SARANAC LAKE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A 34-mile rail corridor connects three Adirondack lakes. It’s been decades since trains used the rails to travel from Lake Placid to Saranac Lake, and then to Tupper Lake – but soon, they’ll be seeing activity again.
On Wednesday, officials gathered in Saranac Lake to announce the start of construction on the Adirondack Rail Trail, a 34-mile recreational path planned to follow the path of the former Adirondack Railway – west to Tupper Lake, east to Lake Placid. The first phase of construction targets the third of the path between Saranac and Placid, and will create a path for use by bikers, hikers, skiers and snowmobilers.
“New York is home to some of the nation’s most scenic regions with spectacular landscapes and incredible recreational opportunities,” said Governor Kathy Hochul in a release. “The Adirondack Rail Trail will be a premier attraction in one of our most picturesque regions, and will allow residents and visitors to experience the Adirondacks with ease, while also connecting them to countless local economies and communities.”
The work will begin at Station Street in Lake Placid, west of the Lake Placid Depot. It will make its way along the trail, passing by Scarface Mountain, Haystack Mountain and near Route 86, eventually making it to the intersection of Route 86 and Cedar Street in Saranac Lake, passing the Saranac Lake Depot.
The route between communities covers miles of forest and mountain. The trail is being designed with people of all ability levels in mind, and will be built using compacted crushed stone, traveling over small bridges where needed. In Tupper Lake, a new parking area will also be constructed to facilitate travelers.
“We expect this to be a major destination,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “This is not just a local rail trail.”
The road to get here started in late 2020, when the DEC began the lengthy process of removing the existing rail infrastructure left behind by where trains had once run. The DEC took full jurisdiction of the land where the rails remain in 2022.
Phase 1 is expected to continue into next year, with work pausing in December for the winter and then picking back up when possible in the spring. Public access to the Placid-Saranac stretch of corridor will be restricted as work continues, but will be opened beginning Dec. 19, so snowmobiles and other winter recreators can use it while the project takes a pause.
Phase 1 is expected to be complete by fall 2023, with the project as a whole complete by 2025. Phase 2 will reach from Saranac Lake west as far as the Floodwood region, just short of Floodwood Mountain. Phase 3 then dips south to make the descent to Tupper Lake.
The Adirondack Rail trail is part of the Adventure NY initiative, through which the DEC is investing into various areas of state land. The goal is to help local economies thrive, and bring new visitors to parts of the state they may not have visited before.
“I am excited to see this world-class amenity come to fruition not only for residents of the Adirondack Park and the North Country but also for the countless visitors from all over who are bound to experience it,” said Assemblyman Matthew Simpson. “The beauty of the Adirondack Park is something to be marveled and experienced firsthand. The Rail Trail will provide an opportunity for countless new adventure seekers whom otherwise may not have the chance.”