By Mike Lynch
Adirondack Loj Road, a gateway for hikers to the High Peaks, may be in line for some major infrastructure upgrades in the next few years.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation is looking at building a new parking lot at the corner of South Meadows Road and Adirondack Loj Road.
“I think that would be really helpful with all the problems they have out there,” said North Elba Supervisor Jay Rand said.
The potential upgrades came to light after they were mentioned in a proposed 20-year cooperative agreement that outlines future maintenance and infrastructure objectives between the DEC and Town of North Elba for South Meadow Road, Adirondack Loj Road, and Old Mountain Road. The contract, which was provided to the Explorer by the Town of North Elba, was authorized by its town board last week. The contract still needs to be finalized.
The idea to create a parking lot at the corner of this road is not new. The concept dates back to at least 1992, when the High Peaks Citizen’s Advisory Committee recommended a lot in this area. The 1999 High Peaks Wilderness unit management plan later called for a 100-vehicle parking lot on state land, but no action was ever taken.
But the influx of hikers in recent years has made the need for parking even greater than it was 20 years ago.
South Meadow Road is located a few miles from Adirondack Mountain Club’s property, which at the end of Adirondack Loj Road and is home several trailheads including the popular Van Hoevenberg Trail that leads to Mount Marcy, Algonquin Peak and other popular destinations in the High Peaks. During busy hiking days, ADK’s parking lots fill up before breakfast and vehicles line Adirondack Loj and South Meadows roads all day.
“Being a hiker myself I’ve been out on South Meadows Road where cars are parked all over it, and it’s very unruly,” said Rand, noting it could be difficult to get an emergency vehicle down the road during those times.
Rand said he anticipated the lot being able to hold at least 100 vehicles.
The contract says that if the DEC does build the parking lot, it would then close much of South Meadow Road to vehicle traffic.
Rand said hikers who use the South Meadows parking lot could then walk down the road to the truck trail and hike to Marcy Dam and other destinations from there.
The contract says if DEC doesn’t build a new parking lot at the corner of South Meadow and Adirondack Loj Road, it would come up with a parking alternative with North Elba.
DEC declined to elaborate on the contract or proposal.
“Once the agreement is finalized and executed, specific project details, including the timelines for construction, will be developed,” DEC spokesman Kevin Frazier said in an email.
He said funding would be addressed once the agreement is executed and project costs are calculated.
Rand agreed that no timeline has been determined but said he’d like to see the project happen in the next couple of years.
In addition to coming up with parking solutions, the contact says DEC would pay North Elba up to $1.25 million to pave the last two miles of Adirondack Loj Road by no later than 2024. It also states the DEC would pay the town up to $12,000 annually for winter road maintenance on the road and a new parking lot. The contract does say the work is subject to the availability of funds.
ADK spokesman Ben Brosseau, whose organization borders much of the proposed work, said his organization wasn’t part of negotiations and couldn’t offer much comment about the plan until more specifics were known.
“We’re looking forward to hearing more details now that it’s on our radar,” he said. “There’s a framework there but a lot of details that are not clear at this point.”
Old Mountain Road
The contract also addresses infrastructure and maintenance on Old Mountain Road, a popular section of the Jackrabbit ski trail.
It says the DEC will construct a new parking area near the intersection of Old Mountain Road and Route 73, a project that is already laid out in the Sentinel Mountain Range Wilderness and Saranac Lake Wild Forest unit management plans. Those plans call for a parking area of 11 vehicles.
The contract also takes steps to continue preventing the use of motorized vehicles on Old Mountain Road, with the DEC proposing to build a gate or barrier to limit use to skiers and non-motorized users.
The parking area plans for Old Mountain Road and Adirondack Loj Road are among numerous ones planned in the High Peaks Region in recent years to accommodate the influx of visitors at busy trailheads. A 2018 amendment to the High Peaks unit management plan calls for the creation of two new two parking lots near Giant Mountain’s Ridge Trail near Chapel Pond and the expansion of the nearby Round Trail parking area. It also plans to close lots on Route 73 near Cascade Mountain once the trail there is rerouted to begin at the Mount Van Hoevenberg Olympic Sports Complex. DEC also has plans to build a 15-vehicle lot near the Ampersand Mountain trailhead on Route 3 near Tupper Lake. None of these plans have been implemented yet.