Monday, September 15, 2014

ATV Damage in the Black River Wild Forest

ATV damage to the Gull Lake Trail, Black River Wild Forest.On August 29th, I visited the Gull Lake and Chub Pond trails in the Black River Wild Forest. I photographed all sorts of trail and wetland damage from All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) use on these trails. ATVs are not allowed on these trails, but the Black River Wild Forest area has a history of illegal ATV use, and I thought that the damage to these trails reflected more of the same.

I had received reports about ATV damage in this part of the Forest Preserve earlier this year. The previous week I had spent time in the Ferris Lake Wild Forest inventorying trail damage from ATVs and photographing ATV side-routes around various barrier gates put up by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). It appeared that the damage to the Chub Pond and Gull Lake trails was also caused by illegal trespass. The usual telltale signs of illegal trespass and recreational riding were evident.

When I posted pictures and the accounts (here and here) of my visits, I was corrected. It turns out that a good deal of the ATV damage to these trails was sustained during a search and rescue operation in July that involved scores of DEC staff and many volunteers. An 84-year-old man was lost in the Black River Wild Forest area of the Forest Preserve for five days, but was found and rescued.

Around the west side of Gull Lake there was lots of string and flagging in trees alongside the trail. There were places where new side ATV trails had been cut, leading from the main trail. Tree stumps were evident where the search effort necessitated tree cutting to provide easy access to the area for search teams. I did not include these sections in my accounts as they clearly seemed to be part of an organized search effort.

ATV damage to the Chub Pond Trail, Black River Wild Forest.The ATV damage to the western part of the Gull Lake trail and the Chub Pond trail had all the signs of illegal trespass. ATV side-trails were visible around DEC barrier gates. Signs were up stating no ATV use, but they are sometimes posted in places subject to illegal trespass. In many places these trails had been widened to 20-30 feet as ATV riders sought to avoid large mud holes created by prior ATV use. In places where the trail passed through a wetland, the narrow foot trail route of stepping stone and corduroy logs had been obliterated in a swamp of mud and deep ruts filled with a stew of thick green algae. In other places side trails had been created by ATVs leaving the trails altogether for an easier route around damaged areas. In many places, mud troughs several feet deep and wide were created from sustained use of ATVs crashing through them. These trails were difficult to hike and impossible to mountainbike in many places.

It never occurred to me that this level of damage could have been caused by state officials. I’m told that the damage from illegal ATV use on these trails was significant before the search effort, yet much of the damage to these trails visible today is from the search effort. DEC has not published a schedule for rehabilitation of these heavily damaged trails.

What the whole incident shows is that ATV use is wholly inappropriate for the Forest Preserve. Many are pushing for ATVs to be allowed for public recreational use on the Forest Preserve. Many are pushing for open access for even bigger Utility Track Vehicles (UTVs) on the Forest Preserve.

If trails can be destroyed by ATV use under the supervision of DEC professional staff, nothing better illustrates why ATVs should never be allowed in the Forest Preserve for recreational use.

DEC will say that this was a matter of life and death. In this light, any damage to the Forest Preserve is irrelevant and inconsequential. I agree. Clearly search and rescue teams had to be transported as quickly and deeply into the Forest Preserve as possible at a point where every hour was critical. The longer one is lost, the greater the chances of severe injury or death.

The Adirondack environmental community has never opposed use of motor vehicles in the Forest Preserve during emergencies.

Yet, the residual ATV damage plainly evident today on these trails in the Black River Wild Forest area provides those of us who think about Forest Preserve management with a teachable moment. The lesson here is that recreational use of ATVs is incompatible with Forest Preserve protection and stewardship. These machines should only be used for emergency situations and should never be allowed for public recreational use.

Neither the DEC nor the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) have ever been able to muster the political courage to state that ATVs are prohibited on the Forest Preserve as a public management policy or to codify this policy in official rules and regulations. It’s high time that they do so.

Photos: Above, ATV damage to the Gull Lake Trail, Black River Wild Forest; and below, ATV damage to the Chub Pond Trail, Black River Wild Forest.

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Peter Bauer is the Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks.

He has been working in various capacities on Adirondack Park environmental issues since the mid-1980s, including stints as the Executive Director of the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and FUND for Lake George as well as on the staff of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century. He also worked at Adirondack Life Magazine. He served as Chair of the Town of Lake George Zoning Board of Appeals and has served on numerous advisory boards for management of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve.

Peter lives in Blue Mountain Lake with his wife and two children, enjoys a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities throughout the Adirondacks, and is a member of the Blue Mountain Lake volunteer fire department.

Follow Protect the Adirondacks on Facebook and Twitter.




