The main goal is to improve snowmobile connections between communities in the southwestern Adirondacks by building new trails and reclassifying existing trails. At the same time, DEC plans to close to snowmobiling some trails in the interior of the Forest Preserve.
Overall, the mileage of snowmobile trails in the Black River Wild Forest would decrease to 60.1 from 67.5 miles—a net loss of 7.4 miles. Yet DEC says the plan will make it easier and safer for snowmobilers to travel from Woodgate to Old Forge and from McKeever to Nobleboro.
The proposal also calls for the construction of five miles of foot trails that would be incorporated into the North Country National Scenic Trail, which when completed will stretch more than 4,200 miles from North Dakota to the Adirondacks.
The Adirondack section of the national trail enters the Black River Wild Forest from the west and then trends northeast through the Adirondack Park to Crown Point on Lake Champlain.
In the Black River Wild Forest, the national trail will for the most part follow existing trails. The new trails would fill in gaps between the existing trails. They would connect the Stone Dam Trail to the Little Woodhull Lake Trail and the Sand Lake Falls Trail to the Grindstone Creek Trail. A third trail would lead from the North Branch Trail into the West Canada Lake Wilderness. The precise routes of the new trails have not been determined.
DEC also is proposing to build a loop trail for cross-country skiing and hiking near Otter Lake, with a five-car parking lot. The loop will begin on the Otter Lake Outlet Trail, one of the trails that is being closed to snowmobiles.
Under the proposal, more of than half of the snowmobile routes (33.6 miles) in the Black River Wild Forest would be classified as “community connectors” – trails that are wide and smooth, designed for speedy travel between hamlets. This mileage does not include Forest Preserve roads that are open for snowmobiling.
Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks, is unhappy with the plan despite the decrease in mileage of snowmobile trails. “Though there’s a net reduction, this counts many snowmobile trails that have not seen a snowmobile in years,” he said.
And Bauer said newly cut community-connector trails have entailed the cutting of more than 1,500 trees per mile.
“So, what we’re left with is a massive expansion when you look at the boost in community-connector trails that are nine to twelve feet wide, graded and leveled, all understory, rocks, stumps, etc., removed,” he said.
DEC’s proposal, he said, “is another major step in the largest expansion of motor-vehicle use in the history of the Forest Preserve. Motorized access to the Forest Preserve is the top Forest Preserve priority for Governor Cuomo and DEC Acting Commissioner Seggos.”
In the proposal, DEC says that the Black River Wild Forest area “is one of the most popular snowmobiling destinations in the country and the economic impact of this form of recreation is vital.” At the same time, DEC says natural resources will be protected.
The proposal is a draft amendment to the unit management plan (UMP) for the Black River Wild Forest, which comprises 121,000 acres, mostly in Herkimer County. The UMP also covers the J.P. Lewis Tract, lands near North Lake protected by a conservation easement.
Public comments may be submitted through February 29 via email to [email protected]. They also may be mailed to Michael Marsh, Senior Forester, NYSDEC, 225 North Main Street, Herkimer, NY 13357.
Click the link below to read the draft amendment.
The map is from the draft amendment to the UMP. The yellow dotted lines are the proposed community-connector trails. The solid yellow lines are Forest Preserve roads that would be part of the community-connector system.