Monday, August 10, 2015

Dave Gibson: Snowmobile Connectors Are Disconnected

Boreas River and Rt. 28N where DEC proposes a new snowmobile bridgeThe contradictory, disconnected, segmented, illegal and impractical ways that the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (with full cooperation from the Adirondack Park Agency so far and support from Governor Andrew Cuomo) is going about the business of planning and building community connector snowmobile routes in the Adirondack Park continues apace. Work planning for the just approved community connector between Newcomb and Minerva, for example, will prove very interesting indeed and will be challenged in every sense of that word.

DEC’s stated snowmobile community connector objective is to connect Indian Lake with Minerva and North Hudson by way of Newcomb. The DEC’s preferred Newcomb-Minerva snowmobile connector (described in Community Connector UMP amendments just approved) begins at the inlet of Lake Harris on the Newcomb Lake Road. Almost directly across from this location along Route 28N is the outlet of an alternative snowmobile route leading from Indian Lake, along the Chain Lakes Road North to the Goodnow Flow Trail on private lands (described in another Draft UMP, the Essex Chain Lakes Complex). So, these two alternatives and UMP recommendations sensibly line up with each other and require only a crossing of Route 28N at this location to meet.

However, DEC rejected the Goodnow Flow Trail as an Indian Lake-Newcomb alternative in the Essex Chain UMP and prefers to build an entirely new snowmobile route east of the Hudson River in the Forest Preserve which empties out at Newcomb’s Chaisson Road and Route 28N. Chaisson Road-Route 28N is several miles east of the inlet of Lake Harris. Thus, the DEC’s preferred terminus of the Indian Lake to Newcomb route does not match up with the preferred start of the Newcomb to Minerva route.

Already, the community connector is disconnected.

Why, in the Essex Chain UMP, does the DEC reject the Goodnow Flow Route which follows a combination of Town Road, private land and private land conservation easement currently used by snowmobilers, with its terminus in Newcomb that lines-up better with the proposed start of the route to Minerva? The answer: “Because there is a history of private land issues related to snowmobiling.” Those issues go unexplained in the UMP, which is improper since the UMP should fully analyze alternatives. Furthermore, private lands, especially those which allow snowmobiling by conservation easement, are, wherever possible, preferred over the Forest Preserve as a way to connect snowmobile routes according to the DEC’s own Snowmobile Plan and Guidance documents. That policy “disconnect” is also not discussed in the UMP.

The other reason DEC rejects the Goodnow Flow alternative is that it follows a Town Road for some distance, and “use of a Town Road for some distance is not preferred if other alternatives exist.” That statement is also not explained.

At the very least, DEC’s explanations should be consistent between the Draft Essex Chain UMP and the Community Connector UMP amendment since they are both needed to create the desired Indian Lake to Newcomb to Minerva to North Hudson connections. That is not the case.

In the Community Connector UMP just approved, DEC states: “After leaving the campground, the route continues on Campsite Road, a town road designated for snowmobile use. The trail then leaves Campsite Road and continues southeast on an existing snowmobile trail to the Newcomb golf course. The trail is located on town property. The connection from the golf course to the Hyslop Pond Tract will be developed on private property. The trail location would be negotiated by the local snowmobile club, private landowners, and town/county officials. ..the exact location of this trail segment will rely on the owner’s permission.” Many similar statements are made for the remaining route to Minerva.

In short, while existing snowmobiling on private land routes covered by conservation easements and along Town Roads are rejected out of hand by DEC in the snowmobile route to Newcomb in preference to constructing long new routes in the interior of the “forever wild” Forest Preserve, private lands and Town Roads are preferred alternatives in the Community Connector route which goes from Newcomb to Minerva despite the uncertainties of gaining and maintaining permissions from multiple landowners.

There are numerous practical, private property, natural resource and legal difficulties in reaching Minerva and North Hudson from Newcomb via a 9-12 foot snowmobile route. I recently reviewed some of these Newcomb to Minerva difficulties with a nearby concerned landowner. I was especially impressed with the practical (to say nothing of the legal) pinch point of crossing the Boreas River en route to Minerva. In the Community Connector UMP, DEC acknowledges the limited sight distance and narrow highway shoulder that makes use of Route 28N itself unsafe for snowmobiles, but fails to acknowledge that hanging a snowmobile bridge off of Route 28N or just upstream of 28N (the UMP recommends one or the other), poses its own engineering and safety concerns. Snowmobilers approaching at some speed from both directions will have to drop steeply down to the river, and then quickly and steeply ride uphill to a newly constructed 12-foot wide embankment and new 12-foot wide bridge that must lie well above the river’s flood stage at the same height as Route 28N itself. Snowmobilers will have to navigate all this while also turning rather sharply to stay on course and not wind up in the river, with poor sight lines ahead.

The legal difficulties of constructing a new snowmobile bridge over the Boreas River, designated Scenic under the Rivers Act, are several. Briefly, in the Community Connector UMP DEC states that it can issue itself a permit to build a motorized bridge because DEC judges that the bridge will not adversely impact the Scenic River and therefore meets one section of the Regulations. The judgment of no adverse impact given is that the bridge will be built close to existing motorized highway Route 28N, so there could be nothing adverse with building another motorized route so close by.

The UMP also states that the bridge at this location minimizes use of the Forest Preserve and related tree-cutting. Perhaps this is so. However, the UMP ignores the following DEC Finding from the 1986 River Regulations: “The Regulations have been amended to prohibit motorized open space recreational uses in scenic river areas. Therefore, bridges for this use have been prohibited. The Department agrees that motorized recreational vehicles should not be allowed to operate in scenic river areas due to their relatively undeveloped nature and the concurrent extensive low intensity recreational and other passive outdoor uses which predominately take place within such river areas and conflict with motorized recreational vehicles.”

Additional obstacles to reaching Minerva from Newcomb inside the tree line and outside of the Department of Transportation Right-Of-Way along Route 28N include securing multiple private landowner permissions. This is acknowledged in the UMP description of the five mile long Boreas River to Stony Ponds route segment: “If an agreement to cross private inholdings in this area can’t be secured, a short section of the trail will have to be located within the DOT right of way to avoid the private land. Where possible the trail will be located to avoid wetlands and minimize tree cutting. Additional field work will be required to locate this new trail to avoid wetlands, minimize stream crossings, minimize tree cutting and provide a safe trail in accordance with the Management Guidance.” This description hardly justifies confidence in the route’s practical feasibility or long-term stability.

