In a decision signed January 25, Justice Gerald Connolly denied motions to decide the case without a trial, saying there are factual disputes that must be sorted out through a trial.
Protect the Adirondacks contends that the community-connector trails – which are nine feet wide (or 12 feet on curves) and often graded – violate Article 14, the clause in the state constitution mandating that the Forest Preserve “shall be forever kept as wild forest lands.”
Protect says tens of thousands of trees will be cut for the trails and this number exceeds the threshold set in earlier court decisions, most notably Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks v. MacDonald, which the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest tribunal, issued in 1930. The state contends Protect’s numbers are inflated, partly because the two sides disagree over the definition of a tree.
Protect is suing the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which is creating the snowmobile trails, and the Adirondack Park Agency, which authorized them.
Both Protect and the state attorney general’s office, which is representing the agencies, filed motions for summary judgment, arguing that no trial was needed to decide the dispute.
Connolly’s decision denying summary judgment cited, among other cases, Friends of Thayer Lake, LLC v. Brown. In that case, the plaintiffs sued me for trespass after I paddled through their property. Lower courts granted summary judgment and ruled in my favor, but last year the Court of Appeals ordered a trial in the matter. It is still pending.
Peter Bauer, Protect’s executive director, issued a news release today about Connolly’s ruling: “This decision shows the seriousness and merits of our arguments. The court refused the state’s demand to dismiss our case.”
Photo by Mike Lynch: Peter Bauer examines a stump on a community-connector trail.