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.