Thursday, December 6, 2012

Council Proposes A Larger High Peaks Wilderness

Adirondack Council proposal for Boreas PondsThe Adirondack Council is proposing a huge expansion of the High Peaks Wilderness Area once the state acquires lands formerly owned by Finch, Pruyn & Company.

Under the council’s plan, the state would combine the High Peaks and Dix Mountain Wilderness Areas as well as twenty-three thousand acres of former Finch lands. If this were done, the High Peaks Wilderness—already the largest Wilderness Area in the Adirondack Park—would grow to 272,000 acres from 204,000 acres.

Council spokesman John Sheehan said enlarging the High Peaks Wilderness would simplify the state’s management and planning for the popular region.

The proposal also would require the state to close a long dirt road that leads to Boreas Ponds, which are among the former Finch holdings that the state intends purchase over the next five years.

Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, contends that closing the dirt lane, known as Gulf Brook Road, would keep paddlers (and many hikers) from enjoying the unspoiled ponds.

“You’d have to portage your canoe seven miles to get to Boreas Ponds,” Woodworth said. “That’s highly impractical. Boreas Ponds is a wonderful opportunity to see the High Peaks from a canoe or kayak. It would be a terrible waste if the public were deprived of that opportunity.”

Sheehan argues that allowing people to drive all or most of the way to the ponds would create pollution and noise and increase the risk that exotic species will be introduced to the waterways. He also said it might lead to overuse.

“We believe that the state’s first obligation is to protect the wildlife and natural resources of the area,” Sheehan said.

The Adirondack Explorer reported in its November-December issue that the state Department of Environmental Conservation is thinking about keeping most of Gulf Brook Road open. Under this plan, people could drive as far as LeBeire Flow, nearly a mile south of the ponds. Paddlers could put in the flow and paddle to the ponds, while hikers could walk to the ponds via the closed section of the road.

Under the DEC plan, the road to LeBiere Flow would serve as the boundary between Wilderness Area and Wild Forest Area. The road itself would be classified Wild Forest, a designation that permits motorized use. In winter, it would be used by snowmobilers traveling between North Hudson and Newcomb.

Under the council’s proposal, a power-line corridor south and west of the road would serve as the boundary between Wilderness and Wild Forest. The utility lines cross Gulf Brook Road a short distance from its start on Blue Ridge Road. Thus, virtually all of the access road would lie within the motor-free Wilderness Area. Sheehan said the utility corridor also could serve as the snowmobile trail, adding that DEC itself suggested this in 2008.

The Adirondack Nature Conservancy bought 161,000 acres from Finch, Pruyn in 2007. The state has agreed to buy sixty-five thousand acres from the conservancy for the Forest Preserve.

The council presented its proposal today in a letter to DEC Commissioner Joe Martens, along with suggestions for other Finch lands. Among other things, the letter also detailed the council’s proposal for a 72,400-acre Wild Rivers Wilderness, incorporating former Finch lands and existing Forest Preserve.

Click here to read an earlier Adirondack Almanack article on the Wild Rivers Wilderness.

Click here to read the council’s letter and accompanying maps.

Map of Boreas Ponds tract by Adirondack Council. We added the red dots to show the access points under the council’s proposal and DEC’s tentative plan. The lower dot is where the utility lines cross Gulf Brook Road. The other dot is the south end of LeBiere Flow.

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Phil Brown is the former Editor of Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack. Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing. He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.

54 Responses

  1. Solidago says:

    “Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, contends that closing the dirt lane, known as Gulf Brook Road, would keep paddlers (and many hikers) from enjoying the unspoiled ponds.”

    Keeping them unspoiled is exactly the point. We don’t need any more tragedies like Little Tupper Lake where the moment a real ecological treasure ends up in public hands, it is destroyed forever.

    On one hand, I love the proposal. On the other, I suspect it is politically impractical. Touting recreation and revenue going into the deal, and then focusing on protection after it is done will surely be characterized as a “bait-and-switch.”

  2. Bill Ingersoll says:

    It should be pointed out that the Adirondack Mountain Club’s desire to keep the road open to motor vehicles is a direct violation of its own internal conservation policy, which prevents ADK from supporting the establishment of new roads in the Forest Preserve, including in the case of new acquisitions.

  3. Penn Hoyt says:

    Again, the Council shows that it wants to put a fence around the park and keep people out! People – WAKE UP!

  4. AA says:

    I think Trout Brook road should remain open to where it runs into Gulf Brook Road. That area, currently a log loading platform, would be a natural parking area — just keep it mowed. That leaves a 750 feet portage to LeBreire flow — which would comply with the Scenic and Wild Rivers Act.

    The Gulf Brook Road, while probably good to keep open, as a practical matter is less important.