Another difficulty will be found in actually reaching and traversing the hamlet of Minerva over the last 1.5 miles of the connector route. The UMP states: “between the state land boundary to the hamlet of Minerva, the trail location will be negotiated by the local snowmobile clubs, private landowners, and town/county officials.” There appear to be many uncertainties and intervening front lawns and shade trees on private property along this final leg of the Newcomb to Minerva connector.

The question posed by the concerned resident I went along with on my tour is the most apt: Where is the public demand in Minerva that snowmobilers from Newcomb can reach and drive through the hamlet? And visa-versa? Does such a demand exist and is it well documented?

If it does, continued use of the Tahawus railroad line into Minerva (via the town road portion of the North Woods Club Road) may prove in the end the most viable option. But DEC rejects this alternative, stating “because the Department is proposing to designate a four season multiple use trail, the use of the railroad is proposed only in the short term as a snowmobile community connector route, but will be discontinued for use by snowmobiles upon completion of the preferred alternative.” The reason: “recreational uses during the non-winter months are not permitted on the railroad.”

The refrain throughout the Community Connector UMP that this is a multi-use trail may become true one day, but not during the important design and construction phase. The planning, design and construction is completely focused on snowmobiling, not snowshoeing, skiing, tramping, bicycling. Designing trails for these activities would take other considerations into account.

Also, what the UMP fails to acknowledge and discuss is that the Tahawus railroad is not actively being used today by Iowa-Pacific Holdings, the lessee of the rails, despite the company’s promise of tailings removal from the former Tahawus mine just a few years ago. The continued non-use of the tracks as an active railroad bring back the question whether the federal rail corridor lease (1942, renewed in 1962) has been voided, and whether the State of New York should insist that the public gain back 13 miles of Forest Preserve taken by the federal government as a war emergency measure back in 1942. If the State did insist on this action, the rails could be removed and the route revert to Forest Preserve, with the questions of its management and use resolved through dialogue and the Vanderwhacker Wild Forest UMP.

Other uncertainties, and I have only touched on some of them, exist “upstream” of Minerva all the way to Newcomb. Similar problems plague the connector route to North Hudson and deserve their own separate essay.

Yet, APA and DEC have approved both connector routes as compliant with the State Land Master Plan. Will the APA similarly find the Essex Chain of Lakes Primitive Area UMP compliant with the Master Plan? Will APA Staff and Members question the inconsistencies or the disconnects between the two plans, or be troubled by that UMP’s compliance with the Snowmobile Guidance and River regulations, or by the lack of alternatives analysis required by the SLMP and State Environmental Quality Review Act, or by the unnecessary cutting of thousands of trees on the Forest Preserve, or by the inevitable use by all-terrain vehicles of these wide motorized corridors? We may find out as early as September.

In its testimony to the DEC on the Essex Chain of Lakes Draft UMP, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve concludes: “this Draft UMP does not comply with the SLMP. DEC should re-write this UMP to forthrightly address and comply with all existing law, regulation, policy and guidance documents. We encourage DEC and APA to form a citizen advisory committee or stakeholder task force that brings the agencies together with the five towns, recreational interests and Forest Preserve advocates to discuss the legal obstacles, alternative management recommendations, and other constructive forward steps to achieving SLMP compliance.”

Photo: The Boreas River and Route 28N where DEC proposes a new snowmobile bridge.

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Dave Gibson, who writes about issues of wilderness, wild lands, public policy, and more, has been involved in Adirondack conservation for over 30 years as executive director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks and currently as managing partner with Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest PreserveDuring Dave's tenure at the Association, the organization completed the Center for the Forest Preserve including the Adirondack Research Library at Paul Schaefer’s home. The library has the finest Adirondack collection outside the Blue Line, specializing in Adirondack conservation and recreation history. Currently, Dave is managing partner in the nonprofit organization launched in 2010, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve.

83 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    Dave, do any terms of the conservation easements require that the landowners allow snowmobiles to cross the property? I know that on some easements this is just the option of the landowner if they want to allow it. Seems that if you can avoid some issues it makes sense event if they exist in other places. As far as a reason for wanting to stay off the town roads that seems pretty straightforward – safety and lack of snow issues.

    The real problem here is that all of these decisions and plans should have been made in advance of any purchase of the land then everyone would know what was going on. Even if the didn’t like it they would have been aware of the plan.

  2. Pete Nelson says:


    On the money, right down the line. I hope people notice that this detailed analysis isn’t anti-snowmobile. It doesn’t say there should be no connectors. Rather, it is focused on sensible, legal choices in the spirit of protection of the Forest Preserve that has guided the state for more than a century. That is what I call balance, as opposed to putting a trail right through the heart of an area that should by any sensible measure be left to recover to a Wilderness standard.

    • M.P. Heller says:

      Pete, while I wholeheartedly agree that Dave writes this piece with the spirit of fair analysis firmly in place, I have to wonder how much experience he has riding snowmobile. He makes some very fair points in some instances, and in others I have a hard time understanding how he drew some of his conclusions. I’m going to chalk that up to a lack of experience riding because nothing else make sense to me.

      I think it’s great to have thoughtful and respectful commentary on this site, which often times can spiral into wild rhetoric and vitriol.

      • Pete Nelson says:


        I’m going to come visit your establishment soon. I need to put a face to a name. You are one of those people whom I am convinced can bridge the artificial and foolish divide between ardent preservation of a world-class, unique asset and equally dedicated support for communities within it.

        This comment stream is yet another tired demonstration of that very divide. My opposition to the location of this connector is absolute. On the other hand my defense of Newcomb, which has nothing to do with this argument and which is responsible for nothing more than being a good, vital community despite the deck having been stacked against it by events far bigger than itself, is coming…

  3. Woody says:

    I agree wholeheartedly that there is absolutely no public demand for these trails. If there WAS such a public demand, then snowmobile clubs would long ago have worked out the best ways to get from Point A to Point B and Point C, just like they have been doing for years in every other part of the Adirondack Park where snowmobiling is popular.

    But there is no public demand for snowmobile trails to Newcomb because Newcomb doesn’t even have a gas station! Isn’t that the bare minimum to attract snowmobile riders? It’s a long walk to the Stewarts in Long Lake if you run out of gas.

