Recently we received a complaint from a landowner about the unauthorized use of private lands along the Jackrabbit Ski Trail above Whiteface Inn Lane, Lake Placid.
In response, Barkeater Trails Alliance (BETA) offers the following reminder to backcountry skiers and snowshoers about use of private lands on the Jackrabbit Ski Trail (and any other trails crossing through private lands).
All trail users, please be advised:
First, some background info. The main section of the Jackrabbit Ski Trail is a 25-mile marked route between Saranac Lake, Lake Placid and Keene. Here, the trail is located on an interconnected network of state Forest Preserve lands, North Elba Parks District lands, and 20 privately-owned parcels.
The classic “McKenzie Pass” route, between McKenzie Pond Rd and Whiteface Inn Lane, is one of the most popular backcountry ski tours in the Eastern High Peaks region of the Adirondack Park. The trail on the Lake Placid side of the pass is also widely used by hikers in the summer and snowshoers in the winter as an alternate approach to McKenzie and Haystack Mountains (this route has become more popular due to the Saranac Lake 6ers hiking challenge).
Public access to the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness Area via the Jackrabbit Trail from Whiteface Inn Lane in Lake Placid is only possible due to the cooperation of 2 private landowners who have generously allowed for the marking of the trail on their property. However, the State of New York holds no license, easement or other legal right-of-way across private lands on the trail between the trailhead and the upper Forest Preserve boundary.
Access to the trail and Forest Preserve across this private land is a privilege, not a right.
PLEASE REFER TO THIS MAP.
This 183-acre private inholding contains the summit of Mt. Colburn and a network of trails on the slopes below, mostly on the south side above and intersecting with the Jackrabbit. The trails were built by the previous landowner in 2014. These trails are private and were never intended for use by the public. However that effort included improvements to the surface and drainage on the main Jackrabbit that have so far made skiing more enjoyable.
As of the summer of 2016 this property is under new ownership. Since then, BETA has worked continuously with the new landowner to ensure continued public access to the Jackrabbit Trail where it crosses this property. A license agreement between BETA and the landowner is in place which permits public use of the Jackrabbit Trail through November 2018, with the following specific restrictions:
- XC skiing, snowshoeing & hiking are permitted ONLY on the Jackrabbit Trail (red on map)
- Use of the trails on Mt. Colburn to the north of the Jackrabbit Trail are PROHIBITED (intersections are shown as green dots on map)
- Use of the historic side trail to Fallen Leaf Pond from the Jackrabbit and the pond itself is now PROHIBITED. Both are on private property. Skiers are not permitted to access the Fallen Leaf Trail (purple on map) from the Jackrabbit by crossing the pond or dam as in the past. The state land starts shortly below the dam on the south side of the creek and the rest of the Fallen Leaf Trail down to Whiteface Inn Lane is on state land, so it can still be skied as an out-and-back route from the road.
- Horses, dogs, bicycles and motor vehicles are PROHIBITED
BETA installed signage at all intersections with the Jackrabbit Trail in the fall of 2016. The owner installed traditional private property signs and wire fencing around Fallen Leaf Pond, as well as several surveillance cameras.
Despite the clearly posted restrictions, some trail users are deciding to ignore the signage and over the past few weeks several parties have traveled off the Jackrabbit Trail in violation of the terms of BETA’s license for public access. The owner considers this trespassing and has indicated that police will be notified if it continues. BETA very much hopes it does not reach that point.
The decision to ignore posted signs may seem inconsequential at the time (especially with a foot of fresh powder staring you down), but in the long-run it could very well lead to a termination of our license agreement and therefore the loss of legal public access to an extremely important and historic section of the Jackrabbit Trail. You don’t want to be that person, do you?
The Jackrabbit as we know it would not exist without generosity of the private landowners who have allowed for the establishment of the trail on their property. Continued access depends upon maintaining good relations between BETA, trail users and landowners. Therefore, we ask our members and other trail users to be "good guests" and help us maintain public access across these private lands for years to come.
- Stay on marked trails and comply with all signage
- Respect landowner privacy
- If you encounter a landowner or family members, greet them and thank them for hosting the trail on their property
Josh Wilson, Executive Director
Barkeater Trails Alliance (BETA)