Tuesday, September 5, 2017

APA Awaits Governor Cuomo’s Final Decision on Boreas Ponds

Photo by Phil Brown 2016. View of Gothics from Boreas Ponds.The best information to trickle out so far is that the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will take up the Boreas Ponds classification deliberations starting at the October 2017 meeting in Ray Brook, but that it could be delayed until November. The APA has, apparently completed much of the paper work on the Environmental Impact Statement and organized its response to public comments. The APA has also organized various options for consideration by the APA Board; mostly they are similar to those taken to public hearing last fall. The missing piece is final layout of the classification of the Boreas Ponds tract that will be used as the APA’s “Preferred Option.” For that, the APA is waiting on Governor Cuomo to make the final call and tell the APA what his, and their, “Preferred Option” will be.

Governor Cuomo’s preferred option faces a number of questions, which will affect the process and timing of the APA’s final decision. For instance, if the Governor decides he wants a new Intensive Use area on any of the lands in question this will necessitate a change to the EIS and a new round of public hearings. If the Governor decides to leave a blank 5-acre cutout that remains unclassified “pending classification,” the decisions on the surrounding classifications will limit what can eventually be authorized in the unclassified tract.

In the Governor’s Preferred Option, a decision will have to be made for boundary lines for Wilderness, Wild Forest and Primitive classifications. These boundary lines will determine where mountainbikes, motor vehicles and snowmobiles are allowed. Ideas that remain on the Governor’s table include a spidering network of mountain bike trails that include a loop around the Boreas Ponds and a trail to White Lilly Pond. The Governor needs to decide how much, if any, of the Golf Brook Road will remain open for motor vehicles as well as the route of the Newcomb/Minerva to North Hudson community connector snowmobile trail. For each, Governor Cuomo has been given a suite of options.

The Governor is also making the call on a possible Primitive Corridor for maintenance of the Boreas Pond dam and whether that same corridor will be used for CP-3 special access for disabled individuals. Another option is an Essex Chain style Primitive Area that would necessitate changes to the State Land Master Plan for mountain biking and possible public motor vehicle use.

More than a year ago, state agencies promised that the decision on the classification of the Boreas Ponds would be speedy and transparent. It has been nothing of sort. The decision has been delayed, not only by the complexity of the issue and the series of tough calls the state will have to make, but also by a newfound fascination of Governor Cuomo and Basil Seggos, the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, for building some kind of rustic residential lodging facilities on the Forest Preserve for rent by the public. It now appears that a proposal for public lodging facilities on the Forest Preserve will come after the classification of the Boreas Ponds and not as part of it given a reckoning by state officials with the legal complications of this idea.

In the July 26, 2017 issue of Seven Days, published in Burlington, VT, Commissioner Seggos told the reporter that the APA Board has delayed the decision, not the Governor and not the DEC. Here’s an excerpt from that report:

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos insists that the APA board is acting independently, and that it’s actually the other way around — the Cuomo administration is waiting for the APA to make its classification before it decides whether to pursue the hut proposal.

Calling the proposal “conceptual,” he stressed that it would be “a very rustic approach to lodging — you know, cots, dirt floors and that’s it.”

Basil Seggos’s comments in Seven Days strains credulity, to say the least. Unable to make a coherent and timely decision, the Governor is now sending out his key staffer to dissemble to the media and spin nonsense. In a new piece on these issues in the Village Voice, other DEC flaks had trouble keeping the story straight.

If the APA really had unilateral authority to make the decision on the classification of the Boreas Ponds it would have been done already. Further, if this was the case then the APA Chairman would be able to give coherent answers when questioned by other Board members about why the APA can’t move ahead and classify the non-controversial lands, such as the MacIntyre East and MacIntyre West tracts, which border the High Peaks Wilderness area.

The main impediment to the APA making a decision is the search by the Governor and DEC Commissioner for a way, any way, to legally build residential structures on the Forest Preserve to rent to the public. This idea not only violates Article XIV, Section 1 of the NYS Constitution, but also violates the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan as well as 45 years of coherent recreational management of the Forest Preserve. The only buildings allowed on the Forest Preserve are for administrative purposes, such as the caretaker’s cabins at Lake Colden or Raquette Falls or the various buildings used by Rangers and seasonal DEC staff at Little Tupper Lake, among others.

As a dutiful secretary to the Governor, the APA has a lot of paperwork to do and legal findings to finalize once the Governor makes his decision. These are complex documents and can’t be drafted overnight. Further dithering by the Governor could push the decision off until November or later, though the Governor’s staff and DEC leaders want to see the process started in October.

Governor Cuomo made a series of mistakes with the classification of the Essex Chain Lakes parcel. Public use has been low compared with other places like Little Tupper Lake, Round Lake, and Low’s Lake. Rather than learning from his mistakes, Governor Cuomo appears to be doubling down on the idea that cramming a number of incongruent uses and classifications together into one discrete section of the Forest Preserve, which may also necessitate further weakening of longstanding policies, is a model worth replicating at the Boreas Ponds.

Photo: View of Gothics from Boreas Ponds in 2016 (by Phil Brown).


Peter Bauer

Peter Bauer is the Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks.

He has been working in various capacities on Adirondack Park environmental issues since the mid-1980s, including stints as the Executive Director of the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and FUND for Lake George as well as on the staff of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century and Adirondack Life Magazine. He served as Chair of the Town of Lake George Zoning Board of Appeals and has served on numerous advisory boards for management of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve.

He lives in Blue Mountain Lake with his wife and two children and enjoys a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities throughout the Adirondacks.




40 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    Paragraph 4 second to last line. “Golf” should be Gulf.

  2. Paul says:

    Peter what is the evidence that the low user numbers in the Essex chain has anything to do with the classification? Can you please point us in the direction of that data? Thanks.

    • Byron says:

      Good point. Low numbers are due to its remote location. If the state built a hotel at Essex Chain it would be closed by now.

      • Paul says:

        Or maybe few people want to go there since there are no peaks to climb and the ponds are kind of small and not that interesting compared to places like the St. Regis Chain. My point was really just that I am not sure that we have any idea why the numbers are low at this point. All I can say is that I am sure the local towns are disappointed since they approved these sales in the hopes (and claims) that there would be economic activity generated.

  3. Paul says:

    The DEC already “leases” lots of FP land (including Wild Forest land) now through paid campsite programs. Adding yurts which are not regulated as “residential” structures (not sure what Peter means there?) and are actually considered temporary structures may be perfectly legal on FP land? Despite what some say these guys can’t just make up the rules (I am sure lawsuits would test this!).

  4. Boreas says:

    The non-action WRT Boreas Ponds from all players in this administration is becoming curiouser & curiouser. Perhaps we should get used to the current “interim” plan?

  5. Justin Farrell says:

    Seems like the area is getting plenty of use under the current interim plan by hikers, paddlers, mountain bikers, and bushwhackers, as well as cross-country skiers. Perhaps even more so than the Essex Chain.

  6. Dennis says:

    Kudos! After all the hoopla and “get out the vote” promotion last year leading up to and into the Boreas comment and public hearings, the APA (I mean the Governor) decided to delay classification, originally to happen by March. A great example of disregard for the process and disrespect to any citizen that made the effort to participate. Just as disappointing has been the relative silence by all the advocacy groups who were so vocal last year. Where are they? Why do they just give the Governor and APA a free pass on this?

    This article is the best example of an ADK advocate directly calling out the Governor and APA on this issue. Amen! Please keep it coming. I look forward to seeing press releases on the other organizations’ websites doing the same thing. But I won’t hold my breath waiting.

  7. Bill Conners says:

    We can only hope that when the Plan comes forward we find that Governor Cuomo recognizes that the $50 Million investment in the Finch lands was/is made on behalf of ALL of the people of New York, not just this club of effete snobs who have convinced themselves that the purchase was made simply to enlarge what they see as a private park for people only of their ilk. They can’t seem to grasp that they don’t have to use the thread of roads that already exist on the property, they could instead choose to traverse the vast holdings in the manner of Orson Phelps. As he described it, he from time to time would partake of a random scoot, hither and yon. As heavily timbered as this land is I’m confident that not long after leaving the beaten path they will find the solitude they so desperately yearn for.

    • Boreas says:

      Bill,

      That’s kinda harsh. Try to keep an open mind – just because a group of people who feel state lands should allow for drive-in access to wild areas doesn’t necessarily make them a “club of effete snobs” – even if their wishes may not be what the majority of NYS citizens want.

      • Paul says:

        Don’t you mean “not allow for drive in access”? My read was the “snobs” were the ones who wanted less road access.

