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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

ADK objects to Moose River Plains plan

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.

Otter Brook Truck Trail. Photo by Phil Brown.

Otter Brook Truck Trail. Photo by Phil Brown.

“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.

Phil Brown

Contributor Phil Brown was editor of the Adirondack Explorer from 1999-2018. When he isn't at his desk, he's usually out hiking, paddling, skiing, or doing something else important.

4 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    “ADK Executive Director Neil Woodworth said the mountain-bike corridor would set a bad precedent”

    If he thinks that this is a BAD precedent I assume that he would prefer that this area remain a Wild Forest to avoid the precedent being set.

    Something tells me that he isn’t going to suggest that solution?

  2. Doug says:

    The APSLMP mountain bike ban on hardened roads in Wilderness Areas was never well thought out. It was a knee jerk reaction when it was added to the Master Plan in the mid ’80s. This represents a chance to make it right in one small area.

    Neil Woodworth’s suggestion that the mountain-bike corridor would set a bad precedent and could open the door to uses such as snowmobiling, is at best a scare tactic. It is time the ADK started working with all constituent groups to find common ground. Our current Governor demonstrated that we cannot count on Albany to maintain the Forest Preserve. It’s time the NGOs like ADK started working with the towns and other recreational user groups that care about the Park. That may be our only option as the DEC continues to lose resources.

  3. Paul says:

    Doug,

    You are right. But you are never going to get groups like ADK to do anything for constituents outside their own. The folks that give their money to ADK want one thing: As much land as possible open for Hiking and only Hiking. That is what they are all about.

  4. Matt says:

    Paul: Agreed; the SLMP needs to be revised to include a primitive bike corridor management tool so that arbitrary WF corridors like this don’t have to exist.

    Doug: ADK has some mountain bikers in their membership base,and the organization has been willing to support MTB projects. ADK is “Your voice for Wilderness”, and lots of bikers love Wilderness areas even if there are restrictions on bike usage in them. That being said, bikers in the Adirondacks don’t want to see suitable routes closed unnecessarily either, so this is the APA trying to make a reasonable concession, and they are getting blasted for it now. I give credit to the APA for taking a risk on this and forcing the issue.

    By the way, If we took Mr. Ingersoll’s logic to heart, we should be closing a whole lot of hiking trails due to lack of use too… That might help lighten the DEC’s burden a bit, right? What do you think ADK’s response to that would be? Also, a bike doesn’t leave any more of a “footprint” on the landscape than a pair of hiking boots, so what did he expect to see out there?

    I also agree that the “domino effect” theory for eventual motorized use through Wilderness areas is unfounded. There is a clear a strong distinction between a gas-burning 500# machine that can go 100mph on flat ground(snowmobile) and a quiet, muscle-powered 25# piece of engineering that’s also known as “the noblest invention”(the bicycle).

    As far as tourism goes, Inlet needs as many low-impact summer recreation opportunities as it can get. If ADK really thinks that closing this route to cyclists is the best option, than they should be serious enough to at least recommend another equally valuable opportunity be opened up or created in the same region.

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