Monday, June 19, 2017

Glamping at Boreas Ponds: Not Your Grandfather’s Cabin Tents

adirondack yurt At the Boreas Ponds classification hearing held in Albany on December 7, 2016, Ross Whaley reminded the audience that public opinion alone doesn’t determine a land classification. As a former chairman of the Adirondack Park Agency, Mr. Whaley would know.

But at that same hearing — the last in a series of eight hosted by the APA — about eighty people stepped up to the podium to make their voices heard, in a marathon session that stretched a good four hours. A lot of people had something to say about Boreas Ponds that afternoon.

And by the time the written comment period ended on December 30th, the agency had received some 11,200 emails, letters, and postcards from concerned people not just across the state, but from across North America and beyond.

This level of public interest in a classification proceeding was probably unprecedented; I had certainly not seen anything like it. People participated in this process in good faith, offering their input with the assumption that state officials were paying attention.

More important than the quantity of those comments was the content. Many, many people were disappointed with the shortage of options presented by the park agency, and were not shy in saying so. Of the written comments, 84% supported a wilderness classification at Boreas Ponds stronger than anything being considered by the state; 36.5% favored a full wilderness classification, meaning no mechanized access of any kind.

By comparison, only 4% of the people who submitted written comments to the APA supported a wild forest classification, and only 11% supported Alternative 1, the map proposal that was the darling of motorized access proponents. Even fewer people favored the “split the baby” idea advocated by The Nature Conservancy and Protect the Adirondacks, in which the Boreas Ponds Tract would be shared fifty-fifty between the wild forest and wilderness designations; this proposal was supported in only 39 letters, representing a paltry 0.3% of the overall count.

I offer these numbers, first publicized back in January, as a reminder that New Yorkers were already disappointed six months ago with the state’s failure to consider Boreas Ponds as predominantly wilderness. By rejecting the four alternatives presented by the APA, the public indicated a clear preference for a definitive classification—not one that attempts to do a little bit of everything, as at the Essex Chain Lakes.

So imagine the outrage that will ensue when people learn the reason why we still don’t have a decision all these months later: the Department of Environmental Conservation has been floating a counterproposal that would take us even further away from a wilderness classification. The idea is to install a “luxury camping” facility at or near Boreas Ponds, part of what might eventually grow into a “glamping” network across the Adirondack Forest Preserve. Wilderness is the last thing on DEC’s mind.

Few details have been disclosed about this project, and whatever discussions DEC and APA have had since January have been conducted opaquely, without public scrutiny or input. Therefore what began as an awe-inspiring example of public participation now seems likely to result in a mistrial, with our state land stewards unable to reach a consensus. If DEC is listening to anyone, it most certainly isn’t the people.

What We Know

Currently, no firm proposal has been put forth for the public to review, leaving us therefore to deal with rumor and speculation. A classification for the Boreas Ponds had been expected over the winter, but there is apparently deadlock between APA and DEC. On the one hand is the public’s overwhelming support for wilderness, and on the other hand is Albany’s ambition to create a hut-to-hut system in the Adirondacks.

fall hunting campThis desire comes straight from the top. It was spelled out in Governor Cuomo’s 2017 State of the State book in January, which outlined a program called “Adventure NY.” It was described as “a multi-year outdoor recreation campaign … to connect more New York families and visitors to the great outdoors.” Most of this would be accomplished through infrastructure improvements budgeted at $50 million. However, only one project was mentioned by name. “Specifically,” the proposal stated, “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.”

The State of the State Book was posted after the public had already voiced its preference for wilderness at Boreas Ponds, but the idea of creating an Adirondack hut-to-hut network appeared long before that. In 2014, an education consulting business called Leading E.D.G.E. LLC contracted with the state to produce a conceptual hut-to-hut plan. The project itself was called the Adirondack Community-Based Trails & Lodging System, or ACTLS for short. Funding came from the NYS Department of State.

