Sunday, December 31, 2017

Bauer: Boreas Decision Will Bring Mountain Bikes To Wilderness

It is unlikely that there will be a decision on the classification of the Boreas Ponds at the January 2018 meeting of the Adirondack Park Agency (APA). The APA will reportedly take up this work at its February meeting.

The APA has received the preferred option for the classification of the Boreas Ponds from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which is still awaiting the final check off from Governor Cuomo, but the APA is taking this as a done deal. The DEC’s preferred option enjoys the support of APA Chairman Sherman Craig, long a proponent for mountainbike use in Wilderness areas.

The final option will use a long stretch of the Gulf Brook Road as the Wild Forest-Wilderness boundary and will route a mountain bike trail along existing roads to White Lily Pond. There will be no “huts” at Boreas Ponds, no Intensive Use state campground area mixed in with Wilderness and Wild Forest areas, and there will be no snowmobile trail encircling the ponds. The parking area to access the Boreas Ponds is still being sited as a CP-3 access facility and a campsite for disabled users.

The biggest issue for the APA and DEC to resolve is how to lawfully facilitate mountainbike use to White Lily Pond. State attorneys are mulling three options; 1) create a Primitive Corridor for the mountainbike trail over existing roads; 2) officially interpret the State Land Master Plan that mountainbiking conforms in Wilderness areas because bikes are mechanical and not motorized, thus reversing longstanding policy; 3) amend the State Land Master Plan to allow mountainbike use in Wilderness areas on a trail-by-trail basis subject to a Unit Management Plan.

A number of the APA Board members, who are dominated by Adirondack local government and business interests, support opening Wilderness areas to mountainbikes. This has been a longstanding goal of many at the APA and DEC and they see the Boreas Ponds classification as their opportunity to fundamentally change state policy.

I have written previously about how the APA was dutifully and patiently awaiting the preferred option for the classification of the Boreas Ponds. Now, in the last days of 2017, the APA has apparently completed its paperwork to reject or revise the four options it took public comments on back in 2016, drafted answers to the public comments it has selected for replies, and created a fill-in-the-blanks draft final Environmental Impact Statement to facilitate support and approval for the final option passed down by the DEC and Governor Cuomo.

As we enter 2018, the Cuomo Administration is presiding over the largest expansion of motor vehicle use in the history of the Adirondack Forest Preserve. The Cuomo Administration is apparently not satisfied with its historic expansion of motor vehicle use in the Forest Preserve and is now laying the groundwork to allow mountainbike riding in Wilderness areas.

Photo of Boreas Ponds, courtesy Phil Brown.

Related Stories

Peter Bauer is the Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks. He has been working in various capacities on Adirondack Park environmental issues since the mid-1980s, including stints as the Executive Director of the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and FUND for Lake George as well as on the staff of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century. He was the co-founder of the Adirondack Lake Assessment Program (ALAP) in 1998, which has collected long-term water quality data on more than 75 Adirondack lakes and ponds. He has testified before the State Legislature, successfully advocated to pass legislation and budget items, authored numerous articles, op-eds, and reports such as "20% in 2023: An Assessment of the New York State 30 by 30 Act" (2023), "The Adirondack Park and Rural America: Economic and Population Trends 1970-2010" (2019), "The Myth of Quiet, Motor-free Waters in the Adirondack Park" (2013), and "Rutted and Ruined: ATV Damage on the Adirondack Forest Preserve" (2003) and "Growth in the Adirondack Park: Analysis of Rates and Patterns of Development" (2001). He also worked at Adirondack Life Magazine. He served as Chair of the Town of Lake George Zoning Board of Appeals and has served on numerous advisory boards for management of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve. Peter lives in Blue Mountain Lake with his wife, has two grown children out in the world, and enjoys a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities throughout the Adirondacks, and is a member of the Blue Mountain Lake volunteer fire department.Follow Protect the Adirondacks on Facebook and Threads.

63 Responses

  1. Joe Hansen says:

    If this turns out to be the case, this particular mt. biker will be very disappointed. They do not belong in wilderness designated areas. Personally, I’d like the state to authorize the construction of more single track trails in suitable Wild Forest areas. The Seventh Mt. trail complex proposed by IMBA is one such worthy project. Trail building closer to North Hudson and Newcomb can be achieved while classifying the entire Boreas Ponds track as wilderness. Not every new aquisition has to have something for everyone.

