On the trail ... the North Country trail

One of the truly unique and commonly overlooked advantages of living in the Adirondacks is the incredible degree of accessibility that is available on an established network of over 3,000 miles of marked hiking trails. Native Americans initially utilized trails that were established along water courses, as the topography of the adjacent flood plains commonly provided relatively level and open terrain. Over time, trappers, hunters and eventually military expeditions helped to develop many of these former foot trails into the roadways which are in use today. Currently, there remain over a dozen, Old Military Roads across the state. Many of the old original footpaths, especially those used as community connectors, remain intact. Every small town has their share of old trails that lead to a footbridge, an old pasture, a mountain lookout or a nearby waterfalls. While some of these trails may be overgrown, underutilized or even forgotten, there are few towns where such trails dont exist. And, if gas prices continue to soar, many of these trails will likely see new life. In many areas of the country, where suburban sprawl and highway infrastructure continue to gobble up land at the warp speed of 365 acres per hour, there remains precious little land available for hiking trails or footpaths. This is the reason that many Americans prefer to visit places such as greenways and trails which offer safe, scenic recreation and transportation for the whole family. The U.S. Department of Transportation, in its National Bicycling and Walking Study final report, estimates that currently 131 million Americans regularly bicycle, walk, skate or jog for exercise, sport or recreation. According to research conducted by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, an estimated 85 million people use rail-trails annually. It is interesting to note that rail-trails are typically developed as community connectors. Recently, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation announced a proposal to establish a new 140-mile hiking trail from Boonville on the western edge of the Adirondack Park to Crown Point on the shores of Lake Champlain. From an eastern terminus in Crown Point, the 4,600-mile route would connect to Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota and incorporate national forests, scenic areas and other significant resources. The North Country Trail is a National Scenic Trail. It is similar in concept to the Appalachian Trail and would take visitors through a diverse series of landscapes across seven states. The ultimate goal is a route that is completely off-road and non-motorized, though the proposal includes some temporary roadside paths. In New York, the path would utilize some of the over 4,000 miles of existing major trail networks such as the Finger Lakes Trail and the Onondaga Trail. In the Adirondacks, it would utilize about 70 miles of existing paths and would require the construction of about 50 miles of new trail, including some temporary connectors. The proposed route would go through nine different wilderness or Wild Forest areas, including the Moose River Plains and the Hudson River Gorge, as it meanders generally northeast from the hamlet of Forestport to Crown Point. So far, the only completed section of the trail in New York is the 360-mile section of the Finger Lakes Trail System stretching from southeast of Syracuse to Allegany State Park. For more information, go to www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/39658.html Congress authorized the North Country Trail in 1980, but progress toward the completion of the 4,600-mile plus trail has been slow and as a result, it remains the most unknown major hiking trail in America. When the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation first began to study the idea of a major hiking trail through the boreal forests of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota, they thought there were about 3000 miles of existing trails that could be incorporated into the project. To date, only about 1,500 miles of trail have been certified by the National Park Service, although there are nearly 2,500 miles of trail along the route that can be considered usable. Surveys reveal that suburban and rural trails that encourage "vacation-style" trips tend to generate more revenue per user than urban and suburban trails used primarily by nearby residents. However, that does not diminish the fact that a substantial amount of revenue can still be generated from the large number of users that a residential trail typically attracts. Across the country, there are a variety of businesses that attribute their success to nearby trails, including restaurants, convenience stores, bicycle shops, campgrounds and bed and breakfast establishments. Recent studies have shown that the average trail user spends approximately $28 per day in communities which have multi-use paths. In 1992, over 170,000 individuals visited the Tallahassee-St. Marks Trail in Florida while an estimated 135,000 visitors traveled the Heritage Trail, which winds through eastern Iowa farmland. There are upwards of 400,000 users annually traveling along suburban California's Lafayette-Moraga Trail. The North Country National Scenic Trail will eventually link scenic, natural, historic, and cultural areas in seven states. When completed the trail will be the longest continuous hiking trail in the United States. The trail will allow hikers to experience a variety of northern landscapes at a walking pace. The North Country National Scenic Trail
The 133 mile long Northville-Placid Trail, which begins just outside the village of Lake Placid was developed in 1923. The historic trail, the longest in the Adirondacks, may soon be eclipsed by a proposed North Country Trail Lake that will run from Crown Point to Sakakawea, N.D. along a 4,600-mile route. A roughly 140-mile trail, winding from Crown Point on the shores of Lake Champlain to Boonville on the western edge of the Adirondack Mountains could become the newest section of the North Country National Scenic Trail, under a proposal advanced by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).. Meeting Dates for the Draft Plan of the Adirondack Section of the North Country National Scenic Trail will be hosted on: Wednesday, Dec. 5, Warrensburg DEC office. 6:30 p.m. till 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, Boonville Town/Village Hall. 6:30 p.m. till 8:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, DEC Central Office, Albany. 2 p.m. till 4 p.m.

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