RAY BROOK - Adirondack Park Agency officials have agreed to grant one final public hearing concerning the reclassification of 12,500 acres of recently acquired land surrounding Lows Lake - including the lakebed itself.
Early this week, Harrietstown officials requested the additional hearing. Harrietstown Supervisor Larry Miller told WNBZ that local sportsman and outdoors clubs had contacted him, stating the three previous public hearings were either too far from the local area or held at a time when many couldn't attend.
"They felt it was too far for individuals in the Tri-Lakes area to go to and they felt there would be the possibility of a great number of individuals who would want to participate," he said.
The previous public hearings were held earlier this month in Long Lake, Wanakena and Albany.
Miller offered the Harrietstown Hall as a potential site for the additional hearing, but APA legal counsel John Banta said it will instead be held at the agency headquarters in Ray Brook. The hearing is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 10 at 6:30 p.m., Banta said.
The APA has proposed a plan that would reclassify most of the land as wilderness. The access road and the two 100-year old dams that are responsible for the lake's existence would be classified as primitive, according to the APA plan.
A consistently contentious issue, if adopted Lows Lake and the surrounding land would be added to the Five Ponds Wilderness Area.
The matter turned especially divisive when, after an Adirondack Mountain Club lawsuit, the agency adopted a measure that will forever ban floatplane access to Lows Lake as of December 31, 2011.
The lake is a favorite site of canoeists and bass fisherman alike, but some canoeists had complained that the planes were disrupting their wilderness experience. The mountain club then successfully argued that continued floatplane access was contrary to the State Land Master Plan.
Before the total ban, the Department of Environmental Conservation had proposed a 10-year extension to floatplane access citing the high percentage of revenue the floatplane operators generate from trips to Lows Lake.
Local government officials are now troubled by the assertion that a lake bottom could potentially be classified as "wilderness," a move they say is precedent-setting. Franklin County Legislator Paul Maroun sent a letter to APA Chairman Curt Stiles earlier this week expressing as much.
"It's not a common practice; it is a precedent-setting issue actually. What I am concerned about is two things: One, this has very serious implications for Lake Placid, Cranberry Lake and even the Raquette River. We may have to extract docks that are in there already," he said. "If they (the APA) claim riparian rights, that means what's under the water would belong to the State of New York now."
Maroun said the state has enough problems paying the taxes on the land it already owns. Adding lakebeds would only increase the tax-burden on the state, he said.
But for environmentalists, these measures are an appropriate and necessary step in assuring the wild character of the Bog River Flow.