Posted on May 27th, 2010 4 comments Add a comment >>
Under pressure from local officials, the state Department of Environmental Conservation announced today that it will open the roads in the Moose River Plains.
Earlier this month, DEC angered local officials when it said state budget cuts would keep it from opening the forty-mile system of dirt roads. Local towns rely on the Moose River Plains for tourism.
Following is the full text of DEC’s news release:
Thanks to a creative state-local partnership, the Moose River Plains Road — which provides access to one of the largest blocks of remote lands in the Adirondack Park — will be open to motor vehicles this summer, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis announced today.
DEC worked with local officials from Inlet, Indian Lake and Hamilton County, as well as state legislators, to cover maintenance duties and costs for the season. The Moose River Plains includes more than 40 miles of dirt roads, approximately 170 primitive campsites and 50,000 acres of wild forest in the central and southwestern sections of the park. DEC had previously announced that this road would not be opened in 2010 because the state’s historic fiscal crisis had limited agency maintenance funds. Instead, local communities will assist by providing gasoline, trucks, materials and law-enforcement personnel to help cover operational needs.
State and local crews began clearing the road this week; the road will be open Friday—in time for the Memorial Day weekend. However, roads south of the “Big T” junction (Otter Brook and Indian Lake roads) will remain closed.
“The Moose River Plains Road will be open for 2010, thanks to the willingness of local communities to help and the quick reaction of DEC crews to make it happen,” Commissioner Grannis said. “Together, we’ve forged a solution that will benefit the anglers, birders, hunters, hikers, mountain bikers and others who make the Plains a popular destination – as well as the businesses in Indian Lake and Inlet that depend on tourists.”
“Commissioner Grannis and the DEC staff moved heaven and earth to coordinate this effort and get us to a point where the road can be opened this weekend – which not something we thought could be done,” said Bill Farber, who serves as Morehouse town supervisor and chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors. “And, of course, the offer of assistance from the towns and the county were indispensable. By collaborating, we’ve come up with a solution that works for everyone.”
“We’re thankful that DEC accepted our offer of help and we’re looking forward to working together in partnership,” said Inlet Town Supervisor John Frey. “Our community and surrounding communities stand ready to assist in any reasonable way possible.”
“This is a great example of local and state officials coming together, working cooperatively and achieving a positive result,” said state Senator Betty Little. “It’s the kind of teamwork that is so important during this time of fiscal crisis. Commissioner Pete Grannis and his staff understood what was at stake. Losing the economic activity generated by the thousands of hikers, campers, sportsmen, mountain bikers and other tourists who visit the Moose River Plains would have dealt a severe financial blow to our Hamilton County communities.”
“The creative solution Commissioner Grannis and his DEC staff reached with our Adirondack towns to keep the Moose River Plains Road access area open is a fine example of how government should work,” said Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward. “Following DEC’s lead, we could save our parks and save New York taxpayers money.”
“This is a great piece of news for this part of the Adirondacks,” said Assemblyman Marc Butler. “I want to thank Commissioner Grannis and the DEC for listening to our appeal. At a time when we need good things to happen in our region, this is definitely welcomed news. And it’s great that it happened in time for the Memorial Day weekend.”
The Moose River Plains Wild Forest is bounded on the north by the Pigeon Lakes Wilderness Area, Raquette Lake and the Blue Ridge Wilderness; on the east and the south by the West Canada Lakes Wilderness and the private lands of the Adirondack League Club; and on the west by the Fulton Chain Lakes and State Route 28. It includes the Red River, the South Branch of the Moose River and the 675-acre Cedar River Flow.
The Moose River Plains Wild Forest offers many year-round recreational opportunities, including hiking, skiing, mountain biking, snowmobiling, canoeing, hunting, fishing, horseback riding and primitive camping. Miles of marked trails and numerous lakes and ponds make this area an ideal destination for recreationists with varied interests and abilities.
Posted on May 26th, 2010 6 comments Add a comment >>
I went missing for five days recently. I was out canoeing on various waterways in the western Adirondacks. One day I took two trips on the West Branch of the Oswegatchie. On the second of those trips, I paddled through several ponds owned, largely or entirely, by the Oswegatchie Educational Center, a nonprofit institution in the middle of the woods run by the Future Farmers of America.
This was on Day 4 of my mini-vacation. By then I was pretty much sated with scenery. I was thinking to myself that I really needed to see something spectacular to rouse me from my aesthetic torpor. And I did.
