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Thursday, January 4, 2018

Top Storylines of 2017

What were the biggest storylines of the year for the Adirondack Park in 2017? Our staff has compiled a top 10 list. The news ranged from issues related to High Peaks Overuse, a problem that has surfaced in recent years and continued last year, to tanker cars moving into the southern High Peaks region. We encourage you to use the comment area to share your top stories of the year.

Summit of Cascade Mountain in the Adirondack Park.

High Peaks with trailheads along state Route 73 continued to see a lot of hiker traffic in 2017. Photo by Mike Lynch

10. Art Lussi clashes with APA staff

Threes times in five months, APA Commissioner Art Lussi received special permission from his fellow board members to modify his camp on a Lake Placid island, raising concerns of favoritism but also spotlighting the complexity in the agency’s variance process. The process spotlighted concerns some have with the APA board.

9. Water quality issues in Lake George 

Lake George is a nationally renowned lake because of its scenic beauty. It attracts visitors from around the world, but it is also battling big-time issues. The lake’s water quality is continually under threat from invasive species and contamination from road salt. In addition, its Million Dollar Beach has faced continued problems from a mysterious E. Coli contamination.

8. Drone usage on the Forest Preserve

Drones are becoming more popular among both amateur and professional photographers, prompting the state Department of Environmental Conservation to start exploring regulations to control their use on the Forest Preserve. The first ticket for drone usage in a Wilderness area was issued in 2017 after a forest ranger witnessed a hiker using one in Johns Brook Valley.

7. Leadership changes at TNC and ALT

Mike Carr announced in the fall of 2016 that he would be stepping down as the director of the Adirondack Nature Conservancy, a position he held for 16 years. That move allowed him to dedicate more time to leading the Adirondack Land Trust, which opened a new office in Keene Valley in 2017. Carr’s move also opened the door for Peg Olsen, who took the helm at the Conservancy in October.

6. Gateway project at exit 29

Since its closure in 1998, Frontier Town has been a vacant, but the state is looking to establish a Gateway to the Adirondacks there at Exit 29 on the Northway.  The proposal would include a visitors center, campground, and recreational trails.

5. Rail trail decision is overturned

A state Supreme Court judge overturned the state’s decision to tear up a 34-mile section of railroad tracks between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake for the purpose of creating a multi-use recreational trail for biking, hiking, and snowmobiling. The decision frustrated Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates, a group that has advocated for the rail trail.

4. Tanker cars move into the Central Adirondacks

Iowa Pacific Holdings, which owns railroad tracks in the Central Adirondacks, has come under fire for storing empty tank cars on its tracks between North Creek and Newcomb. In December, Union Tank Car Company agreed to remove its cars from the area, but other cars still remain. The state is currently exploring options to stop the storage of these tanker cars.

3. Forest ranger search and rescues

Usage is up among hikers in many parts of the Adirondack Park, particularly the High Peaks, and so are rescues.  This year, there were also a number of tragedies, including multiple drownings — one involving a hiker. In addition, some forest rangers and conservationists say that more staff is needed to deal with the increase in responsibility.

1 (tie).  High peaks overuse

Large numbers of hikers continued to use High Peaks trails along state Route 73 in the Keene Valley and Lake Placid regions. This has caused safety concerns for drivers and pedestrians near trailheads and overuse issues on trails and summits. In the backcountry, unprepared hikers continue to be rescued on a weekly basis. The state decided to take action in the fall, moving the trailhead for Cascade Mountain on Columbus Day weekend, a move that could signal additional changes in the future. (See a time-lapse video of hikers on the summit of Cascade here.)

1 (tie). Boreas ponds remains unclassified

The state purchased the 20,758-acre Boreas Ponds Tract from the Adirondack Nature Conservancy in the spring of 2016. However, the land has yet to be classified. The proposals that have been floated have drawn opposition from environmental groups looking for more wilderness protection. Some environmentalists are concerned about lodging proposals on the property and the potential for mountain bike use.

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