What follows is a letter sent to the APA.
The Board of Directors, Congregational Delegates, and Members of Camp Unirondack, by vote of our 2016 Annual Meeting, hereby ask you to reject all of the four alternatives that you have set forth for the Boreas Ponds land classification. None of these alternatives truly protect the area around the Boreas Ponds as Wilderness.
Only an action that prohibits motorized vehicles and/or equipment on or within one mile of these ponds, and protects these lands as Wilderness to the south, is acceptable to the long-standing visionary legacy of the writers of Article XIV of the New York State Constitution.
Camp Unirondack is located in the western end of the Adirondack Park on nine acres of a peninsula on Beaver Lake, Town of Watson, Lewis County, NY. The Camp was founded in 1951 by the New York State Convention of Universalists, and has been a religious home for Unitarian Universalists (UUs) and others of all faiths, seeking personal and spiritual growth amidst stunning Adirondack beauty, including the nearby Pepperbox Wilderness tract. As UUs, we covenant to affirm and promote seven purposes and principles including, “Respect for the Interdependent Web of all existence, of which we are a part.” We know of no U.S. land use policy that better adheres to this principle than the “forever…wild” clause of Article XIV.
In recent years, Unirondack’s programs have expanded to include week-long excursions deep into Adirondack wilderness for our youth and their dedicated camp counselors. These adventures expose these souls to a living laboratory of virtually untouched nature, where the only disturbance to the Interdependent Web is footprints. Spaces for these types of sacred occasions are becoming increasingly rare in our expanding, high technology society. The recent acquisition of the Boreas Ponds and surrounding lands by the State of New York provides a one-time opportunity to establish one of the largest expansions of untouched wilderness, including beautiful waterbodies of utmost serenity. We urge you to adopt policies that prevent unnecessary disturbances to the Ponds, and prevent motorized access that disrupts that serenity and fails to respect the Interdependent Web as anything beyond a resource to be exploited.
Any other classification for the Boreas Ponds will ruin the fragile ecosystems and wildlife habitats in and around the ponds. By allowing motorized vehicles down to or upon the ponds, they will be opened up to issues that hurt both the environment and the communities around it. This will invite invasive species (such as might be carried by motorboat bilge and engines) and potentially destroy the resource by overcrowding. The Boreas River south to the Blue Ridge Highway must also be provided Wilderness protection.
Residents of the surrounding communities and visitors should be able to enjoy this unique Wilderness experience with reasonable access. However, any parking lot that is built must be at least a mile away from the Boreas Ponds in order for them to be protected. An accessible trail to the ponds for people with disabilities could (and should) be easily provided. Indeed, wilderness experiences for those of limited mobility are nearly unheard of, and this is yet another opportunity to provide experiences that only ambulatory bipeds are generally able to access.
If we do not protect the Boreas Ponds with a Wilderness classification now, we will be giving up an opportunity to protect this unique treasure. We respectfully urge you to please protect our Adirondack Legacy – this small piece of the Interdependent Web – for generations to come, and protect the Boreas Ponds as Wilderness.
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.