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First segment of Adirondack Rail Trail opens

Work on the Adirondack Rail Trail continues
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Workers constructing the Adirondack Rail Trail

This month state and local officials celebrated the completion of the first phase of construction of the Adirondack Rail Trail.

The 34-mile multi-recreational use Adirondack Rail Trail is being built in three phases between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake. The first 10-mile section, completed on December 1st, connects Lake Placid and Saranac Lake. New York state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said the first segment opens up areas of the Adirondacks that had previously only been seen by rail workers and passengers.

“Ten feet wide, crushed stone," described Seggos. "The crushed stone section continues all the way to Lake Placid. ADA accessible along the entire path. ADA accessible parking lots as well. You’ll see in the spring interpretive signage and benches. The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe we’re going to be doing outreach with them in order to bring in indigenous learnings and culture into this rail trail. Snowmobiling, bike riding, electric bike riding, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, walking. This will be a year-round trail, a year-round asset.”

State Senator Dan Stec, a Republican from the 45th district, recalled the controversy that erupted over the idea of building a rail trail.

“This was not a slam dunk easy decision that everyone 100 percent got onboard at the get-go," Stec remembered. "And everyone has done everything they can to make this the success that they promised the people that had their concerns about whether or not this was the right thing to do: rip up the rails. But I think that what’s been done here we should all be very encouraged that this is first class. You couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Seggos agreed this was a challenging project that took years to come to fruition.

“Ten – twelve years of work getting to this point," said Seggos. "We saw litigation. We saw extraordinary disagreements between folks who were advocating for rail the whole way and folks who were advocating for trails the whole way. Finding that middle ground, right, and then developing the construction plan, the engineering plan to actually make it happen, finding the money for it. I mean an amazing amount of work goes into something like this.”

State Assemblyman D. Billy Jones, a Democrat representing the 115th district, says the trail is a significant investment in recreation and tourism that the region depends on.

“You know we are a tourism economy here in the Adirondacks and that will in turn help businesses," said Jones. "You know I think overall this is a good thing for locals, to recreate, to enjoy, for our tourism economy that we have here. It’s extremely important for that and our local businesses will only be enhanced by this.”

Construction costs for Phase One are about $8 million. Phase Two construction between Saranac Lake and Lake Clear has begun. Phase Three will complete the trail to Tupper Lake. The entire trail is expected to be completed in 2025.