The Adirondack Mountain Club is objecting to the state’s recommendation to allow mountain biking on an old road in a portion of the Moose River Plains that has been proposed to be designated Wilderness.
ADK Executive Director Neil Woodworth said the mountain-bike corridor would set a bad precedent and could open the door for other uses, such as snowmobiling, normally prohibited in Wilderness Areas.
“The harder it is to get into the Wilderness, the more protected it is,” Woodworth said.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation proposes to establish the biking corridor in the latest version of its draft management plan for the Moose River Plains Wild Forest.
In an earlier draft of the plan, DEC recommended reclassifying fifteen thousand acres of the Moose River Plains as Wilderness and adding it to the adjacent West Canada Lake Wilderness. The updated draft would allow the Otter Brook Truck Trail—which forms the boundary between the existing and proposed Wilderness tracts—to remain classified as Wild Forest. Mountain biking is allowed Wild Forest Areas.
In a letter to the Adirondack Park Agency, the club contends that this “spot zoning” is tantamount to allowing a prohibited use in a Wilderness Area. “To arbitrarily carve out a ‘Wild Forest’ corridor for mountain bike use in the middle of the proposed West Canada Lake Wilderness Area completely defeats the purpose of the Wilderness designation,” the letter says.
The APA is scheduled to discuss and perhaps vote on the plan at its meeting this week.
Mitch Lee, the assistant director of tourism for Inlet, argues that the hard surface of the truck trail makes it ideal for mountain biking. Using it and existing dirt roads, bikers can pedal in a fourteen-mile loop. Lee added that he often sends mountain bikers to the Moose River Plains.
“Taking away access to the Forest Preserve, especially if the Forest Preserve is not being damaged, is not a good thing for recreation,” he said.
Bill Ingersoll, the publisher of the Discover the Adirondacks series of guidebooks, also objects to the Wild Forest corridor. He said he has walked the Otter Brook Truck Trail several times and seen no evidence of use by bikers.
Lee, however, counters that the town can’t get a DEC permit to maintain the trail for biking until the management plan is approved. “It hasn’t got a lot of mountain-bike use because it hasn’t been available to us,” he said.
The Adirondack Council also is not happy with splitting the Wilderness tract with a biking corridor, but it doesn’t plan to fight it. “We are not taking a strong position against it,” said Scott Lorey, the council’s legislative director.
Lorey said the council is more concerned with a proposal to leave open the Indian Lake Road as far as the Squaw Lake trailhead. In the earlier draft, DEC proposed to close the entire Indian Lake Road, which also forms a boundary between the West Canada Lake Wilderness and the Moose River Plains.
Lorey contends that leaving part of the road open will invite motorized trespass into the Wilderness Area. Lee, however, said it will allow fishermen easy access to Squaw Lake, which he described as a stellar brook-trout water.