Monday, January 23, 2017

Infrastructure Construction at Boreas Ponds?

Governor Cuomo’s proposed new public-private initiative to revitalize Northway Exit 29 in the Adirondack Park, the former Frontiertown theme park, and to create a new visitor center and “gateway” there to benefit not just the town of North Hudson, but Essex County and the entire Adirondack Park is a good proposal.

After the Governor spent public funds to acquire the nearby Boreas Ponds for the Forest Preserve as a kind of gateway to the High Peaks and Dix Mountain Wilderness, this well-traveled sector of Essex County so close to I-87 deserves a gateway information and interpretive center that helps attract, orient, inform and inspire curious travelers – whether or not those visitors intend an outdoor adventure at Boreas Ponds.

What concerns me is one sentence buried in that same State of the State report (on page 271): “Specifically, DEC will construct infrastructure at Boreas Ponds in the Adirondacks and build trails as part of the “Hut-to-Hut” system that links State lands to community amenities.”

DEC will construct at Boreas Ponds. What does this mean? What could it mean?  Where would it apply? No one I’ve asked seems to know the answers yet. It could be a positive directive, tied into the Hut-to-Hut initiative where the goal is for wild land passive, muscle-powered recreation to begin and end at lodgings of all description within Adirondack hamlets. But where could a modest yurt or an elaborate overnight lodging be legally sited at remote, interior Boreas Ponds, and on what main street or hamlet dozens of miles away would such a structure connect to?

Would this be a proposal better intended for the privately owned Elk Lake further to the east and its closer connection to trails leading to Northway Exit 29 in North Hudson?

Or, could this be a gubernatorial directive to the DEC that, whether intentionally or not, interrupts what the Governor’s APA, after reviewing all of the public hearings and evidence, may conclude later this winter: that Boreas Ponds meets all of the necessary conditions and criteria for a Wilderness classification under the State Land Master Plan?

Constructing new infrastructure and an overnight system of “huts” of whatever size and level of luxury would be legally prohibited under a Wilderness classification and subsequent Wilderness management guidelines. If taken to an extreme, and I am not suggesting here that it would be, the “shall construct at Boreas Ponds” directive could translate into a violation of Article XIV’s “shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private” clause pertaining to any part of the NYS Forest Preserve, irrespective of the land’s classification.

The constitutional defeat of the “closed cabins” on the Forest Preserve proposed by Robert Moses in the early 1930’s, or the right decision not to allow commercial overnight uses at Whiteface Mountain Intensive Use Area (part of our Forest Preserve) come to mind. DEC, with great effort, just finished dismantling and removing Boreas Lodge this past summer so that it would never pose an inconsistent use on the Forest Preserve.

Clearly, we don’t yet know what the directive means. But by its inclusion in the Governor’s message it surely means something. I trust that an opportunity will be convened for stakeholder questions and answers about any plans to construct at Boreas Ponds.

In the meantime, one hopes that the directive does not color or prejudice APA’s responsibilities to freely deliberate and decide about the right classification at Boreas Ponds, which, of course, must be ultimately ratified by the Governor.

Photos: Gulf Brook Road (above) and the former Boreas Lodge before it was removed in summer 2016.


David Gibson

Dave Gibson, who writes about issues of wilderness, wild lands, public policy, and more, has been involved in Adirondack conservation for nearly 25 years, much of that time as Executive Director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks and then as first Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks.

During Dave’s tenure at the Association, the organization completed the Center for the Forest Preserve including the Adirondack Research Library at Paul Schaefer’s home. The library has the finest Adirondack collection outside the Blue Line, specializing in Adirondack conservation and recreation history.

Currently, Dave is a partner in the nonprofit organization launched in 2010, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve.




26 Responses

  1. Boreasfisher says:

    Interesting….I have been reading the transcripts of the public comments sent to the APA during the review period ended 12/30– and now made available on the APA website. My unofficial tally of opinion there is 4 or 5 to 1 in favor of a wilderness classification for Boreas, suggesting that the Guv’s State of the State message is seriously jumping the gun on public opinion.

