Dreaming about the new Tri-Lakes multi-use public recreational trail
I recently hiked the section of the Remsen to Lake Placid Railroad Corridor from where it crosses the old military road near the Lake Placid Fire Hall to where the hiking trail of the Scarface mountain crosses the tracks. It is one but over four miles. The rails were removed, and there were little piles of them stacked on the side of the rails, and many of the ties were loose. There were steel plates that held the rails to the sleepers, and many railroad spikes were strewn over the disheveled sleepers. Removing the steel tracks is the first step in transforming this long-lost railway into a public multi-use recreational trail.
The railroad corridor is densely forested, mostly typical northern upland forest at the tip of Lake Placid, but traverses boreal habitat and wetlands with some stands dominated by red pine. The rail corridor shares space in this section with the utility lines leading to Lake Placid. The poles have all been recently rebuilt and the new fiber optic line hangs from them.
The forest stands on both sides of the railroad tracks and eclipses the utility poles. The intricate beauty of the forest, shown in a continuous museum gallery of the forest floor and lush understory on both sides of the trail, overwhelms utility lines. The trail is bordered by half a dozen wetlands and then follows the meanders of the Ray Brook. When I reached Ray Brook, the fairways of the Saranac Lake Golf Club were visible through the trees. I threw some golf balls from the tracks through the trees on the course.
In this section, the rail corridor was maintained and it appeared that there would be many trees to be felled to undertake the work of conversion of the trails. I was happy to see, at least on this stretch, no tree cutting issues under Article 14.
Between Lake Placid and Ray Brook there were three large bridges and half a dozen culverts. The decks appeared to be sturdy and in good condition. Built to hold trains, I imagine they can hold people on snowmobiles and bikes.
In the sections that meander through the downtown parts of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, and Tupper Lake, I imagine this trail will be popular for people walking and running. It’s much prettier than walking or running around town and the new trail surface will likely be smoother than shoulders or sidewalks.
In the winter, the trail will be primarily a snowmobile trail, but as fat tire biking becomes more popular, winter biking may take off. I think this trail will be popular with snowmobilers. The railway corridor goes up or down with very gentle and gradual slopes. I don’t think it will be good cross-country skiing, it’s pretty flat and won’t be as fun as something like the Jackrabbit Trail, but given the width of the trail and the fact that it will be groomed for the snowmobile, I predict it is popular for those who like to skate on their cross-country skis.
This trail will be a real multi-use trail. State agencies routinely approve the fictitious “multi-use” trails in the forest reserve, but these are primarily designed as snowmobile trails and are hardly used for hiking, mountain biking, or horseback riding. . This trail, I am sure, will see a large number of cyclists, walkers and runners, in addition to a large number of snowmobilers. A true multi-use trail in fact, not fiction.
On the road, as the trail is built, it will cause friction. Questions remain about the impact of this trail. There will be various proposals for businesses along the trails. Does Lake Placid want to be a snowmobile town? Does Saranac Lake want to become a snowmobile town? They will find out. You build it, and they will come.
This trail passes close to the residential areas of Lake Placid and Tupper Lake, but passes through many different neighborhoods as it winds through the heart of downtown Saranac Lake, passing many residences so close you could easily hit them with a snowball from the tracks. At Lake Clear, the railroad runs a few tens of feet from a few residences. I’m not worried about cyclists, inline skaters, roller skiers, or runners who roam residential areas early in the morning or late at night. However, I do foresee problems with loud snowmobiles traveling late at night and communities pushed to impose speed limits and hours of operation and set up DUI checkpoints.
From Clear Lake to Tupper, the trail crosses quiet and secluded areas deep in the forest reserve. The trail follows the shores of Hoel Pond and Floodwood Pond and through a huge bog of wetlands to the west of Lead Pond. The trail will turn things around at Floodwood Lake, where it passes by a series of secluded private cabins, their own slice of heaven so far, they won’t be isolated anymore.
Yet this stretch from Clear Lake to Tupper Lake will also be arguably the most beautiful stretch of the new trail, perhaps the most beautiful stretch of bike path in the world. There are no utility lines and the railway line twists and turns, and runs past massive lakes and ponds and wetlands, which provide stunning views of rolling hills and forested ridges. This area will have the longest stretch between level crossings, where cyclists can disconnect from the world and cycle lost in thought. The section of Saranac Lake around Colby Lake is also visually stunning.
I think this track will be eliminatory. I think using this trail all year round will be out of place. I think this trail is a great long term investment in Adirondack Park that enhances the quality of life for residents and will get people to visit. This trail will connect the communities of the Three Lakes in a way they have never been linked before, although it will not be without its hiccups and controversies that the state, communities and users of the trail will have to overcome.
Further down the road I think the success of this trail will inspire the transformation of the North Creek from the Saratoga Railroad to a 55 mile multi-use trail. A potential North Creek to Saratoga Springs rail trail will run along the banks of the Hudson River for 20 miles and offer dozens of awe-inspiring views of the river and beyond. When this trail is built, it will also be a knockout and transformation for Saratoga Springs on the south end and North Creek on the north end, and for Stony Creek, Thurman, and Lake Luzerne, among other communities, in between. .
I also believe that the success of the trail from Lake Placid to Tupper Lake will inexorably lead to the conversion of the line from Thendara to Tupper Lake. A tourist train in this country makes no sense. The state should not be wasting tens of millions of dollars maintaining the Thendara to Tupper Lake rail line. The only place the Scenic Train operated was the run south from Thendara along the Moose River.
A popular snowmobile trail and bike path that runs along Hitchin Pond and near Lila Lake will turn things around in places close to my heart and which I have enjoyed over the years watching them get wilder. I don’t think the idea of tearing up the train line from Tupper Lake to Thendara, where it runs between different wilderness areas, and rebuilding the rail corridor will ever be heard.
I think the success of the trail at the north end will inspire the large community of Old Forge to see that it will benefit tremendously by being the south gateway to this multi-use trail. Extending the multi-use trail south of Tupper Lake to Thendara will make snowmobilers happy, but it will also provide a unified cycling route like no other.
This trail is a highlight for the Adirondacks. Hats off to everyone who brought us here and made it here.