Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Snowmobile Trail Through The Forest Preserve

Late December snow makes it likely that a good base will develop for snowmobiling throughout this winter. A new 13-mile snowmobile (and hiking, possibly biking) trail has been established, a so-called community connector trail between the Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln-Cedar River Road) and Raquette Lake.

Nearly a dozen alternate locations for this trail were included in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest Unit Management Plan approved by the NYS DEC and APA in 2011. One was chosen as the preferred alternative, deemed most in compliance with the state’s Snowmobile Trail Guidance approved by DEC and APA in 2010. The new trail is nearly completed as it reaches the north end of Sagamore Road near Raquette Lake village, utilizing DEC operations and other staff pulled in from all over the state. Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve investigated the trail construction in mid-October.

For those readers unfamiliar with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, snowmobiles on designated snowmobile trails only are permitted to lie within Forest Preserve classified as Wild Forest, or Intensive Use. Snowmobiling is not permitted in those parts of our Forest Preserve classified Wilderness, Primitive or Canoe. The Master Plan places strict limitations on motorized uses anywhere in the Forest Preserve, and limits the total mileage of snowmobile trails within Wild Forest areas. In the Moose River Plains UMP, there were a total of over 91 miles of trail or road open to snowmobiling as of the adoption of the State Land Master Plan in 1972. DEC in 2011 proposed to close 45 miles of dead-end, or little used snowmobile routes following completion of the new 13-mile connector trail, resulting in a net decrease of approximately 33 miles of trails or roads open for snowmobiling in this unit.

What is a community connector snowmobile trail? DEC and APA’s “Management Guidance for Snowmobile Trail Siting, Construction and Maintenance on Forest Preserve in the Adirondack Park, approved by APA and DEC in 2009, defines them as : “snowmobile trails…that serve to connect communities and provide the main travel routes for snowmobiles within a unit…These trails are located in the periphery of Wild Forest…they are always located as close as possible to motorized travel corridors…and only rarely are any segments located further than one mile away from the nearest of these corridors. They are not duplicated or paralleled by other snowmobile trails.” According to the Guidance, these trails can be cut and maintained to nine feet total cleared width (12 feet on steep slopes and sharp curves), and can be maintained by a tracked groomer no wider than 8.5 feet.

This question of use of tracked groomers such as SnoCats, is particularly controversial, as we maintain, as do many others, that such use of a another type of motor vehicle on a snowmobile trail violates the express provisions and limitations of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. That is a subject for another day.

The day for our October field visit was clear, conditions warm. On our way to Inlet, we spoke briefly with a DEC employee building the trail’s bridges who gave us helpful directions to access the trail work, then drove to Inlet’s end of the Moose River Plains Rd (aka, Limekiln-Cedar River Road) and started walking east. We walked 5.1 miles to Route 28 across from the DEC Seventh Lake Boat Launch. We documented the straight trail runs, measured trail widths, counted cut trees, and documented with photographs and notes.

We were impressed with, among other things, the sheer scope and difficulty of the project, which continues east through the Forest Preserve from Seventh Lake Boat Launch parallel to Rt. 28 and Eighth Lake, and eventually will reach the end of Sagamore Road across from Raquette Lake Village, a total distance of about 12 miles. We only observed the western 5.1 mile leg, including number of straight trail runs, probably the result of the old roadbed on which parts of the trail are being built, but which appear to violate the Trail Guidance which states “to the greatest extent possible, trails will not be aligned with long straight sections.” The trail was also quite wet in places, although the unit management plan’s alternate trail locations would probably intercept actual wetlands, which this trail does not. The Trail Guidance states “all trails will be constructed so as not to intercept groundwater (again, here come those weasel words) to the greatest extent possible; natural drainage patterns will be maintained.”

Speaking of drainage, we stopped for lunch at a beautiful and tranquil wetland and pond just off the trail, and thought about the anticipated hundreds of snowmobiles that would someday buzz past this spot each day, assuming a decent snowpack. Hopefully they may choose to turn off their engines for a while to enjoy the peace and solitude we experienced.

