Posts Tagged ‘Trails – Access – Navigation Rights’

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Snowmobilers Select New Trails Coordinator

The New York State Snowmobile Association (NYSSA) has announced the selection of James E. Rolf of Rome, NY as their new statewide Trails Coordinator. Jim Rolf will be following Dave Perkins, the first and only NYSSA Trails Coordinator.

“Jim Rolf brings a great deal of snowmobiling experience to the Trails coordinator position,” Perkins said. “He has worked with many groups for the benefit of trails, has experience dealing with trails along the canal corridor, and is knowledgeable about snowmobile issues in the Adirondack Park.” » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Adk Snowmobile Trails Conference, Stewards Sought

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.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Phil Brown: On Secret Ski Trails

Last month I “discovered” some wonderful backcountry ski trails in the Bog River region south of Tupper Lake. I liked them so much I wrote a story about them for the March/April issue of the Adirondack Explorer.

I feel guilty about that.

You see, the trails lack the imprimatur of the state Department of Environmental Conservation. They’re marked by homemade disks and signs. As a journalist, I had to ask the question: is this legal? » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Gore Mountain Interconnect, Whiteface Troubles

The long-awaited Gore Mountain Interconnect with the Historic North Creek Ski Bowl was opened, and then closed as a lack of snow hampered the celebratory first weekend of the newly installed Hudson Chair connecting the Ski Bowl with the upper mountain. The snafu was the latest in a string of problems that have plagued the area’s state-run ski areas.

Members of the public joined state and local politicians on Saturday for a ribbon cutting ceremony at the base of the new Hudson Chair, but Sunday morning a key trail connecting Gore with the Ski Bowl, the Pipeline Traverse to Little Gore, was closed keeping skiers on the upper mountain.

Patrons using the Hudson Chair to access the Eagle’s Nest Trail at the summit of Little Gore could ski to the base of Burnt Ridge Mountain – where a quad provides access to the rest of Gore Mountain’s trail system – and then return to the Ski Bowl via the the Pipeline Traverse. By noon on Sunday however, the only trail leading from the Upper Gore area to the Ski Bowl was closed, severing the ski link with the lower mountain. Those wanting to take the new Hudson Chair were required to use a locally supplied shuttle to get to the Ski Bowl. The Hudson chairlift and Pipeline Traverse remain closed today, but are expected to reopen following this week’s snows.

“We had enough snow cover to run hundreds of skiers on Pipeline Sat, but it got a little too thin for Sunday unfortunately,” Gore Mountain’s press contact Emily Stanton, told the Almanack by e-mail.

The Gore Interconnect’s stutter start was one of a series of travails that have beset both state-run Adirondack ski areas. Lack of snow and an early January thaw at Gore has meant a slow start to the season, meanwhile lift problems have plagued Whiteface.

Just before the new year a chairlift malfunction at Whiteface stranded 76 people for up to two hours. Last week, the Kid’s Kampus chairlift malfunctioned and a lift operator suffered a fractured arm and was airlifted to Fletcher Allen in Burlington.

On Saturday, the Summit Chair malfunctioned eliminating access to the upper mountain. Whiteface personnel were relegated to using a snow cat to ferry riders to the top a few at a time. Then on Sunday, Whiteface’s Lookout Mountain chairlift stalled 45 minutes stranding patrons, although none were evacuated.

The Gore Mountain Interconnect is hoped to make North Creek’s downtown more accessible to Gore Mountain skiers and riders. A massive new resort by FrontStreet Mountain Development LLC of Darien, Connecticut, designed to take advantage of the Interconnect has not materialized. The project was first proposed in late 2005 and was approved by the Adirondack Park Agency in 2008. Only one model home has been built and none of the more than 130 condo properties have been sold.

Critics of the projects have claimed the estimated $5.5 million cost of the connection between Gore and the Ski Bowl would be an improper use of taxpayer money to help a developer.

For the second year the North Creek Business Alliance has organized a shuttle that facilitates access between Gore Mountain’s Base Area, the North Creek Ski Bowl, North Creek’s Main Street, and area lodging properties.

Gore opened January 25, 1964. The first ski train arrived in North Creek in March of 1934, and the Ski Bowl was home to one of the first commercial ski areas and ski patrols in the US.

Photo: The Gore Mountain Interconnect’s new Hudson Chair. Courtesy Gore Mountain.


Monday, January 31, 2011

Phil Brown: Skiing Coney Mountain

Old Mountain Phelps cut the first trail up Mount Marcy in 1861. It began between the two Ausable Lakes, ascended Bartlett Ridge, went down into Panther Gorge, and then climbed a slide on the mountain’s southeast face.

