Sunday, April 17, 2016

Dave Gibson On The Boreas Ponds Acquisition

Boreas Ponds, Fall 2011 003My first reaction to the announcement of the state’s acquisition of magnificent Boreas Ponds for the Forest Preserve is to celebrate, and to recall how long the Adirondack Nature Conservancy has owned this 21,000 acre tract – the last of the big Finch Pruyn tracts which the state committed to purchase. It was April 2007 when Finch Pruyn employees, then Governor Spitzer, and the rest of the world learned that Finch was selling everything – all 161,000 acres – to the Conservancy, with help from the Open Space Institute. And in the same announcement, that the mill in Glens Falls would continue operations and employment.

This news that April day nine years ago was breathtaking. Adirondack Wild’s mentor Paul Schaefer had dreamed and worked for such a result from the early 1960s until his death in 1996. That was the significance of the Finch forests even fifty years ago. George Davis of the Temporary Study Commission on the Future of the Adirondacks (1968-70) put Boreas Ponds on the cover of the Commission’s final report.

Of the 161,000 acres Finch, Pruyn once owned, just over 90,000 acres were ultimately conserved by conservation easement during Governor Paterson’s term, and remains private land today. The state has acquired 69,000 acres for the public Forest Preserve since Governor Cuomo came into office in 2011.

Land ownership means assuming great responsibilities and costs. For the past nine years, the Adirondack Conservancy in Keene Valley, led by Mike Carr, initiated a comprehensive land planning effort for this and other Finch, Pruyn tracts around the Park; consulted closely with the remaining business, leaseholders and the affected towns; with NYS DEC, and with Governors Spitzer, Paterson and Cuomo;  invited countless guests like me and Dan Plumley to see and experience Boreas Ponds and gain their first impression; and, perhaps most importantly,  the Conservancy paid employees and taxes, maintained and managed forestry operations and leaseholds, and at Boreas Ponds paid for the upkeep of the road and buildings.

So, a very big thank you is owed the Adirondack Nature Conservancy for not simply holding Boreas Ponds and other large tracts for nine years, but assuming all of the complex responsibilities as land owner, taxpayer, employer and ecologist, forest economist, down to the very smallest detail; and raising the tens of millions of dollars to cover all of these costs.

One must also recognize and thank Finch, Pruyn for keeping the land intact and well-managed for so long; Governor Cuomo, DEC Commissioners Grannis, Martens and now Seggos, and DEC and APA staff for work to study the area behind the scenes; Senator Little for her efforts; and Essex County officials, including North Hudson Supervisor Ron Moore. While I may take a different position than Mr. Moore about the land’s ultimate classification, he never appears uncivil or mean-spirited in taking a determined position that the public be allowed access to this great tract of land and water. Reasonable access is very important. I just feel the bulk of the property should be classified Wilderness for it amply meets the Wilderness definition in the State Land Master Plan.

With the acquisition, Adirondack Park Agency will begin its classification deliberations later this year. According to the State Land Master Plan (pages 14-15, Classification System and Guidelines), APA must take into account the “fundamental determinant of the physical characteristics of the land or water” including the nature of the soils, slopes, microclimates, water chemistry, “all affecting the carrying capacity of the land and water both from the standpoint of the construction of facilities and the amount of human use the land or water itself can absorb. By and large, these factors highlight the essential fragility of significant portions of the state lands within the Park.”

Biological considerations also play an important role in the structuring of the classification system, as do “intangible considerations such as the sense of remoteness and degree of wildness available to users of an area due to its size, density of forest cover, ruggedness and the views obtainable from vantage points. Finally, the classification system takes into account the established facilities on the land. This section of the Master Plan concludes: “The above described factors are obviously complex and their application is, in certain instances, subjective, since the value of resource quality or character cannot be precisely evaluated or measured.”

Paddling on Boreas PondsA Wilderness classification would give the Town of North Hudson a major share and stake in the High Peaks Wilderness. It would still allow ample public access via the Gulf Brook Road. We know that most visitors will remain at the perimeter but will still value and support this wilderness through their votes, taxes (all Forest Preserve is taxable for all purposes) and visitation to area businesses and information centers. Adirondack Wild supports the siting of an information/interpretive center devoted to the Boreas Ponds and High Peaks somewhere in the Town of North Hudson.

My first impression in visiting the Boreas Ponds was one of supreme mountain majesty. The High Peaks Wilderness looms just to the north. The declivity of Panther Gorge separating Mounts Marcy and Haystack appears so close it beckons you. As your kayak slips into these waters, a great solitude embraces the water on all sides among dense stands of spruce and fir. Loons ahead on the first Boreas pond call repeatedly – they are completely unused to human contact. A red-tailed hawk soars over the second pond. In the fall, a migrating bald eagle passes high overhead. Paddling through the narrow entrance to the third pond, amidst spatter-dock waterlily, one sees a heron rookery. A belted kingfisher rattles at the shoreline, breaking the silence.

This landscape, once an industrial forest and company retreat, easily meets the State Land Master Plan Wilderness definition, having gained “primeval character,” “affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable, with outstanding opportunities for solitude and a primitive and unconfined type of recreation.”

Traveling around the ponds on the former logging roads one is impressed with its wilderness potential. In a year or two, these old roadbeds will be swallowed up, reverting to spruce and fir. Moose tracks and sign of bear add to this impression. So do the rare birds which specialize and rely on this boreal habitat for nesting and foraging. Near the High Peaks lie smaller ponds such as White Lily Pond where trout lie still in the shadows. Above that pond looms Allen Mountain – so close you feel its rugged outcrops.