  2. Outoftheloop says:

    “As we enter 2018, the Cuomo Administration is presiding over the largest expansion of motor vehicle use in the history of the Adirondack Forest Preserve.“

    Can I get some background/context here? Apparently I’m out of the loop.

    • Paul says:

      Yes, apparently adding large new tracts of forest preserve land to the Park is an expansion of motor vehicle use on the existing FP?

  3. Craig Catalano says:

    You must know that this tract has been logged for a long time. The State can’t afford to buy the value of the timber that once stood on this tract. So please stop your forever wild crap. The Adirondack aren’t wild no matter where you go.
    What the State needs to do is maintain what it already has. You want to ” Protect the Adirondacks, but you don’t want to maintain them!.
    This is the 21st century, the Adirondacks are beginning loved to death. But you don’t understand that State Land needs to be maintained! I’m not even sure you want tourism, because right now that is the only industry that sustains the Adirondacks.
    As a NATIVE ADIRONDACKER your way of thinking sucks. People live here, why not put your efforts into helping them, and not forcing them out.
    Have you ever been to Vermont or New Hampshire, and walked through there woods. Not bad , right! I know it’s mostly Federal land , but it works. They MAINTAIN IT!
    Maintain, not lock up!

  4. Jan Hansen says:

    Boreas Ponds is a beautiful piece of property. It should be designated Wilderness. Period.

  5. In the 1940s, Paul Schaefer helped initiate a campaign against the Black River Regulating District’s proposal to flood the Moose River Plains with a hydroelectric dam. The BRRD was an independent agency, no other agency had the authority to reject the proposal, and the project was so advanced that opposing it seemed to be a nearly hopeless cause. Yet Schaefer mobilized the greatest grass roots effort the Adirondacks have ever seen, ultimately defeating two Moose River dam projects and revoking the BRRD’s authority to take any portion of the Forest Preserve.

    If he could accomplish that, but the current generation of wilderness advocates fails to stop this proposal, what would that say about us?

  6. Ethan says:

    No expert here but I’ve heard that some mountain bikes ARE motorized. Hoping they’ll be EXcluded.

  7. Lourenço Marques says:

    Option 2 would be the most sensible. Anywhere a horse can go, a mountain bike should be allowed to go. Even if horses aren’t allowed, walkers and mountain bikers get along fine on well-regulated trails all over the country, and there’s no reason to fear any different result here.

    The federal Wilderness bicycle ban is tottering—it’s under fire legislatively, legally, and as bad policy—and states like New York and California can show the federal government that all will be fine with bicycling in Wilderness areas. I agree with the other commenter that e-bikes shouldn’t be allowed. They’re motor vehicles.

  8. Ed Abbey says:

    Get over it. You lost, bike haters.

    “In summary, the project proposes to re-purpose an underutilized trail system and provide high-quality recreation for a broader spectrum of users.”

    Most of you are dead in 20 years anyway.

    “A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles.” – Me

    • geogymn says:

      “A man could be a lover and defender of the wilderness without ever in his lifetime leaving the boundaries of asphalt, powerlines, and right-angled surfaces. We need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it. We need a refuge even though we may never need to set foot in it. We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope; without it the life of the cities would drive all men into crime or drugs or psychoanalysis.”
      ― Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

  9. Harrison says:

    So what are the appropriate locations for mountain biking? and where are they located in relation to the Adirondacks?

  10. James Marco says:

    It is shear egoistic unintelligence that says mountain bikes can climb mountains. Go ahead, if you think you have the balls. But be prepared for to foot the bill in human lives and rescues.

    • Scott says:

      I saw a guy biking Mt Elbert and he was coming down around 14,000ft ! It surprised me not because it is illegal but because it seems insane.

  11. Jim S. says:

    Allowing mountain bikes to use existing roads will not be a draw in Boreas Ponds just as it has no appeal in the Essex chain of lakes. Mountain bikers like single track challenging trails, not roads that mimic highways with dust. The biggest draw for pulling outsiders to the north country is wilderness hiking. Mountain bikes in wilderness seems to me to be counterproductive.

