Adirondack Park Agency commissioners will review a controversial land management plan at their monthly meeting tomorrow.
The Essex Chain Lakes is part of a 65,000-acre acquisition by the state of New York of former Finch Pruyn forest lands located in the central Adirondacks. It includes the Essex Chain Lakes and Pine Lake Primitive Areas, and portions of the Blue Mountain and Vanderwacker Mountain Wild Forests. The 19,600 acres includes numerous lakes, streams and part of the upper Hudson River.
The Department of Environmental Conservation will present its proposed final draft of the Essex Chain of Lakes Unit Management Plan to the APA State Land Committee, which will then ask the full board of commissioners to authorize a public comment period.
The DEC’s proposal includes new bike and multiple use trails, lean-tos, expanded road access, enhanced paddling opportunities, a Polaris Bridge snowmobile trail crossing over the Hudson River and construction of a bridge over the Cedar River.
Protect the Adirondacks Executive Director Peter Bauer expects the agency action to be largely a formality even though it’s considered the most controversial plan the DEC has proposed in years. “Across the environmental spectrum all interests have agreed that this plan widely violates the New York State Wild and Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act. It widely violates APA policy for where snowmobile trails should be placed. It violates parts of the state Land Master Plan. And it’s really a sharp departure in management of the Forest Preserve over the last 40 years by the APA and the DEC. So this plan is highly controversial and it’s generally considered a substandard piece of work by the DEC.”
The Adirondack Council notes that the action at the Adirondack Park Agency begins the final decision making process. Spokesman John Sheehan says the core plan is good, but compromised by a key item. “We are disappointed that the plan includes the use of the controversial Polaris Bridge as part of a community connector snowmobile trail. We don’t believe that this honors the law governing the Wild Scenic and Recreational Rivers and we’re concerned that the state seems to be moving in that direction. We’re expecting the Park Agency to take a thorough look at this. Of course we consider the core of this plan, which was negotiated by the governor, to be a victory for all involved since it protects the Essex Chain of Lakes and provides for a community connector snowmobile trail using the agreed-upon Cedar River crossing. So we’re hoping that the APA would take another look at that and realize that that is the better option.”
The Essex Chain Lakes Complex is located in the Towns of Newcomb, Minerva, and Indian Lake. Newcomb Supervisor George Cannon says the plan is critical for the economic vitality of the communities within the region. “The controversial issue here seems to be the bridges in particular. The five towns who surround the Essex Chain have been working together ever since the purchase was announced to maximize the economic benefit from having multiple use trails and to protect the resources that are there. And I think the plan that they’ve come up with satisfies those two issues. It certainly creates the opportunity for an economic impact. You know, the multiple use trails will provide for some mountain biking now or, Newcomb in particular, for ecotourism.”
The Adirondack Park Agency meeting will be held at its headquarters in Ray Brook beginning at 10 a.m. and is webcast.