A well has a “cone of influence” around it. The well’s water quality declines immediately when a significant portion of that cone’s circumference is damaged. So it is with a Wilderness. The High Peaks Wilderness, as large as it is today (nearly 200,000 acres), still lacks all its natural boundaries. The Ausable River and Raquette River drainages of this Wilderness, on the north and west, are largely intact. The big missing piece of this “cone of influence” is the Boreas River drainage to the south. At its heart lies the 21,000 acre Boreas Ponds tract. By acquiring this, and designating it part of the High Peaks, that Wilderness will finally gain its natural boundaries, and a sheer size, level of protection, ecological stability, enlightened management, and recreational potential unsurpassed in the eastern United States.

Few places in the northeast afford similar mountain and lake scenery and recreational potential in such close proximity. By classifying the area Wilderness, the quiet, remoteness and sense of solitude of the High Peaks during these recreational adventures are immeasurably enhanced. The major entrance, the five-mile Gulf Brook Road, should be an access corridor. Because Boreas Ponds inhabits a natural bowl, its soundscape is vulnerable to motorized traffic spidering off of the access road.  A Wilderness classification would prevent this.  Also, the Boreas Pond shorelines are sensitive to overuse by campers; additional primitive camping locations along the Gulf Brook Road south of the ponds would take camping pressure off the shorelines. Auto traffic on the road could be stopped at a control point short of LaBier Flow, a dammed section of the Boreas River, where trailhead registers could be placed, a Forest Ranger presence established, and boats wheeled or carried to the water. A day’s adventure would begin here. Perimeter parking would be matched to the land’s capacity to withstand use. The disassembly of the Boreas Lodge (built c. 1988) at the ponds is not only essential to achieve wilderness conditions, but it removes motorized traffic to the sensitive shorelines, reduces the risk of introducing invasive aquatic species, and eliminates a costly white elephant five miles from the nearest highway. It must cost a lot just to heat, maintain and staff this structure each year.

One should not have to physically reach Boreas Ponds themselves to benefit. At several points along the Gulf Brook Road small pull-offs could be established and future visitors could enjoy new hiking opportunities on Ragged Mountain, or fishing on Gulf and Andrew Brook, or simply walking on sections of the road during fall or spring weather. Where the Gulf Brook Road meets the Blue Ridge Road, informative signage about the Boreas Ponds tract could be established, directing visitors and recreationists not only to the Road points of access, but also to a nearby interpretive center somewhere in the Town of North Hudson where the cultural history, majesty and opportunities of this rugged place could be told, and information about High Peaks weather, recreational conditions passed on to visitors. That’s my preference. Residents of North Hudson should ultimately select the themes.


Related Stories

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.

94 Responses

  1. Pete Nelson says:


    Perhaps your best column. Personal, focused, and a superb analysis. Spot on.


  2. Bill Ingersoll says:

    “By classifying the area Wilderness, the quiet, remoteness and sense of solitude of the High Peaks during these recreational adventures are immeasurably enhanced.”

    But just imagine how much MORE remote and solitary this area would be without that road!

    As a young individual who not only advocates for wilderness, but also recreates in it almost on a weekly basis, the terms of access to the Boreas Ponds would hardly be impaired if the entire road was permanently closed to motor vehicles. In fact, I was quite eager to give it a try this weekend–i.e., backpacking to Boreas Ponds on foot, the entire length of the road–until I read the deed and calculated that public access probably won’t be available until October 1st.

    So instead I traveled to another Adirondack wilderness area, where my dog and I were able to enjoy another backpacking trip of comparable length. North Hudson’s loss was Wanakena’s gain.

    Therefore, as a 41-year-old addict of the wilderness experience, I can’t help but feel betrayed by the older generation of wilderness advocates currently at the head of the environmental organizations. There are four such groups in the Adirondacks, and although I used to actively participate in several I have withdrawn my support from all of them, because none represent my views.

    Issues like the Boreas Ponds road exemplify my dissatisfaction. This tract is one of the largest single acquisitions that we are likely to see for a long time. Only one corner of it abuts a public highway, and its key feature is miles from that nearest strip of pavement. The property fills the gap between three existing tracts of wild lands (High Peaks, Dix, and Vanderwhacker) and should therefore be an automatic candidate for wilderness. With no non-conforming uses in the interior, there should be no need for any non-conforming roads to service them.

    And yet our best wilderness advocates can’t get past the equation “access equals motor vehicles.” They have helped create a public expectation that Boreas Ponds will become a canoe destination once it is opened, and of course every canoe destination needs a canoe launch. Therefore we have Adirondack Wild, ADK, and the Council telling us that this brave new motorless wilderness would be incomplete without a motor vehicle road running straight down the middle of it!

    Snake oil, I say.

    Previous generations of wilderness advocates successfully fought to have roads and truck trails closed throughout most of the original wilderness areas. At the time of the original SLMP implementation in 1972, there were 34.3 miles of truck trails and 78.1 miles of jeep trails within the newly christened wildernesses–112.4 miles of preexisting roads that needed to be closed. Happily, most of those roads were closed, including the one to Duck Hole, located deep within another remote corner of the High Peaks Wilderness. It happened because the people of the day were dedicated to the cause of passing a wilder Adirondack Park to future generations.

    Forty-plus years later, we have wilderness advocates who want some of that mileage back! That is an issue in my book, as grave an indicator of the park’s future health as the APA’s recent SLMP amendment debacle. How can we expect the APA to make a stand in favor of wilderness when our own advocacy organizations are waffling on the issue? Motorless means no motors, regardless of whether you’re riding an Arctic Cat snowmobile or a Honda Civic with Hornbecks strapped to the roof.

    The real story behind the Boreas Ponds classification is that the issue was already resolved on March 4th, more than a week before the date on the state’s deed. That was when TNC granted easements to North Hudson and Newcomb to extract gravel from two interior pits on the property for the maintenance of the road system. At a meeting behind closed doors, with no public oversight, a wilderness classification was foreclosed over much of the property. And our advocacy groups had no influence on the process! There will be a vigorous public debate as always, and many moving essays here and in the pages of the Explorer (some by me, perhaps), but it will all be for naught because a wilderness classification south of the ponds was eliminated in the way the acquisition was structured.

