Saturday, April 30, 2016

Pete Nelson: Close The Road Into The Boreas Ponds

Paddling on Boreas Ponds as guest of The Nature ConservancyThe State of New York has completed purchase of the Boreas Ponds Tract, the final stage of its acquisition of the former Finch Pruyn lands from the Nature Conservancy.  Now the classification process will begin.  As with the Essex Chain acquisition the debate will be over recreational access and protection of its biological assets and its aesthetic experience as a wild place.  As with the Essex Chain the debate will largely come down to roads, in this case Gulf Brook Road, a dirt and gravel road that provides access to the interior of the tract from Blue Ridge Road.

It’s obvious why arguments between wilderness protection and recreational access so often come down to roads, but I think that’s unfortunate.  I think it distracts us from the larger issues of land use and protection with which we should be more concerned.  The issue of Gulf Brook Road in the Boreas classification makes a perfect example.  So let’s look at it in a little more detail.

Various combinations of Wild Forest, Primitive and Wilderness classifications are included in the different proposals that have been publicly floated, all of them attempts to accommodate use of at least part of Gulf Brook Road.  As far as I can see they break into four levels, ranging from most access to least.

At the high end of road access is the proposal to keep Gulf Brook Road open to vehicular traffic, allowing direct access to the Boreas Ponds and potential use of logging roads beyond for bicycling and other activities.  This approach, in which the Boreas Ponds Tract would be classified as Wild Forest, is favored by a number of local officials in nearby towns who are interested in maximizing the recreational potential of the tract.

At a more restrictive level of road access are two proposals favored by environmental groups that would have vehicular road use preserved as far as LeBiere Flow, about five miles in.  From there hikers could walk to the ponds and paddlers could paddle and portage the flow to the ponds.  These two proposals advocate for a Wilderness classification for the majority of the tract, but differ in how the road, which would be prohibited in a Wilderness area, would be accommodated.

The Adirondack Council, Adirondack Mountain Club and Adirondack Wild propose creating a Primitive Corridor around the road, as the Primitive classification can allow for a road  as a non-conforming exception while otherwise managing the land as Wilderness.  PROTECT proposes designating land from the Blue Ridge Road north to Gulf Brook Road as Wild Forest, which allows roads.  This option addresses PROTECT’s concerns that the Primitive designation is being abused to conveniently “spot-zone” exceptions to Wilderness protection, a purpose for which it was not intended.  Such a use of the Primitive classification was made by the State for the Essex Chain and there are those who see that as the beginning of a slippery slope.

At the most restrictive level of road access is the proposal to classify the entire tract as Wilderness and close Gulf Brook Road at the existing gate, about a hundred yards in from Blue Ridge Road.  This would mean a hike or portage of several miles to reach the ponds (roughly five miles to the LaBiere Flow, seven miles or so to the Ponds themselves).  This proposal is favored by a number of Wilderness advocates including Bill Ingersoll, author and publisher of the Discover the Adirondacks series of guidebooks.

There are other factors in this classification debate in addition to Gulf Brook Road, among them logging roads, dams and an existing lodge, but you can be sure the road will be front and center in an increasingly contentious discussion.  It’s as though all the important stuff we have to decide centers almost solely upon it.  Does it really?

If Gulf Brook Road didn’t exist we’d still have all the issues on the table – access, recreation, protection, aesthetics – but the focus would properly be on the nature of the land itself, not tortured classifications and road-based arcana (if you find that description unkind or exaggerated, have a gander at the various maps generated by these proposals).

So how about this: let’s pretend Gulf Brook Road does not in fact exist.  Then what?  I think we would discover what the history of Wilderness preservation in the Adirondacks has already taught us: losing a road is not that big a deal.

We no longer enjoy the many roads that once led into the interior of the High Peaks from different directions, yet that fact has not prevented the High Peaks Wilderness from being overused.  There are no vehicular shortcuts to Lake Colden, Flowed Lands, Indian Pass, Duck Hole or Johns Brook Lodge, yet trails to those destinations are among the busiest in the Park.

In comparison to other communities in the Adirondacks, Lake Placid thrives, in large part because of its proximity to the Adirondack Loj trailhead.  If you doubt that, know that marketing studies clearly show that it is Placid’s recreational cachet, not Olympic cachet, which generates the majority of its traffic.  And what outdoor recreational activity is by far the most popular?  Hiking.  Keene Valley gets a similar bump.  People want these Wilderness experiences, they will work for them, and they’ll do so in such volume that pressure on the High Peaks is a significant ongoing management problem.

How do folks in North Hudson and Minerva get a cut of some of this action and at the same time relieve some pressure on the northern and eastern trailheads?  How about an access point with one of the most beautiful trail networks in the Park leading to world-class vistas, situated mere minutes from the Northway?  How about signage that leads visitors to a lovely Interpretive Center, visible from the road and equipped with a store for supplies?  Are we concerned that some people might not be up to the rigors of a seven-mile hike?  Establish intermediate trails.  There’s a stunning lookout that would be a half-mile trail and a 300-foot climb from the gate.   There are lovely streams and cascades only a short walk away.  High ridges and intimate scenery abound from the very first steps onto the tract.

What about paddlers?  How about a guide service that could help people get their gear back to the Boreas Ponds?  If canoe access is a sought-after deal then that stands to be a money maker for some entrepreneur, plus it has the added appeal of historical tradition.  How about a DEC caretaker facility at the Ponds, much like at Lake Colden, but equipped with a small stash of canoes for rent or short-term use?  These are only a few off-the-cuff ideas; there are many more.

Maybe this approach wouldn’t have legs if the Boreas Ponds Tract was a run-of-the-mill destination.  But it isn’t – it’s a marquee destination, quite incredible and utterly worthy of being a mecca for hikers and paddlers.  Upper Works is a fine access point for High Peaks excursions, but it’s a long drive.  The Boreas access is more scenic and only seven miles from I-87. I have no doubt of a future of heavy use, given a well-planned implementation.  So why do we need Gulf Brook Road?  As a recent Adirondack Almanack commenter noted, an interpretive center, signage, and parking situated right at Blue Ridge Road would draw more people than a similar arrangement buried five miles into the interior.

Some say that because the Boreas Ponds lands (or Essex Chain lands, or lots of other places for that matter) are run through with miles of roads they don’t constitute Wilderness anyhow, so why not use the roads that are there?

That’s another counterproductive facet of the road fixation.  The majority of Wilderness acreage in the Adirondacks is recovered Wilderness, where the depredations of commercial activity, roads and all, were allowed to return to their natural state., and it doesn’t take long. I saw that wandering around the McIntyre East Tract last week.  It has plenty of logging and mining roads, some of which were used until quite recently, but the rapidity with which they are being reclaimed by nature is heartening.

The practiced eye can make out the remnants of roads almost everywhere in Adirondack Wilderness areas, and that’s okay.  The history of the park is what it is, and the telltale sign of an old road is evocative of our history.  Yet the barely-discernible presence of an old road bed going up into Railroad Notch for example, does nothing to take away from the experience of that territory as an exquisitely wild place.

A just-completed biological inventory makes a strong argument for a Wilderness classification for the Boreas Tract.  Its size, location and grandeur support a Wilderness classification.  The debate over Gulf Brook Road threatens to overshadow these more important factors.  From what I’ve heard, motor vehicle access on a good stretch of Gulf Brook Road is a done deal, but for the record, I’m with Bill Ingersoll: close it.

Photo courtesy Dave Gibson, Adirodnack Wild.