Mostly, we found the trail was cut to the designated nine foot clear width, with some obvious exceptions where it was wider. Doubtless, there were some errors made. Doubtless, the original road was wider than nine feet in places. But the Guidance also presents severe practical difficulties for a trail crew. For example, the Guidance allows a connector trail to be kept clear up to a dozen feet above the trail surface, resulting in the cutting of those trees growing outside the nine feet clear width but which hung over the trail within the 12-foot clear height.

We counted cut trees three inches or larger, about 650, but perhaps we missed as many as a hundred or so. The total number of trees cut for the entire trail may exceed 2000. While this degree of tree-cutting within the Forest Preserve concerns us, of course, of even greater concern is the potential for illegal use of this trail by all-terrain vehicles during the warmer months, or even during a relatively snowless winter like last year. ATVs are not permitted on any trails within the Forest Preserve, yet we have observed them (or the evidence, meaning the rutted, ponded, ruined trails that result from their use) on certain snowmobile trails for many years. DEC law enforcement – Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation Officers – are constantly trying to reduce this illegal use, but time and time again it has taken documentary evidence from watchdogs to bring enforcement action, and to sustain such action over time diverts the officers from many other duties.

Speaking of other duties, staff at the NYS DEC is at its lowest point in 20 years. The staff of DEC’s Division of Lands and Forests which oversees the Forest Preserve and this trail project has shrunk by over 25% statewide since 1995. In Region 5, the eastern two-thirds of the Adirondack Park, there are only 4 Full-Time Equivalent positions left assigned exclusively to the Forest Preserve. APA has only three personnel assigned full-time to State Lands and oversight of the State Land Master Plan. The DEC Forest Ranger force has over 20 unfilled vacancies around the state. This trail project alone has required bringing DEC staff resources from all over. In a state of such shrunken state conservation personnel, with over 3 million acres of Forest Preserve and Conservation Easement lands to manage, there are legitimate questions about how high a priority any one new trail construction project, be it for snowmobiling or hiking, should rank.

Then, we also think about the day, and not in the distant future either, when political and economic forces, along with more relatively snowless winters will combine as pressure to legalize ATVs on trails such as this new snowmobile connector. That is a truly scary prospect, one which is completely indefensible and intolerable within the meaning of the “Forever Kept as Wild Forest Lands” stricture of Article 14 of the NYS Constitution. To date, the failure of most Forest Preserve Unit Management Plans to take climate change and future winter conditions into account has resulted in a lack of dialogue and anticipation of the fate of 9-foot community connector snowmobile trails.

For now, most snowmobilers have a vested interest in helping Forest Preserve advocates like ourselves to prevent ATV damage to their trail systems, but that may not always be the case. Technology is advancing rapidly, marketing a new class of powerful off-road, even off-trail vehicles. Our job is to ensure that in our grandchildren’s time and beyond that human recreational appetites and attraction to four-season mechanized speed and adventure will never outpace our determination to uphold Article 14 of the NYS Constitution and protect the Forest Preserve for its wilderness values.

The building of this trail has brought all these pressure points into sharp relief. As the trail neared State Route 28, we saw a small bobcat tracked excavator in use along a muddied section of raw trail, and a brand new, 12-foot bridge with timbers requiring resources, machinery and expertise to put in place. We measured, photographed and moved on to enjoy a meal in Raquette Lake village. In our hearts is a determination to stand up for wild lands, whatever their classification, and to expect the highest standards of wild lands management within the world-class Adirondack Park.

However, in our minds are these words from former DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis – candor which helped get him fired from his job just two years ago: “Many of our programs are hanging by a thread,” Grannis wrote in a now famous internal memorandum. “The public would be shocked to learn how thin we are in many areas.”

Photos: Above, 12-foot wide bridge timbers in place for the new snowmobile trail; middle, Bobcat tracked excavator used to construct the trail near the Seventh Lake Boat Launch; below, a section of new 9-foot wide snowmobile trail near Inlet.

Dave Gibson

Dave Gibson

Dave Gibson, who writes about issues of wilderness, wild lands, public policy, and more, has been involved in Adirondack conservation for nearly 25 years, much of that time as Executive Director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks and then as first Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks.

During Dave's tenure at the Association, the organization completed the Center for the Forest Preserve including the Adirondack Research Library at Paul Schaefer’s home. The library has the finest Adirondack collection outside the Blue Line, specializing in Adirondack conservation and recreation history.

