Thursday, July 2, 2015

Essex Chain of Lakes Opened to Mountain Bikes

Essex Chain Bicycle MapDepartment of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens, who announced his resignation this week, has announced that his agency will open nearly 20 miles of roads in the Essex Chain of Lakes to mountain bikers beginning Saturday.

DEC is using a technicality to open the roads before public comment has closed on the Unit Management Plan required by the State Land Master Plan.

The agency is currently seeking comments on whether or not to open these roads to bicycling as part of its its Essex Chain Lakes Management Complex Draft Plan. DEC has been managing the Essex Chain under a temporary Stewardship Plan, which this change amends.

The roads provide access to Deer Pond, Jackson Pond, Pine Lake, and include views of Third and Fourth lakes. Also accessible via mountain bike is the Cedar River at the location of a proposed bridge, and the Polaris Bridge (the Iron Bridge) over the Hudson River (though no biking is allowed across the river).

DSCN5930The routes offer two loops, one a 2.5 mile ride around Deer Pond and the other about a 15 mile ride utilizing Essex Chain Road North through the middle of the Essex Chain of Lakes, and along Deer Pond, Cornell, Woody’s, and Goodnow Flow roads.

The roads being opened, designated administrative roads by DEC, are located on “forever wild” Forest Preserve Lands classified Primitive (areas expected to become wilderness) and Wild Forest (where motor vehicles are allowed). DEC describes the roads being opened as follows:

· 8.5 miles of the Chain Lakes Road North from the Goodnow Flow Road to the Cedar River;

· 3 miles of the Chain Lakes Road South from the Outer Gooley Parking Area to the Cedar River;

· 2.5 miles of road connecting the Chain Lakes Road North to the Hudson River/Polaris (Iron) Bridge Parking Area;

· 2.5 miles of road around Deer Pond;

· 1.25 miles of the Drake’s Mill Road connecting the Chain Lakes Road North to the Hudson River/Polaris (Iron) Bridge Parking Area;

· 1 mile from the Chain Lakes Road South to Pine Lake; and

· 0.3 mile from the Chain Lakes Road North to Jackson Pond.

DEC’s announcement was accompanied by statements supporting the change from the Adirondack Council and the Adirondack Mountain Club, along with local leaders Betty Little, George Cannon, and Dan Stec.

Essex Chain Lakes Complex Map Dec 2014Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway thanked the Governor and Commissioner Martens for opening these roads.  “These lands and waters, now open to the public and protected as forever wild, are globally unique, ecologically rich and special,” Janeway added. “This action is part of protecting the Essex Chain of Lakes as motor-free, helping communities and establishing a snowmobile trail between the Hudson River and the Essex Lakes, while preserving water, land and wildlife for future generations.”

The Adirondack Mountain Club’s executive director Neil Woodworth said: “The Adirondack Mountain Club is pleased to support the approval of mountain bike and cycling use of properly designated state administrative roads in the Essex Chain Lakes Primitive Area in accordance with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.”

Adirondack Wild’s David Gibson told the Almanack he was concerned that DEC was acting before the UMP was approved.  “We are not against bicycling here,” Gibson said. “What we are against is the DEC deciding that this is a ‘Primitive-Lite’ area, and we can make major recreational access decisions here prior to a duly adopted UMP because the facilities exist, and because we do not want to go to the trouble of amending the SLMP, with the necessary public hearings.”

DEC is still seeking public comments on how it should manage the Essex Chain through July 27th. Public hearings are planned for this Tuesday, July 7, at Newcomb Central School and Thursday, July 9, at the Indian Lake Theater. Both hearings begin at 7 pm.

Comments should be sent to Corrie O’Dea, Forester, NYSDEC Lands and Forests, 232 Golf Course Road, Warrensburg, NY 12885 or can be sent by email to [email protected]

Photo of the gate restricting access from the Outer Gooley Club Parking Area to the Cedar River (2014) by John Warren; maps courtesy DEC.


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John Warren

John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for almost 50 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded the geolocation services company Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John remains active in traditional media. His Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on the stations of North Country Public Radio and on 93.3 / 102.1 The Mix. Since 2008, John has been a media specialist on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute.

