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Adirondack Explorer

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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Keep Boreas Ponds hut-free

The Adirondack Explorer joins the largest Adirondack environmental groups in saying “no” to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s conceptual proposal to classify a small area of the Boreas Ponds as Intensive Use for the purpose of putting seasonal lodging and dining facilities there to continue the hut-to- hut system linking trails to community amenities.

We haven’t seen any details—nor has the public. What we know we’ve learned from environmental groups, whose opinions were tested a few months ago by representatives for the governor.

In fact, more than six months after the last public hearings concluded and the deadline for comments to the Adirondack Park Agency came and went, the classification of the Boreas Ponds remains undecided. And in none of the public hearings was there talk of a different classification for a five-acre stretch of the old logging road leading to the ponds.

Although the state has not issued a formal proposal, the Department of Environmental Conservation has discussed its ideas for Boreas Ponds in private with environmental groups. They include erecting yurts or other temporary lodging as well as cooking and serving food. The groups also have seen photos of model “glamping” tents.

“If we did not have hard evidence like that, we would not have reacted as concretely as we have,” said Adirondack Mountain Club Executive Director Neil F. Woodworth, a lawyer, who has said such a proposal so clearly violates the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan and Article 14 of the state constitution that they would have to fight it in court.

An Intensive Use designation is one of seven land classifications of the Forest Preserve. In an article in the May/June issue of the Explorer Woodworth pointed to the State Land Master Plan, which specifies Intensive Use areas “will not be situated where they aggravate problems on lands already subject to or threatened by overuse, such as the eastern portion of the High Peaks Wilderness.”

The master plan also says Intensive Use Areas “will be adjacent to or serviceable from existing public road systems or water bodies open to motorboat use.” Neither is currently true for Boreas Ponds, unless the state changes it.

A similar proposal for shelters and food service in the Forest Preserve was ruled unconstitutional in 1934 by then-State Attorney General John Bennett Jr., because it would lessen the “solitude and wildness.”

The hut-to-hut route that would include Boreas Ponds is No. 13 in the 2015 hut-to-hut plan for the five towns of Long Lake, Newcomb, Indian Lake, Minerva, and North Hudson prepared for DEC by Leading E.D.G.E. The fivenight, four-day traverse would go from North Hudson to Elk Lake Lodge to Boreas Ponds and eventually into Newcomb. Although ranked in the report as one of the most desirable, but least feasible routes, it has captured the attention of the public and environmental groups alike since the governor’s State of the State Address, where he first alluded to lodging at Boreas Ponds.

Jack Drury of Leading E.D.G.E. says the route would be extremely difficult without some temporary and removable lodging on state land. His group’s challenge is to come up with routes that will be of high interest to visitors, which is what makes the Boreas Ponds so desirable.

Drury says he too is a wilderness advocate but thinks it’s worth hearing what’s actually being proposed before dismissing the route. The classification of the land presents a rare opportunity to explore possibilities, he says.

But the Adirondack Explorer doesn’t want to wait for a public announcement—whenever that might come—before joining these groups in saying glamping, food service, and state-provided beds have no place at Boreas Ponds.

The Explorer would rather see an alternative that furthers the beneficial hut-to-hut program without damaging the wild-forest character of the area—or bringing Intensive Use into an area just a few miles from the already overtaxed High Peaks. We prefer one—and there are many others like this in the plan—that instead directs campers to existing lodging, dining, and camping facilities that could benefit from this good idea for the Adirondack Park.

— Tracy Ormsbee, Publisher

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