“The shortest distance between two points is a straight line” – Archimedes
The early Greek mathematician posed this rule for flat surfaces, which the Adirondacks are anything but. Yet this was the scheme for our first mountain trails – hardly layouts, but ad hoc routes to get hikers and particularly Fire Observers, to the summits ASAP. After twisting past down trees, boulders, cliffs, or water, their lines would straighten right back out. Trails out West more gently curve along the contours and switchback to ease their ascents, but not those here. Most of our old direct goat paths are still in place.
Elizabeth W. Little was born in 1884, probably in the grand home that her grandparents built in Menands on the south side of the Menand Road in the 1860’s.
She was the daughter of Charles W. Little and Edith Elizabeth Herbert. Elizabeth was the youngest of three daughters born to the C.W. Little family. Elizabeth’s grandfather was Weare C. Little, who was born in Bangor, Maine but moved to the Albany area and established a very successful book publishing and selling business on State Street in Albany by 1828. By 1868, Weare C. Little’s name appears in the Albany City Directories as residing at Menands. Tax records of 1870-71 show that he owned 46 acres of land with buildings in Menands.
The W.C. Little’s publishing company was very profitable, enabling him to purchase the 46 acres of very desirable land on the south side of the Old Menand Road just west of the present day entrance to the Sage Estate. His land continued westward up the old Menand Road to a point about opposite of the present day intersection with Schuyler Road.
In 1921, nearly a hundred years ago, a few dozen people met with the idea of forming an organization that would help facilitate public access to the Adirondack wilderness through trail building. A year later the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) was formed and, soon thereafter, ADK completed the Northville-Placid Trail. In the years that followed, ADK has not only worked to educate the public on how to steward public lands but also advocated for their protection at the highest levels, including in the various New York State courts. And, as other advocacy groups came into the picture, it became the norm to join forces in our collective strength to litigate against anything that ran afoul of Article 14 of the NYS Constitution, the Forest Preserve’s “forever wild” provision.
In response to impending construction on the proposed Class II Community Connector Snowmobile Trails—the center of today’s controversy—ADK went out and began counting trees along the intended corridor to assess the legality of this work and in anticipation of reconvening with the other Adirondack groups on how best to proceed. However, before we could, a lawsuit was singularly commenced. From the perspective of our traditional cooperation, this challenge was not off to a good start. Sadly, the arguments presented went well beyond challenging the proposed construction under the existing standard (3 inch dbh) that had served us well in balancing the Park’s wild nature with “facilitating meaningful public access and enjoyment.”
Instead, petitioners advocated for a new standard that will actually do considerable harm to the natural resources of the Forest Preserve.
A few weeks ago, Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) submitted an amicus brief in Protect the Adirondacks! Inc. v. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Adirondack Park Agency, wherein Protect challenged the constitutionality of the state’s decision to cut down thousands of trees while building new snowmobile trails in the Forest Preserve. (I am on the Board of Protect the Adirondacks! and testified as an expert witness in the trial for this litigation. What I am saying here is not endorsed by Protect.)
This litigation began in the Supreme Court in Albany and was appealed to the Appellate Division, where a crucial element of Protect’s interpretation of Article 14, section 1, of the NY Constitution, was upheld. Then the state appealed to the NY Court of Appeals, our highest court, where oral arguments will be heard on March 23. The ruling there will be final and cannot be appealed further, although it’s possible the Court of Appeals could return the matter to the lower courts. This is a historic case and will determine the future of state policy with respect to the Forest Preserve and the viability of wilderness in the Adirondacks.
Changes reflect new zoning, recent additions to the High Peaks Wilderness
The brand-new 15th edition of High Peaks Trails, the flagship of ADK’s (Adirondack Mountain Club’s) comprehensive Forest Preserve Series of guidebooks, has just been released. The volume is edited by longtime Adirondack adventurer Tony Goodwin, who has been writing and updating guidebooks for over 30 years.
Since the 14th edition was published in 2012, 47,000 acres of Forest Preserve have been added to the High Peaks Wilderness Area. Its boundaries have been redrawn, and new regulations governing use of these areas are anticipated. The new 15th edition addresses the significant zone changes that have been implemented by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, as well as new acquisitions, new trails, reroutes, restored and altered trailheads, and parking regulations.
