Thanks are due to the 40-plus people who came out Oct. 18 and contributed their energy and ideas to the first public workshop on Saranac Lake's bike and pedestrian trail master plan.
Funded by a $40,000 grant from New York's Department of State, this effort is being coordinated by the local Healthy Infrastructure Advisory Board and village Community Development Director Jeremy Evans. The goal is a master plan that accommodates a wide range of trail uses - walking, hiking, road biking, mountain biking, skiing and running, to name a few - and connects the village's neighborhoods with the downtown business district and key attractions like Dewey Mountain Recreation Center and Mount Pisgah Ski Center, where multi-use trails are already being developed.
This sounds exciting. It would enhance the quality of life for residents of this active community and be enticing for potential future residents of this growing village (up 7 percent in population from 2000 to 2010).
Consultant Jeff Olson said the turnout bodes well for the project's success, and we agree. Based on our experience in Saranac Lake, we say an outdoor recreation and family fitness project like this stands a good chance of becoming reality - more so than, say, a project to help the somewhat disorganized local business community or simplify the snarled municipal web of three towns, two counties and a village in one place.
The fact that this effort uses public funds is a bit tricky. We are always cautious about government grants since we think every effort should be made first to raise the funds locally. That was done for the Adirondack Carousel and the Pisgah ski lodge, to their credit. Should taxpayers be stuck with this bill when budgets must be cut to turn the tide of deficit spending? After all, $40,000 could be the salary of the laid-off state worker.
But that's a matter for the people who make and approve public budgets, not the recipients. While we wouldn't bemoan the loss of state grants for things like this, it isn't fair to blame project organizers for applying for funds that are already set aside for this purpose.
Besides, this is for public works, it isn't much money, and the local group had to compete for it, with the most worthy projects winning.
We agree that this is worthy. We look forward with great eagerness to skiing, walking or riding between Pisgah and Dewey.