One project hyped in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget announcements early in 2017 was a zip line that would run in three stages from near the summit at Whiteface Mountain, near where the gondola brings passengers, to the base of the mountain. This was proposed as a way for Whiteface to rival zip lines at other ski areas in the northeast U.S. that were trying to expand summer tourism and resort operations.
The Adirondack Park Agency has posted its agenda and materials for its meeting this week (May 11-12th) and there is no action scheduled for the classification of Boreas Ponds or any other Forest Preserve lands. All indications show that there is little likelihood for action on the Boreas Ponds at the APA’s June meeting.
The state’s ambitious schedule announced at the time of the classification hearings at the end of 2016, where they stated a plan to have this process completed in advance of the 2017 summer season, has been abandoned. What has slowed the state to a grind is its commitment to a series of unprecedented Forest Preserve management actions to build some form of lodging and dining facility near Boreas Ponds. The exact form of this plan remains in flux, but the state leaders at the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which is leading this effort, remain determined to fundamentally change management of the Forest Preserve. » Continue Reading.
The plan to rebuild and reinvent the former Frontier Town wild west theme park site in North Hudson has not received much scrutiny, but it’s now being fast-tracked for planning and construction by the state. It’s short on details, but has a $32 million allocated in the new state budget. There are many questions around this project. Generally, the news following Governor Cuomo’s announcement to revitalize the former Frontier Town site has been greeted with great enthusiasm from local government officials and Adirondack leaders, but it has left me scratching my head.
My one clear thought among many questions is that it’s stacking up as one of the great boondoggles of all time. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) postponed action on the classification of the Boreas Ponds this month. The APA had planned to unveil its proposal for these lands in March and make a decision in April. The schedule going forward is uncertain.
The Cuomo Administration is divided on how to best manage the Boreas Ponds and as a result, it has no final plan for classification. Top staffers to the Governor and top brass at the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) are vacillating between two main options. » Continue Reading.
This summer Protect the Adirondacks was in near constant legal skirmishes with the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and Department of Environmental Conservation over tree cutting to build the newest snowmobile trail from Newcomb to Minerva. We stopped the state from tree cutting for most of the summer, and all of September, and we’ll be in court again in October.
This trail requires cutting over 15,000 trees and extensive grading with heavy machinery to widen and flatten a 9-12 foot wide road-like corridor. Our work has kept over 8,500 trees standing tall in the forest. Our argument is, in essence, that the Cuomo Administration is building a network of new roads through the “forever wild” Forest Preserve. The land cleared to build the trail from Newcomb to Minerva is between 13-17 acres. We believe that the total number of trees being cut, the land being cleared, and the vast alteration to the landscape to build these trails violates Article 14, Section 1, the forever wild provision of the State Constitution. » Continue Reading.
Part of the Adirondack Park’s vast infrastructure of outdoor recreation options include two drive-up mountains – Prospect Mountain in Lake George and Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington – where one can drive an automobile to the summits. In all likelihood there will soon be a third drive-up mountain – Blue Mountain in Indian Lake. » Continue Reading.
The purchase of the Boreas Ponds tract is a major milestone in the history of the Adirondack Forest Preserve, a stellar accomplishment by the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy and a feather in the cap of the Cuomo Administration. This marks the completion of the state’s purchase of 69,000 acres of new Forest Preserve announced in 2012. While over 95,000 acres of the former Finch, Pruyn and Company lands were protected as conservation easements, the 69,000 acres purchased for the Forest Preserve included natural gems like OK Slip Falls, the Blue Ledges of the Hudson Gorge, the Essex Chain Lakes, 15 miles of the Hudson River, the West Stony Creek river valley, five miles of the Cedar River, and much much more.
At the Governor’s announcement of the Boreas Ponds purchase last week at Elk Lake he said he wanted to see a speedy classification of the newly purchased lands. There are more than 35,000 acres of land to be classified, mostly bordering the High Peaks Wilderness, but also in scattered parcels in the southern Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.
I have heard from many who have gone into the Essex Chain Lakes area and encountered relatively few other people. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has stated that public use has been very high but provided no numbers. When I rode my bicycle from Newcomb to Blue Mountain Lake on a beautiful 75 degree Saturday of Labor Day weekend last year there were two cars at the Deer Pond parking lot to the Essex Chain Lakes area. This contrasted with the fairly heavy use of people hiking into OK Slip Falls, which is part of the Hudson Gorge Wilderness area.
Through a freedom of Information letter, I requested trailhead logbooks from the DEC to look at the use of other flatwater canoeing locations in the Adirondack Forest Preserve – Little Tupper Lake, Low’s Lake and Lake Lila. These are all wonderful motorless areas that provide incredible flatwater canoeing and overnight opportunities. I had certainly envisioned that the Essex Chain Lakes would become another such vaunted Wilderness destination where visitors were guaranteed a wild experience, away from motor vehicles.
