DEC Announces Final UMP Amendments to High Peaks Wilderness Complex and Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest

Implementation of Management Actions Underway

The High Peaks Wilderness Complex and the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest Unit Management Plan (UMP) Amendments are final and implementation of the management actions has begun, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today.

Commissioner Seggos said, “Defining DEC’s management of the Boreas Ponds and the more than 50,000 acres of land added to these two Adirondack Forest Preserve units will help protect these precious lands for future generations. We are excited to implement these management actions, which will facilitate access while ensuring these sensitive natural resources are protected. The final amendments to the Unit Management Plan announced today will improve accessibility while reinforcing DEC’s commitment to preserving this unique resource and helping the town of North Hudson and the other communities in the Five Town Hub realize the economic potential of these lands. The amendments also define steps to manage these lands sustainability and address safety concerns while ensuring visitors can enjoy its breathtaking views and outstanding recreational opportunities.”

DEC has begun implementing management actions described in the two UMP Amendments. Currently group size regulations for all of the High Peaks Wilderness, including the former Dix Mountain Wilderness lands, are in effect, limiting day use groups (hikers) to no more than 15 people and overnight use groups (campers) to no more than 8 people.

Construction of the Mt. Van Hoevenberg East Trail from the Olympics Sport Complex to the summit of the mountain is underway. DEC developed a sustainable route and design for the trail to provide an enjoyable experience for hikers, while protecting this resource. Adirondack Mountain Club Professional Trail Crews have been contracted to construct the trail. In addition, the project will include protections for vegetation and soils on the summit. To limit overuse, DEC is promoting hikes and activities in lesser used areas of the Adirondacks via the Adventure Adirondack social media channel.

Projects to provide recreational access to the Boreas Ponds will begin this summer and include:

  • Constructing additional parking areas near LaBier Flow and Boreas Ponds
    • A six-car permit only parking area 1/10 of a mile from Boreas Dam will have an informational kiosks and a bike rack
    • Four of the parking spots will be available through Reserve America and two will be available for people with Motorized Access Program for People with Disabilities permits
  • Constructing hand launches at the Boreas Pond dam and on the shores of LaBier Flow
    • The launch at Boreas Ponds dam will be ADA compliant and accessible to people with disabilities
    • The launch on the southern shore of LaBier Flow will include a drop off area for unloading and loading boats and equipment but not for parking

Motorized access and recreational activities such as hiking, biking, horseback riding, paddling, fishing, hunting, and trapping will continue as described in the Interim Access Plan for the Boreas Ponds Tract until parking lots and other infrastructure are completed. Future actions include:

  • Establishing mountain bike, equestrian, hiking, and skiing opportunities throughout the tracts, including connections to portions of the existing High Peaks Wilderness lands;
  • Providing access for persons with disabilities to hand-carry launches, equestrian facilities, and designated tent sites along several roads;
  • Designate and develop primitive camping opportunities, including roadside, backcountry, and water access;
  • Enhance paddling opportunities, including providing a hand-carry launch at Henderson Lake and along the Hudson River;
  • Complete the multiple-use community connector trail that connects North Hudson and Newcomb using Gulf Brook Road;
  • Maintain 3.4 miles of Forest Preserve roads for seasonal access and camping during big game hunting season;
  • Maintaining the historic cabin at the Four Corners and evaluating potential future administrative uses until a final disposition for the structure is determined; and
  • Designating single-track mountain bike networks

The High Peaks Complex UMP Amendment also defines management actions to improve recreational opportunities and natural resource protection throughout the 275,460-acre High Peaks Wilderness, including:

  • Evaluate, maintain, improve, reroute and/or abandon trails throughout the unit to
    • Develop a purpose-built and sustainable trail system;
    • Reduce maintenance efforts;
    • Maximize the lifespan of trail facilities; and
    • Enhancing the wilderness experience of visitors
  • Evaluate and construct trails on 21 “trail-less peaks”;
  • Maintain 17 to 19 new and current trails as dual purpose trails for both skiing and hiking – three of which will be built or maintain to be conducive to skiing on slopes and curves;
  • Develop a reroute of the Wright Peak Ski Trail to connect with the Whale’s Tail Ski Trail once the Ski Trail Guidance is finalized;
  • Work with the rock climbing community to monitor use, educate climbers on Leave No TraceTM practices, and stabilize eroded areas at the bottom and tops of climbs;
  • Work with the climbing community and others to establish a temporary moratorium on new, or replacement of existing, bolts or fixed pitons; complete an inventory of all existing fixed anchors in the unit; and convene a focus group to develop a Park-wide policy on fixed anchors;
  • Develop a Wildland Monitoring Plan with others which will guide data collection and inform Carrying Capacity issues; and
  • Develop new regulation which will address such issues as use of bear resistant canisters; use of snowshoes; leashed dogs; and more

The UMP Amendment also defines regulatory changes to the land throughout the unit and the lands added to the unit. Changes to the recreational infrastructure along State Route 73 to address safety and manage high use issues currently experienced in these areas are also described.

  • Construct new parking lots and expanding current parking lots off State Route 73;
  • Construct a new trail connecting the trailhead in the Olympic Sports Complex to the Cascade Mountain Trail;
  • Permanently move the Cascade Mountain Trailhead to the Olympic Sports Complex;
  • Close the current Cascade Mountain Trailhead including:
    • Close the lower portion of the trail
    • Close the three parking areas near the current trailhead
  • Close additional portions of the shoulder of State Route 73 to parking;
  • Constructing a new trailhead parking lot for Ampersand Mountain off State Route 3;
  • Continue to promote hikes on trails outside of the State Route 73 Corridor; and
  • Using various communication tools and efforts educate hikers in on Leave No TraceTM practices to reduce their impact on the natural resources, trail infrastructure, and other users

Both the High Peaks Wilderness UMP Amendment and the Vanderwhacker Wild Forest UMP Amendment are available on DEC’s website to view or download.

About Mike Lynch

Mike Lynch is a multimedia reporter for the Adirondack Explorer. He can be reached at Sign up for Mike’s newsletter

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