State funds sought for big bike tour

SARANAC LAKE – Cycle Adirondacks, a week-long bike tour through northern New York, is a new proposal being put forward for state funding this year.

The North Country Regional Economic Development Council included Cycle Adirondacks as one of the “priority projects” in its 2013 Progress Report, released Tuesday. It seeks $211,750 from the state toward this $970,000 initiative, proposed by the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Up to 600 cyclists from all over the country would take part, the report says.

WCS is better known for animal research than bike tours, so this would be “a big undertaking for us,” acknowledged Zoe Smith, who directs WCS’s Adirondack Program. She said WCS would probably hire someone to run the tour, which would not happen until 2015.

She said the tour would begin and end in Saranac Lake, the largest population center in the Adirondack Park and where WCS’s Adirondack Program is based. It would pass through Essex, Franklin, Lewis, Hamilton, Oneida and Herkimer counties.

If the state funding doesn’t come through, Smith said WCS would re-evaluate whether to pursue this project.

The idea for Cycle Adirondacks came from the area around Yellowstone National Park. Smith said her supervisor is based in Bozeman, Mont. and is on a board of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, which this year put on a new event called Cycle Greater Yellowstone, which brought hundreds of riders from all over the world. The supervisor suggested WCS do something like that here.

Just as Cycle Greater Yellowstone got bikers into small towns that surround the national park, Cycle Adirondacks would “expand people’s horizons out of Lake Placid and Lake George to see the Long Lakes and Star Lakes of the world,” Smith said. The goal is two-fold, Smith said: to teach people about how the Adirondack Park is a special place worth protecting, and also to boost the economy.

Although it is listed as only creating two jobs, Smith said it would have economic impact because cyclists tend to have disposable income, and “we’re looking for repeat visitation.”

“The project will drive tourism and promote community collaboration in the Region,” the Progress Report says. It would “elevate global recognition of the Region as one of the special places on the planet to visit, live, work and study.”