Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Adirondack Wild Leaves BeWildNY Coalition Over Boreas Ponds Plan

boreas pondsAdirondack Wild has left the BeWildNY coalition, saying it disagrees with the coalition’s proposal to allow the public to drive to within a mile or so of Boreas Ponds.

Adirondack Wild announced its decision as the Adirondack Park Agency prepares for public hearings on the classification of the 20,758-acre Boreas Ponds Tract, which the state bought from the Adirondack chapter of the Nature Conservancy in April.

The classification decision could influence how much motorized access is allowed on the tract.

Much of the debate over Boreas Ponds has focused on the future of Gulf Brook Road, a dirt road built for logging trucks when Finch, Pruyn & Company owned the land.

BeWildNY favors a plan that would allow the public to drive about six miles up the road, as far as LaBier Flow, an impoundment of the Boreas River. From there, hikers would need to walk a mile to reach Boreas Ponds. Canoeists and kayakers would have the option of paddling across the flow to reduce the portage.

Eight organizations still belong to BeWildNY: the Adirondack Council, Adirondack Mountain Club, Environmental Advocates of New York, Natural Resources Defense Council, Wilderness Society, New York League of Conservation Voters, Audubon New York, and Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

Protect the Adirondacks and the Nature Conservancy, though not part of the coalition, support plans that also would allow the public to drive to LaBier Flow.

In reaction to the positions of these groups, three Forest Preserve advocates – including Bill Ingersoll, author of the Discover the Adirondacks guidebooks – formed a new group, Adirondack Wilderness Advocates, to lobby for closing the entire road to motor vehicles.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThough Adirondack Wild belonged to BeWildNY since its founding about a year ago, it never endorsed the idea of opening Gulf Brook Road as far as LaBier Flow.

In an email to Adirondack Almanack, Dave Gibson, a partner in Adirondack Wild, said his group favors classifying the entire Boreas tract as Wilderness, a designation that precludes the use of motors and mountain bikes. The tract borders the High Peaks Wilderness Area.

Adirondack Wild notified BeWildNY of its decision in a letter on Tuesday. “The issues behind the classification at Boreas Ponds has [sic] been unfortunately limiting and framed by how far motorized and mechanized uses should reach for relative ease of recreational access to the Ponds instead of what we believe should be the primary consideration – the future wilderness restoration and integrity of this wild landscape and its ecological connectivity to the High Peaks and Dix Wilderness areas,” the letter states.

The letter, written by Gibson and Dan Plumley, goes on to assert that opening Gulf Brook Road to LaBier Flow “seriously compromises the ecological functioning of this area.”

Under an interim access plan, the state is allowing people to drive 3.2 miles up the road. From there, it’s a 3.6-mile hike along dirt roads to the ponds.

The APA plans to hold its first hearing next week on four alternatives for classifying the Boreas Ponds Tract. Under three of the proposals, the entire road would be classified Wild Forest, a designation that could allow the public to drive all the way to the ponds. Under the fourth proposal, the road between LaBier Flow and the ponds would be classified Primitive, meaning only officials could drive on this section and only for administrative purposes. Environmental organizations do not endorse any of the four proposals.

A Wild Forest classification does not necessarily mean the public would be allowed to drive the entire length of the road. Decisions about motorized access will be made later by the state Department of Environmental Conservation as it drafts a management plan (which the APA would have to approve). However, a Wild Forest designation gives DEC the option of allowing motor vehicles, snowmobiles, and mountain bikes on the property.

Local towns favor a Wild Forest classification for the road and the land in the immediate vicinity of Boreas Ponds. This would allow motorized access, mountain biking, and possibly motorboats. North Hudson Supervisor Ron Moore, whose town includes Boreas Ponds, argues that a variety of recreational opportunities is necessary to maximize tourism.

Pete Nelson, one of the founders of Adirondack Wilderness Advocates, said he had no comment on Adirondack Wild’s decision to leave BeWildNY, but he welcomed an ally in the fight to close Gulf Brook Road.

“Like all environmental organizations, they get to determine for themselves the best way forward to most effectively advocate for the Adirondack Park,” Nelson said in an email to the Almanack. “But we stand shoulder to shoulder with them in demanding uncompromised Wilderness protection for the Boreas Tract. That means closing Gulf Brook Road.”

