May 2019 - BICYCLING
A Community Bike Park - Town of Caroga
By Mike Feldman
If you want to take a trip that includes a place to ride your mountain bike on a professionally built trail, have a craft beer post ride, and then listen to some music all in the same day, where could you find such a place? What if I told you that camping is available at a state campground, on a lake, and is three miles away. How about lodging, with a restaurant and craft beer?
I would have guessed somewhere in Vermont. But it’s coming to a community in the southern Adirondacks, just over an hour drive from Albany. Everything but the bike park is already in place.
The historic Nick Stoner Inn & 19th Hole is walking distance from the proposed trailhead and has a great selection of craft beer and friendly staff. Plus, just for the heck of it, there is a town golf course and some revolutionary war history. All that, and once you park your vehicle, it’s all within riding distance, on the same bike you’ve been cruising the bike park.
Wheelerville Mountain Bike Park, in the town of Caroga, will soon check all the boxes. Tucked away in northern Fulton County, within the Adirondack Park, Caroga Lake includes the hamlet of Wheelerville on NY Route 10. It is not far from Johnstown and Gloversville, and is even closer to Peck State Forest (10 miles), where more trails are being built. Caroga Lake was once a vibrant tourist area and included Sherman’s Amusement Park.
Sherman’s was built in 1921 and people traveled from a distance to listen to music, dance, play in the arcade, swim at the beach, go on rides, and enjoy ice cream and popcorn. The park was sold by the Sherman family in 1970 and eventually closed. Memorabilia from the park can be seen at the Caroga Lake Historical Society. Eventually the park became the property of the town donated by a local attorney.
Today music has returned with an annual concert series by the Caroga Arts Collective. Founded in 2012 by Kyle Barrett Price, CAC is a not-for-profit that brings in world-class musicians and artists, overseeing the Caroga Lake Music Festival – free to the public. In 2017, the festival featured five weeks of music, 30 performances, and 85 artists with eight special guests. Last year’s Saunderfest featured the Saunders family and music guests, for all-day bluegrass music.
Town Bike Park – I spoke with Caroga Lake town board member, Jeremy Manning, who is leading the Wheelerville MTB Park project. Jeremy, a cyclist, noted the increase in mountain bike trail systems, especially in the Adirondacks. The town owns a 115-acre lot acquired in 1962 that borders Shaker Mountain Wild Forest and Irving Pond Outlet. The town acquired the land to provide more recreational opportunities for residents and visitors, but until now it has not been developed.
Jeremy sees the undeveloped land as potential for about six miles of trails laid out in traditional, progressive stacked loops. The first loop would be a novice-rated trail with more difficult routes branching out. In his long-range vision, there is potential for growth of building a bridge over Irving Pond Outlet to connect two more parcels of town property, and eventually someday connecting to nearby communities.
In 2017, Jeremy applied for and the town received a NYS Smart Growth Grant for the planning stage of the bike park. Grants will help relieve the town from financing the project. The next step was having a feasibility study and plan drawn up by Steve Ovitt of Wilderness Property Management. WPM has successful experience developing and building trails in North Creek, Queensbury and Brant Lake.
Initially community members were mixed about the plan. Who would pay for it, what would it cost, and what about liability? In May 2018, Jeremy presented the plan to the board and the community, introducing Steve Ovitt from WPM. Steve’s presentation was well-received because he spoke to many of the concerns of the public. Plus, hearing of the economic benefits of mountain bike tourism from a professional trail builder helped garner support.
Since then, community support has grown. Now instead of hearing “what-about-isms,” Jeremy is more likely to be stopped and asked, “How’s the bike park going?” And that’s what I wanted to know as well. Armed with the feasibility study and community support, the outlook is good. This just in: For the Wheelerville trail system, the town of Caroga is seeking $80,000 through the 2019 DEC Smart Growth Implementation Grant to begin trail layout and construction. They hope to begin work this summer and expand over the coming years boost the town’s tourism, help local businesses, and improve the quality of life for residents. Please provide a letter of support for this project to firstname.lastname@example.org by June 3.
