Town and lake residents decry planned barrier
By Gwendolyn Craig
Despite residents’ concerns and municipal objections, the Adirondack Park Agency has instructed the state Department of Environmental Conservation to reconfigure a public boat launch at Eagle Lake in the Town of Ticonderoga so it no longer may accommodate trailered boats. The boat launch has been a “non-conforming structure” in the Hammond Pond Wild Forest. The two state agencies have been grappling with how to handle it for years.
Megan Phillips, deputy director for planning at the APA, said at the end of the 2024 boating season, the DEC will install a low barrier at the site to keep trailers from accessing the water. Access for canoes and kayaks will continue.
Ticonderoga Supervisor Mark Wright said the town board passed a resolution Thursday night in opposition to the APA’s decision.
“They didn’t ask for our opinion,” Wright said. “They just told us what was going to happen. (We’re) concerned about economic impacts to the area from the denial of trailered boats, not to mention what the residents have enjoyed to date.”
Wright said the town isn’t planning to take any other action at this time.
The Eagle Lake Property Owners, Inc. has argued blocking trailered boats makes the lake less accessible for some and could hurt property values. Leaders of that organization sent letters to residents on Feb. 9 asking for more information from those that wanted to help fight the change.
Rolf Tiedemann, treasurer of the homeowners group, said the APA’s decision is discriminatory and could endanger seven or eight people on the lake who can only access their homes via boat. Emergency responses via boat could be delayed because of the new barrier, Tiedemann said, and routine grocery shopping will be made more difficult. He worries about the seniors on the lake.
In 2019, the APA and DEC sought public comment on an update to a 1988 unit management plan for Hammond Pond Wild Forest, about 45,500 acres in Essex County. Unit management plans include assessments of an area’s natural resources, and identify opportunities for public and recreational use. The plans, however, must comply with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, the leading policy document that sets land classifications and management actions for state-owned lands.
The boat launch was on the examining table because according to the master plan, only lakes over 1,000 acres may have a trailer-style boat launch. Eagle Lake is about 400 acres.
During that initial comment period, the state agencies had suggested three possibilities for the Eagle Lake boat launch. One was to take no action. The second was to convert the launch and bring it into conformance with the master plan, meaning keeping trailers from backing into the water. The third was to conduct an assessment of boat use to see if the lake could be reclassified as an intensive use area. That is an APA land classification which allows for more development.
Phillips said no matter what such an assessment would have found, Eagle Lake was still “not of adequate acreage to meet intensive use.”
APA Chairman John Ernst said the third possibility of conducting an assessment was supposed to be a “first crack” at a carrying capacity study of a water body “because it was small enough, discreet and it had a question.” He asked if that had been done. Carrying capacity is the maximum amount of something that an environment can withstand before there are negative impacts.
Phillips said the DEC did collect data for three different boating seasons, “but it was advanced so the agency could make a determination. We’ve determined the only SLMP (State Land Master Plan) conforming action is to proceed with alternative two.”
Tiedemann said the trailer launch has been open since at least the 1920s, but has been out of compliance since 1972 when the master plan was adopted. No one had done anything about it until now, he said. He wondered why a capacity study was suggested in the first place.
Adirondack policy, in plain speak.
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