The state Department of Environmental Conservation opened a new snowmobile trail in Wilmington earlier this winter in what was a big step toward Wilmington becoming a desired destination for sledders.
The new trail segment starts in the hamlet of Wilmington near the Up A Creek Restaurant on state Route 86. The trail destination is Cooper Kiln Pond, a little more than 6 miles away.
To get to the pond, snowmobilers start at the trailhead, head up through the woods for 3 miles, then do a short, roughly half-mile section on Gillespie Road, before heading for the final stretch on the trail leading to Cooper Kiln Pond.
Map provided by State Department of Environmental Conservation
Cooper Kiln Pond is located below the summit of Stephenson Mountain in the Wilmington Wild Forest. Situated at an elevation of more than 3,000 feet, the pond sits in a pass surrounded by the peaks of Stephenson Mountain. A lean-to next to the pond makes a great place to have a meal and enjoy the surrounding mountains.
Those who developed the trail believe it will be appealing to snowmobilers because the pond is a scenic destination with a lean-to. The trail is also very appealing itself, according to Wilmington town Supervisor Randy Preston.
"I think it's highly unique among the trails that are out there. You get into the Franklin or Clinton counties and it's flat," Preston said. "This has got some spectacular views, mountains when you get to Cooper Kiln Pond, there's a lean-to there. You could cook yourself lunch if you want to have a little cookout there."
The new trail segment is part of DEC's effort to develop a connector trail from the hamlet of Wilmington to the snowmobile trail system to the north. Once the connector trail is completed, snowmobilers will be able to travel from Wilmington to Plattsburgh, Malone and throughout the Adirondacks, according to the DEC.
The section of the trail closer to the pond will eventually have a connector developed that links in with those larger trail systems, said DEC forester Rob Daley said. The DEC, towns and volunteers may be able to start working on that project in the spring, if funding is available.
"(It will) connect with the Forestdale Road in the town of Black Brook," Daley said. "From there, it will connect with the Taylor Pond Wild Forest system. From there, there's access to Franklin County and Clinton County and the trails there. So potentially, you could get to Plattsburgh."
The work on the new connector trail system began in 2007 and continued in recent years when funding and volunteers from organizations like the Student Conservation Association were available. The town of Wilmington also contributed significantly, offering help from its highway department.
One of the reasons that the town wanted the trail to open was officials believe it could help the local winter economy by bringing snowmobilers to the aera.
"When that ties into the Clinton-Franklin system, then they can go from Wilmington to Canada. We're hoping that in the years to come that we can get that connection made, and that really will be an economic boom for Wilmington, if we get snow, of course," Preston said. "We try to work with the (DEC) anyway we can because it's a win-win for everyone."
Daley agreed this could help the local economy in the future.
"With this trail we're making, people could come from the greater snowmobile trail system to Wilmington for a bite to eat or whatever it might be at a local restaurant or they could actually park their sled and trailer right there at this trailhead in Wilmington and connect to other trails and come back," he said. "We developed this to enhance the snowmobiling in the area."