59 Responses

  1. The Post-Star reported last week that there was similar damage to trails in the Hudson Pointe Reserve in Queensbury (as well as outright vandalism).

  2. Bill Ingersoll says:

    The Gull Lake and Chub Pond trails certainly have been long known for their long-standing ATV damage, although nothing like the pictures you’ve posted this summer. Before July’s SAR event, I would have described ATV use of the area as limited, not pervasive. Most of it occurred on Mill Creek Road. I have not been to this area since July to see what the trails look like now, but your pictures paint a very disappointing scenario. That’s not the way I want to remember this area!

    The trail from Woodgate to Chub Pond has had large mud wallows as long as I’ve been hiking there, although I’ve never actually seen ATVs using the trail. I recall sections near Buck Pond that had to be bypassed on foot. My impression was that the wallows were old, although I have no doubt that they have been “refreshed” every now and then by occasional illegal ATV use.

    Before this year, the Gull Lake trail was in very bad shape only from Mill Creek Road to the site of someone’s stored boat on the north shore. As a hiker, you had to walk beside the trail along one section leading up to the side trail to the lean-to. Beyond the boat site, the trail really wasn’t used very much by anyone. I was told by a user of a nearby private inholding that a landowner was using that trail as a private ROW to the boat, which they used to access an inholding on the far shore. Whether such a ROW legally exists is another matter. The ruts used to end at the boat, with no side trails.

    Of course, this is all part of DEC Region 6. They have traditionally been good about maintaining their facilities and completing UMPs, but they’ve always had a liberal interpretation about what constitutes a “road” in the Forest Preserve. For instance, part of the Gull Lake Trail is listed as a road in the 1996 Black River Wild Forest UMP, even though the route bears no physical evidence that it meets the SLMP definition of a road. If you push Region 6 to rehab the trail, be careful–they may use this opportunity to lay in a gravel surface and build a parking lot where the boat is chained up. They would rhetorically dismiss such an action as “repairing an existing road.”

  3. Phil Brown says:

    I have asked DEC about the trail damage in this area and was told that much of the damage (perhaps most?) was caused by people riding trucks or ATVs to inholdings. As I recall, if you continue on the trail past the spur to the lean-to you come to a sign that says no motor vehicles allowed past that point. Which implies they are allowed up to that point. Part of that trail is indeed a muddy mess.

    • Peter Bauer says:

      Phil,

      My maps don’t show any inholdings around Chub Pond.

      There is one inholding — the Shufelt Camps — at the end of the Bear Creek Road. These folks should only be using trucks/ATVs on the Bear Creek Road to access their camps (3 of them). There’s another inholding northeast of Gull Lake, but I spoke with some of the owners of this inholding and they ride their ATVs on the Bear Creek Road (out of Woodgate) and then at the junction with Shufelts access an ATV route that takes them to their land. There are signs there that say no public ATV riding.

      I do not see why anyone would have a right to use motor vehicles to access Gull Lake or Chub Pond from the Bear Creek Road. On the Bear Creek Road bot the Chub Pond and Gull Lake trailheads say no ATVs and are gated.

      • Phil Brown says:

        Peter, I was referring to a section of Gull Lake trail off Bear Creek Road. I don’t know of any in holdings along that section; those may be elsewhere. But there is the sign I mentioned. I thought DEC was considering rehabbing this road too. I’ll see if I can learn more.

          • Peter Bauer says:

            Yes, the Bear Creek Road “reconstruction,” some would say destruction, is underway. The road has been widened, flattened and piled high with gravel. It has gravel pull offs the size of tennis courts. Several hundred trees have been taken down. It does not in any way fit the bill for a Wild Forest road. I FOILed info and don’t have anything back from the state agencies, but it appears the APA signed off after a light review and that DEC went beyond what they were authorized to do. It’s a mess.

            Here’s PROTECT’s letter with pictures: http://www.protectadks.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/140904-Bear-Creek-Road-Letter.pdf

            • Peter Bauer says:

              In talking with DEC they said that the were not required to amend the Black River WF UMP because work on the Bear Creek Road was “maintenance.” I don’t see how taking down hundreds of trees, grading, widening, building all those tennis-court size pull-offs, and use of all that gravel is anything but a major reconstruction. The public should have been informed and allowed to comment through a UMP amendment. DEC clearly went way beyond the “footprint” of the road. The APA should have been on top of this. Seems it was handled by a Jurisdictional Inquiry Form (JIF), which I did not know was a means for Forest Preserve management until DEC told me, so I FOILed those from the APA.

