Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters in Ray Brook
It was a task that took a lot of time and a lot of compromise.
That is what members of the Adirondack Park Agency Board of Commissioners said Dec. 13 as they moved the classification recommendations on four parcels of land purchased by the state of New York from the Nature Conservancy, who had previously bought the same tracts from Finch and Pruyn.
The purchase included lands known as the Essex Chain Lakes Tract, Indian River Tract, OK Slip Falls Tract and the OSC Tract.
The board also recommended the reclassification of existing state lands in the adjacent Hudson River Primitive Area, Blue Mountain Wild Forest and Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest.
The commissioners opted for preferred alternative 2A, dependent upon a bridge being constructed to connect lands across the Cedar River. The option called for a mix of land classifications, creating five new Forest Preserve Units and a multi-use Wild Forest corridor between the Primitive and Wilderness Units.
With approval, APA Executive Director Terry Martino will complete the SEQRA process before APA Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Leilani Ulrich sends the proposal to the desk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo for final approval.
After two full days of meetings focused on the land classification, Ulrich gave each member of the board a chance to speak on the matter before asking for a vote.
“It has been a remarkable time for the Adirondacks,” Ulrich said. “From the entire state going forward on Propositions 4 and 5 to the regional council economic awards. I hope we can all have some time over the holidays to assimilate what that has all meant.”
Ulrich also gave credit to the governor for being an advocate of the Adirondacks.
“I thank the governor not only for his leadership and encouragement but also his love for the Adirondacks,” she said. “You can see the new excitement in the park because of what he has done. With these steps, 130,000 Adirondackers have truly been connected to 19 million New Yorkers.”
“This resolution strongly protects the resources both on the east side of the Hudson and the west,” Commissioner Richard Booth said. “There are many voices in this discussion and lots of people have made compromises. Without those, I do not think we would not have gotten close to this point. We are taking actions that will lead to resources that people will enjoy for a very, very long time.”
Booth added the board should be proud of their work on the project, “even if we receive some criticism.”
“This has been a good compromise,” Commissioner William Thomas said.
“This has been a long and complicated process,” Commissioner Bill Valentino said. “I often think the criticism we get is because people do not understand our system or do not understand our law. People wanted us to classify the land to their own personal standards and not in accordance to the law. What APA stood for in this circumstance was the law and good science. I was proud of the way the APA staff handled itself. We came up with a solution that none of us could have ever come up with individually.”
“I think the final solution is not exactly what I would have wanted, but it is a good balance of recreation and protection,” Commissioner Sherman Craig said. “When people are on the water or the land, they will have no clue what color we used on our maps.”
Craig also mentioned the five towns - Indian Lake, Minerva, Newcomb, Long Lake and North Hudson - that border the classified lands.
“I wish the five towns will be able to encourage and expand their economic plans with this,” he said.
“I think that we have set the stage for really big future progress,” Commissioner Daniel Wilt said. “I am very pleased with this result and proud to be part of it.”
Commissioner Art Lussi thanked the Nature Conservancy for making the original purchase of the land before selling it to the state.
“I think the state made a great decision in investing in this property,” Lussi said. “The highlight for me will be when we had the chance to go to a meeting in Newcomb and hearing from the people. I was riveted for two and-a-half hours.”
“This is an extremely creative solution, which is what I think was needed in order to get this right,” Commissioner Karen Feldman said. “It keeps a commitment to the five towns when they agreed to the sale, that there would be an economic benefit.”
Feldman also talked about the work that needed to continue with local sportsmen groups.
“I sincerely hope the DEC will be able to relocate them to acceptable sites,” she said. “These sportsmen and women have been extraordinary stewards of this land. They have protected the natural resources. They have cherished a nurtured this land more than anyone and their contributions will never be replaced.”
“How great have the sportsmen been who have used this land, and the Nature Conservancy have supplied this pristine piece of land for us to classify,” Wilt added. “I am concerned for sportsmen as far as access but I feel we have a good plan put together.”
Once the board spoke, Ulrich asked for their votes, with each member voting together in the affirmative. Once finished, the audience in attendance broke out in loud cheering.
“The staff were pleased to develop a recommendation that addressed natural resource protection, community connectivity and recreational access,” Martino said. “I extend a sincere thank you to everyone who participated in this monumental classification process, especially the Agency staff that worked so diligently over this past year. Staff expertise was invaluable to the successful completion of this process. We eagerly look forward to working with our colleagues at DEC in the development of unit management plans that will ensure diverse recreational access.”
Under the plan, newly classified areas would include the Hudson Gorge Wilderness Area (23,494 acre); Essex Chain Lakes Primitive Area (6,955 acre); OK Slip Pond Primitive Area (30 acre); Pine Lake Primitive Area (2,798 acre); and the Polaris Mountain Primitive Area (953 acre). The plan would also include the addition of over 8,000 acres into the existing Blue Mountain and Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest Areas.
The recommendation will add a variety of new public recreation opportunities in the park, including hiking and walking; kayaking, paddle boarding and canoeing; snowmobiling, including the potential for connections between the towns of Indian Lake, Newcomb, and Minerva; whitewater and flatwater rafting; cross country and backcountry skiing; fishing; hunting; snowshoeing; horseback riding and mountain biking.