Hamilton County officials are livid over the state’s plan to close the Moose River Plains Recreation Area to motor vehicles, saying it will hurt the region’s economy, intensify political tensions, and harden stances against land acquisitions by the state.
“It’s one of the worst ideas I’ve seen in recent times,” said Bill Farber, the chairman of the county’s Board of Supervisors.
Farber said the county plans to press Governor David Paterson, the state legislature, and the state Department of Environmental Conservation to open the roads before Memorial Day weekend.
“It’s going to be a fight like none we’ve seen since the Forest Preserve tax cap,” he added, referring to Paterson’s proposal in 2008 to limit the taxes the state pays on Preserve lands.
Located between the hamlets of Inlet and Indian Lake, the Moose River Recreation Area boasts forty miles of dirt roads, 140 primitive campsites, and numerous trails. It’s dotted with ponds and crossed by many rivers and streams. The region is popular with car campers, hikers, birders, bikers, hunters, and fishermen.
Bill Osborne, the tourism director for Hamilton County, said the closure of the roads to vehicles will have a huge impact on the local economy. “It will be absolutely devastating to us,” he said.
Farber said the decision is likely to sour local officials even more against state land acquisition.
“If the argument [for state land] is that it helps the economy and brings people into the region, why would you close a recreation area?” he asked. “It’s counterintuitive.”
Although Paterson has called for a moratorium on state-land purchases, the state plans to buy from the Adirondack Nature Conservancy, perhaps within a few years, nearly sixty thousand acres formerly owned by Finch, Pruyn & Co. Local towns signed off on that deal, but Farber thinks some may take a second look at it.
Farber said local officials and residents already were angry over the state’s management of the Park. “This is just throwing gasoline on the fire and heating up the political rhetoric,” he said.
DEC spokesman David Winchell told the Explorer on Thursday (see yesterday’s post) that the department is forced to make cuts. “It’s not a decision we wanted to make,” he said of the road closures. “It comes down to money, plain and simple. We can’t continue to provide the same services we have in the past under the current fiscal conditions.”
Winchell said DEC will save money by not having to maintain the roads, repair culverts, or patrol the campsites.
Farber, however, contends that it makes more economic sense to maintain the roads rather than let them deteriorate. He also argues that the closure of the roads will hit the state’s pocketbook: fewer tourists mean less sales-tax revenue.
In another controversial step, DEC plans to discontinue hiring assistant forest rangers. The Adirondack Daily Enterprise published a detailed story today on this issue.