Discussions around the American wilderness story are numerous and they stem largely from the historical narrative established by long-revered visionaries of Wild America including Ralph Waldo Emerson, the subject of my last post, and his neighbor and fellow philosopher Henry David Thoreau.
I often hear Thoreau cited for his 1851 declaration from his essay “Walking” that “in wildness is the preservation of the world.” This sentiment is invoked time and again when Adirondack citizens, scholars and officials tell the story of how the cultural and regulatory boundary of the Park evolved and also to underscore why the Preserve is important – why it should be important to all of us. » 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]
The New York State Snowmobile Association (NYSSA) will be holding the 4th Annual Adirondack Park Snowmobile Trail Conference at the Adirondack Hotel in Long Lake on Sunday, April 10th From 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM.
This year conference will focus on the several new Unit Management Plans (UMP) that have been approved and those in the works. Once approved by the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), plans for trail improvements can begin. Additional topics will be the status of Adirondack easements, Recreation Plans, and the new Trail Stewards program. » Continue Reading.
Have you gone hiking recently in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness or canoed the Kunjamuk River? I’ve never met you, but I can guess a lot of things about you.
You probably live within fifty miles of the trailhead or put-in. You probably have a college degree. And you’re probably white.
These are statistical probabilities based on a survey of Forest Preserve users in the southeastern Adirondacks. For a year, researchers from the New York State College of Environmental Science and Forestry staked out trailheads and put-ins and interviewed more than a thousand people. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Almanack is pleased to offer this guest essay by Trudy Rosenblum, founder and editor of the Jay Community News. The Jay News is a free e-mail news service whose purpose is to bring folks around Jay closer together and to quickly spread local news and information. In addition to the email service there is also a Jay Community Services Directory that lists local products or services offered by the community. Trudy recently took a trip to the Caribbean island nation of Aruba, and brought back the following lessons for the Adirondacks.
We had a lovely vacation in the warmth and sunshine of Aruba. I feel compelled, however, to offer something about the conditions of that tourist spot that was once the gem of the Caribbean. Aruba can be a lesson to us here in the Adirondacks.
Like Aruba, the Adirondack Park is also a tourist area and like Aruba, much of our area receives its revenue from tourism. If we ruin it, not only will people not come and we will lose our jobs and revenue, but, and this is just as important, the land and animals will suffer and something beautiful will cease to exist on this planet. There are still very beautiful places in Aruba; clean beaches with white sand and lots of beautiful corral; blue-green water and wonderful sunsets. But sadly, much of the coastline is trashed. Locals there say it is Venezuela’s garbage taken by the currents to Aruba. They also blame ships dumping waste and tourists who don’t care, as well as locals. At present there is so much trash it seems unlikely it can be cleaned up.
Tourists want to recreate. They will hike, ride bicycles, motor cycles, ATV’s, jeeps and ride horses. If one doesn’t designate areas for these things to be done, the tourists will go anywhere they please destroying delicate eco systems along the way. These things should not be forbidden, just managed, maintained and policed.
We found Wendy’s, KFC, McDonald’s, Domino’s Pizza everywhere; and we were hard pressed to find local crafts as the kiosks sold the same things one can find in any market south of Florida.
We in the Adirondack Park could be like this. Thank God for those who went before us and had insight as to how to preserve the park as well as attract tourists. Thank you to every person who reaches down to pick up someone’s trash, even when no one is looking. Thanks to the DEC, APA and others who designate activity-specific areas, stock fish, care for our waters, limit development, maintain and police our precious park to keep it attractive and thriving. Thank you to those who kept the fast food chains at bay and to the many local craft people who provide unique keepsakes for visitors to buy. Thanks to the planners who understand that there is room for recreating with motorized vehicles as well as for primitive areas where no motors are permitted. People in our area have understood that if we provide areas for recreation and maintain and police them we can both attract revenue and preserve the park.
Thank you to all the quaint little shops where things cost a little more but where the culture of rural America thrives in such an attractive manner.
Thank God oil or natural gas has not been discovered in our area, and thank you to those who said no to the big corporations who do not care about fitting in to the environment. It is tempting in this terribly difficult economic period to lose sight of the long term effects of neglect of our park. I deeply hope preservation for its own sake and for the sake of attracting tourist revenue will not be sacrificed to the short-term gains such economic times tempt.
