Boreas Ponds lives up to expectations, but getting there is not easy, even by car. It would be much harder if the state decides to close the seven-and-a-half mile dirt road that leads to the mile-long lake, which affords stupendous views of the High Peaks.
This Sunday I visited Boreas Ponds for the first time as part of the band of reporters accompanying Governor Andrew Cuomo and other state officials. Boreas Ponds is not open to the public now, but it will be sometime in the next five years.
The state intends to buy Boreas Ponds and the surrounding timberlands—some twenty-two thousand acres in all—from the Nature Conservancy in the coming years. All told, the state will buy sixty-nine thousand acres from the conservancy, nearly all of it former Finch Pruyn land. » Continue Reading.
A June 14 decision by the federal Surface Transportation Board’s (STB) Director of Proceedings awarding common carrier status to the Saratoga and North Creek Railway (SNCR), owned by Iowa Pacific Holdings, for freight operations on the 30-mile Tahawus industrial rail spur was appealed June 25 to the full Board by Charles C. Morrison, Project Coordinator for the Adirondack Committee, Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club and Samuel H. Sage, President and Senior Scientist of the Atlantic States Legal Foundation (ASLF). » Continue Reading.
The 38,500 acre Hoffman Notch Wilderness Area in the towns of Minerva, Schroon, and North Hudson (Essex County) is part of a giant swath of mountain wilderness you see along the west side of the Northway between Schroon Lake and North Hudson. It’s the kind of land the state has traditionally owned in the Adirondacks, rocky and mountainous, with little development potential. Most of the area is located in the Town of Schroon (21,593 acres), and North Hudson (15,280).
Once slated to be New York’s third state run ski area (more on that later) Hoffman Notch lies between Boreas Road (Blue Ridge Road Scenic Byway) on the North and developed areas west of Schroon Lake on the South (Loch Muller). On the east lies the Northway and Route 9, on the west Minerva Stream and the motorized Vanderwacker Wild Forest. Although Hoffman Notch lies in the Upper Hudson Watershed, its primary waterways are the Boreas River (designated a scenic river) and the Schroon River (designated recreational). The Schroon was an important location for early native American travel and likely some small settlements. Minerva Stream flows into Trout Brook along with Rogers Brook, while Platt Brook and The Branch flow directly into the Schroon. There are about 3,000 acres of wetland and 155 acres of open water, including Big Pond (57 acres) in the south near North Pond (25 acres) and the smaller Marion (10 acres), and Bailey (18 acre) ponds to the west. Long-established camping areas and trails around these ponds get very little use and are almost never by promoted by local tourism efforts. One small pond, Big Marsh (13 acres), lies in Hoffman Notch itself, near the middle of the Wilderness Area.
Major mountains include those in the Blue Ridge Range: Hoffman Mountain, Blue Ridge Mountain, and the Peaked Hills to the east. Hayes Mountain lies in the southwest. Mount Severence (or Severence Hill), the most popular spot in the Hoffman Notch Wilderness is located in the southeast corner, accessed via a trail from Route 9 that travels under the Northway.
Thomas Cole painted Hoffman Mountain, then called Schroon Mountain, from a sheep field now covered by forest and later, Grace Hudolowski drew inspiration from the view of Hoffman from her east side of Schroon Lake camp, the Boulders.
There has been almost little historical development of the area beyond the late 1800s when the softwoods were logged along Minerva Stream, and the Boreas and Schroon rivers. Logging began with mostly pine, and then shifted to spruce and hemlock used in local tanneries. Because there was little market for hardwoods and they couldn’t be floated to mills, these trees were generally left behind.
The Hoffman Notch Wilderness was mostly (60%) acquired by the State from logging companies for back taxes before 1900. State law at the time, until the creation of the Forest Preserve, required the State to bid for lands at tax sale that had no other bidders. A smaller portion of Hoffman Notch (25%) was acquired between 1891 and 1900 by purchase. A section to the west was acquired in a settlement with George Finch that provided Finch Pruyn and Company the right to dam waters and flood land in order to drive logs to the Hudson, to cut some trees to build and repair dams and driving camps, a ten‐year logging easement (called then a “timber reservation”) and a right‐of way for an east‐west railroad, which was never built. The small balance of lands were acquired from timber companies and private citizens during the Great Depression. In 1959 Finch, Pruyn and Company gave the “People of State of New York” the last large piece located in the north central part of Hoffman Notch.
