September 24, 2012

Cuomo and Cabinet visit Boreas Pond


---- — NORTH HUDSON — There isn’t even a road-sign marking the distance from Elizabethtown south on Route 9 to North Hudson.

But Gov. Andrew Cuomo brought heads of every state agency into the wilderness some 16 miles beyond this quiet town on Sunday.

They had traveled north from Albany together in a state bus.

Team Cuomo — as the governor tagged his Cabinet’s mission — spent the day exploring forests and inlets around Boreas Pond, the central water corridor of a 22,081-acre parcel slated for addition to the state Forest Preserve.

It is the largest — and will be the most expensive — of 10 tracts in the 69,000 purchase Cuomo announced in August.

Many agency directors wore jackets emblazoned with a seal: “Team Cuomo” and the text “Performance. Integrity. Pride. I work for the people.”

There were fishing poles ready when they arrived at the former Finch, Pruyn and Company lodge, a modern sort of log cabin built in 1995.

Canoes were stacked, hiking treks marked. And a bushwhack was planned to the Grandmother Tree – an old-growth white pine nearly 400 years old.

“These places haven’t been opened to the public in 150 years,” Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said in welcoming remarks.

“In five years, they will all be open. We want to make sure it’s accessible.”

The day-long adventure was part team-building, part publicity, part history. The day was chronicled by some dozen news reporters.

Cuomo said he wanted statewide leaders to understand the value of Adirondack resources.

“I wanted you to see it. I wanted you to see it personally. I also want to publicize it. From an (urban) point of view, there is a Northern New York,” the governor said.

“Teambuilding across departments,” he said, pulling from his experience with former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s staff, “made you more effective as a government.”

And so organized, nearly the entire leadership team of New York’s state government set out afoot or in canoes or on all-terrain vehicles to explore areas rarely seen by the public.

The land hasn’t been purchased yet. 

It is still owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy, and about half of the Adirondack Chapter’s staff was on hand to guide Sunday.

The landscape surrounding Boreas’ tawny waters was lit in full red and orange autumn hues. Majestic Sawtooth peaks layered the distant horizon, with the very top of Mount Marcy thrust up behind them. The boreal forest floor was spongy soft, thick with moss and decaying wood.

Logging roads wound throughout the property, which Martens said will likely be the last piece added to state land in five years.

Commissioners and agency heads seemed struck by the remote grandeur.

Some had never been to the deep wilderness. Others, including Martens, have lived in the park.

State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimper hiked to the Grandmother white pine with Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner Darryl C. Towns, Commissioner of Labor Peter Rivera and Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales.

“The tree got left uncut over the years,” explained forester David Osterberg, who spent 34 years managing the timber here for Finch, Pruyn.

Osterberg handed Perales a D-tape, a forestry tool used to gauge a tree’s diameter.

The woodsman carried in a hatchet, for bushwhacking, and handed that to Perales, too.

“We call it a super-dominant,” Osterberg explained of the trees’ height.

“A tree grows in Brooklyn,” Towns quipped.

“But not like this.”

Cuomo spent the first hour the day fishing and caught an 8-inch brown trout from the man-made dam that creates Boreas Pond.

The state leaders seemed comfortable and spoke in quiet tones. They seemed genuinely curious in exploring a place the state is about to buy.

The state will spend $47.4 million in a sequence of payments over the next five years to add the 69,000 acres.

DEC hasn’t detailed the order in which tracts will be added. 

But Martens said Sunday the Essex Chain of Lakes will likely be first. The state Comptroller approved the contract for $13 million last week. Payments will be drawn from the Environmental Protection Fund. 

Cuomo also spent about a half hour after lunch in a private meeting in the lodge with North Country economic development leaders and Senator Betty Little (R-Queensbury).

Cabinet members who traveled with Cuomo also included Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph Lhota; Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald; Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah; Howard Glaser, director of State Operations; the governor’s counsel, Mylan Denerstein; Agriculture Commissioner Darrel J. Aubertine; and state Parks and Recreation Commissioner Rose Harvey.

Email Kim Smith Dedam: