Biking Enthusiasts in Warren County: Meet Drew Cappabianca & David Matthews
Drew Cappabianca and David Matthews are both outdoor enthusiasts who believe that Warren County is a goldmine for recreational opportunities with the potential for great success.
Drew was born and raised in Glens Falls, New York, where he still lives today, while David moved to Glens Falls from New Hampshire 23 years ago. Both men live, work, and recreate in the area year-round and are advocates for creating even more lasting opportunities for outdoor activities.
Recently, we asked Drew and David to expand on why they love working and living in Warren County.
Please tell us a little bit more about yourself and your ties to Warren County.
Drew Cappabianca: I live in Glens Falls and I own and operate my business, The Hub, in Brant Lake, NY. In the winter months, I work at the Sports Page Ski and Patio and ski patrol at Gore Mountain. I’m also the Vice-President of the North Warren Chamber of Commerce, an advisor to Adirondack Cycling Advocates, and am involved in many unofficial community efforts.
I grew up going to my family’s camp on Friends Lake in Chester, where I had the opportunity to swim, water ski, sail, paddle, boat, and fish. I’m mostly an avid skier and biker but have had a variety of rock and ice climbing, hiking, camping, and backpacking experiences.
I feel that if you have any wherewithal about the world and you grow up in a small town, most people feel the urge to leave for bigger horizons. For me, I ended up moving to Seattle for about a year. Living in a city made me realize how much recreational opportunity there was at home. After the allure and newness of living in a city wore off, I quickly realized that I had gone from living in a place where all of the activities I mentioned were either out my front door or just a 45-minute drive away.
Dave Matthews: I left a job in the ski and hospitality industry at Bretton Woods Resort in New Hampshire and went to work for Tom Jacobs at Reliable Racing Supply. I work as the Nordic Product Manager, purchasing and buying cross-country ski goods for the catalog and website.
I’m married to my wife, Wendy, and we have two kids, Alexandra and Will. Alex has two kids of her own, Matti and Jack, and lives in South Glens Falls with her husband, Brian. Will lives in Charleston, SC, and is a fireman. Wendy joins me on most of my excursions: Alpine and nordic skiing, mountain biking, snowshoeing, boating on Lake George, and hiking. She’s a kick-butt alpine skier, too. I also spend a lot of time with my Welsh terrier, Archie, in the woods hiking, skiing, mountain biking, or snowshoeing.
I am a full-time Professor of Business at SUNY Adirondack and have worked there for 15 years with a great group of people. I love my job. I can’t wait until COVID-19 is over to get back in the classroom. I also serve on two Boards: The Queensbury Land Conservancy and Adirondack Cycling Advocates, where I serve as the “mountain bike guy.”
What are your thoughts on the recreational activities the area has to offer?
Dave: This area offers so much in the way of recreation. Hiking and biking trails abound and road cycling is awesome, especially Washington and Saratoga counties’ quiet rural roads. Mountain biking is growing like crazy with five trail systems offering over 60 miles of single-track trails: Gurney Lane, Brant Lake Bike Park, Garnet Hill Lodge, and the North Creek Ski Bowl. Alex and I published a trail guide magazine, RIDE – ON! in 2019 to highlight the region’s mountain biking opportunities. I distributed over 9,000 copies throughout the Capital District.
There is a lot of energy in the sport right now and ACA, or Adirondack Cycling Advocates, supports trail growth through funding and works closely with trail designer and builder Steve Ovitt, who owns Wilderness Property Management. Lake George is now in the planning stages of offering another trail network on the east side of French Mountain.
Drew: Warren County is an absolute goldmine of recreational activities. It’s just mind-blowing how much there is to do. Name any outdoor activity and you can be doing it either out your front door or in under an hour. Road cycling, mountain biking, nordic and alpine skiing, hiking, camping, boating, sailing, fishing, water sports, whitewater rafting and kayaking, flat-water paddling, ice and rock climbing (indoor and out) and more!
My experience in the outdoor industries led me to start my business The Hub. The Hub is a cafe, bar, and bike shop located in Brant Lake, which is located in the northern part of Warren County. It’s like a ski lodge or golf clubhouse, but for hiking, paddling, and road and mountain biking. The business was built on taking advantage of the incredible road riding opportunities Warren County has to offer. I later developed Brant Lake Bike Park, a professionally built single-track mountain bike trail system which is located directly adjacent to The Hub. The property includes Bartonville Mountain which has a stunning view of the entire length of Brant Lake. You can access the view via a hiking trail or on your mountain bike. We also have a paddling put-in on the southernmost tip of Brant Lake. We do live music on the weekends, too. It’s a true Adirondack hangout.
