By TIM ROWLAND
The Town of Moriah gave its blessing last week to a plan that would transfer more than 800 acres — including the storied Broughton Ledges, once a favorite of Northeastern rock climbers — from a Westport conservation group to the state.
The Eddy Foundation hopes to eventually sell the tract, known as Parch Pond, to the state and use the proceeds to protect more land in the Split Rock Wildway, said board member John Davis. The Wildway is a continuous forest between Lake Champlain and the High Peaks offering wildlife safe passage along their traditional migratory paths.
Parch Pond offers a picturesque lake framed by mountains and evergreens and a diverse forest east of the Northway and west of Port Henry on Ensign Pond Road. It was once renowned for its 200-foot cliffs that offered challenging rock climbing.
Dominic Eisinger, a member of the Adirondack Climbing Coalition, said that Broughton Ledges was popular in the 1970s among some of the best climbers in the Northeast, and he expects it will be again if the state agrees to the sale.
Due to its difficulty, Eisinger said Broughton Ledges would be a destination for more hard-core climbers, as opposed to people just learning sport. The Ledges offers Yosemite-like crack climbing, where climbers ascend by jamming fingers, toes, knees and fists into fissures in the rock.
It potentially has 50 to 70 routes, many of which have not been climbed. “It’s not in any of the guidebooks, and mostly climbers hear about it through word of mouth,” Eisinger said.
Parch Pond itself is an attractive destination for nonclimbers, Davis said. The Eddy Foundation is currently partnering with Champlain Area Trails to cut routes to both the pond and the cliffs, which would have a one-way distance of about 1.5 miles and 2 miles respectively, Davis said.
The state has yet to agree to buy the Parch Pond property, but representatives of the Eddy Foundation told the town board that they hope it will be an appealing addition to the forest preserve in part because it’s just 12 miles from the Frontier Town campground in which the Department of Environmental Conservation has invested heavily.
“Some of these visitors will be looking to escape the crowds,” said foundation representative Tricia Bhatia.
Frontier Town is viewed as a southern gateway to the High Peaks, but also as a way to funnel outdoor enthusiasts into more sparsely used regions of the park. That would include the Hammond Pond Wild Forest, where the state has planned to build out the existing trail system, including a hike over selfie-worthy Bloody Mountain.
Eddy believes Parch Pond, with its mountain views, is a jewel as well. The property is open to the public now, and Davis said old woods roads make it relatively easy to for hikers to get to the pond. Davis said the sale to the state would serve a further purpose in that Eddy would be able to use the revenue to focus on protecting more land in the Split Rock Wildway, a wildlife corridor connecting Lake Champlain with the High Peaks.
By law, the state would not be able to buy the land for the forest preserve without town approval. But based on tax formulas, Moriah Board Member Matt Brassard said approval was a “no brainer.” Like the previous, private owner, Eddy has the land enrolled in a state forest management program that lowers its taxes. If the land is purchased by the state, the state will pay full freight, roughly doubling the amount on school and tax revenue that Moriah will receive.