Press-Republican

July 14, 2013

Last call for classification of Essex Chain Lakes

By Dan Ladd Adirondack Hunting & Fishing Report
Press-Republican

---- — Eight public hearings were recently held across the state by the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to solicit pubic input on classification of the first leg of an eventual 65,000 acre purchase by New York state of the former Finch, Pruyn Inc. lands.

I attended the last of these meetings held early last week in Warren County.

As usual with land deals in the Adirondacks, the issue comes down to classification and there were a variety of speakers with numerous interests and therefore reasons to support one form of classification over the other. The No. 1 concern was the Essex Chain Lakes and their classification.

The APA has come up with seven classification plans that range from being more restrictive to motor vehicles and thus include mostly Wilderness classification to leaning more toward Wild Forest, a classification more liberal to motor usage including vehicles, snowmobiles, boat motors, chain saws and even float planes. There are also options for a second Canoe area classification.

Here’s a look at some of the comments.

Town of Chester (Warren County) Supervisor Fred Monroe, who represents the Adirondack Government Review Board, which was created under the same law as the APA, called for a mostly Wild Forest classification.

“That enables use for the largest number of people,” he said. “DEC Commissioner Joe Martens made a comment that we would agree with. That was, this purchase of land doesn’t just benefit those who are fit enough to explore the backcountry.”

Access to the Essex Chain Lakes is extremely coveted and most of the proposals call for vehicle access to get approximately within a quarter-mile of Deer Pond where portages could connect paddlers to eight (possibly more) other ponds. It is in this vicinity where many of the plans call for a border (or don’t) between the two classifications.

Adirondack Mountain Club Executive Director Neil Woodworth said his group supported option 1A, which classified the Essex Chain as Wilderness but the area to the north as Wild Forest while allowing the aforementioned canoe access to Deer Pond.

“It does not mean that we won’t keep our minds open and consider other ideas,” he said.

Many of the sportsmen who spoke favored option 4A, that classifies the Essex Chain as Wild Forest.

“I’m 70,” Franklin County Association of Sportsmen’s Clubs’ Bob Brown said. “It’s real hard to drag a canoe 200 yards when a road stops before you get to the lake. We are interested in equal opportunity for everybody to use these lands.”

Snowmobilers, meanwhile, envision connector trails between Newcomb, Minerva, North Hudson and Indian Lake.

“We may never end up with a trail that goes through this property. There are a lot of impediments,” said New York State Snowmobile Association Executive Director Dominic Jacangelo of the rivers in the area. “What we do want is an opportunity to be at the table to explore the opportunity and if it doesn’t work, well, it doesn’t work. But Wilderness (classification) does not allow us to have a seat at the table.”

North Hudson Town Supervisor Ronald Moore said, “Wilderness will restrict access to a relative few. The doors are closed, the conversation is over.”

Protect the Adirondack’s Peter Bauer said his group also supports option 1A.

“We live in a world that grows smaller each day,” he said. “The opportunity that we have in front of us here to create a new wilderness in the central Adirondacks with 22 miles of the Hudson River at its heart is a tremendous opportunity that we cannot squander.”

A few speakers did not support any of the APA’s options. New York State Conservation Council’s Region 5 spokesman Rod Boula said his organization supported complete Wild Forest classification.

“None of the options outlined by the APA planners are suitable based on the current state of the resources,” he said.

Steven Engelhart, executive director of the Adirondack Architectural Heritage Association, spelled out a number of disappointments questioning if the historical reverence of buildings like the old Gooley farmhouse, which he said is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, have even been taken into account.

The APA also offered two options for Canoe Areas. There was much talk from paddlers who enjoy the St. Regis Canoe area and would like to see another one managed similarly. There was also little mention of activities like mountain biking and horseback riding, both that could make substantial usage of the current roads in this area depending upon classification.

More detailed information about these plans can be found on the APA’s website, www.apa.ny.gov, where public comment is also being received through July 19. APA officials expect a decision to be made by September or October.

Dan Ladd is the author of “Deer Hunting in the Adirondacks,” outdoors editor for the Glens Falls Chronicle, columnist for Outdoors Magazine and contributor to New York Outdoor News. Contact him at www.adkhunter.com.