RAY BROOK - Public hearings will soon be held on how lands newly acquired by the state for the Adirondack Forest Preserve should be classified, and if adjacent state lands should be reclassified.
The State of New York bought the 22,538 acres formerly owned by Finch, Pruyn & Company from The Nature Conservancy. Balancing public access against protecting the forest preserve is, as always, the main issue.
The Essex Chain of Lakes, Indian River, OK Slip Falls and OSC tracts must be classified -- in this case as Wilderness, Wild Forest, Primitive or Canoe areas -- under the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.
The Essex Chain of 18,888 acres has 11 lakes and ponds. Fourteen miles of the Hudson River run through it, as well as 8.5 miles of the Cedar River.
The Indian River tract of 945 acres has a canoe take-out where the Indian meets the Hudson river. The 3,015-acre OK Slip Falls tract features the 250-foot OK Slip Falls, the Adirondacks’ highest falls and one of the tallest waterfalls in the state. It is accessible from the south from Route 28.
The OSC Tract of 160 acres is an inholding in the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest Area.
The Town of Indian Lake is particularly concerned about keeping the Chain Lakes Road open to traffic as far as a canoe take-out where the Cedar River flows into the Hudson River.
Staff at the Adirondack Park Agency, the land use zoning authority for the region, has proposed seven alternatives in a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. All include reclassifying most of the existing Hudson Gorge Primitive Area to Wilderness or Canoe and classifying the OK Slip Falls parcel and a portion of -- or the entire -- Indian River parcel as Wilderness.
The DSEIS also includes a proposal to add some of the new lands to the Hudson Gorge Wilderness Area and potential reclassification of portions of the Vanderwhacker and Blue Mountain Wild Forest areas.
The lands involved are in the towns of Indian Lake in Hamilton County and Minerva and Newcomb in Essex County. Six of the proposals call for Wilderness extending from just south of Newcomb to and through the Hudson River Gorge to the vicinity of the Boreas River confluence near the hamlet of North River.
ALTERNATIVES 1A & 1B
would combine most of the new lands with the Hudson Gorge Primitive Area, creating a new wilderness of 45,347 acres. It would include the Essex Chain (but not First and Pine lakes), where motorized use is not allowed.
First and Pine lakes would remain open to seaplanes, but the logging roads would be closed to motor vehicle and mountain bike traffic. 1B would create a larger Wilderness with parking further from river and lakes' access points.
would establish one large Essex Chain Lakes Primitive Area, two Primitive area sections of road open to adjacent landowners and a large Wilderness area of most of the Hudson Gorge Primitive Area and all the OK Slip Falls and OSC tracts.
Floatplanes would continue to be allowed to land on First and Pine lakes, but most of the roads would remain closed to public motor vehicle use. Mountain bikes would be allowed on proposed State Administrative Area roads.
ALTERNATIVES 3A & 3B
would make about 6,668 acres into the park's second Canoe area (14,340 acres under Alternative 3B), featuring the Essex Chain and excluding the bed and waters of First Lake; and a Wilderness area of most of the Hudson Gorge Primitive Area, the OK Slip Falls and OSC tracts and parts of the Blue Mt. and Vanderwhacker wild forest areas.
Portions of the new lands -- 9,333 acres -- would be classified Wild Forest, the same as 1A. Two sections of road would be designated Primitive and remain open to adjacent landowners as in 1A.
One-acre State Administrative Areas would be created where the towns own an easement to extract gravel.
Most of the roads would remain closed to public motor vehicle use. Mountain bikes would be allowed on State Administrative roads.
ALTERNATIVE 4A & 4B
would make the new lands mostly Wild Forest, expanding the Blue Mountain Wild Forest to include the Essex Chain of Lakes and Pine Lake, where motor-boating, snowmobiling and floatplane use could be allowed. Two sections of road would be designated as Primitive as in 1A, but the rest would be open to traffic.
The Hudson River Wilderness Area of 33,942 acres and three state administrative areas around gravel pits used for road maintenance would also be created.
Alternative 4B would create a Special Management Area for the Essex Chain of Lakes to prohibit or limit some uses, such as motorized boats, limiting motorized access on some roads to big game season only and allowing camping at designated sites only.
To read the alternatives in detail go to http://apa.ny.gov/. Under 'Agency Meeting' click on 'mailing package' and then on 'State Land' and 'DSEIS - Essex Chain, Indian River, OK Slip Falls, and OSC Parcels.' Descriptions of the alternates start on Page 5.
If public hearings are held during June and July -- dates have not yet been set -- the APA Board of Commissioners could conceivably choose an option during its August meeting.
According to the APA, the forest preserve currently includes about 2,547,265 acres classified as follows.
Wild Forest 1,293,721
Intensive Use 22,705
State Administrative 2,067