Judging from a sketch in Forest and Crag, a history of trail building in the Northeast, Phelps took the shortest route possible from point A to point B. Many early trails in the Adirondacks followed the same pattern, making a beeline for the summit.

The thinking in those days was shorter is better. But trails that are straight and steep often turn into rivulets in spring and over time become badly eroded. Thus, the switchback was born.

A switchback trail zigs and zags up a slope, following the terrain’s natural features. By necessity, such trails are longer than straight trails, but they are easier on the knees and the landscape. In recent years, Adirondack trail builders have adopted the switchback model. The rerouted trail up Baxter Mountain in Keene is one example. Another is the new trail up Coney Mountain south of Tupper Lake.

Coney is a small peak with a panoramic view, a combination that makes it popular throughout the year. The old trail shot straight up the west side of the mountain from Route 30. The new trail, constructed by the Adirondack Mountain Club, starts on the west side but curls around to the north and finally approaches the top from the east. I guess that makes it more of a spiral than a switchback, but the goal is the same: keep the grade easy to minimize erosion. I first hiked the new trail in December for a story that appears in the January/February issue of the Adirondack Explorer. (The story is not available online.)

As I ascended, I kept thinking that this would be a great trail to ski. Not only are the gradients moderate, but the woods are fairly open—always a plus in case you need to pull off to stop or slow down. So I returned to Coney last weekend with my telemark skis. Thanks to the nylon skins affixed to the bottoms, I was able to ascend easily. The trail had been packed down by four snowshoers whom I encountered on their descent. They seemed surprised to see someone on skis. I stopped to chat. Often when I introduce myself on the trail, people recognize my name from the Explorer, but not in this case.

Soon after, I came to the end of the mile-long trail. Although clouds limited the view, the summit was serene and lovely. Snow clung to the bare branches of young trees. Deep powder blanketed most of the summit. Despite the clouds, I could see the southern end of Tupper Lake. Time for the descent. I made a few turns in the powder, then picked my way down a short, steep pitch to a saddle. Next came the best part: a long run down the new trail. Beforehand, I activated the video function on my camera, which was strapped to my chest. Click here to watch the video.

The skiing was a blast. Beware, however, that there is a rocky section of trail that traces the base of the mountain. If skiing, you need to stop before reaching it. If you do, you can shuffle through this stretch without much difficulty as the trail is more or less flat here. I arrived at the trailhead with a renewed appreciation for the principles of modern trail design. As a backcountry skier, I hope to see more switchbacks and spirals. But I also wish trail builders would always keep skiers in mind. Whenever possible, trails should accommodate both skiers and hikers.

Incidentally, when I returned to my car, I found a note from the snowshoers: “Nice article about Coney. We enjoyed it.”

Photo by Phil Brown: Coney Mountain’s summit.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Explorer Creates Legal Defense Fund

The Adirondack Explorer has set up a legal defense fund to raise money to fight a lawsuit filed by private landowners who claim I trespassed when I canoed through their property.

As a small nonprofit publication, we operate on a shoestring and will have to struggle to pay all the costs associated with a court case that could last two or three years. Given the principle at stake, however, it’s imperative that we not back down. We have hired Glens Falls attorney John Caffry, an expert in this field of law, to represent us.

The decision in this case could define paddlers’ rights throughout the Adirondacks and the rest of New York state. If the case reaches the state’s highest court, it may even influence judges in other parts of the country.

The Explorer and the landowners have starkly different views of the common-law right of navigation. In brief, our contention is that the public has an age-old right to paddle through private property on navigable waterways that can be legally accessed and exited. The other side contends that the common law applies only to waterways that have a history of commercial use (such as log drives).

If you’re a paddler, the implications of the landowners’ claims should give you pause. Most rivers in the Adirondacks and elsewhere in the state flow through private land at some point. If you paddle much, you probably have been on some of them. Do you know their commercial history? Should your right to paddle these rivers depend on whether or not logs were floated down them in the 1800s? What if the commercial history of a river is unknown?

Incidentally, the state Department of Environmental Conservation agrees with our interpretation of the law and has told the landowners, in writing, that the waterways in dispute are open to the public.

If you’d like to learn more about the legal arguments, click here to find copies of the landowners’ complaint and our answer. You also will find links to some of the stories we’ve published on navigation rights.

Meantime, if you care about paddlers’ rights, please consider contributing to our legal defense fund. Click here to find out how. Donations are tax-deductible.

We need your support. Please let your friends know too.