Leading E.D.G.E. published its ideas in December 2015, a year before the Boreas Ponds comment period. The bulk of the report consists of maps of its proposed trail networks, making it long on ideas but short on specifics. One of the primary goals is to simply link Adirondack communities with surrounding state lands, allowing hikers passing through the wilderness to spend their nights at existing inns, lodges, rental cabins, and the like, rather than camping in the backcountry.

But “huts,” too, were a big part of the proposal, although the definition of this word was left open-ended — as was the question of who would build and manage the huts, the state or some yet-to-be-named concessionaire. The most specific description can be found in this passage:

We believe an ideal lodging capacity in the Adirondack Park to be 24-36 beds. It provides for a reasonable return on investment and sustainability, yet does not have too large a footprint. The ideal Adirondack lodge on private land will be “energy plus” (it produces more energy from renewable energy sources, over the course of a year, than it uses) and/or LEED certified. As much as possible, it will have a small physical footprint and an aesthetically appealing look that is visually screened. Any lodging on state land, should it be permitted, will meet similar criteria, except that it will be temporary in nature, off the grid, and removed for portions of the year.

It’s the phrase “lodging on state land” that is triggering red alerts, because throughout the history of the Forest Preserve this has been a problematic topic. Whenever the state acquires land, one of its first actions has always been to remove the buildings; putting up new ones would therefore be counterproductive.

And yes, the ACTLS plan does envision hut development on the Boreas Ponds Tract. Two of their maps show an area extending from Boreas Ponds southwest nearly to Trout Pond where the authors believe a luxury camping outpost should be located. Such an installation would preempt the wilderness classification favored by the public.

Rehashing an Old Idea

The idea of locating enclosed camping structures in the Forest Preserve is legally questionable, and hardly a new idea. The Porter-Brereton Amendment in 1932 (backed by Robert Moses, the state parks director who notoriously had no patience for wilderness preservation) would have permitted fully enclosed structures on state land, such as lodges and cabin colonies, available for rent. Parks, as far as Moses was concerned, should be developed, not “locked up” in a way that only a hardy few could enjoy them.

But the proposed amendment to the “forever wild clause” of the state constitution was roundly defeated in the public referendum by a ratio of two to one. Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt was among its critics, saying “we do not want the great forest parks of the State locked up against the people. But we do not want to turn them into popular amusement resorts.”

There is also the experience of tent platform use in the Adirondack Forest Preserve. A century ago, the old Conservation Commission (forebear of today’s DEC) implemented a program in which anyone, under state permit, could build a wooden platform anywhere on state land, upon which camping structures could be erected. This was among the state’s very first efforts to promote recreational use of the backcountry.

But in practice, these “temporary” tents evolved into permanent camps with windows and padlocks. Permits were passed to children and grandchildren, so that campsites became exclusive domains used by the same families every summer. By mid-century there were 900 tent platforms on state land across the Adirondacks — all of them privately constructed — compared to just 198 state lean-tos. The Conservation Department phased the program out in the 1950s and 1960s, and the first State Land Master Plan in 1972 listed tent platforms as non-conforming structures.

Not as Temporary as You Might Think

Lake George Tent Platform 1920A key adjective in the current hut proposal is the word “temporary.” By this, we are to assume that whatever glamping structures are erected at Boreas Ponds will be removed every year on the shoulder seasons, thereby sidestepping the constitutional barrier that defeated Porter-Brereton. The 1932 proposal would have opened the door for permanent buildings, but a yurt or canvas tent can be put up or taken down as needed. “Temporary.”

The state employees who are receptive to this idea will tell you as much, citing the fall hunting camp tradition as precedent. Every year, people routinely secure DEC permits to put up seasonal camping structures on state land, ranging from canvas cabin tents to parked trailers — enclosed structures that may remain in place for weeks or even months. If these temporary structures are permitted, then what can possibly be the objection to other temporary structures for summer use?