After exiting Mud Pond near Long Pond Road, I portaged around a small waterfall and paddled less than a mile downstream to the head of another falls. I pulled over and walked to the middle of a footbridge across the river. I was stunned by the view: the river was washing over pink-gray slabs of gneiss, dropping into a dark pool, and then winding away through a lush-green marsh. It was one of the most enchanting scenes I have come across. The photo above doesn’t do it justice: I’m a lousy photographer, and the light wasn’t right. But I hope it serves as a reminder of the unexpected beauty that can turn up on any day in the Adirondacks.
Posted on May 14th, 2010 5 comments Add a comment >>
Over the past four years, the number of endangered Indiana bats in New York State has plummeted about 50 percent. And that’s the good news.
The populations of other bat species in the state have fallen as much as 90 percent.
State biologist Al Hicks told the Adirondack Park Agency on Thursday that three species—the little brown, northern, and eastern pipistrelle bats—could be extirpated in the Northeast within a few decades.
“Extinctions are not out of the question here,” Hicks said.
The bats are dying from white-nose syndrome. The disease’s name comes from the white fungus that appears on the animals’ snouts and wings. Infected bats often use up their fat reserves during hibernation and die of starvation. Many will leave caves in winter in a desperate search for food, but the insects they depend on for survival cannot be found at that time of year.
White-nose syndrome was first documented in 2008, when state scientists found thousands of dead bats in a cave south of Albany. They now think the disease originated in Howe Caverns, a commercial cave in Schoharie County. Photos taken at the cave in 2006 showed bats with the white fungus. In recent years, the disease has spread throughout New England, as far south as Kentucky, and as far west as Missouri.
Before the onslaught of white-nose syndrome, New York boasted the country’s third-largest population of Indiana bats, which are on the federal list of endangered species. Hicks put the population at 54,000. This paled in comparison to the number of little brown bats, the most common of the state’s bat species. One cave in the Adirondacks once harbored 200,000 little browns each winter. The Indiana bat, however, seems to be more resistant to the disease.
“There is a chance that the Indiana bat will be the most common bat in New York State, not because it’s doing well, but because it’s not dying out as much,” Hicks said.
When white-nose syndrome was first discovered, Hicks sent out pictures of infected animals to bat scientists around the country. None had ever seen anything like it. However, European scientists had. Apparently, bats in Europe have been living with white-nose syndrome for years, but for some reason it is not as lethal there.
Hicks said it’s possible that European bats have developed a resistance to the disease. Over time, he said, the same could happen here. If not, the die-offs will likely continue.
Posted on May 12th, 2010 3 comments Add a comment >>
Hamilton County’s director of economic development and tourism has written Governor David Paterson to protest the state’s plan to close to vehicles all the roads in the Moose River Plains Recreation Area.
In his letter released today, William Osborne asserts that the closures “will have a devastating effect on the Hamilton County business community and a local economy already teetering on the brink.”
He also contends that the state should not purchase any more land for the Adirondack Forest Preserve unless it can guarantee it can pay to maintain the land.
“Why is the State of New York buying more and more land when it cannot begin to care for, maintain and police the land it already owns?” he asks.
Osborne suggests the state pass legislation tying future land purchases to maintenance funds.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation says budget cuts prohibit it from opening the forty miles of dirt roads in the Moose River Plains. DEC spokesman David Winchell said the department lacks the staff to maintain and patrol the roads and 110 drive-in campsites. The roads usually open in May.
The Hamilton County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution last week demanding that the state open the roads immediately.
Click the link below to read Osborne’s letter in its entirety (in PDF format).
Posted on May 12th, 2010 1 comment - Add a comment >>
In the March/April issue of the Explorer, Mal Provost wrote about a long whitewater trip on the Middle Branch of the Moose River. Not being much of a whitewater paddler, I opted for a long flatwater trip on the same river earlier this week.
From Thendara, outside Old Forge, you can paddle down the Middle Moose for more than six miles. The catch is that you have to paddle back upriver. Although the current is slow, even a slow current can be tiring at the end of the day. You’ll need to judge for yourself how far you should venture before turning around.
The put-in is on Green Bridge Road in Thendara. At the start, the river winds through a marsh where you’re likely to see ducks and turtles. The right shoreline has seen a lot of development, but you’ll leave the buildings behind in less than a half-mile.
In just over a mile, you come to an old wooden dam. Take out on the left and follow a short path to the next put-in. Below the dam, the Moose has a much wilder feel as it meanders through a dark forest. As you continue downriver, the forest starts to open up and eventually gives way in places to alder swamps and marshes with big-sky views. On my trip, I enjoyed a close-up look at an American bittern hiding in the grasses.
