McCulley wins Old Mountain Road case

LAKE PLACID - A lengthy court case involving a Lake Placid snowmobiler is finally over, and the decision could have major implications throughout the Adirondack Park.

State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis last week dismissed a ticket issued to Jim McCulley for operating his pick-up truck on Old Mountain Road, which runs between North Elba and Keene and is part of the Sentinel Range Wilderness.

"Old Mountain Road is a town road that has not been abandoned, and is accordingly under the jurisdiction of a town highway department," Grannis wrote in a court document.

McCulley, Lake Placid Snowmobile Club president, said the decision sets a precedent for hundreds of similar roads throughout the Adirondack Park that have been classified as forest preserve.

"What it means is that the state's 30 years of illegal road closure is over," he said. "They've known what they've been doing is wrong for many years. They didn't want to admit it. And a big part of this is they didn't want Adirondackers to know they could actually beat them."

In 2003, McCulley was ticketed for operating his snowmobile on the road - part of the Jackrabbit Cross Country Ski Trail - and in 2005 he was ticketed for driving his truck there. McCulley has long lobbied for a way to connect Lake Placid to an extensive state-approved snowmobile trail network to the south.

Under state law, drivers are prohibited from operating motor vehicles on forest preserve land. But if a road falls under the jurisdiction of a town highway department, the state cannot enforce any penalties on drivers.

Before last Thursday's decision, DEC officials argued both North Elba and Keene had formally abandoned Old Mountain Road. However, Grannis said the road "is a legal right of way for public use."

Lake Placid attorney Matthew Norfolk represented McCulley in the proceedings, and said Grannis made the right decision.

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