Currently, Dave is a partner in the nonprofit organization launched in 2010, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve.

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35 Responses

  1. M.P. Heller says:

    Ok Dave. You’ve made it clear that you aren’t in favor of this trail. You cast aspersions on the DEC, Snowmobilers, and ATV riders in your piece. You call into question the spirit and intention of connector trails. You state its your (you actually said our, but I’m not sure who you were talking about when you used that particular pronoun) job “to ensure that in our grandchildren’s time and beyond that human recreational appetites and attraction to four-season mechanized speed and adventure will never outpace our determination to uphold Article 14 of the NYS Constitution and protect the Forest Preserve for its wilderness values”. What does that exactly mean? Its our job to tell people that haven’t been born yet how balance thier potential desire to go snowmobiling with an understanding of the need to obey conservation law? Um, ok I have no problem with that. While we are at it we should probably toilet train them, feed them, clothe them, and get them enrolled in school as well. You know. Raise them properly so they are the kind of people who don’t need the moral police to tell them how they live thier lives wrong.

    I find this piece to be inappropriate. Its protracted views only serve to divide people and create animosity between user groups which will ultimately have a cost on the land everybody claims to have a passion for. Rather than working together snowmobilers will now view Dave and his ilk as the enemy. They won’t donate to his causes, they will be reluctant to enter into meaningful dialogue because they will feel victimized and marginalized, and that thier own desire for self actualization isn’t as important as somebody elses.

    Thats not the spirit that I project in my daily life and travels here in the Park. I embrace all legal users equally. I often stop and talk with different user types and I am always endevoring to learn more about them and what they do. It doesn’t matter if they are a dayhiker, backpacker, hunter, snowmobiler, motorized boat user, icefisherman or whatever. The one thing they have in common is that they come to the Adirondacks to recreate. Talking with them and making friends out of them is how to educate them and make them want to protect the land and help by donating funds and volunteering for causes. Surreptitiously measuring trail width and taking pictures for the purpose of publishing a thinly veiled attack pieces is counterproductive for everybody involved. Its espescially harmful to those doing legitamate conservation work and not pushing a personal agenda espoused in the guise of environmental concern.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 8

  2. Tony Goodwin says:

    Thanks for the careful review of your inspection of the trail under construction. Those long straight sections are certainly a result of following an old road, which would seem preferable to building new trail just to put in some curves. The section north of Seventh Lake which I saw definitely was not straight as it followed the contours seeking level ground where no “benching” would be needed. The sections that were more than nine feet wide were certainly a result of the original road being that wide or the fact that trees don’t grow in straight lines exactly 9.5 feet apart. I agree that the issue of illegal ATV use is a genuine concern, but let’s not get too worried about a problem that doesn’t yet exist; and most snowmobilers recognize that ATVs can ruin a snowmobile trail and can be counted on to be part of the enforcement effort. Finally, my impression from my inspection is that the DEC crew was doing everything they could to comply with both the letter and the spirit of the trail construction guidelines. One must recognize, however, that out in the field it isn’t always possible to perfectly translate words on paper to a workable trail.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 2

  3. Paul says:

    “That is a truly scary prospect, one which is completely indefensible and intolerable within the meaning of the “Forever Kept as Wild Forest Lands” stricture of Article 14 of the NYS Constitution.”

    I do not think that allowing ATV use on forest preserve land is a good idea but I find this sentence above strange?

    Dave, If having snowmobiles is completely defensible and tolerable within the meaning of “Forever Kept as Wild Forest Lands” stricture of Article 14 of the NYS Constitution than why are ATV’s not?

    Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

    • M.P. Heller says:

      Because Paul, ATV users have long been targeted as a user group responsible for causing backcountry damage. While there may be some truth to these statements, personally, I believe that the issue of illegal ATV use is exacerbated and multiplied by a lack of LEGAL public areas for riders to use. This leads to riders feeling left out and treated like second class citizens which in turn makes it easier for them to justify their own illegal behaviors.

      It would have been a lot smarter to embrace this group in the 70’s and 80’s when that activity began to become popular rather than create decades worth of turmoil and strife. They could have been brought into the fold, educated, given thier own area to use and would likely now be a powerful ally rather than an adversary.