  12. Dick Carlson says:

    They will never interpret the mechanical over motorized for bicycle use in Wilderness. I always thought that no biker would carry a bike up MT. Marcy for the ride down – wrong! Just look at some of the latest videos – modern day bikes and bikers can navigate almost ANY trail. The new model of trails based recreation is Community based trails with volunteer maintenance. The Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area has almost 100 miles of trails – most all maintained by a volunteer group – The Siamese Ponds Trail Improvement Society.

  13. Ed Zahniser says:

    The governor and DEC are flying in the face of the clear direction against mechanized use in wilderness that is explicit in the 1964 Wilderness Act, whose definition of wilderness underwrites the NY State Wilderness System concept of wilderness and wildness. This is a sad development for wilderness and wildness in New York State. One of those “days” that will live in infamy.

    • Ed Abbey says:

      Its human powered, Ed. Deal with it. You’re just afraid that nothing bad will happen by treating mt. bikers as 1st class citizens. The upside (for you) is you will have more defenders of Wilderness.

    • Lourenço Marques says:

      Ed, your father Howard brought about one of the great conservation achievements in world history with the 1964 Wilderness Act. Mountain bikers like the Wilderness Act. We don’t like the Forest Service’s mangling of it from 1977-84, in which it flip-flopped over bicycles before deciding we’re banned. That’s a bowdlerization of the Act.

      There’s anecdotal evidence, admittedly slim, that the Forest Service hated Wilderness in the 1970s because it was cutting into timber revenues. So it decided to sabotage the Act with absurd regulations, including but not limited to the bicycle ban and the ban on chainsaws for trail maintenance. (As a result of the latter, many Wilderness trails have disappeared.) Its attitude was, purportedly, “OK, you want primitive? We’ll give you primitive.”

      The same theory offers that under President Reagan, Earl Butz and James Watt also hated Wilderness and pushed the Forest Service to do more to sabotage the Act, including the 1984 final imposition of the bicycle ban, even though internally the Forest Service was musing that bicycles are fine. (Memos on this internal discussion are available online.)

      And, if so, it worked. Wilderness designations have become exceedingly difficult, just as the Forest Service and Reagan administration desired, if this theory is true. The Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, and similar organizations were duped and remain duped, under this theory. Don’t let yourself go along with the flow without thinking through the consequences. We all honor your father’s legacy and think he’d be fine with bicycles, baby strollers, and adaptive cycles for disabled veterans in Wilderness.

  14. Tim-Brunswick says:

    Craig Catalano’s a tad off the edge with his comments, but I do believe I like his approach and particularly his Vermont/NH reference. He just forgot the State of Maine, which somehow manages to appeal to tourists from the Seashore to their Mountains and still allow ATV/Snowmobile trails and has abundance of wildlife to boot.

    New York’s love affair with limited access to wilderness areas so only a select few in physically good condition can actually see these areas needs to be modified and that modification is long overdue!!

    • John Warren says:

      There is no “limited access” to any Adirondack wilderness. Everyone can access it.

      Nearly every square foot of state land is already within three miles of a road. Most large lakes allow motorized boating. Snowmobiles, automobiles and bicycles are allowed on more than three-quarters of all land in the Adirondack Park, on half of all state land in the Park, and on nearly all state land outside the Blue Line.

      We have thousands of miles of snowmobile trails in the Adirondack Park.

    • Todd Eastman says:

      Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont do not have anything equivalent to the Adirondack Park, both from scale and management perspectives.

      Weak sauce dude…

      • Boreas says:

        I don’t understand. How are the White Mountains and Baxter State Park any more “accessible” than the ADK Park?

        • Paul says:

          Baxter has limited numbers. Far less accessible.

          • Boreas says:

            That’s my point. I disagree with Tim-Brunswick that Maine, NH, and VT have more access. NYS has a lot of access on state lands across the state and attracts a lot of people. The Whites are similar to the ADK park in general, and about the same in the High Peaks region. Each even has a road to a major summit. Each have some limits on snowmobiling. Wilderness designation is but a small part of NYS lands. Restricting some types of access in more sensitive areas makes sense to me. Restricting some types of access in Wilderness areas doesn’t seem to have a major negative effect on tourism, but rather – I believe, just the opposite.

