New twist in McCulley case

Old Mountain Road through the Sentinel Range Wilderness. Photo by Phil Brown.
Old Mountain Road passes through the Sentinel Range Wilderness. Photo by Phil Brown.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has granted a request by its own staff to clarify an agency decision that the Old Mountain Road in Keene—now part of the Jackrabbit Ski Trail—had never been legally abandoned and therefore could be open to motorized use.

The decision by DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis in 2009 raised questions about the status of other old woods roads in the Forest Preserve.  Many such roads are now foot trails and closed to vehicles.

DEC attorney Randall Young had filed a motion for clarification, contending that Grannis misinterpreted the law and that the decision could lead to conflicts with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. Click here to read an indepth look at the implications of the Grannis decision.

Old Mountain Road passes through the Sentinel Range Wilderness, where all motorized use is forbidden.  Lake Placid resident Jim McCulley challenged the closure of the road by driving his snowmobile and later a pickup truck on the road, leading to a series of legal battles.

Both the Adirondack Park Agency and the Adirondack Council supported Young’s motion for clarification and sought permission to intervene in the matter.

In a ruling dated December 30, acting DEC Commissioner Peter Iwanowicz granted Young’s motion and agreed to allow the APA and the council to participate.

“This gives us an opportunity to undo what was potentially a damaging precedent for the Forest Preserve,” said John Sheehan, the council’s spokesman. He fears the Grannis decision could be used to open other roads in the Preserve.

Iwanowicz has asked DEC staff to submit legal papers by February 4. McCulley, the APA, and the council are required to file their responses by March 11.

McCulley’s lawyer, Matt Norfolk of Lake Placid, could not be reached for comment. In a letter to the administrative law judge in the case, Norfolk asked for confirmation that Iwanowicz was still the acting commissioner when he signed the ruling.

McCulley was ticketed for driving on the road, but the ticket was dismissed. The motion for clarification does not seek to reinstate the ticket.

Click the links below to read Iwanowicz’s decision and Norfolk’s letter.

Iwanowicz decision PDF

Norfolk letter PDF

About Phil Brown

Phil Brown edited the Adirondack Explorer from 1999 until his retirement in 2018. He continues to explore the park and to write for the publication and website.

Reader Interactions


  1. TiSentinel65 says

    When you have to appeal a decision by yourself, to yourself, you are obviously unfit to hold any decision making capapcity at all. The ecolitigists are alive and well trying thier end around tactics and legalese on anything that doesn’t fit their agenda. The people that should be driven out of town are the faux “adirondackers” that move here and then believe everybody else should march to the beat of their drum. The DEC and the APA should be investigated for ex parte comunication because it is happening. How convenient DEC denied Mr. McCauley’s motion but granted the APA’s and the Adirondack Council’s. Any agency that does not have a system of governing itself from corruption will surely end up corrupt. Police depts. all over this country have Internal Affairs investigators to make sure law enforcers don’t become the law breakers. It is a system that makes sure the fox does not guard the hen house. DEC has shown time and again that they and the APA need serious reform. A house built on a faulty foundation is sure to fall.

  2. Tony Goodwin says

    I think that the Adirondack Council and APA should have first looked at whether there are any other currently abandoned roads for which this case could be a precedent. For most roads, simple lack of maintenance for ordinary vehicular traffic for six years is sufficient to have them declared “abandoned”. I believe my understanding is correct that the Old Mountain Road was a “road by law” since it was specifically created by an 1810 act of the State Legislature. I suspect that most roads created “by law” remain in active use as major thoroughfares. If there are, in fact, no “roads by law” that are unused in wilderness areas, then I see no reason that this matter has to again end up in court. The DEC could, in my opinion, simply determine if there are actually any other roads for which the Old Mountain Road case could set a precedent. Finding none, or perhaps only some short stretches, then just let the judge’s decision stand and don’t worry about any precedent.

  3. Timothy Dannenhoffer says

    blah blah blah, TiSentinel65, blah blah blah.

    McCulley found a loophole on a BS technicality that didn’t belong. EVERYBODY knew the intention the DEC had for the Sentinel Range Wilderness and only regressive reactionary troglodytes aren’t accepting it.

  4. Jim McCulley says

    Pete Grannis in the ADE “the problem with the McCulley case is we had to follow the facts” sounds like a loop hole to me timmy. MTA lay you off yet timmy?

  5. Paul says

    This is very ridiculous in my opinion. They should be spending their time and money on more important matters. Why would/did this set a bad precedent? No matter how this turns out the state still has to follow the law if a road isn’t abandoned correctly. The law seems clear the way this case turns out has no bearing on any other road. This case just shows that the law may have been improperly applied. I suppose another look is fine but really what is the point?

  6. Paul says

    I withdraw part of my last comment. I should have read the decision that Phil supplied before I commented.

    This is probably a good idea. There is really no reason for Jim or his lawyer to respond and this may be something that will help clarify what other roads are open for use.

    If the DEC and APA staff are not clear on what the original order said they should get “clarification”.

    The order properly denies the Adirondack Council’s request to go back over all the facts and start again.

  7. Paul says

    Tony I agree to a point. But the question is not only one of roads in Wilderness areas, but all state land in general, whether Forest Preserve or otherwise. In the Adirondacks the question is also for all Wild Forest lands as well. There you have many potential town roads that were perhaps not abandoned that have been used quite regularly. The question is was the use legal or illegal?

  8. mercurial vapor pas cher says

    Rarely am I thrilled with the standard for the online content I just read today. This really is only the material I enjoy read as it makes me think.


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