Friday, May 13, 2016

Towns Favor Wild Forest Designation For Boreas Ponds

Boreas_Ponds Map_20160401Five local towns have set forth a land-use proposal for the newly acquired Boreas Ponds Tract that would allow mountain biking and “reasonable” motorized access — an alternative to plans supported by environmentalists.

Both the towns and environmental groups have proposed classification schemes that divide the 20,758-acre tract into Wilderness, where motors and bikes are prohibited, and Wild Forest, a less-restrictive classification. The major difference is that the towns recommend that the Boreas Ponds themselves be designated Wild Forest.

Under all the plans, most people would be allowed to drive on the dirt Gulf Brook Road only as far as LaBier Flow, an impoundment on the Boreas River, the outlet of the ponds. From there, hikers would have to walk a mile or so to the ponds. Canoeists would have to paddle up the flow and then portage to the ponds.

However, the towns are proposing that two additional parking areas be established on the south shore of Boreas Ponds. One would be used by guides and their clients. The other would be used primarily by the disabled. Two spaces in the second parking area would be reserved for anyone who obtains a permit — similar to the arrangement at Essex Chain Lakes.

The plan also calls for creating two multi-use trails on old logging roads around Boreas Ponds. The inner loop, at the edge of the Wild Forest area, would be used for bicycling as well as hiking. The outer loop, in the Wilderness area, would be used by horseback riders, horse wagons, and hikers.

In addition, Gulf Brook Road would be a snowmobile trail in winter.

Ron Moore, the supervisor of North Hudson, where the Boreas Ponds are located, said the goal is to boost tourism by providing relatively easy access and by offering a variety of recreation.

The towns’ plan, he said, “provides better access for everybody — the young and the old, the physically fit and the handicapped. Everyone has a chance.”

Yet Moore also noted that most of the tract, some 10,620 acres, would be classified Wilderness. Under this plan, the state would be able to combine the High Peaks Wilderness and the Dix Mountain Wilderness, one of the goals of the environmental groups.

The state can permit motorboats on lakes classified as Wild Forest, but Moore said he opposes allowing gas motors on Boreas Ponds. “We have talked about electric motors,” he said.

Willie Janeway, executive director of the Adirondack Council, said only a Wilderness designation guarantees that Boreas Ponds will remain motor-less forever. “If it isn’t Wilderness, all bets are off for what may be permitted in the future,” he said.

The five towns — North Hudson, Newcomb, Minerva, Long Lake, and Indian Lake — bill themselves as the Upper Hudson Recreation Hub, a coalition that formed after the Nature Conservancy bought 161,000 acres of former Finch, Pruyn land. Most of the land lies within the five towns, and local officials want to see it managed to the towns’ economic benefit.

The Nature Conservancy sold 65,000 acres to the state (and protected most the rest with conservation easements). Just this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo visited the Adirondacks to extol the acquisition of Boreas Ponds, the last stage of the multi-year deal.

GateIn some respects, the towns’ plan resembles a proposal of Protect the Adirondacks. In both cases, Gulf Brook Road would serve as a snowmobile trail and as a boundary between Wilderness and Wild Forest. However, Protect says the ponds themselves should be classified as Wilderness, which would preclude mountain biking and the extra parking areas.

The Adirondack Council and Adirondack Mountain Club want to see the land on both sides of Gulf Brook Road classified as Wilderness. In this scenario, a snowmobile trail would be cut on the southern edge of the Wilderness area, more or less paralleling Blue Ridge Road, a county highway.

The three environmental groups agree that visitors should be allowed to drive as far as LaBier Flow. For now, the road remains gated, forcing people who want to visit Boreas Ponds to hike more than six miles.

Moore said the towns will lobby state officials to open the gate to allow tourists to drive at least part of the way to the ponds. “I think for the foreseeable future the gate is going to be remaining at that point,” he said.

In his visit Tuesday, Cuomo urged the Adirondack Park Agency to approve a classification scheme for the Boreas Ponds Tract as soon as possible. Moore said he hopes that decision is made within six months. He’d like to see a management plan for the tract in place next year.

Map provided by the Upper Hudson Recreation Hub.

Photo by Phil Brown of gate at start of Gulf Brook Road.


