Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Adirondack Rail Trail construction underway between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake

The Adirondack Rail Trail as seen in the nine-mile segment between Floodwood and Tupper Lake.

On April 21, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Office of General Services (OGS) announced the start of 2023 construction on the Adirondack Rail Trail between Station Street in Lake Placid and Broadway in Saranac Lake. This trail segment is now closed to all users during construction.

The world-class Adirondack Rail Trail is a 34-mile multi-use recreational path for outdoor adventurers between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid. OGS is leading the trail‘s design and construction with the intent to make it accessible to people of all abilities to the maximum extent practicable. Upon completion of constructionDEC will assume day-to-day management of the trail working closely with stakeholders and municipalities. Estimated timing to complete the Rail Trail is dependent on multiple factors including contract approvals, permits, and coordinating with State, Federal, and local entities. Construction of the compacted stone dust surfaced trail will be undertaken in stages. The work now underway is part of phase one of the Rail Trail project and is anticipated to be completed in the fall.

Read more about final construction of a segment of the Adirondack Rail Trail between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake by checking out Tim Rowland’s Adirondack Explorer story at this link:

Bids for phase two of construction were submitted in late March. Construction is scheduled to begin as early as May 2023 between Saranac Lake and Floodwood Road, Lake Clear. Construction of the Adirondack Rail Trail is anticipated to be done in three phases. As each phase concludes, the completed portion of trail will open to the public and be managed according to the 2020 UMP Amendment and the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.

Recent updates:

  • Lake Placid to Saranac Lake: Use of the Corridor is prohibited for the duration of the summer until phase 1 is complete. Please respect posted signage and barricades.
  • Saranac Lake to Tupper Lake: Interim recreation is allowed at users’ own risk on this unimproved section of the Corridor. Public use may be limited or restricted in sections due to hazardous conditions or active construction or maintenance. Please respect posted signage and barricades.
  • Saranac Lake Depot: Work has begun on the parking lot at the Saranac Lake Depot.

Starting in October 2020, the New York State Department of Transportation worked to remove rail infrastructure from the Tupper Lake to Lake Placid segment of the corridor. Upon transferring jurisdiction to DEC in March 2022, DEC assumed management of public safety and recreational activities, as well as maintenance, along this segment of the corridor. Phase one of construction began in November 2022 before pausing for the winter months.

Additional details about the 2020 Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor Unit Management Plan Amendment/Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement are available at DEC‘s website.

Photo at top: The Adirondack Rail Trail as seen in the nine-mile segment between Floodwood and Tupper Lake. Photo by Phil Brown.

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Information attributed to NYSDEC is taken from press releases and news announcements from New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation.

27 Responses

  1. Big Burly says:

    It remains to be determined with use that this earns the title of world-class recreation trail. It is for sure NOT a rail trail. Such features include rail services. The best-known community destinations in the Adirondacks are now deprived of efficient rail transportation and are no longer connected to the national rail system.

  2. Tony Goodwin says:

    Yes, Saranac Lake and Lake Placid are no longer “connected to the national rail system”. However, that has been the situation for nearly 50 years and Lake Placid certainly hasn’t suffered because of that lack. We’ll see how many in Tupper Lake actually appreciate that now they are “connected”.

  3. LeRoy Hogan says:

    Sad when the rail bikes of Rail Explorers that were doing so well were kicked off the rails but very happy they are doing so well in the Catskill Mountains. The rail bikes pay a lease to help finance maintenance of the rails.

    • Steve B. says:

      Arguably the region will do better when folks that already own bicycles will specifically travel here to have a terrific riding experience. I suspect there will be a lot more cyclists using this trail then Rail Explorer riders.

      • Paul says:

        It will be interesting to see if many riders would come up or down for just this relatively short trail that is a pretty quick ride. This isn’t like one of these larger rail trails that have lots of miles of riding with many connected towns. Maybe? My guess it will mostly be locals and folks that are already here for something else.

  4. I don’t want to relitigate NYS’ decision regarding the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor, but I want to clarify some comments raised in response to this article. A completed rail trail is quite different from a former railroad corridor. ARTA is working to inform people unhappy with a littered, overgrown, and unmanaged corridor that a developed Adirondack Rail Trail will be managed and maintained, has permitted uses and trail rules, and enhances the surrounding landscape. It sounds like some of you have concerns that stem from what is unknown; I’m happy to listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and build a coalition of folks passionate about the future of the Adirondack Rail Trail and how it can be a positive impact on our communities. Contact me anytime.

    Brian Woods
    Executive Director, Adirondack Rail Trail Association

    • Pat Smith says:

      Lovely and scenic trail with a durable surface. To bad equestrians use was prohibited in the UMP. Apparently those avid hikers and bikers don’t like to share.

      • Steve B. says:

        Its not about that. Separating equestrians and bikes as well as from runners and hikers is very common. Horses do not always react well to other users, the rider can sometimes have issues controlling a spooked animal, especially one they have never ridden. As well, not all cyclists understand that they need to come to complete stops to let horses pass. They are generally not compatible groups on trails. A local county on L.I. Specifically has some parks set aside for equestrian use, no bikes allowed. I rode a Nat’l Forest trail in NC called the Tsali system, they had 2 trails and would alternate use, horses on one trail on certain days, the mt. bikers rode the other trail on that day. As well, I think the Cold River region has trails and roads specific to horse use, no bikes allowed.

