Protect the Adirondacks (PROTECT) has published an online critique of a new snowmobile trail being built by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest.
DEC trail crews are building a new 5.1-mile snowmobile trail that will connect the Limekiln-Cedar River Road near Fawn Lake to State Route 28 near the Seventh Lake Boat Launch. The trail is phase one of a long-distance “community connector” designed to link Indian Lake, Inlet, Raquette Lake and Long Lake.
PROTECT reviewed the work being done along the new snowmobile trail and documented what they found. “Field work revealed that this ‘trail’, really a de facto new road, is much worse than we feared,” Protect’s Executive Director Peter Bauer wrote in an e-mail to the press. PROTECT detailed their specific objections to the way in which the trail is being constructed with more than 20 photos posted online.
“The pictures… show construction more like an engineered road than the required ‘character of a foot trail,’ profoundly altering the natural terrain in order both to facilitate grooming by heavy, tracked machines permitted only on designated roads, and in turn to enable high-speed travel by snowmobiles,” PROTECT says on its website.
DEC construction is guided by its recently adopted “Snowmobile Guidance Document” which John Sheehan of the Adirondack Council called flawed in an essay written last year for Adirondack Almanack. “Overall, the Adirondack Council supports the ideas expressed in the guidance document, including moving trails away from the interior of Wild Forest areas and towards ‘adjacent’ travel corridors (roads, railroads, existing public trails on conservation easement lands) on their ‘periphery,'” Sheehan wrote, “However, the guidance document defines ‘adjacent’ and ‘periphery’ as ‘within two miles’ of a public highway or motorized water body. That renders the rest of the plan meaningless.”
“More than 95 percent of the entire Forest Preserve (Wilderness included) is within 5 miles of a public highway,” according to Sheehan. “There are more than 5,000 miles of public highway in the Adirondack Park, not including private roads and logging roads. Roads are everywhere.”
The State Land Master Plan (SLMP) defines snowmobile trails as having “essentially the same character as a foot trail” but PROTECT argues that the new trail is far from meeting that criteria. A caption on one photo reads: “The snowmobile trail in this spot was widened to over 20 feet in width. ‘Community Connector’ snowmobile trails are supposed to be 9 feet wide in straight areas and 12 feet wide on slopes and curves.”
PROTECT says it also documented the cutting of over 1,100 trees, the installation of 20 bridges (each 12-feet wide), stone and stump removal, drainage cuts, and heavy machinery grading and bench cuts. “It looks like a road, was designed like a road, was built like a road, and will be traveled by motor vehicles at high rates of speed like a road, so it must be a road,” PROTECT’s website reads.
Photos: Above, a 12-foot wide snowmobile trail bridge being constructed in the Moose River Plains; below, a map of the new route.