Cobble Hill users are encouraged to begin hike from the village
By Mike Lynch
A stakeholder group is looking to reinvent a popular trail in Lake Placid after its trailhead parking area was closed off during the pandemic.
For years, Northwoods School, a private boarding school, has allowed the public to park on its campus and hike to Cobble Hill, a 2,331-foot high mountain with views of Lake Placid and the surrounding area including Marcy and Algonquin Peak. It’s also part of the Lake Placid 9er trail challenge.
But the school closed the parking off to the public March 2020 at the start of the pandemic. Now it is in the process working with a group to develop a new trail that would connect directly to Mirror Lake Drive, a popular walking route that connects to downtown Lake Placid.
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The new trail will be “an extension of the path around Mirror Lake,” said Scott van Laer, director of the Paul Smith’s College’s VIC, which provides trail-consulting services on private recreation lands. Van Laer is coordinating the community effort to secure and improve Cobble Hill trails.
The stakeholder group is encouraging hikers to base their hikes from their homes, hotels, designated parking spaces on Mirror Lake Drive or municipal lots. Downtown Lake Placid is roughly a half-mile from the trail.
In the meantime, Northwoods is allowing the public to access the trail by foot from two nearby points on Mirror Lake Drive. Hikers can walk through Northwood’s Mirror Lake Drive gate and walk up the path a short way to a temporary trailhead. The other option is to use the trailhead on Whitney Road, a short walk from the other trailhead.
But there is no parking at either place.
Thomas Broderick, association head of Northwoods, said the pandemic and security concerns were the main reasons the school closed the parking. He referred to a couple of school shooting incidents in other areas of the country and said schools have to be proactive in protecting their students.
There is no greater risk than “inviting the unknown public to come and park on our campus,” Broderick said.
He noted since the popular Owl’s Head hike in Keene closed on weekends to the public in June 2017, trail usage at Cobble Hill has increased substantially.
“It is not uncommon for us to have 100 hikers on a slow day,” he said, noting they would often have 30 vehicles parked on the campus.
Broderick is an advocate for people using the trails. However, having the parking area on campus has led to problems. There have been incidents of middle-aged men walking into the girls’ dorm looking to use the bathrooms. Other times, hikers have tried to park overnight on campus, with the goal of hitting the trails in the pre-dawn hours.
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Broderick and the the stakeholder group are not looking to eliminate the public’s use of the trails.
“Our goal is to make it better,” he said.
The stakeholder group consists of the Adirondack Land Trust, town of North Elba, village of Lake Placid, Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, Barkeater Trails Alliance, LP9ers hiking challenge, Paul Smith’s College VIC, and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
This spring, the Adirondack Land Trust, which owns easements on parts of the trail, secured a $38,000 grant to move the trailhead to Mirror Lake Drive and improve signage along it. The grant came from the town of North Elba’s Local Enhancement and Advancement Fund.
A press release from the Adirondack Land Trust called called the solution a “community-based hiking approach.”
“It’s going to take a little bit of marketing and people to get comfortable with that idea,” said van Laer.
But van Laer noted, “This is a model that could work in other areas that is located in a village or a hamlet.”
Before that happens, there is still work to do. Broderick said the group needs to get a permit for the state Adirondack Park Agency to build a walkway through the wetland that connects to Mirror Lake Drive and to design and build the trail.
Broderick is hopeful.
“This could become a beneficial resource for the broader community,” he said.
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