Longstanding plans to add key connector trails for snowmobilers in New York’s beautiful Adirondack Park were short circuited recently when an Appeals Court ruled the trails’ creation was unconstitional. And, with no higher court to appeal to, the ruling puts an official end to the plans, snowmobile officials in the state said.  

In a 4-2 decision issued May 4, the New York State Court of Appeals said the state’s plan to clear paths for 27 miles of connector trails violated the state’s constitution, siding with an environmental group that has been pushing the case for close to a decade.

The decision doesn’t affect any current, existing trails in the area, which is very popular with snowmobilers due to its rural nature, varied terrain and consistent snowcover. But it does end plans to make it easier to connect by trail to towns of the eastern end of the park.

The Suit

The lawsuit to stop the building of the trails was filed way back in 2013 by a group called Protect the Adirondacks, which said the new trails violated elements of the state’s constitution that created the park. The plan for the new trails dates back even further – to 2006 – when the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced plans to create a small addition to the wondrous trails in the Adirondack Park.

Work clearing initial paths for some on the trails began in 2012, the lawsuit was filed in 2013, and an injunction to stop work on the trails was issued in 2016.

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A lower court ruling sided in favor of the state, and thus the trails, and in 2017 the state’s Supreme Court affirmed the lower court ruling – which included an interesting and odd discussion of when a sapling technically becomes a tree. In 2019, though, a NY State Appellate Court ruled in favor of the state (and the trails) on one part of the lawsuit but sided with the environmental group’s argument on another.

The recent ruling, though, is essentially the final ruling.

Snowmobiler Reaction

Dominique Jacangelo, the executive director of the New York State Snowmobile Association, said he was shocked by the court’s decision.

“We’re very disappointed,” Jacangelo said in an interview with Snow Goer. “The impact is that some Class II community trails won’t happen, and towns on the east side of the park like Minerva, Newcomb and North Hudson won’t have very good connections.”

Some of those communities made an agreement long ago with the state to give up more than 100 acres of their land for another, unrelated project in exchange for the trails’ construction, Jacangelo noted. But now, the more recent court ruling will prevent the state from holding up their end of that bargain. For more background info, click here.

The Big Picture

Though this is a losss, Jacangelo noted that it’s important to stress that the current trail system is unaffected – the ruling only affects connector trails that were planned for future use.  

“As a snowmobiler, all of the trails we had will continue to exist and the Adirondack Park area will continue to be one of the great destinations in the state,” Jacangelo said.  

He said the association and the state would continue to find ways to better connect those eastern towns into the trail system. Maybe, over time, those new ways will prove to be effective, so we’re still hopeful.”

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