Mountain Bike Trails proposed in Caroga Lake

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Mountain Bike Trails proposed in Caroga Lake
"AROGA –Plans for a proposed mountain bike multi-use trail project will be discussed during a work session planned for May 16 at town hall.

The board will meet with Steven Ovitt of Wilderness Property Management who will present information to the public.

Caroga Town Councilman Jeremy Manning said the meeting will serve to educate the public on the phases of the proposed project as well as address any concerns from area residents.

“Ovitt will be presenting his recommendations for a multi use trail system on town-owned lands. The trails would be designed for mountain biking, hiking, trail running and other forms of non-motorized use. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend, especially those individuals with an interest in improving the recreational resources of Fulton County,” said Manning.

Last summer, the town was awarded a $6,000 state Department of Environmental Conservation Smart Growth grant for the feasibility and planning stage of the project. Manning said the upcoming meeting with Ovitt is important for the public because it will explain the process including details on the feasibility, design and risk management. Manning said they will also allow for public questions and comments.

The trail project will not just be for advanced bikers, but instead will offer something for all those who enjoy what the area has to offer to anyone who enjoys the outdoors, according to Manning.

“Like many trail systems, the trails will be graded as beginner, intermediate and advanced. The goal is to design a trail system that is challenging and fun, but also usable for riders of all ability levels,” said Manning.

The town council has received feedback already from community members. Manning said while the majority seems to be positive, there are some concerns over logistics and cost.

“I’ve received a lot of positive support for the Wheelerville trails project both from within the town and also from surrounding and towns and bike groups. Of course, there are concerns about liability and cost, which will have to be addressed, but I think a lot of people see a need for improved recreational opportunities here in Fulton County,” said Manning.

Sam Fielding, a full-time resident in Canada Lake, said he supports the plan for bike trails in the area. As a former resident of Park City, Utah, Fielding said he worked for the tourism industry and has seen first-hand how recreation brings revenue to an area.

“People travel to use the bike trails and other associated recreation and spend their dollars in local businesses. There is also the added benefit of getting people invested, locals and visitors, in becoming stewards of the land to responsibly develop and maintain not only the trails but other backcountry recreation zones,” Fielding said.

Fielding said he hopes the meeting serves as a platform for community members to see the long-term benefits of having a trail system that will be of use to a wide range of the population.

“The possibility of multi-season trail use, in winter for snowmobiling, could also potentially be an added benefit, with more hands working to maintain the trails for everyone’s enjoyment. I hope that this plan is thoughtfully discussed so that all questions and concerns are fairly addressed and this is implemented in a sustainable way that benefits the local community,” said Fielding.

Plans for the project include the work being rolled out in phases, with the main trunk — about 2 miles — being completed first. The shorter, challenging trails, will be built over a longer period of time. Manning said they are looking at a project that would include 4 to 6 miles of trails, with the possibility of expansion.

“Personally, I would love to see the Wheelerville trail system connect to other trails in the area, even down to Pecks Hill State Forest, where there is also trail development occurring. I think an expansive trail system could be a huge tourist draw to the town, not unlike the attraction our snowmobile trails provide in the winter,” said Manning.

As for cost, Manning said this phase of the project is completely covered by a DEC smart growth grant. He said should the town move forward with construction, he will work to seek the additional grant funding needed, resulting in a minimized cost to the town. Additional costs, such as maintenance would likely be provided by a group of volunteers, Manning said.

Board member Kent Kirch said the trail will boost the economy by bringing in new visitors to town, particularly those looking for something new to do.

“It will probably attract a younger crowd, given the type of activity. With aging populations, towns like ours need to find ways to attract more young people who love the outdoors. It also stands to reason that the demographic of people who participate in this activity have disposable income and will patronize the stores and restaurants in Caroga while they’re here,” Kirch said.

Like Manning, Kirch feels the trail will have sustainable benefits. He said the addition of the trail will set itself apart because it will serve as a year-round venue.

“I like this bike trail concept because it will bring people to Caroga on an ongoing basis. We have a number of events in town that bring large groups of people here on a particular day, but the bike trail would bring people to town throughout the biking season. So, it complements our event activities well from a tourism standpoint. Finally, the potential linkages with other trails is appealing. The prospect of longer tails and the ability to bike to other attractions will draw more riders,” Kirch said.

While board member John Glenn agrees with all of the positives that will come from the implementation of the trails, he said there are some concerns to be addressed from both a legal and financial standpoint.

“I feel that the proposed mountain bike path is a good thing to move our town forward. However, having said that, more than just the physical feasibility needs to be considered. Other feasibilities must be considered. The financial feasibility, the legal feasibility, and most importantly, the taxpayers of our town,” said Glenn.

Glenn said he hopes these concerns will be addressed at the meeting.

“It will be interesting to hear the physical feasibility presentation at our workshop,” said Glenn.

The Caroga Town Board scheduled work session with Ovitt will be held at 7 p.m. May 16 at town hall. The public is invited to attend."
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