By Mike Lynch
A large stretch of the access road to Boreas Ponds should be ready for vehicle traffic after this construction season.
But the public will likely have to wait to drive it until next spring because Gulf Brook Road is not plowed in winter except for at the Blue Ridge parking area, which is located about seven miles from the ponds near the intersection of Blue Ridge Road.
Gulf Brook Road, an unpaved seasonal road, is located off Blue Ridge Road about eight miles west of the Northway’s exit 29 in the town of North Hudson, a rural community with a population of less than 300 people. North Hudson is home to the Frontier Town state campground and numerous other tourist attractions.
The current work will open Gulf Brook Road to the Fly Pond parking area, which is about 3.5 miles from the ponds. Additional work will have to be done to open the lots closer to the ponds.
Gulf Brook Road closed nearly two years ago after it suffered washouts and other damage during the historic Halloween Storm. The storm caused serious damage to roads and other infrastructure throughout the central and southern Adirondacks.
The damage also occurred less than two months after the state first opened six miles of Gulf Brook Road to the Four Corners parking area, which is within a mile of the ponds.
The state bought the 20,543-acre Boreas Ponds tract in the spring of 2016 from the Adirondack Nature Conservancy for $14.5 million for inclusion in the forest preserve.
It was the final piece of a multi-year deal that added 65,000 acres to the forest preserve and 92,000 acres of conservation easements on lands bought by the Danish pension fund, ATP.
The lands were formerly owned by Finch Pruyn & Company.
The state approved plans for managing the road and lands in July 2018, but have run into obstacles keeping the access road open to vehicles.
The plans call for having multiple parking areas on Gulf Brook Road and Boreas Road, which connects to the Gulf Brook Road at the Four Corners.
The closest lot to the water, located on Boreas Road, would be one-tenth of a mile from the ponds. That lot is slated to have two spots designated for disabled access and four spots on a reservation system. It has yet to open to the public.
Newcomb supervisor Robin DeLoria expects that when the road opens to vehicle traffic it will be a positive development.
“I think it’s going to be a benefit to use,” he said. “Certainly a great benefit to North Hudson.”
He did note that people have been using Boreas Ponds the past couple of years because the Blue Ridge parking area has been open. During that time people have been allowed to access the ponds on foot, skis, bikes, or horse. More traffic is expected once the full road is open though.
Trail register data from the Blue Ridge, Fly Pond, and Four Corners parking areas shows 4,426 user days from 2016-2020, according to the DEC.
Despite the construction delays, DeLoria had no complaints. He credited the DEC with doing the job the “right way” during a trying time, referring to the pandemic.
“The fact that they are getting it done now is somewhat of a miracle,” he said.
The state has been working to reopen the road since the spring of 2020. That work has included installing three new bridges, in addition to improving culverts and ditches along Gulf Brook Road.
The goal is to make the roadway more resilient against future storms and to provide better passage for aquatic organisms trying to navigate through the culverts, according to the DEC.
Due to the current work, Gulf Brook Road is closed to all forms of traffic until the end of November.
Once that is completed, the Blue Ridge parking area will once again be open for people looking to recreate on the road and access the ponds.
North Hudson supervisor Stephanie DeZalia is also looking forward to the road opening in the future.
“I believe everyone is entitled to access to all areas of the park through various means,” DeZalia said. “Whether it be by foot, car, horse or bicycle, I will be pleased when the Boreas pond area is available to everyone.”
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