              If we have learned anything over the years it’s that a lot of damage can be done to the Forest Preserve very quickly during these types of projects by the DEC. If the APA is not out there in the field on location things go haywire. If this whole mess was greenlighted by a JIF then to me the system broke down with a light and basically useless office review. APA should have been out there when trees were flagged but not cut, when road work was staked out but heavy machine work not yet started. In my visit you could see stakes several feet off the road in sections of the road the work crew had not yet reached. I thought “Does the road really have to be this wide?”

              Seems like we’ve been down this road before with the Bear Pond Road and Wolf Lake Landing Road. Lost are all the State Land Master Plan requirements to protect “wild forest character” or “wild forest setting” or “wild forest atmosphere.”

              Talking with APA they say they don’t know what they’re going to do if anything. We’ll see. They made DEC clean up the Bear Pond Road, but that was 15 years ago. Times have changed.

              Still waiting for all the paperwork in the FOILs to get all the details.

              • Paul says:

                Peter, aren’t there some guidelines for how a road needs to be maintained as far as width etc.?

                It would be nice if all these roads could be narrow dirt paths where you have to back up to find a pull off to let some other guy pass but that isn’t very practical.

                As far as tree cutting, you can easily need to cut hundreds of trees to keep a road well maintained even over just a few miles. Especially after some of the ice storms we have had. You don’t want the road crew to have to go back there after every windy storm.

                The idea that folks should have to keep a chain saw in the back of their car whenever they travel on a DEC road is probably not the best way to do it.

      • Paul says:

        Is it possible that these are ROW issues not necessarily related to “in holdings”. In some cases legal access is across state land even if the land is not entirely surrounded by the state land?

        Just one possibility to look into.

        Any of these should be listed in the unit management plans.

        If they exist they may also be listed on the DEC interactive mapper.

  4. Paul says:

    Given the lack of enforcement and the fact that the Forest Preserve is growing and there is more area to enforce this is only going to get worse.

    It is like making drugs “more” illegal because there is too much demand and not enough enforcement to deal with it!

    You could make the penalty for ATV use on the Forest Preserve be the death penalty and it would probably change very little.

    The answer to this problem is more complex than codifying what is already basically illegal on Forest Preserve land anyway.

    • Dan Crane says:

      I really like your death penalty idea!

    • D. Ling says:

      Totally agree. But it appears to go beyond lack of enforcement to “a wink and a nod” tacit approval. I can only say that Governor Cuomo, a Democrat, has done a horrible job overseeing the DEC and APA, as compared with his recent predecessor George Pataki. In my opinion, I think it’s time the environmental groups started letting Cuomo know that they are looking to support a different candidate for Governor next time, based partly on where the APA and DEC have been headed.

      • Hawthorn says:

        Most people who supported Cuomo last time will support him this time because there is no alternative that will not be worse for the environment and many other things.

        • D. Ling says:

          I agree, now that Zephyr Techout is out of the picture, but the environmental groups could deny support to Cuomo and throw their support to Green Party’s Howie Hawkins. A strong message like this is needed – Cuomo is already contemplating a presidential run. If we can tilt him more strongly toward protecting the environment (including opposing fracking) it would be better over the next 4-5 years.

  5. Bruce Van Deuson says:

    John Warren asked if I might share my sentiments on here.

    I’m sorry if some might not appreciate my comments, but I believe in telling it like it is.

    I read with interest the articles about illegal ATV use in the Park and elsewhere. We have the same issues in our local National Forests and Parks here in North Carolina. I agree with comments made about most riders probably being responsible, it is the few who make it difficult for the many. ATV use seems to be growing exponentially, and riders are clamoring for more space. The trouble is that the loudest voices seem to be from the same people who ride irresponsibly, and whom will never be satisfied because when they make existing trails unusable, they clamor for more. It seems they don’t mind making mud holes, but don’t like riding through them afterwards (added to my original comments). In other words, it seems to be, “I tore up those trails to the point of unsuitability, so you need to give me more to tear up.” I’m greatly disturbed when I come upon what was once a lovely mountain bald, and see where ATV riders were showing off their donut and mud making skills.
    In our Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests, ATV’s are restricted to established roads, but they go anywhere they want, making existing trails unusable for anything but horses, or creating new trails across previously untrammeled landscape. Unfortunately, the NF ranger service is stretched mighty thin, which I suspect is also true of law enforcement in the Park. I don’t really see a workable solution anytime soon. When I lived in Oswego County, near Oneida Lake in the early 70’s, irresponsible snowmobilers were the problem, which I understand is still true.
    We just returned home from our annual vacation in the Adirondack Park, and hope it will continue to be the place we remember it to be on our first sojourn there, for a long time to come.

