The New York state Department of Environmental Conservation announced this week that the management plans have been finalized and implementation action is now underway for two areas in the High Peaks of the Adirondacks.
New Unit Management Plans for the High Peaks Wilderness and the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest were required following the state acquisition of Finch Pruyn lands that added the Boreas Ponds and more than 50,000 acres of other lands to the forest preserve. New trails for mountain biking, equestrian use, hiking and other activities are being planned. There will be new parking and recreational access to the Boreas Ponds. Rerouting to diminish overuse of some popular trails to the High Peaks is also part of the management plan.
Protect the Adirondacks Executive Director Peter Bauer says one of the most important aspects of the plans is managing public use and access to the Boreas Ponds. “This is a departure from past practice insofar as we haven’t had many situations across the Adirondacks where public access to a wilderness area is provided through a wild forest area that allows for motor vehicle use. So that’s a departure. The controversies around this plan have to do with how the state is taking small steps to try and figure out how to evaluate the impacts of public use on the Forest Preserve and its decision to allow motorized use within 500 feet of the Boreas Ponds.”
Bauer says while this is the first significant amendment in the management plan since it was approved in 1998, they are only modest changes. “We’re looking at 20 years where public use has changed considerably but public management has not changed for the Forest Preserve in significant ways. So we’re hoping that this will continue a dialog on how to improve management because the state is really playing catch up and is really struggling to come up with a comprehensive management program to meet the rising public use of the High Peaks which was unanticipated by state agencies and by environmental groups across the Adirondacks. No one foresaw this boom in hiking that has occurred but now that we are experiencing it the state is grappling to manage it.”
The DEC announcement of implementation of the final amendments notes that they are intended to “… improve accessibility while …preserving this unique resource and helping the town of North Hudson and the other communities in the Five Town Hub realize the economic potential of these lands.” Town of North Hudson Supervisor Ron Moore says it took a while to get through the classification process and draft the unit management plans. He says implementation is crucial for the future of the communities. “It’s the final piece with the community connector trails that would basically connect North Hudson over to Newcomb and Minerva and then on to Indian Lake and Long Lake. So multi-season use trails I think especially with the snowmobiling community we’ll have those trails going and I think it’s going to be a big boon to local businesses and hopefully we’ll see some growth there as well.”
Moore says the classification and management plan was crafted to benefit the environment and communities within the Park. “The plan was really well balanced where we do have access and we do have these recreational opportunities but at the same time we are protecting the environmental assets that I think we all cherish.”