        • Paul says:

          Maybe you have it right. I am not sure?

          Bill, what do you mean?

        • Justin Farrell says:

          I am one who hopes for less road access, but would be happy with the interim plan as an acceptable comprimse. Not for my own personal playground, but to best protect the Boreas Ponds from some the negative aspects that are often associated with places that already have easy access….Places like Cedar Flow, Powely Piseco Rd, Lily Pond, or nearby Cheney Pond just to name a few. If that makes me a “snob”, then I guess comments like Bill Conners must be much more noble.

          • Paul says:

            Isn’t that like a 3 mile carry? A compromise. I am not sure that others would agree with you.

            • Justin Farrell says:

              Paul,
              Respectfully, it took our group only about an hour to cart our canoes into Boreas Ponds from the interim parking area. – Justin

              • Chuck Parker Chuck Parker says:

                The key word(s) you used was “our group”. Why not allow the opportunity for more groups of different abilities to have access when the infrastructure is there to support greater access opportunities without a negative impact.

                • Justin Farrell says:

                  As I mentioned before, my biggest concern with eady access is that the place will end up like other places with easy access. Just look what one or two idiots with a few buckets of bass in their car/truck can to a body of water as big as Little Tupper Lake. Take paddle around Cedar River Flow or Cheney Pond and tell me how many cut trees & stumps that you see, not to mention the litter that you’re likely to you find. Speaking of litter…Have you ever taken a ride down the Powely Piseco Rd? The amount litter you will find along that dirt road is deeply disturbing! Same with Harrisburg Lake Rd. It would be a shame if similar things happend to the Boreas Ponds, and I’ll lean more towards a “Wilderness” classification, sorry Charlie.

                  • Paul says:

                    You make it sound like any forest preserve land that isn’t remote wilderness is a dump. That’s just crazy. There are Wild Forest areas with relatively easy access that are beautiful places that I highly recommend that folks check out. There are also some places in the St. Regis Canoe area (basically a wilderness classification) with fairly easy access and they too are quite pristine. Sure there are management issues but same goes for places like the HPW.

                    • Justin Farrell says:

                      Exactly why I’m not in favor of turning Boreas Ponds into another Adk Loj, HRSMA, or Cedar River Flow.

                • Jim S. says:

                  Greater access always has a negative impact.

              • Hope says:

                Exactly why Lows, Lila and Little Tupper have more activity both day use and camping. If canoeing is the activity you desire than a carry of 3 miles is a deterrent for most people. Especially those with children. Lack of lakeside camping spots is also a deterrent. So if you want more folks to use it then access should be easier. If you want less people to use it than make it more difficult. What is the ultimate goal? Also, lack of tourist amenities and accommodations that are reasonably close by do not encourage usage as well. not finalizing the Classification leaves potential businesses and community participation in appropriate development in limbo.

          • Boreas says:

            Justin,

            I agree. Another extreme example would be Central Park in Manhattan. What makes it special and different from the rest of Manhattan? Lack of buildings and vehicles. What would keep BP special and different than other drive-up natural attractions within the park? Keep most vehicles and buildings a significant distance from the core of the parcel. Allow drive-up access and there is no real compromise in my view.

            • Paul says:

              The option that has a landing where you then have to paddle a bit and portage to the ponds seems like a compromise. That is not “drive-up” to the ponds. I see it like the landing on Upper St. Regis Lake, with the paddle and shot carry to Bog and into Bear Pond on the St. Regis Chain.

  8. Bill Conners says:

    I would raise just one more issue (more of an observation). I know that the High Peaks trails are so used and abused that it is shameful. I’ve even heard the word cesspool used to describe the situation. I’ve even heard some of the leaders of the groups that oppose providing equitable access to all of the stakeholders say that they want to keep Boreas off limits because of the damage being done in other areas, esp. the High Peaks. I can only guess that they want to spread the damage more broadly throughout the Park. I can assure you that it is NOT the sporting community wreaking havoc on the trails to Marcy. Maybe if we keep Boreas open to the people who really care (the hunters and anglers) they could/would be the deterrent that is needed to keep the entitled class in check and limit the abuse. It’s time we stop using the state coffers to develop private parks. Just because we may old, infirm, or disinclined to have to schlep a canoe or john boat thru the timber to get to Boreas, it does not mean that we should have to abdicate our right to be there. We too, are paying for that land.

    • Boreas says:

      “…schlep a canoe or john boat thru the timber to get to Boreas…” ????
      “…abdicate our right to be there.” ?????
      “…keep the entitled class in check…” ????

      Certainly a different view of the issue.

    • Jim S. says:

      How do you suggest hunters and anglers deter people who want to visit Boreas ponds? Are you implying that hikers don’t care? The damage in the high peaks is from overuse, easy access for the infirmed or people disinclined to walk will not deter abuse.

      • Chuck Parker Chuck Parker says:

        The spin you took from Conner’s statement….”hunters and anglers deter people”…. simply was not stated by Conners.
        The comparison with the high peaks and its damage has a slight omission of information. The portion of the high peaks that is being damaged doesn’t have the infrastructure to support its present use. The existing trails to the Boreas Pond has the infrastructure of a solid road base to support vehicle use.
        A Wild Forest Classification to the ponds offers access which can be changed if necessary. A Wilderness Classification is only an unwarranted restriction of reasonable access considerations

        • Jim S says:

          A wilderness classification creates a gem, a wild forest designation creates another pond for a beer blast.

        • Boreas says:

          “The existing trails to the Boreas Pond has the infrastructure of a solid road base to support vehicle use.” Yes, the roads are able to support vehicle use, but people are going to want to get out of their cars eventually. The roads aren’t the problem. The problem is the concentrated land/water use they will allow. This is where BP is no different than the HPW. The shoreline is undeveloped, there are no sanitary facilities, no hardened boat launch, no picnic areas, and significantly, no parking area to accept the number of vehicles wishing to park. If we add those infrastructure necessities, parking need increases even more. You are going to need room for boat trailers, canoe-haulers, horse trailers, and possibly even buses. These large-footprint vehicles take up a lot of room. Then there are people parking that have no interest in using the ponds but are biking the roads or hiking into the HPW. Many of these vehicles will be parking overnight as they will be camping in the HPW or on BP lands. The same parking issues would be a problem at the dam/carry as well. Nothing says “wild” like a 60-car parking lot.

          To me, having unlimited vehicle access to the ponds themselves makes about as much sense as opening up the Marcy Dam truck road to vehicles. Can you imagine what effect that would have on that sensitive area? Marcy Dam is terribly busy as it is and it is 3 miles from a road! Obviously, lack of vehicle access is not a big hindrance there. That being said, I wouldn’t have a problem with CP-3 authorized vehicle access for people with mobility problems at BP.

        • Todd Eastman says:

          Another pick-up truck hero…

  9. Justin Farrell says:

    The Town of North Hudson wants more tourism…
    Yet, the western “public” trailhead to Bass Lake (only minutes from Exit 29) is still unmarked & blocked by a parked tractor trailer…why?. Many people still don’t even know about the Walker Brook or West Mill Brook trails…why? Many people still don’t even know that there’s a trail to Pine Pond…why? Why not plow the Moose Mountain/Hammond Pond parking area for winter visitors? Why? Please explain.

    • John Warren John Warren says:

      Justin, I encourage you to write an essay about this situation for the Almanack. Send it to adkalmanack@gmail.com if you are interested.

      John Warren
      Editor

      • Justin Farrell says:

        Thanks John.
        Though I am sincerely curious why these trails & trailheads are not officially marked & kept open & clear year round, I will pass on the essay…. As you may be able to tell from a few of my comment posts here, writing & typing is not really one of my strong suits. Perhaps someone else with a little more writing ability & experience could do a much better job than I.
        Best regards. -Justin

    • Taras says:

      From their web-site, the 2000 census reports North Hudson’s population was 266. Even if it’s grown to 500, that’s a tiny tax-base.

      Would plowing trailheads in winter attract enough skiers and hikers to make it worthwhile for North Hudson? I’m not so sure. My guess these additional visitors would bring their money to the restaurants and motels of … Schroon Lake.

      • Boreas says:

        Taras,

        The last time I drove through North Hudson, I don’t recall noticing a business to patronize. Without tourists you have no business. Without business you have no tourists spending money.

        I am not familiar with these trailheads nor am I familiar with the local politics of the area, but I would assume if you have the responsibility to clear the roads to them, you would have the responsibility to plow the parking areas and keep them accessible. Does North Hudson have responsibility here or is it county? Perhaps the situation has gotten to the point where North Hudson may need to be absorbed by a larger township? Just asking…

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