SARANAC - The state is seeking input from its residents.
The Adirondack Park Agency will hold a public hearing at Saranac Town Hall next Thursday, Jan. 28, regarding the state's proposal to reclassify state lands within the Adirondack Park. The parcels to be reclassified include a tract of land north of True Brook Road formally owned by private companies.
Richard E. Weber, supervisor of regional planning for the APA, explained the state has "the legal responsibility" to examine the classification of properties within the park once they are acquired by the state.
"As newly-acquired lands go into state ownership, the agency has a legal obligation to take those public lands and put them through the state land classification process, according to Section 816 of the APA Act," explained Weber.
The process involves examining 91 parcels in 10 different counties, said Weber, who noted ones of chief interest to the people of the Saranac area would be a 17,190-acre parcel known as the Sable Highlands/Lyon Mountain Tract.
"The largest tract of the entire classification package for this year is the area around Lyon Mountain," Weber said.
The purpose of the public hearing will be for the APA to take comments from those in attendance regarding how the parcels should be classified. There are seven possible classifications for the parcels, said Weber - Wilderness, Primitive, Canoe Area, Wild Forest, Intensive Use, Historic and State Administrative.
Wild Forest, the least restrictive classification which allows public access, has been advocated by the APA, state Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Saranac Town Council. That classification permits "a somewhat higher level of use, and more varied types of recreation," explained Weber.
"It does permit limited motor vehicle access," Weber gave as an example.
Other environmental groups are reportedly in favor of the Primitive designation, with the intention of having the parcel then reclassified as Wilderness, one of the most restrictive classifications. Wilderness does not permit public use of motor vehicles of any kind, said Weber, whether they be motorboats, aircrafts or snowmobiles or vehicles on roads.
"We have an obligation to follow the criteria that the [Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan] has set for us as to how we look at a classification process," said Weber. "And, so we need to look at the various areas of resources, with those being the physical resources, the biological resources, the intangible resources which have to do with an area's sense of remoteness or its ruggedness. Those kinds of resources that are more difficult to describe but they are real."
Weber said the APA must look at existing use on the land and the facilities that are there.
"We have to look at all of those resources together to come up with a recommendation," he said.
The recommendation - which includes comments from the public - is then gathered by APA staff and given to the agency's board of directors. The action they take, said Weber, is to either accept the recommendations or "modify the recommendations as they see fit."
However, the board's final recommendation is merely that - a recommendation - which is forwarded on to Gov. David A. Paterson for a final decision.
"It's the governor that ultimately puts into effect the recommended classification of the land," said Weber.
The Jan. 28 hearing, which will be held at the town hall, located at 3662 State Route 3, will begin at 7 p.m. Those who are unable to attend may submit comments in writing in care of Weber to P.O. Box 99, Ray Brook N.Y. 12977 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments may also be faxed to 891-3938 and Weber may be reached at 891-4050.
The public comment period is open until Friday, March 19.
"Depending on the kind of comments we get, that could always be extended, if necessary" said Weber.
For more information, visit the APA Web site at www.apa.state.ny.us.