Thursday, June 9, 2016

DEC Seeks Major Expansion of Moose River Plains Bike Trails

The main road in the Moose River PlainsThe New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has released for public review a plan to significantly expand recreation opportunities in the Moose River Plain Wild Forest by building a 25-mile mountain bike trail network and rerouting and improving others; improving bridges; “clear[ing] vegetation from existing overgrown trails”; building two more parking areas along Route 28; and closing sections of new Seventh Lake Multi-Use Snowmobile Corridor Trail to mountain bikes.

The plans are laid out in what a Draft Amendment to the Moose River Plains Wild Forest Unit Management Plan.

The Moose River Plains Complex includes what is considered among America’s largest primitive campgrounds, located in Hamilton and Herkimer Counties. It contains hundreds of miles of active and inactive roads, more than 100 primitive roadside campsites, 130 miles of marked trails, and numerous lakes and ponds.

A pdf of the Draft Amendment can be downloaded from the DEC website.  The current UMP, completed in 2011, can be found here, along with maps and other resources:

Comments may be sent to McCrea Burnham, 625 Broadway, 5th Floor, Albany, NY 12233-4254 or e-mailed to The deadline for comment is July 8, 2016.

Photo of the Moose River Plains by John Warren.

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31 Responses

  1. Tim-Brunswick says:

    I’ve read the plan with associated maps and I’m not quite sure I understand the designations that NYSDEC is giving to some of the proposed trails. For example I hiked the Wilson Ridge Trail last Fall all the way into Little Moose Lake and the Old Hunting Camp and beyond to where Little Moose Lake flows out and becomes the South Branch of the Moose River.

    I did see the Mountain Biking signs, however there is no way that a Mountain Biker could navigate/pedal much if at all beyond that area since at that time the trail/logging road was overgrown and cluttered with blow-downs and other natural obstacles. I did not hike much beyond that, but it didn’t look to me that anyone (DEC) had done much more than put signs up and the distance between that point and Lost Pond and on to the Otter Brook Truck Trail is miles upon miles!

    Beats me, but perhaps the trail crews have been busy because the “Status” of both the Otter Brook Truck and Wilson Ridge Trails is listed as “Completed”?

    In any event, as a hiker, hunter, Outdoors-Person, I’m all for anything that will open up more of the ADKs to access through improved trails, etc. It belongs to all of us and we have to learn to share. I would personally recommend that Bikers/Hikers, et al be advised through signage to wear blaze orange and be aware that the trails and area is also being used by other Outdoors Folks, including Hunters during designated seasons.

  2. Charlie S says:

    I looked at the maps and I did not see any new trail reference to the Moose River Plains that I know,ie..the Moose River Recreation Area. Unless I’m reading the maps wrong. I’m very iffy about bikes on trails in the woods because I’ve seen the damage done from them. If per chance everyone and their brothers and sisters and neighbors started taking up bike riding in the Adirondack woods maybe then the DEC would realize the short-sightedness in their thinking on this matter….bicycles do damage. Bikes on old roads would be better than bikes on trails.

    You say, “It belongs to all of us and we have to learn to share.”
    Generosity is good Tim but methinks there ought to be limits as to who has usage of our remaining wild areas. People who like to toss loaded diapers into pristine bodies of water such as Moose River ought to be excluded from wilderness areas. People who like to leave trash behind in remote areas because of whatever their dysfunction is ought to be excluded. People who like to shoot up new (or old) outhouses with buckshot ought to be excluded. People with no regard for others or other living things ought to be excluded from our wilderness areas…………..

    • says:

      Charile S, How do you identify people who commit all the heinous you describe? Should nobody be allowed to use the land?

      Also, trails designed and built for bikes are very sustainable. Have you hiked Algonquin Peak recently? That trail has massive erosion and rutting and some litter around too. Maybe we shouldn’t allow hiking either.

      • Charlie S says:

        They are unidentifiable jojo….unfortunately. Foot travel only is a sure bet there’d be less problems with trash. This talk about opening up more wild areas to motor vehicles is a sure bet you’ll see more of the problems mentioned in my initial missive.

  3. Bob Rainville says:

    I’m very iffy about hiking/backpacking and the damage I’ve witnessed from such endeavors.
    If interested, I could point you in the direction of several trail erosion studies as well as a study of users’ perception of their impacts per activity (hint: most underestimate their impact on the environment and overestimate other users’ impact).

  4. Charlie S says:

    The landscape is never the same once man arrives Bob,but there’s a difference between foot traffic and bicycles. I know a trail that i’ve been hiking for well over thirty years and nothing seems to have changed along its course,and it is a very used trail. If bicycles were suddenly allowed to go on this trail the difference would be glaringly apparent most certainly.

