By Aaron Cerbone, Staff Writer for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise
The state Department of Environmental Conservation is making slow but steady progress on the rail-trail project connecting Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake and Lake Placid with a flat, forested trail - a former train line. The state ripped up those rails in 2021.
The state Adirondack Park Agency issued a wetland permit to the DEC on Aug. 11, approving the DEC's planned work to finish up the rail-trail project.
The state is still waiting on a wetlands permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to DEC Spokesman Jeff Wernick. He said the DEC anticipates construction to begin this fall, depending on that permit. The construction will be done in phases, starting in Lake Placid and moving toward Saranac Lake to Tupper Lake.
The DEC applied for the permit from the APA three times in the past year, but the APA did not approve it until recently, after requesting more details and making recommendations.
"APA is confident the project will not have an undue adverse impact to wetlands or other natural resources present," APA spokesman Keith McKeever wrote in an email.
According to the permit, the project will involve the permanent loss of a little more than a tenth of an acre of wetlands. To mitigate this loss, the state is planning to create around eight-tenths of an acre of new wetlands.
When the state starts construction, the first segment of work will start at Station Street, west of the Lake Placid train station, and end just past the Union Depot in Saranac Lake, near the intersection of Cedar Street and state Route 86. This segment is expected to be completed next summer, according to Wernick.
Wernick said the state will announce a contractor to do the rail-trail work soon. The DEC is undertaking this work with the state Office of General Services.
Sections of the trail between Saranac Lake and Lake Clear are currently closed as the state Department of Transportation removes leftover railroad ties from the corridor. Work began last Tuesday and is expected to continue through September, Wernick said. He said DOT will incrementally close sections of the trail to allow for the safe movement of equipment and materials.
When completed, the 34-mile-long trail will have a surface of compacted crushed stone, with portions to be paved within the village of Saranac Lake and on small sections of trail over bridges, Wernick said. It will be 10 feet wide with a 2.5-foot shoulder.
The trail is already getting use by bikers. It's rough going on the 9 miles between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, and smoother on the 25 miles from Saranac Lake to Tupper Lake.