Related Stories

Phil Brown is the former Editor of Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack. Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing. He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.

50 Responses

  1. scottvanlaer says:

    If you create these interior trailheads you really fall into the classification trap of Functional Wilderness vs Virtual Wilderness. Much of the land will still legally be allowed to be classified as Wilderness on either side of the road as it dead ends (Wilderness areas can’t cross roads unless mgmt lines can out flank the road) but in practicality, for the people visiting and the ecosystem, it will not in function, be a Wilderness. Will this proposal create any more revenue for the towns than a proposal that creates a functional wilderness?

  2. scottvanlaer says:

    If the towns only care is maximizing profit for this new state land why don’t they suggest a camp ground be built around the ponds, something like exists at Fish Creek? I think it would be very popular.

  3. Phil Brown says:

    Updated with reaction from Willie Janeway of Adirondack Council.

  4. JH says:

    It is absurd to say that the only economic draw for the Boreas tract would be motorized access. Are these town leaders not familiar with Lake Placid and Keene Valley? Trailheads with wilderness access bring in high volumes of wilderness seekers and explorers. The parking lots for the Adirondack Loj and the Garden on a Saturday morning prove that. I completely respect the fact these leaders want what they think is best, economically, for their towns, but what about what is best for the natural community? Focusing the debate between wilderness and wild forest on economics is a dangerous road to travel down because it largely ignores the natural community we’re supposed to be peacefully coexisting with.

    • State lands are classified to guide managment by recognizing land’s “capacity to withstand use” (ADK Park State Land Master Plan). Economics are not really a factor when considering classification according to the APSLMP. If recreational use under a specific classification will negatively affect land’s ecological value or natural beauty, the APSLMP suggests greater recreation restrictions. Economics are not the driver. See our recent scientific report on Boreas Ponds:

  5. Justin Farrell says:

    A friend & I visited the area on foot last weekend, and we were surprised to see a second locked gate at 3.25 miles from Blue Ridge Rd, with ample parking space in the nearby gravel pits. Interesting that this second gate hasn’t been mentioned in any of the discussions that I’ve been following. It seems like we’re debating only three options…close the entire road, keep the road open as far as LeBeir Flow, or keep the road open to the dam at Boreas Ponds.
    I’m in favor of a “Wilderness” classification for the enitre tract, but realize that this will probably end up somewhere in the middle to find an acceptable compromise from all user groups, and I think that this second gate might have some potential to at least be a part of the discussion & commenting process.

  6. J. Hart says:

    This land is now owned by the State of New York. That means that every resident of the state should have an equal say in how the land is classified. It appears that local town leaders would like their opinion to carry more weight than the citizens in the rest of the state. Why should that be the case? Isn’t it possible that town supervisors take advantage of their local political position to promote their personal views of how lands should be classified? Do the towns have any evidence that their preferred land classification (Wild Forest) would have greater economic impact than Wilderness classification? That seems to be an assumption on their parts. How about some evidence? Are the towns aware of the overflowing parking areas at Adirondack Lodge and Garden? Those cars brought people looking to access Wilderness land, not Wild Forest.

    If the argument for classifying large parts of the Boreas tract as Wild Forest is to “boost tourism,” there should be some evidence that it would, in fact, do that. In deciding the classification for the Boreas Ponds land, the APA should not give more weight to the opinions of local leaders, but rather take into consideration economic realities based on evidence, and give equal consideration to the preferences of New York citizens who live outside the park.

  7. Todd Eastman says:

    Perhaps the Council and the ADK will rebound from their previous equivocations on Wilderness and development within the Park.

    The local town leaders have between little and no experience in land-use planning!

  8. scottvanlaer says:

    Willie Janeway, executive director of the Adirondack Council, said only a Wilderness designation guarantees that Boreas Ponds will remain motor-less forever. “If it isn’t Wilderness, all bets are off for what may be permitted in the future,” he said…If it’s not classified as wilderness and they found Wollastonite in them there hills they could have a huge open pit mine, err, I mean, if it’s wild forest they could have a snowmobile trail!!!”