    So basically this is the Adirondack Council’s plan for the High Peaks wilderness, except with this change:

    … westerly along said powerline to Boreas river, thence northerly along said river to Gulf Brook road, thence westerly along said road to Trout Pond Road, thence southwesterly along said road to powerline, thence westerly along said power line …

    This would only be less then 100 acre difference between the ADK Council proposal and one that allowed controlled access to the ponds. It also would allow the DEC to continue to maintain the LeBreire Flow dam.

  5. Paul says:

    How can you sell the idea of purchasing this land by saying that it will create more use and economic benefit to the surrounding towns and then say that leaving a road open will create “overuse”??

    The plan isn’t a bad one but it seems like a big bait and switch on the towns. These plans should be proposed AHEAD of time.

    • Paul:

      I understand your concern, but I would like to clarify something for anyone who feels this way. Our plan has actually been on the table for 24 years. Both the expansion of the High Peaks Wilderness and the creation of the Wild Rivers Wilderness were proposed by the Council in 1988 and 1990, in 2020 VISION Volumes I and II. The expansions of Shaker Mtn WF, Vanderwacker WF and Lake Desolation (we called it Kayderosseras WF) are in 2020 VISION Volume III. All are available for viewing on our website, and had been there for many years before Finch agreed to sell its land to the Nature Conservancy.

      Before that, we made sure each volume was available at local libraries in the Park and in cities just outside the park, the State Library in Albany and the Library of Congress. Plus, we periodically mention the volumes in our news releases and newsletters and in 1994 we published a summary volume encapsulating the first three. We gave away copies of that one to anyone who asked. Volume IV — on private land stewardship — was published more recently and is also available for free.

      The maps published by the Almanack seem new because they are. All of the maps in 2020 VISION Vols. I to III preceded GPS/GIS digital technology and were hand-drawn. It took us months to get the lines right, but these should be accurate.

      If you or anyone else wants further clarification on any part of the plan, please don’t hesitate to contact me at I will do my best to answer any questions about our plans.

      Finally, thank you for caring enough about the future of the park to get into a conversation like this in the first place.

      — John Sheehan
      Director of Communications
      The Adirondack Council

      • Paul says:

        Thanks foe the reply and the information. Like I said I think the proposal in general seems reasonable from a preservation perspective. But just the fact that you are making these press releases and proposals indicates that you are still making an effort to inform people of what you would like to see happen with this land. You are saying that the DEC doesn’t need any of these new suggestions if you have already made them and made them several times? I don’t quite follow that? I totally agree in the idea that the towns need to do their homework and in the end they should not be surprised what they get if the information was available to them. We will have to see how they react. If it is positive then you know they did their homework. Thanks again.

      • Guest says:

        These lands were never included in NYS Open Space Plan until they were acquired by The Nature Conservancy.

        • Guest says:

          That is a lie.

          • Guest says:

            It’s not a lie. The last OSP plan was written in 2009, two years after TNC acquired the land. The prior OSP was written in 2004 and makes no mention at all about the Essex Chain, Boreas Pond, Hudson gorge, or Follensby Pond.

            It seems like the OSP is written to accommodate the acquisition, and as such, has little merit in long range planning.

  6. Buying land for the public and then making rules designed to keep the public out strikes me as silly not to mention bad policy. The DEC plan to keep the road open to LeBeire Flow is reasonable IMO.

  7. Paul says:

    The Fynch Woodlands have been on the list for a long time.

  8. Paul says:

    The OSP focuses far too much on adirondack land and not enough on important things like costal property etc.

  9. Alan Senbaugh says:

    The bottom line is the ADK is not an environmental organization. They are a hiking club. No different than a Snowmobile club in that they look out for their users interests first.

    • Paul says:

      Yes, you are correct. LIke I said above they have several hotels that benefit from their remote and special spots.

      • John Warren says:

        Yeah, several hotels. You are full of BS.

        Paul – find somewhere else to be a troll.

      • Paul says:

        Fine. Several “privately owned lodges”. Whatever you want to call them.

        • LocalYokel says:

          Except there aren’t “several,” there are two.

          • Paul says:

            Yes, correction noted. Two. Two that draw many many users into the interior of these wilderness areas. It is fun in the fall and spring to watch the helicopters brining supplies into the middle of the high peaks wilderness at JBL. Luckily they don’t need float planes. Do they do that every year?

            Don’t get me wrong. I think these places are great. I just agree with the earlier comment that this is more of a recreational club than an environmental group.

  10. Used2BSven says:

    Calling the Loj and JBL “hotels” might be incorrect by strict definiton but they are clearly popular over night sleeping accomodations. The only troll on this site is you.