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Pete Nelson is a teacher, writer, essayist and activist whose work has appeared in a variety of Adirondack publications, and regularly in the Adirondack Almanack since 2005. Pete is also a founder and current Coordinator of the Adirondack Diversity Advisory Council, which is working to make the Park more welcoming and inclusive.When not writing or teaching mathematics at North Country Community College, Pete can be found in the back country, making music or even walking on stilts, which he and his wife Amy have done professionally throughout the United States for nearly two decades.Pete is a proud resident of Keene, and along with Amy and his dog Henderson owns Lost Brook Tract, a forty-acre inholding deep in the High Peaks Wilderness.

116 Responses

  1. Jim S. says:

    I agree 100%. I’m afraid it’ll never happen that way. There doesn’t appear to be enough of a commitment to protection of wilderness from our so called environmental groups for my taste. Hurray for Bill Ingersoll and you too Pete.

    • Pete Nelson says:

      This is a complicated deal and it will go as it goes, I suspect mostly in favor of Wilderness protection. But we can continue to work to turn the tide on our road fixation.

      • Scott says:

        Good article, neat characterization of the ‘road fixation’, and good way to assess the lands and make decisions by removing roads from the equation. I will add that we have an ‘economics fixation’. These debates too often become about revenue numbers, and I wish we could remove economics from the assessments and decisions. I don’t agree with the often mentioned idea that roads quickly restore to their natural state. You mention in the third last paragraph how quickly roads are reclaimed, yet in your next paragraph you write signs or remnants of old roads are common. This is more accurate. Although old roads are okay in a wild place like you conclude, old roads do not allow a true wilderness experience. Because of the old roads, places like Five Ponds, West Canada, and the High Peaks do not feel very wilderness to me.

        • Pete Nelson says:


          My point was that remnants of roads are what they are; we can’t change history. But the remnant of a road is far better than the road in use. You are right to point out that it is an exaggeration that roads return to a “natural state” quickly. I should have been more clear, for I did not mean to imply a state such that no road had ever been. But the evolution to something more like a foot trail does happen relatively quickly, within a lifetime certainly, depending upon the road. As you well know, many if not most of our trails follow old roads of one kind or another. Most of them are less than a century old. And most of the mileage on those is indiscernible from any other foot trail except to a very practiced eye.

  2. W. Davis says:

    I’m all in with you, Pete. We live in an over-mechanized world already, and there is only this one chance for the Pruyn lands. You make solid points on the entrepreneurial opportunities that comport with the wilderness philosophy.

    • Pete Nelson says:

      And that is a point upon which I wanted to elaborate, but it was a little off topic. The synergy between Wilderness philosophy and economic opportunities in the Park is the big story that doesn’t get enough fight behind it. That this synergy is completely missed by so many provides me no end of grim entertainment.

  3. scottvanlaer says:


  4. Tony Goodwin says:

    I think this will be a long battle over classification. As I have said before, the Essex Chain west of the Chain Lakes Road should have been classified as Wild Forest with reasonably easy access to the lakes for non-motorized boating and camping. That would presumably make it easier to classify more if not all of the Boreas Tract as Wilderness.

    Yes, that would be a political trade-off, but if it’s public land bought with public dollars there will inevitably be a political element to classification.

    Here are two other options that have yet to be mentioned.

    So if we do eliminate Gulf Brook Road, I would hope that there would be a shorter trail from Blue Ridge Road constructed to LaBiere Flow. Still not a “portagable” route, but a savings of several round trip miles. Another option is to manage Gulf Brook Road the same way Newcomb Lake Road is classified and managed. Make it the boundary between wild and wilderness, but only permit foot, horse, or wagon traffic. The wagons could bring in canoes and enough food and gear for a comfortable camp or help position avid hikers for an assault on Allen, Cheney Cobble, North River Mt. or Boreas Mt.

    The first few years, the DEC did rent boats for use on Newcomb Lake, but that service ended when, apparently, the number of rentals did not cover the cost of providing the boats. Boreas would certainly attract many for the first few years, but boat rental for those who had hiked in might not be sustainable. Allowing outfitters to legally store boats at the ponds could be an option unless that would set a bad precent for other wilderness lakes.

    I will continue to follow this debate, but will not offer any opinion on how it will turn out.

    • Pete Nelson says:


      The availability of boats at the ponds interests me as an idea for further discussion, though I’m not sure of its efficacy.

      I also thought of a more direct trail, Gulf Brook Road hardly being direct. I need to bushwhack around some more but it looks to me from a map and a years-ago hike during which I skirted Wolf Pond that a scenic, interesting and environmentally sound trail could be had beginning about a mile and a half west of Gulf Brook Road, avoiding the community connector, passing west of Wolf Pond and following the ridge line north either directly to LaBiere Flow or the last 1000 feet or so of Gulf Brook Road below the Flow. This would be roughly 3 1/2 miles one way.

      • Bruce says:

        Now we come to it, the suggestion a “shortcut” might be constructed. The most “environmentally sound” solution beyond total clusure to everyone, is leave Boreas Ponds as it is, and tell hikers the roads are there, use them.

        • Pete Nelson says:

          If an appropriate study concluded that letting Gulf Brook Road revert to a foot trail was an environmentally better choice than constructing a different and shorter foot trail to get to the Ponds, it’d get my vote over any question of shortening the distance. I don’t need a vote on that, I’m content to let experts make those determinations. However, it is not at all a given that would be the better choice.

          Discussing options like this is not akin to compromising or contradicting the point about roads. I wrote a column a few years ago advocating for the closure of a number of existing trails in the High Peaks – even named them. But trails should exist and I’ll take a good trail network over roads any day.

    • Bill Ingersoll says:

      The state is currently in the process of building a trail to Wolf Pond, just south of the Boreas Tract on an older section of state land, with a lean-to to be built near the outlet. It would be easy to extend this trail north to LaBiere as an alternate route to the ponds. If the Boreas Ponds were then connected with one new trail to the Elk Lake-Panther Gorge trail, and another past Cheney Cobble to the Hanging Spear Falls trail on the MacIntyre East tract, then this new property would be integrated into the High Peaks trail network in a way that would make the Boreas Ponds part of a premier backpacking area.

      I am planning to test the backpacking potential of the Boreas Ponds in the near future, getting there early before the road is opened. The 7-mile one-way distance to the ponds is hardly daunting, considering that I cover comparable distances on a routine basis. Yesterday I led a group hike over the Tongue Mountain Range for a total of 13.1 miles. A two-day hike to the Boreas Ponds and back will seem like a leisurely stroll by comparison.

      From what I’ve seen of other Finch Pruyn properties–especially the ones not logged by TNC during the interim period to cover their costs–these roads are not unpleasant places to hike. Give them a few years of hands-off wilderness management, and they’d become excellent trails.

      • Pete Nelson says:

        There you go. I did not know about this trail. It’s perfectly sensible to extend it.

        The distances to “get to” the High Peaks from the Blue Ridge Road are greatly mitigated by the fact that so many fabulous destinations are to be had in the Boreas Tract itself. You need not go far – Wolf Pond is a great pond, just to name one. The outcropping on the ridge near the road entrance that I mentioned in the column affords a tremendous view to the SE. The Boreas Tract makes perfect territory for a multi-day trip that could encompass all the High Peak hiking one wanted.

        Also, I agree with you and disagree with others about the condition of Gulf Brook Road and the relative effort and time frame it would take for it to revert to a foot trail-sized pathway. Again, I’m not knowledgeable in least about road building, but for the most part the road appears soft and well positioned in comparison to many others I’ve walked. Scarify it and I imagine the forest would quickly encroach.

      • Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

        Exactly, exactly, exactly. A trail along the Boreas River from Blue Ridge Road into the ponds…leantos at ideal spots. Trails branching off from there. Close the road, which is extremely unintersting anyway and let nature take it back.

        But just because we want this, people that oppose wilderness will assume we want wilderness for “us” and not for wilderness itself. It’s ridiculous.

  5. Chris says:

    A timber company, local towns and others retain the right to use and maintain certain roads in the Boreas Ponds Tract. The only way to prevent motor vehicle traffic is for the state to buy those easements, which they would of already done if they wanted to. So the only question left is whether the public should be allowed to drive on the roads.

  6. Justin Farrell says:

    Keep it motor free for future generations to enjoy!

  7. J. Hart says:

    Count me in with you and Bill Ingersoll and other commenters here. This entire tract needs to be motor-free.

    There seem to be two general arguments against closing roads to motor vehicles: negative effects on the local economy and restriction of access for anyone/everyone. You make a good point that the likely popularity of this new tract among muscle-powered recreationists will generate plenty of economic activity. As for restriction of access, some places on this earth are special because they are difficult to access. When a unique place is easy to get to and the crowds pour in, the character changes and the magic disappears. Witness Yosemite Valley. Close Gulf Brook Road to motor vehicles.

  8. scottvanlaer says:

    The caretaker at the DEC outpost on Pharoah Lake used to rent out boats. That outpost was removed around the same time frame as the others.

  9. Tim-Brunswick says:

    Here we go again………..there’s just never enough wilderness to satisfy you Folks. Unlike many I don’t consider Pete Nelson to be an “authority” on what should or shouldn’t be done to the lands that belong to all of us and yet too many cannot see or experience these tracts of land because of “Wilderness” Classification.

    The irony is that none of these tracts are “true wilderness” at all and are criss-crossed with logging roads, roads/trails to camps, etc, etc, etc. Hopefully NYS DEC and the APA will treat this property much as they did the Essex Chain Lakes and consider “everyone’s needs”

    • Pete Nelson says:

      Timmy, my boy:

      Yes indeed, here we go again. You trot out the same old objection that none of these tracts are “true wilderness” because of the roads. Good timing! Did you actually read the column… you know, about how overdone the road argument is? Oh well.

      “There’s never enough wilderness to satisfy you folks.” That’s the other point I so dearly love. Wilderness is but a fraction of the lands in the Park, and but a tiny fraction of the the lands in the United States. God, we Wilderness advocates are greedy, aren’t we?

      How can I defeat the argument that we need more developed land? Can I do it by pointing out that nearly the entire country is developed land? No, because apparently it’s a selfish position held by “you folks” to propose Wilderness designation for a magnificent parcel which in its entirety constitutes less than 0.34% of a Park – yes, you read it right – that is largely available to all forms of recreation; yet it’s not selfish to loosen protections so that we can motor around on yet more acreage, because it’s our land and to hell with the big picture.

      As always, the arguments about which position is “selfish” and which position is “elitist” get it exactly backwards.

      • Phil Brown says:

        Bob Marshall was once asked how much wilderness we need. He replied, “How many Brahms symphonies do we need?”

      • Ned says:

        When you use community money for your aquisition you forfeit the right to be the arbiter of its future, because that future now belongs to the public. Nobody is saying you can’t have more wilderness. We ARE saying buy it yourself and don’t ask the rest of us to do it for you. Typical liberal elitist attitude. “The land is for future generations. ..just not yours, but you still have to pay for it” The problem is they’ve been doing it so long they can’t see how selfish their thinking actually is.

        • Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

          Typical conservatard that doesn’t appreciate / understand wilderness and it’s point / purpose. Here is a hint – it’s not for either you OR the backpacker that just so happens to enjoy visiting it.

          • Ned says:

            How quickly the liberals escalate into name calling when their arguments have no substance. Once again, your OPINION about what to do with this so called wilderness is no more or less valid than mine. But when you use public money to purchase the land, it becomes the publics decision as to how it gets used. It’s always amazing to me the people who want to limit access act SO superior to everyone else. Note they expect to use the facility themselves, they just want to make sure nobody else does.

            • Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

              Go ahead and use it. But it ought to be wilderness – it borders substantial wilderness. It can potentially be very wild if naysayers like you get out of the way.

      • Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

        Damn right. That f**l ought to look up and listen to what George Carlin thought about what Americans did to America – turned a beautiful landscape into coast to coast shopping malls and strip malls.

        People like him have dead souls and don’t understand what smart, decent people undetstand. They don’t “get” wilderness so they project their own greed and selfishness onto us for understanding the need for and wanting more wilderness.

  10. CBR says:

    Yesterday on our way to Cheney Cobble we walked many miles, and among others the Gulf Brook Road to the eventual canoe put-in. This particular road goes and up down significantly and continuously, on the way in and it seems even more so on the way out! Cutting a trail may make it somewhat shorter but ups and downs are guarantied. Consequently if the closest parking lot is at the Blue Ridge Road, the Boreas Ponds will be off limits for the vast majority of day’s hiker and paddler and quickly become a paradise for campers (and maybe cyclists). Will it be patrolled regularly then, I doubt it! Sometimes we have to think hard about what we wish for as isolation with relative ease access may bring more negative than positive effects. It’s a given the Gulf Brook Road will not revert to wilderness for decades, as it has been maintained and travelled by heavy machinery for even more decades.

    The exceptions you suggest have a high cost, who will pay for the maintenance of the 7.5-mile Gulf Brook Road for the rare few allowed to drive in as it sports many bridges and culverts?

    Personally I like to see parking a short distance from the Flow but with a fee to covert the cost of maintaining the road.

    I am incline to think you are against the public driving Gulf Brook Road because you do not want it to be a snowmobile trail during the winter months…

    • Pete Nelson says:

      Just to be clear, in writing this column I gave no thought to snowmobiles either way. The community connector project and the question of what snowmobiles will take is an additional issue that must be addressed. My proposal does not address it.

    • Byron says:

      I saw your car and a few others at the gate on the way back from Preston Ponds. Did you notice anyone carrying a canoe?

  11. ADKerDon says:

    Nelson continues to push to deny access for all the people. There is no wilderness. All these lands are forested lands with many roads. All roads must remain open to all the people, not just hikers. All these waters must be open to all the people. Recreation for all. Abolish the forest preserve and return to management for wildlife habitat. Keep the lodge as a site for information and for folks to get out of the weather, especially in winter. Mandate that every canoe and kayak must be taken to a state run boat wash site and cleaned before it can go from one pond to another. Eliminate the pollution and invasive species these people carry from pond to pond. Open these lands for recreation for all the people, all types of recreation! Abolish the forest preserve! Tell these wilderness freaks they are not wanted here in our Adirondacks!

    • Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

      I am cool with that as long as any person that poaches, or doesn’t STFU between the hours of 9:00 and 7:00, or leaves garbage behind, or removes so much as a leaf off a live tree is given at least a $10,000 fine.

  12. rlstolz says:

    Pete, you make some very important points. In particular, the one regarding what draws people to this area. The foregone conclusion, although it sounds reasonable on the surface, that easier access will result in more economic benefit is not supported by facts. People don’t choose to wander into Adirondack wilderness areas grudgingly, and in spite of the lack of easy access; they do it because the access is not easy. They come here because they want experiences that have more ‘wildness’ than the ones that offer easier access. People who don’t value ‘wildness’ in this way often find this notion almost impossible to comprehend. It makes no sense to them.

    Easily accessible recreation is widely available; the ‘wildness’ unique to our area is not. People come from far and wide specifically for that ‘wildness’, and the more the rest of the world develops, the more unique and valuable it becomes. Making this place less wild makes it less unique, and less of a draw for the people who actually do come here and spend money.