As Prince Charles has said, we will probably survive for some time if we destroy the wilderness, but the lives of our children will be a misery. This is as true in the Adirondacks as it is in Aruba.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) has issued its 2010 Annual Report. The report summarizes yearly accomplishments and includes links to key documents such as the Citizen Guide, Jurisdictional Form, telecommunication sites, broadband coverage and Unit Management Plans. In addition, embedded in this year’s report is a link to the 2010 Agency Board Highlights. The Board Highlights link details Board activity, projects approved and presentations received. The Annual Report is available from the Agency’s website [pdf]. Information about the 2009 Annual Report can be found here. During 2010, the Administration Division worked to meet budget mandates by reducing the work force. This was accomplished in part through retirements and the closure of both the Visitor Interpretive Centers.
The Economic Services Division participated in the review and approval of 42 projects which are believed to have retained or created jobs in the Park. In addition, staff coordinated with the Town of Brighton on reuse opportunities for the former Camp Gabriels prison site and provided guidance on the Lake Champlain Bridge project which expedited project approval.
Regulatory Programs staff issued 392 permits and processed 167 pre-application requests. 59 economic development and 28 cellular projects were approved. In addition, 73 general permits were issued. APA staff responded to the sudden closure of the Lake Champlain Bridge by issuing permits for bridge demolition, the development of a temporary ferry and the construction of the new tied-arch bridge. Regulatory Program staff helped develop new general permit applications for a change in use for existing commercial, public/semi-public or industrial buildings and the installation of new or replacement cellular equipment.
Planning staff worked with local governments such as the Towns of Westport and Tupper Lake which sought successfully sought planning map amendments. Planning staff also worked with the Towns of Crown Point, Essex and Bellmont on local planning and mapping initiatives. Staff prepared base maps for the Hamlets 3 Smart Growth project and assisted in the development of a Memorandum of Understanding between the APA and the Department of EEnvironmental Conservation (DEC) that defines a process for review of projects on lands in which the State owns a conservation easement.
Local Government Services staff responded to 570 inquiries from local officials on land use issues and participated in twenty-six meetings with town officials providing information on Agency jurisdiction and land use law. In addition, staff reviewed 99 variances from towns with approved local land use programs.
State land staff prepared four State land classification packages which were approved by the Governor in 2010. Actions included were the creation of a new Little Moose Mountain Wilderness Area, establishment of a new Intensive Use Camping Area in the Moose River Plains, and the reclassification of the fire towers on Hurricane and St. Regis Mountain to Historic. Staff also provided advice on five new unit management plans which were determined compliant with the SLMP by the Agency Board.
Resource Analysis and Scientific Services staff completed 271 wetland delineations, advised on 242 wetland jurisdictional determinations and evaluated 81 deep hole test pits. Staff conducted educational workshops on stormwater management and the impacts of invasive species.
Regulatory revision was a significant focus for Legal staff. During the year, staff implemented regulatory revisions related to boathouses. The Legal Division also continued to work on advancing three bills in the legislature: 1) to create a community housing incentive; 2) to create a local planning grant program; and 3) to streamline the Agency’s permit process and enable development rights transfer. Legal staff were also responsible for executing Executive Order 25, which required State agencies to conduct a review of their rules and regulations.
The Jurisdictional Inquiry Office wrote 856 jurisdictional determinations, (560 non-jurisdictional and 186 jurisdictional) handled 510 referrals from other agencies and answered nearly 4,820 general inquiry phone calls. The average response time for jurisdictional determinations was 16 days. In addition, staff processed 233 Freedom of Information requests.
Enforcement staff opened 380 cases and successfully closed 372 cases, including 189 signed settlement agreements and 112 cases closed with no violations. Ongoing outreach with code enforcement and local government officials has dramatically reduced the number of subdivision violations. In 2010, of the 98 subdivisions undertaken within the Park, only one resulted in a violation.
The mission of the Adirondack Park Agency is to protect the public and private resources of the Adirondack Park through the exercise of the powers and duties of the Agency as provided by law. For more information, call the APA at (518) 891-4050 or visit www.apa.state.ny.us.
What follows is a guest essay from Minerva carpenter Duane Ricketson, an original appointee to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Region 5 Open Space Advisory Committee in 1990 and one of the longest serving state appointees. He’s an Adirondack native whose family arrived in the region in the 1790s and who enjoys fishing, hunting, hiking and camping. Ricketson supported and worked with local leaders on the Region 5 Open Space Advisory Committee to get local governments and Adirondackers enfranchised in the process of open space protection, especially the local government veto, which he now sees as being usurped by the Local Government Review Board.
On the surface, the recent drive by Adirondack politicians and local media to stop the State from purchasing the former Finch-Pruyn lands from the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy is simply a continuation of the storied battle between Adirondackers and the State of New York over buying land in the Adirondack Park. This time it opens a brand new chapter, however, because the actions of local governments are now being called into question by The Local Government Review Board. » Continue Reading.