Willie Janeway, executive director of the Adirondack Council, said he was grateful for Adirondack Wild’s participation in the BeWildNY coalition over the past year. “The Adirondack Council and Adirondack Wild agree that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect the legacy of the Adirondacks and make sure that the Boreas Ponds are completely enclosed in and protected as part of an expanded High Peaks Wilderness Area,” he told the Almanack in an email.

Janeway said the coalition believes its plan balances the protection of natural resources with reasonable access for public recreation.

The APA will hold the first hearing on the classification of Boreas Ponds and other newly acquired state lands at its office in Ray Brook at 7 p.m. next Wednesday. Eight other hearings will be held around the state. Click here to find the dates and times.

The agency may make a decision in early 2017. The governor would then have to approve it.

Top photo: Boreas Ponds. Second photo: kayakers wheel their craft on the road that leads to Boreas Ponds.

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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.

36 Responses

  1. Boreasfisher says:

    Thanks Phil….North Hudson Town Supervisor is Ron MOORE.

  2. Boreasfisher says:

    Glad to see an organization like ADK Wild take this position given their longstanding advocacy for conservation science. This is the only reasonable position if you believe in the restorative power of wilderness. So, everyone should read E. O Wilson’s Half Earth, reviewed so well in the latest issue of Adirondack Almanac. We need to learn how to play the long game and prevent yet another occurrence of the tragedy of the commons.

  3. Justin Farrell says:

    Yeah, the current gate makes much more sense.
    It’s too bad people (groups) don’t even bother to consider it.

    • kathy says:

      I agree with you on this. Seems to be less of a line drawn in the sand. Has either side shown any compromise on this current mileage or is all open or all closed road? Obviously this is not one of the proposals??? Kinda like our current Trump vs Clinton climate.

    • Phil Brown says:

      Adirondack Wild says the current gate would be better than allowing people to drive to LaBier Flow. Although they are advocating for gating the entire road, I get the impression they could live with the existing gate. Here is what Dave Gibson told me in an email: “Today the road is closed to public motorized uses 3.2 miles or so from its entrance and that to our minds is a good step and a lot better than the four alternatives being presented to the public in terms of the future restoration and overall integrity of the Ponds themselves and the tract’s connections with the Wilderness beyond it.”

      • Justin Farrell says:

        Thanks, Phil.
        Seems there’s lots of that type of thinking going around now. I think that it’s a shame that it wasn’t really discussed early on as a possible permanent parking area before some of these groups supported an “all or none” type approach.

        • Bill Ingersoll says:

          Justin, we’re good friends, but even I’m having a hard time understanding this attachment to that gate. It’s just one spot among many along GBR where public access could be established. It serves as a convenient spot at the moment, but there are far bigger factors to consider than the mere convenience of not wanting to move it.

          By definition, a “compromise” is a contingency action that two or more parties agree upon after their original, preferred courses of action don’t work out. You wouldn’t set out to compromise on the quality of your carpentry work, for instance. Only when something really wasn’t working out, and you were pressed for time, would you settle for something less than what you agreed to do for your client.

          Imagine you’re buying a new (to you) truck. The guy selling it wants $10 grand, but you see that it needs some work, so you make an offer of $5,000. Well that doesn’t work for him. But he wants to sell, so he agrees to “compromise” on $7500. Super! You make the deal.

          OK, let’s back up. You want the truck, think it’s only worth $5000, but you foresee all the haggling and want to cut to the chase. So make an initial offer of $7500. You’re going straight to the compromise. But all the other guy sees is you making an offer of $7500, which is still far less than the $10,000 he’s asking for. So naturally he’s going to talk you up to $8750, thinking that’s the compromise that will work for you both.

          You can see this at work with the BeWildNY process. They thought they had a good up-front compromise when they proposed the parking 1 mile from Boreas. But now the state is trying to talk them up into accepting, at the very best, a primitive area around the two dams, which may or may not accomplish anything, based on the experience with the two primitive areas at the Essex Chain. So now BeWildNY has to fight (at some expense) for what they originally thought was a compromise.

