The staff of the Adirondack Park Agency has set forth three alternatives for classifying the 20,758-acre Boreas Ponds Tract, none of which mirrors proposals backed by the Nature Conservancy, which sold the land to the state, and other environmental groups.
The APA board is expected to discuss the alternatives at its meeting next week and hold public hearings around the state in November and December.
All the proposals of the APA and the various stakeholder groups would divide the tract into Wilderness, where no motorized use is allowed, and Wild Forest, where some motorized use can be permitted.
Under the APA’s proposals, the amount of Wilderness would range from 10,178 acres to 14,669 acres.
Under all three, the seven-mile dirt road (Gulf Brook Road) leading from County Route 84 to Boreas Ponds would be classified as Wild Forest, allowing state and local officials to drive to the ponds to maintain a dam at the outlet. However, the APA document explaining the alternatives also notes that the Nature Conservancy granted local towns an easement “to facilitate access to the Property for public recreational use,” which could include motorized access. Any motorized access would have to be approved by the state Department of Environmental Conservation in an annual permit.
Willie Janeway, executive director of the Adirondack Council, said the easements do not require the state to classify the road Wild Forest. “First the state has to classify the land,” he said. “The towns would not have these rights if the classification does not allow them. That’s how it’s been explained to me.”
“These proposals should be rejected,” Janeway said. “None of them prohibits public motorized access to the shore of Boreas Ponds.”
Alternative 1, with the least amount of Wilderness, is similar to a plan backed by five towns in the region. Under this option, Boreas Ponds and the lands in the immediate vicinity would be Wild Forest, which would allow for a variety of recreational uses. The towns are pushing for electric motorboats on the ponds and mountain biking and snowmobiling on old logging roads that circle the ponds. All of these uses could be permitted under a Wild Forest classification.
Alternative 2, with 11,323 acres of Wilderness, is similar to Alternative 1 except that nearly all the land around Boreas Ponds would be Wilderness. Thus, the old logging roads circling the ponds would not be open to mountain bikes and snowmobiles.
Alternative 3 recommends the most Wilderness, but even under this scenario, the road to Boreas Ponds would be classified Wild Forest.
Under any of the alternatives, people could in theory be allowed to drive vehicles all the way to Boreas Ponds. However, the state also could establish parking somewhere else along the road.
Earlier this week, the Adirondack chapter of the Nature Conservancy wrote a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo outlining its recommendations for the Boreas Ponds Tract. Among other things, TNC suggested that people be allowed to drive up Gulf Brook Road as far as LaBier Flow, an impoundment of the Boreas River (the outlet of Boreas Ponds). From there, hikers would have to walk about a mile to reach the ponds. Canoeists and kayakers would have the option of paddling up LaBier Flow and then portaging.
“We believe that motorized access to that point is important to create a balanced opportunity for public recreation that will draw more people into the area, which is important to community prosperity, without adversely impacting the wilderness experience of visiting the ponds,” Mike Carr, the chapter’s executive director, said in the letter to Cuomo.
The Park’s major forest preserve advocacy groups also have endorsed classification plans that would allow people to drive to LaBier Flow. Under all these plans, including TNC’s, the land north of Gulf Brook Road and LaBier Flow would be Wilderness. None of the APA alternatives reflects such a classification scheme. Nevertheless, the state could establish a parking area at LaBier Flow under any of the three alternatives.
Nor do the APA options reflect the proposal of Adirondack Wilderness Advocates, a group that recently formed to push for closing the entirety of Gulf Brook Road. Under its recommendation, nearly all of the tract would be Wilderness and visitors would have to walk nearly seven miles to reach Boreas Ponds.
Other environmentalists were still reviewing the APA alternatives Friday afternoon and had little to say. However, Dave Gibson of Adirondack Wild criticized the APA document for failing to analyze the alternatives or offer additional alternatives. Janeway echoed that criticism.
North Hudson Supervisor Ron Moore could not be reached for comment. Boreas Ponds is in North Hudson.
The state bought the Boreas Ponds Tract from the Nature Conservancy in April, completing a multi-year deal to add 65,000 acres of former Finch, Pruyn lands to the Forest Preserve.
The Boreas tract borders the High Peaks Wilderness. The APA staff also is proposing classifications for two other Finch, Pruyn tracts near the High Peaks: MacIntyre West and MacIntyre East.
The 7,368-acre MacIntyre West would be classified Wilderness except for a three-acre section where there is a right of way. That would be classified Primitive.
The bulk of the 6,060-acre MacIntyre East would be Wilderness. About 1,605 acres would Wild Forest and eight acres would be Primitive.
The recommendations for the MacIntyre tracts are similar to proposals of environmental groups. The towns wanted the tracts classified Wild Forest to allow snowmobiling.
Maps provided by APA. From top to bottom: Alternative 1, Alternative 2, Alternative 3.