Gov. Andrew Cuomo Tuesday, Oct. 1 announced that for the first time in more than 100 years, access to approximately 11,600 acres of lands and waters on the Essex Chain Lakes tract in the center of the Adirondacks is now open to the public for outdoor recreation. Under an interim plan administered by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the public can access these lands beginning today, Oct. 1.
“The Essex Chain Lakes and the property that we acquired from Finch Pruyn are magnificent natural resources that New York’s residents and visitors can now enjoy for the first time in more than a century,” Cuomo said. “Under this initial plan, we can attract tourists and generate much-needed economic activity in the region while at the same time balancing the needs of the communities in the Park and protecting the property for generations to come. This autumn, I encourage the public to explore this undiscovered and incredible part of the Adirondacks.”
“Governor Cuomo is committed to creating new opportunities for outdoor recreation and tourism, and this interim plan will provide access to these scenic lands and waters,” DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens said. “The natural resources on the Essex Chain Lakes Tract offer abundant opportunities for active and passive recreation and this plan will allow New Yorkers and tourists to enjoy these lands, which will also benefit the regional economy.”
In August of 2012, Governor Cuomo announced that New York State had signed an agreement with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to acquire 69,000 acres of land, formerly owned by the Finch Pruyn Paper Company, over the course of five years. Three major tracts of land have been secured under this acquisition to date: the Essex Chain of Lakes, the Indian River tract, and the OK Slip Falls tract. With the opening of additional public access to the Essex Chain Lakes tract, approximately 22,000 acres of forest preserve lands formerly owned by Finch Pruyn are now accessible to the public, providing a premier destination for outdoor recreation.
The interim plan administered by DEC allows the public to access these lands prior to the final classification of the lands and completion of a unit management plan (UMP).
For a map of the Essex Chain Lakes tract, go to http://www.governor.ny.gov/assets/documents/Essex-chain-access.pdf.
Outdoor recreational activities available to the public on these newly-opened lands include hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and horse trail riding on the many miles of former woods roads; hunting, trapping and bushwhacking on the surrounding lands; and fishing and paddling on the Essex Chain Lakes and other waters on the tract. When combined with the more than 10,000 acres along the Hudson and Cedar Rivers opened to the public this past spring, the area provides a wealth of outdoor recreation opportunities.
Motor vehicle access is open on the Cornell Road on the adjacent conservation easement lands and on the Boots to Cornell Road on the forest preserve lands. Cars and trucks are allowed to drive on Cornell Road from the end of the Woods Road to a gate on the Boots to Cornell Road. A parking area at the location allows access to Deer Pond.
Paddlers are able to portage their canoes and kayaks about a quarter mile from the parking lot to Deer Pond. They can then paddle across Deer Pond to the landing for a half-mile portage to a put-in site on Third Lake. Paddlers can travel by water to explore First, Second, Fourth, Fifth and Seventh Lakes of the Essex Chain.
The public may only access the lands for day-use activities under the interim plan; overnight camping is prohibited at this time. Public motorized watercraft and floatplanes will not be permitted on any waterbody during the interim period.
Signs will direct the public to the open roads and parking areas, and gates have been installed on side roads to direct public motor vehicles to the Essex Chain Lakes tract and prevent trespass onto adjacent easement land. In addition, kiosks will provide maps, area regulations and information about the leaseholders’ privileges.
While the leaseholders on these lands no longer have exclusive use on the newly opened lands, they will retain leased rights that permit motorized access that is not available to the public. In addition, they will still have one-acre exclusive-use envelopes around their camp buildings. Leaseholders also continue to have motorized access to and from the leased camps, including snowmobiles in the winter, ATVs during mud season, and cars and trucks for the remainder of the year. ATV use by leaseholders will also be allowed on designated access roads during hunting season.
Furthermore, leaseholders will be allowed to use boat motors of 10 horsepower or less on the Essex Chain Lakes 2nd through 6th, Jackson Pond and the Blackwell Stillwater section of the Hudson River from ice-out through June 30 and from October 1 through the end of big game rifle season. They will also be allowed to use electric motors on those waters between June 30 and October 1.
Additional information on the recreational opportunities on these and other nearby forest preserve and conservation easement lands, including maps, can be found on the DEC Eastern Adirondacks Trail Information web page at http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/9199.html.