Sunday, August 21, 2016

Great South Woods Strategy Recommendations Issued

Great South Woods Adirondacks

The State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) has issued recommendations for expanding recreation opportunities within the Great South Woods (GSW) in a report to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

This report highlights the potential for recreational use within a large region of the Adirondack Park including all of Hamilton County and parts of Essex, Warren, Herkimer, Fulton and Saratoga counties. The GSW area covers two million acres, including 20 individual Forest Preserve management units.

The GSW Strategy process was designed and led by SUNY ESF in collaboration with representatives from DEC, the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors. The GSW team conducted recreation planning at a landscape scale, beyond the boundaries of individual management units. It was designed to engage communities and stakeholders in the design of a destination-based system of trails and infrastructure that could stimulate economic activity while protecting the Adirondack Park’s ecosystems and wild character. Development of the report included an 18-month participatory process that involved more than 300 individuals that attended public workshops and meetings held across the GSW planning area.

“ESF developed strategies and recommendations that emphasized public participation and prioritized local knowledge and community-generated ideas to inform recreation planning at multiple scales,” an announcement sent to the press said. “The GSWs effort represents a new model and opportunity for recreation planning that facilitates a high degree of public engagement to gather local knowledge and community ideas to inform planning, design, and implementation steps.”

To facilitate future public engagement with the GSW Strategy, and to promote the critical next steps of design and implementation, ESF has partnered with to share the GSW Recommendations and related map data online at

The objectives of the GSW planning effort were to identify opportunities and feasible means to, in the words of the press announcement:

•Optimize the potential of the GSW to provide a wide spectrum of outdoor recreational activities available on Forest Preserve, DEC easement, municipal and private lands across the region;

•Establish a new community-based land-and-water trail and lodging system that would strengthen community linkages to each other and to nearby Forest Preserve and conservation easement lands;

•Better develop front-country areas of state lands for improved access and greater enjoyment of diverse –including motorized – recreational activities;

•Improve protection of back-country areas of state lands in their primitive, wild condition while improving trail systems for heightened enjoyment of self-powered recreation.

ESF received $250,000 over a two year time period and included input from the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors, the Adirondack Park Agency and other Park Stakeholders.

The report contains many recommendations for enhanced connectivity and access, including maps that depict new, conceptual destination based hiking routes and other outdoor recreational facilities.

DEC is now expected to review the report and work with communities, recreation interests and other Park stakeholders to refine and implement the proposals.

To view a copy of the Great South Woods report, visit DEC’s website.

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17 Responses

  1. Todd Eastman says:

    The Southern Strategy for ski-doo development in the southern Adks…

    … lipstick on a pig…

    • Bob Rainville says:

      Lipstick. Now you’re in your field of expertise.
      Just kidding. Light-hearted fun.

  2. Boreas says:

    Quite a bit to chew on here – but the overall intent seems like a good idea. Hopefully it could take some pressure off of the HPW area. The devil will likely be in the details.

  3. Justin Farrell says:

    Neat idea, but in present day reality all one really needs to enjoy multiple forms of recreation in the southern regions of the Adirondack Park is this book:

    • Boreas says:


      I don’t think the focus here is on hiking/skiing, but snowmobiling, biking, more connector trails and networks, and increasing auto access where possible.

      • Justin Farrell says:

        Thanks Boreas,
        I am aware of that, and believe it or not, the guide mentions several bicycle & snowmobile routes, as well as driving routes & handicap accessible areas & campsites. It’s not just a hiking & skiing only guide as most people would think.
        – Justin

        • Bob Rainville says:

          People jump to hasty conclusions. I can’t fathom why they would think your book only covers hiking and skiing.

        • Justin Farrell says:

          …I forgot to also mention paddling routes & extended loop possibilities where one could combined any of the above activities.

          (Disclaimer: It’s not my book, I just helped with a few descpritions, and I receive no financial gain from book sales.)
          – Justin

        • Boreas says:


          I have had the book for years, but probably not the most recent edition. Excellent book, as is the entire series. They are my go-to resource for outings.

          The point I was trying to make was that this GSW project seems to be bent toward building more of everything with emphasis on connector trails. People are clamoring for new access and this would be the area to do it.

