Construction will start immediately on a new 40-mile snowmobile trail system linking the central Adirondack communities of Minerva, Newcomb and North Hudson, state officials said Tuesday.
Department of Environmental Conservation Acting Commissioner Marc Gerstman said the trail system will establish new areas to mountain bike, horseback ride, hike, snowmobile, cross-country ski and snowshoe. It's part of the management plan for the Essex Chain Lakes tract of forest in Essex and Hamilton counties acquired by the state in 2012.
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Local officials welcomed news that the plan had been approved, with work to start immediately on 18 miles of new trail between Newcomb and Minerva and new trail segments opening every year until the entire system is completed in 2022. Bill Farber, chairman of the Hamilton County board of supervisors, said it will benefit the region's economy.
William Janeway, executive director of the Adirondack Council, said the plan to move trails off lakes and ponds and toward existing travel corridors "is good for protecting clean water, wilderness, wildlife and the winter economy of local communities."
But another environmental group, Protect the Adirondacks, criticized plans to greatly expand motorized access through forest preserve land and build a bridge over the federally protected Boreas River.
"These newly approved 40 miles of snowmobile trails are another step in the largest expansion of motorized use and access in the history of the Forest Preserve," said Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks.
The trail system will follow existing roads and trails on public, private and conservation easement lands to minimize the amount of new trail building, according to DEC. If connections are needed across private property, permission will be sought from the owner.
The plan calls for the addition of new primitive tent sites for camping and a new lean-to near Great Camp Santanoni in Newcomb to protect the historic structures, which are on state forest preserve land.