Recently, Adirondack politicians have intensified their effort to block the state’s acquisition of Follensby Pond and some sixty-five thousand acres once owned by Finch, Pruyn & Company.
In the past two weeks, the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board and the Franklin County legislature adopted resolutions opposing the purchases. The Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages is expected to vote soon on a similar measure, and it stands an excellent chance of passing.
The opponents say the purchases would cost forestry jobs, force traditional hunting clubs to disband, and in general harm the local economy. But their ace in the hole is the claim that the state simply cannot afford to buy these properties. » Continue Reading.
I’ll risk it and take the bait in responding to Senator Betty Little, Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward and others concerning a proposed constitutional amendment to permit logging and forest product utilization on newly acquired Forest Preserve.
Their simplistic ecological arguments for the amendment, such as wanting to see more rabbits on the Forest Preserve, or expecting that logging the Preserve would help the climate are being made up as they go along and will not withstand serious scrutiny. I prefer to focus more on their constitutional hurdles.
The Senator is clearly motivated to keep the Finch lands and Follensby Pond out of the Forest Preserve. Unstated may be a desire to maintain certain leaseholders occupying the Finch lands – such as the politically influential members of the Gooley Club west of the Upper Hudson. These are at least rational positions to take and, while I have a different viewpoint, I can respect theirs. They will also attempt to accomplish their objective of keeping the lands out of the Forest Preserve through legislation, and one would think that an easier step than a constitutional amendment. Perhaps they think not. They apparently believe a good way to accomplish their objective is to create a separate class of Forest Preserve that on some date certain, after a constitutional amendment is approved by the voters some years hence, and after new Forest Preserve is acquired will permit the practice of forestry on the new land. They may feel that the public would accept this, knowing that the existing three million acres would still be “forever wild.” They may believe that all they need to do is neatly sidestep a sticky clause in Article 14, Section 1 of the Constitution, and exempt new lands from its provisions. That clause states: “nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.”
But that’s not all they have to do. Theirs is no technical amendment. By attempting to exempt only new Forest Preserve from the strictures of Article 14, they must amend all 54 words of Section 1 of Article 14. They must roughshod over the very constitutional language which voters have refused to change – despite given numerous opportunities to do so – in 116 years.
Perhaps they are betting on a constitutional convention virtually doing away with Article 14 as we know it, and I’d say that’s a poor bet.
Section 1 unifies the Forest Preserve. Its first sentence states that “the lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands.” A simple exception clause for new acquisitions after some date would not do the trick. “Hereafter acquired” means just that. “Forever kept” means forever. The words pertain to any lands owned before, or acquired after the effective date of Section 1 of January 1, 1895. They were reaffirmed at the 1938 and 1967 constitutional conventions, and on many other occasions in the 20th and 21st centuries through passage of over 30 limited, site specific amendments which nonetheless preserve the overarching language of Section 1.
The second and final sentence of Section 1 is just as problematic for the Senator. “They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.” Allowing DEC, a public corporation, to supervise and control logging on newly acquired Forest Preserve would constitute a clear taking of the lands. The legal agreements to permit logging activity by private parties on any parts of the Forest Preserve might likely constitute a lease, further violating that provision. The third and final clause of that sentence – the one that the Senator may think is the only hurdle – speaks for itself.
I conclude that pretty much all 54 words of Section 1 would need to be amended, rewritten and stripped of their present and historic meaning in order to achieve a separate class of Forest Preserve managed for forest products. The public may be willing to make occasional, limited, site specific amendments to Article 14 for worthy objectives that both meet a legitimate public purpose and enhance the Forest Preserve. However, the voters have demonstrated over a very long period that they are unwilling to make substantial changes to the “forever wild” policy because the Forest Preserve as now constituted provides such enormous benefits. It is the envy of the world. It distinguishes New York from all other states and from all other nations. It is woven into our social fabric, as well as our laws. It provides billions of dollars in ecological and recreational services. It pays taxes for all purposes. The voters would be especially unwilling when the reasons for doing so, on economic, ecological, social and public policy grounds, are so questionable.
Prior to 1983, Senator Little’s amendment might have a better public policy rationale and more public appeal. That was when the conservation easement legislation was approved that permits the State to acquire rights in land without the land becoming Forest Preserve, and which has been so effective in keeping forest management and forest employment alive in the Park, which are the stated objectives for the amendment. Putting more resources into effective programs like this would be the more realistic way to achieve them.
