Saturday, November 12, 2016

Mike Prescott On Boreas Ponds Access

boreas pondsRecently there was an article by Phil Brown on the Boreas Ponds in the Adirondack Alamanck outlining the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) support for a wilderness classification. After reading the article, I thought it best to visit the Boreas Ponds Tract, and research the letter written to Governor Andrew Cuomo by Mike Carr, who was then TNC’s Executive Director.

The visit to the Boreas Ponds was my first since TNC sold the property to the State of New York in April. In fact it was my first visit since Finch, Pruyn owned the property. I believe Finch was an excellent steward of the Boreas Ponds Tract, which they owned for over 100 years. It was a working forest and their show place for those doing business with Finch, Pruyn. To that end, the company built a lodge that also served as a kind of conference center with a beautiful stone fireplace and spacious accommodations. This was torn down according to the agreement between the owner (TNC) and the buyer (New York State).

The letter by Mr. Carr to Governor Cuomo outlines the position of The Nature Conservancy very well. In addition to giving the Governor a broad but succinct history of Finch stewardship, and the almost decade of The Nature Conservancy stewardship of the property, it offers some suggestions on how the Boreas Ponds property should be used in the future.

The letter recommends that the APA establish two two major land classifications with Gulf Brook Road being the dividing point.  The first, approximately 11.500 acres, including the lands surrounding the ponds, plus the adjoining 1,587-acre Casey Brook tract, to connect to the High Peaks and Dix Mountain Wilderness areas, would be designated Wilderness. Approximately 9,030 acres extending to the Blue Ridge Road to the south and Elk Lake Road to the east would be designated Wild Forest (see the map here).

TNC’s letter offers a number of reasons for this recommendation. There are paragraphs explaining the extensive collaboration of The Nature Conservancy with several stakeholder communities. In addition there are paragraphs dealing with the unique wilderness values of this large mixed deciduous forest.

aac membersOne section of the letter stands-out for me because it includes a topic near and dear to my heart.  I had a friend who wanted to gain to the Essex Chain area several years ago. He had a disability that would not allow him to carry his canoe close enough to gain access to the Essex Chain of Lakes. Sadly he passed away before the disability access trail to that area was completed.

In the case of the Boreas Ponds, TNC considered the issue of universal access in its letter to the Governor, and I believe their perspective needs further emphasis. To quote from Mr. Carr’s letter to the Governor,

“An access trail that meanders through the forests and offers views and discoveries along the way could become the primary access for users of varying abilities (e.g. walking, manual or electric wheelchair). Built to specific width, grade and side slope, this trail would be the pathway between the Wild Forest and Wilderness. It would allow visitors to park in an accessible lot in the vicinity of LaBier flow, leave their vehicles (or bicycles) behind and then progress forward into a natural area, far from any major roads and entirely free of motors…”

In fact, The Nature Conservancy has already surveyed and designed the access trail it refers to. The proposed trail would be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.

As a member of the Accessibility Advisory Committee to the APA and DEC, and as a member of the ADK Conservation Committee, I urge the Adirondack Park Agency to follow the recommendations presented by The Nature Conservancy as outlined by Mr. Carr in his letter to the Governor.

I would encourage all parties involved with this momentous decision to take a step back and breath deeply, and think carefully about disability access to the ponds. Those with disabilities, including the aging population of outdoor enthusiasts, are a body of stakeholders in the decision making process. Their needs deserve close consideration as solutions are crafted.

A friend of mine once said that if there is true compromise in any negations, each party comes away not having gained all that they wanted, and is a little dissatisfied, but they can live with what they have gained, and are thus satisfied.

Photos: View of Boreas Ponds and High Peaks; and Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC) members in the Adirondacks (photos by Mike Prescott).


Mike Prescott

Mike Prescott is a former history teacher and secondary school principal who found a new retirement avocation in paddling Adirondack waters and exploring their history.

