Josh Wilson took the role in 2015
By Mike Lynch
Josh Wilson, executive director of Barkeater Trails Alliance, will step down from his position later this year.
Wilson, who lives in Saranac Lake, was BETA’s first year-round director after being hired in 2015 and has helped solidify the mountain biking and skiing organization’s standing in the High Peaks Region.
The small nonprofit work is focused around three priorities: trail stewardship and long-term maintenance of more than 100 miles of trails on state, municipal and private land; planning and constructing new trails; and building support and funding for trails through advocacy and partnerships at the state and local level.
“This is a bittersweet moment for me,” Wilson said. “Leading BETA has been one of the great privileges of my life.”
Wilson is relocating to Virginia to be with his family but is planning to stay on as executive director through the next trail season. He’s flexible with his departure date. The organization’s board of directors is preparing for a search to fill the position.
“We’re trying to have a transition plan that allows us time to do a search process and hire the next executive director, and then create some overlap between me and the next person,” Wilson said.
Wilson said he doesn’t have another job lined up yet.
“I’m focused on leaving BETA in a good place, then I’ll figure out what is next for me,” he said.
Wilson has been involved with BETA since 2009, when the grassroots organization was a collection of volunteers intent on improving mountain biking trails in Wilmington, Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. The volunteers, he said, mainly consisted of riding buddies.
“We saw the trails being built in Wilmington and realized there needed to be some organized volunteer effort to take care of them once they were established,” Wilson said. “And so it was really the motivation (for starting BETA).”
So the volunteers created BETA in 2010. Then in 2011, BETA entered into a “fiscal sponsorship” agreement with Adirondack Ski Touring Council, which formed in 1986 around the goal of establishing the Jackrabbit Ski Trail. The arrangement allowed BETA to benefit from ASTC’s nonprofit status and insurance coverage.
In 2014, the two groups were legally combined and assumed the name “Barkeater Trails Alliance” for the newly expanded organization.
When ASTC’s director Tony Goodwin retired in 2015, Wilson took his place.
“I am actually of retirement age. I had been thinking that when someone with the right skill set comes along that it would be time to bow out,” Goodwin told the Explorer for an article in March 2015.
BETA is a small nonprofit. In addition to Wilson, there is only one other full-time employee, an outreach coordinator that came aboard when the position was created in January 2022.
Under Wilson, BETA has tripled its membership base to more than a thousand people, established the organization’s first paid, seasonal trail crew, and constructed miles of sustainable trails for mountain biking and other human-powered uses in the region.
This includes the expansion of singletrack mountain bike trails at Hardy Road and the Flume in the Wilmington Wild Forest and at Mount Pisgah, Dewey Mountain and Fowler’s Crossing in Saranac Lake. In recent years, BETA’s emphasis has been on improving connections between trail systems and hamlets and providing a greater variety of trail experiences for mountain bikers of all ages and abilities.
“Josh has really, through the advancement of BETA, transformed the region as a destination location for mountain biking, whereas 12 years ago people wouldn’t have driven out of the way to come here. Now people drive down from outside the region for the sole purpose of mountain biking,” said Leigh Walrath, who represents BETA on the Saranac Lake Parks and Trails Advisory Committee.
Wilson has worked extensively on the Jackrabbit Trail, a 40-mile ski trail that runs through private and public lands from Paul Smiths to Keene. He has coordinated with landowners, land managers and volunteers to maintain public access and advocated for trail improvements. He is currently working on a project to connect the Jackrabbit Trail directly from Craig Wood golf course to Mountain Lane.
Wilson led the organization to collaborate with local partners to create new inclusive recreation opportunities that appeal to people beyond the mountain biking and skiing community, such as the East Branch Community Trails in Keene, Cobble Hill Trails in Elizabethtown and Three Sisters Preserve in Wilmington.
Keene Supervisor Joe Pete Wilson said he’s going to miss working with Josh because of his energy and expertise. The two are cousins and recently worked together on the community trails project.
“BETA was the key and Josh’s leadership was the key to making that project happen quickly,” the Keene supervisor said. “I feel like that’s going to be some big shoes to fill.”
Josh Wilson said he’s “honored to serve the trail-users and communities in our region, and proud to work, ride and ski alongside co-workers, volunteers and friends whose enthusiasm and passion for our local trails is so inspiring.
“I can’t say ‘thank you’ enough to the many people who have supported me in this role over the past eight years and who have given so much of their time and energy to fulfilling the BETA mission.”