    Bruce

  6. Scott says:

    There is one point being missed here. If the road/trail is designed so the road/trail is not in wet areas and they keep the water off the road/trail, you don’t get erosion. With trails not properly designed or maintained, even hikers and horses cause this much damage. Only snowmobilers can claim they leave no trace. Recognizing many roads/trails were from a century ago, maybe they should be shut down or relocated. Also, with the road repair on Black Creek Road, now the inholders will be able to drive regular vehicles in and not need ATVs to access along their ROW.

    • Bruce Van Deuson says:

      Scott, yes, if trails are built only in dry areas; or extensive drain systems are built and maintained. Even then, soft, wet areas can develop quickly from a variety of reasons…wet weather springs, spring runoff, drains getting blocked, etc.

      I don’t believe the article is about a need for better trails, but their irresponsible use by ATV riders. If a rider is on what looks like a good trail, and comes upon a soft, wet area, is he going to rethink his plan, or ride on through, never mind the damage.

      As far as snowmobiles go, they may not damage frozen, snow-covered trails, but they can damage small trees under deep snow when they go off the trails.

      • Scott says:

        Point taken, stay focused. I thought I’d point out the bigger picture. With regards to this Chub Pond Trail, I was in there immediately before this big five day search began July 13th and even in the soft wet areas on this trail there was no evidence of any ATV tracks from this year. Last year I only saw one ATV track down there once in the fall.

        • Bruce Van Deuson says:

          Scott, your point is taken as well. In your first post, you mentioned the impact of horse and foot traffic, all true at times. There is one horseback outfitter in my area who extensively uses the NF trails for it’s year-round outings, sometimes numbering 10 or 15 riders at a time. They have a program whereby they actually help with trail maintenance, and control where riders can and cannot go. I don’t see any reason why ATV riders can’t band together and do the same. Our fly fishing club maintains a NF trail along an especially popular stretch of stream, along which re-routing is sometimes called for. NF personnel evaluate, provide materials and technical assistance, while we do the grunt work.

          We’re all in this together.

  7. Robert says:

    UTV = Utility Terrain Vehicle, not Utility “Track” Vehicle as mentioned in the article.

  8. You can and should place some of the blame on the manufactures of ATV’s who in their ads to sell the product show them being used in a wild sort of way. Their like some car manufactures who show their cars being driven fast and furious, as though such driving would be legal.

    • Paul says:

      Pete you know that driving is on “a closed course with professional drivers”! Also they say in the booze adds to “drink responsibly”. What more can they possibly do???

  9. Pat J. Malin says:

    A great discussion, though obviously troubling. I wonder if the ADK Club can get volunteers to help DEC erect more ATV barriers at the trailheads? Obviously, we can’t do anything if the roads are gravel and paved–but it is so odd that DEC would approve of installing new roads. I wonder if the logging industry or possibly the wireless phone companies have anything to do with the new roads? Otherwise, why would the state go to the extreme and cost of paving new roads just for a handful of camps? Is there any chance someone (e.g. the camp owners or businesses) is contributing to the cost?

    • Paul says:

      If this is related to a legal ROW then the responsibility (including cost) to maintain any road would be with the landowner that needs that needs the access not the state.

      There are also other reasons why the state would want to maintain safe road access in wild forest areas. This is not a roadless wilderness area.

  10. Phil Brown says:

    In 2012, I wrote about a trail run to Bear Creek and Gull Lake. Apparently, Bear Creek Road becomes Mill Creek Road once it enters the preserve. On my trip, I got off Mill Creek Road to run on an overgrown road along Bear Creek, but on my way to Gull Lake, I crossed the road again. This is what I wrote:

    “At 2.5 miles (including the side trips), I reached a trail junction. A DEC sign nailed to a yellow birch indicated that I had only 11.1 miles to go to reach McKeever, a settlement on the Moose River. Fortunately, I was headed in another direction: turning right, I found myself on a rougher trail that ascended a small hill to Mill Creek Road. Crossing the muddy road, I picked up another trail, equally muddy at the start.

    “When I saw tire tracks, I assumed someone had been illegally driving on the trail. Later, I learned that DEC allows vehicles to drive the first 0.7 miles of this trail, which is known as Gull Lake Road. In its current condition, however, only jeeps and other high-clearance vehicles would be able to use the road. Scott Healy, a DEC land manager, said the department intends to fix up Mill Creek and Gull Lake roads to render them passable by other vehicles. Healy said DEC wants to make the lake accessible to people who cannot manage the hike, including the elderly and the disabled.”

    • Paul says:

      If they are going to have it used as a road it makes sense to fix them up to the point where they are not causing extra environmental damage. It is important for them to properly crowned and have proper drainage, culverts, etc.

      I did some work (with all the necessary permits!) on a road that I have on my property a few years back and now it is far better environmentally than it was. It now has really nice vegetative buffers (all natural and native) where before the work it was a muddy mess, even if you didn’t drive on it!

