Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Comments Sought On Saranac Lakes Wild Forest Changes

saranac lake ump trails and parkingWhat follows is a press release from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), announcing that the draft Saranac Lakes Wild Forest Unit Management Plan (UMP) for 76,000 acres of Forest Preserve lands in the Adirondacks has been released for public review and comment.

Saranac Lakes Wild Forest (SLWF) is comprised of 76,000 acres of Forest Preserve lands and 19,600 acres of lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds in the towns of Santa Clara, Brighton, Tupper Lake, Harrietstown, and Franklin in Franklin County and the towns of St. Armand and North Elba in Essex County. Three of the largest population centers in the Adirondack Park – the villages of Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake, and Lake Placid – are located within the general boundaries of the unit.

DEC has scheduled two availability sessions and two public meetings to provide information on the management actions proposed in the draft UMP. During the availability sessions, the public will have the opportunity to review maps, fact sheets, and other documents, ask DEC staff questions, and provide comments. DEC staff will also be available to answer questions during the first 30 minutes of the public meetings, after which DEC will share a presentation on the draft UMP and the public will have the opportunity to comment.

Availability Sessions and Public Meetings

  • Saranac Lake Availability Session: 1 to 4 pm on July 12, Harrietstown Town Hall auditorium, 39 Main Street, Saranac Lake;
  • Saranac Lake Public Meeting: 6 pm on July 12, Saranac Lake High School auditorium, 79 Canaras Avenue, Saranac Lake;
  • Tupper Lake Availability Session: 1 to 4 pm on July 13, Goff-Nelson Memorial Library, downstairs community room, 41 Lake Street, Tupper Lake;
  • Tupper Lake Public Meeting: 6:30 pm on July 13, Flammer Theater, the Wild Center, Tupper Lake.

The waterways of SLWF are plentiful, making the area a popular destination for boaters, paddlers, anglers, and campers. Biking and hiking are also popular outdoor activities in the summer. In the winter, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are popular.

The draft UMP identifies new recreation opportunities to help foster connections between the local communities and the SLWF. The draft UMP also proposes changes to comply with guidelines in the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (APSLMP) and to address impacts from recreational overuse. An overview of the proposed management actions include:

  • Motor boat usage: Continue to allow motorboats on all waters currently open to them while setting horse power limits on several water bodies; imposing motor boat speed limits on Weller Pond; and enforcing motor boat speed limits on the Raquette River.
  • Use of trailered boats at fishing and waterway access sites: Based on the conditions at the specific site and the characteristics of the water body, allow trailers to get to the water’s edge at some sites, and keep trailers away from the water’s edge at some other sites. No action will be taken at Moose Pond, Lake Colby, and Follensby Clear Pond boat access sites until a carrying capacity study is undertaken.
  • Designated tent site closures: Close 64 sites and construct 68 new tent sites to comply with the APSLMP’s 0.25-mile separation distance between designated tent sites and because of the number of heavily impacted tent sites. This includes reducing the number of tent sites on Follensby Clear Pond from 32 to 18 and increasing the number of campsites on tent sites on Upper Saranac Lake from 19 to 28.
  • Roadside Camping: To comply with the APSLMP’s 0.25-mile separation distance between campsites, reduce the total number of roadside campsites by seven by closing six campsites at Little Green Pond and leaving three campsites open; closing three campsites at Hoel Pond and leaving one campsite open; closing eight campsites along Floodwood Road, blocking direct motor vehicle access to two others, building seven new roadside campsites, and leaving eight campsites open; and constructing six new roadside campsites at other locations.
  • Group campsites: Fifteen group sites will be developed with at least a one mile separation distance and a group size limit of 12. All groups of more than eight people will be required to obtain a permit and camp only at designated group sites.
  • Saranac Lake Islands Campground: Expand campground regulations to include Middle Saranac Lake and Weller Pond, relocate 14 campsites, build four new campsites; and develop a program to address significantly impacted campsites.
  • Trails: Construct 36.7 miles of new trails for non-motorized use (34.7 miles for mountain bike use) near the communities of Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, and Tupper Lake, much of which will connect to current community trail systems and the Adirondack Rail Trail.
  • Trail-less area: Maintain 7,400 acres between Forest Home Road and Lower Saranac Lake as trail-less to ensure hunters can continue to use the area without conflict from other users.
  • Snowmobile trails: Close 15.3 miles of snowmobile trail because of poor locations, low use, and duplication of other trails, and construct 2.18 miles of new snowmobile trail.

The legal status of the Averyville Road (aka Kelly Road or Pine Pond Road), which runs from the end of Averyville Road in North Elba to the southern shore of Oseetah Lake in Harrietstown and serves as the boundary between the Wild Forest and the High Peaks Wilderness, will not be resolved in the draft UMP, as it not the proper venue to make the required legal determination.

The draft UMP is available on DEC’s website. Presentations and fact sheets summarizing the proposed management actions for campsites, motorboats, and trails are also available to view or download from the same web page.

Copies of the draft UMP are also available for review at DEC Region 5 Headquarters in Ray Brook and the offices of the towns of Santa Clara, Brighton, Tupper Lake, Harrietstown, Franklin, St. Armand, and North Elba. CDs with the Draft UMP are available at the same locations.

Public comments will be accepted until close of business on August 11, 2017. Written comments may be mailed to Forester Steve Guglielmi, NYSDEC Region 5, P.O. Box 296, Ray Brook, NY 12977 or sent by e-mail to: r5.ump@dec.ny.gov.

Photo: Saranac Lakes UMP Trails and Parking map 10, courtesy DEC.

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4 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    Why do you need a speed limit for the Raquette? It is illegal to go faster than 5MPH within 100 feet of shore. Is that river 200 feet wide anywhere?

    There have been these bogus speed limit signs where you enter the river channel in a bunch of places. They have been there forever. As usual these are enforcement issues that cannot be solved with more rules that will also no be enforced.

  2. Paul says:

    Never mind! As Rosanna Rosanna Danna would say! I checked it out. It does say “enforce” the limits on the Raquette. I should have read this and the DEC materials more carefully.

    Surprised you need to add that to an amendment to the UMP. Well, duh!

    The folks on the Raquette and using the South Creek launch will never comply!

    • Scott says:

      The speed should have been enforced all along. A UMP should not be needed to tell the rangers to do their job. Of course there is the issue of not enough rangers…. For the most part there is not much of a speeding problem on the Raquette River anyway.

  3. Kevin says:

    There is no mention in these bullet points of the most significant (and disproportionate) change buried in the document: the closure of 14 (nearly half) of the primitive campsites on Follensby Clear Pond. The reasoning behind the drastic extent of these closures is not well supported in the document (there is no data on campsite erosion at these sites compared to normal erosion caused by ice, no data on the actual distances that make the placement of the proposed closures problematic, and little discussion of alternative means of addressing the heavy use of this area – more rangers, more signage, self-policing, etc.). This appears to be a misguided attempt to appease those who would like the area to be switched to a Wilderness (not Wild Forest) designation and decrease traffic. But what it will do is make it inaccessible to lifelong campers to this area who must travel any significant distance given the new open site/demand ratio. Adjust the guidelines and increase enforcement however you please (most of us follow the rules and don’t want to share the space with jerks either!), but please don’t make these closures and push so many people who have loved the area for so long out!

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