Two leading conservation organizations, The Adirondack Council, The Adirondack Mountain Club, and the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF) released the preliminary results of a two month hiker survey for the High Peaks Wilderness Area, showing most hikers preferred solitude and wildness, and would welcome limits on visitation in order to prevent damage to the “forever wild” forest preserve.
The survey, “Recreational User Experience and Perspectives: Adirondack Park” is undergoing its initial analysis, but the institutions involved look forward to releasing the final results in a few months.
Amidst the global pandemic, and the resulting shortage of NYS funding, the Adirondack 46ers, (A group of people who have hiked all 46 mountains in the Adirondacks) have stepped up to provide financial support for the Adirondack High Peaks Summit Stewardship Program.
They have given $10,000 in 2020 and made a commitment to providing $75,000 of additional support over the next three years. The 46ers have been long time supporters of the stewardship program and have donated a total of $45,000 over the last three years as part of a joint commitment with the ADK (Adirondack Mountain Club).
ADK applauds New York State legislature for supporting the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act, a $3 billion bond act proposed by Governor Cuomo, which will support habitat restoration, clean energy, and climate resiliency projects throughout the state. “If passed by voters, this bond act will secure New York as the nation’s leader in building tomorrow’s green economy and strengthening our resiliency against climate change,” said Executive Director Michael Barrett in a news release.
The legislature also continued funding the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) at $300 million. The EPF provides essential support for land stewardship, to include an increase of $1.4 million to steward critical areas affected by high use. “During this critical time in the battle against coronavirus, Governor Cuomo, the Assembly and the Senate showed exceptional leadership in producing a budget that retains the funding needed for environmental programs that are essential for rebuilding local economies and combating climate change,” said Cathy Pedler, ADK Director of Advocacy.
In a December 2019 letter to NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos, six non-governmental organizations from the Adirondacks and Catskills announced their firm opposition to any future merger of the DEC Forest Rangers with the DEC Environmental Conservation Officers.
“Each time the issue has arisen, a diverse coalition has made the case why such a move would trigger a firestorm of protest and prove a disaster for the State’s public lands and the outdoor recreating public,” the letter states. “We continue to feel this way – and felt it was timely to write to you as we have to prior commissioners.” Signing the letter (See Letter to Basil Seggos) were the Adirondack Council, Adirondack Mountain Club, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, Catskill Center, Catskill Mountainkeeper and Protect the Adirondacks! » Continue Reading.
ADK (Adirondack Mountain Club) has been awarded a $66,000 Smart Growth grant by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to use towards improving parking and interpretive signage at one of the busiest trailheads in the Adirondacks.
Although it has always been a popular site for hikers, visitor numbers have skyrocketed over the last decade at the Heart Lake/Adirondac Loj trailheads, to over 100,000 annually. ADK said the project will not expand beyond the current car capacity of the parking area.
Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) is set to host its 14th annual cycling event, ididaride!, on Saturday, July 27. ADK’s largest one-day fundraiser raises money for educational outreach, recreational opportunities, and stewardship and advocacy programs. » Continue Reading.
Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) has announced that Seth Jones, manager of ADK’s Education Programs since 2012, has been promoted to Education Director.
Jones will be responsible for overseeing ADK’s Education Department which includes over 90 skills workshops, ADK’s Three Seasons at Heart Lake 4th Grade School Outreach Program, Leave No Trace outdoor skills and ethics education and the Adirondack High Peaks Summit Stewardship Program. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) has announced their Summer Naturalist Series is now underway.
Visitors can explore the natural world of the Adirondacks through hands-on activities by attending one or all of the following naturalist led interpretive programs, which will continue to run through August. All programs are free and open to the public. » Continue Reading.
A lot of people in New York State, including the governor, are upset that Iowa Pacific Holdings is storing empty tank cars on tracks in the Adirondacks. But what, if anything, can be done about it?
Iowa Pacific says that railroads are overseen by the federal government and so the state doesn’t have legal grounds to stop the storage.
But Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, argues that storing rail cars has nothing to do with rail transportation and so the state can assert jurisdiction. And he believes the state can take steps now to force Iowa Pacific to remove the cars. » Continue Reading.
Adirondack Mountain Club Executive Director Neil Woodworth and Board President John Gilewicz have announced that, effective November 13, Lynn Shanks will join the ADK staff as Director of Development, overseeing fundraising and marketing.
As part of the ADK management team, she is expected to work with staff and volunteer leadership of the organization. » Continue Reading.
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