      Nobody would walk thier trails much anyhow. The argument it causes ruts and trail damage is entirely broken if the trails purpose was for ATV’s in the first place. People would still walk those trails for sure, but they would be more like snowmobile trails and horse trails than foot trails, so complaining they aren’t nice to walk on would be kind of pointless since they would have never been designed for walking anymore than a horse trail is. Nobody complains about how awful it is to walk on a horse trail because equestrians were brought into the fold long ago and those trails are for horses not people. The same could be said for snowmobile trails. Not too good for walking, but the snowmobilers find them to be great.

      I do know that this issue is not going away. Lewis County is in an uproar about ATV’s. All kinds of groups are fighting on both sides of the issue. Just wait until the whole side by side ATV issue come to light. That will be some gasoline for the fire.

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    • Scott D says:

      If you were travelling the western adk wild forest snowmobile trails before and after the ATV openings of the a few years back, you would have your answer.

      Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  4. Paul says:

    Also when there are issues with snowmobile or ATV damage the solution always seems to be restrictions or to get rid of them entirely. When we have damage from hikers (much of it in the most sensitive areas) the solution is education and re-routing and re-design. Why the difference? Apparently we have to learn to live with one but not the other?

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    • Scott D says:

      Because 1 ATV does the same amount of damage as a 100 hikers, that’s why. No amount of education or re-routing fixes the ATV problem.

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      • Paul says:

        If you were to design an ATV trail like a road you probably would not have much damage. So I am saying hypothetically if you had good trails why are snowmobiles okay based on Article 14 and ATVs not?? Like Dave said with hundreds of sleds passing through that spot he describes how is that compliant? Seems like some kind of double standards at work?

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    • Local Yokel says:

      I think the difference is in the quality and amount of, as well as the speed with which ATV damage occurs. It would take hundreds (if not thousands) of hikers a long time to cause the kind of trail damage that a just a couple of ATVs can produce in an afternoon given certain conditions (like if it’s wet and muddy).

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  5. Used2BSven says:

    ATV’s are allowed on frozen bodies of water except in wilderness. The Pine Pond truck trail is little known outside of local circles, but is an exceptional backcountry ATV experience. Why is it not marketed as such?

    I personally dislike ATV and snowmobiles for recreation. Why do people want to suck up more fumes and hear more noise when we already spend so much time in cars? I just don’t get it. It seems much more enjoyable to travel through nature under your own power, hearing the wind, birds, etc…You miss so much on a sled. It’s just so foreign to me.

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    • M.P. Heller says:

      Right. I’d rather go self-propelled also. Thats what you and I choose. Other people make different decisions. We don’t have to understand why though. I am sure there are many motorized reacreationalists that say things like: “Lookit those silly people with backpacks. What do they think this is the stoneage?” Its just a different way of getting outside is all.

      I am very disturbed by the factioning and splinering of user groups that pits one set of users against another. At the end of the day I am sure you would find that no group wants to see the place they choose to do thier recreational activity ruined so that they can’t enjoy it in the future. A time needs to come when everybody grows up and stops being selfish so that everyone can come to the table together and do whats right for the Park and its preservation with as many resources, individuals, and groups as possible. Then perhaps meaningful forward progress will be made to make sure that the Park will survive not only the 21st century, but for centuries to come after.

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    • Paul says:

      The trail you describe is closed to ATVs. All Forest Preserve land is closed. to ATVs. That “road” isn’t a road.

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      • Used2BSven says:

        Not true. It is a town road that is designated for ATV use. It is not Forest Preserve but runs through it.

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        • Paul says:

          I stand corrected. So where does the “road” end? I know that you could drive down part of it with the right kind of vehicle but I did not realize that ATVs were allowed on roads in the Town of North Elba? Maybe just that one specifically.

          Are snowmobiles allowed to go all the way to Pine Pond even though it is in the McKenzie wilderness? There are all kinds of signs prohibiting it. There are also lots of anti-APA stickers on some of the signs. It’s classic!

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  6. Dave says:

    “I am sure you would find that no group wants to see the place they choose to do thier recreational activity ruined so that they can’t enjoy it in the future.”

