Monday, September 16, 2019

Changes In Store For Sentinel Range Wilderness

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) is accepting public comment for the Sentinel Range Wilderness Area Unit Management Plan. The APA will accept public comments October 11th, 2019 regarding Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan conformance for the proposed management actions in the wilderness area.

The Sentinel Range Wilderness Area (SRWA) is located in the northeast portion of the Adirondack Park in the towns of Jay, Keene, North Elba, and Wilmington in Essex County. The SRWA covers 23,874 acres. The namesake of the unit, the Sentinel Range, is a prominent mountain range in the region. The unit also encompasses exceptional watercourses classified under the Wild, Scenic, and Recreational Rivers System Act (WSRRS Act) including the East and West Branch of the Ausable River.

The SRWA is bounded on the northwest by Whiteface Mountain Ski Area, Wilmington Notch Campground, and McKenzie Mountain Wilderness Area; on the northeast and east by private lands; on the south by the High Peaks Wilderness Area, and on the west by the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest and private lands. Other nearby Forest Preserve units includes the Hurricane Mountain Wilderness Area, Jay Mountain Wilderness Area, and the Wilmington Wild Forest.

Presently, the SRWA has relatively few developed facilities compared with other nearby wilderness areas such as the High Peaks Wilderness Area. In the SRWA there are about 10.4 miles of maintained trails, 1 lean-to, and 4 designated campsites. Pitchoff Mountain, Copperas and Owen Ponds are three of the most popular areas within the area. A new shuttle now takes people directly to Copperas and Owen Pond trail.

The following is a list of proposed management actions provided by the APA:

  • Provide visitors with a trail system that offers a range of wilderness recreational opportunities in a manner that keeps impacts to a minimum and preserves a significant area without marked trails;
  • The trail to Copperas Pond will be rerouted. Most of the current trail is heavily eroded and is too steep;
  • The central area of the SRWA will be managed as an area without developed trails. The purpose for this is to facilitate recreation opportunities of an undeveloped nature and to preserve an area that has comparatively lower levels of human impacts.;
  • Relocate the entire western portion of the Pitchoff Mountain Trail, and its trailhead, to the same location as the proposed Pitchoff East Trailhead. The distance from the new trailhead to Balanced Rocks Overlook would be about 1.8 miles, an increase of 0.4 miles from the existing trail. This alternative would result in a 5.1-mile-long loop trail;
  • Build about 0.5 miles of new ski trail to reroute the Jackrabbit Trail off Mountain Lane in North Elba;
  • Build trail reroutes to bypass flooded portions of the Jackrabbit Trail along Old Mountain Road. These bypasses will be designed for ski use. They will be the minimum length need to route a sustainable trail around the flooded areas;
  • A ski trail may be built to connect the Jackrabbit Trail at the Craig Wood Golf Course and at Mountain Lane. This new trail would allow people skiing the Jackrabbit Trail to avoid two crossings of State Route 73. The trail will be about 2 miles long. This trail will pass along the base of Scotts Cobble;
  • Build a five-car parking area on the north side of Mountain Lane in North Elba. This will be part of an 11-car parking area/trailhead for the Jackrabbit Trail which is also located on the south side of Mountain Lane, in the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest;
  • Build a new parking area for the Pitchoff Mountain Trail; this will be the one official parking area for those hiking Pitchoff Mountain. The parking area will initially be built for 15 cars. This parking may be expanded to accommodate up to 30 vehicles following the monitoring of impacts from use of the new trails. This will be located in the SRWA to the east of Lower Cascade Lake, off of New York Route 73;
  • Access trails to the Barkeater Cliffs, Notch Mountain, and Pitchoff Chimney Cliff will be formalized and upgraded where necessary;
  • Maintain adequate parking for climbers. This may be in official parking areas or at roadside pull-offs;
  • Stabilize soil at the top and base of climbing routes (using native materials) where erosion is identified as a problem;
  • The Department will convene a focus group, including Department and Agency staff, members of the climbing community, environmental organizations and other interested parties, to develop a Park-wide policy on the management of fixed anchors on Forest Preserve lands;
  • Identify potential opportunities for accessible facilities in the unit.

To review the full proposed Unit Management Plan with detailed trail/facility plans visit the APA website.

The Public Comment period for this proposed action is from September 14th, 2019 until October 11th, 2019.

Address all written comments pertaining to conformance to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan to:

Richard Weber III
Deputy Director for Planning
NYS Adirondack Park Agency
P.O. Box 99
Ray Brook, NY 12977
Fax: 518-891-3938

Submit all written comments to the APA by October 11th, 2019.

Photo of APA buildling in Ray Brook.

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