          Therefore speaking for myself, I’d rather stand up for what I think is right–my Plan A–and give that my very best shot, despite the odds. If I have to resort to a Plan B–a compromise on my original position–then I’ll make that call if (and only if) that time comes, never before. If I started with my Plan B and never even tried Plan A because it seemed like too much work, then I’d be very mediocre at whatever it was I was doing.

          It’s not “all or nothing” to stand by one’s ideals and principles. It’s only “all or nothing” when you refuse to accept the results.

          • Justin Farrell says:

            Thanks Bill,
            I will always be willing to discuss reasonable options, as a carpenter, or for a pre-existing barrier located about midway along a dirt road that might make sense for a future trailhead in an area that is up for public access debate. I said it from day one that I support a full wilderness classification, but wouldn’t be against the idea of allowing public motorized access up to the second gate as a fair & acceptable compromise.
            Why move & build a new parking area anywhere else other than there, or at the first gate? That doesn’t make much sense to me to go through all that extra expense, time, & labor. I tried to bring that to light before the DEC went ahead and made it the current parking area, even though that idea didn’t seem to get much support. Now we have these groups backpedaling & changing their minds, which makes me question what their goals really are? More frustration. Kudos to AWA for sticking to their guns! Seems like the only pro-wilderness group out there right now with any integrity.

          • Geogymn says:

            Good explanation Bill!

  4. Bruce says:

    Adirondack Wild… we don’t want compromise, we’re going to take our toys and go home. I wonder if this a prelude to a lawsuit based on specious arguments to gain minority rule, because it seems clear the majority wants some kind of compromise.

  5. Paul says:

    What type of pull do some of these “groups” actually have? Phil, can you tell us how many members these organizations have? It sounded to me like one group was maybe three guys?

  6. Dave Gibson says:

    Bruce, Adirondack Wild does not practice a zero sum game. The Adirondack Park is not as great as it is because people and organizations who disagreed or fiercely debated from principle and belief vilified each other and, to use your words, took their toys and went home. The Park is as great as it is because of fierce debate and occasionally necessary litigation underlain by mutual respect and a desire to engage in dialogue and,yes, concession without compromising on principles. I am confident that history will continue at the upcoming Boreas Ponds etc classification hearings. While Phil wrote accurately about our leaving BeWildNY, ours was a friendly exit. We did not leave the coalition lightly. We are all far stronger when we partner and ally with others. We simply could not continue in BeWild and have our advocacy accurately represented. However, the final sentences in our exit letter stated: “We are glad to have been part of BeWildNY’s very fine work over the past year to scientifically evaluate and build public support for Wilderness at Boreas Ponds. We will not criticize BeWildNY at the upcoming APA hearings. We will expound on our position and the reasons for it, and the great opportunity we all have for an expansive Wilderness addition and ecological connection to the High Peaks.”

    • scottvanlaer says:

      Thank you for leaving the BeWildNY coalition. While it is advantageous when groups can consolidate with a unified voice their plan just doesn’t match up with the stance I have observed your organization take in the past. Adirondack Wild has been the best and often lone voice for Wilderness and Forest Preserve protection. BeWildNY is really BeSortaWildNY. An interior road will have a negative impact on the units integrity and the local economy.

      • terry says:

        Can you give me an example of an interior road having a local economy?

        • scottvanlaer says:

          Trailheads best serve the local economy when they are on or near private land where free markets can capitalize on the use. Users to the Forest Preserve do spend money, buy things to associate with their visit as well as items necessary for the trip. They will pay money for amenities. The Adirondack Loj is the best example of this but there are others were access is closely associated with towns, the Garden and Indian Lake for rafters. Here the local economies are benefiting and entrepreneurs can respond to the demand. This really is the Adirondack Park model. Interior trailheads, those on a long road with state land on both sides prevent this from developing. For one, it can actually passively limit use because as I stated earlier, people do like the amenities, without this they are less likely to come and even more likely to never come again. Secondly, once they get in their vehicle and are on the road again for 20 minutes they are more likely to continue on driving past the town that was hoping to benefit from the public use. Interior Trailheads that fit this definition are the Seward trailhead on Coreys rd and the Essex Chain, which sadly failed to incorporate the hamlet into the recently developed plan. Despite it’s incredible beauty the use there is shockingly low. Having an interior trailhead six miles in on the Boreas will continue this unfortunate trend. A trailhead on private or easement land on the Blue Ridge road, now you are talking appropriate mutually beneficial use principals.

