Call for continued swimming access prompts public meeting
By Gwendolyn Craig
The state’s plan to close the only public beach at the southern end of Great Sacandaga Lake outraged dozens of commenters and spurred hundreds to sign a petition against it. Next month, the state Department of Environmental Conservation will hold a meeting before making a decision.
The beach is on forest preserve land and is part of an area called the Broadalbin Boat Launch. It is along Lakeview Road in the town of Broadalbin.
The Adirondack Park Agency and the DEC requested public comment on a draft unit management plan in December. Such plans include an overview of the natural and physical resources in an area of the Adirondack Park, projects and management actions the DEC would like at the location and the APA’s review of how any proposed change conforms with agency rules and regulations.
The draft plan calls for expanding the boat launch and closing the beach. Josh Clague, Adirondack coordinator for the DEC, told commissioners in December that the beach was never compatible with regulations and over the last couple of years had become a nuisance area for local law enforcement.
Some APA commissioners expressed concern about the beach closure. The board agreed to collect the public’s comments. APA records show 78 pages and more than four dozen commenters upset about losing the beach. Among those against it were Republican lawmakers including state Sen. Mark Walczyk and state Assembly member Mary Beth Walsh, who represent the region. A Change.org online petition to save the beach received 829 signatures.
The state lawmakers noted that “many of the residents may not have been aware of the UMP and its comment period” and “we feel those most affected should have a full opportunity to share their concerns.”
The only letter in favor of the boat launch and beach revamp came from the Adirondack Council, a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization.
Megan Phillips, deputy director for planning at the APA, told commissioners in March that “due to the high degree of public interest” the state would hold an in-person meeting to share information and to collect additional comments.
DEC announced on Wednesday that the meeting will be 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. April 18 at the Broadalbin-Perth High School cafeteria, 100 Bridge Street in the town.
DEC Region 5 Fisheries Manager Rob Fiorentino will talk about the plan “followed by an open table session with DEC staff to facilitate conversation and answer questions,” according to a release. Questions about the meeting may be made to Erin Hanczyk, email@example.com or 518-897-1200.
Reasons for closure
The Hudson River-Black River Regulating District, a public benefit corporation that regulates the water flow of the two rivers, once owned the beach area. In a 1989 executive order, the land was transferred to the DEC. For years, the town of Broadalbin had a use and occupancy agreement with the DEC and operated the area as a local beach.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the town stopped staffing the beach. At a June 9 board meeting, the town decided it no longer wanted to operate the beach.
The DEC said the area provides patrolling and enforcement challenges because it is tucked away from the main road. No one has taken water quality samples to ensure public health regulations of beaches are met.
“The Bureau of Fisheries maintains that a public bathing beach is incompatible within the same facility as a motorboat launch,” the DEC said in its draft plan. “As a result, the Department will repurpose the beach portion of the site by providing an ADA-compliant cartop boat access and dock, resurfacing the beach area with stone and native plants, and designating the current parking area for cartop users.”
Feedback so far
In several comments to the APA and DEC, Mark Bohne, who lives in the town, criticized the state’s way of notifying the public about the beach closure. The DEC posts projects for public comment on its environmental notice bulletin online, which Bohne suggested most people do not know about.
Bohne paid for his own legal advertisement, he said, in the area’s newspaper, the Leader Herald, to make sure residents knew about the plans.
Bohne also filed records requests with the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department for reports of “illegal activities” at the boat launch and beach from 2020 through Jan. 1, 2023.
After its own records request to the APA, the Explorer obtained the police documents received by Bohne. The sheriff’s department provided Bohne with a list of 47 incidents investigated in the three years. One of the entries cites the DEC as littering for placing logs on the beach. Most of the entries involve people apparently enjoying the beach area, including a couple “eating Taco Bell” and a “Citizen on beach watching sunset.” One arrest was listed as an altercation.
“As tourism is so important to the state, one would expect that maintaining the Broadalbin Beach might be a priority,” Bohne wrote, listing sums the state has committed to the Whiteface Mountain mid-station lodge, the Buffalo Bills stadium and the Great Sacandaga Lake Museum.“Seems the state is flush with spare cash, but none for the Broadalbin community.”
Walczyk and Walsh wrote to DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos saying the “beach has allowed generations of this Fulton County community to enjoy access to the Great Sacandaga Lake.”
Jessica Anastasio, another resident of the town, said she felt “discriminated against because I do not own a boat.” Others echoed similar sentiments.
In the lone support letter, The Adirondack Council said swimming is an incompatible use “considering the proximity to the boat launch and the lack of water testing for water-borne illnesses such as E.Coli.”
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