Mike is a New York State Licensed Guide, and also volunteers with the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, the Raquette River Blueway Corridor, the New York State Trails Council and with the Adirondack Mountain Club.

Feel free to contact him at mjpaddler@gmail.com





33 Responses

  1. Jim S. says:

    I know it’s not popular, but if there is access for driving all the way to Boreas Ponds for any purpose the area will have no appeal to me.

    • Chris says:

      Jim S. Why? What would you dislike? Too many people? The wrong kind of people? Overuse of the trail? Trespassing by ATV’s? What would be spoiled for you?

      • Jim S. says:

        I travel 6 to 8 hours to get to an area where I can get away from cars and commotion. If the states idea is to draw people to the Adirondacks (not from) with these land acquisitions leaving road access to Boreas Ponds will make it a waste of real estate.

        • Boreas says:

          I agree. Every state and province has drive-up lakes and rivers. Why would people drive a great distance when they can find ponds and woodlands with numerous people using them close to home?

        • Bruce says:

          Jim S,

          There are approximately 500,000 acres (19.9% of state land in the Adirondacks) classified as Wilderness, some with secluded lakes, ponds and/or views. Have you worn them out and need something new?

          • Jim S. says:

            I was just stating what would draw me across the state to spend my vacation dollars in the north country. Leave access for cars and I will go elsewhere. Something new would be nice, but I have never worn out a secluded piece of woodland.

  2. Wayne says:

    Mike, a good read. The first link works, but when I read it, the first link works but the second and third link do not. I get the following message “Oh no! The page you’re looking for isn’t found in nature.”

  3. Chuck Parker Chuck Parker says:

    Why build an access trail when the roads already exist. Speaking to someone that is wheelchair bound, he stated a one mile trip down a paved road in a wheel chair is a significant accomplishment. A trail even with it being ADA compliant, is a significantly harder task. He challenged those that don’t think so to try it. It should be stated, that someone traveling with a wheel chair it is being done for the destination not the journey. Jim S comments;” I know it’s not popular, but if there is access for driving all the way to Boreas Ponds for any purpose the area will have no appeal to me”, is terribly self serving. Then there are those in the margins that don’t qualify for a CP3 permit or ADA relief but also do not have the physical abilities to travel significant distances that are also being shut out. Lets use the existing infrastructure of roads to give access to all, for all to enjoy. With education and access opportunity all will protect these lands we value so highly.

    • Boreas says:

      Chuck,

      What would this “education” you mention in your last sentence be, and how would it be carried out?

      • Chuck Parker Chuck Parker says:

        Education would be how to have access and treat the land treat the land wisely. They do that rather well out west with their different modes of access.

        • Boreas says:

          No, I mean how would the education be carried out? In other words, are you suggesting stewards? Signage? Access only with a certified guide? Permits requiring backcountry education?

  4. Boreas says:

    Let me start by saying I have always been a supporter of access to BP for people with mobility issues, but I am against general motorized access to LaBier Flow to accomplish this. I feel this would put too much user-pressure on the area – degrading the area environmentally and degrading the backcountry experience.

    Meandering thoughts:

    One consideration is that increased motorized usage into the interior will most likely demand widening of the road to allow more frequent 2-way traffic. The road wasn’t designed for 2-way traffic and is quite narrow. If it needs to be widened, how will this be accomplished within the regulations of either classification?

    Another consideration would be to either maintain the interim parking area and put up a sign stating “Parking Past This Point ONLY for Vehicles With Handicap Access Pass/Placard”. This would allow for a SMALL parking area at LaBier Flow. Problems would be: 1. It wouldn’t keep people without passes from dropping off large groups and gear. 2. Would require enforcement.

    I am also torn on ADA-designed access, boardwalks and camping platforms. While these are very effective for users and decreasing environmental impact by limiting the human eco-footprint, what effect will it have on the draw to the area, if any? Think pressure-treated stairways in the HPW. Also, the dam maintenance vs. non-maintenance issue would need to be decided first, otherwise you could end up with boardwalks in the middle of nowhere.