    I get the part about residents needing to make a living; it’s a big deal and justifiably so. I have lived in the Adirondacks for more than 30 years and, over that time, I have seen many folks leave because they could not make a go of it. Most of them were not happy about leaving. A significant part of why it’s hard to make a living here is that it is a very desirable place to live, or even to visit.

    Quite a few people, certainly many reading this comment, are willing to forego economic opportunity for the lifestyle we enjoy living in the park. More than anything else, that lifestyle is based upon the availability wild places. If you don’t value that wildness; if you don’t see it as a benefit worth foregoing some economic opportunity for, if you feel entitled to exploit this place for economic gain and you’re miffed at the limited opportunity to do so, then you might find more happiness and satisfaction elsewhere. Digging for gold in a silver mine isn’t going to work out very well.

    Your point about the Boreas tract being a jewell is spot-on. It will draw non-motorized recreation and it will continue to do so for the same reasons it’s neighbors to the north do. People will come to experience its wildness. You could hardly find a better place as a candidate for wilderness.

    The notion that the best way to exploit the place is with easy access and motorized recreation seems both short-sighted and ignorant of what actually draws people to wild places. It also ignores the fact that what draws some users will actually repeal others. I am not suggesting motorized recreation and easy access are inferior. I own a motor boat and I enjoy using it, but it doesn’t fit at all well into a wild setting because its use makes the setting less wild. It’s not about the use itself, it’s about the use and the place fitting each other.

    The towns near all of the Finch Pruyn lands, and especially the Boreas tract, clearly have an interest in getting some economic benefit from these places. I am not aware of anyone who thinks otherwise. But, I think their economic struggles have arisen from, and will continue to (unless they look at things differently) arise from, seeking economic opportunities from the wrong sources. We live in a park, known for its wild places and the availability of solitude – that’s the big draw in the Adirondacks and the Bores Tract is an ideal place for that and the wilder the better. It’s a huge economic opportunity for the area. Motorized access would undoubtedly attract a few visitors but it would repel others – lots of them.

    The biggest problem with the towns in this area, when it comes to attracting economic opportunity, has little to do with what people can do to recreate nearby. It is that they are run down and lack the appeal required to draw visitors who will actually spend money. Until that changes, not much else really matters. People drive north of the High Peaks because accommodations and restaurants are readily available to meet the needs of all sorts of visitors. If similar options were available to the south, shortening the trip for most visitors, they would flourish.

    Finally, the notion that motorized recreation draws bigger spenders is nothing but fantasy. I would not be surprised if it’s true in Old Forge but the opposite is even more true in Lake Placid. Non-motorized recreation is a huge, and growing, industry. Underestimate that at your peril.

    Leaving aside the righteous and contentious debates over each user group getting more of what it thinks it deserves, I think the goose laid an economic golden egg in the form of designating as much wilderness as possible in the Boreas Ponds tract. It could be a win for the wilderness and a win for local communities.

    • Pete Nelson says:


      In this comment you’re elucidating an argument at the heart of the matter. It calls into question the fallacious, self-defeating debate between Wilderness and economic benefit. We need more people to challenge this counterproductive and tired argument, an argument that as you point out, is false on the ground. Your statement that “…It’s not about the use itself, it’s about the use and the place fitting each other…” is a really important part of the logic that defuses these old contentions.

      A perspective from outside the confines of the Park, or even the North Country as a whole, validates your argument even more. People across the United States seek wilderness… we simply need to do a better job of letting people know that it’s actually here. Most outside our area don’t. They think we live in the Berkshires.

      Given greater awareness of Adirondack Wilderness and some decent amenities, I think that southern access to the High Peaks Wilderness, minutes from I-87, is a sure winner. But Wilderness will only be here if we continue to protect it and ensure access. Access doesn’t mean a road. It means preserving it and making it available to the public.

    • Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

      Precisely. As a backpacker and canoe camper I try to get into the interior of only the larger wilderness areas. I bypass altogether easily accessed and small wild forests and wilderness, except for primitive roadside camping while enroute to a big wilderness trailhead and I was too tired at night to drive tge whole way. It ill turn me off and turn me away if that road stays open. It will be a small fraction of it’s potential if it gets overused, especially by tree removers too lazy to go further out looking for dead and down firewood…and people that won’t mind hauling a few cases of beer in for a party but too hungover to carry the bottles and cans back to their cars. People are DUMB and the consideration to not make this ALL wilderness and close down that road is DUMB.

  13. Cecil Wray says:

    Very thoughtful and thought provoking.

  14. George L. says:

    Pete ;

    I like wilderness. That said, would the wilderness experience be enhanced if we eliminated existing road access to such waters as Bog River/Hitchen’s Pond/Low’s Lake, Little Tupper, Lake Lila, and Henderson Lake?

    It would be quite a challenge to carry a boat from the main road. Apart from exhaustion, please tell me what would be gained, and for whom?

    I am open-minded.

    • Pete Nelson says:


      Good questions. A fair answer would take another column or three. So I’ll just write of one example.

      Let me take Lake Lila as that, since it’s a long way down the road. If the road were eliminated and the short carry were no longer an option, I say the wilderness experience would be enhanced in multiple ways: First, there would be a longer and more immersive transition to a wild place, wilderness in heart, in mind and in fact. I have never met the person yet who, having experienced such a transition, did not value it deeply. Having a few places like that is vital. It’s not like such places deny the wilderness experience to anyone. You can launch a canoe at the town ramp in Blue Mountain Lake, proceed into West Bay past Popple Point to the small stream beyond and have a lovely wilderness experience. But when you want to take a next step we need places where that can happen. Second, there would be fewer people once you got there. Third, the intrinsic condition of the land itself as wilderness would change a lot. We have a much greater understanding in the last few decades of the disturbance zone created by roads with motor vehicles, namely that it is much bigger than most would have thought. The difference to flora and fauna would be significant.

      And would access to Lake Lila be prohibitive? Of course not, though it would be harder earned. One could carry an ultra-light canoe. In my thirties I had kids and a desire to paddle lots of places in the back country. I couldn’t afford ultra-light canoes for the family, much less myself, so we took inflatable rafts. We had grand times. Then of course there is Phil Brown and the lawsuit he’s contending. He’ll win, of course, and then Lake Lila will rightly be accessible via the grand tradition of paddle and portage.

      This is but one example. Each is different. Boreas, I contend, is a candidate for complete Wilderness protection if any place in the Park is.


      • George L. says:

        Thanks Pete.

        I think that the immersive transition you mention is perfectly understandable, but highly personal.

        Having fewer people and less disturbance of the forest seem to me to be objectively true and the more compelling argument.

        • Pete Nelson says:

          Aye, and this is why the discussion can be a difficult one, for I think the immersion and the aesthetics that go with it are the most compelling argument. So did those who fought for our twentieth-century conception of Wilderness. The Bob Marshall quote Phil Brown shared above captures it especially well. Some people don’t see any value in Brahms symphonies but do see those who extol their value as elitists and snobs. What to do with that? On the one hand it’s an impossible thing to argue on the basis utility, or on any quantitative basis. On the other hand, it’s self-evident.

          • George L. says:

            You can’t ask someone to like Brahms. You can ask someone not to keep you from listening.

            This distinction seems to me a starting point for discussing access issues in the Adirondacks.

        • Ned says:

          Yes, making access harder does seem to be his objective. And no it doesn’t “enhance my experience ” The more people who can enjoy our State PARK the better. Last I checked, parks were meant to be used.

          • Ryan Finnigan says:

            “Parks were meant be used.” Do you mean used by motor vehicle operators? Give me break.