For starters, there is a difference between a warm tent put up every November for someone’s personal use, versus a tent put up on public land for commercial purposes. Because to be clear, the “luxury camping” envisioned by state officials and ACTLS is not the first-come walk-up convenience of a lean-to, but a curated camping service for which people will pay to stay. This already seems to run afoul of DEC’s regulations, which explicitly state that “use of State lands or any structures or improvements thereon for private revenue or commercial purposes is prohibited,” with certain exceptions.

But the “temporary” nature of these proposed structures is also highly doubtful. Brendan Wiltse, my colleague at Adirondack Wilderness Advocates, was also the Johns Brook Property Coordinator at ADK for several years. During that time he became very familiar with the requirements of managing a backcountry, off-the-grid enterprise. In his experience, health regulations would likely make it impossible to provide “temporary” conveniences, because of the significant investment in infrastructure and maintenance.

Anyone seeking to provide lodging and meal services will need to meet Department of Health requirements if the intent is to sleep more than ten people. Specifically, they would need to meet the requirements of Part 7, Subpart 7-1 of NYCRR Title 10. Regulations would require potable water, as well as the disposal of gray water and human waste, both of which pose human health and environmental risks. Providing potable water requires either a well, a gravity-fed surface-water system, or a generator to pump surface water into a holding tank. Water would then need to be filtered and chlorinated. All of this requires infrastructure for plumbing, storage, and electricity. It also requires daily testing and maintenance.

A suitable gray water system would at the very least require a buried grease trap and single leach pipe, such as those used at Johns Brook Lodge.

Human waste would need to be either collected in barrels or composted. The latter option may sound easier, but composting in a backcountry environment — and for large volumes of people — typically is not effective. Therefore if onsite disposal is not possible, the waste will need to be transported offsite. As stated with the water system, there is a significant amount of staff time required to manage this waste.

If the state or its vendor chooses to serve food to its guests, then there is almost no way the structures could be temporary. There would need to be critter-proof food storage, refrigeration, stainless-steel counters, and wall and ceiling coverings that are able to be cleaned and sanitized — not to mention all the space needed for an industrial stove, three-bay sink, and the storage of kitchen wares. Just like any restaurant or grocery store, these backcountry camping and food preparation facilities would be subject to annual health inspections.

Let’s not forget the staff required to manage these facilities. The result is a very significant footprint on the landscape, more than most people would probably expect for a few yurts or canvas-walled tents. None of this is comparable to a camper parked on state land by a few hunters for their own private enjoyment.

A State-Subsidized Advantage over Private Enterprise?

In the middle of the twentieth century, when the state opened its ski centers at Gore and Whiteface, it put a dozen smaller ski centers out of business. The state had the resources to install snow-making equipment and more comfortable lifts, and it also had the liberty to put up directional signage along state highways. The privately owned ventures tended to be on smaller slopes (the state owned all of the largest mountains), and the best lift they could muster was often a T-bar; off-site advertising has always been prohibited in the Adirondack Park. Therefore competition with the state-run slopes proved fatal for many of these small businesses, and it remains a significant challenge for the few commercial and municipal ski centers that remain today.

With this experience in mind, it is disturbing to consider what impact a state-run yurt network could have on the existing businesses that have already been trying to fill the luxury camping niche, such as Camp Orenda in Johnsburg or Falls Brook Yurts in Minerva — neither of which were incorporated into the ACTLS proposal.

I asked Michele Hanley, a co-owner of Falls Brook Yurts with her husband Jim, if she thought the state’s potential entry into the yurt business would threaten her operation. “Yes it does,” she said. “Absolutely. There is more and more competition. We’d need to pay more for listings to keep up.”

Did she think there is enough demand to support more and more yurts all across the park? “No. I do not think it is good overall for us due to saturation of the market,” Hanley responded.

