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OK Slip Falls in summer. Photo: C. Heilman, courtesy Adirondack Nature Conservancy
OK Slip Falls in summer. Photo: C. Heilman, courtesy Adirondack Nature Conservancy

Adirondack Park Agency will hear from public on how to use new lands

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The Adirondack Park Agency has drafted seven options for classifying 47,000 acres of state land in the central Adirondacks, including the first phase of former Finch, Pruyn and Co. timberlands acquired by the state.

The options range from mostly wilderness, the most restrictive state land classification where motorized vehicles are prohibited, to wild forest, where more opportunities for public access and recreation are allowed.

The APA board voted Friday to host a series of public hearings on the proposals.

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Reported by

Chris Knight
Adirondack Correspondent

The classification package includes 23,000 acres the state has bought from The Nature Conservancy in Essex and Hamilton counties: the Essex Chain tract, the OK Slip Falls tract and the Indian River tract.

The agency is also considering reclassifying the Hudson River Gorge Primitive Area, and portions of the Vanderwhacker and Blue Mountain Wild Forest.

APA planner Walt Linck told the agency board Thursday that there's a lot of interest in recreation on these lands. "We should try to provide for a whole range of recreational opportunities based on the abilities of these lands to withstand the use," he said.

The Essex Chain of Lakes. The process is now underway to determine what kind of recreation and public use will be allowed. Photo: Carl Heilman, courtesy Adirondack Nature Conservancy
The Essex Chain of Lakes. The process is now underway to determine what kind of recreation and public use will be allowed. Photo: Carl Heilman, courtesy Adirondack Nature Conservancy
Link outlined three major areas of potential recreational use on the lands. The first is a remote section of the Hudson River corridor, which he described as an "incredible" and "wild" paddling opportunity. The second is the Hudson River Gorge Primitive Area, which will become wilderness in each of the seven alternatives.

Most of the variation in the proposals is in the third recreational area, the Essex Chain tract, where Linck said a network of lakes and ponds could create many opportunities for water-based recreation. It also has a network of dirt roads and trails. "The opportunity will exist, if these lands are classified as wild forest, for motorized and mechanized uses," Linck said. "The possibility exists for motor boating, mountain biking, snowmobiling."

Hunting and fishing groups and some local government leaders are pushing for the wild forest designation.

Fred Monroe, director of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, said, "The governor said this acquisition is going to be good for the communities," he said. "In order for that to happen, there has to be access to a wide range of users and there's got to be tourism infrastructure in the communities."

Environmentalists, like John Sheehan of the Adirondack Council, want to see much the lands classified as wilderness, "mainly because they contain some of the most sensitive and biologically rich wildlife habitat and water in the state."

More than a half dozen public hearings on the classification options will be held, both inside and outside the Park, most likely during June and July. A decision could be made at the board's August or September meeting.

Chris Knight's reporting is courtesy of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. For more of his work, go to AdirondackDailyEnterprise.com.

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