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Poke-O-Moonshine. Archive Photo of the Day: John Sherman
Poke-O-Moonshine. Archive Photo of the Day: John Sherman

Few concerns about DEC plan for Taylor Pond Forest

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Preserving a trail to the summit of Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain and access for people with limited mobility were the two big concerns at a public hearing on the draft unit management plan for the Taylor Pond Wild Forest.

About 30 people gathered at the community center in AuSable Forks last week for a public hearing on the proposed plan. It was hosted by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The Taylor Pond Wild Forest totals more than 76,000 acres of land in the northeast corner of the Adirondack Park. Unit management plans are required by the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan for each unit of state land in the Park. Chris Morris reports.

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Chris Morris
Tri-Lakes Correspondent

The Taylor Pond Complex covers a huge chunk of land in the North Country. It stretches across parts of three counties and features great fishing, hiking, hunting and canoeing.

These unit management plans are required by law. So far, the draft plan for the Taylor Pond Complex has drawn positive reaction from the public.

The biggest concern at last week’s hearing was the future of a popular hiking trail up Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain in the town of Chesterfield.

“I think that no matter what happens, hikers and rock climbers will use the face, and it’s to their benefit to create a safe trail on that route,” said Ann Bailey.

Bailey told DEC that when the management plan is up for review in five years, the department should keep the 1-mile ranger trail open.

The ranger trail starts at a former campground at the base of the mountain. The DEC’s Tom Martin says the trail is steep and has a lot of erosion.

Now, hikers can also use what Martin calls the “observer’s trail,” which is about 2 miles long and is a more gentle ascent and easier to maintain. It was reopened by DEC after the Nature Conservancy purchased a piece of intervening private property.

“So one of the things we thought about was, do we need two trails?” Martin said. “And if not, which one would be the easiest one to maintain – the best one to have? And so that’s really what started the conversation about maybe not continuing to maintain the ranger trail in the future.”

But people like David and Asa Thomas-Train, a father and son from Keene Valley, say the ranger trail is immensely popular. Asa, a farmer who plans to move to Keeseville near Poke-O-Moonshine, says that community could reap benefits from having both trails open.

“Towns like Keene Valley and Lake Placid have been able to cash in on the hiker traffic in these mountains,” he said. “Keeseville has not. A lot of the towns down in the Champlain Valley have not, but there’s enormous potential to do so. Poke-O-Moonshine is not only beautiful on its own – that trail can be beautiful.”

His father David says friends groups and volunteers would be happy to help DEC fix and maintain the trail.

“And we’ve worked on both the trails since 1998,” he said. “We really believe in the variety of hiking experience and spreading the use out. And ultimately, we’d like to see a connector trail between the base of one trail and the base of the other trail so that you have a large loop.”

Martin says DEC will keep tabs on the trail and its condition over the five-year life of the unit management plan.

The draft plan does propose a restrictive barrier of rocks for a small boat launch on Franklin Falls Pond, about 12 miles outside of Saranac Lake. Because the pond is less than 1,000 acres in size, trailers can’t be backed into the water.

Bob Brown of Saranac Lake told DEC he’s worried the barrier could make it difficult for people with limited mobility to get their boats into the water.

Brown did applaud the plan for including new snowmobile trails. But he also asked that all-terrain-vehicle activities be endorsed by DEC. “The conservation department endorses hunting, trapping, fishing and nature-going, and yet we hear an awful lot about hiking, which is great, and we hear a little bit more about snowmobiles,” he said. “But access in terms of some of these other areas for hunters and fishermen seem to be lacking.”

DEC will consider public comments and revise the plan where appropriate. Written comments will be accepted until June 22.

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