    • Bob Rainville says:

      I agree there would be impact, as I have yet to see a tire, hoof or boot that does not displace soil or vegetation (kinda defeats the purpose of traction if it was frictionless). But I disagree with your use of “suddenly” “glaringly” and “most certainly”. Your 30 year old trail may be “well used” and unchanged…if so it is either very well made on a very stable substrate or it is not used as much as you claim AND hiked by hikers that adhere to good trail ethics (or both). All “well used” trails I know need routine maintenance and if neglected, are badly eroded. Either way, multiple studies suggest that a bicycle tire is on par with a lugged sole boot. And the common sense physics that applies to a tire applies to a boot. And with the advent of wider tires (Fat bikes) run at lower pressures, I’d bet that there may be instances where the tire causes less erosion.

  5. Charlie S says:

    100 pairs of feet versus 100 bicycles on a newly carved trail in the woods. Which will be the first to begin wearing away that trail?

    I never made it to valedictorian in high school Bob but it seems to me it makes more sense that the latter would be the answer to the above query.

    • Bob Rainville says:

      You’re in luck. Those types of experiments have already been done.
      You won’t like the results though and therefore continue on with “knowing what you know”.

    • Boreas says:

      What nobody seems to be considering is that it isn’t an either/or scenario. The damage from ALL users is ADDITIVE. If the trails are properly hardened, monitored, and maintained, it shouldn’t be a problem. But ADK soils are notoriously unstable and thin. DEC hasn’t even been able to maintain many of their trail registers in years, so I wouldn’t count on vigilant maintenance from the state.

      The best way to minimize damage is to eliminate usage. In the past, that has been done by restricting certain types of activities on backcountry trails. The more groups you include as users, the more damage there will be. It isn’t rocket science. There will always be a direct relationship between the amount of usage and resulting damage.

      • Bob Rainville says:

        I’m not a geologist. You made the statement “ADK soils are are notoriously unstable and thin”. And with that statement you conclude that users must be restricted. I live within the blue line. My property does not have thin, unstable soil. I know of areas that do though only 5 miles away. I know of areas like that in Vermont. I know of areas like that in the Hudson Valley. I know of areas like that in the Berkshires. I do have a friend who is a geologist though, so I will pick his brain on this. Your argument is a new one to me, so hats off to you for your creativity on that (and the subsequent knowledge I will gain from having to research the matter).
        Statements like those sound wonderful. Everyone nods their heads…”yes, soil is unstable…bikes bad…other users can’t use…hikers good…hikers here first…see…soil unstable” Can you somehow show me where the soils in the ADK’s (very large area) are exclusively unique compared to say Northern VT, St. Lawrence Valley, Mohawk/Hudson Valley, etc. etc?
        You said before that I need to convince the environmental crowd of the merits of bikes on-trail. I believe you also referred to mountain biking as the “red-headed stepchildren” of trail use.
        You guys really need to read (not skim) in entirety the 3 studies I left links to. Even if you learn a little about your impact as a hiker, it would be well worth it.
        BTW, I am well aware of cumulative/additive/exponential effect. But I draw a different conclusion from that. Maybe we need to “share” the restrictions?

        • Boreas says:

          I made no comment about restrictions other than that is what has been done in the past to curtail damage. You seem to have read too much into that statement. Nor have I taken sides. The red-headed stepchild comment referred to how bikes on trails have traditionally been viewed by ADKers. I am well aware of the damage hikers do – especially in the High Peaks. My point was simply the more types of use and the increased usage of any trail will have negative effects – whether it be foot traffic, pogo sticks, motorcycles, horses, roller blades, or ATVs. The trails will need to be properly maintained and I am simply skeptical of the State’s commitment to do that.

          The geology is simple – glaciated soils vs. non-glaciated soils and the type of bedrock they expose. Extremely hard bedrock that we have in the ADKs does not break down to form soils like limestone and other types of bedrock. So after the glaciers last scraped the area, natural breakdown by lichens and erosion takes many millennia. In this area, the Champlain Valley, St. Lawrence Valley and other broad river valleys have the deepest soils due to the floodplains moving around and the fact that most were under huge glacial lakes during the ice ages. This caused nutrient-rich siltation and deposition resulting in deep, fertile soils.

          • Bob Rainville says:

            I don’t believe I read too much into it.
            To paraphrase: Trails can be made stable with maintenance, but The ADK’s soils are unique and unstable. DEC won’t maintain as needed. Therefore “certain types” of activities need to be restricted.
            “Certain types” is code for anything other than hiking/backpacking. You are well aware of hiking damage, but do you have as much “concern” for your community? Do you see a need to “restrict” the hiking community to the same degree as bikes? Where are the discussions regarding hiking limitations on this forum?
            So you don’t see the State maintain the current network of hiking trails. Where is the concern then with new land purchases and the new trails that are inherited? No one speaks to the extra burden these new trails/lands will put on the overburdened State. Where is the concern of the footfalls-only community then?

