Mount Pisgah bike trails progress

SARANAC LAKE – Volunteers from around the Tri-Lakes region spent Saturday working on Mount Pisgah Ski Center’s mountain bike trails on National Trails Day.

The work was led by the Barkeater Trails Alliance (BETA), a local volunteer group that develops, maintains and advocates for multi-use trail systems suitable for mountain bikes. BETA came together informally in 2009 and two years later became a project of the Adirondack Ski Touring Council.

At least 18 people showed up to work on a downhill trail that is being developed on the skier’s left side of the mountain. The trail is expected to be about a mile long and be the only dedicated downhill trail on the hill.

There are several other mountain biking trails on the mountain, some in the process of being developed, but they can be used in either direction.

“This trail in particular is a pretty unique opportunity for this whole area because it’s built specifically for mountain biking and for downhill mountain biking,” said Matt McNamara of BETA. “We’ve got big berms and a really smooth tread, and it’s fun for people that are skilled and want to ride it fast – but it’s also a lot of fun for people who are just learning. It’s not real technical and rooty and rocky. It’s smooth, so you can approach it from a lot of different angles.”

Leigh Walrath, also of BETA, has been instrumental in doing trail work at Mount Pisgah, in large part because he lives in Saranac Lake. He said this was the second organized trail work day at Pisgah, although there will likely be a few more days this summer that people will get together to do some work.

Walrath said the Pisgah project has received a lot of support from the community. The Saranac Lake village board has been supportive, students in the natural resources program at the Franklin-Essex-Hamilton Board of Coooperative Educational Services (BOCES) have done trail work, and Chris Tissot Construction has donated machinery to the project.

Walrath expects that this downhill trail, which some call the Gravity Trail, should be the biggest draw for mountain bikers in the future.

“When it’s all said and done, you could probably spend a couple of hours here, so it’s a good after-work place to come get some exercise if you don’t want to drive anywhere,” he said. “And ultimately, we hope to connect Dewey and Pisgah together and then it would be a good half day ride to do both of them together.”

The Dewey Mountain Recreation Area is another Saranac Lake venue where BETA has worked on mountain bike trails in recent years. They’ve also done extensive work in the Wilmington Wild Forest and have a project going on with the Lake Placid Rotary Club at the Craig Wood Golf course.