The first phase of the purchase transferred to the state with little fanfare at the end of December.
The state closed on the purchase of the 18,000-acre Essex Chain of Lakes tract from The Nature Conservancy on Dec. 21. The price tag was $12.3 million.
Mike Carr is executive director of The Nature Conservancy's Adirondack Chapter.
"[It's] very exciting for us to carry forward the governor's vision here, and we're honored to be part of this great conservation success," Carr said.
Located in the towns of Minerva and Newcomb in Essex County, the Essex Chain of Lakes parcel includes thousands of acres of forest, 11 lakes and ponds, and 15 miles of Hudson River shoreline. The tract has been in private hands since before the Civil War.
Minerva Supervisor Sue Montgomery-Corey visited the property for the first time last year.
"It was stunning," Corey said. "I look forward to going back again. I'm really glad the state has stepped up to make sure the property will be something the public will have access to."
But just how much access is something that's yet to be determined, and is generating a lot of debate. The Park's environmental groups want to see the Essex Chain become wilderness, which would limit motorized access to the property. Sportsmen's groups and local officials want to see road access to the Essex Chain maintained and would prefer a less restrictive wild forest designation.
Montgomery-Corey said increased public access could benefit the local economy.
"We believe there will be benefits," she said. "We believe we'll see more canoers, hikers, potentially snowmobilers and possibly a more year-round benefit, and I think that would be a good thing. I think there will be opportunities we haven't even thought of."
The state Department of Environmental Conservation is currently working on an access and land classification proposal for the Essex Chain tract. Most of the parcel couldn't open to the public until the fall because it's leased to a pair of hunting clubs through Sept. 30 of this year.
The state is under contract to purchase the remaining former Finch, Pruyn parcels over the next five years. Carr said the next phase of the acquisition will hinge on the funding stream in the state's Environmental Protection Fund.