She cited a number of factors that could cause a decline in backcountry camping in coming years, from demographics to the rise in disease-bearing ticks. “Millennials are not as much campers,” she noted. “They want everything to be easy and comfortable. Look at how Patagonia has changed their focus to looking good, less on material performance. It’s a changing population. The Boomers, once diehard campers, are aging and using comfortable Airbnbs instead. We think our house rental in Minerva will get busier than the yurts.”

Therefore one of the unanswered questions behind this glamping movement is whether there is really any public demand for these types of facilities. On the one hand, Hanley’s observations on the changing generations would seem to point toward a rising interest in luxury-style camping. However, are the people who want queen-sized beds and gourmet meals willing to walk ten miles for the privilege? Aren’t inns, hostels, and beds-and- breakfasts already satisfying that desire to be pampered after a sweaty day on the trail?

On the other hand, a state-subsidized glamping network could come at the expense of the small businesses like Hanley’s that are already attempting to fill this niche market on their own private land. Rather than bringing additional revenue to the Adirondacks, the proposed backcountry huts/yurts/what-have-you could simply end up redirecting that revenue from one person’s bottom line to someone else’s — especially if Hanley is correct, and the market has already been saturated.

The ACTLS report, which includes 90 pages of route proposals, does not even pose these questions, let alone answer them. I see this as a fundamental flaw, because essentially what ACTLS has put forth is a business plan to monetize the Forest Preserve — but without taking the time to understand both the current market for luxury camping and its potential customer base. This type of market study should have been one of the very first steps in the process, and the results of that study should have determined the subsequent actions. Drawing maps of all the proposed routes and lodging sites is the last thing that anybody should be doing right now.

Make This a Public Process

To be fair, though, state and local government has been the instigator behind this effort; Leading E.D.G.E. and ACTLS are merely the instruments that drafted the plan, using state grant money. But part of the problem is that this has been a mostly stakeholder-driven project. That is to say, the people with a vested interest in the preferred outcome — whether they be DEC employees, town officials, or individuals who simply don’t like roughing it — have been the primary actors. Such a process, top-loaded with like-minded individuals discontented with the way the Forest Preserve has traditionally been managed, is certain to produce skewed results.

boreas chartIf all of the self-identified “stakeholders” are biased in favor of installing yurts on state land, for instance, then the result will be exactly what ACTLS has produced: a proposal that places the final product well ahead of the public policy discussion that rightly must come first. By proceeding directly to how to modify the Forest Preserve to include backcountry glamping — before discussing whether we should — the ACTLS process ensures that the turning of the first shovelful of dirt will lead directly to litigation.

Therefore if DEC really is poised to make such a proposal for Boreas Ponds, then this needs to be brought into the full light of day. This needs to be turned from a stakeholder process into a public process immediately. All of the ramifications need to be analyzed. Is glamping really the future of the Forest Preserve? Should state government be putting itself in direct competition with private enterprise? Any proposal to change the way the Adirondack backcountry is managed must first be subject to public input, scrutiny, and criticism — well before the first connector trail is cut or building site selected.

Simply because other mountainous areas have huts on public lands isn’t justification enough to import that culture here. Nor does it guarantee we could replicate the success of other regions. In most cases, those hut systems come with long histories and traditions. People identify them with the landscapes to which they belong. So while the huts in New Hampshire make that state unique, most people already associate the iconic lean-to with the rugged Adirondacks. In fact, outside of New York State lean-tos are often called “Adirondack shelters.”

In other words, wilderness is our brand. It’s what we do better than Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire combined. State land stewards should never fail to recognize that distinction. Why develop away our most recognized asset? Why not seize on that distinction and promote it, rather than trying to emulate a hutting tradition that we barely understand and is not endemic to our state?

Which brings me back to Boreas Ponds. Of the 11,200 written comments submitted to the APA last year, very few called for yurts on the newly acquired property. The people who want to sleep in a bed with clean sheets — on a lake with stunning mountain views—already have the option to book a room at the nearby Elk Lake Lodge. Considering that thousands of people have asked for wilderness at Boreas Ponds, and almost no one has demanded luxury camping, the public’s frustration with the way the state is handling this classification process is justified. The people have spoken, but state officials refuse to listen.