The South Downs emerged from under the weight of 1000 years of English history to gain National Park status in Great Britain in 2009. Never heard of it, you may say. Well, William the Conqueror came here one day in 1066, and changed our English and American history forever.
Nearly a millennium later, no one did more to achieve a National Park for the South Downs than Paul Millmore of Lewes, Sussex (Paul’s home is contained within the Park) who campaigned vigorously for the National Park for decades. He joined Adirondack Wild the last week of December, 2010 in Adirondack Park’s Keene Valley for part of our Dialogue for the Wild. In this case, it was community discussion about the South Downs, and to exchange notes about parks and protected areas on either side of the Atlantic. First, a bit about Paul Millmore. He is a rural planner by trade, and a pioneering international conservation consultant. He is the author of the National Trail Guide to the South Downs Way. For over 20 years, Paul has consulted widely in North America and in the Adirondacks on a wide range of conservation topics, including planning, countryside management and tourism, heritage trails and walking paths, ranger services and stewardship, cultural and natural resource inventories, conservation record-keeping and more. He last spoke in Lake Placid in 2001 about “Citizen Lessons in Environmental Discovery.” As you can see, Paul can relate to the Adirondacks pretty easily.
As Paul’s slides of the South Downs moved along, the audience of about 25 in Keene Valley’s Congregational Church (Van Santvoord Room) received a crash course in South Downs ecology. On the Downs proper, there are rarities everywhere, rare butterflies, rare plants, all low to the ground, with the sky above, not trees or shrubs. These rarities are here because of sheep, and infertile soils. Remove 1000 years of sheep grazing, or unnaturally fertilize these great downs, and you lose biodiversity. This ecological wisdom requires a shift in our mindset, as we in northeastern North America might tend to view sheep, and infertile soils as bad for rare life forms. However, we might see a parallel in Adirondack low elevation boreal rivers. These low fertility boggy riverbanks, if allowed to gain nitrogen from a warming climate and hastened decomposition, would be overrun by shrubs and trees, shading out the rarities. Thus it is that on the South Downs, grazing keeps the land in ecological balance.
The Downs are often symbolized by the dramatic 30-miles of steep chalk cliffs facing the English Channel, symbolized by the “Seven Sisters” shown here. Created out of the calcium rich bodies of small sea creatures, this wave cut escarpment of chalk is, as Paul points out, the only true wilderness in the South Downs – indeed, in all of England. The Adirondacks may have far more wilderness, but far less human history! Along the escarpment is the South Downs Way, one of the great countryside walks in all of England.
Paul went on to describe Countryside, as defined in English law. By law (1948) and tradition, housing and industrial development is concentrated in Great Britain within hamlets, or towns or cities. The countryside outside of these zones is simply not available for such development. There is no private property right to develop it. Despite it being private land, there is a public right to access it, so long as that access is appropriate and does not harm the private owner. Here lies the great tradition, and burgeoning tourist attraction and economic benefit of countryside walking from inn to inn, from town to bed and breakfast, and back again. This business is critical to the life of the South Downs. It is also critical to know that these countryside “parks” are locally managed.
As for the culture and nature divide, Paul is a lumper, not a divider. From his viewpoint, all forms of culture and all forms of nature in the countryside (and the town) deserve our attention, our concern, our protection, our stewardship. He knows there are important lines not to cross, and knows that our wilderness has its own critical cultural, as well as legal and spiritual importance. Yet, he reminds us that we are part of nature, so our culture and its history are critically important. Paul views the Adirondack “debate” as pointless. Embrace wilderness and human cultural history together, he urged. Don’t forget the mining history and centers at Mineville, for example. Celebrate it, preserve it, just as you preserve the High Peaks Wilderness.
Remember, too, he reminded us, to measure the economic benefits of wilderness and cultural and historic centers throughout the Adirondacks. Measure and report these results to government on a regular basis. These may be the ultimate “received bits of wisdom” from our much older English cousins across the pond.
As for the South Downs National Park itself, Paul sees this is just the first and most logical victory. The Park is managed by local people, not by London, and Paul is one of the many locals who have moved from Park creation to Park stewardship. Stewardship money must be locally raised, he argues, and he has successfully raised a lot of it himself. In one example, he persuaded the reluctant local powers that be to screen with native vegetation an enormous parking lot built for Countryside walkers and sightseers. He did this by writing the first check to acquire the necessary tree seedlings, and by shaming hundreds of others to write their own checks. The trees are now mature and screen the sun’s reflection off hundreds of automobiles, which would otherwise have been visible from thirty miles away. Imagine the visual impact from Owls Head, Hurricane or Cascade Mountain of a 15-acre, unscreened parking lot at Rt. 9N and 73 in Keene!
