Adirondack Park Agency spokesman Keith McKeever gives a presentation Monday, June 17 at the Newcomb Central School regarding the classification process of former Finch Pruyn lands in the Central Adirondacks.
Representatives of the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) held their third public hearing on the classification of former Finch Pruyn lands on Monday, June 17, in the Newcomb Central School auditorium.
They presented seven different classification options, which the audience was allowed to give feedback on over the course of the evening.
The areas in question, which New York state recently purchased, are located within the towns of Minerva, Newcomb, and Indian Lake. They include the Essex Chain Lakes (17,320 acres), the Indian River (925 acres), OK Slip Falls (2,780 acres), and Open Space Conservancy Tract (160 acres). The surrounding areas of the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest, Blue Mountain Wild Forest, and Hudson Gorge Primitive Area are also up for reclassification. APA officials were clear they has no classification preference, and is relying heavily on public opinion in forming its decision.
There are seven classifications possible for Adirondack land; Wilderness, Primitive, Canoe, Wild Forest, State Administrative, Historic, and Intensive Use. Of those seven, only the first four are being considered. Exact definitions of each are available in the Adirondack State Land Master Plan, which is available for free on the APA’s website. For the sake of brevity, the differences between the four are how much influence man as already had on the land, and what uses of the land are most appropriate for its conservation. Wilderness is the most restrictive classification, and Intensive Use is the most liberal.
Under all plans, the Hudson Gorge Primitive Area will be reclassified as Wilderness.
Alternative 1A would designate most of the land as Wilderness, with a small portion of Wild Forest on the western side of the Essex Chain Lakes and Indian River tracts. Alternative 1B would designate all the land as Wilderness.
Alternative 2 designates most of the land as Primitive, with some Wilderness and Wild Forest areas.
Alternative 3A would incorporate Wild Forest, Canoe, and Wilderness areas. Alternative 3B is similar, but with significantly less Wilderness.
Alternative 4A splits the land between Wilderness and Wild Forest. Alternative 4B does the same, but with an added Special Management classification that could restrict access to the Wild Forest slightly more than would be normal.
There were 49 volunteer speakers at the hearing. An overwhelming majority of them favored a Wild Forest classification for most of the lands in question. The buzzwords for the evening were “survival” and “access.” Many were worried about the economic viability of the area and felt that Wild Forests, which provide the most recreational options, would bring an influx of tourists and summer residents to the surrounding towns.
Newcomb Town Supervisor George Canon expressed hope that his town could become a “major destination and economic benefit” if the state went that route.
Randy Douglas, chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors, advocated for a Wild Forest accessible to the “young, disabled, and young at heart.” Wild Forests allow motorized vehicles and mountain bikes under certain circumstances, while Primitive, Canoe, and Wilderness areas either forbid or severely restrict them.
With a network of roads already in place in the former Finch Pruyn land, many saw no reason why they should not be utilized further. This would make accessibility easier for people of all ages and ability types. The elderly, disabled, and others with limited mobility would find it impossible to enjoy the land if it had a Wilderness classification.
Public hearings were also held June 12 at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook, Monday, June 17 in Minerva and Wednesday, June 19 at the Downtown Conference Center at Pace University in Manhattan.
There are four more public hearings planned.
•Tuesday, June 25: 6 p.m., Indian Lake Central School, 6345 NYS Route 30, Indian Lake
•Monday, July 1: 7 p.m., The Harley School, 1981 Clover St., Rochester
•Tuesday, July 2: 1 p.m., NYSDEC, 625 Broadway, Albany
•Tuesday, July 2: 7 p.m., Warren County Board of Supervisors Room, 1340 State Route 9, Warren County Offices, Queensbury
It is also possible to send in written comments and suggestions. They should be mailed to:
James E. Connolly, Deputy Director, Planning, Adirondack Park Agency, PO Box 99, 1133 State Route 86, Ray Brook, NY 12977.
The deadline for written comments is July 19. For more detailed information about classification options, public hearing dates/locations, and other specific information, please visit the APA’s online at apa.ny.gov.