            • Paul says:

              Yes, I was agreeing with you on Katahdin and pointing out one of the reasons why. Took me and my cousin who climbed it with me a while to get the permit we needed. Now it works differently but still pretty limited.

              In the Whites there are some pretty strict camping restrictions that probably cuts back on some of the numbers. But I agree there it’s pretty easy there.

              Baxter is also pretty remote!

              Happy New Year!

              • Boreas says:

                Did the Knife’s Edge on Katahdin a lifetime ago. No permits back then. Really special ridgeline hike. I wouldn’t want to bike it though. The only other thing I remember in the 3 times I was there was there not much in the way of lodging or eating anywhere near Katahdin. Pretty much had to camp at one of the campgrounds. If I recall, coming from the south there was only one LONG road.

  15. Warren Harman says:

    Mountain bikes are no more motorized than a canoe or guide boat. Is pedaling different from paddling or rowing? The all use human energy for propulsion. They are quiet and don’t pollute. To say that bikers will not ride on a dirt road is prejudging you know nothing about. I have ridden the dirt road to the Santanoni great camp and had a great ride and I left far less traces than the horses transporting those that didn’t pedal.

    • Todd Eastman says:

      “To say that bikers will not ride on a dirt road is prejudging you know nothing about. I have ridden the dirt road to the Santanoni great camp and had a great ride and I left far less traces than the horses transporting those that didn’t pedal.”

      Thanks for the statistical survey with one data point…

      … current best management practices (BMPs) for allowing both hiking and biking on the same tracts of land are based on separating uses to avoid user conflict. That’s lots of new trails and planning.

      To create bike trails that don’t cause erosion and create unrealistic hazards, extensive trail building needs to be done. This trail building in a Wilderness setting using only hand tools would be phenomenally difficult; not to mention the continuous maintenance required. The building and maintenance of bike trails is way beyond anything currently being performed on hiking trails in the US.

      Bike trails near towns and cities are easier to build and maintain as there are more volunteers to assist with the frequent work required by bike trails.

      I love mountain biking, but there are places where the sport is less practical from a land management perspective; Boreas Ponds is one such place.

      • Byron says:

        “To create bike trails that don’t cause erosion and create unrealistic hazards, extensive trail building needs to be done.”

        Not in Boreas, it’s already done. On the west side two tractor trailers can easily pass anywhere from the bridge to the header north of the pond. It isn’t a mountain bike trail, it’s a two lane road. Tandem log trucks and heavy equipment were driven through this area for decades. The infrastructure created exists, the impact has been made.

  16. Larry P. says:

    The environmental community has no one but themselves to blame for this situation. For decades, both nationally and locally, mountain bikers have asked for a seat at the table during negotiations between land managers and environmentalists when determining wilderness boundaries. And for decades, we have been shut out. The vast majority of mountain bikers consider themselves to be stewards of the land, and dedicate thousands of volunteer hours building and maintaining trails throughout the country. Why does it surprise anyone that, after watching hundreds of miles of trails closed to our user group, we have decided to pursue more aggressive political action? And while I can only speak for myself, I believe there are very few mountain bikers who want a blanket statement allowing bikes everywhere. The last place we need to see bikes is in the High Peaks,and with Wilmington Wild Forest trails and similar places, the DEC has given us great places to ride. But other wilderness areas, such as Five Ponds, should at least be evaluated for mountain bike use. It’s pretty hard to justify banning mountain bikes in Five Ponds when ATV’s can legally drive through the heart of the wilderness from Star lake to Cage Lake. And bikes would make a HECK of a lot less impact.

  17. Paul says:

    The place bikes would be isn’t wilderness. It would be Wild Forest (the road right?). The glamping is out. I thought that was the big issue? Sounds like a compromise. Bunch of Wilderness and a few miles of roads for some bikes?

    • Todd Eastman says:

      Economically viable mountain biking is not based on riding forestery roads.

