DEC seeks comments on draft plan for easement lands outside of Old Forge
By Phil Brown
The state Department of Environmental Conservation is seeking public input on a draft plan that aims to enhance recreational opportunities on the Flatrock Mountain easement lands north of the Black River Wild Forest, west of Old Forge.
DEC purchased the recreational and development rights to the 511-acre tract in 2003, but the area sees limited use. In the draft plan, the state proposes to build a 0.7-mile snowmobile trail, a 0.5-mile hiking trail, a lean-to near the summit of Flatrock Mountain, and two small parking areas.
The primary landowner, the Northeastern Loggers Association, previously created a 1.8-mile hiking trail (the Loop Trail) near the 2,050-foot summit. A snowmobile trail also crosses the property.
Rock climbers are among those who could benefit if DEC’s plan is implemented. The western portion of the property has a number of large boulders up to 20 feet tall. The guidebook Adirondack Park Bouldering identifies 30 routes—or “problems,” in the parlance of bouldering—that have been developed by climbers.
Climbers now reach the boulders via an informal herd path. However, DEC wants to build a three-car parking area off Minnehaha Road and a half-mile trail leading from there to the boulders.
Neal Knitel started putting up problems at Flatrock more than a decade ago while working as a hydro-dam operator in nearby Forestport. He revisited the area last fall and found that the herd paths to the boulders had all but disappeared. He did see evidence that climbers are visiting the boulders closest to the road. He is hopeful that DEC’s plan will encourage more climbers to make Flatrock a destination.
“I would say the place has a lot of potential if a group of good boulderers find it worth their time to develop the area,” Knitel said in an email.
DEC says it will monitor the impact of bouldering and, if necessary, work with climbers to encourage ethical use of the land and perhaps create additional access trails.
The department plans to build a second parking area off Route 28. This is the starting point for the existing hiking trail, which makes a loop near the summit. It is also the start of a well-maintained logging thoroughfare known as Flatrock Mountain Road. DEC proposes to allow the disabled to drive all-terrain vehicles on this road (a special permit would be required). The new snowmobile trail would leave the existing snowmobile trail at a point where it coincides with Flatrock Mountain Road and head west to the proposed lean-to. Mountain biking would be allowed on all trails and roads with the exception of the Loop Trail. Hunters and horseback riders also use the Flatrock tract.
DEC will accept written comments through April 23. Because of the covid-19 pandemic, the department will not be holding a public hearing, but a power-point presentation is available online. Links to the presentation and the draft plan can be found on the department’s website page for the adjacent Black River Wild Forest.
Comments can be emailed to [email protected] or mailed to Michael Marsh, NYSDEC, 225 N. Main St., Herkimer, NY 13350