ADK eyes Cascade Ski Center for new education hub
LAKE PLACID — The Adirondack Mountain Club has applied for state funding to purchase the Cascade Ski Center, with the goal of keeping the cross-country ski trails open and using the main building to expand capacity for its educational and hiker outreach programs.
ADK Executive Director Michael Barrett said Wednesday that the club has applied for $500,000 in grant funding from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund that would have a matching component, meaning the club would have to contribute at least $500,000 toward the project, too. Saranac Lake’s Guide Boat Realty had the Cascade Ski Center property listed for $3.25 million on its website on Friday. Another listing, which appeared to be older, showed the property listed at $2.9 million.
A key reason why the club is applying for state funding and believes this would be a strategic investment for the state: ADK would open up the privately owned cross-country ski trails to the public through a public easement, and perhaps even update the trails for use year-round, according to Barrett.
Having a highly visible location like Cascade, which is located on Cascade Road — state Route 73 — would also allow the club to connect with hikers that are “looking for adventure but might not have the information they need,” Barrett said. At Cascade, Barrett sees the club being able to provide hikers with information and physical maps — plus, they may be able to usher some people to less busy areas.
Beyond hiker outreach, this new property could allow the club to expand its educational programming.
Barrett said the club had been looking for a new location for an education center for a while. ADK was considering purchasing the Masten House in Newcomb, but it was purchased by a private buyer last year. At one point, the club’s leadership considered building an education center near the Adirondak Loj. But the idea of minimizing the impact on the natural environment was a big factor as the club considered the best way to move forward.
“We said, ‘Before we go down this road, the responsible thing for us to do would be to look around and see what’s available to meet our needs,'” Barrett told the North Elba Town Council on Tuesday. “At the time, we realized that Cascade Cross Country Ski Center was for sale.
“My immediate thought was … it would be terrible for the community if this would be sold for private interests,” he added.
Right now, many of the club’s indoor classes are held in three yurts not far from the Adirondak Loj. The capacity is limited; the yurts fit about 15 people comfortably, more if there’s a crowd. The club offers all kinds of classes on everything from how to use compasses and maps, to Leave No Trace principles, to environmental education for school children. The Cascade Ski Center’s grand room could hold up to 80 people, Barrett said.
Another factor in the club’s decision to look at Cascade is housing for its employees. Much like almost every other business and nonprofit organization in the Tri-Lakes region, a lack of affordable housing in this area has constrained the club’s ability to bring on new staff.
“We provide housing to about 60 staff members who work for the Adirondack Mountain Club,” Barrett told the town council. “Cascade comes with two apartments that would allow us to grow our staff.”
Barrett also noted that Cascade has a bunk room in its lower level.
Barrett presented the club’s plans to the North Elba Town Council on Tuesday as part of its application process for state grant funding. Support from local governments can strengthen grant applications. The club submitted its application before the state deadline last month, but with the understanding that it would seek support from the town of North Elba at its next town council meeting.
“This just seems like an ideal use for it to keep it in its present state,” North Elba town Supervisor Jay Rand said, of the Cascade Ski Center. “I’m definitely in favor of supporting it.”
Town Councilor Derek Doty asked Barrett to break down the funding for this project.
Barrett noted that in addition to the state grant funding, the club would use some “proceeds we had on hand,” plus a portion of the money that would be generated from the sale of its office building in Lake George, which “funnily enough is exactly the same size as the Cascade property.”
Town Councilor Dick Cummings asked if the club would consider allowing a shuttle to stop at Cascade.
Barrett said the club wants to “be a resource” and promote responsible recreation, help people cultivate a love of the outdoors, and enjoy the outdoors without having an impact on the natural resource.
“Anything that falls into that bucket, we’re here for,” he said.
Town Councilor Jack Favro said he’s “100% in support” of the project.
The town council ultimately voted, unanimously, to support ADK’s grant application.