    Sorry for the long rant, but I have found this entire process disgusting. If the pro-wilderness groups are advocating for a road straight through the heart of the largest, most wilderness-qualified property we are likely to ever see, then we will never have another new roadless area in the Adirondacks again. It suggests that we have aged into a period when we want the “aura” associated with the wilderness “brand,” but we no longer want to sweat for the experience.


    This weekend I hiked nearly six miles to a campsite on a beautiful, remote pond. I saw only a handful of people the entire time and had myself one hell of a weekend. My car stayed at the wilderness boundary, where it rightfully belonged. Lest we forget, that’s what a wilderness experience is. That’s the way it’s supposed to be, because REAL WILDERNESS AREAS HAVE NO MOTORS! That last point should be non-negotiable and self-evident. I regret the need to point it out to professionals who should know better, and I resent the fact that respected leaders are trying to educate me on a point I already know to be false.

    Acquiring land merely protects the trees. Wilderness protects the intangibles–but only if it’s done right. If you really want the Boreas Ponds tract to become a source of endearing wilderness experiences for current and future generations, then you must be prepared to accept all that that entails. Add a road to the mix, and you’ve just created a de fact wild forest.

    • Hope says:

      I too had a fabulous weekend. I road 8 miles, on an ATV, into our small cabin, on a closed ( to cars/trucks for spring) woods road. Spent the night in a rustic cabin with no plumbing but a generator. Climbed and bushwhacked up a small mountain for about 6 miles for a fabulous view. A friend also road in on their mountain bike as well, saw a few others who had come into camp to fish via ATV.
      There was plenty of deer sign, some moose tracks sited but no bears so far. Brook trout starting to bite. Saw maybe 8 people but there were at least 15 trucks parked at the beginning of the road with trailers.

      FYI, there are roads running through every National Park for people to be able to view their magnificence from their vehicle. These roads brought the masses to nature which then enabled their saving from commercial interests. Well designed road access is not the evil you make it out to be. IMHO. You are entitled to yours, but denigrating others for their recreational pursuit of experiences in the woods is not productive.

      • Boreas says:


        WRT your last paragraph, that is the crux of the argument. There are a multitude of protected parks where nature can be viewed from a car allowing access for many. But it is not a true wilderness experience. Where roads begin, wilderness ends. Many people feel there should be as many areas of wilderness without roads or vehicles as possible, as wilderness areas worldwide are becoming fewer and fewer. Others are willing to compromise to allow more human access, but the net result is a compromised wilderness.

        • Hope says:

          But you can get out of the car and walk into those areas without impacting the experience of those that want to stay in their car or walk a short distance instead of miles. There are opportunities for both. Let’s remember that this is supposed to be a park with people not without.

          • Boreas says:

            Absolutely, but from which road? That is the discussion here. How many roads can be allowed and still maintain wilderness quality?

            • Hope says:

              Portage from parking lot to lake should be less than a mile.
              More camping areas should be located off the road and less on the ponds. More picnic day, use areas on the ponds. A place to secure your canoe if you are in for multiple days so you don’t have to haul it in everyday.

            • Bruce says:


              So what effect are the existing roads having on the wilderness experience? I agree no new roads should be constructed, and the same goes for new trails and all of their accoutrements. If people want to go within, let them use the roads already there, even if it’s just hiking.

              • Boreas says:


                It isn’t the roads per se, but rather what they carry. That’s what we need to be careful about.

      • Taras says:

        Yeah, I also had a fabulous weekend in my back yard in the ‘burbs; I saw and heard many birds. It’s not a “Wilderness” zone and neither is an area with cabins, generators, and roads open to motorized vehicles. Your weekend and mine, and what happens in National Parks, are irrelevant to the topic of ADK “Wilderness” zones. They’re areas designed to maintain some semblance of what the land before European settlers transformed it into the state of New York, and Manhattan, Albany, your cabin, and suburban yards. It ain’t perfect but better than a Jellystone Park.

  3. ADKerDon says:

    None of these lands meet the definition of wilderness. None of these lands should be classified as wilderness. All have been used, timber harvested, roads traveled forever. The entire tract is wild forest or should be removed from the forest preserve. Those who support wilderness support the starving and destruction of all wildlife. Those who support wilderness support the destruction of all wildlife habitat, food, shelter and necessities of life. All who support wilderness support the poisoning and destruction of all the waters, murdering all the fish, etc. Remove this entire tract from the forest preserve! Restrict all forest preserve lands to above 3,000 feet elevation!

    • Taras says:

      Newsflash! A great deal of what is now the High Peaks Wilderness area was once clear-cut for timber and crisscrossed with logging roads (and beyond your magical 3000-foot elevation).

      How fortunate for us all that your opinion didn’t prevail at the time of the Forest Preserve’s inception.

      • ADKerDon says:

        It did. Crawl into your grave and ask my ancestors. We opposed it from day one. As usual Albany ignored the people of the Adirondacks.

        • Taras says:

          Whew! Just got back! They asked me to pass on a message to you:

          “Dear Don,

          Leave us out of your rants. We’ve suffered enough.

          Thanks for understanding.”

  4. BD says:

    Well said Bill, When will enough internal combustion recreation be enough, Gov. Cuomo how disappointing that every year he has the Adk Winter Challenge he rides snow mobiles, Enough already!!

    • Paul says:

      With the acquisition of these parcels there is now going to be lots less “internal combustion” going on on them. Even if you leave a few miles of road open.

      • Bruce says:


        Good sense. The detractors of even bicycles using the roads already there keep using buzz words like “regression” and “losing ground”. I’m having a hard time getting my head around the idea that increases in Wilderness and Primitive areas are regression.

