Monday, January 16, 2017

Dave Olbert: Boreas Ponds Classification Commentary

What is Wilderness, Wild Forest, Primitive, and so on as we apply these terms to our Adirondack Park? They are labels we give to parcels of land within a line drawn on a map. These terms only regulate what we can and can’t do within the corresponding boundaries on the lands that all New Yorkers own. Unless we force all the people who have inholdings to give up their property, remove the road systems, remove the man-made structures, and eliminate some towns, the Adirondacks will never be like the wilderness areas out West.

The concept of what wilderness is as we have applied this term to our Adirondacks is misleading. Is the High Peaks area really wilderness with the extensive overuse it is experiencing? Is sitting at Blue Ledge Pool in the Hudson River Gorge a wilderness experience when 50 whitewater rafts pass through it on any given Saturday? When this question is put to wilderness advocates they simply do not respond; they do not have an answer, or do not want to admit that it is not a “Wilderness Experience.”

The Vanderwacker “Wild Forest” east of the Hudson River and North of the Cedar River is more like wilderness than “The High Peaks Wilderness Area.” You see a mature forest and a section of the Hudson River that is seldom visited. It is unlikely you will see another person except during hunting season. The Park has numerous tracts of land classified Wild Forest that have that same wilderness feel, and the human use of these areas are minimal. Overuse occurs in the High Peaks because people have a goal to climb a “High Peak” or to climb the 46. Another overuse reason is that many can be climbed on a day hike rather than an overnight. Mount Marcy can be climbed in a day because a Wild Forest region trailhead penetrates deep into the High Peaks Wilderness area. I saw very little response or recommendations from wilderness advocates on the online publication Adirondack Almanack when this issue was publicized. After reading Lawrence Gooley’s article on the Almanack which stated education was the Band-Aid which alleviated overuse and degradation in the 1970s and 80s, I offer this suggestion to help reduce the impact.

As an educator I was required to take several interactive online courses. Most had a series of short video clips to view. When that was completed you then had to take a short quiz. After passing the test you could print out a certificate of completion. If DEC utilized this model on its website for each type of use and required users to possess this certificate while participating in their outdoor activity of choice Forest Rangers could check to see if they fulfilled the requirement. The U.S. Forest Service uses a similar process for permitted rafting groups on the Grand Canyon. Although you do not need to take a quiz after viewing the video clips the ranger at the put-in checks your gear and administers an oral quiz to the group before your departure.

I grew up in Newcomb and lived in the Upper Works or “Adirondac” until I was 8 years old. I downhill and backcountry ski, enjoy mountain biking, climbed the 46, paddle moving and flat water, hunt and fish some, and am an active NYS-licensed guide for whitewater rafting, camping, hiking, and fishing. I never got into snowmobiling or ATV use but have no problem with that user group as long as they follow the rules.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to serve Long Lake Central School as a Physical Education Instructor and Driver Education Instructor for 27 years. During my tenure at LLCS I exposed my students to the same outdoor activities I enjoy and many remain actively engaged in outdoor recreation.

My wife Ruth is also a lifelong resident of the Park. Ruth and I invested all of our resources into starting an outfitters business in Newcomb about 20 years ago. It has gradually grown into a viable option for one or more of our children to return to and operate, but they may need supplemental income from a pension as I have. They left the Adirondacks because they had few good employment opportunities that fit with their skill set; they are millennials. I included this segment of my life in this public comment to emphasize understanding of my passion and vested interest in the Adirondack Park and The Town of Newcomb.

After attending the public hearing at Newcomb I have modified and expanded my input on the Boreas Ponds classification. A significant number of students from Plattsburgh State attended the Newcomb hearing in support of a wilderness classification for the entire Boreas Ponds acquisition. Many students made a point of informing us that they were millennials and they were the future of the Adirondack Park. I agree, young people are always the future, not only of the Adirondacks but the world. I sincerely hope that more of their demographic will commit themselves to living and hopefully working in the Park. The reality of their future is many will prioritize a need for income, health insurance, and the desire to raise a family. This need will place most of that demographic a significant distance from the Park or in economically viable towns and cities in or near the Park. Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, and Ticonderoga are examples of where millennials could live in the Park and possibly thrive, depending on their skill set. Well-paying jobs are few in small Adirondack towns. Teachers, DEC, DOT, and working for the towns themselves are the best-paying jobs, all public-service jobs. We have trouble retaining homegrown youth and attracting youth because of a quality-job deficiency.

One of the students singled out Newcomb saying that there was nothing there. I have seen this condemnation before on the Almanack. As a lifelong resident this is very painful to hear and inaccurate. Newcomb businesses include a DEC public campsite on Lake Harris, one B&B, an outfitter/guide service/store with four-season cabin rentals, self-service gas, a fabulous fabric shop, Tracy Camp, woodworking business, and bar and grill to mention just a few. Cultural, historical, and educational entities include a K-12 school nationally recognized for hosting international students, SUNY ESF, Great Camp Santanoni, and the abandoned village of Adirondac. Perhaps the greatest resource Newcomb has to improve its economic future is the abundant natural resources. The Essex Chain, southern approach to the High Peaks, two fire towers, the beginning of the Hudson River, and several lakes and waterways. Yes, we need a convenient store with a modern gas station, more lodging, and an eatery. How would anyone expect our town to obtain these amenities without increasing visitation? I love my town and will continue to fight for every possible asset that will improve the quality of life for our residents and visitors.