    • Bruce says:


      Why would a Wilderness classification guarantee no motors forever? The SLMP classifications (no matter what they are) are only as good as the people administering them. What’s the deal with Adirondack Loj, isn’t that in a Wilderness area? And what about the over-used and abused trails in the High Peaks Wilderness…is that what “wilderness” is all about?

      • Boreas says:

        Keep in mind the Loj was a private inholding into what became the HPW. I wouldn’t think there would have been any SLMP amendments to allow that type of incursion if the Wilderness designation was already present. But I do see your point.

      • scottvanlaer says:

        I would say a wilderness classification is the best bet against motors forever. The Adirondack Loj is private property and not Forest Preserve. It’s actually not an inholding, although their parcel where JBL sits is.

  9. adkcamper says:

    So lets remember a few things in regards to gates. Santanoni is gated and is 5 miles back in. Little Tupper Lake is gated and is 5 miles back in. The Kushaqua tract is gated and is 5 miles back in. Although it seems that these locked gates have keys which have made their way to those outsiders. Many of the campgrounds have gates. Just buy the land and gate it. So much for the NYS taxpayers using their land.

  10. Diane says:

    Click on the BeWildNY ad. Write the Gov. Sign the petition. Like the BeWildNY Facebook page. Share w friends. Take action at every opportunity. Rally your fellow fans of wilderness.

  11. BillW says:

    Adk Loj is an fine example of a road some miles into the Wilderness to a trail head. I guess I think having this road open to the dam at the ponds is a similarly good idea. Then it would be a decently located trail head.

    I would not allow motors on the ponds, maybe electric motors, but not outboards mostly due to the noise. I’m fine with the idea of bikes on the existing roads around the ponds. Making it open to day trippers, I would restrict camping options to a very small number making it a place to visit but not easily stay in any great numbers.

    I like that this proposal still allows the creation of the larger High Peaks Wilderness so it has marketing cache.

    • Scott says:

      Coreys Road primitive corridor open to public vehicle use in the High Peaks Wilderness is a great exception so hikers can drive in farther to the interior trailhead.

    • Scott says:

      Corey Road primitive corridor open to public vehicle use in the High Peaks Wilderness is a great exception so hikers can drive in farther to the interior trailhead.

      • scottvanlaer says:

        Yes, I think the proposed interior trailhead would be like the 2 on coreys and upper works. They are remote and the towns get no benefit, probably lose money when you consider the road maintenance. Adk Loj, I think is the best success of the Adirondack model. Private business has built up around it benefiting from the public while also providing services, amenities and educating the users. If the trailhead was along blue ridge road that could be possible here. That is where the Essex chain UMP had it’s greatest failing for the town.

    • The Adirondack Loj is on private land that is has wilderness on the east, west, and south sides. The road approaching the Loj does not go across or through state land.

  12. Bill Ingersoll says:

    I’ve been to Boreas Ponds (on foot!) and it’s a beautiful place:

    Having seen the place, and having explored a chunk of its shoreline, it’s clear to me that this is not a canoe-camping destination. We’re talking about a body of water that is only 1.5 miles long, with low shorelines that are often marshy, wet, and thickly forested. This is no Lake Lila, capable of supporting dozens of parties at the same time, with a scenic campsite on every bay and every point. Boreas Ponds is essentially a sprawling wetland with some open water in the middle. (I recommend NOT going there until after black fly season!)

    Sure, there has been motorized access to Boreas for decades, and the pond has fared well. But let’s not confuse the past–where only a privileged few had access to drive past the gate–with what’s being proposed here: unfiltered public access, with the underlying assumption that more is better. Sorry, but no. Motor vehicles shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the ponds.

  13. Tim-Brunswick says:

    Sure so now only a few “physically fit” people will be privileged to see it. Wild Forest works for everyone and Todd Eastman “does” have experience in Land Uase and Planning???


    • Boreas says:


      I am no longer physically fit. There are plenty of places where motorized access IS allowed that I can not explore or enjoy. Should we pave the park so anyone can enjoy every inch of it? Wouldn’t be much of an experience, would it? I am willing to accept my destination limitations so that others can have a better experience. Don’t conflate access for the impaired with access for the lazy.

    • Cranberry Bill says:


      I am joined with you philosophically.