  5. Justin Farrell says:

    Great piece, Dave, and great comment, Bill!
    Another wilderness advocate here, and I say keep it wild forever! A seven mile road walk is not that big of a deal! Road walking passes quickly. What’s the hike into Newcomb Lake, about 5 miles? Another 2 miles and 45 minutes of hiking is a reward as far as I’m concerned, and folks routinely continue beyond Camp Santanoni to the Ward Brook lean-to, or Fish Rock, or even beyond Newcomb Lake to Moose Lake. The 6+ mike hike with side trips along the Burn Road in the Whitney Wilderness is an absolute joy, and obviously gets plenty of use judging from entries in the trail register. I’m sure there are several other examples. Let’s stop pretending that a 7 mile hike is too far, and let’s keep the motors out of this land!

  6. Boreasfisher says:

    As a longtime resident of north Hudson I concur with the position of the environmental groups regarding Bores Ponds. Where I disagree is with their position on the snowmobile trail. Rather than use the same road…Gulf Brook…where cars travel 9 months of the year they propose removing thousands of trees at great expense to site the trail close to Blue Ridge road. This seems to defy common sense. All is all though this will be a brilliant acquisition for taxpayers.

  7. Marco says:

    Thank you Dave. And Well Said, Bill! Yes, a simple gate and let things go will suffice. No need for another road access. But, if there were already agreements, they should be honored. I am retired and don’t mind a 10mi, if it means good views when I get there. 6mi is a walk in the park, though the canoe gets a bit heavy. Nope, I don’t hike as fast as I used to. That’s OK. It ain’t going anywhere.

  8. Tim-Brunswick says:

    I wish I could reach out and shake “Hope’s” and ADKer Don’s hand!

    The other wish I would have is to still be around when you “Wilderness Only” fanatics are too old to do the hikes you talk about above. There is entirely too much of the Forest Preserve locked up in “Wilderness” classification already and too many folks can’t access it due to disability, age, whatever.

    ADKer Don is also on target with the fact that none of these acquired tracts are “wilderness” and have been traveled and traversed by roads for hundreds of years.

    • Justin Farrell says:

      Respectfully, the same can be said about motorized access in the Adirondack Forest Preserve. There are countless areas where motorized access is allowed, often leading to over-use & abuse. I thought that the recent Essex Chain classification was a fair comprise, even though it’s not what I was hoping for. Now we have another opportunity to show that we can preserve & protect the Boreas tract under the highest regulations laws in New York. I’m certainly not advocating to “lock” anyone out, but I will always be an advocate for a motor-free environment that future generations can enjoy, even when I’m older and/or unable to enjoy it myself. Perhaps the road would make for a good horse & carriage trail, similar to the one I saw at Newcomb Lake years ago.
      Do they still do that?

    • Dave says:

      Using disability and age as a weapon to argue against wilderness is one of the more distasteful and offensive trends I’ve witnessed in these land use debates.

      It presumes an awful lot of things about people with mobility impairments, none of which are universally true. It presumes that those who enjoyed true wilderness experiences in their youth, and who have now aged, selfishly want to ruin those experiences for the next generation. It presumes that people with disabilities do not value the preservation of wilderness. And, probably most offensive, it presumes that people with mobility disabilities do not want, and deserve, to experience wilderness themselves.

      Equal access does not mean you alter or destroy the thing you are providing access to. It means accommodations that allow someone with a disability to experience the destination as it is, as others can. Someone in a wheelchair who wants equal access to a museum is not asking that you tear out exhibits or otherwise modify the museum experience for them or for others… likewise, equal access to a wilderness experience would not involve altering or destroying that wilderness experience.

      A road that runs through an area that anyone can drive up and down, by any definition, does not a wilderness experience make. Someone with a disability deserves to experience a wilderness free from such roads just as much as someone without a disability. So if you really care about people with mobility disabilities, and you agree that they deserve to experience wilderness just like everyone else, then stop advocating for the destruction of that experience and start advocating for ways to provide them equal access to that experience.

      • Ryan Finnigan says:

        Thank you for this comment. Glad to know i’m not the only one who feels this way.

      • Bruce says:


        Cutting hiking trails, installing bridges, boardwalks, lean-tos and pit toilets does not a wilderness make either, yet they are considered “conforming uses”. Perhaps it’s time to rewrite the Wilderness definition to include no man-made edifices. Let’s have some real wilderness.

        OK Dave, how would you suggest providing for the mobility-impaired without compromising the “wilderness experience?”

      • Alex Bruce says:

        Could not have put it better myself. I am sure there are many elderly and ability impaired folks who 100% agree with this. When I am too old to get into these types of places, I will be just fine with that, as long as I have the comfort in knowing they are still wilderness places.

      • troutstalker says:

        SPOT ON DAVE!!

    • Taras says:

      “… when you “Wilderness Only” fanatics are too old to do the hikes you talk about”

      “too many folks can’t access it due to disability, age, whatever.”

      Nice strawman argument there. Whatever prevents one from gaining access is evil and must be eliminated! Having to work for a living also interferes with access to the outdoors so be sure to lobby for a four-day work week.

      “… none of these acquired tracts are “wilderness” and have been traveled and traversed by roads for hundreds of years.”
      Another bogus talking-point. It doesn’t have to be pristine wilderness to be become eligible for inclusion in “Wilderness”. Lest ye forget, the Forest Preserve was created to protect land that had been clear-cut. Boreas Ponds currently looks pristine compared to the mown-down High Peaks area circa late 1800’s.

  9. SLMPdefender says:

    The, “well there used to be…” argument is a tired one. The Forest Preserve is a story of recovery. Yes, there are roads in Boreas, but the only reason they are there is because they have been maintained annually by the property owner. Without maintenance, the will recover in a decade, or maybe a hair longer.