    • Bill Ingersoll says:

      Phil,

      I like your reporting, but dislike the comment by DEC. I do recall reading this in your original story a few years, and my heart stopping at the comments by Scott Healy.

      As I said in my comment above, DEC Region 6 takes a lenient attitude about what constitutes a “road” in the Forest Preserve. Basically, if it was ever used by wheeled vehicles in the past, and they can manage to get it listed in an approved UMP as a “road” that conforms with the SLMP, then sooner or later they will want to lay gravel down and build a parking lot.

      The SLMP defines a “road” (for Forest Preserve management purposes) as “an improved or partially improved way designed for travel by automobiles…”, as listed in the definitions section. However, the SLMP also says that “No new roads will be constructed in wild forest areas nor will new state truck trails be constructed unless such construction is absolutely essential to the protection or administration of an area, no feasible alternative exists and no deterioration of the wild forest character or natural resource quality of the area will result.”

      At the intersection of these guidelines is the intention (as I read it) that DEC can only rehabilitate a road that was designed for automobiles prior to 1972 (when the SLMP was adopted) and nothing else. DEC does not have the authority under the master plan to turn an old wagon road or railroad into a modern motor vehicle road unless they can demonstrate that said road was at one time “designed for travel by automobiles.”

      However, Region 6 has always used the “traditional use” standard when determining what is and isn’t a road. If a way was “traditionally used” by jeeps or whatever, then that has been good enough. Gull Lake, I suspect, falls into this category. I’ve never seen any indication that this trail was ever “designed for travel by automobiles.” There is no evidence of grading, surface hardening, or drainage improvements–otherwise, it wouldn’t look as bad as it does.

      I see two inherent problems.

      First, most of the Region 6 UMPs were done in the 1980s and 1990s, and I don’t think many of the advocacy groups that existed then understood this area well. The Black River UMP was completed in 1996, when watchdog groups would have been more concerned about surviving the 21st Century TSC fallout, as well as pushing for passage of Pataki’s environmental bond act. The plan lists the names of a bunch of routes that DEC claimed were roads, and included facility maps that are very difficult to read. So unless someone knew this area like the back of their hand, it would be hard for the average person to pin down where these “roads” were, and whether they really were roads or just glorified wagon trails. The Black River UMP does list the Gull Lake trail as a road… but with a weight limit of 1500 pounds. DEC essentially snuck an ATV trail through the SLMP process, and no one noticed. The BRWF UMP was deemed to be conforming by the park agency, and thus 18 years later we have the possibility of DEC converting a damaged ATV trail into a gravel road, under the ever-useful guise of enhancing access for the disabled.

      The second problem is that no one (to my knowledge) has never decided what the SLMP means when it talks about “wild forest character.” This is a key term because it refers to the standard to which Wild Forests should be managed. Wilderness, Primitive, and Canoe areas are all tied to the “wilderness character” standard, and much thought has been given to what that means. If DEC builds a steel bridge in a Wilderness, that’s a clear violation.

      But when the SLMP warns that road construction should not result in the “deterioration of the wild forest character” no one can point to a set of metrics that prove when this has occurred. If DEC lays down a gravel surface and cuts a few trees in a Wild Forest, it becomes a matter of preference of whether there should be motorized access or not, or whether the amount of tree cutting was “material.” Can a forest be considered “wild” if it is riddled with backcountry roads, or does the presence of motor vehicles preclude wildness? Does the term “wild forest character” simply refer to the baseline legal protections guaranteed by Article XIV, and nothing more?

      If the SLMP were to ever be amended–as it was intended to be, on a regular basis–I would add these items to the honey-do list of improvements:

      1 – Define “wild forest character” as a measurable standard for resource and recreation management.

      2 – Define “automobile” as a class of motor vehicles distinct from ATVs, snowmobiles, and whatever. Automobiles require certain travel surfaces that other motor vehicles do not, and this distinction is critical when it comes to understanding what is and is not a “road.”

      • Paul says:

        The “trail”from Averyville (near Lake Placid) into the McKenzie Mt Wilderness near Pine Pond has traditionally had cars running along it (in fact you can still find a 1920’s ford PU truck in there)running to camps near the lower locks (at least in the early 90s they were still running back and forth)is that a road? Historically, it certainly is. Legally, a different question.

        • Scott van Laer says:

          You are talking about the “Pine Pond Truck trail”. State Land south is the High Peaks Wilderness, to the North is Saranac Lakes Wild Forest. It is a seasonal town rd. North ELba has designated it’s side for ATV use and has signs indicating such. Mckenzie Wilderness is north of SR86.

