Give campfires a chance in Essex Chain

Photo by Shaun Omdak
Photo by Shaun Omdak

Having just spent a couple of days canoeing and camping on the Essex Chain Lakes, I was interested to read “Should fires be banned at Essex Chain Lakes?” [It’s Debatable, November/December 2014]. Both commentators make some good points and some that strike me as off the mark.

Joe Hackett’s rhapsody about “a blazing campfire” and the sight of “a thousand sparks climbing into the night air” is downright scary—the last thing we want to see in the Adirondack woods. But he is right that the potential impact of permitting fires can be carefully monitored and the policy changed if needed.

John Sheehan’s (and the state’s) concern about campfires is certainly valid, but some of his reasoning is dubious. To suggest that wood-gathering for fires at lean-tos and campsites in the High Peaks Wilderness was degrading the soils of the Adirondack forest is nonsensical. Even the impact immediately around campsites would be minimal since dead branches are the targets and decomposing leaves and logs continue to regenerate the soil.

Mr. Sheehan’s point that “campers who haul firewood from home may introduce invasive insects” is also a stretch. Who is going to add a pile of firewood to all their camping supplies and gear for two portages totaling three-quarters of a mile into the lakes?

Hopefully the impact of camping on the lakes can be minimized through the permitting process, access by carry, and by keeping the sites primitive, with no tables and only box latrines. I vote for including small fire rings and see how it goes.

Richard Figiel, Trumansburg

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