    The “you’ll be sorry when you can’t walk in there” argument is ALSO tired! I, along with many acquaintances, will be so very happy that there are places that require a certain level of skill and fitness to get there. Wild lands, and their indifference to humans, make for the perfect opportunity to test one’s mettle. Time spent in the Forest Preserve is time spent exploring oneself! When I’m too old to go into the woods, I’ll be so grateful for the time that I took in my able years to explore myself while wandering this magnificent landscape. I will never be able to repay the Forest Preserve for all that it has given me.

    And, this argument for hands-on management of all forests is quite silly at best. Most of the trees in the Forest Preserve are not that old, but in 100 or more years, we will see many more open “old growth” habitats. As the state buys forest preserve and hopefully closes the roads on those lands, less fragmented and much older forests should host more predators, and deer populations should get back under control. The food argument… “the deer will starve,” is first, wrong, and second, selfish. There are plenty or private lands that host managed forests, and there are plenty of forest preserve tracts that will always have resources for moose and deer. This goes back to the conspiracy theories people have about DEC introducing cougar… people get nervous about filling their tags, when there are more than enough deer to go around.

    The Forest Preserve stands in stark contrast to the lives of most people, and that is what’s special about it. Buildings, trails, development… all commonplace. Boring, in fact. But vast tracts where one can find honest to goodness peace and quiet… where one can escape the stress of everyday life… that is something to behold.

  10. Jan Hansen says:

    Well, I am a lover of all things outdoors and especially all things Adirondack.
    Hiking and canoeing as well as biking are loves of mine. I believe the access road to the Ponds should be open and maintained. I don’t need to drive to the shoreline, but a 10 mile round trip hike with a canoe and a pack is not an insignificant distance. I respect Mr Ingersoll’s position, but believe that New York State should not just buy land and then effectively shut it off to many potential users by providing no reasonable access for them.

  11. Dave Gibson says:

    Adirondack Wild believes in an expansive addition to the High Peaks at Boreas Ponds, but also in reasonable access to within a mile or two of the ponds by4-wheel drive vehicle from the Blue Ridge Road, ending no further than LeBier flow which drains the ponds via the start of Boreas River. That’s five+ mile drive to reach that point, and constitutes reasonable public access. Beyond that are more than a dozen miles of old logging roads circumnavigating the ponds, some of them extending right to the present High Peaks boundary which a Wilderness classification would (and should) close forever to motor vehicles. That’s true backcountry and wilderness. For 14+ million public dollars, a goodly percentage of the public who will not seek to venture beyond the ponds into the high peaks should get a chance with a short hike of a mile or two to see the view from Boreas Ponds. Those folks who visit and stay at the perimeter value wilderness and will pay for wilderness every bit as much as the inveterate hikers or bushwackers among us.

    • Bill Ingersoll says:

      Congratulations. You just scored a point for all the motorheads out there by equating “reasonable public access” with the use of motor vehicles. By extension, your statement suggests that having to walk 5+ miles is an “unreasonable public access.” The discussion about the best use of wilderness lands has just regressed about sixty years or so.

      You cited the TSC report from 1970 as justification for the wilderness classification. I happen to have a copy of that report, the slim volume intended for public dissemination, with the picture of the Boreas Ponds on the cover. I suggest you re-read the section on wilderness, pp 44-45. Some salient points are as follows:

      “No motor vehicles, mechanized transport or motorized equipment will be allowed except in cases of extreme emergency, threats to human life or to intrinsic resource values. These restrictions must apply equally to the general public and the land administrators as the effects of their intrusions are the same.”

      “No roads will be allowed within wilderness areas. Existing roads will be allowed to revegetate naturally if feasible, or will be scarified with a bulldozer and ripping tooth to hasten revegetation.”

      There is no historic proof to support your position that an unnecessary road is permissible within a protected wilderness area. As I already pointed out, your predecessors worked hard to re-wild our existing areas by closing over a hundred miles of roads. People such as Dave Newhouse and Neil Woodworth fought a pitched battle in 1983 to close an existing road in the West Canada Lake region after the Perkins Clearing exchange–even resisting alternate proposals that would have ended the road within a mile or two of the nearest lake. Neil’s argument in 1983, spelled out in great detail to the readers of Adirondac magazine, was that the intrinsic value of wilderness was directly related to the lack of easy access. The more the road penetrated into the backcountry, the more it diminished the wilderness.

      Therefore everything about this “Keep it Wild” campaign points unavoidably to the conclusion that our environmental leaders have brought us to a regression point in the history of park advocacy. The individuals who roused public opposition to wilderness road access in 1983 are now co-authoring proposals and petition drives to rouse support for a wilderness with road access. We’re losing ground, not gaining it.

      Why am I so bothered by this? That’s easy: wilderness is a subject that should rouse passion in the people who love it. We’re not drafting school budgets here, and this is not a bloodless topic that can easily be settled by glad-handing and the prolific use of trendy buzzwords. We need more Edward Abbeys and fewer Martha Stewarts.

      The real threat to the continued existence of wilderness in the twenty-first century is not a horde of reckless ATVers riding willy-nilly through the woods. It is not a blight of insects or an invasive weed, or a camper cutting live trees for firewood. These are all problems to be sure, but most can be resolved with a well-executed action plan.

      The real threat to wilderness in 2016 lies within the wilderness community itself. Apathy, a lack of urgency, indifference–whatever you want to call it when people fail to protect a place from a pit-mining operation because you can’t see it from the High Peaks, or take notice when state and local officials get together in a closed-door meetings to structure a land purchase in a way that prevents a future wilderness classification.

      Or when wilderness advocates make a U-turn from the prior positions and start making straight-faced pitches for increased road access within the boundaries of a protected area, just so that paddlers might be able to tool around for a few hours without having to spend the night or work up a sweat. This is no place for relativism. When we start making excuses or justifications for not doing everything we can to re-wild a place, when we start making habitual exceptions to the rules to satisfy our own aging bodies, when we start trading on the absolutes that we held when we were younger, then the end has begun.

