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Mt. Pisgah trail session yields plenty of ideas

May 14, 2011
By CHRIS KNIGHT - Senior Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

SARANAC LAKE - A proposed trail system at Mount Pisgah Ski Center needs to accommodate a variety of recreational users and should be connected to the village.

Those are just two of the ideas that were shared by the roughly 40 people who showed up Thursday night for a trail planning session at the village-run ski center. The meeting was hosted by North Woods Engineering and Demong Designs, a newly formed trail and venue design company led by Olympic gold- and silver-medal-winning nordic combined skier (and Vermontville native) Bill Demong, engineer Joe Garso and architect Kris Seymour.

Last year, the village received a $600,000 grant from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, most of which is targeted for the new T-bar lift for the ski center. About $150,000 was set aside for design and development of an accessible trail at the base of the mountain and a longer, multi-use trail on each side of the ski hill. The project is part of an effort to create more year-round recreational opportunities at the village-run mountain.

Article Photos

People listen at a trail planning session Thursday at Mount Pisgah Ski Center in Saranac Lake.
(Photo — Chris Morris)

Garso described Thursday's meeting as an opportunity for people to shape and get involved with the project.

There was no shortage of feedback from the audience. Many people said it's important for the multi-use trail to be built to accommodate a variety of uses: mountain biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, trail running and walking.

"I just hope that at every point in the process there's consideration for the different uses that people will want to have here," said Matt McNamara of the Barkeater Trails Alliance, which has led mountain bike trail development efforts in Wilmington and Lake Placid. "That includes the accessible trail and trails for different levels for biking, and making them in such a way that they can be shared with different uses like trail runners and hikers. I think that's the real crux of this."

For the trail system to be successful, Friends of Mount Pisgah President Wayne Feinberg said it will need to appeal to as broad a group as possible, "from little kids to senior citizens and those who are handicapped."

If mountain biking is going to be a focus, Saranac Lake resident Leigh Walrath said the ski area could be a great place for "short downhill mountain biking that's not terrifying like you get at Whiteface.

"It's a good place to go for someone who's interested in downhilling but doesn't want to go to the hospital after," he said.

Some said the Pisgah trail planners should look at what's been done in Henry's Woods, a 200-acre preserve on the outskirts of Lake Placid that features a series of trails for walking, hiking, cross-country skiing and mountain biking.

"There are models that are already working that are successful," said Saranac Lake resident Doug Haney. "Henry's Woods in Lake Placid is a prime example of something that's functional and working for all sorts of uses."

Haney also said the trail system at Pisgah should connect to the village.

"It's one thing to drive your car here, park in the parking lot and take your bikes off it," he said. "But it's another thing to be able to ride here from your house, which I think is one of the things that's lacking in Saranac Lake. It's really tough to ride your bike anywhere, for kids especially, because the traffic is so heavy."

Some said connections to Pisgah could be made by securing easements from neighboring property owners, like what's done with the Jackrabbit Cross-Country Ski Trail or the popular Kingdom Trails mountain biking area in Vermont. Others suggested creating trail access to Pisgah through the easements the village has acquired from the American Management Association and other property owners for its water project.

However, Garso cautioned the audience that "we're not going to be able to do everything.

"We're not going to be able, with the budget we have, to do all sorts of connections from here to everywhere," he said. "But we want to make sure we have that in our thought process now, so that as things become available in the future, we're set up here to (connect the trails) there."

"Our perspective is if we're going to do this, we're going to do it right because we want people to use it," village Community Development Director Jeremy Evans added. "We're not going to do it all in one shot. But we can try to develop what the vision is with the funding that's available."

Garso said the grant was written with the intent that village crews and volunteers would do the vast majority of work on the multi-use trail. A shorter, handicapped-accessible trail, which would have a compacted surface, possibly asphalt, would go out to bid, he said.

Garso said he hopes to have both trails constructed this year.


Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or



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