APA classifies Boreas Ponds, now what?

DAN LADD/PHOTOColumnist Dan Ladd took this photo of the Boreas Ponds region during a recent visit there. Ladd says the area's location just south of the Adirondack High Peaks offers visitors a variety of scenic views. 

 

In the early days of February, the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) finally put forth a vote on classifying the 20,543-acre Boreas Ponds tract in the towns of North Hudson and Newcomb in Essex County.

This, and a number of smaller tracts, including some key acreage near Boreas Ponds, were the final parcels that made up roughly 90,000 acres of former timber company land purchased over the past decade by New York state.

Along with the Essex Chain Lakes, the Boreas Ponds tract is coveted and controversial territory.

PRESERVE VS ACCESS

 

The ponds sit just south of the Adirondack’s High Peaks, of which scenic views are to be had all around.

The level of preservation versus that of access was the main topic of debate, as it usually is when it comes to adding new lands to the Adirondack Forest Preserve.

In an 8-1 vote, the APA’s board approved what was known as Preferred Alternative 2B; one of five proposed during the public hearing process late in 2016.

Alternative 2B classifies 9,118 acres as Wild Forest, a classification that allows limited amounts of motorized use and sets the stage for a snowmobile connector trail between North Hudson and Newcomb.

The lands will eventually be added to the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest.

ACRES CLASSIFIED

With the plan, 11,412 acres will be classified as Wilderness and added to the High Peaks Wilderness Area.

As will 13,400 acres that constitute the East and West McIntyre tracts to the west of Boreas, and the 1,450-acre Casey Brook tract northeast of Boreas.

The importance of the Casey Brook tract is that it serves as a connecting parcel to the Dix Mountain Wilderness that is rumored to be eventually combined with the High Peaks Wilderness, growing that parcel to nearly 275,000 acres; one that rivals National Park size.

UMP DISCUSSION

There’s much more to be figured out here, especially on the new Wild Forest lands, during the Unit Management Plan (UMP), which will likely involve further public input.

Sportsmen and women interested in having adequate access to Boreas Ponds will need to be ready to make their voices heard during the UMP process.

While some of the environmental groups involved in the Adirondacks actually approved of 2B, there were others who did not: They wanted all of Boreas Ponds to be classified Wilderness.

The environmental crowd is likely to be more agreeable amongst themselves when the UMP comes up.

ACCESS POINT

Gulf Brook Road leads seven miles from Blue Ridge Road in North Hudson to Boreas Ponds.

Under the interim management plan there is currently a parking lot and gate about halfway to the ponds, leaving a three-mile hike to get there.

The call is already out from the green groups to make this the main access point to the ponds.

That’s fine for hikers, backpackers and even mountain bikers, but not for anglers and paddlers, who are hoping to have access at least to LaBier flow, a small body of water south of the ponds.

A launch here would still require a portage of about half-mile to the actual ponds.

HIGH PEAKS CONNECTIONS

There are other benefits to having parking and access further in than it is now and that is hopefully to take some hiking pressure off the normal routes to the High Peaks.

An alternate route to Allen Mountain and connection to the Elk-Lake Marcy trail to numerous High Peaks can be realized here.

As for sporting usage, the ponds have traditionally been stocked with brook trout.

Hunters can disperse along the road to pursue both big and small game.

This part of the Adirondacks has always been good habitat for the snowshoe (varying) hare.

USAGE LEVELS

Last summer I trekked into Boreas Ponds on a perfect August Sunday.

There were but a handful of people in there and although I enjoyed the quietness, I was surprised how little usage the area was getting.

Thus the question of the effectiveness of the current interim access.

Meanwhile, parking lots and trail heads are bulging at other High Peaks access points.

Perhaps things will change once official campsites and trails are realized around Boreas Ponds?

Stay tuned for more developments and be prepared for another public hearing process.