          • Paul says:

            Scott, right High Peaks, McKenzie is on the other side of the highway. I am talking about if you turn right (heading to Pine Pond) and head towards Owl Pond (close to the Wilderness Boundary). This “trail” eventually leads to the lower locks. But yes an extension of the road you are talking about. So where did the town road originally lead? To Pine Pond or to the locks? Or to both? Is that technically still a town road that has not been technically abandoned?

            When you travel on the section I describe you can tell that this was something more than a trail at one point.

            So snowmobiles that go to Pine Pond are in violation of the law? I would not tell those guys!

            • scottvanlaer says:

              The spur “trail” into Pine Pond off the town road is not part of the road or even a marked trail. It lies wholey within the Wilderness. Motorvehicle use, ATV, UTV, snowmobile, float plane and mechanically propelled vessels are all prohibited on the land or the water body. “Those Guys” are aware of that. Enforcement action has taken place in the recent past for those violations at that location.

              • Paul says:

                Thanks. It is well used part of the trail. Are you sure it isn’t marked? It is on many maps where they show the trail going from the landing on Ossetah Lake to Pine Pond. But it is not listed on the DEC interactive mapper. The “road” is listed as a “hiking trail” named the “Averyville Road”? The trial from the lake to the pond, including the “spur is a very popular and well used “snowmobile trail” in the winter. But yes there is a Wilderness boundary marker with signage at that spot.

                So its a town road going all the way across there? Interesting. I guess that is why I have seen the old trucks I described.

      • M.P.Heller says:

        The ‘guise’of accessibility for the handicapped?! Are you effing serious? I knew you were a hater, but hating on the disabled? You are one sick puppy.

  11. bob says:

    Just wait until ARTA opens its new highway.

    This is a point I tried to make with the state officials during the discussion on opening the unit management plan. They want to build a road. They won’t call it that, but it will be used as a road, by people, ATV’s and rescue vehicles. This new road will provide access to whole new areas. Mr. Beamish prefers not to use the word “road”, but that’s exactly what he is proposing.

    When more people are able to use the road, more people will find themselves in trouble. More state/local rescue vehicles will use it too.

    And if the rescue vehicles can access the road, what’s to stop ATV’s, 4×4…heck, even monster trucks. How exactly do you secure a 150 mile trail from unauthorized use? You don’t.

    But the rails limit access….yes, they do. It’s a good thing. ATV’s in the St. Regis canoe area? Sure. Who’s gonna stop them?

    • TrailOgre says:

      and thats why they are not saying anything about ATVs on the railtrail……So no one objects to it being put in place ….then we all find out its a muuuuuulti use trail…which means ATVs (and almost total exclusion of any other users by the way)

    • D. Ling says:

      This is a simple issue with a simple solution. Motors do not belong in the Forest Preserve. Snowmobiles were originally the only vehicles allowed – on narrow, windy, low-speed foot trails in the winter only. The worst damage was occasional large trash piles left deep in the forest. Now look – we have wide, straight superhighways bulldozed through the Forest Preserve for high-speed snow machines. Once machines got their foot in the door, there was no turning back, just ever-increasing pressure and for ever-increasing amounts of destruction. The sooner we wake up to the downward spiral, the sooner these afflicted areas and their wildlife will begin to recover.

      • Paul says:

        “Motors do not belong in the Forest Preserve. Snowmobiles were originally the only vehicles allowed – on narrow, windy, low-speed foot trails in the winter only”

        I am not sure where you are getting this?

        Motor vehicles (cars and trucks) have always been allowed on DEC roads on the Forest Preserve. This particular WF has 39 miles of roads that allow motor vehicle use and 80 miles of snowmobile trails.

        ATV use is prohibited but not motor vehicle use?

        • D. Ling says:

          Sorry, I should have said “trails.” The problem has been getting worse rapidly, and will continue to, until we draw a clear line that makes sense in terms of preserving Adirondack geology, waters and biology. That line would be to ban all motors used by the public (and most by the DEC) on all FP trails. This would hugely reduce noise, pollution, erosion and destructive use. We should also close many roads that penetrate the FP as time goes on.

          • Paul says:

            On what current Forest Preserve trails is ATV use allowed now? I don’t think there are any? If a ranger were to encounter anyone using an ATV on these trails they can write them a ticket now. What is a new law going to change? This seems like an enforcement issue to me?

            • D. Ling says:

              My position is that ALL motor vehicles (including snowmobiles) should be banned from ALL trails. In addition, roads that penetrate the FP should be closed wherever possible. And as I said before, I agree this is primarily an enforcement issue, and the problem is we have a governor and DEC Commissioner who tacitly and even overtly support motor vehicle use in the FP (ex: the area proposed for an ATV area NE of Osgood Pond). When I worked with Joe Martens at the APA and later under Frank Murray in Mario Cuomo’s office, he never would have supported this crap. This is why I say it’s all on Andrew Cuomo. The fact is, if we allow them anywhere near the FP, they will degrade the FP like a cancer. The harsh reality is we need to cut motors out altogether or the situation will continue to become more and more degrading and unmanageable.

