LAKE GEORGE Five years ago when Ralph Macchio Sr. first envisioned a zip line ride in Lake George, it might have seemed like pie in the sky.
After a wild ride of gaining approvals from two towns and the Adirondack Park Agency, and the settlement of lawsuits, the Eagle Flyer is about a week into construction near the summit of French Mountain.
Macchio said he hopes to be the first one down the 58-second ride this summer, the opening of which will coincide with the reopening of the Wild West Ranch & Western Town off Route 9 after being closed in recent years.
Macchio, father of actor Ralph Macchio, known for his “My Cousin Vinny” and “The Karate Kid” movie roles, brought his grandson Daniel on an outing up the mountain Wednesday.
“I was thrilled,” Daniel, 19, said when he heard his grandfather’s plans for the ride.
Daniel, whose father is the actor, said he has been enjoying visiting Lake George for about the past 10 years since his grandparents bought the ranch.
Macchio and his family first bought land on French Mountain in 1969, and in 2005 bought the ranch.
The date for the opening of both is still being discussed, but both are planned to be year-round, weather permitting.
The Eagle Flyer will carry riders, hooked into a soft harness in a seated or head-first position, above the treetops as high as 125 feet off the ground for a nearly 60-second ride.
The price to ride is not yet known.
Riders will be shuttled up the mountain via off-road vehicles and take off on four cables with the ability to race their friends. The 1,000-foot vertical drop will hit speeds as high as 50 mph before a gentle landing on the platform yet to be built on the ranch.
“When I first came up here to this point, I just appreciated the view so much,” Macchio said as he stood on an outcropping on French Mountain on Wednesday.
Pointing to views of Prospect Mountain, Lake George and the High Peaks in the distance on a clear day, Macchio said he wanted to share it with the public.
“It’s a thrill ride, but I think it’s more than that. It’s an Adirondacks experience,” Macchio said. “That’s a lifetime experience for a lot of people.”
The nearly $3 million investment covers construction of the zip line and some improvements at the ranch, including to the sanitary facilities and roadway, as well as stormwater mitigation.
Chad Powell, who owns Fusilli Italian Restaurant on Long Island, will run the restaurant on the ranch, which Macchio said was popular for Western dancing.
Macchio is Powell’s uncle through marriage.
“Just his passion for the property and the project — I wanted to get involved,” Powell said of why he was interested in the project.
He said the restaurant will be a family environment serving fare like burgers and ribs.
Macchio said he “went overboard on safety” for the ride, making sure he had the latest patented technology and equipment from Manhattan-based Zip Flyer LLC, a firm that has engineered zip lines in Nepal, Las Vegas, on U.S. Forest Service land and at other destinations.
Formerly called the “Bear Pond Zip Flyer,” plans call for two 34-foot towers connected by four cables: one at the ranch in the town of Lake George and the other near the French Mountain summit in Queensbury.
Macchio and Lake George RV Park owner Dave King said they came to an “amicable” settlement outside of court.
King had filed two Article 78 lawsuits challenging Queensbury and Adirondack Park Agency decisions in the state Supreme Court in Warren County.
Both declined to talk about the details of the settlement, but Macchio said they have a good “neighborly” relationship now.
“We came to an amicable agreement so we can co-exist as neighbors so we can both enjoy the use of our properties for our individual businesses’ use,” King said.
He said concerns still linger — environmental groups also came out against the APA approval — but he was happy to have an agreement with Macchio.
“I wish him luck. I hope he does well this summer,” King said.
Macchio said the ranch, Eagle Flyer and Lake George Forum will employ about 50 people.
Ruben Ellsworth, owner of Ellsworth & Son Excavating, said when they start pouring concrete for the platforms, he’ll probably have about 15 people on the job.
“It’s an exciting job,” Ellsworth said, adding that he has been fielding a lot of questions about when it will open.
Macchio said the state Department of Labor will have to inspect it before it opens to the public.
“It’s going to bring a lot of people to the Lake George area and keep them here instead of traveling,” Ellsworth said.
Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Michael Consuelo and Mayor Robert Blais also praised the ride in a news release. Town Supervisor Dennis Dickinson said the town needs to update its zoning to accommodate more innovative tourist attractions such as the Eagle Flyer.
Follow Amanda May Metzger on Twitter @AmandaWhistle and read her blog at poststar.com/app/blogs.
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