The North Country Trail Association has filed a petition under CPLR Article 78 against New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) and Tri-Valley Trail Riders, Inc. seeking to reverse recent actions resulting in the apparent loss of approximately nine miles of North Country National Scenic Trail in Madison County, NY. The lawsuit was filed March 26 in Albany County, location of OPRHP administrative offices.
The disputed section of North Country National Scenic Trail (NCNST) was certified by the National Park Service in 2010 after 11 years of volunteer labor by the Central New York Chapter of the North Country Trail Association (NCTA) to reclaim the abandoned right of way of the former Lehigh Valley Railroad (LVRR) and convert it to a primitive footpath and hiking trail. The NCTA chapter worked under two permits issued in 2002 and 2006 by the regional office of the OPRHP, which owns the former LVRR right of way. Both permits specifically stipulated development of a ‘hiking trail.’
The North Country National Scenic Trail was designated by Congress in 1980 as an amendment to the National Trails System Act of 1968, the same bill that authorized the NCNST’s better known sister trails, the Appalachian and Pacific Crest National Scenic Trails. The North Country Trail is the longest in the National Trails System, stretching 4600 miles from the middle of North Dakota to the Vermont border of New York. In New York State it shares the Finger Lakes Trail tread for some 410 miles from Allegany State Park in western NY to its Onondaga Branch segment in central NY within the Tioughnioga Wildlife Management Area.
In July 2011 NCTA’s Central NY chapter requested a re-issuance of their OPRHP permit prior to its August 1 expiration, and were assured by OPRHP in an August 2 letter that the process was under way. On October 7 NCTA finally received a draft of a new permit from OPRHP, which contained substantial changes, in particular replacing the previous ‘hiking trail’ language with the term ‘multiple use.’ After notifying OPRHP that these changes needed careful review and discussion, NCTA was assured by OPRHP to “take your time to review it.” OPRHP personnel failed to mention then or later that a permit application to use this same section of trail was currently under consideration from the Tri-Valley Trail Riders, a snowmobile group.
“The NCTA deeply regrets this lost opportunity to support an appropriate planning dialog designed to meet all trail-related needs in central New York,” stated Bruce Matthews, executive director of the NCTA. “This unfortunate situation has forced NCTA and Tri-Valley into a competitive stance which could easily have been avoided. Now our group of citizen stewards is being disenfranchised by the very agency with which we’ve built a foundation of trust and invested thousands of dollars and hours of sweat equity. “
NCTA seeks to create a world-class footpath celebrating America’s northern heartlands, a unique and singular place where those preferring a more slow-paced, quiet and intimate connection with the natural world can find a place to recreate year-round-whether by hiking, snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing, adventure running or similar pursuits. As it is completed the North Country National Scenic Trail supports quality of life values and economic benefits for communities throughout the trail corridor.
The North Country Trail Association is a national non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to the building and maintaining of the North Country National Scenic Trail, and telling its story. With members, chapters, partners and affiliates located along the 4600-mile length of the trail through America’s northern heartlands, the NCTA is the primary advocate for the North Country Trail, and the red plaid nation that uses and is celebrated by it.