Placid rail trail work continues

This is the site on Station Street where the trailhead infrastructure will be built for the Lake Placid terminus of the Adirondack Rail Trail. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

LAKE PLACID — A new trailhead for the 34-mile Adirondack Rail Trail is set to go up on Station Street, featuring a picnic pavilion, year-round restrooms, interpretive signage and a parking area.

The Lake Placid Village Board of Trustees is working with the Open Space Institute, a New York-based conservation organization, to build the trailhead on an almost two-acre plot next to the old train station. Village Mayor Art Devlin said that the state government ushered in the partnership between the village and the OSI.

The village is close to finalizing the $249,000 purchase of the land on which the trailhead will be built. The 1.77-acre plot, a former railyard, currently belongs to the Lake Placid-North Elba Historical Society, which has operated a museum in the train station since 1967. The village’s purchase, along with associated fees, is funded by $300,000 from the 2023 state Environmental Protection Fund, which funds capital projects that also promote conservation.

“June 1 was the date we were supposed to buy the property,” Devlin said on Sunday, June 2. “I’m under the understanding it’s imminent.”

While OSI is handling most of the improvements to the property, the village will be helping out in any way it can, Devlin said. Some of the anticipated work includes bringing water and electricity to the property for the restroom facilities. The parking area will open as soon as the property is in the village’s hands, according to Devlin, and should be able to serve those using the rail trail throughout the summer. OSI’s Senior Vice President for Communications Eileen Larrabee said that construction on the trailhead’s amenities will likely not begin until next year, as OSI is still $300,000 away from its $1.55 million fundraising goal for the project.

The project has so far received funding via a $300,000 grant from the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Smart Growth Grant program, a $500,000 EPF grant, a $50,000 grant from North Elba’s Local Enhancement and Advancement Fund and an unspecified grant from the Cloudsplitter Foundation.

Lake Placid-North Elba Historical Society board member Peter Roland Jr. said on Sunday that the new trailhead is going to drive traffic to their museum.

“When you operate a facility like ours, your biggest challenge is having people find you — getting residents to take the time to come and visit you and visitors to find you,” he said. “Since we’ll be immediately adjacent to what is already a really popular attraction … it’s going to give us exposure to an audience that we’ve been hard-pressed to reach.”

Phase 1 of the Adirondack Rail Trail, a 10-mile stretch between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, officially opened to the public on Dec. 1, 2023. Construction started in November 2022. Officials at the DEC — which has control over the state-owned rail trail — has asked the public to stay off sections with active construction. Phase 2 is currently being constructed between Saranac Lake and Floodwood Road and is expected to be complete this fall. Construction on Phase 3 between Floodwood Road and Tupper Lake is expected to be complete by the fall of 2025.

Before the rail trail, the section from Lake Placid to Saranac Lake was used by the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society to run a scenic tourist train from 2000 to 2016.

In the warm-weather months, outdoor recreation on the trail includes walking and biking, and in the winter, it includes cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fat-tire biking and snowmobiling.

The rail trail’s friends group is the Adirondack Rail Trail Association.

For more information, visit dec.ny.gov/places/adirondack-rail-trail or adirondackrailtrail.org.

(Editor/Publisher Andy Flynn contributed to this report.)

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