Now, Paul has other campaigns in his sights, including the first marine sanctuary in Britain on and off the South Downs coast. Also, he will fight for ecological restoration of the only undisturbed estuary in all of England. The River Cuckmere forms a beautiful meandering floodwater through the Downs, cutting through the escarpment down to the sea. Yet 19th century Englishmen cut a straight channel before it reaches the sea to stop it from flooding. This cut has sealed the meander off from nutrients, and starved the floodplain of its potential richness. Bird life and all life forms suffer. These days, the economic value of biodiversity and birdwatching far exceeds losses from floodwaters, so don’t count Paul Millmore out. More ecological and cultural gains, on the South Downs and elsewhere, are within his determined reach.
Photos: Above, The Seven Sisters, coastline bordering the English Channel and part of the South Downs; Below, Paul Millmore, successful advocate for the South Downs National Park in Great Britain, and friend of the Adirondacks.
The DEC is taking comments through January 14, 2011 on a proposed revision of the Temporary Revocable Permit (TRP) Policy, which sets forth the procedure for issuing permits for the temporary use of DEC’s State lands, including, but not limited to DEC’s: Wildlife Management Areas, State Reforestation Areas, Forest Preserves, campgrounds, boat launches/waterway access sites, tidal wetlands, and conservation easements).
DEC issues TRPs for activities that are in compliance with all constitutional, statutory and regulatory requirements; the Adirondack and Catskill Park State Land Master Plans; adopted Unit Management Plans and Recreation Management Plans; and that have negligible or no permanent impact on the environment. You can review the draft policy online [pdf]. You can find additional policy details and information on submitting comments here.
My ski trip to Bum Pond, with my daughter Martha, was made possible by the state’s purchase of nearly fifteen thousand acres from the Whitney family in 1997.
Thanks to this latest land deal, the public will have the opportunity to enjoy new ski trails in coming winters. The Nature Conservancy bought all 161,000 acres owned by Finch, Pruyn in 2007. Last year, it sold eighty-nine thousand acres to ATP Timberland Invest. On December 30, the state announced that it would pay $30 million for easements on the ATP lands. » Continue Reading.
There were hints last week that it would happen, but it’s official, Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) Chair and Open Space Institute (OSI) President Joesph Martens has been nominated by Governor Andrew Cuomo to head the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
Martens has quite a legacy already in the Adirondack region. Under his leadership OSI secured protection of the 10,000-acre Tahawus property and most recently the 2,350-acre Camp Little Notch in Fort Ann. Martens also spearheaded OSI’s involvement in the Nature Conservancy’s 161,000-acre Finch Pryun purchase. » Continue Reading.
On Saturday I went skiing on the Burn Road in the William C. Whitney Wilderness. It’s one of those ski routes that don’t require a lot of snow, ideal for early-season outings.
My ski trip was uneventful. I enjoyed a few glimpses of Little Tupper Lake through the trees, saw lots of snow fleas and several deer beds, and discovered an unusual outhouse decorated with paintings of evergreens. When the warming snow started clumping on my skis, I decided to turn around after three and a half miles.
The state bought Little Tupper Lake and surrounding lands—nearly fifteen thousand acres in all—from the Whitney family in 1997. After the purchase, there was a public debate over whether the tract should be classified as Wilderness or Wild Forest. One of the arguments against designating the tract Wilderness—the strictest of the Forest Preserve land classifications—is that it just didn’t look like wilderness. The woods had been heavily logged and were crisscrossed with logging roads, of which the Burn Road is only one. And then there were the buildings on the shore of Little Tupper.
The anti-Wilderness folks had a point. Skiing the Burn Road is the not a breathtaking experience. The above photo of snowy evergreens shows one of the more attractive scenes from my trip. Most of the forest is skinny hardwoods. A wide road cut through a logged-over forest is a far cry from my idea of pristine wilderness.
But let’s face it: there is very little pristine wilderness in this part of world. The Forest Preserve is full of evidence of human history: abandoned woods roads, rusting logging machines, foundations of farmhouses, old orchards, even gravesites. If we were to require that Wilderness be free of all signs of the human past, we might end up with no Wilderness at all.
The aim of Wilderness regulations is not always to preserve wilderness; perhaps more often than not, it is to restore wilderness. In time, the trees will grow big, moss will cover the crumbling foundations, and nature will reclaim the old roads.
Skiing back to my car, I was cheered by the thought that in fifty or a hundred years, this wide road may be a narrow corridor passing through a forest of stately yellow birch and red spruce. Skiers of the future will thank us for restoring this place to its natural condition.
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