John is also a professional researcher and historian with a M.A. in Public History. He edits The New York History Blog and is the author of two books of regional history. As a Grant Consultant for the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, he has reviewed hundreds of historic roadside marker grant applications from around New York State for historical accuracy.

32 Responses

  1. M.P. Heller says:

    This is an interesting decision with, what appears to be, unique timing.

    Myself, I rather support the decision on its face, but I realize it is not going to please all of the parties who have been so vocal throughout this process. Only time will tell if this latest management proposal will be viable and purposeful, but personally I am happy to see further inclusion of a more broad pallette of responsible user groups on public lands where possible.

  2. MountainBliss says:

    Not against improved access for mountain bikers, but this feels like a gift to a particular constituency prior to approval of a revised UMP. Not a good precedent for anyone.

  3. Tim- Brunswick says:

    Absolutely great! Finally DEC is actually opening up “Public Land” to more of the Public. Looking at the proposed(?) Trail Route makes me want to get a Mtn. Bike myself and get these 67-year-old leg muscles pedaling down the trail towards Pine Lake and Hike the rest of the way to some dandy trout fishing!

    It’s a great start, but we need more accessibility for older folks who just plain can’t hoof it back to the same wilderness areas they enjoyed in their youth.

    • dave says:

      “When I was young I used to enjoy wilderness.

      Now I am older and it is harder for me to do so.

      Instead of protecting that wilderness so others can experience what the younger me once cherished, I’ll alter and change it to accommodate the older me.”

      Hoping you can see the selfish folly in that line of thinking.

      • Bob K says:

        No folly at all, Dave. I’m 72 and if I can find a cheap mtn. bike
        I’d join you an Tim in a ride.


      • Lorraine Duvall Lorraine Duvall says:

        Yesterday we (76 and 80 years old) went to Follensby Clear Pond for the day with easy access from a Route 30 parking lot. There’s a sandy beach at the put-in and miles of protected shoreline and islands. We saw over a dozen loons, one mother with a baby on her back.
        We heard the traffic until we paddled around a bend, then quiet the rest of the day. Not quite total wilderness but enough for us at this age. Save the total wilderness for the more agile.

        • Woody says:

          ^^^^^^ HYPOCRITE!!!!!

          Yes, everybody needs their place in the woods.

          So go to places near the main travel corridors for short walks in nature, if remoteness and solitude are NOT what you’re looking for.

          Save the rermote places far from the paved roads for the “more agile,” which you yourself once were, and which presumably your kids and grandkids still are.

          What exactly is “Protect the Adirondacks” protecting the Adirondacks from? Younger-than-you people who happen to like wilderness recreation?


          • Ethan says:

            huh? That makes no sense to me. Please rephrase, coherently.

            • Woody says:

              It’s coherent enough. Try reading it again from the top. She’s an old person telling us agile whipper snappers that we’re elitist for wanting wilderness, because all she wants to do is walk for 5 minutes to see the loons. She can do that anywhere along any highway. She is also a board member for Protect the Adirondacks. So apparently she believes her group should be protecting the Adirondacks from young people who expect to sweat a little bit while recreating in the outdoors, and that everyplace should have easy access so that 80 years old can see all the loons. Perharps she should look at the demographic makeup of her org. and wonder she could do to attract younger people, which in theory are the future of groups like Protect the Adirondacks.

              • ethan says:

                You completely misread Lorraine’s post.

                She says that the total wilderness should be SAVED for the ‘more agile’. not destroyed for the elderly. She says that at her age she doesn’t quite need total wilderness, just enough to get by.

                • Woody says:

                  Oh, I read Lorraine Duvall’s post accurately. You obviously haven’t read enough of her posts. I have, and I’m sick to death of being made to feel guilty because I can still do the things she’s aged out of. Ms. Duvall is by no means an advocate of wilderness management for the Essex lakes. She seems to think that the state is buying these 65,000 acres or what ever just so she can have her 5 minute loon walks. I presume like every other old person she was young once, and when she was young it took more than 5 minutes for her to fully to enjoy her time in the woods. She is a hypocrite, plain and simple.

