RAY BROOK — The Essex Chain Lakes property’s new land-use classification — now signed and sealed — will allow more public access.
In December, the Adirondack Park Agency presented Gov. Andrew Cuomo with a complex map allowing varied uses connected by a Wild Forest corridor.
Built largely along a heavily used logging road, the Wild Forest lane connects the Town of Newcomb with Indian Lake and Minerva.
The varied mix of land use allows Primitive, Wild Forest and Wilderness access to some 42,000 acres encompassing a chain of previously inaccessible lakes.
As Primitive, the Essex Chain waterway won’t be open for motorboats.
But the narrow band of Wild Forest below it creates a sheltered passage for mountain bikes and snowmobiles.
Final details of the plan, such as boat-launch locations, parking and camping areas, will be mapped out by the State Department of Environmental Conservation as it creates unit management plans.
The land was formerly part of timber holdings owned by the Finch, Pruyn & Co. paper company.
Cuomo said this marks a momentous occasion for New York’s history and landscape.
“The addition of thousands of acres of land to the State Forest Preserve is a major step in both protecting and preserving the Adirondack Park for future generations.
“At the same time,” he said in a news release, “this plan enhances the state’s efforts to attract more visitors to the Adirondacks and grow the region’s tourism industry and communities.”
His signatures completes the first portion of a plan to add 69,000 acres of former Finch, Pruyn land to the Adirondack Park.
Essex Chain Lakes was part of the large purchase the Nature Conservancy brokered in 2008 with intent to convey to the state.
In 2012, Cuomo announced the process would unfold over five years.
APA Chairwoman Leilani Ulrich said Cuomo’s approval marked an extraordinary moment in Adirondack Park history.
“We extend our appreciation to (Gov. Cuomo) for his leadership throughout this complex process. Together, we succeeded in finding common ground amongst diverse stakeholders, and the Adirondack Park will benefit from these actions,” she said in a statement.
“The agency is also very thankful for the foresight of the Nature Conservancy in acquiring these magnificent parcels.”
DEC Commissioner Joe Martens credited APA for its work in achieving both environmental protection and public access.
In December, the land-use plan drew approval from most Adirondack environmental groups for its balanced approach to access and Wilderness protection.
But Protect the Adirondacks expressed concern with how the Wild Forest trail would cross the Cedar River.
“The governor has successfully protected over 15 miles of the Hudson River as Wilderness,” Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect, said in a statement issued Monday. “This is a great tribute to New York’s grandest river.”
But the land-use plan, he said, also requires revisions to the State Land Master Plan and to Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act regulation in order to establish a legal river crossing for motorized use.
“Protect the Adirondacks will continue to monitor (APA and DEC) plans around bridge retention and construction. These are controversial issues and need extensive public scrutiny and intervention,” Bauer said.
DEC will draft management plans for the new Primitive, Wild Forest and Wilderness areas. The process includes public hearings.
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