            • Ned says:

              Yes I do. I can run a marathon, but it doesn’t mean I want to walk 10 miles to get to my destination. What about those who CAN’T walk that far? sucks to be them?

  15. bob s says:

    IMO – there should be compromises over access via roads, or by foot/canoe. Not all aqusitions/areas have be included in the “Wilderness” status. We all have paid taxes for these lands, and some can be accessible to all New Yorkers.

    • Pete Nelson says:

      I don’t think anyone disagrees with your main point. Not all State land should be classified as Wilderness. But that isn’t an issue here. The majority of the Adirondack Park is not classified as Wilderness; even the majority of State-owned Forest Preserve is not classified as Wilderness. The Boreas Ponds Tract is a small piece of a large Park (less than a third of a percent of it) that is entirely appropriate to be classified as Wilderness. That’s the point. Wilderness is the dear asset in the Adirondacks, not recreational forest lands, which are far more abundant. That’s to say nothing of a statewide, nationwide or world wide scale.

      • Bruce says:


        As of 2014, 46% of the Forest Preserve was classified Wilderness. Add to that approximately 3% Primitive and Canoe, which amounts to almost half of the Forest Preserve. Not exactly a “small piece.” I believe your figure includes total park land area, which is more than half privately owned, and thus is not really a part of this discussion.

        On a side note, the discussion I got the biggest kick out of was the easement slated for some extended motorized use. An easement on private land (Lyme) which will continue to have the motorized uses it’s always had, in addition to the public now being allowed to use it. Some Wilderness advocates were going hot and heavy on that one, which made me think, do they really know what they’re talking about. I don’t believe you were in on that one.

        • Pete Nelson says:


          Everything I said is accurate. I didn’t say Wilderness is “a small piece.” I said the Boreas Tract is “a small piece,” and it is. Also, private land is in the conversation, since a lot of it is available for public recreation, to the tune of conservatively half a million acres.

          For the edification of those for whom any doubt might have been created, here are the numbers, right from APA and DEC data. The Boreas Ponds Tract is about 1/3 of 1% of the total Park and 2/3 of 1% of all Park land open to the public for recreation. “Tiny” might be a better adjective than “small.” Land classified as Wilderness is 20% of the Park and 38% of land open to the public for recreation. Adding Canoe and Primitive areas to this has a slight effect, bringing the percentage to 40% of the land open to the public for recreation. That’s considerably less than half no matter how you slice it.


          • Paul says:

            These arguments over percentages you want to be careful with. If you were a supporter of intensive use areas then you could easily say you are getting the way short end of the stick. Some of those places are wildly popular and certainly a boost to the local economy. Why do they only get 0.4%? That is for all of those areas combined.

    • Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

      Find me ONE BIG Adirondack lake for people that want peace and quiet that does NOT allow motorboats. Quit your crying. MOST places are easily accessed.

  16. Pete Biesemeyer says:

    What’s the best outcome? It’s a silly question. Whatever you prefer is the best outcome. It’s not a math problem, it’s a question of values and judgment. While my default position is the wilderness should be top priority in back-country land-use decisions, I recognize that it’s not enough to put that forward as an abstraction. Wilderness protection needs a constituency.The dilemma is that to grow that constituency, people need to actually be able to experience it, and I reject the notion that that necessary imperils the resource. I have hiked that road, and I have to disagree with Pete. I’d like to go back, but I would not hike it again.I endorse CBR’s recommendation.

    • Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

      The boring uneventful road ought to be closed down and a trail from Blue Ridge Road, along the Boreas River, to the Boeas Ponds ought to be created. That would be more consistent with wilderness and wilderness recreation.

  17. Bill Ingersoll says:

    Thanks for the mention, Pete. It’s heartening to know that I’m not the only one who still thinks that wilderness areas should be free of all interior motor vehicle access. The word “motorless” applies equally to floatplanes, snowmobiles, and Toyota Priuses (the car of choice of one of the wilderness advocates in favor of keeping the road for canoe access). Retaining a 7-mile-long inroad into a motorless area for the sole purpose of allowing canoe access to a 1.5-mile-long pond is hypocritical, in my book. A motor vehicle road in a motorless area is a paradox, not progressive advocacy.

    • Pete Nelson says:


      You’re welcome, especially since your two comments on Dave Gibson’s post provoked me to address the larger question about our fixation with roads. As with NYCO, some compromises need to be challenged in the strongest terms.


    • George L. says:

      Bill –

      How would you respond to my question to Pete, above?

      For example, the road to the Lake Lila parking area is about 11 miles.

      Would we enhance the wilderness paddling experience on Lake Lila if we closed that road?

      Should we?

      Just as there is a mythical correlation between motorized access and use of the forest, I believe there also is a myth that correlates difficulty of access with an enhanced wilderness experience.

      For example, you can motor boat to the start of the Red Horse Trail in the Stillwater Reservoir. Once on the Red Horse, you are in the deep deep woods.

      The wilderness experience dominates, even though you arrived by motor.

      I support motor-free woods and waters, but I believe that the rationale and proposals for road-closing arguments have to be sharpened


      • Bill Ingersoll says:


        Thank you for your questions, but there is nothing “mythical” about what I do almost on a weekly basis. I drive public highways to access points on the edge of state land, and then proceed the rest of the way on my own power. This is completely different from driving past the state land boundary directly to my destination, which is the scenario being contemplated at Boreas Ponds.

        • George L. says:

          Thanks Bill.

          Mythical refers to an idea or belief, rather than an act. I think you know that.

          Do we close the access road to Lila, Henderson and Little Tupper?

          Pete, your view?

          • Pete Nelson says:

            Given above.

          • Bill Ingersoll says:

            “Mythical” means non-existent and fantastical, like unicorns and winged horses. My 19 years’ worth of wilderness experiences, on the other hand, are real and well documented. I drive to the state land boundary, park my car, and then proceed by foot or paddle. You are talking about closing paved public highways, I’m talking about keeping a gate locked on a former private logging road. Please consider this my final answer to your question. Thank you, and enjoy the rest of your weekend.

            • George L. says:

              Bill, part of the road to Lila is an unpaved easement, and it is gated. I have been to Lila several times, but I always chose to drive to the parking lot. I could have carried from the highway.

              I just wonder if you have carried or driven to Lila, and if you have a preference.

              I am not questioning your 19 years of experience. I wish I were young enough to have only 19!

        • Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

          It is really outrageous that the powers that be actually seem to be leaning that way. We’r doomed.

  18. Justin Farrell says:

    I like the horse & carriage idea, like the ones I saw being used along the road into Newcomb Lake years ago. Do they still do that? I asked the same question in an ealier discussion with no responce. Seems like that could have potential to be profitable for perhaps a local business or two, and would eliminate the need to rely on a motor to get you there, no?

  19. Tony Goodwin says:

    Interesting comments about Lake Lila, Lows Lake, Little Tupper Lake.

    Taking them in reverse order, Little Tupper is on established county roads. That isn’t going to change.

    Lows Lake/Hitchins Pond exist only because of two major “non-wilderness” dams. There are many well-distributed campsites along these bodies of water, and access should be reasonably easy. That said, I would favor a better parking area for Hitchins Pond closer to Horseshoe Lake to perhaps reduce the number of heavily-laden coolers that I have seen being loaded into boats there.

    Lake Lila would be a long approach without the Charley Pond Road. But the Adirondack Rail Corridor runs right past the lake. Seems that relatively easy vehicle access is not inconsistent with the rail corridor access.

  20. As a 71 year old who would enjoy paddling Boreas Ponds I would prefer to see the road open to the public. While I respect Bill’s 19 years of wilderness experience I would point out that I completed the 46 High Peaks 23 years ago and I still maintain a lean-to that is 4 miles into the High Peaks (this will be my 25th year as an adopter) and I still do hikes of 15-16 miles/day occasionally, but in all my 40 odd years of hiking in the Adirondacks I don’t believe there was ever a point at which I could have portaged my canoe 7 miles to reach a put in. Consequently, I hope Bill and Pete will forgive me regarding their position as a bit of youthful bias if not arrogance, nor do I share their view that closing the road would make it a more attractive destination.

    The suggestion that a Ranger Outpost could be built and that the state could rent canoes adds considerably to the cost to the taxpayers both in terms of personnel, building cost and the equipment. I sincerely doubt that the rentals would anywhere near offset the expense without exorbitantly high rental fees which would add only fit users who were very well off to the extremely fit youthful users who were capable of carrying their own boats that far. If that was a viable option why aren’t there canoes for rent on Lake Colden? And would it be more truly “wilderness” with such amenities? I can remember when there was talk of removing the Ranger Outposts at both Marcy Dam and Lake Colden (not to mention all the lean-tos) because they were “non-conforming structures” in a wilderness area (that was before Bill’s time). Why would they be fitting additions to a newly established wilderness area? It was probably also before Bill’s time when I watched them rebuild the Lake Colden Ranger Outpost by ferrying logs via helicopter. I happened to be carrying shingles to Feldspar lean-to to do some roof repair on that day.

    The horse and carriage (wagon for hauling canoes?) idea is interesting, as is the idea of a business renting canoes at an outfitter by the locked gate with guide and hauling service much like the train that hauls canoes for paddlers on the Moose River but again I question how one reconciles “wilderness” with a built-in commercial business plan. Would an area you have to walk to or have a commercial firm haul your boat to (presumably over the same road they want to be closed) really be more wild than simply allowing a public road access corridor through wild lands? I suppose it all depends on your definition of wild but I would vote for keeping the road open. Feel free to call me greedy if you wish for wanting it to be accessible to me too but Adirondack wilderness is, and for a long time has been, a compromise. Maintaining the existing road seems to me to be the best alternative.

    • Harold says:

      I couldn’t agree more Mr. Bullard and I couldn’t have said it better!

      • Trailogre says:

        But if the road is still there but closed to MV traffic its very easy with a cart to portage your canoe….. is it not?

        Im 56 and I would have no problem carrying a canoe a few miles

        • Harold says:

          Big difference between 7 miles and a “few” miles. To make a 7 mile portage even remotely worth the effort I would expect to camp with my kayak for several days. Hoofing 2 kayaks packed with camping gear 7 miles sounds like a ridiculous idea, not worth the effort. Generally I agree with those who want to move toward the more “wild” classification but this really makes no sense to me. A compromise certainly is in order.

          • bill says:

            I agree that a compromise is in order. Two kayaks and camping gear over 7 miles is not going to work for most people. Keep in mind our regions demographics are aging, soon to surpass Florida. They are likely to be the most common users of the place if we make it accessible for them.

            I realize that some would like to walk there, meandering thru the woods. It does seem romantic. But they can do that. They will not have to drive.

      • Tom Philo says:

        Amen Mr Bullard ~ Seems some people just want to keep everyone over sixty-five that is not in A1 perfect Olympic physical condition out.

        • Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

          Go elsewhere. Plenty of accessible places. Stop fighting the opportunity for wilderness.

    • Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

      This ought to be about wilderness, not about access. People should not automatically assume that something must have easy access.

  21. Justin Farrell says:

    “Would an area you have to walk to or have a commercial firm haul your boat to (presumably over the same road they want to be closed) really be more wild than simply allowing a public road access corridor through wild lands?”

    Yes. There’s absolutely nothing wild about the noise & smell of a gasoline powered engine!

  22. Curt Austin says:

    I think my fixation is that it would cool if I could drive out my driveway, canoe fixed to my roof, drive up the Northway to Blue Ridge Road, drive in towards the ponds. Unload the canoe, and carry it in a reasonable distance – enough to discourage under-aged beer parties and other forms of abuse, but not so far that it would consume half of my energy, or unduly challenge my achilles tendonitis and other maladies. I won’t see many other people, but that should not be the intent; it is a great indulgence to think you deserve solitude on public land.

    That would be a great day. I like the proposals that would allow me to have a day like this. The red squirrels and chickadees will sound their alerts, but I think they enjoy a little excitement.

    • Trailogre says:

      Oh and big agreement with Pete and Bill

      CLOSE THE ROADS!!!!!!!!

    • Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

      We should create wilderness gor wilderness – it is an added bonus to find a spot within it that doesn’t have too many other people there. Just because it is public does not mean that it must be easily accessed.

  23. says:

    Failure to close the road will simply lead to the destruction of this pristine area. The high peaks region is already overrun without the availability of roads. It is so overused that I no longer visit the region.Boreas ponds will meet the same fate with an open road in use. Invasive fish plants,plenty of garbage and trail degradation. That’s just fact.

    • Harold says:

      I travel throughout the ADK’s all 4 seasons. I don’t see the sort of degradation you describe in the lakes and rivers I kayak in or the trails I hike along or the ski trails I traverse. Given your logic we should just put up barriers on the northway and Rt 30/28 and turn the region into a museum!

  24. Boreas says:

    As someone else mentioned, the horse cart model similar to Santanoni Preserve might be a consideration for this situation. Or even an electric shuttle conveyance that can haul canoes as well as people. The buildings needed for this near the trailhead could be used in winter for ski/snowshoe rentals and a warming hut. Just a thought…

  25. It seems as though most of the environmental groups in the park have forgotten what wilderness is. It is curious that in the scientific reports released by the Adirondack Council and Adirondack Mountain Club there is specific mention of the negative impacts of roads and vehicular traffic on wildlife and an implied impact on the spirit of wildness one feels in an area such as the Boreas Ponds, yet both groups somehow think the lands around the Gulf Brook Road would still embody the essence of wilderness if vehicular traffic is allowed down the road.

    It is sad that in such a historic time for the Adirondack Park in terms of land acquisition there is not a group that is clearly articulating the value of wilderness and vigorously fighting for it. My suspicion is this is partly due to the fact that these groups haven’t been able to figure out how to engage young people. From my point of view there is a growing number of younger individuals becoming passionate about the Adirondacks. If this group were engaged in discussions about wilderness I think you would find passionate supporters. Unfortunately, most of the environmental groups can’t seem to figure out how to engage this demographic.

    • Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

      Seriously, a right wing business friendly APA and environmental groups that don’t oppose them. Everything in this country is becoming about business and making a buck and not caring as much about nature and people as they should.

  26. Dave Gibson says:

    Thanks for your post. FYI Adirondack Wild does not take and has not taken a blanket position that the entire length of the Gulf Brook Road should be classified as Primitive, as stated in your post. We do favor an expanded Wilderness to include the Ponds of course and east of the Gulf Brook Rd all the way to the High Peaks Wilderness boundary, but also both sides of the Gulf Brook road where conditions merit that classification. Where the road can be classified Wilderness on both sides, it must of course be closed to motorized traffic. That might be a mile or several miles away from the ponds; neither Dan nor I have not spent enough investigation time there to know, having just been a guest visitor on two occasions. If the APA staff determine, after appropriate study and analysis, that the forest west of the Gulf Brook Rd does not merit a Wilderness classification, that side as well as the road should probably be classified Wild Forest. The results of the field studies and analysis cannot and should not be predetermined.

