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Local governments call for access and wilderness for Boreas lands

November 29, 2016
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer (jlevine@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Lake Placid News

A local government coalition of towns in the central Adirondacks is calling for both wilderness and access as the state Adirondack Park Agency prepares to decide the make-up of land within the Boreas Ponds tract.

The Five Towns, made up of Minerva, North Hudson, Newcomb, Long Lake and Indian Lake, had put forth a plan called Access the Adirondacks, which called for a mix of wild forest and wilderness in the recently acquired 20,000-plus acre tract.

The Access plan would add 10,621 acres to the High Peaks Wilderness and just shy of 10,000 acres of wild forest. It also calls for two trails around the ponds on existing roads. The inner loop trail would be on the border between wilderness and wild forest, and would be open for hiking and bicycling. The outer loop trail would be in the wilderness and the Five Towns envision it being used by hikers, horseback riders and horses and wagons.

Article Photos

Paddlers venture out on Boreas Ponds, with views of the High Peaks in the background.
(News photo — Mike Lynch)

The Gulf Brook Road, which runs generally east-west through the property, would be the boundary between the wilderness and the wild forest.

Meanwhile, the APA also released four possible plans for the tract, and Alternative 1 largely matched the Access the Adirondacks plan. Both of those plans call for an designation of more than 10,000 acres of wilderness, while allowing access for elderly and disabled people to the Boreas Ponds along an existing road into the tract.

The APA has held several public hearings to take comments that have been flooded with advocates calling for more land to be added as wilderness. But the Five Towns believe that their plan strikes a crucial balance between wilderness and access.

Ron Moore, supervisor of the town of North Hudson, in which most of the Boreas tract sits, and Fred Monroe, local government representative to the APA board, said that their plan has been misunderstood, and while they want access, they are also calling for a large chunk of the land to be added to the High Peaks.

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Balance

Moore and Monroe argued that their towns will get the greatest benefit from the mix they have proposed in an editorial meeting with the Enterprise, and brought along disability advocate Scott Remington to help make their case.

While other groups are rallying around the call for wilderness, Access says that the opportunity for everyone to use the ponds should be part of any land designation plan.

"We seek the balance between protecting both the environment and our local economies that has been non-existent for so many years," a statement from the group says.

Monroe said that in Essex County, wilderness lands outnumber wild forest by a two-to-one ratio, and that it's time the state takes into account the benefits non-wilderness lands can bring.

Monroe and Moore said that their plan would not allow any trailered boats to be launched on the ponds, although they would like to see a small parking area and car-top launch at the ponds. Moore argued that the proximity of Boreas to Exit 29 on the Northway would provide a much-needed boost to the towns if the land was more accessible, and added that the highway exit would be an ideal spot for a boat washing station that would help cut the risk of aquatic invasive species being introduced to the ponds.

They also stated the maps that the APA released fail to show dozens of miles of logging roads through the property, and added that the existing road structure would make for good trails and could preclude a wilderness designation.

"We wouldn't have called for wild forest if there were no roads," Monroe said.

"There is substantial road infrastructure within all of these lands and we believe that bicycling should be permitted," the release continues. "This vast road infrastructure would easily sustain such use without damaging the environment."

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Disabled access

The Access plan calls for a parking area at LaBier Flow, which is before the Boreas ponds along the Gulf Brook Road, and would have the road turned into a snowmobile trail in the winter. The snowmobile trail would not go to the ponds, but the pair acknowledged that the state might have to install gates to prevent snowmobilers from venturing into the bordering wilderness areas.

Their plan also calls for two small parking areas at the Boreas dam and at the pond outlet. They said they were not opposed to having a permit system in place to limit the number of vehicles that could access the ponds.

Remington said that the state fails to provide reasonable recreational opportunities for people with disabilities.

"It's almost discrimination," he said. Remington has been confined to a wheelchair since a logging accident several years ago.

The trio showed a map of places in the Adirondacks that allow access to wilderness areas, and the three largest, at Elk Lake, the Adirondack Mountain Reserve and the Adirondack Mountain Club's Heart Lake, are all on private land. They said that the state needs to start providing places where disabled people can get farther into the more remote areas of the park.

"We support reasonable access to these lands for all, young and old, the physically fit and the disabled," the group said.

To read the Access plan in full, visit www.accessadk.com.

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Green groups split

A coalition of green groups that had been calling for a wilderness designation has lost one of its members over the classification plans.

BeWildNY was a group consisting of Adirondack Wild, the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Adirondack Council, Environmental Advocates of New York, Natural Resources Defense Council, Wilderness Society, New York League of Conservation Voters, Audubon New York, and Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

But Adirondack Wild has split from the group, whose plan called for parking at LaBier Flow, just a mile shy of the Boreas ponds, over the group's plan to allow vehicles that far into the tract.

"The opening of the Gulf Brook Road to public motorized access for roughly seven miles seriously compromises the ecological functioning of this area," a statement from Adirondack Wild says.

However, before any APA plans were released, the towns of Newcomb and North Hudson received easments on two separate gravel pits within the Boreas tract. This agreement seems to ensure that the road will be open past Boreas ponds, at least for access by the towns if not the general public.

 
 

 

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