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Governor Andrew Cuomo paddles on Boreas Pond in North Hudson, in Essex County, one of the mountain lakes that will be opened to public access. Photo: Brian Mann
Governor Andrew Cuomo paddles on Boreas Pond in North Hudson, in Essex County, one of the mountain lakes that will be opened to public access. Photo: Brian Mann

Governor promotes historic land deal in Adirondacks

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Governor Andrew Cuomo traveled to the Adirondacks Sunday, bringing with him most of his executive cabinet and dozens of downstate reporters.

He made the trip to promote a big new $50 million land purchase that will add tens of thousands of acres to the Park's forest preserve.

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Reported by

Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

The colors are just indescribable. You can't really paint this picture. Mother nature has a better brush. It's just exquisite.
Mid-afternoon, Governor Andrew Cuomo was paddling a canoe on Boreas Pond, one of the jewel lakes that will be open to the public in the next few years as the state buys huge chunks of the former Finch timber lands.

"It's been the greatest acquisition that the state has made in the Park in over a hundred years," Cuomo said, his paddle resting in his lap.

"I believe this is going to be an asset that we'll leave behind for generations to come to enjoy. It's also going to be a great economic opportunity for the state. We can preserve it but we can also make it accessible for people."

A view of Gothics in the distance.  In the next five years, this will be a key paddling destination in Essex County. Photo: Brian Mann
A view of Gothics in the distance. In the next five years, this will be a key paddling destination in Essex County. Photo: Brian Mann
Cuomo paddled the mountain pond after spending half an hour fishing for brook trout. On this day, storm clouds swept over the south face of Gothics Mountain and the maple trees were turning red and orange.

"It is magnificent," Cuomo said.  "I don't know if it's peak foliage season, but it's near peak. The colors are just indescribable. You can't really paint this picture. Mother Nature has a better brush. It's just exquisite."

In all, roughly 69,000 acres of land will be added to the forest preserve, including pristine mountain lakes and long stretches of the upper Hudson River.

A view from the water on Boreas Ponds. Photo: Brian Mann
A view from the water on Boreas Ponds. Photo: Brian Mann
State Senator Betty Little, who in the past has been a critic of expanding the forest preserve, praised Cuomo for bringing state officials and journalists to the Park. "We feel like everybody's been here and everybody's seen the Adirondacks, but I'm talking to people today involved in government who've never been north of Albany," Little said. She said it was important for government officials to understand the need for "accessibility to these lands."

The trip was also a coup for the Adirondack Nature Conservancy. The green group has moved ambitiously to protect land in the Park, using conservation easements and outright purchases of land for the forest preserve.

Adirondack Nature Conservancy executive director Mike Carr is architect of the Finch conservation deal. Photo: Brian Mann
Adirondack Nature Conservancy executive director Mike Carr is architect of the Finch conservation deal. Photo: Brian Mann
Mike Carr, the Adirondack Nature Conservancy's executive director, praised the governor's visit — and the state's investment of tens of millions of dollars. "This is a great example of how much the governor cares about the recreation and tourism piece of the economy in the Adirondacks," Carr said, while paddling in his own canoe.

Governor Cuomo travels often to the Adirondacks, but on this day he arrived with much of his cabinet in tow, and also brought with him a large contingent of reporters from Albany and New York City.

Asked by downstate reporters why this trip was important, he said "I wanted you to see [this land] personally…I want people all across the state to see this parcel. I want people in New York City to see this parcel."

One challenge for New York state in the future will be managing these lands. Boreas Ponds sit at the end of a seven-mile logging road. Maintenance and upkeep will be expensive and in recent years the Conservation Department has seen deep cuts in budget and staff. 

Cuomo said he thinks there will be enough money to make these lands accessible: "Commissioner [Joe] Martens says he feels good about his department's ability to manage this parcel. He's been doing a great job so far, so I have no reason to doubt him.”

This conservation deal comes at a time when Cuomo is preparing to make another big environmental decision on hydrofracking. On Sunday, protestors turned up to urge the governor to reject fracking. Jordan Stark is from Skidmore College. "It's not enough to protect the Adirondaks and to sacrifice other parts of the state," she said, urging the governor to ban fracking in the Marcellus shale region.

Meanwhile, state officials say part of the former Finch timber lands will be purchased by the end of the year, but some parcels — including Boreas Ponds — will be acquired more slowly over the next five years. 

Which means that all those paddlers, hikers and hunters will have to wait before setting off on this new stretch of wild water.

 

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