Most of the students had visited the ponds and explained how and why the remote character of the area needs to be preserved for future generations. I am sure with proper management the Boreas Ponds will still be there for future generations even if Alternative 1 [the one with the fewest restrictions] is chosen by the APA and the governor. I have faith that DEC will include controls in the UMP that will adequately protect this special place. One only needs to look at Elk Lake and the Ausable Club, private inholdings which mirror the character of Boreas Ponds, to see how internal controls protect the environment. My guess is that most if not all of the students accessed the Boreas Ponds by driving Golf Brook Road as far as allowed, which will not be possible if the entire purchase is classified Wilderness. A recent Adventure Tourism workshop included marketing to millennials in North Creek. The research indicated that millennials are looking for a 1-to- 3-hour outdoor experience per day of visitation. Assuming the research is accurate most will never visit the ponds and no contribution to local economies will be realized if the entire tract is classified Wilderness. I also wonder if these impressionable students were recruited to speak on behalf of wilderness within their educational construct. If this happened without the opportunity of a Wild Forest advocate to present their perspective on the issue then I question the integrity of the instructor and or course.

Another argument opposing reasonable access to the Boreas Ponds is it will be degraded as a result of overuse. One only needs to look at the use data below for the Essex Chain to dispute that claim. After the initial spike in visitation (which may have already occurred for day users in the Boreas Ponds) I am confident it will see a slightly higher pattern of use than the Essex Chain Complex.

Year 2013: Deer Pond access point opened October 1, 2013 – no overnight use allowed until 2014

Year 2014: 77 camping permits issued, 216 total overnight users, 910 day use visitors signed in at the Deer Pond parking area kiosk.

Year 2015: 46 camping permits issued, 111 total overnight users, approximately 1,000 day users signed in at the Deer Pond parking area kiosk.

The 2016 final register sheets have not been collected or complied yet.  Camping permits (from Adirondack Interpretive Center) in the Essex Chain were discontinued on August 15, 2016, but DEC thinks overnight use was up a bit.

Great Camp Santanoni is another example of how man’s interaction with Wilderness/Wild Forest has not ruined it. Motor vehicle access is limited to administrative use. This allows heavy equipment use for maintaining the access road and bridges to Newcomb Lake which is in excellent condition. The Moose Pond road which branches off the Newcomb Lake road is in Wilderness which prohibits motor vehicle and bicycle use. DEC tries to maintain that road with human power only. For years now horse-drawn wagons can no longer get to Moose Pond. DEC cannot repair damage from runoff and fallen trees because the “manpower” required is not available. In addition to the inability to recruit enough manpower to do this kind of work it is not practical or economical. We have a similar problem with the trail infrastructure in the High Peaks, not enough manpower for sustainable trail improvements or reroutes.

The Historic Santanoni Preserve sees heavy day use and moderate overnight camping use. On an early morning mountain bike ride I have seen deer, hawks, and bear; wildlife abounds. I speculate the natural surroundings are still just as litter free and stunning as they were when the Pryun family owned it. In conversation with a prominent environmental advocate I was told that he had opposed saving and reclassifying the gatehouse, farm complex, and camp, but over time and after seeing the restoration results his perspective has changed. This never could have happened if the classification of the area encompassing the great camp had been Wilderness. The significant visitation of Camp Santanoni is an economic plus for the Town of Newcomb. This historic and cultural asset is the only great camp owned by the State of New York.

Heart Lake, the centerpiece of Adirondack Mountain Club’s in-holdings is a beautiful lake with wonderful vistas. Is the lake and surrounding areas full of invasive species even with the substantial human presence? I don’t think so. ADK’s official position of Wilderness north of LaBier Flow on the Boreas Tract would prevent maintenance of the dam at Boreas Ponds.

Without the ability to use equipment to maintain the dam it would eventually breach, and the view, paddling experience, and fishing could be significantly diminished. I want to make it clear that I am not condemning ADK for its in-holdings even though I feel their policy regarding this issue is somewhat hypocritical. The Mountain Club has done much for the Adirondacks and I support their efforts, just not their position on the classification of the Boreas Ponds.

Clearly a portion of wilderness advocates and the hiking community have little to no tolerance for other user groups in NYS including people with disabilities. At the public hearing in Newcomb several comments were made by people no longer able to hike long distances. Many would like an opportunity to see the ponds and views. Some of them had worked in the area and wanted to return to take it all in one more time. It boggles my mind that wilderness advocates can ignore or dismiss that in this day and age. These people will never get to see the beauty of Avalanche Pass, or views from the top of our High Peaks. Now we have the opportunity to classify this tract so they can at least see something comparable, let’s do the right thing for people with disabilities.

The current regulations that prevent mountain bikes from using perfectly conducive roads just because they exist in a Wilderness classification is totally unreasonable. The only somewhat creditable argument expressed opposing such use is bicycles are mechanized and detracts from the wilderness experience. A mountain biker may detract from the wilderness experience of a sensitive hiker but it will be much briefer than a hiker observing rafts passing through Blue Ledges or a hike up Algonquin on a busy weekend. If a bicycle is considered mechanized, then a canoe wheel cart is mechanized; why have there not been objections to this type of mechanized use to access interior bodies of water? The fact of the matter is “mechanized” is most commonly referring to non-human powered devices. If the Boreas Ponds and the road system is inside a Wild Forest classification at least the possibility of allowing bicycles on the road system exist.

The APA recently considered an amendment to allow bikes in wilderness areas park-wide, but it was only approved for the Essex Chain. I urge the APA to revisit the current regulation in the State Land Master Plan and allow bicycle use based on the infrastructure and character of the land rather than the classification. Bicycles do not degrade trails or spread invasive species any more than a hiker would. Horses, however, are allowed on designated trails in Wilderness and cause significant damage to trails not conducive to that use. Research has shown horse droppings to be a significant source for transporting invasive species. Why have the wilderness advocates not objected to this user group in a wilderness classification?

If the road to the Boreas Ponds and the roads around the ponds are classified as Wilderness no options for other users will be possible without changing the State Land Master Plan, or reclassification, which has never happened once a Wilderness classification has been designated.

I support Alternative 1 for the land classification of the Boreas Ponds Tract. This will provide maximum flexibility for DEC to consider all user groups in New York State when developing the unit management plan. Alternative 1 will permit the maintenance of the roads, and the dam. Bicycles can be considered for 17 of the 53 miles of road, all of which is conducive to that use. Alternative 1 would allow the greater access for people with disabilities and requiring special considerations for accessing and enjoying Boreas.

