A path to remember
TUPPER LAKE – More than a dozen volunteers turned out to help the state Department of Environmental Conservation create a new path up Goodman Mountain.
The large dirt parking area for the trailhead was full Tuesday morning as workers used shovels, nippers, picks and rakes to clear decades of forest growth from the old asphalt road that skirts the base of the mountain.
As the black surface was unearthed, a power brush – a motorized machine that resembles an old-fashioned push mower but has stiff bristles instead of blades – was used to put the final polish on the wheelchair and stroller friendly path.
In just a few hours, workers were marveling at the transformation. A 32-foot-long wooden bridge had been built over Lumberjack Spring, 1,200 feet of asphalt had been exposed, the 1.5 mile trail to the 2,176-foot summit was clear, and rest stops had been built every 50 feet along the paved section.
“We did about three weeks’ worth of work in just a few hours,” Mark Henry said.
Henry is the DEC’s Region 6 conservation operations supervisor. He explained that the first portion of the path follows an old stretch of road that dates back to the early 1900s. The gentle grade and hard surface made it easy to create a route that was accessible to people of all abilities.
DEC Region 6 access coordinator Blanche Town explained that in order for the trail to adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act, it must meet very specific requirements.
The lower portion of the route is less than a 10 percent grade, so rest areas are required every 50 feet. Past that, the grade increases to 12 percent and would therefore require a rest area every 10 feet.
“For most wheelchair users, a 10 percent grade can be a lot for them,” Town said. “Not that we want to make that choice for people, but realistically, with this grade and the condition of the pavement, the heaves and rocks and cracks, we stopped here. There’s also a 2-inch tread obstacle limit, and we’d be exceeding that, too.”
At the end of the paved section is a wide, level cul-de-sac overlooking a small stream for relaxing and turning around. To get the materials there, the trail crew used wheelbarrows to haul 130-pound loads of gravel up the road.
From the cul-de-sac, a traditional footpath continues at a steeper grade before turning left to ascend Goodman Mountain, where good views of the surrounding lakes and mountains, including nearby Coney Mountain, await hikers.
After surveying the site of the trail, Town had the idea to reach out to volunteers, so she sent out an email to other state resource staff employees.
Tupper Lake town Councilman John Quinn also sent an out email to people he knows, requesting volunteers.
“It’s nice to see the cooperation between the state and locals, just getting something done that everybody wants,” Quinn said.
One of those volunteers was Rosi Littlefield.
“Tupper Lake must break records for its volunteerism,” Littlefield said. “It seems to me that, if you were to poll the town, 90 percent of the people give money or donate time to good causes.”
Littlefield spent the morning shoveling gravel and ferrying empty wheelbarrows to the parking area so they could be reloaded with crushed stone.
“Even when you’re just a fraction of the workforce, you feel like you’ve accomplished so much,” Littlefield said.
Volunteerism wasn’t the only thing about the project that got Littlefield thinking. While a DEC worker filled her wheelbarrow, she recalled Andrew Goodman, the man for which the mountain is named.
The Goodman family owned a home in Tupper Lake and climbed the mountain, then called Litchfield Mountain, regularly.
In 1964, Goodman went to Meridian, Mississippi, to work on the Congress of Racial Equality’s Freedom Summer project.
The fact that 60 percent of Mississippi’s population was prevented from voting because of their skin color didn’t seem fair to Goodman, so he set out to help change that. The trip cost him his life on June 21, 1964, when Ku Klux Klan members murdered him and two fellow activists, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner. It was Andrew’s first day in Mississippi. He was 20 years old.
“It’s such a sad, sad thing when a young person is just gone like that,” Littlefield said. “It’s crazy to think about. It wasn’t that long ago.”
The burned remainder of the Ford station wagon the men had been traveling in was discovered by FBI agents in a swamp about 15 miles northeast of Philadelphia, Mississippi. The three men’s bodies were found Aug. 4, 1964, buried near a dam a few miles southwest of Philadelphia.
The FBI accused 21 Mississippi men of being associated with the murder. Seven were convicted, and none served more than six years in prison.
Forty-one years later, on June 21, 2005, an eighth man, Edgar Ray Killen, a local minister at the time of the killings, was convicted by a Neshoba County grand jury and sentenced to three consecutive 20-year sentences for manslaughter in connection with the murders. It was the first time the state of Mississippi took action against the perpetrators.
In 2001, Tupper Lake historian and former village mayor Bill Frenette began a campaign to get Litchfield Mountain renamed Goodman Mountain. A year later, the United States Board on Geographic Names approved his request and the change was official. The mountain that was visited annually by the Goodmans could finally bear their name.
Bill Frenette died Dec. 20, 2007, but his brother Jim joined Quinn in fulfilling his goal of creating a designated trail up Goodman Mountain.
The state Adirondack Park Agency approved that request in June, and the new trail will be officially dedicated at the trailhead at a special, open-to-the-public ceremony Aug. 26.
The trail begins at the back of a dirt parking area on state Route 30, about 7 miles south of Tupper Lake village, just north of the Coney Mountain trailhead. Next to the parking area is an old springhouse Andrew’s grandfather, Charles Goodman, built.