Public comment sought on projects for popular campgrounds
By Gwendolyn Craig
The Adirondack Park Agency is proposing to classify, reclassify and correct zoning on a batch of campgrounds and other state lands.
The agency on Thursday released a package of new and existing state holdings and their proposed zoning classifications. Among the more than 6,000 total acres are parts of Rollins Pond Campground in Franklin County and Golden Beach Campground in Hamilton County. The state proposes to change zoning on some of the campgrounds’ acreage to allow for more development.
The proposals are in the campgrounds’ draft unit management plans. If the APA does not adopt those zoning changes, certain campground upgrades may not be accomplished. The agency on Friday released both campgrounds’ draft unit management plans and invited public comment until Sept. 18.
Unit management plans are created by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, in consultation with the APA, and inventory an area’s natural and physical resources and development projects.
The APA, which is charged with long-range planning for the 6-million-acre park, reviews the drafts for conformance with its leading policy document called the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. (Explorer readers can learn more about unit management plans in the September/October issue of the magazine.)
APA Counsel Christopher Cooper said the agency must pass the new land classification package before it can adopt the campgrounds’ unit management plans. The agency is expected to release the classification package with more details at next month’s meeting.
Land classification package
When the state purchases lands in the Adirondack Park, a lengthy process unfolds before any new trails, campsites, parking areas or other projects can be undertaken. The first step, happening now for nearly 5,500 acres the state recently acquired, is land classification.
The agency reviews the physical and natural resources on a newly purchased parcel and makes a tentative decision about how much recreational and physical use it can withstand. If staff think it can handle a great deal, the land might be classified as intensive use. If staff think the land needs more protection, it may be classified as its most restrictive zone, wilderness.
Lands in this package are from all over the Adirondack Park, from 18 acres of the Thirteenth Lake Shoreline in Warren County, to 948 acres of the Grass River Corridor in St. Lawrence County.
The public will be able to comment before the agency makes a final decision on these classifications. Once it does, the DEC can undergo a unit management plan draft, which will outline more specific projects.
The classification package the APA released also includes lands it would like to reclassify or correct. The agency differentiates between reclassification and corrections. Corrections, it said, “refers to a situation where mapping accuracy limitations have resulted in mapping errors and a correction is needed.”
Reclassification, it said, “refers to land that has been previously classified by the Agency, but the characteristics of the land are not consistent with the previous classification, or there was some pre-existing infrastructure or use that early mapping did not clearly depict.”
Rollins Pond and Golden Beach campgrounds are among lands proposed to have acreage reclassified. Environmental organizations, including Protect the Adirondacks and the Adirondack Council, said they are looking closely at these proposed changes.
Representatives of the organizations said they step up scrutiny when the state moves land into the least restrictive development classification, something it is proposing for both campgrounds.
Unit management plans
Rollins Pond Campground and Day Use Area accommodates 287 campsites off of state Route 30 in the town of Santa Clara. It was built as the overflow to Fish Creek Campground.
DEC will accept comments on the proposed management actions through Sept. 18. Comments can be submitted by mail or email to: Josh Houghton, EPS2 (NR), NYS DEC Bureau of Recreation, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-5253 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The APA will accept public comments on the proposed draft plans’ conformance to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan through Sept. 18. Comments should be sent to: Megan Phillips, Deputy Director Planning, Adirondack Park Agency, P.O. Box 99, Ray Brook, NY 12977 Email: SLMP_UMP_Comments@apa.ny.gov
The DEC is also collecting comments on management of the campgrounds. The Rollins Pond Campground Surveyis here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RollinsDraftUMP, and the Golden Beach Campground Survey is here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GoldenDraftUMP. Survey responses will be accepted until Sept. 18.
In its draft unit management plan, the DEC proposes better connecting the two campgrounds with a footpath. It also wants to build additional internet and utilities at Rollins Pond, requiring reclassification of about 160 acres, about half to wild forest and half to intensive use. The entrance to the campground, for instance, is classified as wild forest, but APA staff said to keep pre-existing infrastructure and create a utility corridor, it needs to be intensive use.
