Last summer my wife Amy and I took a trip to Norway. During part of our trip we camped at Lysefjord, famous for its sheer cliffs including Preikestolen, about which I wrote previously. Lots of Norwegians and visitors from other European countries car camp as their preferred mode of tourism, meaning those facilities see a brisk business.
Preikestolen is one of Norway’s most famous destinations, so we were glad to catch a spot at the nearby campground. It was well-run, with charming Dutch hosts, and we were quite happy with our stay. But by late morning of our departure our mood had changed to regret. That’s because twenty minutes after leaving we stumbled upon the most remarkable place for camping I’ve ever seen. It’s called Landa Park and its conception is brilliant. It left me thinking someone ought to try a similar thing here in the Adirondacks.
The decision by the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) is in: by a vote of 8 to 1 the APA Board voted to recommend a classification for the Boreas Ponds Tract that will split the tract between Wilderness and Wild Forest, leaving Gulf Brook open into the heart to the parcel. In their comments many of the Commissioners lauded the “balance” and “compromise” they felt this recommendation represented.
Regular Almanack readers are used to hearing me stress the importance of perspectives from outside the Adirondack Park. Today I’ve got one from way outside the Adirondack Park, specifically Norway, where my wife Amy and I are traveling for two weeks. While here I have enjoyed the geologic kinship Norway shares with the Adirondacks. I have also enjoyed the fact that my experiences so far have reinforced the sentiments I expressed in my last Almanack column, namely that we should not overreact to busy trails in the High Peaks. If you think we have a problem in the Adirondacks, you should see the hiking traffic here. And if you think that pervasive cultural experiences of pristine, wild places can’t place their fragile value at the heart of an entire society, you should see this country.
Yesterday Amy and I climbed Preikestolen, one of Norway’s most popular hiking destinations and a national icon. In some ways Preikestolen is Norway’s answer to Indian Head: a massive, open rock slab with a spectacular view, positioned far above a narrow body of water that is set between mountain ridges. However the scale is far greater: Priekestolen’s height above the water is three times that of Indian Head and the body of water is a sizeable fjord, not a small lake. For the purposes of this article, a better comparison is our own infamous Cascade Mountain. Cascade’s trail involves several hundred feet more vertical ascent than Preikestolen, but both routes are 2.4 miles and, more important, both trails are crammed with people who want an accessible but authentic regional mountain experience. Like Cascade, Preikestolen is a challenge that a neophyte hiker or ambitious family might take, an intimidating but doable workout with major parking problems down below and a show-stopper payoff on top. The difference, once again, is scale: Preikestolen’s foot traffic makes Cascade look like Allen Mountain. » Continue Reading.
Over the past few months Governor Andrew Cuomo has shown his economic love for the Adirondacks by putting his money where his mouth is, pledging $32 million towards an Adirondack Gateway facility at Frontier Town in North Hudson and another $20 million for improvements to the Gore, Whiteface and Mt Van Hoevenberg ski centers.
Seeing as generosity is in the air, I have a proposal: let’s take a small portion of the monetary love intended for these projects and turn Cascade Mountain from a dangerous and degraded poster child for Adirondack overuse to a model of Wilderness education that becomes an asset in the struggle to protect the High Peaks. » Continue Reading.
One of the biggest Adirondack issues of the year will be the debate over how to classify the Boreas Ponds Tract. Anyone who has paid attention to land-use squabbles in the Adirondacks for the last fifty years can describe the lineups on either side just as well as I can: recreation, access and the welfare of local communities on one side and wilderness preservation, aesthetics, non-mechanized travel and ecological protection on the other.
But what if this debate is false, predicated on outdated ideas and a fading history? What if adherence to this old narrative is detrimental to the natural world and to the residents of the Adirondacks in equal measure? Suppose instead that Wilderness protection and the welfare of local communities is in fact a synergy ripe with opportunity? Lots of evidence from across the country tells us what ought to make sense looking at how Lake Placid, Keene and Keene Valley thrive: proximity to grand wilderness is an economic asset, and the grander and better protected it is, the more valuable the asset. » Continue Reading.