    And what are snowmobilers going to do when they get to North Hudson? Ride in circles through the ruins of Frontier Town? Whoopee!

    As far as I can tell, all this comes down to a very, very, very small number of town officials, George Canon among them. These small-town heroes are doing everything they can to make a noise, and the state has been giving them way too much credibility. A handful of men are sending DEC and APA on unicorn hunts, chasing after legal shadows that don’t exist. I never bothered to comment on these UMPs because I figured out a while ago that DEC isn’t listening to anyone who doesn’t sit on a town board with a population less than 50 people. Why point out all these legal niceties if DEC/APA is just going to pretend they can’t hear me?

    So here’s a message to George Canon:


    Riders wouldn’t even be able to update their Facebook status in Newcomb to “check in” and tell all their social network friends how they just discovered a town that has one dive of a saloon and not much else!

    The state could build 20 trails to Lk Harris and newcomb STILL wouldn’t be Old Forge!

    If Newcomb wants to imitate Old Forge and its winter success, then do what Old Forge did: buy your own damn land and build your own damn trail system. Old Forge isn’t what it is today because of a subsidized trail system.

    Sorry for the rant. Nice analysis, Mr. Gibson!

    • common sense says:

      Newcomb has had a gas “station” for the last 4 years. Just wanted to make that correction. It’s located at the diner, which is just up the street from the tavern. If you knew this, I suppose you would also know that snowmobile users are present on every winter weekend and keep those business’ alive.

      Sorry for the rant, great article Dave…’re spot on

      • Woody says:

        Considering that I have to drive through places like Speculator or Indian Lake or Old Forge to get to Newcomb, I know the difference. There are places that attract snowmobilers by the dozen, and then there is Newcomb. So puhleeeze, spare me the claims of Newcomb’s bounty, and how snowmobiles make it all possible. Newcomb’s attractiveness is pretty self evident.

        I’d stop in Newcomb to spend a few bucks myself… if I could find an establishment that looked like it was more than just a hole in the wall. There’s that dive of a bar that had to be chastised into removing the confederate flag this summer, because yeah racist symbols from a bygone century are always a sign of class and modernity. If there’s a diner in Newcomb as you say, then it does a helluva good job at being inconspicuous. There’s that “Country Kitchen and Campground” place, if that’s what you mean… and if that place has a gas pump, it’s got to be an antique decoration.

        The only other commercial establishments I’ve seen in Newcomb are an ice cream shack near the road to Harris Lake, and that little bank that’s been closed for a few years. So I think its safe to say that Newcomb’s economy is anemic at best, and no amount of snowmobile trails (or bicycle trails or hiking trails, for that matter) will change that. You can’t pump tourist money into an economy that doesn’t exist.

        And I don’t mean any disrespect to Newcomb or its residents, because stupid me I keep going back. But idiocy is idiocy no matter how you cut it, and by “idiocy” I mean the state violating its own laws to prop up a municipality that cannot support itself.

        • Paul says:

          Sounds like Newcomb might need a few new businesses. It’s not based on what is there but what could be there. That’s the whole point.

          • Woody says:

            Feel free to move up there and open a hot dog stand, if your entrepreneurial spirit senses a business opportunity. Put your money where your mouth is.

            What Newcomb really needs for long term survival are several major employers to move in, taking the place of what National Lead used to be. Snowmobiling might support a few minimum wage cashier positions, even in the most optimistic outlook for a town that currently has fewer year round businesses than can be counted on one hand. But the presence of profitable companies would offer opportunities for sustained, gainful employment. They would bring an infusion of new residents, as well as cash to stimulate economic growth. The desired new stores and eateries would spring up naturally, so that these employees would have someplace to spend their paychecks locally.

            Snowmobile riders would then WANT to ride to Newcomb, eat in its restaurants, and sleep in its motels. None of which exist now, nor will ever exist simply because of a new trail. The businesses have to be present first to attract the snowmobiles. THAT’S the whole point.

            Municipalities in much more affluent parts of the state have been voting to dissolve for a variety of reasons, including the need to reduce the tax burden on its residents, avoid high insurance costs, and to consolidate duplicate services. Towns with stronger numbers than Newcomb have been making these difficult choices.

            But here is a town with a miniscule year round population, no major employers (other than the town itself), and with almost no prospects of ever attracting any companies from moving there. Simple geography is to blame: the nearest grocery stores and hospitals are an hour in any direction. Newcomb is so far removed from any other population center that few people would want to live there, even if they could.

            So why does Newcomb even exist anymore? Its sole function seems to be collecting tax money and keeping a few of its residents on the municipal payroll. The rest of the state subsidizes Newcomb by paying rather hefty property taxes to the town. If Newcomb was a person, we’d call this arrangement “welfare.” Conservatives would be telling this deadbeat to get a job and take responsibility for its own life.

            But there are no jobs in Newcomb, other than the town supervisor and plow truck driver. There wouldn’t even be a school if it wasn’t for the annual infusion of foreign exchange students. The town of Newcomb exists so that George Canon doesn’t have to go somewhere else and get a real job.

            There’s not a snowmobile trail in the world that can fix Newcomb’s problems. Therefore the best solution for the town is dissolution. There is no logical reason for the state of New York to continue propping up a municipality that lacks the resources to stand on its own two feet. End of story.

            • Jim S. says:

              Newcomb may not currently have much appeal to people who can only move on machines, but if you are capable of locomotion using legs it is an area that has an awful lot of great possible adventure.

            • M.P. Heller says:

              Thank you for alerting me to the dire need for hospitality based businesses in Newcomb. Ordinarily I just go there and return home so I never really gave any thought to if such a need existed there. As a person who runs these types of businesses as a career, I will now be paying more attention to the possibility of opportunities in Newcomb.

            • Paul says:

              Clearly snowmobiling is not going to be the basis for the entire towns economy. Just a small part. It is the culmination of a number of recreational amenities that can have an impact. The burden on the state only increases with the loss of a local tax base. I can show you a number of towns out west that have a minuscule year round population that do quite well. I see no reason for them to throw in the towel. Places have been much worse off. Got to have a positive attitude! Having lots of different amenities can help a place attract industries. I will admit it is a steep hill to climb.

