Why can’t 2% of lake chain be motorless?

Protect the Adirondacks is hosting a Canoe-In for Motorless Waters on Weller Pond on Saturday, Aug. 18. The goal of this effort is to make Weller Pond, Little Weller Pond and the channel that leads to them a motorless area on the Saranac chain of lakes. Today, motorized watercraft have free rein over every inch of the 9,000 acres of the Saranac Lake chain. Weller Pond and Little Weller Pond are just 190 acres — less than 2 percent of the Saranac Lake chain.

Why can’t just 2 percent of the Saranac lakes chain be set aside as a motorless refuge? This hardly seems like an unreasonable request.

There are many reasons why the Weller ponds should be a new motorless area.

1. If designated as motorless, the Weller ponds would be the only motorless refuge on the popular and motorized Saranac lakes chain.

2. It would be easy to do. The state of New York owns the entire shoreline areas around both Weller Pond and Little Weller Pond. The state owns the lands around the navigable channel that connects these ponds to Middle Saranac Lake. The state has the authority to the close these ponds to motorized boat traffic; it simply needs the will to do so.

3. Across the Adirondacks there are relatively few opportunities for motorless waters on large lakes and ponds. It’s important to note that most of the major Adirondack lakes are open to all manner of motorized watercraft. A report published by Protect the Adirondacks in 2013, “The Myth of Quiet, Motor-free Waters in the Adirondack Park,” found that of the 100 largest lakes in the Adirondacks, from Lake Champlain to Beaver Lake in the western Adirondacks, 77 are open for all manner of motorized boating and floatplanes, 14 lakes are privately owned and provide no public access, and just nine are motor-free. Boreas Ponds, number 95 among the Park’s biggest lakes, was recently purchased by state agencies and classified as wilderness to create the ninth large public motorless waterbody. Of the nine motor-free lakes among the Park’s top 100, just six are relatively easy to access and motor-free. Just 17 of the biggest 200 lakes are easily accessible and motor-free.

The demand is high for motor-free experiences, but the supply is low. The public deserves greater opportunities for motor-free waters across the Adirondack Park.

4. The administration of a motorless Weller Pond is manageable because there is only one entrance point — the 1,000-foot channel from Hungry Bay and Middle Saranac Lake. A sign stating that no motorboats are allowed could be placed at the entrance to the channel and a short distance into the channel. The Department of Environmental Conservation campsite reservation system could be changed to state that the lean-to and three campsites on Weller Pond are available only for non-motorized watercraft. DEC could also advertise the motorless state on its website.

Some critics have talked about the need for motorized access for emergencies. Of course that would happen. Rangers and state agencies are allowed to use motor vehicles in wilderness areas and on motorless lakes during emergencies, search and rescue, and for law enforcement and public safety. Under such conditions motorboats would certainly access Weller Pond and Little Weller Pond.

There are only a handful of campsites on Weller Pond and one lean-to that would be restricted to motorless use under a motorless designation. There are hundreds of other campsites throughout the Saranac Lake chain that would remain open for all manner of motorized uses.

Wild places grow more scarce with each passing year. The Adirondack Park offers great opportunities for hiking in wild places, where the longer one hikes the more remote the country one can access, but opportunities to do this by boat are limited. For many, canoe or kayak access is how they get to wild places and enjoy wilderness. Greater opportunities are needed for motorless waters in the Adirondacks, and Weller Pond is one such opportunity.

We urge anyone who loves quiet, wild and peaceful waters to join in this protest flotilla and add your voice to the call for more motorless waters in the Adirondacks. This event is free and open to the public. For many people paddling their canoe into a serene and wild place is what the Adirondacks is all about. This Canoe-In will be fun and powerful.

There’s nearly 100,000 acres more wild forest lands in the Forest Preserve than wilderness. Wild forest is open to motor vehicles, snowmobiles, mountain bikes and motorboats. We’re just asking to set aside 2 percent of the popular Saranac lakes chain as quiet waters. That shouldn’t be too much to ask for.

It’s important that people who plan to attend the Canoe-In on Aug. 18 to register online at www.protectadks.org. It’s important that event organizers know the number of people and total number of boats that plan to participate. Also contact us about boat rentals in the area.

Peter Bauer is executive director of Protect the Adirondacks, based in North Creek.

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