By Phil Brown
David Gibson, one of the founders of the group, contends the state Department of Environmental Conservation violated its own rules when it laid crushed stone on a 250-foot section of the Murphy Lake Trail near Wells.
Gibson says DEC failed to abide by a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Adirondack Park Agency that sets limits on work that can be done on forest preserve tracts that lack a unit management plan (UMP). The Wilcox Lake Wild Forest is one of those tracts.
In an August 12 letter to Robert Stegemann, DEC’s regional director, Gibson said the MOU stipulates that the department may undertake only ordinary maintenance and minor improvements that “do not materially change the use or appearance of land, trails and appurtenances.”
Gibson’s letter included photographs of the “improved” trail and an adjacent section of unimproved trail to show their differences in appearance. The old trail is a typical dirt path. The modified trail is crushed stone boxed in by lumber.
Gibson says the modified trail violates the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan as well as the MOU.
The crushed stone was placed over existing logs that had become slippery. In an email to the Explorer, DEC says other options it considered for addressing the hazard did not conform to the State Land Master Plan. The department is consulting with the APA over the matter. Gibson said the APA is looking into his complaint.
DEC had described the trail project in a news release in late July, hailing it as “another example of the State’s ongoing effort to grow the outdoor recreation economy of Adirondack communities while protecting this resource for future generations.”
The department says it worked with a bicycle club to harden trail to make it sustainable for multi-use recreation. The news release noted that the trail, which connects Murphy, Middle, and Bennett lakes, is on the route of the Adirondack Trail Ride, a 550-mile route that loops through the Adirondack Park, much of it on public forest preserve.
Gibson, who visited the area after seeing the news release, also questioned whether bikes should be allowed on the trail. “Lacking a UMP, this trail has not been officially designated as a bicycle trail, nor should it be. In our experience, the Murphy-Middle-Bennett trail’s surface tread is very unsuited for and clearly not designed for family-style mountain biking. … We found no marked bike route sign on this section of the Murphy-Middle-Bennett trail. This sector was never designed for travel by bicycles, and the ‘rehabilitation,’ however professionally carried out, was not done to cause the least effect on the local environment.”
DEC’s website lists nine other trails in the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest that are open to biking. “Many of them are not in any shape to invite bicyclers, and they are certainly not designed for such use,” Gibson said in an email to the Explorer.
Looks like crap! There is nothing natural about it. Complete eye sore! So the destruction of the forests begins.
Our Park is for everyone, not restricted to hikers.
I see no degradation in a wild forest with the construction of a bicycle trail.
Dick Carlson says
I’ve ridden in here “back in the day” – this pic looks atrocious! A little crushed stone in a wet area – OK – not this – might as well be paved – looks ridiculous. There’s plenty of trails that are wet and we only ride them in a dry year.
roger dziengeleski says
All trails, regardless of intended use, should be engineered and constructed to withstand that intended use. Best Management Practices and engineering minimize erosion and other environmental damages from becoming excessive. Eroded herd paths and expanded trails in muddy spots are the real eye sores and they have been tolerated for way too long.
Mark Whittemore says
If you had been here before the new construction, the old construct was one of the most bizzarre and ankle twisting (potential if not careful), places in the ADK.
I think this new construction is WAY WAY overkill and sort of bizzare, but maybe it was the simplest way to cover the old garbage short of moving the trail.
Adirondack Wild is spot on. This trail is an obvious violation of State law and an eyesore in spades! Did the DEC conduct a hearing on this “improvement?” Can we expect other trails to be “improved” like this? and without public input? Why doesn’t the DEC just “improve” the trail to Marcy with asphalt and concrete? That would solve the overuse issue. For that matter how about “improving” the entire length of the Northville-Lake Placid trail? Heck, let’s “improve” all the trails so cars, RVs, and eighteen wheelers can drive right through the park.