    I would argue that the benchmark here should not be whether they ruin it for THEIR OWN recreational activity, but whether they ruin it for other recreational activities.

    I have lots of friends who ride ATVs and Snowmobiles and they, especially the former, really have awfully low standards when it comes to what would constitute ruining an area. The more torn up, muddy, nasty, obstacle course like a trail is for them, the more fun they have. It is the nature of the activity, to some degree, and in some cases it just happens to be inconsistent with a lot of other uses of an area.

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    • Paul says:

      That is true. If it is done (and again I don’t like the idea) it needs to be done on specifically designed and maintained trails where damage is kept to a minimum. Like we try (and sometimes fail) to do with hikers. My main point above for Dave (no response yet) is why are snowmobiles compatible with Article 14 and ATVs not?

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      • Dave says:

        Paul, I’m interested in the answer to that to.

        And couldn’t one take that questioning further? Why are snowmobiles ok, but not 4×4 offroad trucks?

        I am of the opinion that we are under no obligation to accommodate every possible activity that some group can dream up of doing in the Park… that it is ok to prioritize those activities that are the least destructive, that can share space with people doing other activities, and that are more in line with the ideas of a wilderness and forever wild experience.

        Given that opinion, I suppose, you eventually have to draw a line somewhere. I personally would have drawn it somewhere before snowmobiles, but from what I understand, a fair argument can be made that a line drawn right after snowmobiles is acceptable… because they do little permanent harm to trails, etc etc. Maybe that explains the distinction, but I’m curious to hear a legal or historical opinion about it.

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    • M.P. Heller says:

      Yeah, ok. Well, how is a snowmobiler going to ruin a snowmobile trail for other recreationalists? Its a snowmobile trail. If you hiked it and found it miserable you should have probably chosen a foot trail instead of a snowmobile trail. The same could be said about a DESIGNATED ATV area. Its for ATV’s so other users may not enjoy the conditions present on a trail that is for that purpose. It sure would beat the crap out of having foot and horse trails ruined (and I do mean ruined in this light) by illegal riders trespassing on restricted land. Give them an area thats not sensitive, let them use it within a regulated framework, and make them our friends and trusted allies. Otherwise continue to demonize and alienate them, but don’t complain if they refuse to comply with the law. You’ve brought it upon yourself.

      So, not to be a jerk or anything, but your arguement is broken.

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      • Dave says:

        Therein lies the problem with these activities, MP. They really do require their own designated places… spots set aside just for them. So they can tear up, trample, be loud, be smelly, and not worry about ruining it for anyone else.

        Problem is, this is a protected, public state park we are talking about here… so setting areas aside for one group to enjoy exclusively, at the expense of everyone else, doesn’t strike me as a good way to go. Seems to me activities that need land for exclusive use should seek out exclusive use areas, otherwise known as private property.

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        • Mary C Randall says:

          Amen!

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        • Andy says:

          In the Allegheny National Forest, they have several ATV areas. The same is true with Pennsylvania State Forests. They find a way to do it and regulate it, without taking away from other users of the forest.

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  7. Used2BSven says:

    Old railroad grades would be perfect.

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  8. Paul says:

    “so setting areas aside for one group to enjoy exclusively, at the expense of everyone else, doesn’t strike me as a good way to go.”

    But Dave we do this all the time? For example we have “Canoe Areas”.

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    • Dave says:

      Not the same. Despite the name, canoe areas are shared, multi-use areas that can be used by LOTS of different people for lots of different reasons.

      In a canoe area I can paddle board, I can swim, I can kayak, I can snorkle… people can be camping on the shore, hiking along it, climbing on a wall near by… and none of them would be interfering or ruining the experience for others.

      The very nature of canoeing, and other low impact activities, is that it allows an area to be shared and enjoyed by lots of people doing lots of activities.

      ATV’s, and other motorized vehicles, however, by the very nature of the vehicles and the activity, can not share an area in a similar way. They really do need their own space so they can tear up, trample, be loud, be smelly, and not ruin things for other users. This is a completely different usage scenario from that of a canoe area.

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      • Paul says:

        Dave, Like I said. If they have a properly designed and maintained trail system. They would not be “tearing up or trampling”. Their “space” could be used by snowmobiles in winter. As far as “loud and smelly” as you say. To each his own. I have seen some pretty load and obnoxious groups of canoes in the St. Regis Canoe area.