    I think this whole classification / access debate seems to be intentionally overlooked by Albany and the APA for the sake of political expediency. I feel we need to look at ALL of the options AND their ramifications before any decisions are made. Why not either maintain the interim plan until everything is sorted out OR consider a 1-2 year temporary classification until the entire debate has been heard and environmental impacts of various scenarios are studied? Then we can proceed with a well thought-out classification plan that allows for the best compromise between preservation and access. Taxpayers as stakeholders should not allow short-sighted political expediency determine the potential of this unique parcel.

  5. Marco says:

    “Those with disabilities, including the aging population of outdoor enthusiasts, are a body of stakeholders in the decision making process. ”

    Please be careful with these statements. Being a member of “the aging population” is NOT being a member of a disabled group. After back surgery, after several other back, neck and shoulder problems, I do not consider myself disabled. I know people with missing limbs that hike regularly, too. Yes, I know vets with “disabilities” that regularly hike with me. And yes, sometimes it slows us down a bit. Sometimes you have to go around some hill rather than over it, sometimes an extra couple of breaks. But, if you can walk and have a good heart, you can hike. There was recently a woman on the AT that was carried for ~75 miles along that trail. She could NOT even walk. She PLANNED for this and did it. It is a matter of desire.

    I do not see where a good trail (an old road) is any real barrier to someone with a disability and the desire to do wilderness hiking and camping. So, I do not believe your whole premise, hence negating your conclusions on this subject. Someone in a wheelchair (at what percentage of the population) with a real desire to do wilderness camping (at what percentage of a percentage of the population) can be accommodated, I am sure.

    Close the bloody road. Or, have it end where it is now.

  6. Tim-Brunswick says:

    Well you can certainly tell Mr. Prescott is from Academia and has mastered the art of circumlocution. After reading his last three paragraph’s it’s questionable as to what he is for or supporting, but I do know that access and more access is what the majority of New Yorkers want. Entirely too much of the ADKs has been locked up in a wilderness classification, which in effect denies the average New Yorker from ever seeing its beauty.

    Some compromise….sure, but locking this property in a wilderness classification is ridiculous! It hasn’t been “wilderness” for better than a 100 years with roads plied regularly by huge logging trucks and equipment during Finch Pryun’s ownership and we’re worried about a few people being able to enjoy closer access to the ponds and other beauty. After nearly a decade of enjoying the Boreas Ponds up close and personal after “driving” to the lodge/facilities they’re advocating that it be sealed up with little or no motorized access allowed.

    Apparently TNC must feel that the average New Yorker isn’t good enough or responsible enough to enjoy the same benefits that their privileged staffers have enjoyed prior to sale to the State?

    Really!

    • Steve says:

      I’m pretty sure that the average New Yorker (as well as all the non-New Yorkers who are also entitled to use our public lands) has the physical ability to hike to most of those places you think are “locked up” by their wilderness designation. There’s no reasonable justification for making it easier for those people to get there just because they think it’s too much effort to climb out of a car and hike a bit.

      Access for those who don’t have the physical ability to hike meaningful distances is a different matter, but just because a piece of land is public doesn’t mean the government needs to make it easily accessible to everyone. There’s already an enormous amount of public land that’s easily accessible with little or no walking, and it’s very easy to make even more of it easily accessible. It’s very difficult to make more land quiet, remote, and far from the crowds.

      And if you don’t think that there are plenty of people who aren’t good enough or responsible enough to see our lands that aren’t already easily accessible you must not have seen enough of the places that are easily accessible.

  7. Todd Eastman says:

    $$$$$$$$$$…

    … Wilderness with a substantially long access route is the least expensive classification and management solution.

    Any other classification will require increased staffing and/or infrastructure.

    • Hope says:

      You do know that means “jobs” in local parlance. Jobs are considered a good thing in the ADKs, especially State jobs.

