Businesses gear up for busy rail trail

Bicyclists embark on the Adirondack Rail Trail, crossing Old Military Road in Lake Placid in May. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

LAKE PLACID — Some businesses in this village are trying to cash in on the popular Adirondack Rail Trail during the first summer the 10-mile stretch to Saranac Lake will be open.

On Dec. 1, 2023, state Department of Environmental Conservation officials opened the first phase of the rail trail from Lake Placid to Saranac Lake. The second phase from Saranac Lake to Floodwood Road is currently under construction and is expected to be complete by this fall. The third phase from Floodwood Road to Tupper Lake is expected to be open in the fall of 2025. When open, it will stretch 34 miles.

As the region heads into the main summer tourist season, the trail has already seen a lot of activity. Businesses in the Tri-Lakes villages of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake are coming up with plans to cater to rail trail visitors and bracing for more activity as the crowds discover this new outdoor attraction.

In Lake Placid, three bike shops are renting traditional bicycles and e-bikes for rail trail users: Placid Planet Bicycles on Saranac Avenue, High Peaks Cyclery on Main Street and the recently opened Bike Lake Placid on Old Military Road.

“I think everybody in town is going to benefit (from the trail), not only bike shops but retail and restaurants,” High Peaks Cyclery co-owner Karen Delaney said on Wednesday, June 19. “People are really enjoying it.”

High Peaks Cyclery is located on Main Street, Lake Placid. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

In the summer, the trail is used by walkers and people on road bikes, mountain bikes and e-bikes. Mothers pushing children in strollers and kids learning how to bicycle on train wheels have been seen, along with people walking their dogs. In the winter, it is used by snowmobilers, cross-country skiers, snowshoers and fat-bike operators.

The trail from Lake Placid to Fowler’s Crossing outside Saranac Lake, on state Route, is constructed of crushed, packed stone. The 2-mile stretch from there to Broadway is paved. The trail is being constructed to be accessible for people using wheelchairs.

Placid Planet Bicycles

(From left, Greg Borzilleri and Patrick Manning pose at Bike Lake Placid on May 21. News photo — Andy Flynn)

Julie Voss at Placid Planet Bicycles told the News on June 19 that the business has seen more customers since the opening of the rail trail.

“A lot of people like to rent and try out a bike before they buy one,” she said. “We’ve seen more business from that.”

Voss also shared from her own experience how beneficial the trail will be for businesses in both Lake Placid and Saranac Lake.

“People are riding east from Saranac Lake or west from Lake Placid,” she said, adding that when she rides the trail, she goes for ice cream or stops for a beer along the trail.

Voss said the trail is helping those who haven’t been on a bike in a long time get excited to get on a bike again.

Banners like these have gone up on utility poles near the Adirondack Rail Trail in Lake Placid. (News photo — Sydney Emerson)

“We’re here to help those folks,” she said. “We’re really excited.”

High Peaks Cyclery

High Peaks Cyclery co-owner Brian Delaney, Karen’s husband, said he’s been waiting a long time to see the Adirondack Rail Trail open for the public.

The Adirondack Rail Trail in Lake Placid begins here at the gate on Station Street. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

“You know for a while, I never thought I’d see it in my lifetime,” he said on June 19.

High Peaks Cyclery is prepared to provide many trail essentials to help trail-goers have the best experience possible, according to Brian, who promotes his business as the Adirondack Rail Trail’s “rental headquarters.” They plan on opening a kiosk at Station Street, where the trail begins, which will have maps and information about the trail for its users.

High Peaks Cyclery will also be providing a shuttle to the rail trail for guests who rent bikes.

Though the store is only open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Brian said the shuttle will run whenever guests need it. For now, the shuttle can travel to Saranac Lake.

“Eventually, the plan is to have the shuttle go all the way to Tupper Lake,” Brian said. “Once the trail makes it all the way down there, it will really be something special.”

The Adirondack Rail Trail in Lake Placid begins on Station Street. Here is the parking area. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

Bike renters can set up their pickup time and location when they rent or simply call the store and tell them their location and when they would like to be picked up.

Although Lake Placid hasn’t quite entered its busiest month, Brian said they have been very busy with the opening of the rail trail.

“We’ve been go, go, go every day,” he said.

High Peaks Cyclery has 100 bikes to be rented along with trailers for dogs and children, canoe trailers and strollers. Brian said their most popular rentals are the gravel bikes. These bikes are lightweight with 42-millimeter tires that allow the rider to go faster over gravel while still enjoying a smooth ride.

Brian said he is excited about the continued development of the rail trail. Not only will it be beneficial economically for the businesses in the area, but he said it will be good for the people, too.

“It’s good for families. It’s off the road, so it is safer for children,” he said.

Bike Lake Placid

Greg Borzilleri — known more around town as the race director for the Ironman Lake Placid triathlon and owner/operator of the Lake Placid Marathon and Half and Mirror Lake Boat Rentals — has opened a new business on Old Military Road adjacent to the rail trail. It’s called Bike Lake Placid. His soft opening was in May, and he’s planning a grand opening from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, June 23.

The opening will include complimentary e-bike rides, children’s activities, cornhole and food.

“I was really looking for a spot to consolidate everything,” Borzilleri said on May 21. “The marathon had always been scattered, storing stuff in my garage, storing stuff at the Ironman trailer, my house, different places where I worked. This is a great facility that I can store my marathon gear and operate maybe a retail store. … There’s a ton of potential here and there’s space that we can do events out of here.”

Borzilleri’s vision is to have Bike Lake Placid be a hub for the community and rail trail users.

“Hopefully this will be a nice centralized location where we can run Lake Placid Marathon events, we can run the bike shop and cross promote the boats,” he said. “My vision is that we have a place where people can come and just hang out — basically it’s a village park, but it’s a private park.”

Borzilleri praised state officials for ripping up the train tracks and converting the rail corridor into a trail. The DEC maintains the state-owned rail trail.

“The state did a good thing,” he said. “People have complaints about the state, but this is government in action. This is the state doing the right thing and doing something really for the good of the people and making people happy. And it’s awesome, I think. It makes my heart feel good that there’s a state project that people enjoy so much.”

The business rents pedal-assisted electric bikes known as class 1 e-bikes, which is the only class of e-bikes allowed on the rail trail. That’s opposed to class 2 e-bikes, which are equipped with a motor controlled by a throttle, and class 3 e-bikes, which can reach a speed of about 28 mph. They also rent tricycles and mountain bikes.

Borzilleri hired 20-year-old Lake Placid High School graduate Patrick Manning, class of 2021, as his shop manager for Bike Lake Placid. When the News spoke to him on May 21, he said he was seeing about 100 people a day on the rail trail during the off-season and expected it to get busier during the summer months.

“We’re an e-bike rental but our big thing is to try to be here for the community,” Manning said. “We want people to be able to take a pit-stop, have their water, have some food, be able to have a good spot on the rail trail that is welcoming to people. … We want to make it a welcoming space for the community, whether you’re a local or a traveler.”

A bicyclist rides along the Adirondack Rail Trail from Fowler's Crossing outside Saranac Lake, heading toward Ray Brook and Lake Placid. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

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