  7. Tim-Brunswick says:

    “Compromise”….HAH!….not likely with the “Wilderness” only crowd, yet a compromise approach is exactly what is needed. In any event, the lawyers will be licking their chops and fattening their wallets…..

    The wind has been whispering “more access” for quite some time and it pleases the heck out of me to see it actually becoming a trend in these new acquisitions. Perhaps when Dave Gibson gets older and not so nimble etc. as I and many other “senior” outdoor acquaintances are he will appreciate more access to the far back areas……….I sincerely hope so.

    Thank you

  8. Boreas says:

    I just read a good article about this in this week’s “The Sun” by Pete DeMola. One thing I noted was that some ‘access’ people are planning on using drone footage of the area showing the logging after-effects and plan on using it as a reason for a non-wilderness classification. Other than the drone footage, this is nothing new. I just don’t understand the logic they are trying to put forth. Since when does prior usage dictate land classification? Isn’t the idea behind stringent protection to give the land a chance to re-heal and become wild? Wasn’t that the idea behind creating the Park a century ago?

    And are drones “motorized” vehicles??

    • Paul says:

      The FAA has jurisdiction in the air? But if they land that is different.

      If these places are Wild Forest rather than Wilderness they are much easier to maintain which was one issue that people seemed to care about in an earlier post.

      The road doesn’t have to be open to the public.

      One trail crew guy with a chainsaw can probably do the work of 10 people with a bow saw.

  9. Marco says:

    As always, am against all these political groups. I barely support the ADK, though it seems the largest. I wonder that so many groups are formed with differing goals, yet, all claim to protect the Adirondacks.

    As has happened in the past, these are usually based on some form of political/legal issue. United is really the only way to support the entire Adirondacks. A coalition needs to be made that will support each other as well. Forget our differences in details, and simply support the best protection for the hills and woods of the ADK’s.

    And, the debate rages on about the DEC’s temporary solution at Boreas Ponds. A detail that none are happy with but a livable compromise for all. The DEC is pressured by political interests. How? Through their purse strings and the political appointment process. Lets go after the heart of the problem and fix this. Do it right. Call me a socialist, but I WOULD support this to protect the environment in the best park in the lower 48 states. Climate change, global warming, loss of fishery, loss of wood through disease & environment, invasive species, ocean level increases, loss of Alpine environment, and so on are placing a LOT of stress on the environment, often long term… particularly the Adirondacks where problems often first surface and are not readily recognized.

    Politics is not appropriate to protecting the environment when it is NEEDED. Like Acid Rain Reduction equipment, it was NEEDED at the time. Protecting the ADK’s is needed NOW. Hardly for me, being an old man, but for my children and my children’s children…

  10. eventually no one will support the acquisition and preservation of these lands if no one can access them and if the support communities dry up and disappear. The best way to manage and support is to make the lands desirable and accessible with vibrant support communities.
    Just sayin’

    • Boreas says:


      Who is saying “no one” will be able to access the parcel? That was the situation BEFORE the state bought it.

      • Paul says:

        Not correct. Hundreds of members (and their guests) of the sporting clubs on the properties had access. Land does not need to be public for there to be access. The question here for the towns is will there be more or less use based on the new gig. These places were wildly popular and busy during the hunting season when these clubs were in full swing.

  11. Charlie S says:

    “Under an interim access plan, the state is allowing people to drive 3.2 miles up the road. From there, it’s a 3.6-mile hike along dirt roads to the ponds.”

    This is much wiser than allowing motors a mile away from the pond. More futuristic and a fair deal for everyone you would think.

    • Justin Farrell says:

      Agreed, and it’s something that I’ve been trying to get people to talk about a little more back when this became state land back in early May.
      I feel that if it was discussed a bit more early on, perhaps it could’ve had more of an impact on the decision making process for some grouos & individuals as an acceptable trailhead, instead of it being a hopeful final compromise. Hence my frustration on this topic over the past 6 months, along with my unanswered questions to Mr. Gibson in previous discussions on this as a possible option.

