By RONALD MOORE
---- — The five towns of Minerva, Newcomb, North Hudson, Indian Lake and Long Lake are working together to take advantage of the recent and future state acquisition of the former Finch Pruyn and other Nature Conservancy lands.
Known as the Upper Hudson Recreation Hub, we are the towns most affected by this purchase. It is we who have the hope that, through the vision of Gov. Mario Cuomo and Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens, we will see the increase in tourism revenue that they have alluded to.
This could result in new businesses opening up and seasonal businesses being able to remain open year round. It could revitalize our failing economies.
These lands have the potential of providing a vast array of new recreational opportunities on lands heretofore inaccessible by the general public. These new recreational opportunities could provide the stimulus for increased tourism in our five towns.
At the crux of this vision and hope is the classification of these lands, now being considered by the APA, at present for the Essex Chain of Lakes and Indian River Tracts and in the future, the Boreas Ponds Tract.
Together these tracts, depending on the classification, would provide the base for trails connecting our five towns via the extensive network of maintained roads formerly used as logging and access roads.
This would connect our towns and offer opportunities for snowmobiling, mountain biking, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, canoeing and skiing that were never before possible.
The classification of these tracts is primarily between Wilderness, the most restrictive, and Wild Forest, a less restrictive classification that would allow for reasonable motorized access and mountain biking, which a Wilderness classification would not.
Following the classification process by the Adirondack Park Agency, DEC will develop a Unit Management Plan, hopefully soliciting the inputs of the five towns.
It is through the Management Plan that the permitted uses of these lands will be decided, but with a Wilderness Classification many of those uses would be off the table, simply not permitted, and therefore much of the conversation regarding the Unit Management Plan would be over.
Under a Wilderness Classification, access would be severely limited, and many of our elderly, families with small children, handicapped, disabled and physically challenged would simply not be able to access these ponds, lakes, rivers and streams.
The five towns believe that these areas should have reasonable access to all people, that it is their right, not a privilege as some would have it.
We also believe that that the farmhouse at the Outer Gooley Club and the lodge and support buildings on the Boreas Ponds be maintained and be used for training and education purposes, information centers, outposts or as lodging.
The five towns therefore ardently support a land classification for the Essex Chain of Lakes and Indian River Tracts of Wild Forest, allowing the DEC to work with local governments in developing a Management Plan that both provides for access for all, all forms of recreational opportunity and preserves the priceless beauty of our park and its fragile ecological infrastructure.
A Wilderness classification will not allow for reasonable access for many and will not permit many of the recreational opportunities we feel essential to increased tourism revenue. For example, not even mountain biking is permissible in Wilderness areas.
A Wild Forest classification of these and future state land acquisitions is the only classification that will allow for a fair and balanced Unit Management Plan to be discussed.
Ronald Moore is supervisor of the Town of North Hudson.