            • william Deuel,Jr says:

              So then why did the sate buy all this land and remove a major taxpayer, being finch. Everyone knew when they were bought out and the state would make up the tax money being the new owners. By your logic the deal was a mistake. many of the clubs and camps have been removed who also payed taxes, I have been paying school and property taxes on my camp at the Newcomb sportsmans club for 20 years.

              It is 15 miles from Newcomb to Long lake, it does not take an hour. Also who said Newcomb was full of problems ?

      • James Bullard says:

        This isn’t intended to be anti-Newcomb but I have to wonder if it is the job of DEC and the APA to keep a bar and diner in Newcomb alive by cutting forest preserve. It becomes especially questionable if said businesses are already being kept alive without cutting a trail through for preserve. If the existing route can be improved with an alternative that doesn’t intrude on forest preserve, doesn’t that make more sense?

        • Paul says:

          Well if you look at the ASLMP snowmobiling is an acceptable use of the forest preserve so I am not sure why you consider it an “intrusion”?

  4. Dave says:

    my advice to the anti-Newcomb town crowd, don’t let the door hit ya in the ass on the way thru!

  5. Tim-Brunswick says:

    Glad “Woody” doesn’t mean any “disrespect”, blah, blah, blah, cuz if he was really irate it would’ve taken me two more cups of coffee to work my way through his unbelievably epic & mean-spirited commentaries……

    Can’t help but wonder how many of the above folks actually own/have a snowmobile?, but to me it sure looks like the same old crowd throwing stones at every effort DEC/NYS offers to boost the economy in the ADKS.

    The fact that Newcomb “Does” have a gas station shows just how much research “Woody” put into his long-winded slams on a Town that is just plain trying to inject some life into it’s financial well-being. Maybe “Woody” got a speeding ticket in Newcomb? and has an axe to grind,, but it looks like he’s using Dave Gibson’s article as a platform to vent his ire on Newcomb in general.

    Give it a break Kids!

  6. Boreasfisher says:

    Bravo, Dave, for calmly and clearly bringing these issues to public view….

  7. Ruth Olbert says:

    May I take a little pressure off Newcomb by reminding all that the purpose this multi-use trail is to connect communities to each other. Woody, this is not just a Newcomb trail and to say it is show how limited your thought process is.
    Finally, the commentary here bashing the Town of Newcomb, it’s towns people and Mr. George Canon is truly uncalled for.

    • Hawthorn says:

      And the article does a great job pointing out that this “connector” trail not only doesn’t do a good job of connecting, but it also violates the DEC’s own rules and recommendations. Bottom line is that new snowmobile highways (this is not a “trail”) should not be built through wilderness areas, requiring extensive destruction of forest, removal of stones, building of bridges, and ongoing disturbance of the environment with powered groomers.

      • Paul says:

        Remember these guys (and gals) are also riding on the trail for fun. It isn’t just a transportation exercise. Having the trail go through nice places is probably part of the equation that you and Dave are ignoring in your analysis. Heck you could probably just snowmobile along the side of the highway if that was all it was for.

        • Hawthorn says:

          I would be a lot less opposed if the route was really a “trail,” in the true Adirondack sense of the word. That would do a lot less damage to the wilderness. Snowmobilers used to ride on real trails, but today seem to require these superhighways with all the stones removed, trees removed, bridges built over streams, etc. so they can go 60mph through the wilderness. By the way, hopefully that “gas station” at the campground will stay open all winter so the snowmobiles that manage to get to Newcomb won’t be stranded there.

          • Paul says:

            Personally I would like to see a trail like this groomed for cross county skiing, and there be no snowmobiles. I would love to skate through some of the areas where this will be. Newcomb could have a world cup cross country or biathlon race. But the towns around there want something else.

            • Dave says:

              Paul, this will be a multi-use trail, sp cross country skiiers will be able to use it. Plus who do you think will keep the trail grromed nice & flat for you. Why, it’ll be the local snowmobile clubs!
              Hawthorn, I guess way back in the days when you rode snowmobiles they weren’t built like the are today? Today’s sleds allow for further distance riding, get better fuel economy & allow riders to go places they never could before.
              Before you call these trails a super highway, why not go for a walk or ride on the new 7th Mountain Lae trail that connects Raquette Lake to Moose River Plains. It’s suppose to be as you would call it a super highway, yet it is nothing the sort like that. It is a slow winding trail that takes time to get thru. We also don’t go 60mph on it either. try maybe 20mph.
              The DEC & APA are doing their level best to support the communities in the ADK, but then I guess some of you would just prefer to put a fence up around the entire ADK, close down all the towns/ski resorts & everything else & just throw away the keys!

              • Paul says:

                Dave, I was just saying that my personal preference would be for a snow machine free ski trail. I do ski on some snowmobile trails but my preference is for trails specifically groomed for skiing. Even when you are skate skiing it is best to have tracks set on many sections. Here there would be none. That is fine. I have skied on some of the snowmobile trails around lake clear they are very noisy and the machines ride very fast (maybe that is because it is so straight on many sections). I rabbit hunt in the same area and sometimes I cannot hear the dogs on the trail of a rabbit with the snow machine noise. But the guys are generally pretty good, I have even had them stop when the dogs might be crossing the trail and they are cool about it.

                I see where you are coming from on who pays for it. I ski at many areas where the skiers pay for the grooming.

                Have fun riding there. I am not opposed to the project. It is just not my cup of tea to ski there under these circumstances. I am sure some folks will.

                • Dave says:

                  Well, got to start somewhere. I don’t see the DEC or APA going down a single use type trail anymore. It’s not cost effective & it’s limiting in not getting the most bang for the buck, so to speak.

                  • Paul says:

                    No, I hear you. There simply are not the skiers around here to support a single use ski trail, that is just on my wish list. I get that. In Scandinavia where this is popular it is basically part of their towns infrastructure. It’s part of their culture.

    • Bruce says:

      Hey, if Woody doesn’t feel like Newcomb is where he wants to be, he doesn’t have to go there (more for everyone else).

      I don’t know what Newcomb is like now, but it seemed like a nice little hamlet when I was there with my Boy Scouts helping to search for little Douglas Legg in the 70’s. As I seem to recall, there was a Hardees or McDonalds providing food for the searchers.

  8. Dave Gibson says:

    My post was about the state’s snowmobiling plans, and planning. Thanks to those who comment on that topic.

