Tuesday, July 22, 2008

ADK Calls For Expansion of St. Regis Canoe AreaDispels Quiet Waters Myths

In a recent press release – “Quiet Waters Would Enhance Adirondack Experience” – the Adirondack Mountain Club countered some of the critics of the newly formed Quiet Waters Working Group and at the same time called on the working group to make use of what it called “an excellent opportunity to expand one of the Adirondack Park’s greatest attractions, the St. Regis Canoe Area.”

Adirondack Mountain Club officials called on the working group to expand the St. Regis Canoe Area (recently named one of Adirondack Almanack’s 7 Natural Wonders of the Adirondacks) to include 13 interconnecting ponds directly south of the St. Regis and west of Upper Saranac Lake. These would include Follensby Clear, Rollins, Floodwood, Polliwog, Little Square and Whey ponds. They also supported an Adirondack Explorer proposal that the area should remain open to boats with electric motors, with a 5 mph speed limit. Explorer’s proposal also states that “Pre-existing landowners would be exempted,” which wasn’t mentioned in the ADK plan. All told, the 13 ponds have a total surface area of 3 square miles.

Last month, state Department Environmental Conservation Commissioner Grannis and Adirondack Park Agency (APA) Chairman Curt Stiles announced the formation of an interagency “Quiet Waters Working Group for the Adirondack Park.” The working group will evaluate lakes, ponds and rivers in the Park for potential designation as “quiet water,” meaning that motorized craft would be prohibited.

This new proposal is a compromise by paddlers that would allow anglers to navigate the ponds in boats equipped with electric motors and enjoy quiet fishing undisturbed by the noise and wakes of gas-powered motorboats. It’s still to be seen if that will alleviate opponents of Quiet Waters like this one last week by Robert E. Brown in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise:

There has been a decade of new quiet water access purchased by the state with constant loss of motor boating waters. Now we hear of a committee being formed because ‘there are too few paddling opportunities.’ The state, now running out of lands to buy and reclassify as wilderness, intends to regulate motors off waters used by residents and sportsmen for generations.

The ADK supports the creation of the Working Group, saying that it “does not advocate any wide-reaching ban on motorboats on Adirondack waters.”

“Motorboats have been allowed for decades on most larger Adirondacks lakes, and ADK believes that this traditional use should continue,” executive director Neil Woodworth was quoted. “But there also should be more opportunities in the Adirondacks for canoeing and kayaking in peace and quiet. We believe this can be accomplished in ways that has little impact on other users.”

The ADK also called on the Quiet Waters Working Group to study the economic impacts of any Quiet Waters initiatives. Woodworth said the Working Group should also study possible motor restrictions or speed limits on Adirondack rivers, such as the Raquette, Jordan and Osgood. High-speed boats operating close to shore create wakes that disrupt nesting loons and inhibit their ability to reproduce. The Working Group should also consider economic incentives to encourage motorboat owners to switch from loud, dirty two-stroke engines to four-stroke engines.

The ADK also argues that the argument that there are thousands of lakes and ponds, covering hundreds of square miles, that are open to quiet paddling and that many lakes and ponds are inaccessible because they have been “locked up” in wilderness areas., is false.

They argue instead that

The DEC has cataloged more than 3,600 lakes and ponds in the park, but nearly half are less than 5 acres and three-quarters have less than a mile of shoreline. When private and public water bodies are taken into account, about 90 percent of the park’s lake surface area is open to motorboats. Although wilderness accounts for 17.5 percent of the total area of the Adirondack Park, wilderness ponds cover only about 12,000 acres, less than 4 percent of the park’s total.

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John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for more than 45 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John's Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on North Country Public Radio and on WSLP Lake Placid.

He is also on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute and edits The New York History Blog. He is the author of two books of regional history.




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