      Destination mountain bike places such as the Kingdom Trails in Vermont, Winter Park, Colorado, and Sun Valley, Idaho, work due to the large scale of their trail networks, and the extensive maintenance they conduct. None of these trail systems impinge on Wilderness and utilize land owner easements to cross private lands. These systems make positive impacts on their respective regional economies.

      Opening up a handful of old forestery roads in the Adirondack Park to bikes will have little to no impacts on the economy inside the Blue Line. Arguing that allowing bikes into the Boreas Ponds tract will help struggling nearby communities is silly; and not worth the damage done to the strong language in statute that protects the Adirondack Park.

      Don’t be a pawnin the culture wars being played to dismantle the Park’s land protections.

      • Paul says:

        Why is this reply to me? Just saying they seem to have reached some kind of compromise and both sides are getting some of what they want. As usual this is why the classification recommendation needs to come prior to the purchase. They the towns and everyone else know what they are getting before they give it the thumbs up. That is the way to be open and honest. None of these arguments and articles would be necessary.

      • Boreas says:

        “Opening up a handful of old forestery roads in the Adirondack Park to bikes will have little to no impacts on the economy inside the Blue Line.”

        I agree!

  18. Balian the Cat says:

    So much of this and other related discussion seems (to me) to stem from the notion that all of this access (both in degree and quantity) equates with local economic prosperity. Lets argue for a moment that that’s probable – it’s all based upon the natural resource. Once there are no more “places” to designate or improve, the game will be over. Then what will any of us be left with? I am sure there are lots of folks who would be fine with an entire Park of Lake George Villages, but those boom/bust pretty regularly, and sort of defeat the purpose. Some areas really do need to be left as they are. I further believe that the Mtn. Bike thing is an orchestrated Divide and Conquer action. The real conservationists who ride bikes might very well be saying “what have we done” when the inevitable e-bike push begins in the places where we’ve cracked the door. And, lastly, would somebody please tell me what qualifies Sherm Craig (other than being pro-development) to preside over any of this?!

    That’s all a little rambling, my apologies – coffee now I must.

    • Boreas says:

      “…would somebody please tell me what qualifies Sherm Craig (other than being pro-development) to preside over any of this?!”

      Sherm Craig is just one pro-development appointee. There are and will be more. The main thing that is keeping the APA in check now are existing laws and Forever Wild doctrine – not the Cuomo administration.

      • Paul says:

        The APA is a specialized zoning board. They are tasked at keeping development in line with the act and its regulations. Economic development is specifically mentioned in their mission. They are not some kind of anti-development board no matter who the governor is. I don’t see any of them as pro or con when it comes to development currently. The guy that was from Ithaca that left recently was an exception. He was clearly con, that is why environmental groups were going ga ga over the guy. There is some variety in how they all see the act. If it was clear cut all you need is the regulations (and enforcement) and you don’t need a board.

        • Boreas says:


          The man you mention wasn’t against development in general – rather he was FOR protecting wilderness areas and the ‘character’ of the Park as much as possible. He finally threw his hands up in frustration and left – as he was often the only voice against development near/in wilderness areas. I can read between the lines as to what that says about the current board composition WRT development.

          • Paul says:

            Again their job isn’t to stop development but to regulate it according to the law. If we want to stop development that is an issue for the legislature. The courts have ruled that the agency has been following the law (as you know decisions have been challenged recently even when it was 10-1!). The board has to follow the act (the law) when they make decisions. Remember these are some of the most strict zoning regulations in the world. You are not claiming that the APA board and the judicial system are all in cahoots!

            • Boreas says:

              Their job is also to suggest proper classifications to new lands acquisitions in the Park. I am saying if you have a board with all like-minded individuals in step with the current administration, you do not really need a board. Any effective board needs members with differing views. The one dissenting man in that 10-1 decision is now gone.

              • Paul says:

                That was not on a FP classification it was on a private land project. He was (apparently according to judicial review) incorrect in his view on the project. They are not all “like minded individuals” I know several of them personally. Just because a few support lots of Wilderness land instead of all Wilderness land and how it would comport with the law isn’t an agenda.

