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Deal could add hiker parking on Loj Road

LAKE PLACID — A proposed agreement between the town of North Elba and state Department of Environmental Conservation could pave the way for more hiker parking on two local roads, including Adirondack Loj Road.

The 20-year agreement, authorized by the North Elba Town Council on March 9, would give the town the responsibility of paving the 2-mile unpaved section of Adirondack Loj Road leading up to the extremely busy Loj trailhead, which is operated by the Adirondack Mountain Club. The town would also be responsible for plowing the road during the winter. The agreement also says the town would be responsible for plowing “any new parking lot constructed on state lands to provide for public access to the Forest Preserve.”

The agreement repeatedly references a plan to build a parking lot at the corner of South Meadow Road and Adirondack Loj Road, unless another parking solution is agreed to. That corner, while still a substantial walk from the trailhead, is on state land, whereas beyond that point the road enters Mountain Club property.

In return for the plowing and paving, the DEC would pay the town up to $12,000 per year and reimburse the town for the paving “provided the amount is no greater than $1.25 million,” according to the agreement. The paving would happen “as soon as practicable and by no later than 2024,” the document says.

Though the Mountain Club operates a parking lot at the Loj trailhead, the number of hikers looking to venture into the Forest Preserve from that trailhead often exceeds the number of parking spaces. In the summer and fall, the road is often lined with cars for miles as people park illegally along the roadside and hike in to the trailhead.

It’s unclear when the DEC plans to build a parking lot near Adirondack Loj Road. DEC spokesman Kevin Frazier declined to offer any specifics until the department’s agreement with the town is finalized. The News had asked when the DEC planned to build a parking lot there, if there’s another parking solution the DEC is considering, how much the parking lot is expected to cost, how long the construction period would be and whether the parking lots would be free or paid.

“Once it is finalized, DEC will begin identifying and selecting infrastructure project designs, which will include cost estimates for the projects,” Frazier wrote in an email. “Funding will be appropriated once the agreement is fully executed and project costs are calculated.”

The DEC-North Elba agreement would also affect two other roads: South Meadow Road, which branches off of Adirondack Loj Road in the High Peaks Wilderness, and Old Mountain Road, which is several miles away.

Under the agreement, the town would give the DEC the authority to manage public vehicle access to South Meadow Road. When the new parking lot at the intersection with Adirondack Loj Road is completed, the DEC would be authorized to put up a barricade across South Meadow Road near the Adirondack Loj Road intersection and limit vehicle access wherever the department “deems appropriate.”

This agreement outlines a plan for Old Mountain Road that may include a new parking lot near the road’s intersection with state Route 73. If the agreement is finalized, the DEC would also be responsible for providing resources and managing volunteers for trail maintenance on, and along, Old Mountain Road “in order to maintain the historic Jackrabbit Trail,” the document says. The DEC would be authorized to manage public vehicle access at that section of Old Mountain Road with a gate at the turnaround. The town would be required to pass a local ordinance or take action to ensure public motorized access is prohibited from the end of Old Mountain Road to the town’s boundary with Keene.

Old Mountain Road was part of the original road between Lake Placid and Keene, on the other side of Pitchoff Mountain from the current Route 73. Although it passes through the state Sentinel Range Wilderness, a 15-year legal battle established in late 2018 that it is officially still a road of the towns of North Elba and Keene. Motorized vehicles are not allowed on it; skiers mostly use it as part of the Jackrabbit Trail.

The North Elba Town Council agreed on March 9 to sign this agreement with the DEC. According to Frazier, the agreement hasn’t been finalized yet.