                  Besides, my comment was addressed to her, not “Ethan.” If she wants to explain herself or defend her position, let her do it herself.

                  • Paul says:

                    She doesn’t need to explain herself or defend her position. Her posts are about her experiences in the Adirondacks (including one on an excursion to the Essex chain with the help of local guides) not everyone has an agenda.

      • AG says:

        I hear you – but it’s not like motorized vehicles. We all can only hope to get old one day. If a non-motor bike helps and older person get into the wilderness – why would you begrudge that???

  4. ADKerDon says:

    Thank God we are finally rid of that conservation hating, sportsmen hating Martens. Now it is time to demand all 50 miles of roads remain open to all types of recreation including motorized. Time for DEC, Cuomo, and others to stop their prejudices against our disabled veterans, wounded warriors, and others less than physically fit. Open all these lands and waters to everyone. All lands below 3,000 feet elevation to be Wild Forest! No Wilderness! None of these lands meet the definition nor qualify for wilderness. Open these waters to the disabled! Open these lands to everyone!

  5. Solo Pete says:

    Come on! Where’s the flury of complaints (except from Dave Gibson, he’s a given)?!? If it’s not hiking or paddling, it’s not welcome.

  6. Jim S. says:

    I am disappointed by this decision, it will lead to an erosion of wilderness protection throughout the park and destroy the unique character the Adirondacks have over most wooded areas of the northeast.

  7. Bob says:

    Fantastic decision!! I can now get back to Round Top Pond again!! Beautiful place!!

  8. Bob K says:

    Now, we can only hope that the state doesn’t drag it’s heels putting
    that bridge across the cedar, which will allow access between Indian
    lk.area and Goodnow flow.

  9. Tim-Brunswick says:

    AMEN! …all… and thanks for speaking out!

  10. It is nice to see these roads opened. However, they should simply be called bicycling roads. They have nothing to do with mountain biking and are not appropriate for mtn biking. A better bike for riding on them is the gravel bike, which is a type of cyclocross bike and is a close relative to the road bike. ADK supports this because they can say they have done something for mtn biking, when in fact ADK has always opposed mtn biking.

    • Paul says:

      There are probably more mt. bikes on the road these days than road bikes. You don’t need a mt. bike but it would be the most likely choice for most riders. I wouldn’t ride on these roads at all. The deer flies can fly as fast as I can ride and I can ride pretty fast when being chased by a swarm!

  11. David says:

    Is the DEC going to place directional sighs at intersections or kiosks ? In other words are these routes going to be marked in any way ?

  12. Paul says:

    What is the “technicality”? Can you give us a little more information.

    I would assume that if the UMP is not approved allowing bikes it would just be a matter of letting folks know that they cannot ride on the roads anymore. Currently while it is pending what is allowed anyway. Is it supposed to be governed as Wilderness in the absence of a UMP?

  13. Charlie S says:

    Jim S says: “I am disappointed by this decision, it will lead to an erosion of wilderness protection throughout the park and destroy the unique character the Adirondacks have over most wooded areas of the northeast.”

    I’ve seen firsthand the damage done from mountain bikes Jim I feel your angst. We’ll see where this goes. At least it’s not atv’s they’re allowing in there which,by the comments above, would suit your average wild forest advocate just fine.

    • Paul says:

      Here we are talking about going from logging trucks, bulldozers, and P/U trucks to mountain bikes. How is that a erosion of Wilderness protection???

      • Jim S. says:

        I am a fan of mountain bikes in wild forest areas. My concern is in setting a precedence allowing bikes in primitive and wilderness areas. I would rather see the existing roads in the Essex chain area return to woodland. Mountain bikers don’t want to ride on gravel roads.

        • Hope says:

          Well I think that other bikers just might want to ride these roads on their mountain bikes. I do not consider myself a single track mountain biker but I do own a mountain bike which I use on dirt and gravel roads in the Adirondacks. We should strive to be inclusive rather than exclusive. A bicycle is a bicycle, mountain or otherwise. The trip into Santanoni by bike is a poplular excursion for many and it would be a similar experience, I would think, in the Essex Chain area. I haven’t personally been in yet but I have no objection to some of the roads being available to bicycles. Not everybody wants to walk in there. There is room for both hiking trails and biking trails or roads. The demand is here.