  19. Kathy says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but I thought bicycles were allowed past the 3.5 gate at Boreas. .. can you not attach a canoe cart to one and pedal in?

  20. tim kleegerman says:

    Please keep in mind that 50 years before there was a “Wilderness” designation, bicycles were used to explore the frontier!

  21. Justin Farrell says:

    I for one fully support a full Wilderness classification and keeping the Boreas Ponds & the roads/trails free of mechanized use, but at the same time I also think that the current interim plan seems to be working out just fine. The area is getting plenty of year-round use, so if it ain’t broke I don’t see a reason to fix it.

  22. Mick Finn says:

    I think everyone needs to keep in mind that both Governors Spitzer and Cuomo promised an improvement in economic activity with the land acquisition. The land was producing $450.00 in economic value annually through private club recreation and forest products.
    it was a PROMISE to the towns if they supported the purchase. They approved the purchase. Where is the economic improvement? Where is the promise?

    • Paul says:

      You mean 450 per acre.

    • Boreas says:


      Has anyone evaluated the trail register at the gate since it was installed? That is where I would start when looking at a baseline of usage. Comparing the amount of public usage vs. the amount of private usage prior is an obvious calculation, but economic value takes many forms. But people cannot spend money where there are no businesses to spend it. It will take time and money for ‘development’ to develop.

      I am not sure where the $450 (per acre?) of economic value From Boreas Ponds comes from – if it includes county and local taxes paid by F-P and their leaseholders – which will now be ‘paid’ by the state. I would think that would need to be subtracted from that pre-acquisition ‘economic value’ figure. But once the final classification comes down, the area can then begin making plans and changes.

      As far as politicians’ promises….well….

      • Mick Finn says:

        The $450.00 per acre is a DEC statistic on the economic value of private land in the Adirondacks. Cuomo assured everyone that the purchase would improve the local economies. I understand the usage on Essex tract is very low.

        • Paul says:

          Those are the best stats we have. They are based on data from a pretty long period of time. Private stewardship, along with the economic benefits, has preserved a “gem” (Nature Conservancies’s term not mine) that many green groups now covet. Go figure.

          • Joe Hanse says:

            Dear Paul, It is a gem(my words), go see for yourself. Now that the people of NY own it keeping it that way is what these discussions are all about. Green groups have the foresight to want to preserve the wildness of Adirondack properties, if they “covet” good decision making, I’m all for it.

            • Paul says:

              I have seen it. Even if you designated the entire tract as Wild Forest land it would still be far less “developed” than the “gem” currently is. Almost all roads closed, no more logging, no more bull dozers, no more tractor trailers, no more lodge, no more camps…..

              Even as a WF it would not just be “kept” the way it is now but still have far less “development” than the land currently had prior to the acquisition. It’s preserved either way.

            • Paul says:

              For folks that are not able to go there and see it here is a link with pictures of some of the roads, dams, culverts, and other structures that are currently there.

              Much of this will be gone eventually even with a WF designation for some of the land.


  23. Charlie S says:

    Ed Abbey says: “A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles.” – Me

    > A man on foot will see more, smell more, feel more…overall sense more than by any other mode of travel in these or any other woods or quiet place.

  24. Eileen Williams says:

    I am a mountain bike rider and I am totally AGAINST opening wilderness areas to bikes. That is what Wild forests or private land is for. Please do not do this.

    • Paul says:

      Again, no one is talking about opening Wilderness to mt. bikes here (despite the way the article is written to imply that). This is about classification of the land.

  25. Don Seauvageau says:

    From a historical perspective, the Adirondack Forest Preserve was much more open to motor vehicle use in the past. During the 1930s, the Civil Conservation Corp built so called “Jeep” trails throughout the park. There were hundreds of miles of access roads that are no longer in use since the APA classification system. So I would hardly call this “the largest expansion of motor vehicle use in the history of the” Preserve.

  26. lauren pereau says:

    Mountain bikes on logging roads do not bother me at all. In fact, that sounds kind of fun.

    • Jim S. says:

      Take your mountain bike to the Essex chain, there are many roads open to bikes and almost nobody ever rides there. Most mountain bikers find old logging roads don’t challenge their riding skills and get bored.