  12. Charlie S says:

    “North Hudson Supervisor Ron Moore, whose town includes Boreas Ponds, argues that a variety of recreational opportunities is necessary to maximize tourism.”

    Ron Moore! Mister all about a source of revenue damn every thing else!

  13. Charlie S says:

    Marco says, “Climate change, global warming, loss of fishery, loss of wood through disease & environment, invasive species, ocean level increases, loss of Alpine environment, and so on are placing a LOT of stress on the environment, often long term… ”

    This is futuristic and very coherent thinking and should be considered in these proposals. I’ve been thinking along these same lines. We should be considering the long term effects of our decisions on these proposals not short term like it always seems to be and science ought to be included in them not economic benefits like Mr. Moore just cannot seem to get past.

  14. Charlie S says:

    “The best way to manage and support is to make the lands desirable and accessible…”

    Yeah but with limitations and a long range of view in mind.

  15. Charlie S says:

    “These places were wildly popular and busy during the hunting season when these clubs were in full swing.”

    Yes but there’s more Joe and Mary public’s than there were/are private members Paul. By far more!

  16. Charlie S says:

    ““The Adirondack Council and Adirondack Wild agree that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect the legacy of the Adirondacks and make sure that the Boreas Ponds are completely enclosed in and protected as part of an expanded High Peaks Wilderness Area…”

    I’m open to this too so long as they put lean-to’s back there so hikers can spend a night instead of trudging another seven miles out in the same day. This would be fine for the more adventurous plus future generations would benefit greatly from less usage nowadays.

  17. Marco says:

    Charlie S, yes. I agree that IFF the road is closed then lean-tos would be needed. I have done several trips where a 6-7mi or longer portage was done. They are not like the less than 100yd carries in the St. Regis Area. Forked Lake to Deerland is one. Up and down, in the boat and out of the boat, yup, it’s easier to carry it the whole way. Union Falls to Saranac Village is another, even longer one (rather than risking my cedar strip boat on the rapids.) I did this and have plans to do this over the next year. I’m am getting old, but it doesn’t stop me from hauling a boat a lousy 6 miles, WITH WHEELS, no less. But going both ways on the trail is a chore. A dry place on each pond to stay would be a welcome place to stop. Close the damn road. Let the forest regrow/reclaim the land. DEC, do your JOB and ignore the politics.

    The arguments, with its helpful divisiveness, have gone on more than long enough. But it will take a hundred years to straighten out. We HAVE to get started as long starting does NOT mean an amusement park theme(surely not mine) Mr. Moore has seemingly suggested. Wild Forest, Primitive, or Wilderness?

    • Boreas says:


      I think what annoys me is that it seems Mr. Moore feels his Town has purchased the parcel, not NYS taxpayers. The question to be sorted out is how much voice should local interests have WRT how a state purchase should be classified. He is just following Basic Negotiation 101 principals and asking for more than he needs in order to get some of what he wants. But without statewide public education and hearings, what input do the taxpayers have? How many taxpayers are even aware of this purchase? I would say damn few.

      • Dan says:

        Mr. Moore’s town could have very easily agreed to not allow the state to make the purchase. Towns have that right when EPF funds are used to buy property in fee purchase. Although I’m sure they were aware that the classification might now work out as they desire, perhaps they felt that by approving the sale they at least had a chance for their desired outcome.

      • Justin Farrell says:

        Speaking of New York tax payers…
        Why would anyone who supports a wildeness classifcation want the DEC to spend more time & money to create/enlarge another parking area along the road?

        There is one but one small clearing just above LeBeir Flow that may hold about a dozen vehicles or so after some more excavating and other work is performed to make it suitable for that purpose.

        If public access is allowed to that point within a mile of the ponds, I would think that parking lot would fill to capacity fairly quickly, especially on weekends.

        What then? Create more overflow parking areas further down the road with more tax payer money?
        What the heck is wrong with the existing second gate at 3.2 miles (or the first gate) where much of this type of work has already been performed?

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