      One of your most recent articles was about how the recent process to amend the SLMP resulted in a weakening of its protective values. I agree.

      But I also contend that this weakening was abetted by a weakening of the watchdog groups as well. You condemn the APA and DEC for forcing a preconceived recreational agenda into official policy, despite the fact it runs counter to more than forty years of settled policy. But here comes three of our leading watchdog groups with a plan to do the exact same thing: spot-zone a non-conforming activity deep within a protected area. The idea of snowmobiles zipping across the Cedar River bothers you (and Neil and Willie) because you’re not snowmobilers. But the idea of cars tooling up and down the Boreas Ponds road doesn’t bother you in the least, because you’re sympathetic to paddlers.

      You would have better luck trying to sell me on the idea that the sky is green than you would making the case that a wilderness benefits by the spot-zoning of a road for the sole purpose of recreational access. The entire body of wilderness thought, literature, and policy indicates that your position is unequivocally wrong and indefensible; the fact that someone whom I have respected would be so brazen to even hint at the idea has agitated me more than you would know.

      As I said before, I read the deed for this property. The hunting club leases are to remain until 9/30/2018, and TNC has until 2020 to ensure that all of the camp structures have been removed. Let the road be open during this interim period. Let a curious public have the chance to see the lakes for a few years, and let that curiosity be satisfied. Then, when there is no further pretense to keep the road open, replace the gates with permanent stone barriers. Then let the wilderness experiences begin. Let the Boreas Ponds become a place so remote that people aspire to reach them–let this place become the Cold River of the eastern High Peaks.

      • Bruce says:


        You speak of regression. As of May 2014, there were 2.55 million acres of forest preserve, with 45% under Wilderness classification. Another approx. 3% was classified Primitive and Canoe area. There’s no reason to believe total Wilderness acreage won’t increase as the state purchases more forest preserve lands. Whether the percentage of Wilderness will increase or not is conjecture, but we’re certainly not going backwards.

  12. Paul says:

    This could be one where it is okay to have a pond that is no longer easy to access. It won’t get much paddling use with a carry of that length but as long as that is what folks want then fine.

    Given its proximity to the HPW this seems like one that the Wilderness fanatics get to win. There will be other battles save the ammo.

  13. Tom Hiebel says:

    Seniors need to be included in the accessibility equation. When you are over 65, hauling canoes and kayaks a mile or two into the waters edge is a daunting task. This will eliminate a large percentage of the outdoor population from ever enjoying paddling on these ponds.

    • Todd Eastman says:

      Let’s put in a big boat ramp so 85 yos can enjoy the goods…

    • troutstalker says:

      How about a Dunkin Donuts with a Hovaround Rental service! I’m 68 and willing to portage my kayak and pack the distance! You do it until you can’t do it anymore. Your tough luck if you didn’t do it when you were younger! There are other places that older folks can access. Little Tupper and Bog River Flow are easy for instance! If you do your research, you can find other wilderness opportunities. DO THE WORK!

  14. Charlie S says:

    Hope says: “FYI, there are roads running through every National Park for people to be able to view their magnificence from their vehicle. These roads brought the masses to nature which then enabled their saving from commercial interests.”

    Thank the powers that be that the Adirondacks are not a national park! It’s all about the money with the Feds Hope. Why do you think the concessions and of course cars bring in so much more people and just think of the windfall the Feds pull in from the souvenirs they sell,the food and drinks,etc….from our over-used National Parks. They allow cars for a reason Hope. They bring in more people. More people equals more money. There’s no if’s,and’s or but’s about it!

    Fish and I climbed Sleeping Beauty near Lake George yesterday. We had to park a mile & 1/2 away from Dacy Clearing because the State decided to close the road to Dacy Clearing. That meant we got three extra miles in to make it a 7 mile hike which included the excursion around Buck pond. Fish and I agreed that extra mile and a half on the way in was a good prep for the climb up,the mile and a half extra on the way out was just right for loosening up before the hour drive home.

    Roads are Okay but let us not get too more crazy and lead them to every last little paradise on Earth. It used to be getting around by foot was the only way to get around. Then along came Henry Ford whose patent made jellyfish out of too many of us.

    8 miles on an atv? Did you wear ear protectors?

    You also say: “There was plenty of deer sign, some moose tracks sited but no bears so far.”

    Maybe it’s possible you could’ve seen a moose or a bear or deer. Maybe the noise they heard coming from a mile away spooked them off.

    • Hope says:

      I wore a helmet. Of course my preference would be to drive my car in rather than the ATV but sacrifices must be made in spring when access is only available via ATV or winter when you can snowmobile in. Of course one could walk in as well. Biking and skiing is also fun. I prefer to get to camp first and then make my excursions.
      Saw deer, moose tracks were reported by someone else. Fish caught. No one has seen any bear yet. Saw a beautiful red-tailed hawk swooping around for several minutes. Lots of ducks and other critters. Great sunset over the pond. All in all a very good weekend but I’m a little stiff from the bushwacking today. Glad you enjoyed your weekend as well.

      • Paul says:

        Why don’t you wait till mud season is over? Those ATV can also really tear up the road if it is still soft.

        • Hope says:

          Actually the road is not bad at all. I’m not much for muddin’ about. Getting ready to grade it this weekend. It’s the log trucks that make the most mess and we just clean it up the best we can.

          • Paul says:

            I imagine things are probably pretty dry this year. On easement land where I hunt they have this same rule where you can access camps via ATV’s when the roads are closed. When it is wet this isn’t such a great policy.

  15. Charlie S says:

    BD says: “When will enough internal combustion recreation be enough.”

    When we’re gasping for air BD. When palm trees make it to the NY line.

    • Paul says:

      Like I said above there will a lot less “internal combustion” going on in there with the logging stopped and the hunting clubs gone even if you left the road open for a few cars.