    As for Newcomb, it’s is a great place to visit, always a favorite of mine. Few towns have the combination Newcomb does of outdoor recreation in abundance, wilderness, interpretive centers and meeting sites (SUNY’s AIC), a research forest (Huntington) students & faculty doing all sorts of interesting work, well interpreted historic destinations (Tahawus, Santanoni), a retreat center (Masten House), a dynamic local school, a guiding service, and now a great place to eat. I know I’ve left something out. Oh yes, good people too. Of course, how to take best advantage of all these assets will always be a challenge, but Newcomb is up to that challenge.

  9. Scott says:

    Mr Gibson, if you have time, maybe you can do an article on where the big picture is going with snowmobile trails in the adks. I remember 10 or 12 years ago the DEC, APA, and OPRHP stated they were going to collaborate on an Adirondack-wide area snowmobile plan. I remember they were mapping and inventorying all the existing adk snowmobile trails. I remember them saying they were going to undesignate unused snowmobile trails deeper in the forest preserve and I remember back then this idea of community connector trails. I heard they finished this Adirondack-wide snowmobile plan a while ago but I don’t recall seeing the results. I am starting to think these recent discussions of community connector trails are part of that snowmobile plan they started a decade ago. Have you seen what any big-picture snowmobile trail plans are ?

    • Tom Payne says:

      This is direct from the NYSDEC website. You are correct on the time. It was started under then Governor Pataki.

      In October 2006, then DEC Commissioner Denise Sheehan and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) Commissioner Bernadette Castro released the Snowmobile Plan for the Adirondack Park/Final GEIS. The Plan is a supplement of the State of New York Snowmobile Trail Plan (Statewide Snowmobile Plan), adopted by OPRHP in 1989.

      The Adirondack Park snowmobile trail system encompasses more than 1,800 miles of trail on both public and private land. As part of the planning and environmental review process, the trail system was analyzed and a preferred alternative was developed. Included in the preferred alternative is a proposal for the establishment of a community connection trail system. It also outlines a new trail classification system and standards for developing and maintaining trails on DEC managed lands in the Park, while remaining consistent with Article XIV of the State Constitution and respecting the rights and interests of private landowners.

      Link below;

      • Interesting says:

        What few people know, and some food for thought, is that one of the major architects of the ’06 Adirondack Park Snowmobile Plan is now the executive director of the State Snowmobile Association (a lobbying org).

        • Dave says:

          So what! So the gentleman had a different job back in 2006. How does that have any impact on the fact that he is part of the NYSSA Leadership today.

        • Paul says:

          Some folks are lucky enough to make their avocation their vocation.

    • John Warren says:

      “The Adirondack Park snowmobile trail system encompasses more than 1,800 miles of trail on both public and private land”

      The real number is well over 3,000 miles, probably over 4,000.

      There are about 850 miles of snowmobile trails on forever wild forest preserve land. The Snowmobile Plan For The Adirondack Park (2006) concluded that there were (ten years ago) an additional 1,172 miles of “funded snowmobile trails” in the Park (those maintained with state funds by the snowmobile clubs); there are another 500 miles in the Webb and Inlet systems; and “several miles” on Canal Corporation, Department of Transportation, and State University of New York lands, for a total of about 2,520 Adirondack Park miles. Added to that are trails on municipal roads open to snowmobiles, and an unspecified “substantial mileage of trails that provide secondary trails”. Any look at a map of snowmobile trails in the Adirondacks easily demonstrates that these “secondary trails” are more than half of all snowmobile trails. Additional significant mileage not included in the most recent estimates are new snowmobile trails on more than one million acres of easement lands, and the new connector trails being built each year.

      Taken together there are easily over 3,000 miles of snowmobile trails in the Adirondacks now. That’s at least 1,000 more miles than existed in 1968. Once we have a complete map of snowmobile trails, I’m confident that there will be solid proof of over 4,000 miles of snowmobile trails in the Adirondack Park. For now, the demonstrable number is somewhere north of 3,000 miles.

      Other claims are simply propaganda. As is the claim that these are really “multi-use trails” they are not used by any other user group because they run through wetlands and wet areas and are not designed for any purpose other than as Class II, 9 to 12-foot wide roadways for snowmobiles.

      What’s more, snowmobiling is continuing a long-term decline. The height of snowmobiling was in the mid-1970s, and it has declined fairly steadily (with a small increase during the Clinton boom years) since that time.

      • Dave says:

        Snowmobiling still generates more income in the ADK than any other sport. But if you want to talk of things in decline, let’s talk about the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. It has been in decline since it started in the late 90’s. Let’s get rid of that & put the long overdue trail in its place. Any again, you may not like the community connector that DEC/APA came up with, but at least they are looking to try & improve the recreational activities in the ADK, by giving people the opportunity to go from community-to-community weather that be by snowmobile, bike, hiking, or snow skiing.

        • John Warren says:

          “Snowmobiling still generates more income in the ADK than any other sport.”

          Not even remotely close to true. There are more people visiting the High Peaks on a single holiday weekend than there are snowmobiles registered in all of New York State.

          • Dave says:

            doesn’t mean they are generating any income for the local towns like snowmobiling does. You make a bold statement with no facts to back it up.

            • John Warren says:

              You made the claim “Snowmobiling still generates more income in the ADK than any other sport.”

              According to the most basic math that is not possible. If you can’t understand why, I can’t help you.

              • Dave says:

                If & when I ever needed your help, I still wouldn’t ask for it. I’ll say it again ,snowmobilers generate over 200 million in economic benefit to the ADk in just 3-4 short months each year. If ya don’t like that fact, TOUGH!

              • Tom Payne says:

                I examined the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism reports. These reports are mostly based for the Lake Placid Region. The Lake Placid region has never been a snowmobile friendly tourism destination. I then looked at the recent economic impact study done by the Potsdam Institute of Applied Research. That study puts snowmobiling in NYS at $868 million dollars per year (page 33). On page 13 it breaks down what areas of NYS the sport is being done. The Adirondacks is at 28.3%. The highest of all the NYS snowmobile regions. Dave you are close. Twenty eight percent of $868 million is $245 million dollars. That study takes into account all monies from the sport not just registrations. I also believe the registration numbers are coming back as last season 2014-2015 was one of the coldest in many years and the economy slowly gets back on its feet.

            • M.P. Heller says:

              Gotta go with Dave here, John. At least until we see some real figures.