        If you spend any time in the St. Regis canoe area (perhaps you do) you will see that the main activity is paddle sports. And I am pretty sure that some activities there are illegal. Could someone ride an ATV or snowmobile in there legally? Clearly that is at the “expense” of other activities. I don’t have a problem with it but that is how it works.

        I don’t think they would make it illegal to hike or swim or snorkel or paddle board or canoe or any other activity that could go on in proximity to my hypothetical ATV or Snowmobile trail????

        But, yes, some people who do not like the sounds and smells of these machines might prefer to stay away from the tiny fraction of the land that they would be using if they can’t handle it. Just like I never bother going any where near Mt. Marcy certain times of the year.

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  9. Dave Gibson says:

    Paul and all –
    First, thanks for the reasoned back and forth, it’s interesting and valuable to read.
    My response to Paul’s question “why are snowmobiles compliant with Art. XIV and ATVs are not?” Good question!
    Snowmobiles came first, and out of the winter lumber camps, not from a motorized recreation industry. Post 1960, they burst on the Adk scene as recreational vehicles and NYS was caught unprepared. By 1964 they were everywhere (albeit lighter, narrower, slower than today) and several Forever Wild advocates threatened a lawsuit against NYS based upon Art. XIV. The Conservation Dept, in the midst of a “wilderness study” itself,offered a compromise: no sleds in the wilderness study areas, no sleds cross country, sleds only on designated, marked trails. The advocates grudgingly agreed in ’64, not having the will or the wallet or both to proceed with a suit, and feeling that snowmobs in designated places on deep winter snows left no lasting damage to the preserve. Sleds also proved very useful to NYS Forest Rangers, so they became an accepted tool. Shorthand, the 1972 state land master plan authorized the ’64 compromise. But Forest Preserve advocates remained very uncomfortable wtih the compromise, especially when they counted up all the trees being cut and as the technology changed to bigger, wider, more powerful sleds in the 90s, DEC considered wider trails to accommodate, and illegal ATV use of the trails began and showed how damaging such use could be. We sat for several years with DEC and snowmobilers in discussing a snowmobile plan for the Adirondacks which we find defictive in many respects, but are living with. But the trend to allowing parts of the Forest Preserve adapt – legally or not- to motorized technology is unwelcome, as my piece shows.

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  10. Paul says:

    Dave, thanks.

    “Sleds also proved very useful to NYS Forest Rangers, so they became an accepted tool.”

    I guess the same goes for ATVs even in wilderness areas. From the DEC site:

    “A DEC Forest Ranger responded with an ATV via the Marcy Dam truck trail.”

    But I guess the conclusion and the answer to the question I raised is that some motorized use is compatible and legal under article 14.

    Electric snowmobiles may take care of some of the other issues folks have a problem with.

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    • Used2BSven says:

      Motorized use by the DEC in wilderness areas is for emergency purposes only, and as such, each incident is reported to and scrutinized by the APA.

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  11. Matt says:

    Thanks for your article Mr. Gibson.
    “Our job is to ensure that in our grandchildren’s time and beyond that human recreational appetites and attraction to four-season mechanized speed and adventure will never outpace our determination to uphold Article 14 of the NYS Constitution and protect the Forest Preserve for its wilderness values.”

