A few years ago I wrote a story for the Adirondack Explorer about a trail run to Gull Lake in the Black River Wild Forest near Woodgate. My outing began on a muddy mess of a road passable only by jeeps and pickup trucks.
This year, the state Department of Environmental Conservation repaired two miles of the road, smoothing it out, laying down gravel, and installing new culverts. I was able to drive my Honda Fit (not a high-clearance vehicle) the full two miles with no problem.
Dave Smith, DEC’s regional forester, told Adirondack Almanack that the road (called Mill Creek Road or Bear Creek Road) was rehabilitated to give hunters, hikers, and others easy access to the interior of the Forest Preserve.
Smith said the Black River Wild Forest’s management plan, which was approved in 1996, called for fixing the road, but the department lacked the resources to undertake the work until this summer. “We did it when we had the time to do it and when we had the money and the people,” he said.
But not everyone is pleased.
Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks, asserts that the project amounted to the reconstruction of a road—as opposed to routine maintenance—and should not have been authorized without an amendment to the management plan. He said the department’s work plan called for cutting about 300 trees.
Bauer raised several objections to the project, which can be read here on Protect’s website, but one of his main complaints is that the road is at odds with the wild character of the Preserve. He contends the road is too wide and contains too much gravel.
“It stands in stark contrast to the other Wild Forest roads in that area,” he said, adding that most Forest Preserve roads are dirt.
Bauer filed a complaint with the Adirondack Park Agency, which signed off on the project, and is waiting to hear back.
About a decade ago, DEC rebuilt another road in the Black River Wild Forest, leading to Woodhull Lake. That project also drew some criticism. Smith said DEC expects to restore other roads in the years ahead.
Photos by Phil Brown: Mill Creek Road after repairs (top) and in May 2012 (bottom).