        • Pat Smith says:

          The key to safely sharing the trails is educating cyclists, runners and hikers that in all cases they need to stop and yield the right of way to horses. Well trained horses handle most situations without incident and can interact with other trail users safely. In my experience most bad encounters began with the actions of those not stopping for the horse. I am not sure about your comment “especially one they have never ridden “. Are you referring to horses in a hack line? In our region there are very few of those. Most people ride a horse they own and are very familiar with. The plan to alternate days of trail usage is an excellent solution and could be included in the UMP. By educating the public there is no reason why we cannot all share the trails together.

        • Tony Goodwin says:

          The Cold River horse trails have not been very well maintained recently, so not really a good option. There are other places that would be good for equestrians such as the Newcomb Lake Road and side road to Moose Pond. (Beyond Moose Pond, that horse trail degenerates to being more like a herdpath.) Also, the Hays Brook Truck Trail to the Sheep Meadow and Grass Pond would be good. Yes, bikes are allowed, but there is more room to pass that there would be on the rail trail.

          • Paul says:

            In all the years I have been hiking around these “horse” areas I have just not seen many riders. Once and awhile. But it’s so infrequent that I consider it a neat surprise to see some horses.

          • Pat Smith says:

            I am coming to ride to Santanoi and the Essex chain trails this summer. On pervious visits we have encountered bikers without incident. Would like to get to Moose Pond as well. Thanks for information Tony

            • Steve B. says:

              The Essex Chain area has good cycling areas, as well, some of the roads are dedicated to horses only. The DEC map shows this. The road down to the Hudson has a big parking area for equestrian use, the day I biked in here it was unused,

              • Pat Smith says:

                Steve, just a quick question. If you arrive at a trailhead and notice a horse trailer parked there, would you be more alert to the potential of our paths crossing somewhere along the way?

                • Steve B. says:

                  Oh, absolutely, I would still ride though. The Essex Chain as example, the roads are all open to horses, only one road section I know of is horse only. I have encountered horses before on off road rides thus know to stop, engage the rider and let them pass before continuing.

                  • Pat Smith says:

                    Thanks Steve. It’s refreshing to hear from someone who is willing to consider other prospectives so we can all enjoy these beautiful trails.

            • Tony Goodwin says:

              And Moose Pond is designated wilderness starting at the junction with the Newcomb Lake Road. No bikes allowed there.

      • Boreas says:

        Really? Unwilling to share? Placing this decision solely on users’ selfishness is patently unfair and misplaced. Trail design and damage also needs to be considered. After all, the state is required to maintain the trail condition.

        Perhaps one side of a trail (1/4 width?) could be left with more coarse gravel (pea gravel, etc.) that isn’t as effected by horses’ hooves as much as stone dust. Stone dust is designed to compact and stay compacted. Hooves tear it up in most cases – especially in wet conditions. But surface compatibility between usage types needs to be considered. If biking/walking are likely to be the predominant usage type, it makes sense to use the trail surface most compatible with that usage type, and restrict usage appropriately.

        • Pat Smith says:

          Sorry Boreas if my previous comment was to blunt. Steve brings up the point about safety. Trail etiquette is clear, hikers and bikers must stop and yield to equestrians. Any group that is unwilling to follow simple courtesy seems to fit the description of being unwilling to share. When the UMP was being reviewed one of the biggest concerns was manure not safety or potential damage to the trail. Again clearly one group not wanting to be inconvenienced by another. I do appreciate your concern about the potential damage to the trail s surface. Many riding arenas are built on a solid base and use stonedust as a top layer. This combination is certainly more durable than dirt or sand.

  5. Brian Woods says:

    Appendix I to the 2020 UMP Amendment states:

    The State does not anticipate allowing equestrian uses on the trail at this time.
    However, the UMP has been updated to indicate that consideration will be given to
    future use depending on trail design, and after determining if the anticipated extent of
    maintenance required for the trail is accurate. Horses leave dung on the trail and their
    hooves can damage stone dust trail-surface, but those are relatively minor issues. The
    greatest concern with equestrian use on the rail-trail is horse compatibility with bicycles. Bicycles are predator-like in that they are quiet, fast, come up from behind (horses facing straight ahead, cannot see directly behind them), and are not obviously a human. This can induce panic in horses which, despite their domestication, still have the instinct of prey species. Numerous resources warn of potentially dangerous conflicts between the two uses, and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) recommends several mitigation measures, including separate bridle paths, maintenance of adequate sight lines so that bicyclists and equestrians are able to see each other well in advance, and signing that clarifies appropriate passing techniques and yielding responsibilities. The most difficult of those measures is creating a separate bridle path. Lake Colby Causeway is an example of a segment of the Corridor that is potentially dangerous for interaction between horses and bicycles: a trail narrower than recommended for both uses, embankments on both sides, and no room for a side-trail. Other segments of the Corridor, however, may be conducive to equestrian use. Further investigation is needed as the project develops.

    • Pat Smith says:

      It is true that horses can not see directly behind them but I can assure you their sense of hearing and smell make up for that. While they have a flight response, if common sense and trail etiquette is followed most horses have no problems with hikers and cyclist. As a responsible cyclist should you not be aware of your surroundings and ride in an appropriate manner? Issues with line of sight should be mitigated through signage regardless of the user to insure everyone’s safety. Lake Colby causeway is challenging. Perhaps requiring everyone to stop briefly to evaluate on coming users and potential hazards before proceeding onto the causeway would work. I suspect the trail surface will sustain more damage from snowmobiles riding at times when there is not adequate snow cover and those sleds that have studded tracks. With completion of the project still several years away it will be interesting to see how the UMP may evolve.

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