Adirondack Wilderness Advocates claim that a Wilderness classification will have greater economic impact on the local economies. I disagree and think a Wild Forest classification will derive the greatest possible benefit. To think that a grand gateway facility off I-87 in North Hudson could survive economically on the minimal number of visitors coming to see the ponds and access the High Peaks in the late fall, winter, and spring is unrealistic. The implied scope of such a facility would require a large investment. A private entity would be hard-pressed to make the mortgage payments. Blue Ridge Hotel tried to stay open in the winter and did not have enough business to make it profitable. Boreas Ponds will be another small contributor to the overall economic picture, just like the Essex Chain, but every little contribution adds up. After reviewing AWA’s website and reading how people with disabilities or “differently abled” people will still be able to get to the ponds is also unrealistic. Sure, some people with disabilities could cope with a 14-mile round trip in an all-terrain wheelchair, but the majority of that demographic could not. I think only a minimal number of differently abled will actually take advantage of seeing the ponds regardless of the level of access. I agree that you cannot make accommodations for every wilderness setting and understand why the U.S. Forest Service exempts Wilderness from the mandate. That is exactly why I believe we need a Wild Forest classification as indicated in Alternative 1, so at least some of our most pristine spots are available for differently abled people to view and enjoy.

In closing I want to point out that many advocates (like I speculated for the Green Shirt Students) for Wilderness are influenced to perceive this classification is the best future for the property without having the opportunity to listen to the viewpoint of Wild Forest advocates. Some wilderness-advocate leadership groups use exaggeration and fabrications to influence the general public. This tactic is unethical. A large majority of residents in NYS and the Adirondacks do not even know what is happening and/or have little to no understanding of the process. Is it fair to solicit people to back your position on an issue without presenting the viewpoints of both sides? Many wilderness supporters have no intention of visiting the area, simply don’t care how it impacts the local economy, and are therefore not true stakeholders. Sure, a case can be made that they are stakeholder because they want to preserve it for the future generations. But as previously stated and supported by specific examples, a Wild Forest classification as presented in Alternative 1 will not ruin this property. This is especially true because DEC will next be charged with implementing a UMP and I am sure protecting the environmentally sensitive area will be prioritized.

The above commentary was submitted to the Adirondack Park Agency, which will soon be deciding how to classify Boreas Ponds and a number of other recently acquired state lands.


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The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional guest essays from Adirondack residents, visitors, and those with an interest in the Adirondack Park. Submissions should be directed to Almanack editor Melissa Hart at

97 Responses

  1. scottvanlaer says:

    “To think that a grand gateway facility off I-87 in North Hudson could survive economically on the minimal number of visitors coming to see the ponds and access the High Peaks in the late fall, winter, and spring is unrealistic”….was anybody stating that it was?

  2. scottvanlaer says:

    “The APA recently considered an amendment to allow bikes in wilderness areas park-wide,” This is news to me. When did this occur?

  3. scottvanlaer says:

    “Clearly a portion of wilderness advocates and the hiking community have little to no tolerance for other user groups in NYS including people with disabilities.” Seriously?

    • Boreas says:


      Yes, I believe he is serious. It is called propaganda.

      • scottvanlaer says:

        I just think it’s time to end that Straw Man argument, instead the author is taking it to a new level. I am waiting for Part II “Wilderness advocates hate disabled veterans!!!” .

        • Boreas says:


          Well, we had a guy last week that said we “hated” the disabled, elderly, and families with small children. I suppose he meant disabled vets as well.

  4. Approximately 24 young people, or millennials, spoke in support of Wilderness at the Newcomb hearing. Of those, four were students from SUNY Plattsburgh. The remaining individuals made it quite clear that they are residents of the park. Some have lived here for 10 years or more, others have started and own businesses in the park.

    Regardless of where these individuals are from, they are interested in the Adirondack Park and were willing to speak in a public forum about their values. Why try to discredit their point of view?

  5. Jim S. says:

    So since the high peaks and blue ledges on the Hudson sometimes don’t provide a true wilderness experience Boreas Ponds shouldn’t either? Why is it that most of the voices for alternative 1 are locals and the people who travel and visit want stronger protection?

    • Taras says:

      I’m a regular hiker who travels 2.5-3 hours to the High Peaks and I would like to see stronger protection in place.

  6. Taras says:


    I was drawn to read your article by its title:
    Dave Olbert: Boreas Ponds Classification Commentary

    One-third of the way into it, I realized the title was misleading. It should’ve been:
    Dave Olbert: Everything on my mind (and Boreas Ponds Classification)

    Nevertheless, I did read all ~3000 words. Here are my 600 words.

    Your article begins by correctly explaining the classification categories are simply how the state chooses to manage parcels of land. Then it proceeds to conflate “Wilderness” with the apparent need to be bereft of visitors. (We’d like them to be that way but so would everyone other visitor.)

    It moves on to suggesting a skill-testing quiz might help cull the number of visitors. I don’t know if you’re proposing this as a solution for the High Peaks, Boreas Ponds, neither or both … but I’m still reading.

    It indicates Mount Marcy is a popular attraction because it can be climbed in a day because “a Wild Forest region trailhead penetrates deep into the High Peaks Wilderness area”. C’mon, Dave. We both know you can day-hike Marcy from any of the three major trail-heads (Loj, Garden, Tahawus) and even Elk Lake. Being the tallest peak in NYS, and on the 46er list, has more to do with its attraction than a “Wild Forest region penetrating deeply”. Besides, it’s still a ~15 mile return-trip from the Loj.

    Then we get your resume.

    There’s the longish part about the limited prospects of employment within the High Peaks.

    It proceeds to list Newcomb’s amenities and attractions.

    Finally, halfway in, there’s something directly related to Boreas Ponds Classification. It’s the tenuous claim that closing Gulf Brook Road to vehicular traffic will eliminate visits from Millenials because research claims “millenials are looking for a 1-to-3 hour outdoor experience per day of visitation”. That’s a curious conclusion when you consider there are many Millenials in the High Peaks where precious few hikes are in the 1-3 hour range.

    It claims overuse, through Wild Forest designation, is not a concern because nearby Essex Chain has had few visitors. This is cold comfort; preservation through low public interest.

    It compares the state of two roads, one in good condition maintained by heavy equipment and the other in bad shape maintained by hand. It extrapolates the same fate will befall Gulf Brook road if vehicles cannot use it. It doesn’t mention there are unmaintained roads, closed for *decades*, that still exist and are in fair shape (like Calkins, Ward Brook, Marcy Dam) and perfectly fine for pedestrian use (all that’s needed in a Wilderness zone).

    It mentions the dam may breach if it doesn’t get maintenance by way of vehicles traveling along Gulf Brook road. True; such is the fate of man-made structures in a Wilderness area (Flowed Lands Dam, Duck Hole Dam, Marcy Dam). This is, as the other Donald once stated, a “known known”; when you designate an area “Wilderness”, entropy happens. The obstruction is removed by nature and the land reverts to its original state.

    It labels Wilderness advocates as foes of the aged and disabled. Effectively, only Wild Forest advocates are friends to people with mobility issues. Why not make a “Modest Proposal” to scrap the “Wilderness” category altogether because it’s discriminatory?

    It states the current bike ban in Wilderness areas is “totally unreasonable”. Seeing that Wild Forest can allow for bikes, this is the preferred option. It doesn’t explain why the presence of a given man-made structure, like a road, should influence the land classification. Calkins, Ward Brook and Marcy Dam roads all lie in Wilderness zones, so there is precedent to ignore the presence of extant man-made structures when choosing a classification.

    There’s more but I’d like to draw one’s attention to this line:
    “Some wilderness advocate leadership use exaggeration and fabrications to influence the general public”

    It appears both sides use the same techniques. Same old, same old.

    • Boreas says:


      1/3 of the way through his manifesto I realized it was just so much drivel. Opinions are fine, but he touched on so much stuff that I couldn’t remember the title. But I do get riled when incendiary statements like “Clearly a portion of wilderness advocates and the hiking community have little to no tolerance for other user groups in NYS including people with disabilities.” are made that are obviously erroneous, misleading, and part of the Big Lie – tell it enough and it becomes truth. Another rhetoric technique currently in vogue…

      • Taras says:

        “When this question is put to wilderness advocates they simply do not respond; they do not have an answer, or do not want to admit that it is not a “Wilderness Experience.””

        “They simply do not respond”. I don’t know who he’s asking but I know I have a response:

        Don’t conflate the management concept of “Wilderness” with the notion of “wilderness experience”. No “Wilderness” advocate believes designating a parcel of land as “Wilderness” will magically transform it into the heart of Alaska (or, shameless plug, northern Quebec).

  7. Keith Gorgas says:

    I don’t see how, morally, you can ask all the people of NY State to pay for the purchase of an asset, and then declare the best of off limits to every one but the rich and most fit. We do that all the time in NY State, and it’s time to change, said the fat old crippled man.

    • Trailogre says:

      The rich……..? Haha what a statement!

      Quite the opposite…….I can’t afford an 8000.00 Atv and a 50000.00 pickup truck for my kids or myself
      And my wife and I work 4 jobs

      Keep the whole thing wilderness!!!!!!

      • Boreas says:


        I agree. What are the people who can’t even afford cars supposed to do? A public bus won’t even get you there. Do we bus them in at no charge from all points of the state because they have a right to see their lands? This is a contention I have with the “access” groups. They point to the rights of people with limited mobility and say ‘Oh what a shame’, but what about people with this type of limited mobility? What is their plan for them? Or don’t they count because they can’t afford transportation? Fortunately, those of us with physical limitations have many places in NYS we CAN visit! The Park is a very unique place.

    • TrailOgre says:

      State lands are open to everyone
      <<<<<<>>> can access the State Lands in the Adirondacks

  8. Buck says:

    Credit the ADK Almanac with publishing a piece by someone with viewpoints that differ from those stated in previous articles on this topic.

    • Boreas says:

      I can agree with that!

      • Steve says:

        Absolutely! Kudos to Dave for what I see as an article that runs more in line with my thoughts and feelings on this topic. Usually the Almanac is just another sounding board for the latest cause de jour of the left. Thank you to the Almanac for publishing this. Not sorry for all the butt hurt that it may have caused. Now, retreat to your safe spaces everyone.

  9. Matt Sisti says:

    Full disclosure. I know Dave Olbert and consider him a friend. He and his wife Ruth are at the core of what is right in the Adirondacks. Hard working stewards of this park that live in it every day. Please feel free to disagree with Dave but please do not disrespect him. I am avid reader on this site and although I dont always agree with the viewpoints expressed as it relates to a more rigorous classification on Boreas I respect people’s opinions. I was pleased to see that Dave’s voice was given a forum here and to that I give much due credit to John and the folks at the Almanac. Well done. I’m not going to drag this post into another discussion supporting a specific classification for Boreas; there’s been enough said. Many good points on both sides. I wanted to add just one small remark and interestingly, it has little to do with Boreas and more to do with Dave’s remark regarding the education of Millenials: “If this happened without the opportunity of a Wild Forest advocate to present their perspective on the issue then I question the integrity of the instructor and or course”

    I have twin daughters that recently graduated college. They returned with a mindset that was stunningly singular as it relates to world affairs, politics and yes, the Adirondacks and how it should be managed. Academia is profoundly left leaning and sadly they are rarely offered a viewpoint that offer our kids any balance. Again, this isnt about right or wrong, it’s about developing future generations that can gather all information and make an unencumbered decision independent of the direction the big crowd is moving. They both informed me they have read up on the classification and it was a discussion amongst their peers who they enjoy hiking with. They presented a passionate argument for Wilderness. I then spent 15 minutes offering an alternate viewpoint and although they didnt change their position they could see the common elements and the opportunity for compromise.

