State agencies finalize plans for Rollins Pond, Golden Beach campgrounds
By Gwendolyn Craig
In response to a flurry of public comments, the state will no longer experiment with extended stays at Rollins Pond Campground in Franklin County, at least for now. Other changes were made to the campground’s unit management plan and to Golden Beach Campground’s plan in Hamilton County, both of which the Adirondack Park Agency approved on Thursday.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation proposed in August allowing longer stays at the 519-acre Rollins Pond Campground as a possible way to address campers who skirt its reservation limit. The DEC has found campers use different email addresses or have family members reserve additional weeks to thwart the 14-night rule that applies to DEC campgrounds from July 1 to Labor Day.
The trial was to be part of the campground’s unit management plan, which went out for public comment. The APA, charged with long-range planning in the park, reviews these plans for conformance with its own rules and regulations.
Josh Houghton, a natural resource planner with the DEC, said most commenters were against an extended camping stay. The department received many complaints about the misuse of existing campsites and availability. The DEC received 23 written comments and 684 responses to a survey about the management plan.
Jerry Delaney, executive director of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, said he had read the feedback and felt it warranted an investigation. The 1955-era campground has an occupancy rate of 32%.
“You look at Reserve America, and it says they’re almost full and they’re not,” Delaney said, referencing the online platform the DEC uses for some reservations.
Art Lussi, an APA board member, said something is not right if the campground is not at 80% occupancy during July and August.
The frustration goes beyond the Adirondack campground, Houghton said, and the department is looking at other solutions. The DEC recently has accommodated same-day reservations, which Houghton said has helped when there are no-shows. Houghton also said the DEC is looking at getting rid of its cancellation fee.
The DEC made other changes to the unit management plan including adding language around cleaning, draining and drying boats to protect against invasive species spread and requiring a “periodic review” of the boat launch for the potential to convert it to a hand launch site.
The plan also authorizes DEC to make upgrades to the campground, from new comfort stations to construction of a trail bridge to the Adirondack Rail Trail, the 34-mile multi-use trail connecting Tupper Lake and Lake Placid. It’s unclear when work, now that it has been approved by the APA, could begin. Project estimates for the management actions exceed $7 million.
The DEC also presented changes to the Golden Beach Campground and Day Use Area’s unit management plan, which the APA adopted. The campground is in the hamlet of Raquette Lake in Hamilton County and has operated since 1931.
The department received 10 comments and 192 survey responses on its plan for the 106-acre site, most in favor. The DEC plans to add more accessible features for people with disabilities including accessible restrooms, showers and beach pavilion.
The DEC also plans to rehabilitate campground roads, restore some campsites and replace a number of buildings. It’s unclear when that work may happen, too. The estimated cost of the projects is around $6.3 million.
Top photo: People who camp at Rollins Pond Campground must drive through Fish Creek Campground to get to their sites. Photo by Mike Lynch