Photo: Phil Brown on Shingle Shanty Brook.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Chain Saws in the Adirondack Wilderness

When we needed to do an early-season ski tour for the Adirondack Explorer, we opted for the Hays Brook Truck Trail north of Paul Smiths, which needs only about six inches of snow to be skiable.

On December 7, four of us from the office spent a good part of the day gliding through fresh, fluffy powder on our way to the Sheep Meadow at the end of the truck trail and to Grass Pond via a side trail.

With snow adorning the tall pines, the forest was serene and beautiful, and we had a wonderful time. I’ll post a link to the story when it’s available online.

Apart from two fairly steep hills, the truck trail traverses gentle terrain suitable for novice skiers. It’s a fun outing anytime in winter.

The biggest difficulty we faced was getting past two nasty pieces of blowdown about three miles from the trailhead. In one case, we thrashed through the woods to get around a large tree fallen across the trail.

Blowdown is something skiers and hikers put up with in the Adirondacks. It’s not a huge deal. Still, when I skied to the Sheep Meadow again with my daughter the day after Christmas, I was glad to discover that someone had cut through the blowdown with a chain saw. Hat’s off to whoever did it.

As we continued down the trail, it occurred to me that the doer of this good deed would have broken the law if the blowdown had been in a Wilderness Area instead of a Wild Forest Area. (The Hays Brook Truck Trail lies within the Debar Mountain Wild Forest.) Generally, the state Department of Environmental Conservation forbids the use of chain saws in Wilderness Areas except from April 1 to May 24. DEC can grant permission to use them from September 15 to April 1 as well, but this is not usually granted for routine blowdown such as we encountered on the Hays Brook Truck Trail.

I understand the rationale. A Wilderness Area is supposed to approximate nature in its primeval state. No motor vehicles, no snowmobiles, no bicycles, no motorized equipment.

As much as I support this management objective, I couldn’t help wondering what harm would have resulted if someone had cut through this blowdown even if it had been in a Wilderness Area. If the job were undertaken on a weekday, it’s possible that no one would have been around to hear the chain saw other than the person running the saw. In any case, the short interruption of natural serenity would serve the greater good. Although a few people who happened to be nearby might be bothered briefly by the noise, skiers would benefit all winter from the clearing of the trail.

I am not suggesting that forest rangers and others be allowed to use chain saws in Wilderness Areas anytime and anywhere. I do wonder if the regulations should be loosened somewhat to permit more clearing of trails before and during the ski season. I don’t have a specific proposal. I’m not even sure the regulations should be loosened. I’m just throwing out the idea for discussion.

Photo of the Sheep Meadow by Phil Brown.

Phil Brown is editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Snowmobile Trail Upgrades for Lewis, Jefferson Counties

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that several upgrades have been completed on bridges and trails on state lands around Jefferson and Lewis counties in time for snowmobile season.

Many of these improvements provide essential linkages on primary and secondary snowmobile trail networks across the Tug Hill Plateau and through Lewis County, according to DEC officials. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Free Cross-Country Skiing at New Land Trust

You can ski for free on hundreds of trails in the Adirondack Forest Preserve, but if you’re looking for a few more creature comforts—such as groomed trails and a clubhouse with a wood stove—check out the New Land Trust trails outside the hamlet of Saranac. They’re free, too.

The New Land Trust got its start in 1977 when some Plattsburgh State College students and friends purchased an old farm. Today the land trust is a non-profit organization that maintains twenty-eight trails (totaling about ten kilometers) on 287 acres.

While skiing at the New Land Trust over the weekend with my daughter Martha, we ran into Steve Jenks, a member of the trust board who lives nearby and maintains the trails. He led us down some of his favorite routes. We saw only a few other parties.

“People, why aren’t you here?” Jenks lamented. “The skiing here is fantastic, and it’s only a half-hour from Plattsburgh.”

He told us that the trust has improved its fiscal fitness in recent years but still needs money for a new roof for the clubhouse. The trust relies on donations from the public and on membership fees ($75 a year) to cover its taxes and other expenses. (Although the trails and lodge are open to the public for free, there is a donation box at the trail register.)

Most of the trails are mellow and don’t require a great deal of snow to be skiable. On Sunday, Martha and I skied the Saranac, a very attractive trail that led us past snow-covered balsams. Saranac is one of two main routes. We then took Night Rider to Solstice (the other main route), where we encountered Steve, who led us back to the clubhouse via a number of shorter trails.

The trails are all signed. Other amenities include two lean-tos, a bunkhouse, and a nifty outhouse. You can find a trail map and driving directions on the trust’s website. Trails maps also are available the register.