You’ll reach a rapid about five and a half miles below the dam. Unless you’re a whitewater boater, this is the farthest you’ll want to go. Most people probably will want to turn around earlier.
If you’re interested in a shorter trip on the Middle Moose, see my earlier post on paddling to Nelson Lake.
Note: It is possible to paddle the longer stretch of the Moose and return by train. For information on this trip, call Tickner’s, an outfitter in Old Forge, at 315-369-6286.
Directions: From Route 28 just east of the railroad overpass in Thendara, drive south on Beech Street (which turns into Green Bridge Road). After crossing the Moose, park in the lot on the right. To put in, walk back over the bridge. The put-in will be on the right.
Posted on May 11th, 2010 12 comments Add a comment >>
The Middle Branch of the Moose River is not the wildest river in the Park, but try telling that to the American bittern, the osprey, the various ducks, and the kingfishers I saw when I explored the Middle Moose on Monday.
Starting in Old Forge, the Middle Branch more or less parallels Route 28 and the Adirondack Scenic Railroad for its entire length. On my two trips on the river this week, I rarely felt I was out of earshot of traffic, but this did little to diminish my enjoyment of this beautiful stream.
For a quick trip into the wild, I recommend putting in west of Old Forge and paddling a few miles to Nelson Lake in the Black River Wild Forest.
The parking lot, marked by a DEC sign, is on the east side of Route 28 a few miles north of McKeever (or several miles south of Thendara). There is a 0.35-mile carry along an excellent dirt road to the river (bear left at the first fork, then take a right immediately after crossing the railroad tracks). The put-in is just below some rapids, across from a grassy island.
Paddle 0.6 miles downriver and look for the Nelson Lake outlet on the left, just past a marsh. Along the way, you’ll see one house on the right, up near the tracks, and several rowboats on the bank. Otherwise, it’s as wild as can be.
Nelson Lake lies entirely within the Forest Preserve. You can easily make a circuit of the lake. At the far end is a flat outcrop of bedrock with a sandy landing nearby—a good place for a picnic. Or eat at the old picnic table (one bench missing) on the northwest shore. A herd path leads to an old logging road that is now used for hiking and snowmobiling.
The stretch of the Middle Moose leading to Nelson Lake has little current, so paddling back to the put-in should not be difficult. The round trip, including a circuit of the lake, is about 3.5 miles.
Posted on May 7th, 2010 1 comment - Add a comment >>
The state Department of Environmental Conservation is standing by its decision that the fire tower on Hurricane Mountain should be torn down to comply with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.
DEC’s recommendation apparently is at odds with the wishes of the Adirondack Park Agency board, whose members indicated last month that they’d like the tower to stay. The APA commissioners directed the agency’s staff to explore the legal and fiscal ramifications of keeping the fire towers on both Hurricane and St. Regis mountains.
The APA will discuss the towers again at next Thursday’s meeting. In keeping with the board’s request, the staff is seeking authorization to reclassify land or amend the State Land Master Plan to allow the structures to remain.
The towers are located in the Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area and the St. Regis Canoe Area. Both tracts are managed essentially as Wilderness, where fire towers are not allowed.
In its proposed final management plan for the Hurricane tract, posted on the APA website today, DEC proposes removing the Hurricane tower and reclassifying the land as Wilderness.
DEC acknowledges that most people who have voiced an opinion have supported keeping the tower, but the department insists that would violate the State Land Master Plan.
Late Friday afternoon, DEC spokeswoman Lori Severino said she didn’t know if the department has finalized its stance on the St. Regis tower. However, the department initially made a similar argument against that tower as well.
One alternative proposed by the APA is to reclassify the land under both towers as Historic. Under another alternative, the State Land Master Plan would be amended to permit towers in Primitive and/or Canoe Areas.
You can read the Hurricane management plan and the APA alternatives on the APA’s website.
Posted on May 7th, 2010 17 comments Add a comment >>
Hamilton County officials are livid over the state’s plan to close the Moose River Plains Recreation Area to motor vehicles, saying it will hurt the region’s economy, intensify political tensions, and harden stances against land acquisitions by the state.
“It’s one of the worst ideas I’ve seen in recent times,” said Bill Farber, the chairman of the county’s Board of Supervisors.
Farber said the county plans to press Governor David Paterson, the state legislature, and the state Department of Environmental Conservation to open the roads before Memorial Day weekend.