  11. Tony Goodwin says:

    When the State first acquired the Santanoni Preserve there was great concern about overuse. When that proved not to be a problem, camping and other restrictions were lifted. I thus agree with DSettahr that Boreas Ponds are too distant from the higher peaks to likely be overused. From the ponds there could be a shorter route developed to Allen, but this would not be significantly shorter to Panther Gorge than from Elk Lake. I also think that seven miles is a long way to push a wheeled canoe carrier, and I don’t think many do that for the 4.5 miles to Newcomb Lake even though that road is smoother and flatter than the road to Boreas Ponds. I believe I am correct that car top boats actually pose little danger in spreading invasives since the boat is thoroughly dry by the time it is launched.

    I therefore favor the DEC’s initial plan to keep the road open at least to LaBriere Flow and perhaps to the old cabin, from which it is just over 1/2 mile to Boreas Ponds. DEC has also suggested setting the wilderness boundary north of the dam at Boreas Ponds so as to be able to maintain that structure. This is what I learned in July when the ADK’s Trails Committee was given a tour as far as the lodge.

    There is significant local opposition to these purchases – opposition that will only increase if there is the perception that access will be severely limited by terrain and distance. Governor Cuomo has promised to acquire the 50,000 acres over five years if the funding is available, but politics being what it is that funding could go elsewhere.

    And while I am not going to advocate for more access than described above, I don’t believe it would be the “end of the Forest Preserve as we know it” were the DEC to create an inholding to preserve the lodge at Boreas Ponds with lodge guests allowed to drive to the lodge. Such an arrangement would effectively defuse the handicapped access issue since from the lodge handicapped individuals could travel by boat much farther into the area.

  12. Paul says:

    Tony, your ideas are totally reasonable. They will never fly!!

  13. Paul says:

    I think a third lodge in there would be a cool idea. One that could be utilized by hikers in the summer and hunters in the fall.

    A third lodge would also get me over the “several” threshold but still keep me in the “not many” definition!

  14. Guest says:

    The Santanoni Club has 34 privately owned cabins. The Polaris Club has a dozen or so privately owned second homes. The Gooley Club has 8 cabins. Collectively, the tourism revenuet from these three clubs amounts to close to one million dollars per year.

    • Alan Senbaugh says:

      Where they available for the public to rent a room or cabin?

      • Guest says:

        Yes, and it probably costs a lot less than JBL, and your more likely to get a reservation when you want it. You need to buy an annual permit first; it’s called a membership.

  15. Used2BSven says:

    One million is a fraction of what these lands will generate once opened to the public.

    • Guest says:

      Not according to regional statistics it won’t. 90% of users are locals from within 50 miles. Only 5% of users stay overnight in the woods. There are no accomodations in this area, and the hike is too long for day trips.

      The three clubs I mentioned are only 3 on 19,000 acres. There are others; approximately 25 other clubs on the 65,000 acres, and they generate around ten million dollars per year. It would be better if the state bought easements instead, so the clubs could stay open AND the general public could use the area.

      About tourism, I got this e-mail from a friend of mine today: ” I live in the motor-less St. Regis Canoe Area and get only much traffic by my house and beer cans and garbage to pick up by my house. Where the people go the garbage and vandalism follow.”

      Is this what will happen in these pristine areas too?

  16. Used2BSven says:

    Your last post is completely ludacris. 9 in 10 hikers in the high peaks are not “local.” Unless Montreal is suddenly part of the tri-lakes region. Anyone who has travelled in remote areas of the park notices that litter decreases the further to the interior you go. Clubs like yours are a detriment to our economy.

    • Paul says:

      I would look at the users group across the Adirondacks. It is true that some surveys have shown that in some areas most of the use is pretty local. The High Peaks especially places like the Loj are the other end of the spectrum. These new trail heads are not going to have hundreds of hotels down the road like they have in Lake Placid so it may or may not be the same. Probably not. The last time I was in the St. Regis canoe area there were 5 people signed in at the register where we came in. 3 were from Saranac Lake (1 from Lake Clear actually) and me and one other guy from somewhere near Albany I think. The campsite we had lunch at was a pretty spot to swim but the site looked terrible. The trees had no bark there wasn’t a stick of wood anywhere and the DEC had a bunch of yellow tape marking off an area that was supposed to be “re-seeding” or some such thing. It looked like a spot that squirrels wouldn’t even bother with. This wasn’t close to a road this was a half mile carry and a 2 mile paddle.

  17. William Deuel,Jr says:

    The clubs have been a big part of the local economy in the Newcomb area anyway. I have been up there for 20 years hunting, fishing and guiding. There is no infrastructure , only a few small stores which the club people help quite a bit. With deer season over and no snow, things are real quite up there right now. The outlying towns like Long Lake may do better but it is 15 miles from Newcomb. If you come along the Blue Ridge Road from the northway there is not even gas station until Long Lake. Where are people going to spend their money, if there is nothing to spend it on ?