          • Justin Farrell says:

            Thanks again, B.
            I’m not against the GSW project in anyway, I just couldn’t resist throwing in a shameless plug for the ’14 updated edition, which contains lots of new material from the older editions, including several previously unmapped territory. 😉
            I think the GSW project is a very interesting & overall positive endeavor, and I’m looking forward to following along on how it all turns out.
            I also think that Bill’s propsals & contributions to the GSW project were very well put together that he shared on here a while back. Perhaps he’ll chime in with his thoughts if he has any to share.
            Best regards,
            – Justin

            • Boreas says:


              Perhaps I’ll spring for a 2014 copy!

              I think what I like about the project is that it isn’t a limited scope postage-stamp endeavor, but includes a large area and multiple multi-use connectors, along with new access to the networks. I think a project such as this would be a 4-season boon economically if done thoughtfully.

              • Justin Farrell says:

                Agreed, and it’s unfortunate I think that one (and possibly more) local lodging & eating businesses that was in included in some of the earlier GSW discussions went out of business before this effort gained any ground. In the end, I think we all can only hope for more positive results in the future. -J

  4. Bill Ingersoll says:

    I was indeed a participant in the GSW project and was able to contribute some meaningful input. I expect I’ll have more to say about it in the near future; I’ve recommended it as a topic for AWA to address.

    I downloaded a copy of the GSW report this weekend and perused through it while the rain kept me from hiking. My first impression was that the maps were… busy. At full build-out the southern Adirondacks would become a very crowded place, in terms of the density of all the proposed trails if every single idea in the report was implemented.

    What I do like is the idea of connecting the existing trails into regional networks. Too many southern Adirondack trails are dead-end routes, but the plan identifies ways to string these together into loops and through trails. Instead of just the Northville-Placid Trail and Cranberry 50, there would be potential multi-day routes all over the place.

    But so long as we’re plugging guidebooks, let’s not forget that West Central, Southwestern, South Central, and Central all fall within the GSW scope. 😉

    • Thank you Bill for all of your valuable contributions to GSW. We learned a lot from you and I hope we represented at least some of your ideas reasonably well. I’m sure we got a few things wrong too. 🙂

      Given the way this was rolled out, I would like to address Bill’s comment about a “full build out” because it’s a very important one.

      ESF has put forth a bunch of recommendations here, and we did our best to fill those maps with different ideas. Ideas – which came from the collective mind of hundreds of people from around the region, and which we tried to reflect in the reports. We did not intend them in their entirety as a ‘total package’, like one would expect in a formal plan with all of the pieces set, but instead as a menu or portfolio of options that seemed to fit our objectives. Some are well developed, others much more conceptual. Some are already mostly built, others need a lot of work. The GSW report is meant to provide a point of departure for further design, planning and, if the cards align, implementation through public-private partnerships.

      In other words, we (ESF) are not recommending a ‘full build out’ of everything in the maps, nor do we think that is a realistic outcome of this work. In the event that such a thing were to happen, our report does provide some insight on management issues, such as invasive species, that may emerge as a result.

      Yet, from all that I’ve heard in the 20 months since we began, it seems more likely that GSW’s outcomes will err in the other direction – that nothing much at all will actually happen in the southern Adirondacks. That DEC already struggles to manage what they have – and adding more doesn’t seem all that realistic. Etc.

      I think our GSW report is best digested with a modicum of optimism, and for those of you who contributed, a bit of patience and forgiveness if we got something wrong! We learned a lot from doing this the first time around.

      As the report says: Maps are intended to inform future planning, will be subject to revision, and do not necessarily represent current or future priorities.

      Thanks to everyone for your input so far,

      Colin Beier
      Associate Professor
      SUNY ESF

      • Boreas says:


        I think if you concentrate on the low-hanging fruit first and use those successes as a scaffold for more additions in the future, things will work out fine. Getting community support will vary, but if you can show them success and positive outcomes, things should snowball. Attempting bigger, more complicated projects before you have a body of success may just mire you down.

        Good luck!

        • I agree – but the next steps are largely out of our (ESF’s) hands. We provided this work in an advisory capacity, but it is now up to the communities and the agencies to figure out how best to proceed. ESF will do what we can to support further design and implementation, such as providing additional data where available. We also have identified a number of ‘shovel ready’ projects that have been already approved in UMPs, and that would help to achieve some of the GSW recommendations. DEC has all of the data we developed as part of this project, and their planners are familiar with what we’ve done, since they have been an instrumental part of the process from the start. The GSW recommendations are also available for the public to explore online — — in hopes that this will support whatever next steps are taken.

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