            • Boreas says:

              You are still putting words in my mouth. “Certain types of activities need to be restricted” was not mentioned by me. I said certain types of activities have been used in the past to control damage. That was my way of explaining why bikes have been excluded from backcountry trails in the past. I still believe restricted use for the most sensitive trails is the best method, but in MRP “If the trails are properly hardened, monitored, and maintained, it shouldn’t be a problem.”.

              Yes, I do feel hiking should be limited in the HPR. But it isn’t likely to happen.

              “No one speaks to the extra burden these new trails/lands will put on the overburdened State.” Search the forum – I have been bringing this up about nearly every acquisition, but it goes no further than that. Keep in mind, the foot trails in the HPR do get a lot of maintenance from volunteer hiking groups in cooperation with the DEC. I certainly do feel the DEC is overburdened with trail patrolling and maintenance, but they do a decent job with the money and manpower they have.

              Bob, I am not your enemy. When you read my posts, try not to be on the defensive.

              • Bob Rainville says:

                I do not believe you are in any way an “enemy”. As you said, this is not a binary problem. I don’t even think “Charlie S” is an enemy. Zealot? Yes. Fixed in his beliefs? Yes. Enemy? No. But am I emotionless and always politically correct? No.
                I have said this here before and I will say it again, I will not stand by and allow a double standard be applied to mountain biking. And I will always utilize science, as available, to open discussions surrounding this. As these things go, it is often met with resistance or willful ignorance. I’m not saying you do this necessarily. I simply engaged you in some of the things you said. Remember, you are not in the position of an excluded user. Condition X exists and therefore we need to restrict groups B, C and D. Group A will be excluded from this analysis. Not acceptable.
                And also realize the mountain bike trails in Wilmington and elsewhere are EXCLUSIVELY maintained by volunteers. Mountain bikers are people just like hikers. Some do both. Some have good environmental ethic, some do not…just like hikers.
                And for what it’s worth, I’m sorry to hear that you do not get out like you used to. We all face that at some point.

                • Boreas says:


                  This article was about actually allowing bike access to some specific backcountry trails on state land in the MRP. I would call that a win.

                  However I do not believe the double standard to which you refer will be easily eliminated in the ADK Park – especially at higher elevations. Perhaps the Catskills would offer more upland opportunities as the terrain is less severe and the soils possibly a little more forgiving. Perhaps you should consider setting your sights on more quickly attainable goals – and these successes will set the stage for a more favorable view of upland biking in the future. Just a thought.

  6. Charlie S says:

    I’ve seen the damage done from bicycles and in a very short period of time. I am not convinced any experiment will adjust my conviction on this matter. I would like to be proven wrong on this Bob.

    • Bob Rainville says:

      Your last sentence feels good to say, but is insincere. The sentence preceding it tells all.
      Regardless, get out and enjoy the trails however, wherever you do.

      • Charlie S says:

        Insincere? Not. I do enjoy the trails every chance I get.
        Which experiment do you refer to anyway?

          • Boreas says:


            I personally feel the Moose River Plains area would be a great area for mountain biking. It is relatively flat and in many areas sandy and well drained. I believe there is/was a biking area close to the Old Forge airport that looked like it would be fun. Don’t know if it still exists. MRP isn’t too far away – perhaps they could be linked via snowmobile trails or something. Perhaps that way, trail maintenance could be shared between state and local governments and may be less dependent on the whims of state budget appropriations. Expanding and building trails gets votes and funding – maintaining them often does not.

            • Bob Rainville says:

              I’m curious. Do you mountain bike? What is your definition of a mountain biker? What terrain should be best for a mountain biker? Do you realize the variety of differences between off-road bikers? Have you heard of bikepacking? Fat bikes? Does a rider’s skill level determine what terrain they can negotiate?
              Why would “relatively flat” translate into ideal mountain biking area? Sometimes, “relatively flat” is good. Sometimes, “technical” is good. Sometimes “flow” is good. Sometimes a “destination” trail is good. Sometimes “loops” are good.
              I ask these questions not out of disrespect or in mean spirit. I see a lot of opinions put forth on this forum and forums like this by folks who obviously know nothing to very little about trail biking, yet carry strong opinions on the matter.
              Currently, when it comes to hiking, I prefer “thru hiking”. I dislike “peak bagging”. I prefer to go “light”, but also rely on “bushcraft” philosophy. Is there only one type of hiking? Should hiking be only on “relatively flat” terrain? Trail only? (more damage occurs descending with lugged sole hiking boots compared to biking, opposite for ascending)

              • Boreas says:

                To cherry pick a few of the questions:

                No, I no longer can hike or bike much, but I did both extensively in the past. Rarely did “technical” biking – on purpose…

                My broad definition of a mountain bike or biker is basically any type of off-road use.