There were early tanneries nearby which likely drew hemlock bark from what is now the Wilderness Area. One was at Olmstedville, four were located a couple miles apart west of Schroon Lake, two on The Branch, and one west of North Hudson. These tanneries could consume 15,000 cords of bark per year, but most were out of business by the 1870s.
Jacob Parmeter built a forge in 1857 on the north bank of the West Branch (today The Branch) of the Schroon River and a sawmill and gristmill were also located there. The forge, sometimes called the Schroon River Forge, was owned by John Roth between 1861 and 1881, it was destroyed by fire in the very early 1880s. Roth’s Forge, was said to have had two or three fires, an 1,800 pound hammer and two wheels that produced blooms, billots and slabs and used ore brought from nearby Paradox Lake and Moriah. The tiny settlement of mostly workers was recreated as Roth’s Forge Village at Frontier Town in the 1950s.
Once most of the Hoffman Notch land had been acquired by the state, the Bailey Pond Inn was built in the late 1890’s in the hamlet of Loch Muller to the south by Paschal (Pasco) Warren. Begun as a simple boarding house, but later known as Warrens Inn, the location’s primary selling point was its access to the ponds, streams, and mountains in the Hoffman Notch area. The hotel was purchased by the Gadjo family in 1947. The Loch Muller white pine is located nearby, said to have been planted in 1845 by Paschal Warren, when he and the tree were both 12 years old. In 1920, Warren put a plaque on the tree with the inscription “Woodsman Spare That tree, Touch Not a Single Bough, In Youth It Protected Me, And I’ll Protect It Now.” Arthur Warren’s granddaughter, Marion is believed to have given her name to Marion Pond.
In 1967 there was a proposal to build a ski resort with lifts and 30 miles of trails on Hoffman Mountain and two of the Peaked Hills. The plan was sponsored by the Schroon – North Hudson Winter Sports Council . Among the local proponents were M. Leo Friedman, a Schroon Lake attorney and realtor; Arthur Douglas, Town of Jay Supervisor and Essex County Chair; members of the Essex County Fish and Game League; the Town Supervisors of Schroon, North Hudson and Ticonderoga; and several local newspaper editors. Despite opposition by the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Forest Preserve taking passed the state legislature, but was defeated by voters by a margin of nearly 3 to 1.
Today, Hoffman Notch is little used. The historic route through the Notch is the Hoffman Notch Trail, which was designated a snowmobile trail until the adoption of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan in 1972 made it a non‐conforming use and it became a foot trail, and perhaps more famously, a cross country ski trail. The Bailey Pond Trail was once a town road but was abandoned and Big Pond Trail (from Hoffman Road to junction of Hoffman Notch Trail) was once a logging road but now sees mostly cross country skiers.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced the release of the draft unit management plan (UMP) for the Hoffman Notch Wilderness. The unit consists of 38,500 acres in the Towns of North Hudson, Minerva and Schroon Lake in Essex County.
“The release of the draft unit management plan for the Hoffman Notch Wilderness is another significant milestone in our efforts to improve public access and ensure the protection of the Adirondacks for future generations,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. “The public’s participation has been extremely valuable throughout the planning process to date, providing the Department with important information and recommendations incorporated into the draft plan.” A public meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 26, at the Town of Schroon Town Hall in Schroon Lake. The meeting will provide the public with an opportunity to learn more on the proposed management actions in the draft UMP and to provide comment on the proposals. DEC will accept comments on the draft UMP until May 13, 2011. The meeting facility is wheelchair accessible. Please provide any requests for specific accommodation to 518-623-1200 at least two weeks in advance.