  27. I guess, as I said before, it all comes down to how one defines “wild”. Some are perfectly okay with accommodating commercial enterprise as long as individuals can’t drive their vehicles the 7 miles in. If the question was “should we build a road into an are that never had one?” I might agree but I think that requiring people to walk an existing road, carrying or dragging their canoe behind them to reach the ponds, is a ‘feel good’ wilderness. Several decades ago I had a DEC person (back when DEC was dominated by preservation types vs the recreation/development types) that the state should rip out all the towns, roads and other human structures from the park, build a wall around the Park and allow nature to commune with itself unimpeded by us nasty humans that obviously didn’t belong there. That is one extreme and its opposite is the mentality that wants to develop the Park into a commercial recreational area. The debate over whether to allow individuals to drive their car or truck into Boreas Ponds is a micro-dispute somewhere between those poles. There is no “right” answer, only compromise. If you feel that you can carry your canoe 7 miles to a put-in, good for you. Congratulations on your fitness, but I beg you to remember that these are public lands and those who can do that are a tiny subset of a small subset of the population who even want to go there.

    I’ll add an observation on the “under-age beer party” comment. After 24 years of lean-to adoption I can confidently say it is the young, fit person who is most likely to make a mess at a lean-to or other destination and leave it for others to haul out. Many late teen to twenty-somethings go in carrying everything but the kitchen sink. You would not believe the stuff I used to haul out from Feldspar lean-to (a similar distance and more difficult hike) because, having tired themselves out getting there, they didn’t want to carry it back out. Yes, there are those lazier ones who like to leave a mess in close proximity to a back country road they can drive into, but at least those messes are easier to haul out for we who clean up after them. The point being that distance doesn’t necessarily mean that such things won’t happen.

    • Trailogre says:

      “Congratulations on your fitness, but I beg you to remember that these are public lands and those who can do that are a tiny subset of a small subset of the population who even want to go there”

      Actually I think its the opposite ….I think the number who want to drive in is very small ………but of course they cant seem to go anywhere without having the convenience of their vehicle …………
      or they are just to lazy to walk the short distance ……..

      Reminds me of the old saying :

      Bad roads, good fishing
      Good roads , terrible fishing

    • Paul says:

      You are a voice of reason in these comments. I agree 100%.

    • Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

      Nonsense. Easier access means more people. And more dumb, careless people.

  28. Justin Crowfox Haner says:

    I feel as though for the most part alot of the argument of people that think the roads should remain is the never ending laziness that fills society today. I spent alot of time in the Schroon Lake side of Hoffman and I see first hand what “easy access” does. it invites the people who want to drive in and tear up the roads that are there just to leave piles of trash and hacked up trees in their wake. I am constantly bringing out bags upon bags of garbage from people that just think it is there landfill. In one spot there were actually two truck loads of house garbage and broken junk piled at the end of a short access road. It took us all of one day and half of the next to clean it all out and then we had to pay to get rid of it. There are hundreds if not thousands of places that are easy access for people to frequent.. how about leaving something for the people that care enough to put the effort across to go to these wild places with no sign of humans once you get there.

    • stilt says:

      A VERY good comment as this is what you are going to get with access roads open.

    • Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

      That is EXACTLY right. Easy access amounts to easy access for riff raff and dirtbags that don’t respect it the way a backcountry wilderness explorer would. There will be trash everywhere, trees cut down, and drunk people howling and hollaring past a normal person’s bed time. Maybe even fireworks – I have ecperienced that while primitive camping near Shelving Rock. I don’t go to the forest to hear buffoons. I go to the forest to try to hear what is in the forest.

  29. Byron says:

    Ah, so the people of New York buy land, but in the interest of keeping it labeled a certain way, only commercial ventures can use the roads that access it to bring their equipment in for you to rent. Umm, no.

  30. Rob Gdyk says:

    I am a disabled veteran who’s only seeking easier access into the tract to accommodate a wider range of users than just the most physically fit. I hope you will understand and take into consideration the handicap limitations for disabled residents and visitors.

    • Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

      Thank you for your service. There are plenty of places you can access in the Adirondacks if you are disabled. That should not stop this from being what it should be – an extention of the High Peaks wilderness.

  31. Jan Hansen says:

    So why is it always all or nothing? Leave the road open for 5 years or less, evaluate the impacts to the area yearly, both economic and ecologic. Go from there. Given time, Nature tends to heal itself from the insults of man.

  32. Paul says:

    I have said in the past given its proximity to the HPW it seemed appropriate to designate this as wilderness. But in reading these posts it becomes clear that this isn’t really an extension of the HPW but more of a paddlers destination. I think I agree with Jan just leave it open so folks can get to the ponds w/o a crazy long carry. If it doesn’t work out then consider closing the road. We often re-classify FP land and usually it is always to a more restrictive classification. What is the rush? If you are in a big rush perhaps it is more of a concern for your own personal interests and not really a preservation question. So we go now from a bunch of log trucks and other vehicles to a few cars and trucks to maybe none later. Have some patience it will always be FP land.

  33. stilt says:

    Even though it states my E-Mail would not be published,it was. Why is this?

    • Boreas says:


      I don’t see it – was it removed? Do you still see it?

    • Paul says:

      It isn’t there don’t worry. You are probably just seeing your email in the reply thing if you want to send another comment.

  34. Paul says:

    A well reasoned and presented position. It is one with which I whole heartily agree. I will be 73 in July. A long hike is great for exercise as well as recreation and keeping down my weight.

  35. Ned says:

    Debate on public access normally has a few good arguments on both sides. In this situation, the writer does not make a compelling case at all. There is an existing road in place that has been used for decades, although the public has not had access to it. Now, after our taxpayer money has purchased the land, the writer is suggesting we limit access to the very land we paid for. I paddle , snowshoe and backpack. I can get into these areas…but many people cant. Those people paid for this land with their tax dollars also, and have every reason to enjoy it. We’re not talking about putting in a KOA campground or opening a KFC featuring spotted owl rotisserie. It galls me when environmentalists take a publicly funded aquisition and seek to “protect it” from the public who purchased it in the first place. Responsible use does not preclude vehicles to transport humans (gasp) into the wilderness. It is within the wilderness after all, where they can rediscover their humanity once again.

  36. Paul says:

    Pete has rightfully talked here about the importance of getting more people and especially more diverse people into wild places in the Adirondacks so that they can learn about it and appreciate it and support its protection when they go back home often to urban places.

    You can look at it a bit like the national park system. Opening up these magnificent places is what actually makes their existence possible.

    Selfishly I want fewer people bothering me in the Adirondacks but that may not be good for its long term survival. This isn’t an area dotted with peaks like the rest of the High Peaks Wilderness. If it is a paddling resources than treat it like one. It should have access more like the St. Regis Ponds have not a 6 mile carry that requires a boat that costs a lot of money to be light enough to get it in there easily.

  37. bill says:

    I think compromise is in order on this issue. Treating it as a my-way-or-nothing situation isn’t going to get us anywhere good. As public land there are various types of people’s needs to serve. It may have been better protected if it remained private, but that is no longer the case.

  38. Charlie S says:

    Pete Nelson says: “the evolution to something more like a foot trail does happen relatively quickly, within a lifetime certainly, depending upon the road.”

    Per example the old road to Indian River way back in that God-forsaken desolate country southwest of the Moose River Plains. One used to be able to drive to the river but when they closed that road up some 30-plus years ago it was quickly swallowed up by a hardwood forest.Now it is a very narrow trail.

