Lighter than expected crowd for High Peaks meeting

NYSDEC forester Tate Connor, right, speaks with members of the public at a meeting on the High Peaks and Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest plans in Lake Placid Thursday evening. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

LAKE PLACID — A lot of empty chairs filled a ballroom at the Olympic Conference Center in Lake Placid Thursday as the state Department of Environmental Conservation held its third and final public meeting on proposed changes to the High Peaks and Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest.

About 40 people came to the meeting, held in the Lussi Ballroom, for a presentation on the DEC’s proposed changes. DEC staff foresters gave the presentation and answered questions before public comments were taken.

Earlier this year, the DEC released two plans, developed in conjunction, for the High Peaks and Vanderwhacker areas. The state recently added tens of thousands of acres of land to those management units, including the MacIntyre tracts and the Boreas Ponds tract.

The new lands will allow the DEC to combine the current High Peaks with the Dix Mountain Wilderness and create a wilderness area that is more than a quarter-million acres in size.

In addition, there will be a bevy of new parking areas, campsites and trails — including hiking, skiing, snowmobiling, equestrian and mountain bike trails.

The state had originally only scheduled two public meetings, one in Albany and one in Newcomb, both on the same day. DEC officials said between 20 and 30 people attended the Albany meeting and 50 to 60 people were at the Newcomb meeting.

On Thursday, the main thread among public commenters was the need for the DEC to develop more backcountry skiing. At least half of the dozen or so comments were on the subject, while others encouraged the DEC to take a slower approach when making such grand and sweeping changes.

The DEC will take written comments until next Wednesday, June 27. Comments on the High Peaks plan can be sent to Tate Connor, Forester, NYS DEC, PO Box 296, Ray Brook, NY 12977 or via email to Comments on the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest plan can be sent Robert Ripp, Forester, NYS DEC, 232 Golf Course Road, Warrensburg, NY 12885 or to the above email address.