New York State public campgrounds are managed under what is called “Intensive Use” rules. These lands are the most developed (least restrictive of development) public lands in the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. “Wilderness” is the most restrictive. Interestingly, when it came to establishing management plans for Moose River Plains Camping Area, special guidelines were agreed upon to preserve its unique version of primitive/public campground. The Department of Environmental Conservation may not “upgrade” the area with features found in regular campgrounds. “Keep it simple” is what the people wanted.
The question raised now is: Should Brown Tract Pond Campground (also in Moose River Plains Wild Forest) be protected under its own special guidelines? It is feared that otherwise its rustic uniqueness will be lost to DEC development plans. Preservation might just require amending the state land master plan. That’s a big step that we contend should be explored. Will we see creeping “modernization” or preserved rustic camping at Brown Tract Pond, and how will that be assured?
DEC published a five-year Draft Unit Management Plan UMP (found on Brown Tract Pond online site) that failed to follow the department’s own seven-step UMP Process. DEC bypassed the requirement to build in meaningful public participation from the beginning and refused to hold a public hearing at the end. Campers’ only recourse was to submit written remarks by September 30.
Then DEC said it just had to build showers because it was the design standard. The implication that the State Sanitary Code requires showers in campgrounds is just not there. Moose River Plains Camping does not fit that code, either. So why should Brown Tract Pond? Stop designing!
The roll-out of the “Draft Brown Tract Pond Campground UMP” was held as an informal, barely publicized “information session” August 30 at the camp. Well, at least we will give them that. However, of the nineteen campers who happened to be present that afternoon, not one wanted the $800,000 plan to build showers into two reconstructed comfort buildings. That came as a big surprise to DEC officials. According to their own Brown Tract Pond website, DEC has hinted that not only showers, but lots more changes are to come … showers are just the beginning of “improving” Brown Tract Pond.
The Draft BTPC UMP is a compilation of local history, wildlife, land use, infrastructure and such. What is lacking is critical to its special management needs: a foundational emphasis as to what the public has held dear for many generations of camping. Not only is the camp remote, quiet, and rustic, but it is small (ninety sites) and unique. It has extraordinary dark skies, with excellent low-light astronomy conditions the report failed to mention. Many of us come just for that and the miles of gravel and dirt forested Uncas Road that separate us from “civilization”.
So who needs showers? That will just make it busier, noisier, less rustic, failing to take the forest on its own terms. Incidentally, showers are available on Route 28 camps, at Eighth Lake and Golden Beach (no fee).
Mary Helen Crump is a member of Friends of Brown Tract Pond Campground, dedicated to preserving a remote, rustic campground.
Photo of Campers at Brown Tract Pond by Mike Lynch.
A version of this story originally appeared in the Adirondack Explorer, a nonprofit newsmagazine devoted to the protection and enjoyment of the Adirondack Park. Get a full print or digital subscription here.