              It’s hard to contribute to local economies when your whole week is spent on the trail away from commerce centers.

              The obverse is traveling to several hamlets in the same day and spending money in each.

              I’m a 46er. I support the Ausable Inn and the Golden Arrow when I backpack. I couldn’t possibly spread my money out much more on these two legs.

              Snowmobilers do more.

              • John Warren says:

                Even if “snowmobiles do more” which you’ve provided not one ounce of evidence for, there are far, far, far, more people who come to the Adirondacks to hike, paddle, boat, ski, or fish – all sports which brings so many more people to the region that to claim snowmobilers somehow spend more is simply ridiculous. I’ve given the numbers half a dozen times, they are confirmed by the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism’s annual reports and the snowmobile registration numbers – the economic impact report for snowmobilers is not even needed to see the obvious fact.

                So, I’m not interested in carrying on a conversation with folks who simply won’t do the basic math, and who hold ideas based on absolutely nothing more than their own biases. Until those claiming that “snowmobiles do more” or “hikers don’t spend money” offer some evidence, ANY evidence, to back of their claims, they will simply continue to sound foolish.

                • Scott says:

                  Just a comment about snowmobile trails running “through wetlands and wet areas ” and not being designated or used for any other purpose…: I’m not sure of all the Adirondacks but I have lived here a long time and travelled a lot of the adk backcountry. I have only once found a place where the snowmobile trail is through wetlands (the Rollins Pond to Deer Pond trail) other than those trails on the old railroad beds. On most snowmobile trails in the wildforest you are able to bike and ride horses on the snowmobile trails in the summer. Whenever I look at the DEC state land interactive mapper and check the official trail classifications, it seems snowmobile trails are always shown as multi-use trails also allowing hiking, horses, etc.

                • Dave says:

                  sound like you hold to your own biases too, so don’t go throwing that BS around. You have your opinion & I have mine! You may not like it & I don’t really care if you do. You may not like the idea of a trail connecting the communities, & I don’t really care if you don’t. The decision has been made & I support it. When you can grow a pair & see the big picture & we can continue the debate!

                • Paul says:

                  A decent analysis would have to break things out by certain areas. Essex county probably isn’t the same as a place like Hamilton county. I did see one very good report on this perhaps it was done by the group you mention.

                • M.P. Heller says:

                  John. I’d be happy to share some of my sales and customer data with you if you’d be interested.

                  At least in my business, snowmobilers have a large impact on revenue when compared to other recreational user groups. Next door to me is Big Moose Yamaha, you’d have to ask Phil if sleds or boats bring more revenue to his business, but worst case is they come second. Eagle Bay Tavern owes a significant portion of their yearly sales to snowmobilers. These are the three largest businesses in Eagle Bay.

                  While the same obviously doesn’t hold true in other communities, the fact remains that certain businesses see more revenue from snowmobilers than from other groups.

  10. Hawthorn says:

    The “multi-use” buzzword is just that. It is not generally a pleasant experience to ski or snowshoe on one of these snowmobile superhighways, and I avoid them whenever possible. In some places it would be dangerous due to the high speeds allowed for the snow machines, and in every place if the route is heavily used the snow becomes way too hard packed and icy for pleasant skiing or snowshoeing. Plus, I believe most skiers and snowshoers are looking for a wilderness experience–not tramping along on a wide, flat, expanse of snow punctuate by the passage of loud and fast snow machines. It’s the same reason that I don’t go hiking on mountain bike or motorcycle trails in the summer. Sure, it’s possible this trail could be used by other interests, but it is designed and built for snowmobile use, and intended for snowmobiles first and foremost. Which is fine, in the right location. This is a poor location for a new snowmobile highway.

    • Paul says:

      With the El nino coming this winter there may not be much skiing or snowmobiling around here. So are bikes allowed on this thing or not? That is the more likely other use if it is allowed. According to parts of the plan it is. According to the July 2015 CC trail plan:

      “While snowmobiles were the focus of the analysis in the 2005 UMP, this amendment proposes to open the trails to multiple uses, including horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, and snowmobiling.”

      There are no snowmobiles on the trail in the off season so the bikes (and a few horses) get dibs. Why is “multi-use”a buzz word?

      • Hawthorn says:

        “Multi-use” is a buzzword because it is used to market the building of a snowmobile superhighway that is designed and intended for snowmobiles. In my experience, very few “multi-use” trails see much use by anyone else than who the trail is designed and targeted to. Sure, there are exceptions, but try hiking on some of these miserable (for anyone except snowmobilers) snowmobile/multi-use trails in the summer and you won’t get very far because of swamp/marsh/flooding/prickers.

        • Paul says:

          It would be good to have a aerial Google map of the trail, with these bridges and other structures I have seen it looks like they are going over the wet stuff. I agree there is nothing appealing about hiking on a trail like this unless you are just lost trying to get out of the woods! Even if it is just snowmobiles in the winter and bikes in the summer that would still qualify as multi-use. But the plan does clearly admit that snowmobiles were the focus of the analysis.

          I would say that the best current argument against the trail would be the fact that it runs on private conservation easement land in several places. Why should the state spend lots of money constructing a trail on land where we could be cut off by the landowner if they change their minds or don’t like what ends up on the trail? The Santa Clara easement lands were supposedly going to be open for public ATV use. They were – and then they were closed to ATV use even by camp lease holders. No one with the exception of the landowner is allowed to use them.

  11. Dick Carlson says:

    Build it and they will come – not so fast. I’m reminded of the large parking lots along Rt.8 traveling West toward Wells from Johnsburg. This was for the snowmobiles using the Cod Pond Trail (Wilcox Wild Forest) and others. Never happened. Here is a link to the only economic multiplier of snowmobiling that I could find (2012). And they do indeed claim a $245m impact for the Adirondacks – but I’ll bet 80% of that is in the Old Forge / Inlet area. Snowfall in Southern Adirondacks is just too inconsistent in recent years.

    • Dave says:

      Old Forge/Inlet are still in the ADK Park! And as far as Hawthorns above post, if you don’t want to use the trail then don’t. You take issue with the term multi-use, I take offense with your liberal use of the term superhighway. Again, I bet, you’ve never been on the 7th Lake Mountain trail that goes from Raquette Lake over to Moose River Plains that was just built 2 years ago by DEC. Another liberal tree hugging organization calls that a superhighway too, but it is such a winding trail speeds never exceed 20 mph.

