Essex Chain of Lakes is one parcel that the state of New York will be buying over five years from the Nature Conservancy. It was once owned by the Finch, Pruyn paper company.
State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Region 5 Director Bob Stegemann and Region 5 Natural Resource Supervisor Tom Martin and were on hand at the jam-packed Indian Lake Town Hall Thursday, Feb. 7 to present the DEC’s ideas for land-use classification for the former Finch Pruyn lands in this area.
The state’s first leg of the 69,000-acre purchase — in December — from the Nature Conservancy was for about 18,000 acres, costing taxpayers about $12 million. Now it is part of the Forest Preserve and needs classification from the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) so it can be managed by the DEC.
The parcel includes the Essex Chain of Lakes and land along the Hudson, Cedar, Indian and Rock Rivers. It also contains lands of some 20 private fishing and hunting club leases, including the historic Gooley Club.
With the state purchase, these leases will expire and force the clubs closing. For many in Indian Lake and other areas of the Central Adirondacks, these clubs are purported to have large contributions to the local economies. Their disappearance is said to raise yet more challenges to the economic well-being of the towns surrounding the parcel.
There were many and varied interests and concerns among the audience Feb. 7, but the central concern was that the ideas presented by DEC limited access to much of the parcel from the south via the Chain of Lakes Road.
Many pointed out that the DEC’s ideas strongly favored the economic well-being of the towns to the north and made the parcel and its recreational opportunities difficult to access from Indian Lake to the south.
The presentation indicated that motorized access would end in a parking area in the midst of a “wild forest“ designation along the road. If followed further, the road leads to a tongue of an area that would be designated as “wilderness” and therefore motorized access down the remainder of the road across this wilderness tongue would not be feasible.
On the northern edge of this tongue of wilderness designation is the Cedar River, and north of that is the Chain of Lakes Area that the DEC proposes to be classified as wild forest as far as the lands of the Goodnow Flow. The limitation of further motorized access along the road crossing that the DEC indicates wilderness would make it necessary for individuals and families to hike a distance if they wanted access to the Cedar River.
By many in the audience, this was seen as a major impediment to tourism and associated economic benefit to the town.
Indian Lake Town Councilman John Valentine said it would be more favorable to Indian Lake if the road provided car and truck access as far as the Cedar River at the point where the old bridge once stood. This would allow families, sportsmen and those other than the extremely physically fit to have access to the river from the south as easy as from the north.
Valentine said that such access would allow a family to put into the Cedar River from Pelon Road and take out where the Chain of Lakes Road would meet the Cedar. With such access in mind and what it would do to afford the economic opportunities for the town, he questioned whether some sort of corridor could be made that would allow car and light truck use of the road to reach the Cedar River.
The DEC’s Martin suggested that the road could be deemed usable if “the case can be made that it is a former town motor road. Then it could be grandfathered in.” It was stressed that paperwork that attested to this fact would be the best proof.
Valentine said he would like to see families have the opportunity for a “wilderness” experience without having to hike a tremendously long distance with boats and gear. He also said he would like to see sportsmen have access to the area from the south without facing the same distances with gear and game.
The Councilman noted the difficulty with coming up with written historical documentation that proved it to be a public motor access road. If that were the case, Valentine asked whether the road could be rerouted around what has been presented to be a short distance of concern to then allow access. He was told that would have to be looked into and depends on the APA’s classification. If it were classified “wilderness,” the point would be mute.
Martin acknowledged that it was clear from the issues raised in the meeting how important access is to the town of Indian Lake.
It was not clear whether the DEC’s presentation was the final recommendation for land classification in the area or if it was still in the draft stage. However, both Martin and Indian Lake Town Supervisor Brian Wells said the final decision will be with the APA.
It was strongly suggested that the members of the community call and write APA officials, state legislators and the governor to voice their concerns about the access to these newly acquired lands.
Supervisor Wells suggested that people also contact or write him with ideas or information that they believe has an impact on the access issue. He, in turn would make sure that the community was made aware of APA hearing dates and any additional information regarding the decision on classification.