      I am 66 years old and applied for the future space mission to Mars. They told me I was too old, so I sued the government for millions of dollars and won. Now I am buying the Adirondack Park in total, and keeping everybody out forever, except at the Newton Falls Hotel, which I will own, refurbish, and run for disabled Adirondack hikers and campers. I am also leveling Mount Everest so we can all reach the top.

      Bill Ott
      Lakewood, Ohio

  14. Pete Klein says:

    Gee, this is about as surprising as the environmentalist wanting it to be classified as wilderness.

  15. Tom Payne says:

    When is the first wilderness kegger this year? Don’t you just love the Albany opera. The same old Albany act of the world is coming to end if it is not all classified wilderness. It was a working forest till a few years back. Now magically in Albany it has turned pristine overnight. I can smell a backroom deal brewing because the nature conservency has made stipulations with the blessings of the Environmental Lobby. And with the Remsen Lake Placid travel corridor plan now being reexamined. More Albany skulldugery in the dark. NYS definitely lives up to its title as the most corrupt state in the union.

    • Justin Farrell says:

      For what it’s worth, last weekend a friendly gentleman from TNC stopped to say hello to me as he was driving in as I was hiking out along Gulf Brook Re, and he was nice enough to share some ‘on the ground’ info with me, and he seemed genuinely happy to see someone from the general public actually hiking the road.

  16. Charlie S says:

    JH says: “I completely respect the fact these leaders want what they think is best, economically, for their towns, but what about what is best for the natural community? Focusing the debate between wilderness and wild forest on economics is a dangerous road to travel down because it largely ignores the natural community we’re supposed to be peacefully coexisting with.”

    Why start peacefully co-existing now JH? In just a generation or two this society is going to be 95% afflicted with NDD (Nature Deficit Disorder.) Who will be fighting for what’s left then? It’s mindless the thinking that goes into these proposals… especially when you consider the temperature extreme’s we’ve been experiencing,invasive species taking over. A sick wilderness has a better chance of healing itself when there is more of that wilderness….not less.

    Ron Moore says: “the goal is to boost tourism by providing relatively easy access and by offering a variety of recreation.”

    There’s that small-minded,short-term, conservative mentality all over again.

  17. George L. says:

    Given that the Boreas tract is now protected by the New York Constitution, and given that (the pre-automobile) 1894 Constitutional amendment provides that New York’s Forest Preserve “shall be forever kept as wild forest lands …”, it seems to me, perhaps too simplisticly, that economic or access concerns are not a legitimate consideration in how the new lands are used.

    The towns and others are treating the Forest Preserve as if it were a state park, which it is not.

    Proposing a road in the Forest Preserve, because (it is argued) drivers and their passengers will buy goods and services locally, is as inappropriate as proposing the closure of all roads to state parks, because roads detract from a wilderness experience.

    Both ideas are a little crazy.

    The challenge of maintaining viable communities within the state Forest Preserve is a vital but separate matter, which the State should and can address through economic development and local assistance.

    Wilderness preservationists should join with local towns to demand more State aid to localities. In return, town officials should support wilderness treatment of the Forest Preserve.

    Let’s face it. Opening the road into Boreas Ponds (it’s already open to Henderson Lake) will not lift Newcomb’s boat.

    • Bruce says:

      George L,

      If I understand your comment correctly, I agree. You have the “let’s preserve it as Wilderness” in one camp, and the “let’s have motorized access” in the other. Both camps have valid arguments, and the one point upon which they agree is, “there are enough other areas for you guys”. When we have such diametrically opposing views and a decision must be made, the sensible answer will either be compromise, or no one gets anything (total protection).

      The towns have come up with a workable compromise which offers a little something for most folks, and the recreational aspect cannot be separated from the economic aspect, no matter what decision is reached.

      • Boreas says:


        Your statement – “… the sensible answer will either be compromise, or no one gets anything (total protection).” – seems to be a choice between Wild Forest A, Wild Forest B, or an ‘off-limits’ Wilderness classification. A Wilderness classification would hardly mean “no one gets anything”.

        I have never felt it is imperative that every state land acquisition end in increased human access. Ultimately, a ‘preserve’ should do just that – preserve. The more human access there is in an area, the more ecological stress there is on that area – the HPW being a perfect example of that.

