Embark photo — Mike Lynch
Without much effort, people can take in a great Adirondack vista while enjoying the Flume Trail System. The view of this beaver pond with the mountainous backdrop is about a quarter of a mile from the trailhead.
 
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WILMINGTON — The first trail system on Adirondack Forest Preserve land designed to allow mountain biking officially opened earlier this summer.

The Flume Trail System is located in Wilmington and includes about eight miles of trails for four-season recreational activities including mountain biking, hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The trails were designed to meet the specifications of the International Mountain Bicycling Association and include trails rated as easy, moderate and hard. The system includes a trail along the West Branch of the AuSable River and a hiking-only trail to Flume Knob.

For years, the trails were used by locals. A push by mountain-biking enthusiasts that started more than a decade ago has led to this current system.

“I’ve always said that this was one of Wilmington’s best-kept secrets,” town Supervisor Randy Preston said.

It likely won’t be anymore. Many of those who have worked on the trails are hoping it will complement the nearby Whiteface Mountain Ski Area’s summer mountain-biking program and make the town a destination for biking tourists.

The majority of the trails lie within the Wilmington Wild Forest unit of the Forest Preserve, but about two miles of trail are located on the Whiteface Mountain Ski Area.

The town of Wilmington strongly advocated for mountain-bike trails during the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s development of the management plan for the Wilmington Wild Forest. In addition to the Flume Trail System, the management plan, which was approved in October 2005, also proposes a seven-mile multi-use trail system in the Beaver Brook Tract, off Hardy Road in Wilmington, designed to include mountain biking. The town of Wilmington paid the Adirondack Mountain Club’s professional trail crew to construct new trail segments at the Flume in 2007.

Preston was one of several dozen people to show up for the ribbon cutting and barbecue in late May at the trailhead where state Route 86 crosses the Ausable River, near the Flume waterfall and the Hungry Trout Resort. Representatives and staff from the DEC, the town, the Wilmington Mountain Peddlers, the Adirondack Mountain Club and Whiteface Mountain Ski Area were there.

“This project should serve as a model for other recreational projects in the Park,” Preston said. “The partnership between the town of Wilmington and DEC has been a very positive one. People of all ages and abilities can enjoy the trails, whether it be mountain biking or a walk along the river; this is truly a beautiful spot.”

The Wilmington Mountain Peddlers have been involved from the early days of trail development at the Flume and have also been strong advocates for mountain bike trails. The group has volunteered countless hours to construct and maintain the trails. They will continue to maintain the Flume Trail System under DEC’s Adopt-A-Natural-Resource program.

“It has taken a long time to get the Flume Trail System open but I am proud of the work all of the partners have done to reach this point,” said Bert Yost, a member of the Wilmington Mountain Peddlers and a local bed-and-breakfast owner. “Our success today exemplifies the best example of private citizens, organized groups, state and local government all working together for one goal - mountain biking in the Wilmington Wild Forest.”

In addition to work by their professional crew, the Adirondack Mountain Club has organized numerous volunteer work projects to upgrade existing trails and construct new trail segments at the Flume. An Adirondack Mountain Club volunteer trail crew will be constructing a new trail to connect the Flume Trail System with the Whiteface Trail from the Wilmington reservoir this summer.

“The Flume Trail System and the Beaver Brook Tract provide an ideal opportunity for us to develop fun and sustainable trails for a diversity of different users,” said Matt McNamara, Adirondack Mountain Club’s trails coordinator. “It’s been encouraging to get positive feedback from bikers, hikers and trail runners — all talking about the same trails. This area is a great example of how, with good planning and good trail building, we can successfully accommodate multiple users within wild forest areas.”

Whiteface Mountain Ski Area has allowed some of its trails to be included in the Flume trail network for free use by the public. These include a scenic trail along the West Branch of the Ausable River for bikers, hikers and anglers. Mountain bikers can pay a fee to access the ski area’s other 25 trails and the gondola to the top of Little Whiteface. Crews from Whiteface also assisted in the construction of some of the initial trails in the trail system. A proposed hiking-only trail to Bear Den Cliffs will be constructed in the future on the Whiteface Mountain Ski Area lands and will be open to the public as part of the Flume Trail system.

From the Whiteface Mountain Ski Area, the Flume Trail System can be accessed from the Kid’s Campus parking lot.

“This trail system is a great example of how DEC can partner with municipalities and organizations to develop environmentally safe recreational opportunities on state lands in the Adirondacks,” said DEC Region 5 Director Betsy Lowe. “The trail system demonstrates the value of the Forest Preserve to the people of Wilmington as well as outdoor enthusiasts across New York state.”