    • -B says:

      There’s some interesting math in that economic survey, especially when compared to other recreational users which some snowmobilers LOVE to do.

      Tolls for driving to destinations are included, at $100 per respondent. Only snowmobilers pay tolls?

      30-35% of respondents “purchased a vehicle primarily to transport their snowmobile(s)” at $9800 per. Other recreational users don’t purchase a vehicle based largely or primarily on their activity? Maintenance of this vehicle was included in the final total as well (about $1400 per).

      Donations to clubs at just over $100 per were included in the economic impact. Clothing and accessories at ~$450. A few vocal snowmobilers really like to trumpet that hikers, paddlers, etc. drive in, drive out, and don’t spend any money, then use this impact survey to support that. Smart people can come to their own conclusion.

      What might be most damning about the survey is that it is supposed to represent YEARLY expenditures, which many of the categories (registration and club fees, insurance, fuel & maintenance) do. However, the single largest expense category of the calculated $434m total was “trailer expenses” at $131 million (the second was “Snowmobile Purchases” at $70m). The survey itself points out that it’s possible multi-year expenses were included because the question did not specify “this year’s expense”. Trailers are replaced infrequently, it’s not unusual to see 10 year old trailers being loaded and unloaded, and while new sleds sell at a good clip, there are still plenty in the 5-10 year old range on the trails. You could probably very safely knock a trailing zero off both those categories and have a more accurate number, dropping $180 million from the total estimate. That brings it to $254m, using the survey’s 2x economic impact is $508m, and the 28.3% Adirondack share being just over $144m.

      Now, that’s not small potatoes, and I don’t pretend to say that snowmobiles are trivial. Just maybe not as important as the lobby wants to make them out to be. I don’t want to see them as a whole go away (maybe just particular snowmobilers…), but it would be nice if they dropped the combative attitude and stopped using bad math to support trail development.

  12. Paul says:

    This has some interesting data. No breakdown by recreation type.

    It is interesting 18% of the Adirondack economy ($220 million per year in 2011) is based on second home activity? That is higher than tourism in general in some places. Warren county blows everyone else away when it come to tourist related economic impact.

  13. Charlie S says:

    Hawthorn says: “Bottom line is that new snowmobile highways (this is not a “trail”) should not be built through wilderness areas, requiring extensive destruction of forest, removal of stones, building of bridges, and ongoing disturbance of the environment with powered groomers.”

    Here Here!

  14. Charlie S says:

    Paul says: “Remember these guys (and gals) are also riding on the trail for fun.”

    I don’t see any fun going through a woods on snowmobiles making enough noise to wake seven sleepers!

    • Paul says:

      I don’t either but they obviously do.

    • JohnL says:

      Charlie S: Because you don’t see the fun in snowmobiling, no-one should like it? Further,because you don’t see the fun in snowmobiling, no-one else should be ALLOWED to do it. Is that right? You’re one of the reasons there is so much vitriol on this site.

  15. Charlie S says:

    Dave says: “Another liberal tree hugging organization…”

    I wish there were more tree-huggers out there!

  16. Boreal says:

    The problem I see with defending snowmobile highways by stating they will have a large impact on the local economies is this – it will likely help small towns that already have snowmobile/tourist infrastructure, but implying it will have much of an impact on hamlets that don’t even have gas stations or motels is a stretch. The snowmobilers cannot spend money where there is no infrastructure, and it isn’t likely that tourist infrastructure will be built based on 4 months of winter activity.

    NYS invested millions in building ADK VICs in two remote locations – Newcomb & Paul Smiths, but offered them to private ventures as soon as the first financial crisis came along. These attract year-round visitors but I haven’t noticed any appreciable increase in amnesties in the local communities. So I don’t buy the “build it and they will spend” argument, at least with regard to hamlets.

    • Boreal says:

      Last paragraph was supposed to read “appreciable increase in amenities”. Sorry for the typo.

      • Mike says:

        @Boreal – I get your point. It is a chicken/egg sort of situation. If you think this is a bad idea, what would you suggest as an alternative, especially for winter?

        • Boreal says:


          I am ambivalent about the trail, but was commenting on statements that were implying that the trail would bring significant economic impact to the hamlets they pass by/through. If a year-round automobile highway hasn’t brought economic development, it is unlikely a snowmobile trail will.

  17. Dave says:

    Can any of the so called folks who think snowmobile trails in the ADK are superhighways show me a single document which states that the DEC is creating such snowmobile highways? Probably not, but then again I guess I could call all those dam pesky hiking trails hiking superhighways too then!

    • Tom Payne says:

      They are “super highway” hiking trails. Some more than fifty feet wide in the high peaks region. Probably more if one cares to look and document. Conveniently overlooked by the NYSDEC. More Albany backroom skullduggery!

      • Paul says:

        50 feet wide? Where? Sure some are wide and very worn out but this is stretching the truth by many feet. 50 feet is wider than the actual highway running into Lake Placid.

  18. Hope says:

    So sad to see so many people who enjoy the outdoors so bitter about sharing the ADKs. This land was already used by snowmobiles and ATVs and cars by golly. Now there are no ATVs, no cars and snowmobiles in the winter. The deal was made with the communities, TNC and NYS in order for the purchase to happen. Why is it that some people insist that NYS renege on that deal? If they did then I think you will find other towns less willing to put their blessing on any further purchases. Why can we all not share. Forget about trying to compare snowmobile economics to hiking. It is inconsequential. Snowmobiling is a winter economic engine, not a summer one. Compare it to skiing and snowshoeing. Ask Old Forge to shut down their trails and rely on McCauley Mtn for their winter economics. See how well that goes over.

    • John Warren says:

      Can you provide a link to this “deal” that you say the people of New York agreed to?

    • Hawthorn says:

      The reason people are opposed to this has nothing to do with sharing–there are already 3-4,000 miles of snowmobile trails in the Adirondacks! Most estimates put that number higher than the mileage of foot trails. And, there are many, many more hikers, skiers, snowshoers, etc. than there are snowmobilers. We are against damaging a wilderness area by building a wide road through it–cutting down thousands of trees, removing rocks and boulders, building bridges, etc. in order to provide a high-speed route to what some believe is nowhere. Sure, let’s have connector trails for the snowmobilers, but let’s not destroy wilderness in order to build snow roads for a very few people that will use them for a few months a year when there is enough snow.

