A group of backcountry skiers wants the state to maintain access to a large network of glades cut by skiers on Lyon Mountain as part of the management plan the state is crafting for the Chazy Highlands Complex.
Members of the Adirondack Powder Skier Association will make their case tonight at a public forum the state Department of Environmental Conservation is hosting on the management plan for the complex, a patchwork of roughly 60,000 acres of Forest Preserve and other state-managed lands in Franklin and Clinton counties. It includes Lyon Mountain, which the state bought from The Nature Conservancy in 2008 and has become a popular backcountry skiing destination.
"We certainly would like to encourage any skiers who have an interest in keeping skier access on Lyon to go to the meeting and express their thoughts," said Ron Konowitz of Keene, a spokesman for the group. "We're looking for skier-specific trails and glades on Lyon Mountain, things that already exist there to be able to be kept the way they are."
The fact that there's a network of glades at Lyon Mountain, which were cut when the property was in private hands, has been a closely guarded secret in backcountry skiing circles for many years. Now that the state owns the 3,800-foot-peak and the land around, however, Konowitz says people need to speak up.
"There's definitely more and more people going up there, which isn't a bad thing," he said. "There's certainly some people who would like to keep it on the down-low and not have it advertised in any way. But now the state owns it, is coming up with a management plan, and we want to be included in the plan. The facilities are already there. The question is whether we'll be able to maintain (the glades) and have them officially part of the management plan."
Konowitz said there are hundreds of miles of hiking trails in the Adirondacks, but relatively few miles of designated trails for backcountry skiing, a sport that's ballooned in popularity in the Adirondacks in recent years.
He said his group has received resolutions of support from both towns in which Lyon Mountain lies, Saranac and Dannemora. The Clinton County Legislature, Essex County's Board of Supervisors, the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, the Barkeater Trails Alliance and the Adirondack Ski Touring Council have also gone on record supporting the association's efforts. Konowitz said the group has been meeting with officials from DEC and the state Adirondack Park Agency.
It's unclear how DEC officials will respond to the request to maintain the Lyon Mountain glades. Cutting trees on "forever wild" Forest Preserve lands is illegal, but it's something skiers have done on numerous mountain slopes on state as well as private land. DEC ticketed a skier for cutting a glade in the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness near Ray Brook several years ago.
The open house on the Chazy Highlands Complex will be held at 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Saranac High School in Saranac. In a press release, DEC officials said the meeting will provide an opportunity for the public to meet with DEC staff and share their thoughts, ideas and suggestions regarding management of the lands in the unit. It's described as the first of many opportunities for the public to be involved in the planning process.
In addition to Lyon Mountain, the Chazy Highlands Complex includes Haystack Knob, Norton Peak, and Ellenburg Mountain, along with Upper Chateaugay Lake and Chazy Lake, and the Saranac and Great Chazy rivers. DEC says the primary recreational uses in the area are fishing and hunting, along with hiking, camping, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and bird/wildlife watching.
A unit management plan must be completed before any new recreational facilities such as trails, tent sites and parking areas can be constructed.