Here’s what I found. » Continue Reading.
We’re moving into an era of one-agency rule in the Adirondack Park and that should be very troubling to everyone. For nearly 45 years, management of the public Forest Preserve has been based on checks and balances between the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The APA set management policy and the DEC administered the on-the-ground management of trails and other facilities. The APA created and updated the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, while DEC drafted individual Unit Management Plans (UMPs), which the APA reviewed for compliance. By and large this joint administration, which provided oversight, accountability, and public participation, worked well for the natural resource protection and public recreational use of the Forest Preserve.
All that is changing. There is little effective oversight by the APA and little accountability by the DEC. We’re in a new era of one-agency control. » Continue Reading.
At the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) meeting on Friday March 11, 2016, the APA acted to amend the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (APSLMP) to make a series of changes, the most controversial being changes to the Essex Chain Lakes and Pine Lake Primitive areas to allow public bicycle use and use of motor vehicles for management and maintenance by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
The APSLMP sets management policy for the 2.6-million acre Adirondack Forest Preserve. Since enactment in 1972, the APSLMP has managed Forest Preserve lands classified as Primitive Areas as essentially Wilderness areas. Many Primitive areas have ultimately been upgraded and reclassified to Wilderness. Bicycles and motorized use, even for state agencies, except in times of emergencies, are prohibited in Wilderness areas. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Forest Preserve has largely been divided between motorized and non-motorized lands, mechanized and non-mechanized areas. Primarily, these dividing lines separate where automobiles, snowmobiles, and bicycles are allowed and where they are prohibited. On one side, people walk, run, cross country ski or paddle a canoe. On the other side people can use motor vehicles and ride bikes. By and large, the separation of uses has worked well. It’s coherent and there’s virtue in its simplicity. As one long-time local government leader often quipped referring to Forest Preserve advocates, “Wilderness is yours and Wild Forest is ours.”
Not so anymore. There is an effort underway now to amend the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (APSLMP), the first serious policy changes in a generation (since 1987). These amendments seek, among other things, to shift up to 39,000 acres away from Wilderness and closer to that of Wild Forest. » Continue Reading.
Protect the Adirondacks has released a proposal to expand Wilderness areas in the Adirondack Park by over 36,500 acres. This includes Wilderness classification for much of The Nature Conservancy/former Finch, Pruyn and Company lands that border the High Peaks Wilderness and the creation of a new West Stony Creek Wilderness area in the southern Adirondacks.
This would be the biggest expansion of Wilderness in the Adirondacks since Governor Pataki acted in 2000 to establish the 20,000-acre William C. Whitney Wilderness area, which included upgrading of the 7,500-acre Lake Lila Primitive Area to Wilderness, and expanded both the Five Ponds Wilderness and Pepperbox Wilderness by over 21,000 acres.
Ours is a realistic proposal that provides Wilderness classification and protection for the most important natural resource areas of the land involved. It also aims to facilitate motorized access for limited roads open to the public and snowmobiles. We make a good faith effort at providing a workable and realistic classification and management that complies with the law, protects natural resources, and meets the objectives of many different interests. » Continue Reading.
Note: This article is the third of three that looks at the widespread violations of public process, state policies, and state laws in the recent approval of the Essex Chain Plan. Part one can be found here and part two here.
In many ways the Forest Preserve defines the Adirondack Park experience. The trails, mountains, lean-tos, campsite and deep beauty of the forests are what the Adirondacks is all about. The Forest Preserve provides the dramatic scenic backdrop across the Park and brings millions of visitors to the Adirondacks. The Forest Preserve also generates tens of millions in school and local tax revenues. » Continue Reading.
Note: This article is the second of three that looks at the widespread violations of public process, state policies, and state laws in the recent approval of the Essex Chain Plan. Part one can be found here.
One of the most controversial elements of the Essex Chain Complex Unit Management Plan (Essex Chain Plan), approved last week by the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), is the proposal to cut a new five-mile snowmobile trail through the western part of the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest area, east of the Hudson River. This new snowmobile trail will retain and use the Polaris Bridge and is designed to connect the communities of Indian Lake and Minerva with a major new snowmobile trail, despite the fact that these communities are already connected with a major snowmobile trail.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will take up the question of the conformance of the Essex Chain Complex Unit Management Plan (ECCUMP) with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (APSLMP) on November 12th.
This will be the APA’s “first read,” having completed on October 16th its public hearing on the final draft ECCUMP submitted by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The DEC held its own public hearing in July on this UMP. The APA is expected to approve the ECCUMP in December. » Continue Reading.