Community replaces bridges, culverts that were damaged in July storms
By Tim Rowland
In winter, it is scarcely hyperbole to say that the isolated town of Newcomb in the central Adirondacks is more dependent on its snowmobile trails than its vehicular highways. Or highway, singular, to be more accurate.
But snowmobile access was threatened this summer, when heavy rains washed out the two main connector trails linking Newcomb with Indian Lake to the south, and Long Lake to the west.
“Snowmobilers love Newcomb,” said Dave Hughes, tourism coordinator for the town of Newcomb. “All of our local businesses are so dependent on that traffic.”
Last month the town announced that both links have been restored, just in time for the winter season — but that the snow to cover those bridges and trails was insufficient to open the trails.
The new year has finally brought enough snow to put the snowmobile trails back in business, much to the relief of the town — but in a changing climate, erratic weather patterns in both summer and winter indicate a new level of cost and preparedness will go into preserving the status quo.
The bridges, on conservation-easement lands, were repaired by the Department of Environmental Conservation in collaboration with the towns of Newcomb, Indian Lake and Long Lake.
Along with facilitating snowmobiles, the work will “improve access to this popular destination for paddlers, anglers, and other outdoor enthusiasts (and) provides a safer, more accessible experience for visitors while improving habitat for aquatic wildlife,” the DEC said.
According to a DEC spokeswoman, the job cost about $400,000 to repair one bridge, replace the Long Pond bridge and repair one culvert crossing. In addition, DEC Lands and Forests provided roughly $10,000 in materials such as culverts and lumber that the towns used while repairing roads and trails.
“DEC hired a contractor to replace the 80-foot Long Pond Road bridge, do emergency repairs to culverts on Six Mile Road, and repair a bridge and significant washouts on the Donnelly Brook bridge,” DEC wrote in an email. “Almost all culverts were upsized and the Long Pond Road bridge has been widened to current standards that improve the natural flow, wildlife habitat, and storm resiliency.”
Following the July storms, Hughes scouted the trails and discovered bridges had been knocked out, isolating the town. West of Newcomb and east of County Line Flow, a “domino effect” had washed out a beaver dam, then an earthen dam and finally the bridge over Fishing Creek, he said.
Between Newcomb and the Essex Chain of Lakes to the south, floods washed out the trail and damaged the bridge over Donnelly Brook. “These are major connector trails from one community to another,” Hughes said.
Recognizing the threat of climate change to infrastructure and people, the state has implemented programs and provided funds to beef up vulnerable communities. In 2018 it set aside $3 million for Resilient NY, a program develops state-of-the-art studies to reduce flooding and ice jam formations, and improve riparian ecology on 48 high-priority flood-prone watersheds throughout the state.
Related reading: July storm
July 2023 rains damaged Adirondack roadways such as State Route 28N in Long Lake (pictured here, courtesy of the town of Long Lake)
In addition, state agencies now take a closer look at flood-risk management as part of the project planning process; the state’s Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act earmarks $1,1 billion for restoration and flood risk reduction; and programs such as Trees for Tribs and Buffer in a Bag help communities and property owners reduce flooding impacts with streamside plantings.
DEC said that Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed budget includes $435 million for resiliency projects to protect communities from severe floods, and that Climate Smart Communities Grant Program provides matching grants to municipalities to conduct climate change mitigation and adaptation projects.
The white stuff can be harder to come by. “We’re 100% grateful to all the organizations that came through for us,” Hughes said. “But we definitely could use more snow.”
Photo at top: Snowmobilers ride from Newcomb to Long Lake. Explorer file photo by Mike Lynch