Photos from above: Adirondack Yurt; Fall Hunting camp; Boreas Chart courtesy; and a 1920 Lake George Tent Platform.

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Bill Ingersoll is the chairman of Adirondack Wilderness Advocates, formed in 2016 to speak on behalf of the wilderness character of the Forest Preserve. He has hiked and backpacked in wildernesses across America, but feels most at home in the grand forests of the Adirondacks. He is the publisher of the Discover the Adirondacks guidebook series, and his articles and photos have appeared in Adirondack Explorer, Adirondack Sports & Fitness, and Adirondack Life magazines. You will find him exploring the North Country with his dog Bella in all four seasons, by trail, snowshoe, and canoe.

33 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    Isn’t a very important decision factor in these classifications what was discussed with the towns who had to approve the sale to the state before the transaction could happen? What were they told as far as classification and use. This is why the classification decision should be made prior to the town approval for the sale. No arguments later. If the town doesn’t like it the state will have to find something else to spend the money on. Maybe trail maintenance in the other parts of the HPW?

  2. Pete Nelson says:

    Boy did Bill Ingersoll ever get this one right. Apart from the factual history and detailed contemporary context he gives this, he hits all the important themes, too. Because boy, is this a mess of an idea.

    That something this significant in terms of Adirondack land policy should be undergoing intense planning and discussion out of the public eye is unforgivable, especially with a very public process just completed that overwhelmingly supported Wilderness for Boreas. It uncomfortably reminds one of the national political processes these days,

    As Bill writes, the fact that such an involved recreational proposal is under serious consideration with a complete absence of economic data to measure whether it’s even a good idea, rings the same national bell: proposal of fantasy taken as fact. Ladies and gentlemen, if the Emperor has no clothes we have a duty to say so.

    I’m not opposed to the hut-to-hut concept in principle. I am unequivocally opposed to development on Wilderness, which is a Constitutional issue and a violation of the State Land Master Plan, in addition to simply being a bad idea. As Bill says, what makes the Adirondacks unique is how wild we are, as opposed to the rest of the Northeast. We want to blow that at Boreas Ponds because some people want comfy infrastructure, despite the fact that a park the size of Massachusetts has hundreds of such comforts already? And they tell me those who want to protect Wilderness are the elitists. How completely backwards is that?

    It may be that a hut-to-hut system (that does not violate State law) would be a good addition to the economic profile of the region, but I highly doubt it. Glamping does not strike me as an economic panacea: our towns need a much different strategy. In any case, I’ve yet to see any economic evidence in its favor. If I did, I’d be siding with private operators, not State-subsidized competition.

    I’m going to miss John Collins. We could use his practical, intelligent and impassioned voice on this idea right now. But Bill, you did him proud here.

  3. adkDreamer says:

    Thank you Bill Ingersoll for providing this article. Based upon my current observations of the condition of a NY State Campground (will not be named), the DEC and NYS cannot possibly manage any additional infrastructure whether warranted, agreed upon by the people of NYS, or otherwise.

  4. Joe Hansen says:

    Bill you are absolutely correct, wilderness is the Adirondack brand. For those who are not comfortable in the wild there are no lack of motels in Lake George and Old Forge as well as cabin rentals and b and b’s everywhere. The mystique of the region is a legacy 150 years old let’s not destroy it in a generation.

  5. Geogymn says:

    Good article, good comments, kudos!

  6. Jim S says:

    All it’s going to take is a little tweak to the state constitution and we will have glamorous wilderness.

  7. Boreas says:

    Great article Bill.

    So what happens if my buddies, their dogs, and I decide to set up our tents around a yurt? It isn’t like it is private land.

  8. Justin Farrell says:

    Use the Essex Chain for your silly experiment and leave Boreas Ponds alone.