      • Boreas says:

        Jobs are great as long as someone is willing to pay the salaries. That is usually the problem. Look at the woefully low DEC staffing in the Park as an example. That is what Todd is saying – $$$$$$$

      • Todd Eastman says:

        Hope it is not my experience that the DEC enlarges their staff…

        … ever.

  8. Justin Farrell says:

    Keep the gates where they currenty are, at Blue Ridge Rd & at about half way along Gulf Brook Rd. No need to spend more tax dollars on construction of a new gate & parking area anywhere else.

  9. Chuck Parker Chuck Parker says:

    For those really concerned with access to Boreas please visit http://www.accessadk.com and look and listen to Classify Boreas Ponds and Macintyre Tracts Wild Forest (you may have to click on the speaker for sound) You ought to see it. We ought to be able to see it.

  10. M.P. Heller says:

    I think if you want anyone to take that video seriously that you’d ought find someone to do the voice over who can actually pronounce Boreas.

    Two words come readily to mind when I hear “Borris Pond”. Clown shoes. (Although it does also make me think of Moose and Squirrel I doubt that was the intent.)

  11. Charlie S says:

    Chuck Parker says: ‘Jim S comments.. “I know it’s not popular, but if there is access for driving all the way to Boreas Ponds for any purpose the area will have no appeal to me”, is terribly self serving.’

    > I suppose you can include me on your list of self-servers as the place would not appeal to me neither….me mister futuristic,me mister likes things pure not tainted,me mister goes to get away from the mad race,me mister likes to go to the Adirondacks for it’s natural simplicity not for its human complexities.

    Chuck also says: “Lets use the existing infrastructure of roads to give access to all, for all to enjoy. With education and access opportunity all will protect these lands we value so highly.”

    > History has shown we are not the stewards of the land you would have us imagine in your short-sighted view of things Chuck. I don’t say that to be mean-spirited I say from what I have witnessed,from experience. We’ve been convenience’d far too long and look at us! Look at all the damage we do!

  12. Charlie S says:

    Boreas says: ” I am against general motorized access to LaBier Flow to accomplish this. I feel this would put too much user-pressure on the area – degrading the area environmentally and degrading the backcountry experience.”

    Yes sir! And then there’s the school who like all things drenched in oil,who will take artificial ingredients over ‘all natural.’

  13. Charlie S says:

    Boreas says: “I feel we need to look at ALL of the options AND their ramifications before any decisions are made.”

    And let us throw some science in there also while we’re at it.

  14. Charlie S says:

    Tim Brunswick says: “I do know that access and more access is what the majority of New Yorkers want.”

    I take it you know the majority of New Yorker’s Tim? You’ve had personal interactions with them on this matter?

  15. Charlie S says:

    Tim Brunswick says: “It hasn’t been “wilderness” for better than a 100 years with roads plied regularly by huge logging trucks and equipment during Finch Pryun’s ownership and we’re worried about a few people being able to enjoy closer access to the ponds and other beauty.”

    Those private owners were/are few in number Tim. Joe & Mary public? They come in swarms and by far exceed those few that have had access all these years.

  16. Boreas says:

    FWIW, an informal glance at the trail register at the midway gate today showed ~140 entries since Oct. 1. Hard to say how many people this is, but I would guess well over 200 since often people fail to register. Not bad for a place with “no access”.

    I did not have time to walk to the ponds today, but there was a horse trailer parked at the highway gate with tracks of probably 2 horses. A camper-trailer was parked at one nice spot along the road. Several trucks (likely hunters) were also parked off the road in several places. At the barrier there was a truck from NYS and a car from VT. Tracks toward the ponds indicated usage of kayak/canoe carts. It must have been a beautiful day for paddling! Hunting would have been noisy with the dry leaves, but a fine day nonetheless.

    I also noted the road is much more interesting with the leaves off of the trees offering slightly obscured views of the surrounding hills. But I wouldn’t recommend the road to anyone with low ground clearance if you want to keep your oil in your engine!