              • Paul says:

                The vast majority of Forest Preserve land doesn’t have any issues with illegal ATV use. It simply should be controlled where there is a problem.

                The example you give regarding the lands near Osgood pond are not on Forest Preserve land? Isn’t that on conservation easement lands?

            • bob says:

              An enforcement issue? Ya think? How does that get fixed? More money for police, more police.

              Another cost no one at ARTA wants to talk about.

              We already have a shortage of police in the woods. Now, ARTA wants to open up 150 miles of road in very remote parts of the park. The number of crossings is in the hundreds if not thousands.

              How much for the gates alone? Another cost.

              Or, you could just leave the rails where they are and let them deter illegal use.

              But the railroad is COSTING us money! The trail is going to cost a whole lot more, and no one has even begun to deal with that issue.

  12. Paul says:

    If you can’t control it in a less remote area like this:

    http://poststar.com/news/local/officials-atvs-tore-up-town-owned-nature-preserve/article_23c3e1a2-39f7-11e4-8803-cf7034ef7a9f.html#.VBMRfcZWC1M.facebook

    Controlling it in a place like the BRWF is going to be especially challenging.

  13. Mike b says:

    I can’t support your statement, “ATVs should never be allowed in the Forest Preserve for recreational use.”

    I’m not an ATV owner. I’ve never driven one. I do hike the ADKs. I have enjoyed the region throughout my life, and have introduced the region to my own children. We camp, hike, boat, canoe, and bike.

    IMHO, the ADKs were created and exist for all recreational users. Yes, ATV use causes damage. Perhaps even considerable damage. We need to be better at managing that use, and working with recreational ATV drivers. Flat out denial of service will not work. It won’t ever work because it creates exclusions that become the basis for fairness and ethical debates. These are not the discussions that you or I are interested in. Do I want to be arguing about why entire segments of our recreational population can’t use the park? How do I explain that thinking to people who live in the park but who can no longer ride? And what about corollary arguments that others would apply to boats and snowmobiles? There are people who believe there should be no motor boats and no snowmobiles in the ADKs, and they use similar logic. It’s a slippery slope.

    We need to be better at management. For example, why not establish an official ATV trail system, paid for via an at registration tax? Why not use trail registries and enforcement teams as part of that process?

    I don’t know if that’s the right solution, but I think that line of thinking will go much further to address the issues than denial of access. I am you ally, and I want to preserve the ADKs for future generations. And if your exp mindset turns me off and pushes me away, I can’t imaging how you’ll ever gain support with the rest of the population.

    • ddk68 says:

      Excellent thoughts Mike B. I am not advocating illegal atv riding but NYS has collected tens of millions of dollars in atv registration fees and not one cent, that I am aware of, has ever gone towards building a trail or giving people a place to ride. You might as well require registration of a lawnmower.

    • D. Ling says:

      I appreciate fairness and compromise, but evoking these ideas does not make every position correct or right. By this way of thinking, where do you draw the line? How about larger vehicles? The line is simple really – the noise, pollution, speed, and destruction is totally and utterly incompatible with the Forest Preserve because it’s unnecessarily destructive of the natural resources. Have you ever seen one of these yahoos drive down a streambed, tearing up trout habitat and even changing the course of a small stream in a day? We made a mistake which someday, we will fix. It’s a matter of when…the sooner the better.

  14. Matt says:

    ATVs are best managed on Easement lands.

    Fears of ATV abuse on the rail corridor are short sighted. Many people will use the corridor, hence lots of eyes. That simple fact will control all kinds of abuse far more than anything else. And if that’s insufficent, get the game cameras out. No big deal. Talk about a manufactured crisis.

    • D. Ling says:

      I think your overall point has merit, but the rails quickly take you to one of the wildest Wilderness areas – Pidgeon Lake.

      • D. Ling says:

        Sorry – I was thinking of the Pepperbox, not Pidgeon Lake, when I said “one of the wildest,” but add Lake Lila to the Wilderness along that rail line.

    • bob says:

      Short sighted? Just like every other issue raised with the rail corridor, the ARTA is out in force name-calling.

      It will be a problem. A big problem. Your dismissal of the issue shows your complete lack of awareness.

  15. Smitty says:

    ATVs, like jet skis and snowmobiles; just another way to haul your lazy butt through the woods, annoy everybody else in the process, and waste precious gasoline.

  16. brian m says:

    Late to the party, but we need legal ATV trails.

