byJAMIE MUNKS, poststar.com, link to original post
A group of municipalities and organizations have a plan to connect a series of trails on the west side of Lake George, aiming to make the region a world-class hiking and biking destination.
There are opportunities for hiking and biking in the area, but if implemented, the trail connection plan could entice people to visit the area specifically for those activities, said Tracey Clothier, a senior planner with the Saratoga Springs-based LA Group.“Hikers and bikers spend money,” Clothier said. “That’s why we support this kind of economic development initiative.”
The towns of Bolton, Hague, Lake George and Ticonderoga and the village of Lake George have partnered with organizations such as the Adirondack-Glens Falls Transportation Council and the Warren County Safe and Quality Bicycling Organization, to put together a pitch for a continuous trail system on the west side of the lake that cites economic, health, environmental and community identity benefits.
The three towns and the village received a $69,000 state grant last year, through the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Smart Growth program, to fund the study.
The plan calls for connecting existing hiking and biking trails on the west side of the lake, creating pedestrian connections on roads and bike racks. “It’s amazing how few resources are integrated into the landscape,” Clothier said.
Clothier attended meetings for each of the municipalities in the fall to solicit public input on the plan.
The resources that are available include 18 major trail hubs from Lake George to Ticonderoga, four nature reserves, a network of snowmobile trails and about two dozen parks.
During an end-to-end trip on the Erie Canalway Trail, cyclists can spend up to $1,500 each, while multi-use trails and cycling projects generally create between nine and 12 jobs, Clothier said.
Some of the existing trails that would become part of the network have capacity issues, including those on Cat and Thomas mountains in Bolton and Prospect Mountain in Lake George, Clothier said.
There’s also not a strong relationship between trail use and area businesses, and there aren’t many trails that cater to seniors, young children and physically challenged people, Clothier said.
There are a lot of cyclists who are being introduced to the area, said Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover, noting the Centurion Cycling event that was held in Lake George last summer. “One of the major questions we get at the visitor’s center is ‘where do we go to hike and bike?’” Conover said.
The state last month purchased Cat and Thomas mountains in Bolton from the Lake George Land Conservancy, which already includes an extensive trail system, which was an important part in the plan to implement the trail connections.
Clothier’s presentation included “story boards” for each of the municipalities, highlighting the different resources and whether the trail system there has cell service and if dogs are allowed.
In order to make the plan a reality, Clothier suggested the creation of a Lake George Area Trails Partnership, which would be in charge of implementing the plan’s connected trail system, hiring a trail coordinator and promoting the system to bike tours and other tourists. The new network could then ultimately be connected with other trail systems in the region. “It’s a good foundation,” Queensbury Third Ward Councilman John Strough said. “We don’t want this sitting on the shelf collecting dust.”
Guidebooks for enjoying the trails and waterways of the Lake George area can be found at www.footprintpress.com.