    This statement is problematic. Your concern for user conflict on trails is justified and understandable. However, thoughtful long-term management and well informed users are always the best way to address conflict and uphold Article 14, not demonizing one activity over another, as you’ve done here by specifying “mechanized” recreation as a problem. Thankfully, you’ve balanced you trail critique by giving credit to the talented crew of DEC resource management professionals doing the very best with what they have to work with. They deserve credit and they need more support. When you “Hope they(snowmobilers) may choose to turn off their engines for a while to enjoy the peace and solitude we experienced”. I wonder if you are judging them if they decide not to? I understand that you advocate for the “Wilderness experience” but I see a veiled judgement being made of snowmobilers that is ultimately non-productive. We must be careful when we judge, lest we be judged ourselves. I encounter peak-baggers and aspiring 46rs all the time that consider themselves ardent Wilderness advocates and skilled backcountry travellers. Many of them would pass right by that peaceful scene you enjoyed because their main objective is to fulfill an arbitrary list, or knock out so many miles or “conquer” so many peaks in a day. Perhaps we should implore those folks to stop and look around a bit more too while their out on the trail? As a practical matter, how is that any better or worse than someone experiencing the excitement a snowmobile provides, if there is no appreciable difference in resource impacts or user conflict? I understand if you take issue with vehicles that burn fossil fuels for fun, but lets be honest- for most folks there is an awful lot of driving involved in nature appreciation pursuits. What about a mountain biker cruising down a fun section of flowy trail? How about a backcountry slide skier engrossed in amazing powder snow turns?(both of those activities can be characterized as “mechanized”) How about Trail Runners? My point is that we need more good management ideas and conversations, and less opinionated judgements. That being said, thank you for sharing your feelings about this matter in a positive way. As heavily regulated as the Adirondacks are, the “Freedom of the Hills” can still mean something to us if we are willing to be accountable for our own actions in the backcountry, and respect all other backcountry travellers and the experience they seek, even if it might not be your thing. If I happen to experience some “speed and adventure” in the forest preserve, and there is no appreciable impacts- resource, user conflict, wildlife or otherwise, what difference does it make? I certainly don’t think that The Forest Preserve should be managed only as some sort of amusement park, but it also shouldn’t be managed only as a museum either. Finally,I must confess, your use of the phrase “human recreational appetites” made me wonder if maybe we should be more concerned with balacing our collective American “physical” appetite with our collective “recreational” appetite so we can stop being the most overweight country in the world… but “That is a subject for another day”.

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    • Bill Ingersoll Bill Ingersoll says:

      Wow, people need to apologize for having a strong opinion? We need to modify our ideals because they might offend somebody?

      Try telling that to George Carlin or Edward Abbey. I don’t pretend to speak for the dead, but my bet is that they’d read this post and tell you to kiss off.

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      • Matt says:

        a.) Nowhere in my last post is there a request for an apology, nor is one necessary. I sincerely appreciate Mr. Gibson’s opinions and insights, even though I’ve critiqued some of them. My main assertion is that we need to be careful when we judge WHY someone decides to visit the forest preserve. Good management practices protect and uphold many different kinds of opportunites to experience wild lands in a sustainable way, and do not judge them. Some uses are simply far too destructive to effectively manage, and ATV use falls into this category. That’s not a judgement of the use or the user, it’s a measure of the conditions that ATVs create in the context of resource management. Even at their very best, the conditions created by regular ATV use are unacceptable in the forest preserve. Snowmobiles still have significant impacts just like many other uses, but they can be more effectively managed for a variety of reasons.

        I wouldn’t expect you to speak for the dead, Bill. I find your comment about George Carlin and Ed Abbey to be a strange response that adds little to this discussion. I can’t speak for the dead either, but I would hope for a much more thoughtful and interesting response from either of the individuals you mentioned, this topic being something they are passionate about.

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        • Paul says:

          Matt, my guess is that the original plan for allowing snowmobile use in the Adirondacks may not have contemplated the type of “management practices” that are required for today’s sledders in the Adirondacks as well. Just the same as you and I cannot fathom the type of management that would be required to allow responsible ATV use. Doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. I never thought that I would see them building the kind of bridge pictured here. But there it is.

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          • Matt says:

            Good points Paul. I think it’s wise that we be serious about reigning in the size of structures for the sake of maintaining the character of the trail; that being said, those structures provide a degree of resource protection that is very important, in addition to improving the user experience(for sleds at least, primarily by extending the season and making the trail safer). The bridges are massive, but they are also long lasting, so the initial impacts of the construction phase must be weighed against their longevity and the resource protection benefits they will provide for the long run. It’s undeniable that the character of snowmobiling as an activity has changed dramatically over the years. The current guidance walks a fine line, and the reality is that sledding in the Adirondacks will continue to be a much different experience than it might be outside the park where much wider public trails are the norm.

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  12. Dave Gibson says:

    I am appreciating your exchange, Matt and Paul…and others – on the fine line offered by the current snowmobile trail guidance, the importance of a different Adirondack experience, and all-terrain/off-road vehicles creating conditions adverse to resource management.

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