  18. Guest101 says:

    Gas and grocerys have been available in the recent past in Newcomb. The town population and the surrounding “clubs” have not created sufficient demand to keep these businesses going. With snowmobiling extended to North Hudson and Schroon Lake plus, expanded access to the southern high peaks, there is the potential again, for gas and a convenience store. Starting small, in Newcomb, Blue Ridge or North Hudson, a few guest houses and possibly a hunting lodge type of accomodation could work.

  19. Guest101 says:

    Regionally, Newcomb, Blue Ridge and North Hudson are about a 30 minute drive from skiing at Gore Mt. and North Creek. There are several small hotels and resturants in North Creek, plus a full service grocery, drug store and gas. There is even rail service to Saratoga.

    Expanded access to the southern high peaks will only benefit these businesses.

  20. Guest says:

    Paul, I visited their site and noticed a link, Become a Forest Steward, and I wondered how one could be a steward in the Forest Preserve where healthy forest management is prohibited. I clicked on the link and was directed to Page Not Found.

    Of course not.

    • Paul says:

      I don’t have a problem with their opposition to these trails. They can advocate for whatever they want. But I think it disingenuous to talk about the economic benefits of some of these purchases if they also oppose the things that will lead to the benefits.

      • Used2BSven says:

        What would the Forest Preserve look like if there was no restrictions on snowmobiles or ATV’s? If they could ride on any trail?

        • Paul says:

          Who is talking about no restrictions?

          • Used2BSven says:

            I don’t know it was just a hypothetical. What would the Forest Preserve look like if ATV were allowed on snowmobile trails? Just a thought. I dont think it would be a bad thing but wanted to hear other thoughts.

        • Alan Senbaugh says:

          That would keep the rangers busy.

        • Paul says:

          I don’t think it would look too much different. There are too few rangers to enforce the rules anyway. I see ATV’s parked at a pond we visit (we go by foot) in the McKenzie Mt. Wilderness every summer we have all learned to get along.

          • Used2BSven says:

            That most be Grass Pond?

          • Paul says:

            Nope. One of the many Pine ponds. It is also a very popular place for Mt. Bikes despite the fact they are also illegal.

          • Josh Wilson says:

            Paul – just wanted to address your comment about Pine Pond Trail (assuming you are talking about the Pine Pond Trail accessed via Averyville Rd in Lake Placid).

            Pine Pond “trail” is an old road that runs along the border of the High Peaks Wilderness and Saranac Lakes Wild Forest, but it is not inside the wilderness boundary, and therefore mountain biking there is perfectly legal (mt biking is permitted in Wild Forest, but not Wilderness). It has long been used and advertised as a mountain bike trail, though in my personal opinion it is terrible for mountain biking by any modern standard, partly because of ATV/4WD use that creates ruts and mud holes in the corridor, and partly because many mountain bikers prefer to ride narrower “singletrack” trails. I rode it once 10 years ago and never went back.

            Many folks are not aware that over the past few years opportunities for mountain bike trail riding have grown significantly in the greater Lake Placid region. Since 2010 a new organization called Barkeater Trails Alliance (BETA) has been advocating for and building a network of diverse and interconnected multi-use trails suitable for mountain bikes in Wilmington, Lake Placid and Saranac Lake.

            In Wilmington we have been busy building LEGAL trails on Hardy Road in the Wilmington Wild Forest (approved recently in the unit management plan).

            In Lake Placid we have built a new trail system on private land that is open to the public and have begun work on a trail network on town property behind Craig Wood golf course, accessible via the Jackrabbit Trail.

            In Saranac Lake we’ve built new multi-use trails on town property at Dewey Mountain, and village property at Mt. Pisgah, and have proposed trail improvements in the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest that have the potential to link SL and LP(DEC is currently finishing up the UMP for that unit).

            People can learn more about BETA at our website,

  21. Alan Senbaugh says:

    Yes but atv’s and mtn bikes alike would be illegal at Pine Pond itself as that is inside the High Peaks wilderness. The road goes by just to the north.

    • Paul says:

      Yes, like I said, they are there anyway, The classification is bogus without any enforcement.

      • Alan Senbaugh says:

        I think it’s enforced. It is probably just not checked enough by the rangers. I think the ATV enthusiasts are shooting themselves in the foot but going there. The main argument by green groups against ATV trails like the “truck trail” is that ATVs will not stay on designated trails. It seems they are correct. I think the ATV users would do better to stay on the designate trail to show they are good stewards of the land.