North Hudson and four nearby towns have launched a website and petition drive to muster support for classifying Boreas Ponds as Wild Forest instead of Wilderness, the designation supported by Forest Preserve advocates.
Called Access the Adirondacks, the website says the 20,758-acre Boreas Ponds Tract has a network of former logging roads and is suitable for a variety of recreational uses, including mountain biking, horseback riding, and snowmobiling.
“While some would have you believe the Boreas Ponds Tract is a unique ecological jewel untouched my man, nothing could be further from the truth,” the site says.
In addition to many miles of logging roads, the tract also has two dams – one at LaBier Flow, an impoundment of the Boreas River, the other at the Boreas Ponds outlet.
“The pond, while serene and beautiful, is not at all natural; rather it was created years ago by a large concrete dam at the outlet of a swamp …,” the site says. “Ironically, some of the groups advocating for a wilderness classification also believe the dam, and road to it, should remain and be maintained in the future. Go figure!! While we agree the dam and road should remain, both are further justification of a wild forest classification.”
Boreas Ponds lies in the town of North Hudson. Supervisor Ron Moore argues that that a Wild Forest classification would allow more kinds of recreation and thus boost tourism.
Access the Adirondacks runs counter to the campaign of BeWildNY, a coalition of environmental groups, to push for the more restrictive Wilderness classification. Motor vehicles, snowmobiles, and bicycles are prohibited in Wilderness Areas.
The five towns – North Hudson, Newcomb, Minerva, Indian Lake, and Long Lake – have set forth a plan aimed at maximizing access and recreational opportunities on the tract. Several of the proposed uses are not allowed in Wilderness regulations, including:
- Bicycling on logging roads around Boreas Ponds and to White Lily Pond. This would include fat-tire bikes that can be ridden on snow.
- Snowmobiling on the same route.
- Electric boats on Boreas Ponds.
- A parking area for six to ten cars at Boreas Ponds. At least four of the car spaces would be for the disabled. An overflow parking area would be located near LaBier Flow.
- Parking by permit near the ponds for guides and their clients.
- Seasonal motorized access for hunting and trapping.
Other proposals from the towns include holding bicycle races, ski races, and dogsled races on the tract; developing new trails to Allen Mountain and Mount Marcy; maintaining views at the site of a former lodge overlooking Boreas Ponds; allowing yurts on the property as part of a hut-to-hut network; and grooming cross-country-ski and snowmobile trails.
Even under the towns’ plan, most of the Boreas Ponds Tract would be designated Wilderness. The big difference from the plan endorsed by BeWildNY is that the ponds themselves and the land immediately adjacent would be designated Wild Forest. Also, all of Gulf Brook Road, a dirt road leading from County Route 84 to the ponds, would be Wild Forest.
The future use of the 6.8-mile Gulf Brook Road is a major question facing state officials who must decide how to classify and manage the Boreas Ponds Tract.
Under the plans of both Access the Adirondacks and BeWildNY, anyone could drive as far as LaBier Flow, about a mile from the ponds. Unlike the towns, BeWildNY would not allow the disabled, guides, or anyone else to drive all the way to the ponds. A new organization, Adirondack Wilderness Advocates, argues that the entire road should be closed to motor vehicles. The state’s interim access plan splits the difference, allowing people to drive 3.2 miles up to road. From there they must walk or bike the remaining 3.6 miles to the ponds.
Access the Adirondacks also is calling for a Wild Forest classification for two other recently acquired parcels – MacIntyre East and MacIntyre West. Both are located near Tahawus on the edge of the High Peaks Wilderness.
“Like Boreas Ponds, the Macintyre Tracts have an extensive network of roads previously used for logging,” the towns say on the website. “These roads on both tracts will make excellent trails for snowmobiles, bicycles and equestrian riders. They require no tree cutting and will last indefinitely with only routine maintenance.”
BeWildNY wants all of MacIntyre West and most of MacIntyre East added to the High Peaks Wilderness.
The state purchased Boreas Ponds and the MacIntyre tracts from the Nature Conservancy as part of a multi-year deal to acquire 65,000 acres formerly owned by Finch, Pruyn & Company. Most of the acreage lies within the five towns behind Access the Adirondacks.
The Adirondack Park Agency is expected to decide next year how to classify the lands. Once that decision is made, the state Department of Environmental Conservation will draft a management plan for the lands, which requires APA approval.
Photo by Phil Brown: White Lily Pond on the Boreas Ponds Tract.