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Friday, May 7, 2010

Officials angry over road closures

The state plans to close 40 miles of dirt roads in the Moose River Plains. Photo by Phil Brown.

DEC plans to close 40 miles of dirt roads in the Moose River Plains. Phil Brown.

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.

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.

17 Responses

  1. Mitch Lee says:

    For Immediate Release:

    From : Mitch Lee, Adirondack Storyteller, Columnist, Tourism Town Of Inlet

    Ltmitch3rdny@aol.com 315-357-5501

    Closure of the Moose River Plains Wild Forest, one of New York States and America’s largest primitive camping areas is shameful.

    On May 6th I learned that the New York State DEC is planning to keep the gates at the Inlet and Cedar River entrances to the Moose River Plains Wild Forest closed for the summer of 2010. The reason given is that DEC feels with the current budget situation prevents them from properly maintaining the road.

    This latest news on New York State’s decisions to limit access to this public Adirondack Park area follows a litany of sites across the state, both historic and recreational, that are slated for closure in 2010.

    But this closure is unique because it affects not only the recreation of thousands of users for brook trout fishing, tent camping, hiking, backpacking, bird watching and mountain biking, it also dampens the local economy of two communities that depend on the eco-tourism that so many people go to “the Plains” for.

    The Moose River Plains Wild Forest was created around a core of some 50,000 acres purchased from the Gould Paper Company in 1963 to be used as a primitive recreation area. 140 sites are available to primitive free camping along the 48 miles of hard-scape dirt roads that wind through the Plains.

    Add to that more than 27 miles of trails that lead to hikers to beautiful remote ponds, some with primitive sites. The terrain varies from flat grassy plains filled with berry bush and beaver vly’s along the south branch of the Moose River to forested mountains with spectacular unspoiled views.

    This from the DEC Web Site

    “The Moose River Plains Wild Forest is bounded on the north by the Pigeon Lakes Wilderness Area, Raquette Lake and the Blue Ridge Wilderness, on the east and the south by the West Canada Lakes Wilderness and the private lands of the Adirondack League Club, and on the west by the Fulton Chain Lakes and State Route 28. It is the largest block of remote lands in the Adirondacks readily accessible by motor vehicle and includes the Red River, the South Branch of the Moose River and the 675 acre Cedar River Flow.

    The Moose River Plains Wild Forest offers many recreational opportunities, including hiking, skiing, mountain biking, snowmobiling, canoeing, hunting, fishing, horseback riding, and primitive camping. Miles of marked trails and numerous lakes and ponds make this unit an ideal destination for recreationists with varied interests and abilities.”

    Some of the best Adirondack brook trout fishing can be found at Ice house Pond & Squaw Lake and more good fishing is to be found at Lost, Helldiver, Mitchell, Sly & Whites pond as well. Beaver Lake, the largest body of water in the Moose River Plains, is one of the best mountain bike & camping destination rides in all of the Northeast. The five rivers that cut through the park have become home to a growing moose population. And great for a moose watch drive.

    The Moose River Plains also hosts four major outdoor events, The Adirondack Birding Festival safari drives, National Trails Day scenic day hikes, the Black Fly Challenge Mountain Bike Race, and the NYS Muzzle Loaders Primitive Rendezvous. Some of these events have been a part of the Plains for decades and are important to the thousands of people as well as the economies of Inlet and Indian Lake.

    The loss of use and access to these 50,000 acres would be a great sacrifice to so many visitors who are looking for a primitive experience like no other in New York and devastating to a local economy built on eco-tourism.

  2. Paul says:

    Mitch,

    I think that the majority of Explorer readers are probably supporters of non-motorized access. Many of the stories and comments you see here support that stance. But I am with you.

  3. bry says:

    i recently learned about the moose river plains and the road that goes through it. i was telling my mom about the black fly challenge and how i never knew such a path existed. i found it interesting since it’s another way to go from one side of the park to the other. after learning about north lake and its tranquil remoteness last year i was excited to see a new primitive area for me to explore. it sounds silly to close a dirt road due to budget problems, and like they said above, it will need ~ twice as much maintenance the next year. in addition to north lake, can anyone recommend a somewhat secluded primitive camping area with car access or just a short hike in? i know there must be a bunch, ive gone to our camp in thendara since i was 3, im just trying to learn all i can about the park as i begin a journey we call our 30’s, thanks

  4. Paul says:

    bry, Are you looking for something around the Old Forge area, or are you willing to go farther north? I can give you some ideas in the Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake area but we need a Central adirondacker to help you with the Inlet area, let me know.

  5. Kevin says:

    This is really going to be a tragedy. My kids love going out there once a year for camping..what a huge disappointment..guess its time to stop camping Limekiln and inlet and move to a new part of the park..

