December 13, 2013

Essex Chain Lakes goes to APA vote today


RAY BROOK — Land use of the new Essex Chain Lakes parcel up for Adirondack Park Agency vote today would remove motorized boat access to a string of forest ponds.

But detailed classification of the new state lands would add a narrow band of Wild Forest along former logging roads. The corridor could become a snowmobile trail, connecting Newcomb and Indian Lake. 

The potential for a wintertime recreation trail drew much discussion at the APA meeting Thursday, though Chairwoman Leilani Ulrich cautioned that final use would be determined by the State Department of Environmental Conservation in the Unit Management Plan.


APA reviewed 10 resolutions to classify the former Finch, Pruyn & Co. land in segments that range from Primitive to Wild Forest to Wilderness, according to the resources on them.

Repurposing what is now the well-used gravel Chain Lakes Road — the Wild Forest corridor below Essex Chain Primitive Area — requires almost no change in current use. It could also be used for mountain bikes, horses, horse-drawn wagons and hikers, APA staff said Thursday.

Proposed are two options for the western end of the route; one requires rebuilding a bridge to cross the Cedar River.

“This trail, where does that join Route 28?” Commissioner Bill Thomas, a former Johnsburg town supervisor, asked.

“It would join an existing trail, south, off the Cornell Road to Indian Lake,” APA staff planner Matt Kendall said.

“The assumption that snowmobiles will be able to use either of those corridors hinges on several legal issues,” Commissioner Dick Booth cautioned.


Legal questions will sort the corridor’s proximity to rivers designated Wild and Scenic and what materials can be used to build the bridge.

“If a resolution is approved by us, there will be a snowmobile trail approved?” Thomas asked again.

APA lead attorney Jim Townsend said it would be up to DEC to decide.

“The commitment is understood, and it’s there,” he added.

“Would we be stuck with a Wild Forest corridor that has no use to us?” Thomas pursued.

“Clearly (DEC) is on board and looking to find a solution here,” APA’s DEC designee Bob Stegeman said.

“I right now am prepared to have faith that all groups will continue to work together and we’ll have a snowmobile trail,” he said.

“I need to increase my faith and reduce my discomfort,” Thomas said.


The balance between preservation and economic potential came through Thursday as APA staff presented environmental and economic impacts to commissioners.

The existing roadways and lease agreements with surrounding towns for access to gravel pits prevented Essex Chain lands from being set aside as Wilderness.

APA Natural Resources planner Walter Linck suggested camping sites with leantos could well become part of the DEC’s final Unit Management Plan.

“When we looked at Wilderness management, we were left with lands in between,” he said, pointing to the path the roads cut between the mountains.

“Honestly, this is so sheltered,” he said. “To make this available for Wild Forest uses is not any problem with the (State Land) Master Plan. I think in a way we have enhanced the experience of something we have preserved here.”

APA commissioners expected to vote on 10 resolutions set to classify the new state land today. The session was set to reconvene at 9 a.m.

Email Kim Smith