The Hoffman Notch Wilderness, southern Essex County, is situated near the communities of Newcomb, North Hudson, Schroon Lake, Minerva and Olmstedville. The unit is generally bounded on the north by the Boreas Road, on the east by the Adirondack Northway, on the south by Hoffman Road, and on the west by the boundary of Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest.
The Hoffman Notch Wilderness offers many recreational opportunities, including but not limited to hiking, cross country skiing, camping, canoeing, hunting, trapping and fishing. With over 18 miles of marked trails available, the public can easily reach a variety of natural attractions such as Hoffman Notch and Mt. Severance, as well as popular fishing locations at Bailey Pond or Big Pond. Other scattered water bodies providing additional recreational uses include Big Marsh, North Pond, Sand Pond, and Marion Pond.
Recommended management actions in the draft UMP include:
• Designate and sign the herd path south of Big Pond as a DEC trail connected to the Big Pond Trail to create a loop hiking and cross country skiing trail system from Hoffman Road and connected to Loch Muller road.
• Construct foot bridges over Hoffman Notch Brook near north end of Hoffman Notch Trail and over East Branch on the Big Pond Trail.
• Reroute 1/4 mile portion of Hoffman Notch Trail north of Big Marsh to west side of Hoffman Notch Brook.
• Construct an improved parking lot along the Blue Ridge Road to serve as the northern trailhead for the Hoffman Notch Trail.
• Designate two primitive tent sites on Big Pond.
A UMP must be completed before significant new recreational facilities, such as trails, lean-tos, or parking areas, can be constructed. The plan includes an analysis of the natural features of the area and the ability of the land to accommodate public use. The planning process is designed to cover all environmental considerations for the unit and forms the basis for all proposed management activities for a five-year time period.
UMPs are required by the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan for each unit of State land in the Adirondack Park. The plans integrate the goals and objectives of the Master Plan, related legislation, and resource and visitor use information into a single document.
The draft UMP will be available for public review beginning next week at DEC headquarters in Albany, DEC Region 5 headquarters in Ray Brook and the DEC Region 5 office in Warrensburg. CDs of the plan will be available at these same locations, as well as the offices for the Towns of North Hudson, Minerva and Schroon Lake, and the Schroon Lake Public Library. The complete document will be available on DEC’s Unit Management Plan website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/22600.html.
Public comments will be accepted until May 13, 2011, and may be sent to Ben Thomas, Senior Forester, NYSDEC, 232 Golf Course Road, Warrensburg, NY 12885 or emailed to [email protected]
Parks & Trails New York, an Albany-based advocacy group, has joined an effort to develop a rail-trail between North Creek and Tahawus.
The group Friends of the Upper Hudson, which seeks to build a 29-mile multi-use trail along an old railroad bed, recently announced the partnership. Parks & Trails will provide help with technical issues, planning, public outreach, grant writing, fundraising and other activities. The trail would follow the railway formerly used to haul ore from the NL Industries mine, passing through the towns of Johnsburg, Indian Lake, Minerva and Newcomb. The trail would provide easy access to the scenic Upper Hudson and Boreas Rivers, as well as a dramatic crossing of the Hudson over a long trestle.
When complete, the trail could lure tens of thousands of users to a part of the Adirondacks that is not visited by many hikers. But there are concerns about the project. First is the cost, estimated at $4.4 million for a stone-dust trail, or $7.3 million for paved. And there are also access questions, as the right-of-way (across both private and state land) will expire with the removal of the tracks. However, backers say a federal law to encourage the reuse of rail beds may solve the complicated land issue.
The project backers have completed a feasibility study and are working with partners to acquire and preserve the corridor for trail use.
Trains haven’t run on this section of rail for decades. To the south, a tourist line called The Upper Hudson Scenic Railroad operates in warmer weather on the same line between North Creek and Riparius. That railroad faces an uncertain future: the section is owned by Warren County, which is seeking proposals from new operators for a scenic railroad. The rail-trail would ave no impact on the tourist line.
The Friends of the Upper Hudson Rail Trail maintain a website here. To find out more about the Healthy Trails, Healthy People program, contact Parks & Trails New York at 518-434-1583 or [email protected] or visit the Parks & Trails New York website here.
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