Work to begin on Saranac Lake-Lake Placid section
By Mike Lynch
State and local leaders gathered on the Adirondack Rail Trail near North Country Community College in Saranac Lake Wednesday to celebrate the official beginning of the trail’s construction phase.
“Finally we are green-lit,” said state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos. “We’re ready to go on this construction project all the way from Lake Placid to Tupper.”
The Army Corp of Engineers awarded the final permits in October, he said.
The 34-mile rail trail will go from Lake Placid to Tupper Lake and pass through Saranac Lake and Lake Clear. The year-round trail is being touted as a multi-use corridor that will have a hard-packed surface that doesn’t exceed a grade of 2%.
“These new surfaces will make for a true multi-use, year-round recreational trail that’s more accessible to wheelchairs, bicycles, strollers, in addition to the mountain bikers and the hikers and the snowmobile automobile that are currently using it,” said Office of General Services Commissioner Jeannette Moy.
Moy said a $7.9 million contract has been awarded to Kubricky Construction of Saratoga Springs for the first phase.
That phase includes completing the trail between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake by next fall. Crews will then continue toward Tupper Lake with the goal of finishing the $22 million project by 2025.
During the event, speakers touted the trail as an economic asset to local communities.
“Saranac Lake is surrounded by beautiful trails, but this one is different,” said Saranac Lake Mayor Jimmy Williams. “The rail trail will be a vein that channels tourism straight through our downtown, which is a big deal for a town like Saranac Lake.”
“The economic benefits of this cannot be overstated,” he said. “And whether you’re stopping to just get a bite to eat or have a drink, the 34-mile journey will be an introduction to our community for a lot of folks from New York state.”
Seggos noted that the groundbreaking has been a long time coming and that it came after many years of contentious debate over the proper use of the corridor that started more than a decade ago.
The corridor had previously been used by the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, a tourism train between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, until several years ago.
For years, railroad advocates debated with those in favor of the rail trail in letters to the editors and public forums. In one two-year stretch 200 letters to the editor were published in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, Seggos said. But ultimately, the state elected to go with the rail trail and developed a management plan with that in mind.
In the fall of 2020, the state Department of Transportation began to remove the rails. That process took about a year. Since then, some gravel for the base has been put down. Cyclists and walkers have used portions of the trail, but large sections of it have a gravel surface that is unsuitable for riding.
Joe Mercurio, an ARTA board member, said he’s been lobbying for the trail for 12 years.
“I’m absolutely thrilled,” he said. “I haven’t put myself on a bike in several years, but I plan on getting on one come hell or high water when this thing gets finished and that will be great.”
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