The Adirondack Park Agency is considering two amendments to the State Land Master Plan, both concerning the Essex Chain Lakes region, but the agency likely will be asked to weigh broader changes to the document.
The Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board already has set forth nine proposals for amending the master plan, which governs the state’s management of the Forest Preserve.
“There’s going to be more, but that’s a start,” Fred Monroe, the board’s executive director, told Adirondack Almanack at an APA “listening session” Wednesday evening, the first of four such meetings that the agency plans to hold to gather ideas on amending the master plan.
Monroe said the review board’s top priority is to give economic issues more prominence in the master plan. The plan’s introduction now says that “the protection of the natural resources of the state lands within the Park must be paramount.” But when the APA was created in 1972, Governor Nelson Rockefeller and state legislators spoke of the need to balance economic and environmental considerations, according to Monroe.
“Whatever happened to the balance that the governor wanted and the legislature wanted?” Monroe said.
Rocci Aguirre of the Adirondack Council, who also attended the listening session, said he didn’t know if the council will propose its own amendments, but he added that “we want to make sure that at the core the protection of natural resources stays paramount.”
The council and the review board both support the Essex Chain amendments, though the exact wording has yet to be determined.
When the APA approved the creation of the Essex Chain Primitive Area in December 2013, it agreed to consider two amendments:
- Allowing mountain biking on logging roads in the region. Ordinarily, biking is not allowed in Primitive Areas.
- Allowing the construction of a snowmobile bridge over the Cedar River that contains non-natural materials. The state Department of Environmental Conservation says non-natural materials must be used to make the crossing safe.
APA counsel James Townsend said the amendments could be written narrowly so as to apply only to the Essex Chain region or broadly to apply to similar situations throughout the Park.
The APA will accept comments on the amendments through December 5. The agency’s staff will analyze the comments and come out with recommendations. The public then will have a chance to comment on the recommendations. Townsend expects that the agency’s board would vote on the recommendations sometime in the spring.
Monroe contends that the APA should permit mountain biking where appropriate in all Primitive, Canoe, and Wilderness Areas, where bikes are now banned (they are allowed in Wild Forest Areas).
“Mountain biking is one of our biggest opportunities in the Adirondacks,” he said. “It’s really in demand.” He said the logging roads in the William C. Whitney Wilderness, for example, are ideal for biking.
Monroe also said the state should be allowed to use non-natural materials when building long bridges anywhere in the Forest Preserve, not just over the Cedar.
Townsend could not say when the APA might consider other amendments to the State Land Master Plan, which has not been substantively changed since 1987.
The Local Government Review Board’s other proposals aim to:
- Maintain scenic vistas along roadsides. Monroe told the Almanack that the group may favor maintaining vistas along hiking trails as well.
- Protect the Park from invasive species. Monroe said DEC should be required to establish boat-inspection stations at major lakes and at the Park’s major highway entrances.
- Improve snowmobile trails. Monroe contends that the plan’s insistence that snowmobile trails retain “essentially the same character as a foot trail” is outdated.
- Permit floatplanes to visit more backcountry lakes.
- Allow grooming of cross-country-ski trails in Wild Forest Areas. The master plan now allows grooming of ski trails only in Intensive Use Areas.
- Allow the maintenance of natural glades for backcountry skiing.
The last item is an endorsement of a proposal by the Adirondack Powder Skier Association, which is seeking greater recognition for backcountry skiing in the master plan. Several skiers attended the listening session to voice support for the maintenance of natural openings in the woods for skiing.
“We want reasonable and safe recreational access that does not impact natural resources,” said Ron Konowitz, a Keene resident who is president of the association.
The APA’s other three listening sessions will be held at Newcomb Central School from 4-7 p.m. November 3; at DEC headquarters at 625 Broadway in Albany from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. November 17; and at Webb Union Free School in Old Forge from 5-8 p.m. November 18.
At the sessions, several APA staff members are stationed around a room to listen to members of the public and write down their comments. The public also can email comments to [email protected] or send them to Kathy Regan, APA Deputy Director, P.O. Box 99, Ray Brook, NY 12977.
Photo by Phil Brown: A list of public comments at the APA listening session.