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DOT transfers rail trail ownership to DEC

New signs have been erected at rail trail sites such as this one on Old Military Road in Lake Placid in the fall of 2021. They are temporary during construction. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

The state departments of environmental conservation and transportation, in cooperation with the Office of General Services, Friday, March 11, announced the completion of the transfer of jurisdiction for a 34-mile segment of the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor.

This portion of the future Adirondack Rail Trail between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid was transferred from DOT to DEC, marking the official start of the trail’s design and construction phase and the conversion of the railbed into a shared-use path for hikers, bikers, cross-country skiers, and snowmobile enthusiasts.

Starting in October 2020, DOT worked to remove rail infrastructure from the Tupper Lake to Lake Placid segment of the corridor, leading to the transfer of jurisdiction to DEC. The transfer marks the formal completion of the rail removal phase and begins the start of the formal trail design and construction phase. With the transfer of jurisdiction, DEC assumes management of public safety and recreational activities, as well as maintenance, along this segment of the corridor.

OGS is leading the trail’s design and construction with the intent to make it accessible by people of all abilities to the maximum extent practicable. Upon completion of construction, DEC will assume day-to-day management of the trail working closely with stakeholders and municipalities. Estimated timing to complete the Rail Trail is dependent on multiple factors including contract approvals, securing necessary wetland permits, and coordinating with State, Federal, and local entities. Construction of the compacted stone dust surfaced trail will be undertaken in stages. As each stage is finished, the completed portion of trail will open to the public.

The first of the three stage — the Lake Placid to Saranac Lake segment of the trail — is currently scheduled to open September 2023. The complete trail is expected to be open in 2025. The projected cost for the trail is $22.9 million, which will likely be adjusted as design details and final contracted costs are finalized for parking lots; snowmobile, pedestrian, and bicycle pull-offs; retaining walls; stormwater measures; wetland mitigation; signage; and other specifics.

During the trail construction stages, DEC will carefully manage recreation prioritizing public safety. Public use may be limited or restricted in sections due to hazardous conditions or active construction. Winter recreation including snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, fat tire biking, and snowshoeing will be permitted; Pedestrian (non-motorized) and bicycling (including class 1 electric bikes) will be the only non-winter uses permitted.