Friday, January 22, 2021

Adirondack park faces tough decision

Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Adirondack Park Agency, APA, face a difficult decision in the coming months. Public concern over the classification of recently purchased Boreas Ponds have resulted in a sizeable issue that needs to be solved.

In April 2016, the largest state Adirondack land purchase in over 100 years was completed. Cuomo bought this 20,758-acre parcel of land from the Nature Conservancy to support environmental conservation and economic development.

What makes this land unique, besides the fact that it contains 300 lakes and ponds, 415 miles of rivers and streams and 90 mountains, is its location within the Park. The Boreas Ponds border the High Peaks Wilderness, which is arguably the most popular area of the six million-acre Adirondack Park.

The two main proposals regarding classification for the Boreas Ponds are wilderness or wild forest. A wilderness area is “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man – where man himself is a visitor who does not remain,” according to New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

In contrast, a wild forest area is “an area that frequently lacks the sense of remoteness of wilderness, primitive or canoe areas and that permits a wide variety of outdoor recreation.”

If designated as a wilderness area, the Boreas Ponds would “provide experiences in hiking, skiing, paddling, camping, birdwatching, hunting, fishing, snowshoeing and horseback riding,” according to Adirondack Council, a nonprofit that aims to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park.

However, if the new land is designated a wild area then motorized vehicles would be allowed on the land, as well.

Both arguments are valid. In a wilderness, tourists are met with solitude and silence. No motorized vehicles are near, which means the ecosystem stays intact for the most part. In a wild forest, overcrowding becomes an issue of concern, as well as noise pollution and possibly more damage to the land. But in a wild forest, more access is possible for those that are disabled or too old to hike non-motorized boats, like canoes and kayaks, to the lakes and rivers.

Having hiked and lived in the Adirondack Park since I was born, I have seen the results of both classifications. Wilderness areas are generally more pristine and beautiful. There are no motorized boats or ATVs that tear up trails and lakes. There is less pollution to the land, as oil tanks are infamous for leaking and boats are notorious for carrying invasive plant species to new land. Additionally, wilderness areas are absolutely more quiet and peaceful. Without noisy boats and vehicles, unique outdoor experiences are ubiquitous. One hears only the sounds of the wind and animals and sees only wildlife, a protected ecosystem and fellow nature-lovers.

In either classification, the Boreas Ponds is quite impressive. This is the first time this land will be open to the public in over 150 years. Also, the High Peaks Wilderness is overused, so new trails will be grubbed in the Boreas Ponds tract. This will allow for the relieving of pressure in overused areas in the Park, like those in the High Peaks. The Boreas Ponds land will also act as a source of economic growth.

“Surrounding communities will benefit as gateways to an exciting new venture, creating opportunities for new businesses and new jobs. Visitors will need food, lodging, fuel, gear, supplies, entertainment and guiding services,” according to Adirondack Council.

If you want your thoughts to be heard and deliberated, consider attending one of the eight hearings around New York that the APA is hosting. This decision could solidify or unravel New York’s commitment to Adirondack conservation that began in 1892. Your opinion truly matters and should be heard.

Email Tim Behuniak at photos@cardinalpointsonline.com

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