Once completed, network will be part of a mountain bike route from Wilmington to Elizabethtown
By Tim Rowland
The Essex County Board of Supervisors has green-lighted a multi-use trail network in the town of Keene to serve mountain-bike enthusiasts.
The network will be built on 113 acres of county-owned land north of the hamlet on Route 9N, where there is currently a clearing with picnic tables and a pavilion.
The project is being developed by the town, the Keene Youth Commission and the Barkeaters Trail Alliance (BETA). The move demonstrates the county government’s increasing determination to capitalize on the growing popularity of mountain biking, while simultaneously giving their residents recreational opportunities not dependent on crowded trailheads.
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Keene Supervisor Joe Pete Wilson said the park will be modeled after mountain biking trail systems in nearby towns of Elizabethtown and Lewis, where town-owned forests were molded into trail networks that have become mountain-biking destinations. The county itself is considering a mountain-bike trail network on land it owns near the site of the old Frontier Town theme park off of the Northway’s Exit 29.
“I think it’s a great way to promote activities in the county, as well as bringing in tourists,” said Lewis Supervisor Jim Monty. “Mountain biking is becoming a big thing.”
Josh Wilson, executive director of BETA, said the Keene property, when fully phased in, will feature a blend of hiking and mountain biking trails that will cover between six and seven miles. The planning phase has been completed, and funding is in place to possibly begin construction this spring. Starting on a plain about even with the East Branch of the Ausable River, the property gains 800 feet in elevation and has soils and topography that are consistent with good mountain biking trails, Josh Wilson said. “It’s really a beautiful property. When we started looking at it we saw the potential for a great trail system.”
Old logging roads may be brushed out for skiing in winters when there’s enough snow. Joe Pete Wilson said the tract, which butts up against the Wilmington Wild Forest, will also offer a jumping off point for bushwhacks into destinations including Clement’s Pond, which has a formal trail coming in from the south.
Once completed, the network will be part of a compelling mountain bike route from Wilmington to Elizabethtown, with little in the way of paved roads, Josh Wilson said. After riding the Wilmington trails, a biker could ascend Quaker Mountain on pavement and then coast downhill on the acclaimed mile-and-a-quarter Three Sisters flow trail to the extensive trail network on Hardy Road.
Just to the east, plans are in the works to develop trails on the scenic Fourpeaks tract held by the Adirondack Land Trust.
From there, two or three of miles of pavement on Springfield Road would bring the cyclist to Bartlett Road, a seasonal dirt trace through the Sentinel Wilderness that connects to 9N just south of the planned Keene network.
After a grueling haul up Styles Brook Road, the rider would find dirt again at Jay Mountain Road, a Jeep trail through the rugged and picturesque notch that separates the Jay and Hurricane mountain ranges. In the valley to the east is the Lewis network at Thrall Dam, the extensive Blueberry Hill network in Elizabethtown and the Blueberry Hill and Otis Mountain systems.
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