SARANAC - Every winter, Steven Jenks has the ability to step out on his cross-country skis, traverse the old D & H Railroad bed near his home and connect to a trail system unlike any other in the area. Then again, a system like that isn't only open to him.
The New Land Trust, a nonprofit organization whose focus is to preserving 287 acres it owns in the Adirondack Mountains, offers the use of its land on a daily basis - and it's free of charge. Jenks, who serves as chairman of the New Land Trust's board of directors, said the organization has been trying to communicate to the community that the land is there for their use.
"We want people to know this place is open to the public and we want to get as many people as we can here," said Jenks.
Gone are the days when people had to load their skis and snowshoes into the family car and drive an hour from Plattsburgh to places like Lake Placid or Paul Smiths, to find a decent trail system with adequate snow, said Jenks.
"I live right next to the land trust and we'll have six inches of snow," said Jenks. "I'll go to Route 3 and there's nothing. So, there's always snow here in the winter and we're only a half-hour from Plattsburgh."
The land trust offers 24 trails that are very easy to ski and able to be enjoyed by entire families, said Jenks. The organization has even made the trails easier to navigate in recent months by installing approximately 50 directional signs throughout the system and developing a map which can be accessed on their Web site, www.newlandtrust.org.
Since the land trust opened, the board has prided itself on the fact there are nearly 300 acres of "unspoiled land," said Jenks, where not a snowmobile can be heard or a hunter be seen.
"The best part is, here's something local that's free," said Jenks.
While there is no cost to use the trail system, memberships are available to continue covering the cost of maintenance and taxes on the property, said Jenks. Annual membership are $140 for an individual or $75 for a student. However, Jenks reiterated there is no pressure to obtain a membership.
"I figure, if we get 10 people here, maybe one will become a member," said Jenks. "If you can't afford a membership, at least come use it; it's 287 acres just sitting there."
The New Land Trust is located at 236 Plumadore Road and is accessible from State Route 3 in the town of Saranac by taking Chazy Lake Road to Clark Hill Road, continuing several miles before reaching Plumadore Road on the right.
The organization is in the process of scheduling monthly guided tours of the trail system. For more information, including obtaining a map and directions, visit the organization's Web site, www.newlandtrust.org, or contact Jenks at 293-8420. Monthly e-mail newsletters about the land trust are available by visiting the Web site and clicking on the Contact Us link.