The first leg of New York state’s purchase of the former Finch Pruyn lands was completed this past December when the state paid The Nature Conservancy roughly $12 million dollars for the Essex Chain of Lakes and land along the Hudson River in the central Adirondacks, more than 18,000 acres. Gov.Andrew Cuomo announced last summer that the eventual purchase totaling 69,000 acres would be made incrementally. He also said this area in the towns of Newcomb, Minerva and Indian Lake would go first, and it did.
In recent meetings with sportsmen’s groups and other stakeholders, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Regional Natural Resource Supervisor Tom Martin, who works out of DEC’s Ray Brook office, offered possible future classification and recreational scenarios for these lands. It should be pointed out that these are only ideas, not official proposals, and are just the beginning of the process of figuring out the future for these lands, some of which could open up to the public this Spring.
A Wilderness classification forbids motorized access while a Wild Forest classification allows for some of it, including snowmobiling. In the end classification usually equates to access. Martin’s presentation of DEC’s ideas had something for everyone.
For the Essex Chain of lakes DEC would like to provide small boat access, including for the disabled. Martin says that Cornell Road is a travel route on the northwest end of this tract that currently serves as the border between the fee and easement lands. Already an easement right-of-way and a snowmobile trail, in warm weather the road would provide motorized access to the vicinity of Deer Pond. “We’d get the public within about a quarter of a mile or so,” said Martin of Deer Pond. “We’ll build a parking lot and a carry trail down to Deer, a carry trail from Deer over to Mud (Pond) and then one to Third Lake. In addition to that we (could) allow folks with disabilities to continue on this road to the causeway between Fourth and Fifth Lake.”
Currently, there is floatplane access to First and Pine Lakes and Martin says that will remain through an easement with the towns. As for further floatplane access Martin said, “We’re considering seasonal floatplane access to Third Lake. We think that the paddling community in June, July and August and most of September, most of those folks want a quiet experience. They want solitude and we can provide that. But I also think we can provide floatplane access in the spring for trout fishing and in the fall for hunting season.”
“One other thing we’re looking at here is some of this existing road network. We’re proposing keeping some of that open just in the fall, just for hunters, for roadside drive-up campsites; primitive campsites under permit,” Martin also added.
This purchase also opens up a stretch of the Hudson River between Newcomb and Indian Lake — creating numerous rafting and canoe opportunities which could be available this spring. DEC believes that the Newcomb Town Beach is a sensible starting point for such trips but would also like to provide access to the Hudson near what is known as the Iron Bridge as well as at a point above the confluence of the Indian and Hudson Rivers. Martin says this is paramount for safety reasons.
As for classification, should these ideas come to fruition, DEC foresees a unique situation where parts of the tract would be classified as Wilderness and others as Wild Forest. Obviously the areas around roads and launches would need to be Wild Forest with the interior being Wilderness. Farther south of the Essex Chain is the OK Slip Falls section which is currently surrounded by lands classified as Primitive, similar to Wilderness. Martin believes once these two chunks are combined they would all be classified as Wilderness.
Again, it should be pointed out that these are only ideas that DEC has mapped out after meeting with various stakeholders. There is still much to do for them to be realized.
“We’re in the process of finalizing a report to the Adirondack Park Agency (APA),” Martin said. “We make a recommendation to the agency (APA), they handle the public hearing process and then they make a recommendation to the governor.”
In the end, DEC feels the ideas they’ve gathered for the future of these lands are fair to all recreational interests.
“The environmental community on one side is not to get everything they want,” Martin said. “The hook and bullet guys, the motorized access folks at the other end who want access, they’re not going to get everything they want. We think we’re some place in the middle. We think we have a good approach.”
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.