    So, let’s not attack Dave for sharing a bit of his life and his passion for his home town. Let’s go beyond that. Look deeper into his arguments and perhaps you’ll see common ground that satisfies all that we seek.

    • Jim S. says:

      I totally agree. I vacation every year in Newcomb and one of the main reasons I continue to return is because of Dave and Ruth, they have offered me great advice on exploring that area even if I do not spend a nickel at Clouds platter. I have reservations in August and will spend some nickels, although I hope to explore the Boreas Ponds wilderness.

    • Boreas says:


      I appreciate your concern for the author. If you are a regular reader here, you will recognize that most of the environmental articles engender a lot of contrary responses – regardless of topic. The author opined on numerous topics, which naturally generated numerous contrary comments. Most of the negative comments weren’t personal.

      That being said, it does get personal when one is given the opportunity to write an article then casts aspersions on opponents that are inflammatory and patently untrue, but yet are regularly repeated by different authors. My personal hot button is that Wilderness proponents have no tolerance for people with limited mobility or are elitists. It is obviously untrue, yet it is repeated by many access advocates. I call it a Big Lie, similar to Obama’s birth certificate and the Clintons being murderers. Tell the lie often enough and it becomes truth. I feel if statements of this type are left unchallenged, everybody loses.

    • scottvanlaer says:

      Up to the point of my comment there are No! Zero! ad hominem attacks. People are debating his rhetoric and that is fair even if heated. Let’s be honest, he included some inflammatory statements, by all means back them up.

  10. Bruce says:


    What a great and well-thought out article, mirroring many of my thoughts. I can relate to “packing” public hearings. I know of one public hearing in my area where homeless people were paid, bussed to a hearing, and given matching tee shirts, in order to show “support” for a particular view.

    I don’t give a lot of credence to groups of students speaking out against or for this or that, because it has been proven time and again they will jump on bandwagons without fully understanding where the wagon is going. Remember the student demonstrations of the late 60’s and 70’s against the “establishment and what it stood for?” Where are they now…either working for or retiring from that self same establishment because that’s where the jobs are.

    • Keith Gorgas says:

      That’s kind of humorous for me to read. Having spent a large portion of my adult life as a charter bus driver, I’ve brought more than a few groups of homeless and indigent people to rallies and elections. They get a free bus ride in a luxury coach, a good meal or two, and a T-shirt and they “show support” and vote. People don’t believe me when I tell them that. In my experience, it’s always been the same party, and then the hiring committee folds up their tent and sticks the bus owners for the bill. I think I still have some Bill Clinton and Obama T-shirts left from some of those “tours”. Never in the North Country, but Philly and Newark NJ.

      • Boreas says:


        Did you interview these folks to see where their political interests were? Were they taken against their will? The indigent have opinions too – and they are voting citizens. Of course that assumes their state’s voting requirements aren’t stacked against them…

        • Bruce says:


          If I read Keith correctly, he was talking about bussing folks to polling places to vote, not offering the homeless a free meal, tee shirt, and a nice bus ride to a public hearing for the purpose of “showing support” for one side of an issue or the other.

          Yes it’s true these folks have opinions, but I seriously doubt the issues were explained to them, nor were they canvassed to find out what their opinion was beforehand. I’m sure they were just happy for a break in their meagre lives when it was offered.

          I was talking about a “show” of support, not speaking at the meeting to say why they think an issue should be supported or not. There’s a difference. A whole row of green tee shirts says something, even if none of them speak, which was my point.

          • Boreas says:

            “Yes it’s true these folks have opinions, but I seriously doubt the issues were explained to them, nor were they canvassed to find out what their opinion was beforehand. I’m sure they were just happy for a break in their meagre lives when it was offered.”

            I don’t think I can buy this statement. While it may be true for a few, many of the homeless and indigent typically weren’t born into poverty. Many had real lives, were well-informed and political before they hit hard times. Job loss and catastrophic health issues can ruin anyone’s life without actually taking it. Just because people are indigent doesn’t mean they are uninformed, apolitical, or have no opinions.

    • Jim S. says:

      I don’t give credence to someone who dismisses an entire age group because hippies used to be young.

  11. Pete Klein says:

    Thanks, Dave. You made excellent points
    Wilderness, wild forest, whatever! If you want a “wilderness experience,” come to Hamilton County and stay the hell out of the not really very high High Peaks.

  12. Don Sage says:

    The hikers have already polluted and destroyed the High Peaks. Now they want to destroy the rest of the Adirondacks. Wilderness is a lie. Time to restrict all forest preserve lands to those above 3,000 feet elevation. Open all the lands 3,000 feet and below to all types of outdoor recreation. Let all the people, including handicapped and disabled, access and use of all these lands and waters. End the prejudices, biases, of the DEC and APA that locks everyone out but hikers and canoers. These lands belong to all and must be open to all.

  13. Tom Philo says:

    Excellent commentary ~ It seems the Wilderness Advocates want every acquisition to be their own private playground with a mindset of preventing all but the very few the enjoyment of the Adirondack Park. It sometimes seems their message is “Stay out of the park ~ this is mine not yours”

  14. Paul says:

    Again all this just shows that the APA’s approach of making about half of this wilderness is a balanced approach. Both sides will keep squawking for all or nothing. In the end everybody gets some of what they want. And, as usual, some will claim that all is lost and probably call their lawyer.

  15. Justin Farrell says:

    I don’t quite understand the comparison of Elk Lake & the Ausable Club, if public motorized access is allowed up to (& around) the Boreas Ponds. I would think a better comparison might be places like Cedar River Flow, or Jabe Pond & Lily Pond in the Lake George Wild Forest, or even Cheney Pond just down the Blue Ridge Rd from Gulf Brook Rd. Anyone who has been to these places knows that they get beat to death with over-use, litter, tree cutting, and shoreline degradation. I think that I higher level of protection with more restrictions would be better suited for the Boreas Ponds.