Photo by Phil Brown: New Land Trust lodge.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Some Early-Season Adirondack Ski Trips

I got back from a long holiday weekend Sunday night to find a few inches of snow in my driveway in Saranac Lake. It won’t be long before the cross-country-ski season begins in earnest.

So far, I have been out only once—on the Whiteface highway, the traditional first ski of the season in the Adirondacks. The highway needs only a few inches of snow to be skiable.

A few years ago, the Adirondack Explorer published an article by Tony Goodwin—the author of Ski and Snowshoe Trails in the Adirondacks — on other places to ski that don’t require a lot of snow. He came up with ten early – season suggestions in addition to the Whiteface road.

Click here to read Tony’s story. You’ll find some other old favorites, such as the road to Camp Santanoni, as well as lesser-known destinations, such as Bum Pond in the Whitney Wilderness.

If you have other ideas for early-season ski trips, let us know.

And if you’re planning ahead for trips later in the season, bookmark this site. I’ll be adding links to more ski trips as they become available.

Photo by Phil Brown: A skier on Whiteface Memorial Highway.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A New Website For The Northville Placid Trail

The Northville-Placid Trail Subcommittee of the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Trails Committee has announced the creation of a new website devoted to the Northville-Placid Trail (NPT).

The NPT, which stretches 133 miles through some of the wildest and most remote parts of the Adirondack Park, was the first project undertaken by the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) after it was formed in 1922. ADK publishes “Adirondack Trails: Northville-Placid Trail,” the definitive guide to the trail, which includes a detailed topographical map of the NPT. The website was developed by Tom Wemett, chair of the Northville-Placid Trail Subcommittee and a self-described “NPT fanatic.” » Continue Reading.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Do Bikes Belong in Wilderness Areas?

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) last week approved a management plan for the Moose River Plains that allows for mountain-bike use on a corridor between two Wilderness Areas.

As the Adirondack Explorer reported last week, the APA had been asked to vote on reclassifying as Wilderness about fifteen thousand acres of the Moose River Plains Wild Forest and add it to the adjoining West Canada Lake Wilderness, while leaving a Wild Forest corridor between the two tracts to allow mountain biking.

Neil Woodworth, the Adirondack Mountain Club’s executive director, objected to maintaining a Wild Forest corridor within a Wilderness Area.

In a letter to the APA, the club argued that leaving a corridor of Wild Forest would be tantamount to allowing a prohibited recreational use in a Wilderness Area. “To arbitrarily carve out a ‘Wild Forest’ corridor for mountain bike use in the middle of the proposed West Canada Lake Wilderness Area completely defeats the purpose of the Wilderness designation,” the letter said.

Partly as a result of this objection, the APA amended the proposal to make the bulk of the fifteen thousand acres a separate Wilderness Area. So instead of having the corridor run through a Wilderness Area, it will run between two Wilderness Areas.

Of course, the facts on the ground remain the same. We’ll just be giving a different name to the new Wilderness Area. Nevertheless, Woodworth said it’s an improvement.

“It doesn’t make a lot of difference on the ground, but it’s a principle that I feel strongly about,” Woodworth said. “We shouldn’t be putting non-conforming-use corridors through the middle of Wilderness Areas.”

I’ll throw out two questions for discussion:

First, is this a bad precedent, an example of “spot zoning” that undermines the principles of Wilderness management? Another recent example is the decision to allow the fire tower to remain on Hurricane Mountain by classifying the summit as a Historic Area even though the rest of the mountain is classified as Wilderness.

Second, should mountain bikes be allowed in Wilderness Areas where appropriate? The corridor in question follows the Otter Brook Road and Wilson Ridge Road, two old woods road now closed to vehicles. Advocates contend that there is no harm in allowing bikes on old roads in Wilderness Areas. Other possibilities include the logging roads in the Whitney Wilderness and the woods road to Whiteface Landing on Lake Placid.

Bonus question: what should we name this new Wilderness Area?

Photo by Phil Brown: Otter Brook Road.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Adirondack Explorer Editor Sued in Paddling Rights Dispute

A few days ago, the Brandreth Park Association filed a lawsuit against me, alleging that I trespassed when I canoed through private land last year on my way to Lake Lila.

As part of the suit, the association is asking the New York State Supreme Court to declare that the waterways in question—Mud Pond, Mud Pond Outlet, and Shingle Shanty Brook—are not open to the public.

I did my two-day trip last May, starting at Little Tupper Lake and ending at Lake Lila, and wrote about it for the Adirondack Explorer. Click here to read that story.

