Moose River Plains is a sprawling expanse of beautiful forests and sparkling waterways that unfolds like a vast tundra between the small Adirondack towns of Inlet on the west and Indian Lake on the east.
Connecting the two is a 40-mile stretch of dirt roads that is perhaps the most wild and scenic Adirondack roadway accessible to motor vehicles.
That is, until now.
The DEC - facing staggering cuts in the governor's proposed budget - has announced it will close the roads through Moose River Plains, as well as a handful of other roads leading into ponds, campsites and hiking trails.
The problem, they say, is a lack of funding to maintain and patrol the areas.
Gates across these roads will remain locked indefinitely - although the areas remain open to hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders because of the wilderness classifications there.
Trout ponds stocked by the state in the area like Bear, Squaw, Lost, Helldiver, Icehouse and Mitchell will be all but cut off to the outside world.
Perhaps the most disturbing part of this decision, though, is the fact it slams the door on anyone except the most physically fit from utilizing these areas.
At the same time, officials of Inlet and Indian Lake say the decision will mean a significant financial blow as the thousands who utilize the area every year for hunting and fishing chose other locations to spend their cash.
Handicapped access has long been a tremendous problem in the Adirondacks, as was evidenced by the state losing a lawsuit over the issue a few years ago.
Under the terms of the suit, the state was required to increase handicapped accessibility, and one of the areas where they did so was Moose River Plains.
In the past two years, they have built more than a dozen handicapped-accessible fishing and camping sites there - all of which are now inaccessible to the handicapped.
At the same time, allowing the roadways to be open to the non-motoring public creates its own problems, according to Indian Lake Supervisor Barry Hutchins.
"Our main concern aside from losing the tourism dollars is search and rescue," Hutchins said, noting that local volunteers are often summoned to help lost or hurt individuals in Moose River Plains.
"Will we get a key to drive emergency vehicles in there, and if so, will the roads be passable with no maintenance," he questioned.
Hutchins said he and his colleague, Inlet Supervisor John Frey, are so concerned about the loss of revenue to their towns and the precarious situation it puts them in for rescues that they offered to maintain the roads with their own highway crews.
They also offered to help the state patrol the area, or pay a portion of its patrol costs, but the DEC is standing firm on its decision.
"If it was a big money issue, I could understand," Hutchins said. "But, this to me is a no-brainer. It would cost the state no money to open those gates."
But, DEC officials disagree.
DEC spokesman David Winchell said in the past, two assistant forest rangers and one operations staff were assigned full-time to maintain and patrol the Moose River Plains corridor.
Winchell noted the assistant forest ranger program has been eliminated in the 2010-11 state budget, and said regional operations staff has been significantly reduced.
"New York State, and therefore DEC, do not have a budget at this time. The budget extender bills do not include funds for non-personnel service. DEC has no fiscal year 2010 funding for work. These factors clearly underscore the fact that at this time DEC does not have the resources to maintain a high use areas such as the Moose River Plains Road System and the other roads that we announced will remain closed," Winchell said.
Other roads that will remain closed include Lily Pond Road in Horicon; Jabe Pond Road in Hague; Gay Pond Road and Buttermilk Road Extension in Warrensburg and Dacy Clearing Road in Fort Ann.
Warren County supervisors are also irate over the road closures, citing longtime visitors to the area arriving only to find their favorite camping locales inaccessible.
Winchell did say the DEC welcomes discussions with the affected municipalities in an effort to formulate a plan to open the gates.
That is welcome news to Hutchins and Frey, and the supervisors plan to take the state up on the offer by meeting with them in the near future.
In the meantime, Hutchins said he finds the state's rationale to close the gates a tough pill to swallow.
"The bottom line is, I just don't think they spend a lot of money in there," Hutchins said.
John Gereau is managing editor of Denton Publications and an avid outdoorsman. He can be reached at email@example.com.