  14. The question is,will these bikers stay on the dirt roads?. I think not! They should use the roads to access the hiking trails,not ride their bikes on them. Can these bikers respect the area by the “carry it in,carry it out” slogan? Biking is not the only way for the elderly to gain access to the wilderness. I’m 67 and paddle,portage,primitive camp and fish in the Adirondacks. They also make lightweight kayaks and canoes to make it possible!

  15. Mary E says:

    As I have gotten older (60) and am finding it more difficult to get into pristine wilderness areas, I have started to argue for easier access. However, what I’ve encountered in the more accessible areas that I’ve been visiting has changed my mind.

    The more accessible an area is, the more it becomes a party spot or squatters’ camp for people who stock their favorite lean-to or campsite with scorched pots and pans, rickety lawn chairs, battered old canoes and other junk, and hang out there every weekend.

    I met one of these folks a few weeks ago at a beautiful spot on an Adirondack pond where I would have loved to camp until he informed my friends and me that he’s there every weekend with his kids and buddies. This was not a 60-something disabled veteran with an abiding respect for wilderness, but a shirtless young guy with a ponytail, nipple rings and extensive tattoos who had spent the weekend drinking at the lean-to around a roaring bonfire surrounded by tiki torches and scattered cast-off clothing.

    He said he can’t wait until the state puts a lean-to into the Essex Chain area so he can hang out there.

    Last summer, I and a friend had begun to set up camp at a drive-in primitive camp site when a pickup truck pulled in and a glowering man and boy got out and told us the spot was theirs, saying “Didn’t you see our stuff here?” There was nothing but a broken aluminum lawn chair in the clearing, but apparently that gave them squatter’s rights. We left. Having an ugly confrontation over a camp site is not my idea of a soul-soothing wilderness experience.

    These aren’t isolated incidents. I encounter this over and over, with the choicest campsites in easily accessible areas overused and despoiled by people who leave fishing lures in the sand, styrofoam worm cups in the bushes, toilet paper in the woods, grills hanging from nails on tree trunks and beer cans hidden between boulders.

    So, while I’d love to have beautiful new areas made easily accessible to me and others who are less agile than we used to be but still ardent in our wilderness ethic, I’ve come to realize that I probably won’t want to visit those areas if they’re made too accessible because they’ll be claimed by the lazy, boorish and rude.

    I could argue for DEC to be more vigilant at patrolling these areas, but they’re too busy answering cell phone calls from hikers who are lost, tired or limping and need an ATV ride back to their cars.

    • troutstalker says:

      Well said Mary! I too have encountered the same trash.Even as far in as Fish Pond in the Saint Regis Wilderness Area.I am affraid that these bikers will trash the Essex Chains also. I have encountered toilet paper on the ground at a site on the Bog River Flow when there is a privy provided!They can’t even obey the rule of “no tents in the lean-to’s”.Unfortunately this will probably happen with the rail trail that just got approved.We need more Rangers on patrol to enforce these violations.When I pack up to leave a campsite,I police the area and be sure it is clean for the next camper.There is no good reason why these slobs can’t do the same.

  16. Hawthorn says:

    I’m not a fan of allowing mountain bikes everywhere, but I don’t believe there is much evidence that mountain bikers are the sorts to drag beer cans, grills, and lawn chairs into leantos–you’re mixing them up with another crowd. The bikers travel light and go in and out–they aren’t campers for the most part. Also, mountain biking in general is not really about making a place “accessible.” I am of an age where I know many people who used to mountain bike and no longer do so because it is generally more challenging than just walking, hiking, or paddling. I personally think the whole accessibility thing is overblown. There are tons of places in the Adks where someone can walk non-strenuously for a mile or two and not see a soul, while enjoying a full wilderness experience. Accessibility doesn’t mean that every place needs a road in there allowing motor vehicles or other mechanical access.

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