  9. Smitty says:

    That was an awfully long article. Some editing would have been good but I plowed my way through it. I’m not convinced that the glamping thing is such a bad idea. Another idea would be to construct and maintain NICE lean tos with well maintained fire and toilet facilities with a picnic table and make them reservable for a fee. I love to hike and camp at lean tos but there’s always that risk it will be occupied, forcing you to carry a tent anyway. And as a 60 year old, I sure don’t relish the thought of sharing with random 20 something year olds. This would certainly be in keeping with the sensibilities of the wilderness advocates.

    One thing that strikes me as ironic is how inflexible some wilderness advocates can be, but at the same time fearing a constitutional convention that may diminish that protection. So let’s keep our minds open on this.

  10. Kevin Donovan says:

    So how would leanto reservations work? You would reserve it for a couple nights for the sole use of you or your group, then when you decide to bail on the outing because of the weather or illness the reserved leanto is still reserved and unused? I don’t see it. And mingling with 20 or 30 somethings is how this 67 year old helps see their perspective.

    • Smitty says:

      Lean to reservations work very well at Adiro dam LOJ and Pennsylvania’s Laurel Ridge trail.

      • Boreas says:


        I see your point(s) about lean-to reservations. I don’t know about the Laurel Ridge Trail, but keep in mind, the Loj is private property. They also have cabins to rent.

        The philosophies and history surrounding back-country ADK lean-tos are diverse. Some people view them as first-come, first-served, and if they get there first, it is ‘reserved’ for them alone. But back-country etiquette and sensibility view them as shelters – something to use in inclement conditions or emergency situations. This means you must share the resource if someone else needs to use it.

        I always hiked with a shelter on my back – since I always had the first-come/served philosophy through most of my hiking life and would set up my tent if a lean-to was occupied. If it was open, I moved in – but often I was forced to relinquish my solitude to people who hike about unprepared and with no tent/shelter with them and with no alternate plan if a lean-to was full. These weren’t emergencies, but people who were going to use the lean-to come hell or high water. I found this behavior rude, but most of these hikers were from out of the country and likely possessed differing views on lean-to etiquette. But I am giving them benefit of the doubt.

        FWIW, I believe DEC rangers view them as shelters that need to be shared if needed. It would be interesting to hear from some rangers on this issue.

        • Smitty says:

          Thanks for the comment Boreas. These days, I find it just too creepy, maybe even risky, to be bunked with total strangers, not to mention that sleep habits and times may be vastly incompatible. With the broad availability of internet and cell phones, it should be easy to make all the more popular lean to sites reservable for a modest fee (which would keep you from reserving without intent to stay). I guess I strayed a bit from the clamping topic though. Sorry.

          • Boreas says:


            Well, I snore like a bastard now, so I would even disturb wildlife, let alone uninvited ‘guests’.

        • Bob K says:

          I’m with you on this one, Boreas. If you know your going to be in the woods over nite, then have your shelter with you. Be self reliant!!!

  11. Lee Keet says:

    My great grandfather, Eugene, was a registered guide who took “sports” into the wilderness by guideboat, set up their camp, cooked their meals, carried the boat and their gear, and if they shot a deer he would get that out too.

    With the State’s proposal for a gateway to the Boreas wilderness at Exit 29 of the Northway, guide services could offer a similar but more upscale service without violating the Constitution of the State Land Use Master Plan (which the “Glamping floater would). These guide services could set up temporary camp sites in areas where no trees needed to be cut or the wilderness character disturbed, before their “sports” trekked in. The temporary tents could be all-year-round insulated tents like those made by Crua, so while not glamorous camping it would be comfortable camping. These guides could provide meals and pre-planned treks, much as my great-grandfather did. There is no need for the high-end alternative, as Bill Ingersol points out, since these people have many choices if they want hotel-like accommodations on the edge of Wilderness.

    Guide services such as those I suggest would create a new industry in and around the towns that need them. Best, we keep our Wilderness while making intelligent use of it.

