By Gwendolyn Craig
The state Department of Environmental Conservation has big plans for its largest campground in the state, and the public has another chance to weigh in.
Franklin County’s Fish Creek Pond Campground in the Town of Santa Clara is 853 acres with 355 campsites accommodating a maximum of 2,130 people. The site is a popular access point for the St. Regis Canoe Area, too.
The DEC is looking to upgrade the campground’s unit management plan, with proposals for more parking, repaved roadways and new facilities. The DEC collected 38 written comments and received 329 responses to a survey about the proposals. Now, the Adirondack Park Agency has released the plan for public comment, this time for feedback on whether the DEC’s plans conform with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. That document sets policy for state-owned lands in the park.
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Comments will be accepted until June 14. They may be submitted to Richard Weber, deputy director of Planning for the Adirondack Park Agency, P.O. Box 99, 1133 State Route 86, Ray Brook, NY 12977. Comments may also be emailed to SLMP_Comments@apa.ny.gov.
The proposals got mixed reviews from APA board members on Friday. Zoe Smith, an APA board member, said she did not feel the DEC’s proposal was explicit enough about managing and educating the public on aquatic invasive species. While the campground has a boat steward and the DEC suggested the campground could get a boat decontamination station in the future, Smith felt the plan should include more and called it “weak on aquatic invasive species in particular.”
“This is the largest campground in our state, and I think we should be held to a gold standard in terms of how it’s managed,” Smith said. “There’s still more time to give comment on this, but I would like to see more explicit objectives around resource protection and visitor use.”
Gail Sloane, a DEC staff member, presented DEC’s plans for the campground. Fish Creek Pond is not only the state’s largest, but it’s also the state’s campground that sees the longest visits at an average of 4.5 nights. The majority of visitors are from in state.
See a gallery of photos from Fish Creek Pond Campground, by multimedia reporter Mike Lynch.
The DEC wants to replace six of its comfort stations, which are an average age of 53 years. It also plans to add more shower facilities, replace the campground’s bathhouse and construct a new caretaker cabin.
The campground’s roads would be reconstructed under this new management plan to accommodate two-way traffic. Sloane showed photos of the campground’s road shoulders crumbling and cars and campers driving off the road to squeeze by each other. The area’s bike path would also get upgrades. The DEC also plans to build more parking lots and pull-offs. One new parking lot is proposed for the Floodwood Trail, so hikers can easily get to the trailhead without blocking campsite spaces.
The DEC plans to build a new boat launch at the campground’s day-use area. The current launch does not have adequate parking, Sloane said, and it is too congested for boat inspection stewards to adequately monitor boats coming in and out of the water. The DEC plans to leave space where a boat wash station could be installed, although the unit management plan did not specify for one. The current launch would remain for car-top boats.
The amphitheater at the campground could also get some TLC as the seating and stage are in need of repairs. The area also has an old swing set that needs to be replaced.
Every year the state restores nine campsites, and that will continue. Sloane said that work involves things like shoreline stabilization, adding screening, vegetation and replacing fireplaces and picnic tables.
Public comments the DEC has received so far were in favor of campground upgrades, but some worried about invasive species spreading and called for a boat washing station. Others were concerned that a new boat launch would increase boat traffic.
Andrea Hogan, an APA board member, also asked about the upgrades to the campground’s roads and whether that would cause runoff issues and attract more road traffic.
Mark Hall, an APA board member asked what in the proposals would be prioritized if funding becomes available. Josh Houghton, a DEC staff member, said all of the projects presented are priorities and it depended on what kind of funding became available.
“We would obviously love to see all of that done immediately,” Houghton added. “I think we would advocate that projects get done as soon as possible, but we also have to be reactive if a system fails in another facility or even in this facility, that’s going to jump to the top of the line from a health and safety perspective and a natural resource protection perspective.”
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Brooke Bowman says
Without the natural hazard of a narrow road I fear traffic speeds will increase and be further dangerous than they already are. Even if the roads went to a two lane and added a painted bike path, people just go too fast. I am always terrified to see kids playing in the road because some people go way too fast to be able to stop if someone runs in front of them. The park rangers won’t be around to monitor when you need them. For pulling a camper, yes it would be easier, but once you’re parked your done. I’m afraid the park will lose the camping feel if it is turned into a highway. The boat launch I somewhat get, but I also have concerns it might further congest the pond with bigger and faster boats meant more for a large lake.
M. Bowman says
Widening the road at Fish creek ponds campground will encourage drivers to speed up. This will increase the likelihood of pedestrian/vehicle collisions, which never end well. A better option might be to create a two-lane road farther from the lake with a series of driveways to the original road. I am also hesitant about increasing the size of the boat launch at the campground. The pond is small and can get crowded with boat traffic. Making the launch more accessible to larger/faster boats seems like it will increase the danger to people on kayaks and canoes. Fish Creek ponds is such a special place. I would hate to see it modernized in a way that compromises the laid-back atmosphere.
Jim Manfre says
Leave it the hell alone! It’s booked solid so that should tell you people love it the way it is! What next, electricity for every site? Yeah, I’d just love the blazing bright lights and loud radios! Widening the road will increase speeds. Repave yes, but don’t widen.
I think before DEC does any additions they should fix the 2 toilets in the mens shower room that always are plugged up by the end of the day. ugly stuff floating in them. this has happened many times in the 10 years we have been camping there. I think it is a poor plumbing problem.
Andrea Hogan, an APA board member, should think about her comment in the article. How is upgrading the road going to “attract more road traffic” ?
People driving down Route 30 aren’t going to swing through the campground now that the roads are improved. You are only going to be driving in the campground if you are camping or using the Day Use Area.
Joan Grabe says
The boat ramp needs a boat inspection and cleaning facility to combat invasive species – anything else flies in the face of reason today with our emphasis on water quality in the Park. And the bathing and toilet facilities need an update after 50 years – no argument here ! We can make a great place even greater and we should.
Have been camping here my whole life over 60 years. I’m in for some upgrades but don’t change the place. Yes, some work needs to be done to the roads, but the better you make them the faster people will go, lots of drivers already go too fast on crappy roads and so many more can’t take 10 minutes out of there day to wait for someone to back up onto there site.
I have a boat also, it is always cleaned before and after use at the lake. Why can’t people be responsible and clean their boat.
New boat launch would be nice, but not sure that would cause more boat traffic. Huge nice launch at Saranac Inn for bigger boats.
something about the improvements just seem they are for motors…. motor boats, campers, cars, pickups, SUVS. I never heard anyone say they want to vacation at a place that was best for their vehicles. Did you?
I’m in agreement with those saying if it ain’t broke don’t fix it! It’s almost impossible to get reservations for Fish Creek Campground, so obviously people don’t have a problem with it as it currently is. The road definitely doesn’t need to be widened. Plus, it may most likely make sites smaller in the process. I can almost see moving the boat launch to the day use area though. The bike path is one thing they could improve upon. And broadband improvements might be helpful, but again, not as high a priority for those that are there to enjoy nature rather than sit online at a campsite. Also, they could probably improve the carry trails too. But if you change the character too much it may lose the ambiance that’s made it such a favorite place to camp for generations!
Ken Askildsen says
One thing I thought was worth mentioning is an important safety matter regarding trees around the campgrounds. I was camping on an island in Saranac last summer and upon arrival noted several large dead standing trees. Most were birch. The next morning, while walking to my canoe, a huge birch came down 20 feet away from me. The ranger station was notified and the island was checked for more “widowmakers”. Check your site for dead or dying trees before setting up camp!