    What a shame..

  6. Kevin says:

    Post this on FB and lets see if we can get a grassroots campaign going to force the Govenor to abandon this lousy policy..

  7. Heather Spence-Mancini says:

    Disgraceful. Access to beautiful remote areas like the Moose River Plains is one of the few remaining advantages to residing in this state. In the scheme of things, the cost of maintaining access to this beautiful wilderness is a small price to pay for the priceless tranquility of seeing lakes, rivers, and wild lands in their most pristine state, without powerlines, or manmade structures to tarnish the experience.

    I’ve brought my 3 children up there for family camping excursions every Labor Day week for the past 7 years. What the heck am I paying taxes for exactly?So another deadbeat can collect undeserved entitlement benefits, or pay the politicians to run this state further into the ground? Thank you State of NY for yet again robbing the middle class of the ability to enjoy one of the least expensive simple pleasures our state has to offer.

  8. Solidago says:

    Why don’t the local governments volunteer to take over the maintenance, with the caveat that they charge for motorized access?

    The entitlement culture – the sense that we deserve X, Y and Z from our government – coupled with the American aversion to taxes is what got us into this mess. People have to stop whining about every cut that has to be made and let the government figure out how to dig out of this hole.

    Either that, or people need to start agitating for new taxes.

    I’m glad that we have a Governor with nothing to lose, willing to force the tough choices that the cowardly legislature isn’t willing to make.

  9. Dick Carlson says:

    This is all scare tactic stance by DEC. Official and public outcry originated by these announcements is meant to restore funding to DEC. Stupid tactics that only serve to dissuade commerce and tourism in the Adirondacks. Once again all these venues drive the local economy in some way. There needs to be a way for local governments or private industry to take over operation or any venues threatened with closure.

  10. […] an interview with the Adirondack Explorer, Hamilton County officials blasted the decision. “It’s one of the worst ideas I’ve seen in […]

  11. Diana Hatalsky says:

    Please don’t everyone sit back and accept this horrible plan. We are taxpayers that pay for the right to use and enjoy this part of the Adirondacks. We have gone there for rides, camping, fishing, horseback riding, car rides, etc for four generations, and wish to continue this wonderful experience. We need to contact senators, congressmen, and public officials. we need to petition, call, email, write and any other method we can use to stop this disaster!!!!. Enough has been taken away already, it is time to act. Please don’t let this happen… act now….

  12. Paul says:

    Diana I am with you but I think that you are falling into the trap that Dick describes below. This is clearly a political ploy. They know that a very vocal group of Adirondack sportsmen (like myself) use these roads. These are closures that will be cheered by “non-motorized advocates”. This is a win-win move by the DEC. Keeps some of their main supporters happy and gets others to write the letters you describe. I could be wrong about this but I think that you will probably not see an article here in the Explorer that sounds something like this: “too may roads in the Adirondacks have been closed to motorized access, we need to see these roads reopen, along with many others”! The problem is that many here have advocated successfully for taking away the opportunities afforded by roads like this. Why would they change course now? I think we need to figure out another course. This road must be an old road that the town can lay claim to in some way? The DEC certainly didn’t build it. The town should be able to keep it open if they want? The DEC has recently affirmed that right in another type of case. I would make the argument if I was in the town of Inlet that even though this road was not on the DOT list that it is clearly a benefit to the town. The towns will have to figure out a way to maintain it but I am sure they can, even if that means volunteer help from sportsmen. They are always looking for a good excuse to get out the heavy equipment!

  13. Paul says:

    These may not be so targeted as I describe here they are closing 38 truck trails in region 9.

    http://www.dec.ny.gov/press/65077.html

    Interestingly they say that they will reopen these roads for hunting season. They claim that hunters are less likely to litter than the summer users.

  14. bry says:

    Hey Paul, I’m very willing to go farther north to the Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake area. I could use some new ideas for the Central region if anyone has a suggestion. I read Phil’s new posts and will probably try both since they’re so close to camp. Thank you for your help.

  15. Harvey44 says:

    I like Dick’s idea about getting a private operator to maintain the roads, and I suppose charge a fee? Would that be allowed by the state constitution?

  16. Matt says:

    We the people disaprove the recent closure of the Moose River Plains Wildforest by the NYDEC,the result of this closure will effect the local business economy from visitors and local residence and also restricts their exposure to 50,000 acres of hiking,camping,fishing,hunting,canoeing and wildlife odservation in one of the largest wildforest, The poor planning and management for years by the state DEC and last year that spent a million + to make it accessible to a wilderness pond for the disabled has also been wasted state money,So ” We The People demand the State of New York put funding back into the Moose River Plains Recreation Area  Wildforest to remian forever wild and forever open.”

  17. Cathryn Taegel says:

    let`s journey

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