LAKE GEORGE — The town is trying to find an alternative route for a popular section of snowmobile trail that lets riders use a one-mile stretch of Warren County Bikeway, amid concerns about the trail being closed and damage to the bikeway.
The bike path between Bloody Pond Road and the lake has been used as a connector for snowmobile trail networks in Warren and Washington counties for nearly a decade, as it is technically closed to bicycles in the winter. But snowmobile treads have damaged the path during a few winters, and some landowners next to the path have complained about trespassing. They say the path was created with a promise that motorized vehicles would not be allowed on it.
The latest issue arose after visiting snowmobilers complained earlier this month that the section of trail on the bikeway was gated off. The county, which owns the bike path, closes the gates when the Warren County Department of Public Works believes the snow cover is insufficient to protect the pavement from spikes on snowmobile treads. Snowmobiles have damaged the path in places in past winters.
Three families from Connecticut who came to the region to snowmobile last weekend happened to arrive during one of the closures, and they contacted the Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce to find out why.
Gina Mintzer, the chamber’s executive director, asked the Board of Supervisors on Wednesday if anything can be done to cater to snowmobilers and allow use of the bikeway trail.
She said snowmobiling has a big economic impact on the region, and the connector trail is a major conduit for visitors.
“A lot of people come to us through there. We don’t want to lose that,” Mintzer said.
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Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson said the town is working to reroute the trail off the bike path. Snowmobiles never should have been allowed on the path under the original agreement to bar motorized vehicles, he said.
He acknowledged that snowmobiling is a big winter draw, saying he counted 25 snowmobiles at the Canada Street Stewart’s store one recent day. Part of Fort George Road could be used, but a solution for the stretch near Magic Forest Amusement Park is still being sought, he said.
“I think our goal is to get them off the bike path. It’s just incompatible for that surface,” said Horicon Supervisor Matt Simpson, chairman of the Board of Supervisors Public Works Committee.
Mike Zilm, executive director of the South Warren Snowmobile Club, which maintains the trail system in the Lake George region, questioned whether there were ways to protect the bikeway other than barring snowmobiles.
“If that’s the problem, scratches on the asphalt, there’s got to be a solution,” Zilm said.
The bike path could be resurfaced, as is done in other areas where snowmobiles cross pavement, or temporary mats could be used. In the Old Forge area, crossings for snowmobile trails are surfaced in concrete that resists damage better than asphalt.
The Board of Supervisors is reviewing the options going forward, and access to the bikeway will be unchanged this winter.