I believe the common-law right of navigation allows the public to paddle the three waterways even though they flow through private land. The state Department of Environmental Conservation—as well as several legal experts I consulted—support my position. In September, DEC wrote to the association’s attorney, Dennis Phillips, and asserted that the waterways are open under the common law. The department also asked the association to remove cables and no-trespassing signs meant to keep the public out. Click here to read about DEC’s decision.

But the landowners are not backing down. They served me with the complaint in the lawsuit at the Explorer office on Tuesday.

The legal papers do not mention DEC’s decision. We have reported previously that the department and the association disagree over whether a waterway must have a history of commercial use to be subject to the right of navigation. The association contends that Shingle Shanty and the other two waterways have no such history, so they are not open to the public.

The department maintains that if a waterway has the capacity for trade or travel, and if it meets other necessary criteria (such as legal access), then it is open to the public. Furthermore, DEC says recreational use can demonstrate this capacity.

If the Mud Pond-to-Shingle Shanty route is open to the public, paddlers traveling from Little Tupper to Lake Lila will be able to avoid a 0.75-mile portage. That certainly would be a boon. But the larger question is whether the public has the right to paddle waterways that connect parcels of public land, public lakes, or other legal access points. After all, how many rivers in the Adirondacks and elsewhere in the state pass through private land at times? I’m guessing a lot.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Adirondack Stats: ATV Trails

Miles of ATV trails created so far by Lewis County, the leader of establishing ATV trails in New York State: 47.6 miles

Miles of ATV trails created so far by Jefferson County: 36 miles (plus 334 miles of roads)

Amount budgeted by Lewis County in each of the last two years (2008, 2009) to build and maintain ATV trails: $140,000

Amount budgeted by Lewis County to build and maintain ATV trails for 2011: $88,500

Estimated cost per mile, to maintain ATV trails each year including in-kind volunteer services: $17,000 » Continue Reading.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

DEC Re-Opens More Forest Preserve Roads

Four additional Forest Preserve roads closed this spring, when budget cutbacks restricted the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) ability to repair, maintain and patrol them, have reopened in time for big game hunting season.

Hamilton County and the Towns of Inlet and Indian Lake had partnered with DEC earlier to reopen and maintain roads and nearby recreational facilities in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest including Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road), Otter Brook Road up to the Otter Brook Bridge, and Rock Dam Road.

“Big game hunting brings much needed economic activity to Hamilton County during the fall,” said William Farber, Chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors. “We
appreciate DEC’s willingness to work with us to reopen the roads in the Moose River Plains. “Commissioner Grannis deserves praise for his determination to open the roads despite the significant reduction in resources DEC has for maintaining roads and other recreational facilities in the Adirondacks,” he said.

DEC also utilized $250,000 of Environmental Protection Fund monies to replace
inadequate culverts on the main Moose River Plains Road with bridges over Sumner Stream and Bradley Brook this past summer. This is continuation of major rehabilitation work in the Moose River Plains over the past several years. Over one million dollars has been invested in roadway improvements based on the findings of an engineering study of the Moose River Plains road system.

The additional newly reopened roads include:

Lily Pond Road in the Lake George Wild Forest in the Town of Horicon, Warren County. The Town of Horicon Highway Department provided assistance with grading and fill
material and the Town will continue to provide assistance with garbage removal, cleanup and inspection for the remainder of the year.

Gay Pond Road in the Hudson River Special Management Area (aka the Hudson River
Recreation Area) in the Lake George Wild Forest in the Town of Warrensburg, Warren County. The South Warren Snowmobile Club covered the cost of several new culverts to
replace ones that had failed and been crushed under the road. DEC staff is undertaking the work to replace the culverts and to provide fill and grade the road, with completion expected by this weekend.

Indian Lake Road and Otter Brook Road (between the Otter Brook Bridge and the Otter
Brook Gate) in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest in the Town of Inlet, Hamilton County opened last week. The highway departments from Hamilton County and the towns of Indian Lake and Inlet replaced culverts, filled holes and graded the road.

Barry Hutchins, Supervisor of the Town of Indian Lake, praised DEC saying that “The Town looks forward to continuing the great working relationship we have developed with DEC and make the Moose River Plains a premiere Adirondack recreational destination for campers, hunters, anglers, wildlife watchers, hikers, mountain bikers and others.”

The Adirondack Almanack monitors and reports road and trail closings, along with other backcountry conditions, in its weekly Adirondack Outdoor Conditions Report.

Photo: The new Sumner Stream crossing on the Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road) in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest (courtesy DEC). Additional photos of work done to the road are available online.