    With all due respect to my fellow Adirondack residents, the comments also seems to make clear that what some natives and most town boards seem to be in favor of — a looser classification of wild forest encompassing the ponds — is exactly what non park residents do *not* want.

    I am in favor of increasing tourist dollars to our local economies. But what if the results of these public surveys suggest that many visitors will not come if Boreas begins to look and sound like their backyards?

  2. Boreas says:

    Dave,

    I would like to think “infrastructure” might simply relate to the proposed snowmobile connector with possibly a branch hiking/ski trail to Elk Lake Lodge as you suggest. A couple decades ago ELL tried staying open over a few winters, and perhaps since then as well. I assume it was not profitable enough or it would have continued. Perhaps with a ski/hike trail coming in from BP and North Creek it would be more feasible for year-round usage.

    Otherwise, it seems odd that they dismantled the BP lodge if this was in the works. Possibly it could have been moved farther from the ponds? Perhaps the materials are stashed somewhere by the state to resurrect in a different location? Perhaps they are chasing their own tail?

  3. Justin Farrell says:

    Seems pretty obvious to me that our Government officials already has some plans for this area long before it is even officially classified through a public comment period… Easement agreements with local towns, APA alternatives that do not include a road closure, DEC has already started maintenance on the dams, a “Gateway to the Adirondacks” (in the town of North Hudson located well inside the Adirondacks)… Now this BS?!

  4. Don Sage says:

    This is all bull. Another Cuomo lie to cover up his locking everyone out of the Chain of Lakes and now the Boreas Pond tract. He will never allow anything to be built at the old Frontier Town, same as he bans all industry and businesses in the Adirondacks. Just another lie to destroy all winter tourism, snowmobile trails, hunting, fishing, etc. throughout the Adirondacks. Just another lie to continue ignoring the Americans with Disabilities Law and lock all the disabled veterans, handicapped, elderly, etc. out of the Adirondacks.

    • SLMPdefender says:

      Give it a rest Don.

      Opinions are welcomed and encouraged on this website, but the uninformed generalities you espouse on this site drag the conversation into the ditch. I dare you to bring real facts to ANY debate on adirondack issues… but then, I suspect, we would never hear from you again…

      This is a new age in the Adirondacks. We listen to each other. We try to walk in the other persons shoes. We base our conversations on facts.

    • Jim S. says:

      Nobody is locked out, the state land is open to all.

    • James Marco says:

      Don, no one is locked out. I take my neighbor out a couple weeks per year. He is a disabled vet. I am elderly, yet favor limited access in order to preserve the nature of this area. I am also disabled and cannot do “real work” for the past 30 years. Handicapped people and people with severe disabilities need help in the woods. Just the time for a specialized guide service, perhaps with some exempted conveyances (horses, wagons, special wheelchairs.)

      Winter tourism is dying with global warming. No one is trying to “kill” it. No, we cannot allow Pulp and Paper back into the ADK’s. Sorry.

      The whole deal sounds like a predetermined and prearranged set of arranged classifications. This is the second time this has been touted for this reason, but 4:1 for a Wilderness classification is a pretty damn convincing margin. No doubt, the DEC, EPA, and Cuomo had not expected the interest the public has displayed in the area. Thank you, Boreasfisher for that info.

  5. adkhiker says:

    This really seems strange. There is already a very large campground across from the Frontier Town entrance (Yogi Berra Jellystone). There is already a very large NYS campground at exit 28, Schroon Manor, just down from exit 29 (This place is a palace and if you saw how much money was spent there,you would understand). There was a huge legal argument when a local person tried to buy the Frontier Town parcels at auction and the town pulled the rug out from under the person when they won the auction and said “no sale.” An now Paradox Brewery is moving there for $2M. Someone really needs to report what is going on behind the scenes.

    • Boreas says:

      adkhiker,

      Yes, there are some odd issues. However, I wouldn’t look too hard at the auction debacle as I believe it to be an unrelated issue. For reasons that were not made public – and I won’t go into here – I believe the town ultimately made the right decision.