      • Dave says:

        Heaven forbid if we built any more trails that have a limited time frame of use as posted above. As some would say we shouldn’t build them. I guess we should close down those hiker trails & the ski resorts, since they too have a limit timeframe of use. Don’t see to many hikers out in the winter walking on all those dam pesky, ruin the forest hiking trails. The ski resorts, well dam I don’t see toooooo many people going down those black diamond trails on ski’s in the middle of the summer, or early fall. Might as well close them too since they have a limited yearly use value. And you keep calling it a wide raod, you have no clue what a snowmobile trail is.
        And you continue to call Newcomb, Merniva & North Hudson as place to no where. I’m sure the people & Business that live/work there would tell you to just shut the F’up: You have no clue about any of those towns!

        • Hawthorn says:

          The proposal is not about closing existing snowmobile trails, but about building a new, very wide, snowmobile superhighway through a wilderness area. If they proposed a new ski area in there I would oppose that too. When was the last time a new 40-mile hiking trail was built in the Adirondacks? Personally, I don’t want any new hiking trails in wilderness areas either. Leave it wilderness and “Forever Wild.” I don’t know how old you are, but I have been visiting Newcomb and hiking, skiing, and snowshoeing nearby trails for close to 50 years. My dad took me there when I was a child to head up to Tahawus and hike into the High Peaks. I have nothing against Newcomb, and I think connector trails are a good idea, when put in the right places and done the right way.

          • Dave says:

            7th Mountain Lake trail from Raquette Lake To Moose River Plains IS A hiking trail in the spring/summer/fall!
            If/when the tracks are pulled up from Tupper Lake to Lake Placid- A NEW hiking trail will be put in place.
            New hiking trails are made every time the DEC/APA decide something today, because they develope them as MULTI-use trails! If you don’t want to hike on a new multi-use trail, don’t, but don’t bitch about them being built. They serve a consumer & WILL benefit any town they reah out & connect too.
            And you say you have nothing against Newcomb, but then again you add “connectors are good idea when put in the right places & done the right way”. Guess you don’t really care for the economic help this trail can bring to Newcomb!

          • Dave says:

            Wow, now you’ve gone from snowmobile superhighway to a “very wide” superhighway. Do you have any concept what the regs say the width of a snowmobile trail is to be, if it’s a CAT I or CAT II trail? I seriously doubt if you do, since you seem to keep saying that these community connector trails are going to be superhighways. Cnn you name one single trail that is a superhighway?

  19. Bruce says:

    Let me share some observations I have made coming to the Fulton Chain for a week each of the last 10 years. Except for two years ago, we plan our vacation for sometime during the last two weeks in June; two years ago it was during Labor Day week. You see, we value quiet more than crowds. Next year we’re on for two full weeks in June.

    Many businesses such as shops, restaurants and lodgings are just starting to get cranked up for July and August, with a number of them are still closed or on limited hours. The same for after Labor Day, as businesses were closing for the winter. I suspect there may be mini-booms during fall leaf season, and perhaps Christmas, but there sure isn’t a whole lot going on when we’re there.

    To be fair, the few times we drove up to the Tupper Lake, Lake Placid corridor, it did look fairly busy.

    I think if the overall Adirondack economy wants to improve, it’s going to be up to the counties, hamlets and towns to push the quieter times (not just winter activities), and the fact it is quiet. We’re not the only folks who value a quiet vacation.or weekend, with some low-key activities available besides hiking and biking to make it interesting. Off-season is good for low-key budgets, too.

  20. Charlie S says:

    JohnL says: “Charlie S: Because you don’t see the fun in snowmobiling, no-one should like it? Further,because you don’t see the fun in snowmobiling, no-one else should be ALLOWED to do it. Is that right? You’re one of the reasons there is so much vitriol on this site.”

    >> I did not say i’m against snowmobilers JohnL I don’t like them meself but to each his own. They’re not my cup of tea and I just spoke my mind on this matter…threw my two cents in you might say. When they tear more trees down to build more motorized use trails in the Adirondacks I must say that sorta discomposes me some. I hug trees and too often I see too many of them taken down for no other reason than they’re in the way,or their leaves or needles ‘make a mess,’ or are a nuisance to rake up,or because whatever the reason it is people take down innocent trees.

    The Adirondacks to me are about taking-in the tranquility of the place,the absolute quiet. The billion trees! The uniformity of natural law and order.You just cant get that in many places anymore and if it were up to certain segments of this society there’d be none of them places left in just a few short years. You see John…some people just need noise they need a disturbance of some sort in order to function improperly. Is why monster truck derby’s are so fashionable.Or Nascar. Or sporting events. Or……..

    I have known people who once they got into the woods away from the sounds of civilization they congeal, their bodies and souls freeze up,they become speechless. Not that they had much to say anyway. And though these might (?) be rare cases it pretty much sums up this society’s attitude toward the natural world…..a hardened posture towards it. Is why all of the pollution problems and/or total disregard towards this or that ecosystem or living thing.Is why some simpleton took a chainsaw and cut a deep gash around ‘Luna’ (a thousand year -old tree,or older) after Julia Butterfly Hill came down from it fifteen or so years ago out in California.She stayed up in that tree for two solid years! Talk about tree-huggers! I would imagine that tree is dead by now after that deep gash. All of those years alive and boom…along comes an idiot. This hardened attitude is why shopping centers get visited more than what’s left of the woodlands and grandfather trees.

    I know i’m stretching myself a bit here and who knows where I will go next but it’s all relative JohnL. Just because I’m not thrilled about noisy snowmobiles doesn’t mean i’m against people using them,but let’s not have them everywhere please. Maybe to some extent simplistic me is against them but generally ‘to each his own.’

    To say I am one of the reasons there is so much vitriol on this site is being a little presumptuous JohnL I don’t take it personally though. Keep on sharing.

  21. Paul says:

    On much of these lands they are going to be cutting down far fewer trees than they have over the last 150 years since some of this is going from industrial timberland into protected Forest Preserve land. So the number of trees being cut here is really a non-issue in my opinion. One small logging operation on these lands in the past probably took down far more trees than will be required to build this trail. That is just a tactic that rings with folks who don’t like any trees being cut down. A sentiment usually voiced from their house made out of wood.

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