  17. Marco says:

    Yes, Charlie S. Let us look at some science. I am a scientist. I worked at a major educational institution, usually among the top 50 schools world wide.

    Global warming effects the ADK’s. It is accelerating and getting worse. Cause? Well there are many but one big one is from CO2 in the atmosphere. Engines, etc contribute to this. In less time than it takes for Boreas to recover the road naturally, the climate will change the character of the forest. Natural carbon caches are needed wherever they can be had, and every square INCH is important.

    Pollution is rampant throughout the planet. In my lifetime, for some examples, the last of the clean air was listed as “gone” back in the mid ’60’s. The oceans now appear as garbage dumps. Plastics, and raw oil pervade most of the planet. I cannot hike anywhere in the ADK’s without finding something to pick up. Some is just inadvertent loss, some is uncaring litter. Unlimited access means litter, and modern materials mean a several hundred year half-life to most of it. Mylar wrappers, plastic containers, little “O” pieces of plastic from tarps, these ARE oil, just slightly reworked by the chemical industry. Synthetic fabrics are found all over the ADK. Plastic stakes are left in the ground because they are “hard” to pull out. A lot more examples of human stuff left in the woods. Even the staunchest supporter of the environment will often leave a lead sinker in the water as he fishes (though this has changed recently, now it is tin or other cheap, but not quite as toxic metal.)

    Invasive species in water are usually attributed to motor boats. Zebra muscles, various seaweeds, and so on. Now we are getting mandatory inspections, mandatory washing with bleach. A hand powered canoe/kayak forces you to be close to it, keeping it clean and dry, and is rarely a problem. Generally, it is people that bring in invasives like the emerald ash borer along with firewood to burn.

    Predator and prey is a balance that has taken thousands of years for nature to create. The removal of the wolf and cougar causes problems. Deer over browse areas. Water evaporates, the ground gets too hard for good growth, trees die, and so on. Another example: Removing the beaver was bad. It was caught just before the beaver were extinguished from the ADK’s. (Ha, hey, now they cause problems with roads.) But, they maintain the watershed of the ADK’s that means WATER for the rest of NY and perhaps the most important mission of the DEC. Water to drink is a scarce resource worldwide. A couple examples of people mucking up nature. We simply do not know enough to totally manage the ADK’s. Nature always does it better in the overall scheme of things and over time.

    Contrary to the typical “I want it NOW” attitude, people should be, technically, simply be excluded from wilderness areas. Socially and politically this is impossible. Science will NOT bail us out of many of the real problems in the ADK’s because science and technology IS the problem. The best we can do is make it hard to go into these areas once we recognize the problem. This means that, for the most part, people will learn a lot about interacting with the environment before heading off into the woods. For the most part, the visiting population will keep things clean. For the most part, people will not go tramping willy nilly through every bush they see. A few cause the majority of the problems.

    Close the road, or, leave it where it is.

  18. Paul says:

    No alternative has a road going all the way to Boreas ponds so I am not sure why people still seem to think that it is a serious possibility. The farthest the road would go is to Labier Flow with a paddle across – then to a substantial carry (1/2 mile or so) to the ponds.

  19. Charlie S says:

    Thank you Marco. What you say is important and should be taken into consideration when these proposals are are thought out. Generally things regards these matters are not thought out enough or are thought out with the short-term only in mind and so we allow things that shouldn’t be allowed which oftentimes create problems that can never be corrected. We should not destroy what we cannot replace.

    You say, “Natural carbon caches are needed wherever they can be had, and every square INCH is important.”

    You are so right about this! Every time I see a new woodlot coming down or more fields being stripped so that more houses or storage units,or whatever,can take their place I think exactly what you say above. We need to start preserving what’s left….ten years ago!

  20. Mike Ames nys licensed guide says:

    I like Mike Prescott way of thinking where get wilderness and we get wild forest and everybody wins

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