is now the second most popular outdoor activity in America, according to the
Outdoor Foundation (running is first). Americans age 6 and older went on 2.7 billion bicycling
outings in 2013. Half of all adults in the U.S. participate in adventure vacations each year and
27 million have taken a bicycling trip in the past five years, according to the U.S. Travel
This trend also means new business and new jobs. A study for the 34-mile section of corridor
between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake projected that bicycling tourists could pump $63.86 to
$99.30 per day into local economies and add $19.8 million a year in tourist revenues. A recent
Parks & Trails New York report on the economic impact of the Erie Canalway Trail
demonstrates a trail traffic volume of nearly 1.6 million visits per year, which generates an
economic impact of approximately $253 million.
More difficult to quantify, but no less important, are the benefits that the Adirondack
Recreational Trail will provide for improving public health and addressing rising health-care
costs for local residents and the governments of Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, and Herkimer
counties. In 2009, spending on obesity-related diseases in New York state totaled $11.1 billion,
$4 billion of it financed by Medicaid and $2.7 billion paid by Medicare. These expenditures
directly impact personal and property taxes and the services supplied by all levels
A close-to-home trail linking Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake would enable all
residents of the region, irrespective of age or fitness level, to increase their daily physical activity
by bike or on foot. This would lead to improved health and well-being. And it would help to
reduce health-care costs and ease the burden on government budgets.
Development of the Adirondack Recreational Trail clearly represents the corridor’s highest and
Dropkin is the executive director of Parks & Trails New York, a statewide nonprofit
organization based in Albany.