Anything you would like to see more of?
Drew: I’d like to see more mountain biking trails. Ten years ago we didn’t have a single mile of publicly accessible single track trail in the county. Now we have four legitimate mountain biking destinations at Gurney Lane, Brant Lake Bike Park, the Ski Bowl, and Garnet Hill Lodge. While these additions are fantastic, they’re all self-contained systems that really only allow for an hour or two of riding. They are geographically separated and there’s no way to connect them.
Other mountain bike destinations have either larger trail systems or some kind of connectivity between them, allowing for multiple days of multi-hour rides. We do have a literal mountain of potential looming above us, however. The City of Glens Falls owns around 3,000 acres on the West Mountain ridge, along with other properties that connect the City to the ridge.
The city and county should work to open up these lands for a mountain bike single-track trail network (with allowance for other uses). If done properly, the result would be a world-class trail system that would attract millions in tourism dollars, bolster the occupancy rate in local hotels, and greatly increase the quality of life for existing residents.
Dave: I’d love to see this region embrace mountain biking like the folks over in Poultney, Vermont, that developed the Slate Valley trails in order to stimulate economic growth for their region after the demise of Green Mountain College.
What do you find unique about Warren County?
Dave: I think what makes Warren County unique is the variety of outdoor recreation we offer, mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing, road cycling, boating and swimming on Lake George, combined with mountain views, a rural feel, and just a great active community of like-minded people who share similar values of working and playing in such a beautiful area.
Drew: The most unique aspect of Warren County is how diverse the development is and the recreational opportunities are. In the southern end, we have Glens Falls and Queensbury, which looks a lot more like our neighboring counties to the south in terms of development.
Glens Falls is rich in history and serves as the de-facto arts and entertainment cultural center of the county.
Queensbury offers all the commercial needs that modern life requires, with plenty of recreational opportunities of its own to offer residents.
There’s the obvious tourism hub that is Lake George, and further north we have small mountain communities that have much to offer beyond the myriad of recreational opportunities.
Additionally, Warren County is close in proximity to other incredible resources. Saratoga Springs with the race track, downtown and Saratoga Performing Arts Center is right down the road. There’s an international airport in Albany just an hour’s drive away. You can also hop in the car and be in Boston, New York City, or Montreal within 4 hours.
Why should People relocate to Warren County?
Drew: People should relocate to Warren County for all of the reasons above, but to summarize: Warren County has a little bit of everything. You can choose to live with all the modern conveniences, a thriving arts and entertainment scene in the Glens Falls/Queensbury area, and recreational opportunities abound just a short drive away. You can choose to live in the mountains with the same recreational opportunities out your front and back doors, knowing that all the modern conveniences you could need are just a short drive away. Or, you can choose somewhere in between the two with a little bit of both.
People vacation here! Whether it be overnight trips or second homeowners, people value coming here enough to make it their chosen vacation spot. If you could, why not live here?
Dave: Recreation, recreation, and the quality of life. This area is only to get better regarding those activities. It’s been proven that more and more people are seeking to live in places that offer trails and quality of life. COVID has only made this more of a priority.
Anything you would like to share or mention?
Dave: I would like to advocate for more trail development. For example, the City of Glens Falls owns a great deal of property in the reservoir watersheds of Butler Pond and the lower Potter Woods that are already being used by people who want to hike, walk, and bike. Unfortunately, this activity is not legal. Why not open it up to passive, non-motorized recreation? This would add miles of legal trails to the current regional system of paths and trails.
Drew: I think Warren County is poised for great success, especially if local leaders can get a jump on some of the problems we need to solve in the near and far term. Most immediately, we need to address the lack of reliable broadband internet access in the northern parts of the county. That’s one of the biggest barriers of entry to those trying to move here, especially since COVID-19 greatly expanded people’s ability to work remotely. The state’s efforts to expand broadband have not been effective locally. It’s time for the county and EDC to start solving the problem. (Editor’s note – please take our survey and speed test at www.warrencountybroadband.org as we are working hard to do just that.)
Affordable housing immediately follows broadband access, if not paralleling it. I think most people think of affordable housing in terms of big complexes, like the one that was recently built on Broad St. in Glens Falls. But in much of the rest of the county, it’s about taking underutilized buildings and renovating or converting them into housing that’s affordable for the local residents. I’m not sure what can be done in that regard, but I’m imagining some kind of low-interest loan program that would make projects like that attractive to local developers. It’s incredibly important to the economy; every business I know needs employees, but there aren’t enough and there won’t be enough if they have nowhere to live.