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 [email protected].
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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