  16. ADKerDon says:

    Only the wilderness advocates keep pushing for locking everyone else out. They refuse to allow all the people to recreate on forest preserve lands. They freely admit taxpayer funds are used to buy these lands, then insist only they be allowed to enjoy them. Only New York is stupid enough to listen to these selfish folks. Parks belong to everyone. All federal and other states do not discriminate like NY and these wilderness advocates. If these lands are not open to all people for all types of outdoor recreation then the state should not be buying them. Abolish the forest preserve! Manage these lands for wildlife habitat and all types of recreation!

    • Boreas says:

      Like Busch Gardens?

    • Boreas says:


      What are your feelings on public parking lots? They are open for anyone to use, yet sections of it a closed off for handicapped parking only and perhaps employee parking only. Why shouldn’t I have the right to park anywhere I want? Do you feel a courthouse should have no steps, only ramps? Should every mountain have an elevator or stair lift to allow people with mobility problems to reach the top? Where does it end? What would be a happy medium you could live with?

      There are many places in the park that are blocked off to me simply by distance, terrain, or private land – and I only have moderate mobility problems. My feeling is I don’t really need to go there, as I can enjoy myself elsewhere. I feel I have a right to visit difficult terrain on state land, but I do not feel NYS needs to provide access devices to those places to address my particular disability.

      I am all for keeping some of these pre-existing roads in sensitive areas open for people with verified mobility issues only – not for the use of the general public other than foot traffic. But that will involve more patrolling and access-control mediation by DEC or appointed volunteers.

      • John says:

        Boreas and others: Re: ADKerDon. Please don’t feed the Troll.

        • Boreas says:

          Trolls are people too. If you look really hard, ADKerDon often buries a good point or two within his spiels. Same with all of us.

          • Paul says:

            I agree. I don’t think that he is trying to provoke. My guess is that these are his (or her?) actual feelings on the subject. Some don’t like them but they are probably genuine. If you look historically the Adirondacks was still a pretty nice place even before Article 14. It is better now but it’s remoteness and what people consider its crummy weather are its main protectors. I saw an article a few days ago about the 10 best places to live in NY. Number 9 was Lake Placid and it said something like – “even though they have had the Olympics twice basically nobody knows about the place”. Friends of mine from the finger lakes came and visited my camp a few years back and they asked if the side roads were plowed in the winter? He is a Cornell professor – a smart guy that has lived in NY for about 20 years now.

        • John Warren says:

          Just FYI, the Troll is an elected official using a fake name so he isn’t associated with his own views.

          John Warren

          • Taras says:

            “an elected official using a fake name”

            Probably a politically astute move considering the low opinion he has of some of his constituents (stupid, selfish, etc). That and this brand of nonsense:
            “Those who support wilderness support the destruction of all wildlife habitat, food, shelter and necessities of life”

            Straight outta “Trolling 101”.

            • Paul says:

              “Those who support….”

              That sounds provocative but again I think he may think it is true. A troll is someone who shoots it out there just to cause a ruckus. The former is probably worse than the latter.

  17. Taras says:

    In other words, transform it into a city park and call it “Wildernessland”.

    I hope New York isn’t stupid enough to listen to that idea.

  18. Taras says:

    Simple solution to this Gordian knot:

    Breach the dam.
    Ponds drain.
    Less attractive destination.
    Reason for having road-access goes away.
    Almanackers carp about something else.

    Done and done.


    • JohnL says:

      Taras made a comment that he himself described as sarcasm, but it may be a valid point. Since some folks are talking about this remaining ‘wilderness’, does a dam belong here at all? Let’s not have selective indignation; either it (dam) belongs in a wilderness area or it doesn’t. If you want wilderness, take out the dam.
      /not sarcasm

      • Taras says:

        Consider all the (intact) dams in the High Peaks Wilderness Area at the time it came into being:
        Marcy Dam
        Colden Dam
        Flowed Lands Dam
        Duck Hole Dam

        Today, only Colden Dam is still doing its job. Flowed Lands Dam was breached decades ago. Irene destroyed the ailing Duck Hole Dam and partially breached Marcy Dam which is now slated for disassembly.

        Given sufficient time and insufficient maintenance, even the Boreas Ponds Dam can revert to a ‘wilder’ state.

  19. Charlie S says:

    Bill Ingersoll says: “Let the Boreas Ponds become a place so remote that people aspire to reach them–let this place become the Cold River of the eastern High Peaks.”

    These kinda people are becoming less and less as the years go passing by Bill.If you live urban like I do you get a good feel of what we’re becoming. A mere example would be one of my neighbors who was out at curbside probably four hours this past Sunday afternoon putting a spit shine to her black challenger. Four hours putting her energy into a material thing! I hardly ever see her or any of my other neighbors and I have assumed that they’re indoors being observed by a television.

    This society,in general,is about having a relationship with the surface aspects of a thing Bill,with a car or plastic….or a handheld device. Not a relationship with the Earth or the powers that come with having some sense of a refined spirit. Not a relationship with things that have real meaning. It is rare to meet somebody who is ‘in tune’ if you know what I mean.They’re out there though they are far and few. Society seemingly aspires to go the way the wind blows.Whatever is ‘in’ is what they crave. Fortunately places like Boreas Pond are not ‘in’ because if they were everyone would be putting up a stink because there’s no roads leading to them.

    • JohnL says:

      Oh my goodness Charlie, your neighbor was waxing her car!!! What’s next, vacuuming out the interior and cleaning the floor mats. Or, horror of horrors, what if she ever decides to mow her lawn with an i.c. engine.
      Suggestion Charlie: Why don’t you just publish a little list of things you will allow your neighbor (and the rest of us) to do. You know, things that you deem to have ‘real meaning’. I can’t speak for others, but I’ll certainly try to comply with your ‘rules’.