  16. Tim-Brunswick says:

    Well, well, well…. poor Dave Olbert must not have realized that he was entering into the “Wilderness only” Adirondack Almanac domain and dared to express his “Wild Forest” viewpoint.

    I’m pleasantly surprised and thankful it was published so to speak.

    God Bless him for his courage! The majority of the frequent flyers above naturally nit-picked his lengthy expression of a different viewpoint from theirs….Heaven forbid!

    Mr. Olbert is spot on when he dares to say that there is really no true “wilderness” in the Adirondacks, but we all still love it and many of us are fighting to actually be able to enjoy and see it rather than be shut out.

    Thank you

    • Taras says:

      I’m pleased to read his viewpoint here as well. It demonstrates both sides of this debate aren’t shy to use conflation, exaggeration, and cherry-picked data.

      “No true wilderness” is a strawman argument. “Wilderness” classification does NOT require the land to be pristine wilderness untouched by man. Many of the existing “Wilderness” areas were once clear-cut and heavily “touched” by man. The goal of “Wilderness” is to allow the land to remain/revert to a (more) natural state.

      “Courage” is a word I’d use to describe firefighters rushing into a burning building. The word “courage” is greatly diminished when used to describe someone posting an opinion piece. The worst Dave will get here is respectful disagreement about his opinions on land classification.

      In contrast, Penn Hoyt has intimated that people who disagree with Dave are bastards. Name-calling doesn’t help promote the free exchange of (opposing) opinions and ideas.

  17. Penn Hoyt says:

    Great article and position. The State needs to go with your recommendation. I have MS and walking the distance it takes, without the road remaining, is extremely difficult. Adopting the recommendation that Dave recommends is prudent and allows the best use for all. I’d love to meet you sometime. You have sensibility in your writing and views, not knee jerk reactions. To quote John Wayne, “Don’t let the bastards get you down.”

  18. Charlie S says:

    Tim-Brunswick says: “God Bless him for his courage!”

    What is God?

  19. ScottyB says:

    I agree with Dave’s main points and want to thank him for his post. Sorry for the arrows sailing at him from other writers here.

  20. James Marco says:

    Well, I fully support David Olbert’s right to be heard.

    I do not agree with what he says, though. Looking at his location and his life as he states, he is squarely in line with the local governments/business owners.

    I agree NY’s idea of “wilderness” is not the ideal. Somehow, I don’t think that the wildest stretch of land in NY, being 3-5 miles from a road, actually qualifies as wilderness in the non-political sense. It was formed to protect the (then) damaged forests and watersheds of the ADK’s. It still exists today to serve the same function. Basically, to keep the business out of the ADK’s and let nature do what it has done for a few thousand years. Adding to the territory is a given with our increase in general knowledge and increased urban populations. Unfortunately, all the major benefits go to urban areas, not actually a part of the ADK’s. Local ADK businesses being relegated to placeholders.

    As any student of ecology will tell you, a healthy ecosystem rarely includes people. Business needs people to do well. So, we have the dichotomy of people vs environment. It is not about how we decide to use the land the state has purchased, it is about allowing NYS citizens to even go there. Fortunately, all public lands are publicly accessible. The political fact of millions of people using the ADK’s since it’s creation as a preserve, and, the desire of the people to “get out”, make regulating people OUT of the ADK’s an even crazier idea than importing a million people per year to visit the place.

    But, why do they visit? Why protect the environment? Why does it take so much discussion for a few acres of land? Why do people want to get out? Why to the ADK’s? Why not send all the people down to Battery Park in NY city and close the whole damn park? Why not just have a hose pushing water over a pile of rocks instead of a natural waterfall? Why not have a half million people come to see your amusement park? Not for me.

    Why not open the road to cars, build a boat launch, dredge a canal so the boats can cross over from the boat launch? Why not build a new State Park there? Why not have a few thousand people fishing it’s waters? Hell we can put all those DEC suckers to work for a change stocking the ponds! Why not have ATV’s running around the woods, a minor accident or two never stood in the way of progress. Lets make our local business men rich with their over priced food and selling pine cones and perverse looking 4 pound packs. What the hell, go for it if you are so inclined. If you really need to think through these questions, I fully support your right to free speech (and make a complete fool out of yourself.)

    I suppose most people think I am a real jerk. But essentially, I want a drink of water. Without the ADK’s, and its various rules and regulations, I would not get the same drink today. I would have to buy WATER, to drink. Filtered, decontaminated, unleaded, certified inimical biota free water every day. Hmmm, maybe I should become an entrepreneur of THAT in our ADK amusement park, rather than advocating to save a small stream, creating a couple ponds in a wetland area that has just a few bird species, among other things….. We might even import a few pigeons from NY City to keep the tourists happy and encourage diversity in species…

    Nope…. Close the damn road. Make it wilderness for everyone’s sake, not just because I want my imaginary business to thrive. Let everyone visit, but leave the 6mi hike as the ONLY defense against the strange two footed predators.

    • Paul says:

      Why do these things get blown so far out of proportion. Amusement park? Bottled water? ATVs? Where is all this coming from?

      As far as water goes – Back around the formation of the park it was claimed that the Adirondacks needed protection in order to ensure a safe water supply for NYC. Of course that wasn’t true since NYC’s water comes from reservoirs near the Catskills but whatever! Long Island gets it water from three aquifers below the island. Apparently some of the most productive in the world.

      Here we are talking about possibly leaving a few miles of road open (along with closing many many many more miles of roads) and making some of the land a Wild Forest and some of it (over ten thousand areas) Wilderness even in the least restrictive case.

      • ScottyB says:

        Right Paul, this all gets stretched and pulled by partisan types that it’s hard to know what the real issues are. It’s crazy. Unfortunately it is also a pattern of behavior increasingly common in our times. Sad.

        • Boreas says:


          • Paul says:

            For example on this issue I have seen environmental groups refer to people like Dave that support a less restrictive classification as “opponents” of a wilderness classification.