Connecting Peck Forest to Caroga Lake via Glasgow Road – Currently there is no completely off-road route connecting Peck Forest to Wheelerville. However, in the spirit of “The Adirondack Trail Ride” using existing logging roads, and hiking and snowmobile trails considerably cuts down the amount of pavement mileage.
Recently, Bob Rainville of Saranac, and I set out on a three-day bikepacking trip from my home in Benson, which includes a viable route to connect Peck Forest to Wheelerville. Here is the pertinent route segment.
Leaving the trails in Peck Forest on North Bush Road takes you into the forest preserve. Head north on Route 10 for a half-mile to Glasgow Road (first left) and off pavement. It starts as double-track and leads to a rocky climb out of the valley.
At the NYS DEC gate you enter Ferris Lake Wild Forest. Once on top of the ridge, continue on Glasgow Trail, two miles past Hillabrandt Vly. While Glasgow Trail is “rideable” I would classify it as “TATR” rideable. The next trail on the right goes to Morey Road and Wheelerville. This is currently marked “closed” but plans are to reopen Morey Road.
Bob and I continued to Stewart’s Dam and headed west, riding mostly gravel into the town of Stratford, and then north on the gravel Piseco Powley Road and points north.
Other Opportunities for Adventure – Until the Wheelerville MTB Park opens, there is still plenty of cycling in the area, although some of the mountain biking is old school and rugged. Jeremy tells me that he cut his mountain biking teeth riding into Nine Corners Lake, a tough ride that has a very “technical” climb. I can attest to the difficulty. And if you want to do some bouldering, Nine Corner Lake has that as well.
The ride into Irving Pond, Bellows Lake and Holmes Lake is very rideable. From Holmes Lake Road, you one can pick up the snowmobile trail over to Pinnacle Road, and then ride into Chase Lake lean-to for a bikepacking overnight. Another option from Pinnacle Road, is to drop down to Barlow and Tolmantown roads, a rugged double-track that will take you further south in Fulton County. The Tolmantown Road is where the local cycling club, Adirondack Velo, rides to train for the Black Fly Challenge.
Gravel riding is abundant in the area, and many long routes can be put together with pavement that doesn’t see much traffic. No. 22 team riders train on many of these roads. No. 22, a bike company with manufacturing in Johnstown, specializes in creating beautiful titanium framed bikes. They recently took home multiple awards from the North American Handmade Bicycle Show.
A 50-mile mixed surface ride that includes scenic Route 10, would be to head north on NY Route 29A/10, and keep left onto Route 29A toward Stratford. Hop off Route 29A before Stratford, and pick up the Piseco-Powley Road. Make time for a short detour on Hawes Road, about two miles north of Stratford. Follow Hawes Road off to the left, and about a mile to East Canada Creek. Then continue back, and heading north, where you’ll come out on Route 10. Hang a right and ride south back to Wheelerville.
Road Ride – Around the Silver Lake Wilderness block, is an 80-mile road ride, which takes in some great scenery. From Wheelerville, head south on Route 29A/10, and hang the first left onto County Route 112. Continue on to County Route 125, through Benson to NY Route 30, and head north to the village of Speculator. Make a left onto NY Route 8, towards the small community of Piseco, and then a left onto Route 10 back to Wheelerville. Riding Route 10 from Piseco to Wheelerville is a favorite – desolate, no cell service, and very little traffic.
A handy map to have is the National Geographic Adirondack #744. Good resources for the area can be found on the DEC website, Shaker Mountain (dec.ny.gov/lands/106097.html) and Ferris Lake (dec.ny.gov/lands/114279.html) wild forests.
Mike Feldman (beerjerseyrider.blogspot.com) of Benson will represent the Beer Jersey Riders in The Adirondack Trail Ride 2019.