SARANAC LAKE - Town of Harrietstown officials got an update Thursday on the ongoing construction of a network of mountain biking trails at the town-owned Dewey Mountain Recreation Area.
"The good news is we've built a lot of trail," Chris Gosling of the Barkeater Trails Alliance, or BETA, told the town board. "We've had a lot of great volunteer work days, and we've had a great season."
Gosling gave the board a color-coded map that showed the trails that have already been built, ones that are currently being developed and trails planned in the future. BETA member Leigh Walrath said there are now about 5 miles of mountain biking trails at Dewey, with plans to hopefully build another 2 to 3 miles.
Gosling said he's already seeing signs that Dewey is becoming a popular mountain biking spot.
"We're at a point where ridership is up," Gosling said. "We're starting to see a lot more people on the trails. Traditionally in the summer the mountain hasn't gotten a lot of use, but we're seeing people out there all the time.
"The other thing is with the addition of some of these new trails, we're finally to the point where we're not a destination but we're a worthwhile location to go for a ride. Local riders no longer have to drive to Lake Placid or Wilmington or another community. We have enough right here at home."
Gosling also spoke with the board about the possibility putting on a race at Dewey and village-owned Mount Pisgah, where volunteer crews have also been building mountain biking trails. Councilman Ron Keough raised the idea at the board's Oct. 11 meeting and Gosling was invited to speak about it.
"I thought it would be a good thing to do," Keough said, "a way to bring people in who enjoy that kind of activity and enhance both Dewey and Pisgah."
Gosling said he likes the idea, but he said the amount of mileage at the two mountains isn't enough to put on a race at this point. He also said his organization wants to focus on building mountain biking trails, not organizing races.
However, Gosling said that doesn't mean Dewey couldn't host some mountain biking-related events.
He suggested developing informal races, like the Thursday night running races in the summer, or social gatherings like the Dewey Mountain Ski Jams in the winter, "something that's designed for the local communities and will get people out to the mountain."
Hosting a dual-sport event like mountain biking and road biking, or mountain biking and trail running, is also a possibility. Gosling said another BETA member suggested hosting a 3-stage race over a weekend, with one stage each in Saranac Lake, Lake Placid and Wilmington.
"That would be something that would bring people to the area, and between the three communities we feel we have enough terrain that it would be a viable option," Gosling said.
If the town wants to pursue hosting a race, Gosling suggested the board talk with Jason Smith and Steve Doxzon of Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters, who manage Dewey for the town, or the two bike shops in Lake Placid: Placid Planet and High Peaks Cyclery.
Gosling said mountain biking advocates in the area are also working to get new trails added to state land that's part of the Saranac Lake Wild Forest. Members of BETA and officials from the town and village met with representatives of the state Department of Environmental Conservation this week to discuss that topic.
"Demand for bicycling as a sport is growing incredibly," Gosling said. "People are looking for places to go. We see this as a great opportunity for the area to be able to attract people who otherwise wouldn't be coming."
Town officials thanked Gosling and BETA for their efforts.
"I think what you guys are doing is great, and I give you huge kudos," said Councilwoman Nichole Meyette.
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or cknight@adirondack