Adirondack Wilderness Advocates, as they call themselves, has created a website where people can sign a letter to the Adirondack Park Agency calling for statewide hearings on the classification of the Boreas tract. People can also sign up for the group’s emails.
The founders of the Adirondack Wilderness Advocates are Bill Ingersoll, publisher of the Discover the Adirondacks guidebooks; Brendan Wiltse, a photographer and scientist employed by the Ausable River Association (his work is unrelated to his involvement with AWA); and Pete Nelson, a teacher who frequently writes for Adirondack Almanack.
Ingersoll has been outspoken in advocating for the closure of all of Gulf Brook Road, a seven-mile logging road that leads from County Route 2 (Blue Ridge Road/Boreas Road) in North Hudson to Boreas Ponds. The Park’s major environmental groups have suggested keeping the road open for six miles, enabling the public to drive as far as LaBier Flow on the Boreas River. From there, canoeists could paddle and portage to the ponds, while hikers could continue walking on the road.
Under Adirondack Wilderness Advocates’ proposal, the road and the land on both sides would be classified Wilderness, where motor vehicles and bicycles are not allowed. If the established environmental organizations have their way, the road and the land to the south would be classified Wild Forest, a less-restrictive designation that allows some motorized use.
To date, the state has kept the entire road closed since purchasing the 20,758-acre Boreas Ponds Tract this year from the Adirondack chapter of the Nature Conservancy, the last stage in a multi-year deal to acquire 65,000 acres of lands formerly owned by Finch, Pruyn & Company.
Adirondack Wilderness Advocates is advocating that former Finch lands purchased in 2014 also be added to the High Peaks Wilderness. These tracts, known as MacIntyre West and MacIntyre East, are located near Tahawus, the southern gateway to the High Peaks. The group wants all of MacIntyre West and most of MacIntyre East to be classified Wilderness. In this, AWA is in agreement with the other environmental organizations.
Adirondack Wilderness Advocates has set forth several recommendations for recreational opportunities on the former Finch lands:
- Establish a cross-country-ski network on pre-existing trails on the MacIntyre West tract.
- Improve canoe access to the Hudson River (and Opalescent River) in the MacIntyre East tract.
- Build two lean-tos near Boreas Ponds.
- Cut a short foot trail from Gulf Brook Road to the summit of Ragged Mountain.
- Designate a camping area in the vicinity of the Branch river east of Ragged Mountain.
The most controversial recommendation, though, is the closure of Gulf Brook Road in its entirety. Adirondack Wilderness Advocates says the road should be open to hikers, skiers, and horses and Boreas Ponds should be managed as a backpacking destination.
“Boreas Ponds has a tremendous sense of remoteness,” Ingersoll said in a news release. “There are no highway sounds, no lights from nearby communities—just the loons and bullfrogs and stars.”
Keeping the road closed would require paddlers to carry or wheel their boats for six or seven miles. Wiltse is one who has taken his canoe to the ponds and enjoyed the breathtaking view of the High Peaks from the water.
“The unique and amazing paddling experience on the Boreas Ponds is well worth pulling a canoe seven miles down the Gulf Brook Road,” Wiltse said in the group’s news release.
AWA’s is the fourth formal proposal for classifying and managing the Boreas Ponds Tract. Others have been issued by BeWildNY, a coalition of eight environmental groups, including the Adirondack Mountain Club, Adirondack Council, and Adirondack Wild; Protect the Adirondacks; and the five local towns where most of the former Finch lands are located. Details follow:
BeWildNY: Boreas Ponds and other land north of Gulf Brook Road would be designated Wilderness. The road and land south would be Wild Forest. People would be allowed to drive as far as LaBier Flow. A snowmobile trail connecting North Hudson to Minerva and Newcomb would run through the southern edge of the tract, more or less paralleling County Route 2.
Protect the Adirondacks: Its proposal is similar to BeWildNY’s except Gulf Brook Road would be used as part of the snowmobile trail.
Five towns: The road and land south of it would be Wild Forest. Most of the rest of the tract would be Wilderness, but Boreas Ponds and nearby land would be Wild Forest. This would allow mountain bikers to ride on some of the old logging roads. The general public would be allowed to drive only to LaBier Flow, but the disabled, guides and their clients, and people with special permits could drive all or most of the way to the ponds. Gulf Brook Road would be used as a snowmobile trail.
In addition, some people have suggested opening Gulf Brook Road only partway to LaBier Flow.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation and Adirondack Park Agency are working together to develop a plan for managing the Boreas Pond Tract.
Ingersoll told Adirondack Almanack that Adirondack Wilderness Advocates has no agenda beyond the objectives laid out in its plan for Boreas Ponds and the High Peaks Wilderness–as yet. “If it turns out our message resonates with people, and I think it should, we may then turn to other subjects other than Boreas. But first things first, because Boreas is certainly the hot topic of the day,” he said.
Map provided by Adirondack Wilderness Advocates shows the details of the group’s proposal.
Photos by Phil Brown: Boreas Ponds (top) and LaBier Flow (bottom).