The Adirondack Park Agency met last week but did not take up the question of how to classify (and manage) the 20,758-acre Boreas Ponds Tract. It’s uncertain whether the APA will take up the issue at its next meeting in June.
One of the big questions facing state officials is whether to allow the public to drive on the former logging road that leads to Boreas Ponds. The seven-mile dirt thoroughfare is known as Gulf Brook Road.
Two environmental groups, Adirondack Wilderness Advocates and Adirondack Wild, want the entire tract classified as Wilderness, which would close the entire road to motor vehicles and mountain bikes. Other environmental groups favor allowing the public to drive as far as LaBier Flow, about a mile from the ponds. In this scenario, the road as far as LaBier would be classified Wild Forest.
Last year the state Department of Environmental Conservation took a middle-of-the-road approach in its interim-access plan. It created a parking area about 3.2 miles up Gulf Brook Road. From here, hikers had to walk 3.6 miles to reach the ponds. Paddlers had the option of reducing their portage a half-mile by paddling across LaBier Flow. DEC also allowed mountain bikers to pedal to the ponds (but no farther).
DEC spokesman David Winchell said nothing will change this year, at least until the APA acts. At the moment, Gulf Brook Road is closed for mud season, but it will reopen as far as the parking area later this year. Biking to the ponds also will be allowed.
“Gulf Brook Road, like other seasonal access roads in the Adirondacks, remains closed through the spring mud season,” Winchell said in an email. He added that it will reopen “once it has dried, hardened, and any necessary maintenance is completed.”
David Gibson, a partner in Adirondack Wild, said he does not object to reopening part of the road. “Keeping the parking area where it is — temporarily — is the right decision. That keeps future classification and management options open,” he said. In the long run, though, Adirondack Wild wants to entire road closed to motor vehicles.
“Continuing to allow bicycles to the ponds is not the right decision,” Gibson added. “It perpetuates a pattern of use and ease of access to the ponds established in 2016 which becomes a fait accompli and difficult to pull back from in the classification and management decisions ahead.”
Last year the APA released four possible classification plans for the Boreas Ponds Tract. In three of them, DEC would have the option of allowing the public to drive all the way to the ponds. In the fourth option, state employees would be allowed to drive to the ponds to maintain a dam at the foot of the water body, but the public would not be allowed to drive beyond LaBier Flow.
After the agency released the options, news surfaced that the administration of Governor Andrew Cuomo was floating another proposal that would allow yurts, tents, or other temporary lodging along the last mile of road leading to the ponds. Under this idea, that section of road would be classified as an Intensive Use Area. Environmental groups say they would oppose such a plan. The proposal caught the APA by surprise and apparently is one reason for a delay in the classification decision.
For more information on the interim plan for the Boreas Ponds Tract, click here.
Adirondack Atlas is keeping track here of gates on Forest Preserve roads that are open.