  39. Charlie S says:

    Pete Nelson says: “We no longer enjoy the many roads that once led into the interior of the High Peaks from different directions, yet that fact has not prevented the High Peaks Wilderness from being overused. There are no vehicular shortcuts to Lake Colden, Flowed Lands, Indian Pass, Duck Hole or Johns Brook Lodge, yet trails to those destinations are among the busiest in the Park.”

    You make some very valid points Pete. There is logic in your thinking and I am so glad you are out there. You have what too many of us lack…imagination. And when W. Davis says “We live in an over-mechanized world” it makes you wonder why is it that more of us just don’t get it? There’s hardly any steps and measures towards preserving for those generations yet to be it’s always about me me me.

  40. Charlie S says:

    rlstolz says “Making this place less wild makes it less unique…”

    Uniqueness is something that you wont find in unspiritual America.

  41. Charlie S says:

    Harold says: ” Given your logic we should just put up barriers on the northway and Rt 30/28 and turn the region into a museum!”

    I am reminded of Clarence Petty in his biography when he said something along the lines of “If it were up to me there’d be a wilderness from the Adirondacks right to the steps of the State Capital.”

  42. David Buckbee says:

    Seems you want Wilderness your way. If it’s ok to have a caretakers cabin, that’s not wilderness. Having a rental buisness in the tract is not wilderness. To take your ideas further – Lake Lila would be inaccessible without the long road in to the portage. Essex Chain is also a very long way in fron the highway. Sure Santanoni has a horse & wagon service and a historic district with a boat house, otherwise paddlers would have a hard time accessing THEIR lands and water. It’s great the State owns the Boreas Ponds Tract, it was purchased with money from all the tax payers, only a very small percentage are in shape or equipped to get a canoe into the ponds without the road access, most people willing to go deep into the wild respect it enough to destroy it. The road also saves valuable time for search and rescue in the area. If you maintain the road but keep the gate locked IT’S still not your definition of Wildernes.

  43. Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

    Lets consider the impact on wildlife; if the road is closed hunters and trappers would have a harder time getting deep into the interior. Wildlife would thrive more in the core of this tract if that road was closed. That would make it truly “more” wilderness than a wilderness with more people, more hunters, more trappers, and less wildlife.

    Paddlers could drive another half an hour to Upper Works and do the 10 minute carry to Henderson Lake and have a very similar experience to a paddle on the Boreas Ponds.

    I am so sick of people fighting wilderness and I am even more disgusted with environmental groups legitimising anti wilderness arguments.

    • scottvanlaer says:

      The two “green” groups that lay claim to environmental advocacy but do little are the ADK and the Adirondack Council. The ADK is really just a club of people who enjoy hiking in the area. They have an extremely large membership and there is this myth that if you enjoy hiking you must be an environmentalist. In reality the ADK just advocates for more areas to hike and easy drive up access to the hikes.

      The disintegration of the council is more disappointing as they were an important environmental voice in the past. The Be-Wild-Coalition is a complete farce. There was a time when “green groups” wanted ranger cabins in the interior of wilderness removed. Now they advocate for interior trailheads promoting auto traffic to a location that their predecessors would have opposed a department cabin for staffing purposes. How did pseudo-environmentalists get control of these groups? It would be like the NRA endorsing the Safe Act. Their actions don’t match their mission statements.

      This is the wilderness proposal by a group that truly gets it…or cares.

  44. antonino d manzella says:

    How about this. Leave it alone. You do need to consider the community that lives there. Adk park is hugh as it is. This is for all the people not just the few. No reason it cant be somthing for all. Just need to sit and figure whats best for all. Me im partial to keeping road so theres a 2-3 mile carry to ponds.
    And the state also has to have access for handicap people. Im just a simple person that enjoys camping. Fishing. Kayaking. Cross country skiing. As do all in my family. This would make a great access to get out there.

  45. David Buckbee says:

    OK: I walked into “The Ponds” August 11th with a canoe on wheels. The road is quite boring almost the entire length. LeBiere Flow while beautiful was low and a connection to the ponds was impassable. Is the hike doable? Yes, (we are 68 & 74) but with a boat you need a good set of wheels. The commonly seen 8 inch variety probably won’t suffice. The attractions are the gorgeous view, and of course the ponds themselves. While we were in there a group of ENCON folks DROVE in and they were there merely on a field trip to take in the sights. Taking both sides of this argument into consideration, and having actually walked the road and paddled the ponds, I would recommend as a sane solution – unlock the gate nearest the Blue Ridge Rd., and establish a parking lot at the second gate which is half way or about 3 miles in. This would be a reasonable compromise, although
    I personally would like people to be able to drive in as far as the junction of Trout Pond Rd.

  46. Ari says:


    While I largely agree with your rationale, I think the strongest argument for closing the road is in the cost. Proponents of opening the road (and maintaining the dam) are asking the New York State taxpayer to create public infrastructure that was not there before. Sure, it’s already “built”, but maintaining that infrastructure is costly, very costly. I found some government studies online that estimate the cost of maintaining gravel roads at roughly $8,000 per mile per year. If DEC opens 5 miles as a public highway as BeWildNY presently proposes, that would be $40,000 per year. It would be even more under other proposals floating about. Now that’s just the road. What about the dams? Past DEC decisions about other dams in the high peaks have cited costs in the millions for each dam when those dams failed. When the next Irene comes, and there will be at least one in the coming decades, who is going to pay for repairing not one but two dams?

    According to this article (, DEC’s 2015 budget for High Peaks Wilderness Area was $325,000. The new tract adds 20,758 acres to bring total area up to 213,443 acres (I am excluding other proposed additions/consolidations). Assuming the budget is increased proportionally based on the area of the addition, that justifies DEC getting roughly $39,321 more to cover all costs of managing the tract per year. The budget for routine patrols, trails, and lean-tos would be blown on the cost of the roads alone.

    So what the towns, the Adirondack Council, ADK, and everyone else clamoring for is really an unfunded mandate on a cash-strapped agency so more people can paddle (or snowmobile, depending on the proposal) there. And they are offering no data whatsoever to suggest that being able to drive there will generate new economic activity within the local economy, let alone the for the whole state. Sure, more people will see the view from the pond, and it is a lovely view. But the view will be there regardless — the Nature Conservancy and we, the people of New York, already have assured that. And the ponds will be there, albeit a little smaller, when the dams fail. Economics and common sense suggests that whatever people were going to do or spend visiting the ponds by car they will likely do or spend somewhere else in the park or state. There are certainly ample, car-friendly opportunities nearby (and throughout the state) for paddling and snowmobiling. Wilderness is a very cost-efficient way to provide public access to these resources, perhaps the most efficient. That as much as any other reason is why the state has decided in the past to keep so much of the forest preserve as wilderness. It’s often the cheapest way to keep the land “forever wild”. And the booming business in Keene Valley and Lake Placid shows it can be quite good for business too.

    If we want to provide easy paddling access in the tract, why not focus on the splendid waterways near the edges, especially Wolf Pond? It has a lovely view that in some ways resembles Boreas. And you do not have to break the bank to provide easy access from the nearby, already public highways.

    • Ned says:

      Ari makes a well reasoned argument. However, when he says maintaining the road is an unfunded mandate on the people of NY, he neglects to mention that the actual purchase falls into the same catagory. By his own reasoning, the state should never have bought the land at all if it was concerned with taxpayers money. I suspect his actual motivation is ” buy the land…BUT, don’t allow access to anyone but him because other people will ruin the wilderness. ..but he won’t.

      • Anthony manzella says:

        I agree. Its our money also. If state cant maintain it. Why buy it? Also funds are down? Well i know my licenses fir hunting and fishing help pay fir alot of dec / conservation projects. Maybe its time to start licensing backpackers?