Richard Booth, one of eleven members of the APA board, said his reading of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan leads him to the conclusion that motorized access to, and motorized use of, the Essex Chain should be prohibited.
Under a Wild Forest classification, state officials would have the option of allowing people to drive all the way to the Essex Chain and to use motorboats. Thus, Booth favors a Wilderness, Primitive, or Canoe designation, all of which prohibit motorized use.
“The Wild Forest classification is not appropriate for this chain of lakes, because of what the master plan says,” Booth remarked during the monthly meeting of the APA board.
Booth said the State Land Master Plan’s primary objective is the protection of natural resources. He asked APA counsel James Townsend to prepare a memo spelling out the plan’s legal dictates as they bear on the classification decision.
The classification of the Essex Chain is one of the most controversial aspects of the classification decision facing the APA. Local officials want the chain classified Wild Forest to allow easy access to the lakes and possibly motorboat use. A Wild Forest designation, unlike the three other options, also would allow access to snowmobilers and mountain bikers.
After the meeting, Booth said the Essex Chain deserves greater protection than a Wild Forest classification would provide. “These are pretty fragile natural resources,” he said. “This isn’t just typical Forest Preserve; it’s very special Forest Preserve.”
Fred Monroe, executive director of the Local Government Review Board, said the towns oppose a motor-free designation for the Essex Chain region. “What I hear from the towns is that it’s critically important for reasonable access to a wide range of user groups,” he remarked after the meeting.
Monroe said one idea is to prohibit motorboats on the ponds during the peak paddling season in the summer, but allow them during the spring fishing and fall hunting seasons. In any case, he said, people should be allowed to drive within a quarter-mile of the Essex Chain.
The APA is weighing various options for classifying some 21,200 acres of former Finch, Pruyn & Company land, which the state purchased from the Nature Conservancy. The biggest chunk is the 17,320-acre Essex Chain Tract south of Newcomb. The board can vote on a classification at its October meeting at the earliest.