SARANAC LAKE - The village Board of Trustees signed off Monday on a plan to make the community more friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists.
The Saranac Lake Bicycle and Pedestrian Trail Master Plan was developed over the past year-and-a-half by the village, its Healthy Infrastructure Advisory Board and Alta Planning and Design. The project was funded by a $40,000 grant from the New York Department of State.
The purpose of the plan, according to the board's resolution adopting it, "is to recommend ways to make Saranac Lake even more bicycle and pedestrian friendly and to recommend ways to connect existing trails to develop a complete trail network."
"The village already has really good pedestrian networks," said Jamie Konkoski, a HIAB member and program manager for the North Country Healthy Heart Network. "The trails plan focuses on identifying where the gaps are and making recommendations for improving those gaps and in-filling them so we have great infrastructure."
Asked to name one of the gaps, Konkoski identified the Moody Pond-Baker Mountain area.
"If you want to get from the Moody Pond area to the village, unless you go up and over Helen Hill, there's not a continuous sidewalk to get from that popular destination for biking and walking back to downtown," she said. "It's making those little connections so you, and younger kids especially, can walk safely from various destinations."
Based on public feedback, more than two dozen projects were identified and ranked. The final 110-page bike and pedestrian trail plan includes the following 10 priority projects:
Rail Trail: Develop an 8-foot-wide multi-use path in the railroad corridor from Brandy Brook Avenue to Little Colby Pond, 1.8 miles, $1.5 million.
Mount Pisgah to Downtown Trail: Provide a biking and hiking trail loop from downtown to Mount Pisgah, 3.6 miles, $500,000.
Baker Mountain to Downtown: Improve pedestrian and bicycle connections between the Moody Pond-Baker Mountain area and downtown, 2.2 miles, $500,000.
Dewey to Pisgah Trail: Provide a mainly off-road trail route between Dewey Mountain and Mount Pisgah, 2.9 miles, $800,000.
School Loop with Dewey Mountain Extension: Provide safe pedestrian and bicycle accommodations around the high school, Petrova Elementary and Saranac Lake Middle School by creating a loop trail liking downtown to Dewey Mountain, 2.5 miles, $800,000.
River Walk: Enhance the existing River Walk with better access and signage, and complete it past Woodruff Street, 0.6 miles, $1 million.
Safe Routes to School: Provide infrastructure and signage to increase safe routes from local neighborhoods to schools, primarily on Lake Street, Hope Street, Petrova Avenue, Olive Street and the pedestrian bridge over LaPan Highway.
Intersection Improvements: Improve safety conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians and the intersections of Main Street and Pine Street, River Street and Pine Street, River Street and Lake Flower Avenue, and Lake Street and Petrova Avenue.
River Street Trail: Provide a bicycle and pedestrian connection between Pine Street and Main Street, along River Street and Brandy Brook Avenue, linking the rail-trail to Lake Flower and downtown, 2 miles, $2 million to $5 million.
Sidewalk Improvements: Provide new sidewalks on sections of Main Street, Route 3, Kiwassa Road, Pine Street/McKenzie Pond Road, Hope Street, Canaras Avenue, Brandy Brook Avenue and Ampersand Avenue.
Another aspect of the plan calls for streetscape, bicycle and pedestrian improvements on Main Street and Broadway. These would include bike lanes, more bike racks, more visible crosswalks, curb bump-outs to improve pedestrian safety and additional landscaping.
Five different types of wayfinding signage are also proposed in the plan. The signs would direct people to trails or points of interest around the village. Village Community Development Director Jeremy Evans said signage is one of the plan's most important aspects. It's also a priority in the recently adopted comprehensive plan and is something the village is already working on, he added.
But does the village need more signage? Evans agreed there is too much DOT directional signage on the highways through the village, "but as far as getting bicyclists and pedestrians to and from the destinations and major points in the community, there really isn't.
"Right now (at the village offices) we're less than a mile from the trailhead to Baker Mountain. But if you don't know where it is, how do you get there?" Evans asked rhetorically. "This whole wayfinding plan would be to address that, where you could be anywhere in the community and not too far away from a sign that directs you to a trail, a trailhead or a destination like Riverside Park or the depot."
Saranac Lake has had its share of plans over the years, some of which have never seen the light of day or have only been partially implemented. What makes this plan any different?
"I think what makes this different is the Healthy Infrastructure Advisory Board is the group charged with implementing it," Konkoski said. "Those are members who, by their very nature of serving on the board, are passionate about walking and biking. We've already identified certain projects we want to work on and are moving forward.
"A lot of the projects recommended in the plan are already underway. There's the wayfinding signage, the Dewey to Pisgah connection, there's the Safe Routes to School program that's in the planning phase, and there's the pedestrian bridge (over LaPan Highway) that was fixed."
As for funding and future maintenance, the plan's implementation section says HIAB will be tasked with pursuing grant money to support the trail system and coordinating the multiple agencies - the village, the state, nonprofit organizations - that would be involved in maintaining the network. A long list of state, federal and non-government funding sources is listed in the plan. It's also recommended that Saranac Lake create a maintenance endowment fund to support the trail system.
A link to the plan is posted on the village's website, www.saranaclakeny.gov.
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or email@example.com.