“It’s going to be a fight like none we’ve seen since the Forest Preserve tax cap,” he added, referring to Paterson’s proposal in 2008 to limit the taxes the state pays on Preserve lands.
Located between the hamlets of Inlet and Indian Lake, the Moose River Recreation Area boasts forty miles of dirt roads, 140 primitive campsites, and numerous trails. It’s dotted with ponds and crossed by many rivers and streams. The region is popular with car campers, hikers, birders, bikers, hunters, and fishermen.
Bill Osborne, the tourism director for Hamilton County, said the closure of the roads to vehicles will have a huge impact on the local economy. “It will be absolutely devastating to us,” he said.
Farber said the decision is likely to sour local officials even more against state land acquisition.
“If the argument [for state land] is that it helps the economy and brings people into the region, why would you close a recreation area?” he asked. “It’s counterintuitive.”
Although Paterson has called for a moratorium on state-land purchases, the state plans to buy from the Adirondack Nature Conservancy, perhaps within a few years, nearly sixty thousand acres formerly owned by Finch, Pruyn & Co. Local towns signed off on that deal, but Farber thinks some may take a second look at it.
Farber said local officials and residents already were angry over the state’s management of the Park. “This is just throwing gasoline on the fire and heating up the political rhetoric,” he said.
DEC spokesman David Winchell told the Explorer on Thursday (see yesterday’s post) that the department is forced to make cuts. “It’s not a decision we wanted to make,” he said of the road closures. “It comes down to money, plain and simple. We can’t continue to provide the same services we have in the past under the current fiscal conditions.”
Winchell said DEC will save money by not having to maintain the roads, repair culverts, or patrol the campsites.
Farber, however, contends that it makes more economic sense to maintain the roads rather than let them deteriorate. He also argues that the closure of the roads will hit the state’s pocketbook: fewer tourists mean less sales-tax revenue.
In another controversial step, DEC plans to discontinue hiring assistant forest rangers. The Adirondack Daily Enterprise published a detailed story today on this issue.
Posted on May 7th, 2010 Add a comment >>
State biologists have confirmed that peregrine falcons are nesting on two popular rock-climbing cliffs, Upper Washbowl and Poke-o-Moonshine.
The discovery of the nest on Upper Washbowl means that cliff will remain closed to climbers, but the routes on Lower Washbowl are now open. Upper Washbowl boasts twenty-one routes, including some of the best moderate multipitch routes in Chapel Pond Pass, according to the guidebook Adirondack Rock.
Falcons also are nesting on the Main Face of Poke-O, probably in the vicinity of the Nose, according to Joe Racette, a biologist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The department won’t open any new routes on the Main Face until scientists ascertain exactly where the nest is.
Poke-O is one the Adirondacks’ premier rock-climbing venues. The Main Face alone has 167 routes. Only twenty-four of those are open. You can find a list of the open routes in an earlier post.
Posted on May 6th, 2010 39 comments Add a comment >>
Because of the state’s fiscal crisis, the Department of Environmental Conservation doesn’t plan to open the roads in the popular Moose River Plains Recreation Area this year.
The large tract of state land, located between the hamlets of Inlet and Indian Lake, has forty miles of dirt roads and 140 primitive campsites. The sites are often used by car campers, anglers, birders, and hunters.
DEC spokesman David Winchell said people will still be able to hike, bike, or ride horses on the roads, but the roads will remain gated to prevent access by motor vehicles. The roads are usually opened before Memorial Day weekend.
“It’s not a decision we wanted to make,” Winchell said. “It comes down to money, plain and simple. We can’t continue to provide the same services we have in the past under the current fiscal conditions.”
DEC also will keep closed several other Forest Preserve roads, including the roads to Lily Pond and Jabe Pond in the Lake George Wild Forest. For a full list, click the link to the department’s news release at the end of this post.
Most of the other roads, however, are relatively short and don’t see as much use as the Moose River Plains roads do.
Dean Nervik, who works in the Hamilton County tourism office, said the closure of the Plains roads will have a significant impact on the local economy. “It’s a disaster,” he said.
Even before DEC issued its news release, the county’s Board of Supervisors today unanimously approved a resolution calling on the agency to immediately open the roads and requesting a meeting with the DEC commissioner “to resolve this important issue immediately.”
Inlet sponsors a mountain-bike race, the Black Fly Challenge, through the Plains each spring. Winchell said DEC will allow that race to continue.
Winchell said he did not know if the closure will affect snowmobiling .