The State of New York has completed purchase of the Boreas Ponds Tract, the final stage of its acquisition of the former Finch Pruyn lands from the Nature Conservancy. Now the classification process will begin. As with the Essex Chain acquisition the debate will be over recreational access and protection of its biological assets and its aesthetic experience as a wild place. As with the Essex Chain the debate will largely come down to roads, in this case Gulf Brook Road, a dirt and gravel road that provides access to the interior of the tract from Blue Ridge Road.
It’s obvious why arguments between wilderness protection and recreational access so often come down to roads, but I think that’s unfortunate. I think it distracts us from the larger issues of land use and protection with which we should be more concerned. The issue of Gulf Brook Road in the Boreas classification makes a perfect example. So let’s look at it in a little more detail. » Continue Reading.
The unfortunate war over New York State’s plan to turn 34 miles of the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor into an all-season recreational trail may not be entirely over; certainly no one has surrendered just yet. But for all intents and purposes, opponents of the State’s plan have had their Waterloo.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) Board has voted to affirm that the plan is consistent with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP), clearing the way to proceed. Barring successful lawsuits or an unlikely turnaround, the Tri-Lakes region is going to get its Adirondack Recreational Trail. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park Agency has received a flood of letters and emails seeking to influence its forthcoming decision on the future of a state-owned rail corridor that extends 119 miles from Remsen to Lake Placid.
At its November meeting, the APA board voted to solicit public comments on whether a plan to split the corridor into a trail segment and a rail segment complies with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. The agency may vote on the matter as early as next month.
Comments were accepted through December 18. Pursuant to a freedom-of-information request, the Adirondack Almanack recently obtained and reviewed the comments. The PDF file provided by the agency comprises 373 pages, but it includes some duplication. » Continue Reading.
Making the Adirondack Park more attractive to youth of all backgrounds and preferences was the focus of the second Towards a More Diverse Adirondacks Symposium on August 15th at SUNY-ESF in Newcomb. We had a robust discussion, and the bulk of our time was given to the voices of high school and college-age students, from inside and outside the Adirondacks.
There has been a long-held belief about Newcomb among many Adirondackers visitors and residents alike – there’s nothing there. I’ve heard this about Newcomb on and off for thirty years. It’s Nonsense!
Sure, I don’t deny that the Newcomb area could benefit from more places to dine and stay the night. But I can’t think of any place better equipped to appeal to one class of tourist the Adirondack region has so far mostly ignored: ecotourism. » Continue Reading.
A new group is exploring the possibility of creating a network of trails that would link with new and existing lodging facilities in the Adirondack Park.
The concept is based on hut-to-hut systems that are popular in other parts of the world, including New Zealand and Spain. Closer to home, the Appalachian Mountain Club runs huts for hikers in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. » Continue Reading.
At recent meetings on the Remsen-Lake Placid rail corridor, the state misinformed the public about the legal implications of removing tracks that cross rivers between Big Moose and Tupper Lake.
The public was told that the state’s Wild, Scenic, and Recreational Rivers Act would prohibit the state from restoring the railroad tracks between Big Moose and Tupper Lake if they were removed.
In a slide show, the state Department of Environmental Conservation noted that railroad bridges generally are not permitted over rivers classified as Wild or Scenic. It said the railroad crosses three such rivers south of Tupper Lake: the Moose, Bog, and Raquette. » Continue Reading.
Jack Drury says the Trails with Rails Action Committee (TRAC) has a win-win solution to the controversy over the future of the rail corridor between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid: keep the tracks and build a network of bike trails that run alongside or in the vicinity of the tracks.
Supporters of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad continue to insist, contrary to assertions by state officials, that it’s possible to keep the tracks and build trails in and out of the 34-mile rail corridor between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid.
The Trails with Rails Action Committee (TRAC) has prepared maps and engineer’s drawings showing where trails could be located within the corridor and, where that’s not feasible, where spur trails could be built that leave and re-enter the corridor. The map of TRAC’s proposed trails and sample engineer’s drawings can be found on the group’s website.
TRAC members will be attending public meetings in Tupper Lake and Lake Placid today and tomorrow to discuss their ideas with state officials and the media. (Prepared remarks of two members can also be found on the group’s website.)