Push for skate path on Lake Colby

John Dimon and Dan Spada pose with a kick sled on Friday afternoon. (Enterprise photo — Jesse Adcock)

SARANAC LAKE — A local group of skating enthusiasts are pushing to establish a “wild ice” skating trail on Lake Colby this winter.

The group, called Saranac Lake Skate Path, formed a small committee and has met twice since October. John Dimon, owner of the Human Power Planet Earth bike shop and organizer for the group, said he’s received affirmation from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and private property owners along the lakeside. Dimon said he plans to take the plan before the Harrietstown Town Council on Dec. 13.

“We’re trying to get people together and see if we can’t do this,” Dimon said. “We’d like to do it this year.”

Dimon said an all-terrain vehicle with plow attachments and a snowblower have been donated for the use of making a path and keeping it clear of snow. Dimon said they’ve drafted a budget in the ballpark of $500 for the project.

“The budget would include basically gas,” Dimon said of the ATV, which he predicts would need to circuit the path approximately three times a week. He said the path would be usable from January to late March, weather providing.

The ice on Lake Colby is seen Friday in Saranac Lake. A local group of skating enthusiasts is pushing for a “wild ice” skating trail on the lake. (Enterprise photo — Jesse Adcock)

Dan Spada, an organizing member of the group, and a wild ice skater for nearly two decades, said the committee includes hockey players, speedskaters and nordic skaters.

“The commonality is the ice,” he said. “When you’ve got the wind and you’ve got the smells and you’ve got the sun, it’s magical; it’s magical getting out on wild ice.”

He clarified that Lake Colby is not wild ice exactly — more of an open skating venue.

“It’s a lake, but it’s pretty safe,” Spada said. “We know the thickness of the ice. The trail is laid out. It’s a great thing for families.”

He compared the group’s goal to Mirror Lake in downtown Lake Placid, where a track was established in the winter of 2013-14.

“Little kids, 4 years old, with double-bladed skates, are skating this trail,” Spada said. “You know, the rink is OK, but it’s just a whole different experience when you get out on that big ice under the open sky and skate. That’s where the passion comes in.”

Saranac Lake Skate Path members have already been in contact with the DEC to find out whether establishing a skate trail on the lake would require a permit.

“So far the indications have been that, and these have been informal emails back and forth, that we don’t,” Spada said.

Harrietstown town Supervisor Mike Kilroy said he confirmed with the DEC that the group’s proposed use is acceptable. Kilroy said the town council would not necessarily have to approve the skate path, as it is DEC jurisdiction, but the rest of the council and the community should be aware. Kilroy said there were not likely to be objections, but the details of the project still needed to be ironed out on Dec. 13 and at future meetings.

Lake Colby’s frozen surface already sees traffic in the winter for ice fishing, and sportspeople set up shanties on the lake. Events like the Colby Classic Ice Fishing Derby are held on the waterway.

“The ice shanties are typically located in the north and east,” Spada said. “We’re not looking to displace them or anything like that. We’re looking to work with them.”

Spada said unlike Mirror Lake’s ice trail, which makes a 2-mile circuit of the lake, the Saranac Lake Skate Path doesn’t have plans to plow Lake Colby’s circumference. He said they plan to stick to the west and south sides, away from the ice shanties.

“We can make a big figure 8 if we want, or we could make a big oval, or you know have a really organic shape,” Spada said. “Whatever fits on the ice and doesn’t preclude use by other users.”

The DEC could not be contacted by press time for a statement.

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