        I would rather see some of these controversial classifications proceed with more caution. Why is there a need to make a disposition immediately? Why not do it in stages and assess the impact of each stage? Start with a classification of ‘Potential’ Wilderness” for a few years, then gradually add more and more types of access – evaluating at each stage. After the impact of each stage is assessed, then come up with the best designation to best balance access vs. preservation. Some areas may be able to handle a lot of access, others may not. Ultimately, the final designation should fall not only to DEC or APA, but a compendium of groups each having an equal voice that would be compelled to reach an actual consensus. But I guess that would only happen in a perfect world.

        • Charlie S says:

          Bruce says: “the recreational aspect cannot be separated from the economic aspect, no matter what decision is reached.”

          And therein the problem lies.

  18. Justin Farrell says:

    Allowing public motorized access to this area is in no way the best way to preserve these lands & waters! This proposal is clearly economically driven only, with absolutely zero regard for the environment, or the furure of its wild character & habitat.

  19. Dan'L says:

    I remember the Essex Chain debate in 2013. As Yogi said, its Deja Vu all over again!!!

  20. Peter says:

    The town supervisors would serve their towns way better by supporting wilderness and then using the resulting boost in political capital to garner support for infrastructure development in their towns. The governor would leap at that opportunity. The environmental groups would unilaterally back it, and the people the supervisors represent would actually benefit.

  21. troutstalker says:

    I recently paddled in an area with a wild forest designation and was totally discusted to the point that I will never return there again. I checked out 7 campsites and they had trash in the fire pits and feces and toilet paper on the ground, some not far from the water! One island site had a lean to and outhouse. 10 feet from the outhouse was a tree with feces and toilet paper! Numerous live trees were cut down for burning also. Wild forest designation makes it too easy for these lazy slobs that don’t know the proper outdoors etiquette. We need to protect our beloved Adirondack Mountains and ponds,lakes and wildlife from these slobs.I also found a,big wad of monofilament fishing line laying next to the pond with ducks,and loons. PROTECT IT! Designate it WILDERNESS!

    • Boreas says:

      Perhaps with less restrictive land classifications, the towns/counties should pick up more of the increased patrolling & maintenance costs to keep this type of thing from happening. If local governments had more of the responsibility of cleaning up after their “guests”, they would realize that any economic gain comes at a cost. We shouldn’t depend on DEC to do everything.

      • troutstalker says:

        We need more restricted access because these slobs are lazy due to easy access. Perhaps a little more education before entering the out of doors! The people that enter the wilderness are usually adventurers that know the proper etiquette. I came across a group of paddlers that didn’t hang their food and they had bears visiting them! The fools were throwing firecrackers at the cubs and when they turned around momma was standing there! They were very lucky! Why do you have to drive in to your destination? Are you one of the lazy ones? The hike in is part of the adventure! I’m 68 and pack and portage my kayak in one trip! People will not pick up after these slobs.Would you go in and pick up toilet paper and feces? Boreas Ponds need a wilderness classification!

        • Boreas says:


          Am I one of the lazy ones? No. I am on your side. I too feel the road should be closed. I was simply arguing that IF it is opened, someone needs to do the dirty work. It shouldn’t always get passed along to DEC. If the local officials want it open, then they should shoulder some of the responsibility of having it open.

          • troutstalker says:

            Boreas, I apologize. I agree. The DEC has enough on their plate. If they can reap the benefits of easy access, they can adopt a clean up plan to go along with those benefits.

  22. troutstalker says:

    I was paddling in a wild forest area recently and was totally discusted to the point that I will never go there again. Every campsite had either garbage in the fire pit and or toilet paper on the ground. At one site there was 13 trees where slobs relieved themselves.Anot her campsite had an outhouse provided and 10 feet from that was a tree with human feces and toilet paper! Why on earth would anyone want to make easy access for these discustng slobs! There has,been numerous times that I have paddled other lazy people’s trash out of lands classified as wild forests! We need a Wilderness classification to protect our Sacred Adirondack Mountains from these slobs! WILDERNESS ALL THE WAY!

Wait! Before you go:

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