            That is just pure spin. In this case Dave supports a classification that will see about half of the land (over 10,000 acres) as Wilderness.

            Words like “opponents” are clearly aimed to polarize.

            • Boreas says:

              When I have used that verbiage, I am supporting a classification for more or all Wilderness for the parcel. Therefore someone who doesn’t support more or total Wilderness would be an ‘opponent’ to those that do, as they would be opposed to those views. It would be merely disagreement, not polarization.

              By polarization, most people mean exact opposites and extreme differences with no meaningful dialog. Like a magnet – N and S poles. No middle ground, no discussion.

              • Paul says:

                The only extreme position here is the one taken by folks that are calling for an all wilderness classification. I don’t see the other extreme in any proposals. The other extreme would be something like an all intensive use classification. Even an all wild forest classification (not on the table) would have the restrictions that go with that classification. So I personally only see one extreme being proposed here.

                • Boreas says:

                  Exactly – it never was proposed by the APA – kind of our point. Neither was anything about classifying the Ponds themselves as Wilderness. It is the wetlands that are the most vulnerable. If that seems extreme – to try to protect the most vulnerable part of the parcel with a Wilderness classification, then so be it.

                  I can live with it the way the interim plan is set up. If they want to close the road and classify everything FP, I’m OK with that as well. Is anyone else willing to compromise?? But these measures are also considered extreme by many. Basically, other than drive-up access to LaBier Flow, everything is considered extreme and not open to discussion.

                  Classification seems to have little to do with the intent of the APA. Rather, it is about how can APA keep the parcel and ponds area “pristine” and still allow motor vehicles 6 miles into the heart of the parcel so everyone with a car/truck/camper/motorcycle can visit. Good luck.

      • John says:

        I’m a bit of a NY history dilettante, but if I recall, the water issue during the formation of the Park was not about drinking water, but that for navigation and industrial uses. And it was not about preserving those waters for NYC, but for the economic health of the whole state. Colvin and others feared that damming and water intensive industry at the headwaters of the Hudson, Mohawk, etc. would endanger navigability and industry.

        As to the road, I have seen remote areas with a road and without. The areas with roads get more use and more intensive use. More use in an area changes the area. I guess the question is whether the increased access changes the area to the extent that it no longer provides that which people go there to find.

        • Boreas says:


          Yes, I believe a lot of the problem was siltation in rivers, and issues with regulating the levels of canal systems. Probably the drinking water thing was to get the other residents to buy in as well. But keep in mind, there are reservoirs in the Catskills, and there were similar land degradation issues there as well with tanneries and such. It wasn’t all about the Adirondacks.

      • James Marco says:

        Paul, Unfortunately, much of the ADK’s is viewed as an amusement park by a largish segment of our population, ie, they go there for amusement.

        The Mohawk Valley feeds the Hudson. All that water has to go through NYC to get to the ocean. We cannot afford to continually cause problems with the headwaters of the Mohawk River, the West Canada and others. There are millions of people involved along this population corridor across NYS.

        The ADK supports clean water. It supports a clear watershed. This was found out in the 1800’s. Wilderness supports the water, land and resources in the land. No, we shall not repeat past mistakes by destroying the watershed.

        ATV’s were mentioned as part of the above article, opening up this as a legitimate topic.

        Every journey starts with the first step. Make the entire tract wilderness, close the road, or, at least half of it to the existing gate. We really cannot afford to do less.

        • Paul says:

          The watershed has functioned over the last hundred or so years with all the roads and logging activity and other use on that parcel. Even a wild forest classification will be curtailing most of that activity. Why would you think that it is going to be an issue now?

          If you want wilderness fine but these arguments for why just don’t hold up (I won’t say water!).

  21. Charlie S says:

    “leave the 6mi hike as the ONLY defense against the strange two footed predators.”

    Or as Thoreau would say..’The oddfellow society.’

  22. Charlie S says:

    “he is squarely in line with the local governments/business owners.”

    It’s usually always about self…what can I get out of it?
    Not what is best for the earth, the animals, those less fortunate than us, those unable to put up their own defense, etc..

    • Paul says:

      You imply that the writer has some selfish reason for wanting a less restrictive classification. Can you be more specific if you are going to throw out that charge?

      • Charlie S says:

        I was bouncing off of what James Marco wrote Paul, was not going against the author of this story….and i’m right about what I said.

  23. Charlie S says:

    “Bicycles do not degrade trails.”

    A fabrication.

    • Paul says:

      No – it is not in this particular case. The trails would be the roads that are already there and can easily withstand bike use w/o any really discernible impact. Heck there have been log trucks riding on these roads for decades and as I understand it this area is a gem.

      • Boreas says:

        So what are they – roads or trails? I feel if a car can drive on it, it is a road.

        • Phil Brown says:

          Both. There is a network of former logging roads, but not all are suitable for cars, even those with high clearance.

          • Boreas says:

            Indeed. But there are also foot trails, although not state trails yet. I believe Charlie was talking about trails, not the hardened logging roads. Paul was talking about roads. Apples and oranges.

            • Paul says:

              I don’t think that anyone has suggested designating foot trails for mt biking? The old roads are all that have been suggested for bikes.

    • Bob Rainville says:

      Still working on your levitation skills Charlie?

      • Charlie S says:

        Yes I am Bob! Some days I am gaining more altitude than others. One good upwind and I’ll be off. I don’t expect i’ll be leaving the earth behind anytime soon but who knows?

  24. Charlie S says:

    “Why do these things get blown so far out of proportion. Amusement park? Bottled water? ATVs? Where is all this coming from?”

    One good capitalist with a ton of pull, friends in high places, and a self-serving agenda is all it takes Paul.

    • Paul says:

      Yes. That is exactly the point. Manipulating this type of extreme rhetoric is the problem.

      You can use it to advocate for a Wilderness or get whatever else you want if you know how to spin it.