      • adkhiker says:

        Boreas,

        Lets not forget the Sharp Bridge Campground just up the road from Exit 29 on Rt. 9. Ohh the lovely Border Patrol who use to hang out between Exit’s 30 and 29 on I 87 South and Rt 9. People were killed and badly injured in what was considered a “motorist death trap” in the middle of the Northway. Cruising along at 65 MPH and instant stop. Pataki built those lustrous “High Peak Rest Areas” to house the border patrol because they were located within the 100 mile distance from the Canadian Border by law. Pataki claimed they were rest areas only. Instantly the Border Patrol took occupancy. It is very hard to trust NY government motives anymore. BTW Cuomo closed the rest area’s by Exit 26 because it “cost to much” to operate. Think about it.

  6. Byron says:

    The infrastructure referred to are likely trails.

  7. Tyler says:

    Considering that 84% of the public asked for a stronger Wilderness classification for the Boreas Ponds Tract during the open comment period, I think the APA will have reconsider the fact that they should be guided by the SLMP and not by Cuomo’s plans. The silence and solitude of Boreas Ponds currently exists, and building infrastructure here stands in stark contrast to the APA’s guiding doctrine.

  8. Paul says:

    In order to properly manage the land even as Wilderness you still need to develop some infrastructure. I think some are reading too much into this.

  9. drdirt says:

    Yes, trails, bridges, leantwos or fours, expanded parking areas, signs for moose crossings, don’t feed the bears and stay-on-trail signs and, of course, ‘I LOVE NY’ and Guv Coumo signs.
    Perhaps a small tower for phone and internet service next to the hybrid car charging station will be necessary .,., and don’t forget the new safety railings on the dams, as well as the solar outhouses around the ponds!!!
    Too bad they jumped the gun on that beautiful modern lodge; could have planted some trees around it and ,viola, a new ADK LOJ with a parking lot 1 mile away.

    just saying how much we all miss Frontier Town, DrDirt

  10. Gary Peacock says:

    I am all for helping local economies survive and prosper in the Adirondacks. And one of the best ways to accomplish this is to continue to protect the wilderness that draws tourists, hikers, paddlers and sportsmen here. The overwhelming numbers supporting a wilderness classification at the recent Boreas hearings bears this out. It is my opinion that more potential outside tourist dollars will come, simply by providing the wilderness experience so many seek. That is an experience with no motorized traffic. At the meeting I attended in Schroon Lake, one woman suggested a shuttle system similar to the one used at the Garden in Keene Valley. Does that system provide any revenue to the town? If so, the town would benefit and it would help provide access to Boreas Ponds, while maintaining a wilderness experience. If the shuttle is utilized, the parking lot should be located at its original location just off Blue Ridge Road and the shuttle should end at LaBier Flow. A good compromise, I think.

    • Boreas says:

      Gary,

      A shuttle is certainly something to consider. Even with Wild Forest classification, I believe most, if not all of the proposals left room for the DEC to restrict vehicle usage into the parcel. If they do choose to restrict vehicle usage beyond Blue Ridge Road, a shuttle system may be a valid option – at least for 3 seasons. Of course it would need a trailer or carrier for watercraft and bikes.

      One of the problems a shuttle may solve is the issue of the narrow road. With only a shuttle running, opposing traffic would be eliminated. And the number of runs could help with controlling interior usage as well.

      • Paul says:

        If you want to run a shuttle you gotta go with the Wild Forest Classification all the way to the flow. I thought you were arguing for a larger Wilderness Classification?

        The DEC has closed many roads on lands classified as Wild Forest. They can open or close whatever they want.

        • Boreas says:

          I am still pushing for wilderness. But I am a pragmatist – I may as well comment on what is more likely to happen. If we can’t get the road closed to all vehicles, I would prefer a shuttle bus over unlimited auto access.

  11. Bruce says:

    James Marco says, “4:1” and Tyler says 84% in favor of Wilderness. I would like to know exactly where these figures come from and how they were derived.

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