                I feel there is a difference between the best trails for a mountain biker and terrain ‘best suited’ for mountain biking. The steeper the slope, the more thought needs to go into trail construction. Steep trails ‘designed’ for foot traffic are often not suitable because of narrow, tight turns and propensity for erosion by any activity. I feel technical bike trails should be designed and constructed specifically for that purpose, not simply allowing bikes on an existing steep foot trail. I feel the “relatively flat” terrain would attract more users than technical terrain and would make trail maintenance easier. Better for your cause to start with a success than controversy.

                I quit the ADK 46rs in the 90s because of their reluctance to discourage peak bagging. I wanted them to put a cap on the number of members to help lower the hiking pressure specifically in the HPR not only because of trail erosion, but erosion in the quality of the backcountry experience in that area.

  7. Todd Eastman says:

    Encourage mountain biking where feasible and with conditions that include maintenance schedules and specific trail standards.

    Seasonal closures need to be considered and separation of trail users makes better experiences for all.

    Getting the public into the woods for sport and health is critical for maintaining the popular interest needed for maintaining the tax base for keeping large landscapes like the Adirondacks viable…

  8. Charlie S says:

    I went to the first link you sent Bob and it verifies quite clearly the fact that bicycles in the woods do damage. And you’ve been coming off as it does not.

    ” While mountain biking literature focuses mainly on erosion and trampling of vegetation, some studies consider the behavioural impacts of mountain biking on species such as bison (Bison bison), pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra americana) and mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) (Taylor and Knight, 2003), North American elk (Cervus elaphus) (Naylor, Wisdom and Anthony, 2009), and mule deer, bobcat (Lynx rufus) and coyote (Canis latrans) (George and Crooks, 2006). These studies are generally comparative, and show that mountain biking does disturb wildlife, in that it causes individuals to use habitat differently. …”

    “There can be direct mortality of wildlife through impact at high speed (Lathrop, 2003). Lathrop did not find many studies but highlighted anecdotal evidence suggesting that small mammals are particularly affected.”

    Another study showed minimal impact in this report. We believe what we wish to believe in order to suit our desires Bob.I have seen wildlife mortality from bicycle use on trails in woods so i speak from firsthand experience not from studies done by whomever.

    • Bob Rainville says:

      “And you’ve been coming off as it does not.” Really?
      Bob Rainville says:
      June 13, 2016 at 3:56 pm
      I agree there would be impact, as I have yet to see a tire, hoof or boot that does not displace soil or vegetation (kinda defeats the purpose of traction if it was frictionless).
      “We believe what we wish to believe in order to suit our desires Bob”. you said a mouthful there.
      You remind me of the anti-bike zealot Mike Vandemann. Look him up. Not a stable individual. Incapable of conversation or self-analysis. Probably wasn’t socialized enough as a child.

  9. Charlie S says:

    You don’t know me Bob. Matter of fact people who’ve known me for years don’t really know who is me.There are but maybe a handful who know or understand the mental and moral constitution that characterizes me. I’m not a zealot and I suppose I spoke too much on this matter. I’m not anti-bike as much as i’m for preservation of what remains. Biking is a good sport,very good for the body the soul the legs the knees …. I’m of the mind that if we start opening up the trails in the Adirondacks to mountain biking the place is gonna change. It’s gonna change anyway but we sure as heck seem to want to expedite the process.

    Stable! That’s where they keep horses no? I’m very capable of conversation though i’m apt to disagree which makes me like everyone else. (I cannot believe I said that!) What sets me apart is…. I wont go into it but trust me when I say ‘I’m set apart.’ How do I know? By what I get from others.By what I don’t get from them.

    Self analysis? While this planet has gone through an untold number of complete revolutions around the sun there has been an ongoing attempt by yours truly me to discern what makes the man in the mirror operate as a functioning system. It has been a very interesting journey thus far and truly I believe I have discovered a single organism and I don’t say that egotistically. I have been going through a transformation of sorts for some time now,been getting to know me,the world around me,this and that,and throughout all of it I have come to this… that if I perchance should live to be 100 I will never quite figure out my fellow beings. At this stage in the game I suppose it don’t matter anymore Bob. I just wish to live free and be happy but I’ll be darned if futuristic me cannot escape this feeling of trouble or anxiety when it comes to thinking about living things on this planet earth. Is why quite frequently I am putting up a defense for them,for it.

    • Bob Rainville says:

      I’ll be brief. Thank you for the reply. I don’t seem to be surprised by people much, but you just restored my faith in humanity a bit. As often is the case, folks have more in common than they assume.
      I apologize for the tone I took with you, but I don’t regret it.

  10. Charlie S says:

    Thank you Bob! No need for apologies to me.We have the freedom to express ourselves here and so we do. This is good for me no matter the differences between us.

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