  12. Tim-Brunswick says:

    Try to remember that a very high percentage of the pro “Wilderness” comments were from folks coached into sending back form/type responses, many of them students in environmental studies courses. Free T-shirts were handed out and the Wilderness cheerleader squad literally bused t the various Public Hearing including December 7th in Albany.

    I was one of the pro “Alternative #1” speakers as was a gentleman with me who is extremely mobility handicapped and very concerned about access “everywhere” in the ADK’s not just Boreas.

    Mr. Ingersoll’s speech/presentation was less than stellar in my opinion, but the younger Green T-shirt crowd certainly loved it.

    As to his percentages/facts/figures, Et Al…..I am highly doubtful of their accuracy.

    • Boreas says:


      How do propose vetting the veracity of ANY public comments? I would suggest environmental students, while perhaps idealistic, have as much or more knowledge in the area of ecology and the environment than many of the opponents of environmental values. They are citizens, and they are likely to be a significant force in the future. Let’s not shout them down because they arrived in a fuel-saving bus wearing matching T-shirts.

    • Pete Nelson says:

      Hi Tim, long time, missed you. It’s a good day to just make stuff up again, eh? The sun is out, at least for a while, the bugs are okay today, it’s an excellent circumstance to sit and write fiction.

      What Tim claims about the pro-Wilderness response to the public hearings is simply not true. Nor are almost of the the stereotyped dismissals of the Alt 1 crowd, most of whom sincerely care about both their communities and the forest. It’s just that the access argument, on a rational evidence-based assessment, is simply wrong, while at the same time Wilderness on a global scale is diminishing by double-digit percentages every decade. Why should we care about that? Silly question.

      But let’s not restrain ourselves from denigrating the other side: that’s what we do these days! Why bother with facts and more nuanced arguments about things that matter?

      Bill’s article is thorough, logical and makes a strong argument. It deserves a legitimate counter-argument, if there is one. Any takers? Tim? Waiting…

      • Smitty says:

        For example, Glacier National Park has two rustic hike in lodges in a wilderness setting, Granite Park Chalet and Sperry Chalet. They are very popular (try getting a reservation less than 6 months in advance) and fit in very nicely, perhaps even enhancing the natural setting. I think an overly rigid interpretation of what is allowable in wilderness areas is counterproductive. So how about something like this?

        • Boreas says:


          I visited Granite Park Chalet on a day hike in the 90’s and it is quite spectacular. Luckily, some things have changed over the decades WRT its operation. Jack Olsen wrote a book about what can go wrong with a spot like this. In 1967 it was the site of two of three nearly simultaneous grizzly maulings in GNP. His book is a very interesting read. If interested, some of the basic info can be found here:

          As is typical, not so much of a bear problem as a people problem with bears and food. About 15 minutes after leaving the chalet we stopped to pick huckleberries. After a few minutes I caught a whiff of carrion in the air and we high-tailed it out of there – likely a griz nearby approaching HIS huckleberry patch. Probably not many yurts in grizzly country…

          • Smitty says:

            Wow. Thanks for the warning. Going there this summer. Had an encounter with a black bear who didnt want to leave while camping at Essex Chain last fall. Fortunately I was using a bear canister so there weren’t many food smells. Took lots of banging on pots and pans to get him to leave. But grizzlies, yikes!

  13. Richard Rosen says:

    Well stated. I couldn’t agree more.

  14. Bruce says:

    Bill, I think what is more important than simply counting and providing percentages, is knowing how many of those e-mails and letters came from folks who have little or no vested interest in any particular classification but visit the AP and enjoy it’s wonders all the same. I mean if you ask 11000 people and a significant share of them just happen to belong to or actively support one environmental group or another, the sample will be biased. I believe the DEC and APA recognize that fact and that’s why they don’t just operate on this kind of public opinion.

