Monday, May 27, 2013

Options For New State Lands: Primitive

Essex ChainThe state’s acquisition of 22,500 acres of former Finch, Pruyn lands from the Adirondack Nature Conservancy raises important questions about how these lands will be used and managed. The Adirondack Park Agency has submitted seven management proposals that will be discussed at public hearings starting June 12. The APA board could vote on a final proposal as early as August.

Adirondack Almanack has prepared a series of four articles to explain these proposals. In each article, we look at one proposal or two related proposals. The text will be accompanied by the APA map or maps showing the classification of the lands under the proposal in question. The maps will be the starting point for the discussion.

In the first article, we talked about two proposals for classifying most of the former Finch lands Wilderness. In this article, we discuss the option of creating a Primitive Area. Under the State Land Master Plan, a Primitive Area is “essentially wilderness,” but it may have a man-made structure or use that is incompatible with a Wilderness classification.

Primitive revised

As in the maps accompanying the first article, the lands inside the purple, orange, violet, and green lines are newly acquired state lands. Under the Primitive option, most of these lands would be classified Primitive (shown in light blue) or Wilderness (dark green). Except for a one-acre gravel pit, the rest would be classified Wild Forest (light green).

Under this option, the APA would establish an 11,743-acre Primitive Area that includes the Essex Chain Lakes and several other ponds on both sides of the Cedar River. The Hudson Gorge Wilderness (a part of all the proposals) would encompass 32,234 acres, meaning it would be smaller than proposed in the two Wilderness options discussed in our first article.

However, the management of the Primitive Area would be essentially the same as if it were a Wilderness Area: motor vehicles, motorboats, snowmobiles, and mountain bikes would all be banned.

So why not just classify it Wilderness–which would make it almost the same as the more restrictive of the two Wilderness options?

Answer: because the Primitive Area includes First and Pine lakes, where floatplanes are allowed to land. (The Nature Conservancy donated floatplane rights to the towns.) This use precludes a Wilderness designation. That’s why the APA drew the boundaries in its two Wilderness options to exclude First and Pine lakes.

One argument for the Primitive classification is that it places the entire Essex Chain under one classification, which makes sense from a management and ecological perspective. It also can be argued that it’s more honest than the Wilderness designation: if planes are flying low overhead to land on and take off from First and Pine lakes, hikers and paddlers visiting the Essex Chain may feel their “wilderness experience” is diminished.

Under the Primitive option, visitors would face long walks or carries to reach the Essex Chain, probably one and a half miles, depending on where the state puts the parking area. Likewise, they’d have to hike three miles or so to reach a takeout on the Hudson River just below the Goodnow River. These distances are the same as in the more restrictive of the two Wilderness options. The carry from a second takeout on the Hudson, near the Indian River, would probably be about a mile. The locations of the two takeouts are shown by X’s.

A variation of the proposal, raised at May’s APA meeting, would create a Wild Forest corridor running north from near the Cedar River to state land near the east end of Goodnow Flow. This actually would create two Primitive Areas divided by the corridor.  The goal is to allow mountain bikers to ride between Indian Lake and Newcomb or in a long loop from Indian Lake. The loop would incorporate trails and roads on other Forest Preserve tracts and conservation-easement lands (which are indicated by pink stripes). This option also would allow visitors to drive closer to the first takeout on the Hudson. The carry to the river would be about 0.8 miles.

Next week: The Canoe Area option.

Photo of Essex Chain Lakes by Carl Heilman II.

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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.




One Response

  1. Paul says:

    This sounds just like a proposal that could be a place holder till the smoke clears. Then like in other places you can ban float plane use later and re-classify it all as Wilderness. I think we should decide now what we want to do, in fact the decision should have been made before the land was acquired and there would not be all this animosity. It is not healthy. There has been too much of that around for decades.

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