      • Paul says:

        What troubles me is that if you have “neighbors” that means you have a house. There is nothing more environmentally devastating that the building of a house!

  20. Charlie S says:

    There’s more to it than just putting all of that energy into her car for four hours JohnL. There is the fact that trash builds up in front of her place and she wont take 30 seconds of her time to pick it up,just lets it build up and I suppose I’m about ready to go down there myself with a large plastic bag and pick it up myself any day now. Yet four hours of what little energy she has put into a car! A material thing. Some people just love their cars JohnL.

    Personally I can give a hoot and I do not wish to write out a list of to-do’s for a mindless neighbor I was just being observant when I expressed meself above. I cannot speak for others but go right ahead and comply all you wish if you so choose.

  21. Marco says:

    I am retired. If it kills me, I will keep on hikin’. There is no reason for the roads in a wilderness area. No motors of any kind. Distance keeps people out more than difficulty. I have and will again haul my canoe through ten miles of trail. That may kill me first, ha, ha. But that simple act gives me a sense of accomplishment that no amount of traffic dodging can. Nor did I ever worry about my kids in the woods. They just needed to tell me where they were headed and about when they’d be back.
    The Cold River is an easy half-day walk. The trails in and out of that section are easy. Most of the ADKs are within easy walking distance from a road. No to the roads in the Boreas Tract and No to mechanized transport. Even retired, being fat and old, I can manage.

    • Paul says:

      The thing going into cold river is basically an old road it has not reverted. It is a long (pretty flat) hike. That is why it isn’t as popular as the Eastern High Peaks. If the hope here is to take some of the pressure off the main trail heads in the HPW it probably makes sense to make it a little easier to get in there. But if the idea is to really limit the visitors due to the remoteness than close the road.

      • Todd Eastman says:

        The Eastern High Peaks (EHPs) have the goods, that’s why they are popular, the Boreas Ponds are lovely woods with fine views but are no match for the EHPs. The Boreas Ponds are the Cold River area with better views.

        This should be about restoring the area’s natural ecosystem functions firstly and providing recreation secondly. Hiking paths are far less disruptive to the ecosystem than roads, maintained or abandoned.

        The discussion so far has revolved far more about the human “egosystem” than about the natural ecosystem. Use this tract as an opportunity to repair the area.

        • Paul says:

          “The Eastern High Peaks (EHPs) have the goods, that’s why they are popular, the Boreas Ponds are lovely woods with fine views but are no match for the EHPs.”

          Good point. I was thinking that after I commented. There isn’t really a good way to get pressure off that area w/o limiting access with something like the limited permits they do in Baxter State Park for Katadin. It’s coming here.

        • Bruce says:


          The roads are already there. If hiking trails are less disruptive than roads, they are disruptive nonetheless. And in many nice places, hiking trails are followed by bridges, boardwalks lean-tos and boat put-ins (more disruption.) Since the roads are already there, allowing bicycles on them is less disruptive than cutting new trails.

  22. Charlie S says:

    Marco says: “No to the roads in the Boreas Tract and No to mechanized transport. Even retired, being fat and old, I can manage.”

    Now that’s the kinda spirit we need to be seeing more of!

  23. Charlie S says:

    Todd Eastman says: “The discussion so far has revolved far more about the human “egosystem” than about the natural ecosystem.”

    It’s always this way Todd! Is why selfies are one of the latest fads.

    • Paul says:

      Those new Lily drones they have are much better than a selfie stick. Preserving Wilderness isn’t about spoiling people’s fun. In fact documenting what is there for people who are not there, even if there are some selfies in the mix is good for the cause. To each his own.

  24. Charlie S says:

    John Warren says: “Just FYI, the Troll is an elected official using a fake name so he isn’t associated with his own views.”

    An elected official! I’d be willing to wager a weeks pay he plays right field.

    • Paul says:

      Many North Country democrats (in left field) are more like right fielders. A north country democrat looks a lot like a downstate republican in many cases. But Don is probably way over in right field, I would agree.

  25. Charlie S says:

    “Preserving Wilderness isn’t about spoiling people’s fun.”

    It is if preserving wilderness is about experiencing it by foot only and motor-heads put up a hissy fit because of this.

  26. Charlie S says:

    You are absolutely correct Paul! About North Country democrats. About democrats in general. Until we take campaign financing out of erections we can expect both parties will continue serving the rich and not the people in this country. A good sign is what has been taking shape with the upcoming erection,ie…Trump and Sander’s popularities. People are fed up with the status quo.It’s about time!

    • JohnL says:

      Finally something I can agree with you on, Charlie. The political status quo on BOTH sides has got to go. Hoo-rah!!

    • Paul says:

      Charlie I think you might want to grammar check your comment!

      • JohnL says:

        I almost said the same thing you did Paul, but the L is nowhere near the R so I figured he actually meant ‘erections’ although I had NO idea if was for the reasons he gave you. And Charlie, are you disagreeable….yes but because you’re SO FAR over the top on most of your comments, it’s in an almost likeable, crazy uncle sort of way. Kind of like our Vice President.

  27. Charlie S says:

    Am I that disagreeable? I’d be willing to wager we have more in common than you might think.

  28. Charlie S says:

    Erections Paul! They’re put up on podiums by the rich and say what they think we wanna hear. They are erected on a stage and play the puppets that they are.

  29. M.P. Heller says:

    Lol. You guys are nuts.

  30. Bruce says:

    I just read the Nature Conservancy’s article on Boreas Ponds. The author said the Conservancy was providing seed money for recreational opportunities in the tract. What’s that all about?

  31. Charlie S says:

    JohnL says: “And Charlie, are you disagreeable….yes but because you’re SO FAR over the top on most of your comments, it’s in an almost likeable, crazy uncle sort of way.”

    So you recognize that I’m different. I take that as a compliment!

Wait! Before you go:

Catch up on all your Adirondack
news, delivered weekly to your inbox