    Do you know of any group which did not canvass or exhort their members and supporters to say they were for Wilderness. Based on my own experience, when it came to public meetings and letter writing campaigns, some of the groups I’ve belonged to were real good at favor of a particular view, whether or not that view was really best for everyone ultimately affected.

    I think a some kind of a mixed Wilderness/Wild Forest alternative makes the most sense, all things considered.

    • Boreas says:


      Without a actual public knowledge of what the administration is considering, there is going to be a lot wailing and gnashing of teeth from all perspectives. One important thing we DON’T know is WHERE the state is planning on putting these ‘temporary’ structures. Will they be placed on the footprint of existing camps that need to be torn down next year? After all, they have an existing driveway and clearing. Will they be concentrated around the ponds themselves providing a high-quality glamping experience with no effort but more impact? Will they be clustered near the Blue Ridge Road or scattered throughout the parcel? Who knows?? The only thing I have read is that they may be clustered in the southern area of the parcel, but who knows what they have in mind.

      That being said, I would be more of a proponent of the plan if it was moved to the ghost town of Adirondac or somewhere in that vicinity. I feel Mac E&W have better roads, more history, better trail access, parking opportunities, and a rail terminus. I have yet to hear it mentioned other than my ravings.

  15. Paul says:

    This would not be the first time that the state would be in direct competition with private enterprise? That has been around as long as the park. Why would having a few yurts in here be the “future of the the forest preserve”? I personally think it is a silly idea but some of this sounds like hyperbole.

    • Boreas says:


      I think it is a reasonable idea, but ideally for private or leased land, not the BP tract. However if they wish to classify a small portion of BP or Mac E/W near a paved road for this endeavor, I could be brought on board. Trash, septic, and food services could be trucked much more easily.

      I would also think it would have to be classified in a way that would preclude non-paying parties from using the area. I just don’t see how this would be possible other than on private or leased land.

  16. says:

    Had to check the posting date to make sure this wasn’t a bad April fools joke…

    Seldom have I seen such a terrible disconnect between what the people seem to favor (or be willing to settle for) and a very strange wishlist by the state governing agencies…

    What should be a crown jewel of the park looks to be turned into a limited use area for just a few folks per week. And vastly change the user experience for everyone else using the lakes.

  17. Justin says:

    first we gave away forest preserve to a mining company, now we are putting up glamping structures. Both are/would be bad precedents. The Adirondacks are not a New York state park, they are a forest preserve. If the gubner wants glamping he should implement it on state park land or acquire new land outside the forest preserve.

    New York has a marketing issue when it comes to the Adirondacks. If you were to poll around the country, many people have no idea what, where, how big or the history of the Adirondacks. Change that and they will come.

  18. Neil Luckhurst says:

    I would agree that the stats cited/claimed in the original post are biased as all get out due to sampling bias.

    However, those same stats indicate that those who espouse wilderness care a lot more than those who would espouse development.

    Too bad that those who really care won’t bring in the bucks because money talks. The proposed development at Frontier Town and the Boreas Ponds “glamping” threat are two peas in a pod if you ask me.

  19. Charlie S says:

    “The idea is to install a “luxury camping” facility at or near Boreas Ponds, part of what might eventually grow into a “glamping” network across the Adirondack Forest Preserve. Wilderness is the last thing on DEC’s mind.”

    How pitifully small are the wilderness areas that we have preserved, especially in comparison to what is outside of them. And now we have glamping! Not a wilderness experience as much as it is a comfort experience in the wilderness. “Camping without the uncomfortable negatives” as they say. This activity should be confined to the fringes of the park. They should leave the interior to those who seek to enjoy the real solitude experience. How sad to think the Adirondacks just might become like everywhere else due to shortsightedness. The Adirondacks are fast becoming a paradise for a society that is softening up. Ere long glampers will be demanding hookups for electricity and water.

    Our leaders have an engineer mentality they are recreation-minded… is why wilderness is on their back-burners Bill and whether we’re aware of it or not this desire to maximize visitors in the Adirondacks puts them in more danger.

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