    • troutstalker says:

      You do have legal trails within the Tug Hill Plateau dirt roads. Go up there and ride. If you need an ATV to drag your deer out,that’s just lazy!

  17. Sammy Wright says:

    You need legal ATV trails? Then buy you some land and ride it until it is a hole. Nobody is owed a trail to recreate in with a power sports vehicle.
    I am a temporary transplant to this area, a soldier stationed at Fort Drum ( I really do apologize for our mess.). Coming from the Birmingham area of Alabama, I thought I must have done something wrong to be getting sent to New York. How is a country boy to survive up there in the concrete jungle? Well, I quickly realized that mile for mile, you folks may have us beat for trails. I absolutely adore this region. The country is gorgeous, and there are ample amounts of land for public use, something we don’t have so much of back home. I made it my mission to do the best I can to re-mediate the trail network bordering the Black River as it borders Fort Drum, and I have had some success. The side directly behind Drum had become a dumping ground for soldiers leaving the post. Nearly identical single truckloads of trash were strewn every 50 feet up the trail. It was obvious that it was the stuff people didn’t, or couldn’t take with them for whatever their false reason was, so they ran back there and dumped it. Often with personal files an inch thick detailing everything about the offender from their ss number to their eye color. I was tempted to take out a dozen credit cards using all their information and pay for a big cleanup. I decided I had rather enjoy the trail, rather than sit in a prison cell knowing I did a good thing. Speaking of the trails, they are so rutted, I have literally straddled the ruts and it was like sitting on a horses back. I am six foot tall, and I could sit on the crown of a rut and neither foot touch the bottoms. Only the most viciously modified off-road vehicles could pass these trails.
    I spent nearly 15 years of my life as a Dept. of AG. certified nurseryman/landscape contractor. The rest of my adult years are military. At 40 years old, I thought I was finally ready for college, and began a path in academia towards computer science, for one semester. It occurred to me, if I keep doing this, I will have to keep doing this, so, I made the move to Environmental Science, and never looked back. I absolutely love the study, the opportunity to help with the marriage of humans and the planet, and the deeper understanding of processes I have long witnessed as a pseudo farmer.
    Ashamed of the mess my brothers and sisters have left for our host community, I decided something has to be done. I started prowling over maps and cold calling and walking into offices trying to find out whose land it is, what they will let me do, and what can I do. One day I stumbled into the right office, on Fort Drum, the Environmental compliance Branch. The director was visibly moved looking through the stack of pictures I had been showing to anyone I thought would care. Between his department, and my unit, the 3-85th WTB (Yes, we are all injured and being put out of the Army), we got a great deal done. Several dumptruck loads of trash removed, a roll-off dumpster filled with old tires, and a full size truck bed filled with hazardous waste such as oils, car filters, anti-freeze, batteries and such. We worked in concert with National Grid who put up a gate to stop the vehicles from dumping and destroying. We now make periodic trail days to walk and pick up the stuff brought in by hand.
    The other side of the river is an old rail bed I think was part of the rails to trails network, though halfway down there is a property owner that says he owns the trail. I wish I could find a better map than the ones I have found to find out once and for all whose it is. I saw one that showed it as public use for walking, bikes, snowmobile and atv. On that note, I have had the blow by me at 40 mph on dirtbikes and atv’s while the trail is only 5 feet wide. ATV access, doesn’t mean cross country race course, but who will stop them? There are many mudholes similar to the ones in pictures I have seen on these threads over there. Nowhere near as bad as Drums’ side of the river, but there are no trucks over there, yet. I see where they are inching into the trail several feet before backing out because it is a bit too narrow. It is a matter of time before they start tearing it up. On some of the deeper mudholes, I trenched a drainage slew no wider than a shovel, pitching the dirt back at the hole along with a few buckets of soil and rocks. It got rid of a few big mudholes.
    This is suck beautiful country ya’ll have up here, and I am so fortunate to be able to call it home, if even for a short time. I have learned what Winter really is, laid eyes on Black Bear, snow shoed, and I swear to this, I went with a group from the wounded warriors to a frozen lake. We walked out on it and made a coffee can sized hole, put a little fish on a hook and lowered it into the hole, and then pulled a big fish out of the hole. It was one of the damndest things I ever witnessed, but I swear it happened .No one back home will believe that story.
    Well, I will keep doing what I can while I am here. Filling holes, and mitigating runoff into the river, telling lies to off roaders about having just saw the game warden heading this way, and teaching and being taught to and by all who care.

  18. Hello Peter,

    May we have permission to use your top photo in your article “ATV Damage in the Black River Wild Forest”? It would be for a publication on biodiversity conservation we are creating for organic certifiers and farmers?

    Thanks,
    Jo Ann