    • JohnL says:

      This subject has been discussed ad nauseum. No-one is going to change their positions at this point. Let’s move on.

  25. Ed Zahniser says:

    David Olbert writes that: “The fact of the matter is ‘mechanized’ is most commonly referring to non-human powered devices.” This is a myth being propounded by some proponents of mountain bike use in wilderness. In fact, mechanized means mechanized.

    He also writes that: “Many wilderness supporters have no intention of visiting the area, simply don’t care how it impacts the local economy, and are therefore not true stakeholders.” This is also untrue. Stakeholders are those with a stake in the future management of a public asset.

    In US Forest Service sociological surveys — not the simplistic polls used in political arenas — one of the top values that Americans place on wilderness is called the “existence value”—knowing that the area is there in its wilderness state.

    Another top value in the surveys is the “legacy value”—knowing it will be available to our children and grandchildren.

    A Wild Forest classification will not protect the wilderness values as expressed in New York State law. In fact, one can argue, historically, that much Wild Forest management has the effect of allowing a state statute to trump the State Constitution, which is of course patently illegal.

    • Boreas says:

      Interesting points. Thanks!

    • Paul says:

      The first sentence of article 14:

      ” The lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands”

      • Dally jones says:

        The use of Wild Forest to describe the classification less then wilderness is a recent construct and has no relevance to the language used in the state constitution. There is a legal term for this that is escaping my memory at the moment. Any way, your argument doesn’t hold water.

  26. Dan Bell says:

    Bravo Mr. Olbert. Your letter is well articulated and on point. As a resident of Syracuse, I may not experience such a direct effect as you in the decision about Boreas. I will however, most certainly experience the Boreas ponds area. I am an outdoorsman. My particular passion is hiking and exploring new areas. I also enjoy driving my Jeep off-road. I believe the state over regulates many state owned lands, all over the state. To the point of discouraging visitors. Which for many communities, is the only revenue source. I have stated on many occasions, if the state were to open specific areas for off-road use, the communities surrounding these areas would greatly benefit from the visitation of off-road enthusiast. I’ll get off my off-road soapbox now and agree with you that option one is the best for the community.

  27. Frank Marvuglio says:

    All so true. I have been coming up for over 45 years. The changes have been mind boggling. Trail head parking filled in the middle of the week, forget the weekends. Most tourists view the park as “a park” not a “Wilderness Park.” Cheap gas and easy access highways make keeping “Forever Wild” a near impossibility. I for one would hate to see daily permits needed. But I can see no other option.

  28. Lorraine Duvall says:

    Dave’s post and the comments here serve as a reminder that the Adirondack Park plays a national and international role as a model for working out the differences between proponents of economic development and environmental protection. Taylor-ide and Taylor, in their book “Just and Lasting Change: When Communities Own Their Futures,” state that the Adirondack Park is “America’s best tested model for integrating people and nature. It is also the most successful at encouraging diverse sustainable human uses.”

    • Boreasfisher says:

      A great book written by two people with remarkable experience on 6 continents. The most unusual characteristic of the Adirondack Park is exactly its mixture of private and public land. Wish these ideas were more widely known and appreciated. Good on you for citing it!

  29. Charlie S says:

    Ed Zahniser says: “A Wild Forest classification will not protect the wilderness values as expressed in New York State law.”

    I’ve tried to throw light upon this at least a handful of times here. It has yet to sink in.

    • Boreas says:

      All we can do is try, Charlie.

      • Charlie S says:

        And try we must Boreas!

        • Paul says:

          So let me understand the legal argument that you are trying to make? Under NYS law any classification that is not a Wilderness one is illegal. That’s ridiculous. I would be perfectly happy if they do designate all this as wilderness but there are very strong arguments against it. One for it – is not that it is illegal. You gotta come up with something better than that. Yesterday it was a watershed issue that I think doesn’t really make sense unless we are really going to go with some major development in there and that is way off the table. They already tore down the lodge.

  30. Charlie S says:

    Paul says: The first sentence of article 14: ” The lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands”

    >The first sentence of Section 4 states: “The policy of the state shall be to conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty.”

    • Paul says:

      Yes, that is one purpose of the classification system and why we are seeking to remove most of the roads etc. There are plenty scenic and beautiful wild forest parcels in the Adirondacks.

      • Charlie S says:

        “There are plenty of scenic and beautiful wild forest parcels in the Adirondacks.”

        Yes and as Ed Zahniser specified, “A Wild Forest classification will not protect the wilderness values as expressed in New York State law.”

  31. Charlie S says:

    Dan Bell says: “I believe the state over regulates many state owned lands, all over the state.”

    I would like to think they do this because a clairvoyance is innate in them. I believe deregulation transforms things not necessarily for the good. History has proven this. Think the Great Recession of 2008 which not coincidentally occurred after the 8 year reign of King George W. the terrorist who is a free man though who should be charged and imprisoned for crimes against humanity!!!! Deregulation had much to do with the millions of people who lost their jobs and their homes due to the Great Recession,many of whom became homeless and whose voices we hear not from to this day…the silent minority.

    There are reasons for regulations. One noble reason is to reduce the impact of businesses (corporations) on the environment, ie…to protect the environment from thoughtless industrialists who are all for deregulation because it allows them to pollute more to save money.

    ‘Deregulation’ is what we’re going to be hearing frequently come January 20th. Why? Because we’re going to make America great again!

  32. Cathy Burleigh says:

    Wonderful commentary David! I guess I’m one of the ones you named “differently abled”. I have type 1 diabetes. I can’t do much more than a day hike anymore because of all of the food and medical junk I have to carry. I’ve had close calls on both Goodnow and Blue Ledges when I ran out of food, fortunately it was enough to get back, but I’ve mostly laid off the hikes since then. Thanks for working so hard to open the Boreas Tract. After all these years, I’d love to see it. I sent my comments along to the APA also. Keep working for Newcomb, you guys are one the focal points of town. – Cathy Yandon Burleigh

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