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.