More roads closed to bicycling

A bicycle is seen at Boreas Ponds in October 2016. A bike loop on former logging roads around the ponds was dropped from a plan for the new state Forest Preserve tract. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

I am writing in response to your editorial “Good deal on Boreas Ponds,” published on Jan. 31. You are satisfied with the classification of the northern portion since a wilderness designation prevents any mountain bike use of the former logging roads surrounding the Boreas Ponds. You certainly are entitled to that opinion. However, I refute your statement, “The trails would have followed logging roads through wetlands that are firm for winter tree-cutting but get boggy in summer.” It is clear that you are not familiar with the 7.6-mile loop that was being recommended for bicycle use. These roads are not winter roads — they were built with gravel for heavy log trucks. The vast majority of this loop is upslope on drier ground; any portion that passes through low, wet areas has been raised and hardened.

Unfortunately all of the 18.3 miles of logging roads north of the Gulf Brook and Boreas Ponds roads is closed to bicycles in the Boreas tract. Similarly in the MacIntyre East and MacIntyre West tracts, the vast majority of 11,885 acres was classified wilderness. This eliminates bicycle use of approximately another 16-plus miles of gravel roads. These roads can be viewed on Google Earth by choosing the Nov. 9, 2011, imagery. The Adirondack Park Agency staff intentionally did not include the road networks on the maps that were provided to the public. This was dishonest and inexcusable when seeking public comment for classification of these lands.

Those of us who prefer riding a bicycle to walking on a former road certainly ended up with the short end of the stick. Even though bicycling is a quiet, non-polluting, muscle-powered form of recreation, the activity is being lumped with motorized vehicles, which is absurd. Bicycle use of these roads would have negligible impact on the environment. Many scientific studies have concluded that bicycle use on trails causes similar impacts to hiking and less damage than horses. No other type of human-powered transport is banned from wilderness.

We have seen this scenario play out time and time again. The Department of Environmental Conservation acquires a large tract of private forestland with a significant road network. The environmental groups claim the new lands need to have the highest degree of protection and lobby to prevent mechanized uses. The APA designates the state land as wilderness, which closes several miles of former roads to bicycle use. The Little Tupper, Round Lake, Lake Lila and Wilderness Lakes tracts are a few examples.

There is a path to resolve this conflict. The APA should amend the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan to create a new classification called Primitive Bicycle Corridor. This narrow corridor would allow bicycle use on certain former roads, without adversely affecting the wild character of the surrounding wilderness. DEC has already done this in 2008 for Forest Preserve lands in the Catskill Park, and it is time to give state land managers the option to use this tool in the Adirondack Park as well.

While many mountain bikers prefer single-track, gravel roads appeal to a diverse group that includes hunters, anglers, families and those who do not have the fitness or riding skills to feel comfortable on more challenging terrain. It is good public policy to encourage young and old to get outdoors for physical exercise, while renewing their connection with the natural world. Allowing people to ride a bicycle on roads that have historically been used by motor vehicles provides cyclists an opportunity to experience these landmark acquisitions without the safety concerns of sharing roads with motor vehicles.

Paul Capone lives in Vermontville.