Josh Houghton, a natural resource planner with the DEC, said the department would also like to test permits for longer-term camping. The department has had trouble with people using different emails to register longer stays than the agency’s 14-night limit. The DEC has not yet formalized what the permit would look like, and how it would work on Reserve America, the online reservation system.
“There’s a lot of challenges, and it’s a dynamic thing on the ground,” Houghton said. “For Rollins Pond, this is an opportunity to look at something we haven’t utilized before to address the wants for a longer stay, but also make sure it’s fair for everyone.”
APA staff said the system would be unique to Rollins Pond. “It has not been contemplated in other areas,” said Matt McNamara, an environmental program specialist at the APA.
The unit management plan also proposes to:
- Replace four comfort stations and add utility sinks at all stations;
- Replace the trailer dump station and the caretaker and assistant caretaker cabins;
- Rehabilitate roads and construct a bike lane;
- Construct additional staff housing;
- Improve the boat launch;
- Construct additional vehicle parking;
- Construct a playground near the shower building;
- Develop an accessible trail that will connect to the future Adirondack Rail Trail;
- Develop an accessible trail between Fish Creek Pond Campground and Rollins Pond Campground; and
- Continue campsite restorations.
At the Golden Beach Campground and Day Use Area off of state Route 28 in Raquette Lake, DEC proposes to reclassify about six acres to wild forest, four acres to wilderness and about 30 acres to intensive use.
The unit management plan would:
- Replace former vault toilet building and comfort station #6, add utility sinks to all comfort stations and replace trailer dump station;
- Replace shower building and comfort station #1 with single building;
- Replace bathhouses in day use area, currently used for storage with a pavilion;
- Replace ticket booth;
- Rehabilitate campground roads;
- Replace trailered boat launch with a hand launch for canoes and kayaks;
- Rehabilitate water system and campground sewage system;
- Replace 1.1-miles of overhead power lines with underground system; and
- Continue campsite restorations.
Broadalbin beach resolution
The beach at the Broadalbin Boat Launch on Great Sacanadaga Lake will officially be closed. The APA board unanimously adopted a unit management plan that would revegetate the beach area, something hundreds of commenters opposed. APA Board Member Mark Hall was absent.
The town had operated the beach for years, APA and DEC staff said, but stopped amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The town board told DEC staff it did not desire to resume operations, and with no one to run the beach, DEC has said it must be closed.
The plan also redesigns the boat decontamination station, which cleans boats of invasive species, to allow for better traffic flow. There will also be a new pedestrian pathway between the car-top and trailered boat launches.
Telecommunications tower updates
For the first time since state Sen. Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, addressed the board with concerns about the agency’s tower’s policy, the APA presented updates to its permitting for telecommunications structures including cell towers.
The agency convened a working group last spring “to support improved cell coverage in the Adirondack Park,” keeping in mind that “the agency does not propose, design or fund towers, but the agency receives applications, reviews and permits them,” said Ariel Lynch, APA environmental program specialist.
Since then, the APA created a new authorization form that allows applicants to get one landowner signature to cover potential future applications for things like tower co-locations or site upgrades.
“This has been something that was a real sticking point for providers, getting the signature,” said Executive Director Barbara Rice. “It saves everybody time, and time is money to the providers.”
The agency also created a new general permit for eligible facilities. Eligible facilities are defined under a federal law called the Spectrum Act of 2012 as modifications of an existing wireless tower or base station that does not substantially change its physical dimensions and involves co-location, removal or replacement of transmission equipment.
Cooper said the permit streamlines the agency’s process. Lynch said it gives providers clearer information on what the agency needs to review an application.
The APA board authorized a 30-day public comment period on the draft permit, which the APA will release sometime next week.
It’s not clear if the changes will spur more cell tower applications in the park. Lynch said the agency has issued 559 telecommunications permits to date. Of those, 157 were for new cell towers.