Wild forest plan will recognize some local favorites

Will also increase disabled accessibility, address mapping errors

The McKenzie Boulders, seen here Monday, would be recognized and managed as a bouldering area, complete with a much larger parking area, if the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest unit management plan goes through as written. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

SARANAC LAKE — The largely ambitious Saranac Lakes Wild Forest unit management plan includes a few cases of the state simply acknowledging what many people already use.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation’s plan calls for changes to parking areas, boat launches and trails of all sorts, but will also make improvements to some of the area’s more popular destinations.

Local favorites

One such place is the McKenzie Boulders on McKenzie Pond Road between Saranac Lake and Ray Brook. The area has numerous large (house-sized) glacial erratic boulders that are a popular training ground for rock climbers. Due to popularity, there is a small parking area near the boulders, but it can only accommodate a few cars.

The new UMP will upgrade that to parking for 10 cars, and will mark the various herd paths that connect the different boulders. It will also be recognized and managed as a bouldering area, but no fixed anchors will be allowed.

Another popular spot that stands to see improvements is the fishing access site on Lake Clear Outlet on Forest Home Road.

There is enough room to pull a vehicle off the side of the road there now, and a muddy, unimproved boat launch. The DEC plans to make the parking area larger, but will instill a 15 horsepower limit on all boats launching there.

A shooting area near Connery Pond outside of Lake Placid will be closed due to the large amount of garbage and shooting debris people leave behind. But the DEC says in the UMP that if a group of volunteers could come together to maintain the area, then it could remain open.

The DEC also seeks to develop partnerships with local governments and volunteers to maintain and plow parking areas.

In addition to making more than a dozen new campsites Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible, the DEC also plans to upgrade several trails in the area. The Bloomingdale Bog Trail will be upgraded to meet ADA standards, as will Dunlop Road. The DEC also plans to build an accessible trail at Monument Falls along the AuSable River between Lake Placid and Wilmington.

Mapping

The DEC says in the UMP that the boundaries of the wild forest are poorly marked, and it will undertake an extensive plan to denote the boundaries more clearly. The DEC speculates that there are numerous encroachments, where private land use is actually occurring on state land. The largest such is at Saranac Inn Golf Course, where the DEC estimates that the course is using more than eight acres of the wild forest.

The DEC also plans to update the wild forest maps in two serious ways. The first is at Rollins Pond campground, where the caretaker cabin, entrance booth and access road are all currently in the wild forest rather than being part of the campground, which is classified intensive use.

The second is at Little Clear Pond, where about 40 acres of land are shown as part of the wild forest, but which the DEC now says should actually be part of the St. Regis Canoe Area according to state Adirondack Park Agency maps.

Regulations

Several new regulations are proposed in the UMP, including a ban on fires and camping in certain spots, as well as horsepower boating limits.

Camping and fires will be banned at the Brewster Trails complex in Lake Placid, and also at a set of proposed trails on Lake Colby in Saranac Lake. Fires and camping will also be prohibited between Lake Clear and state Route 30.

At the Fernow Forest outside of Tupper Lake, camping and fires will be prohibited within 500 feet of the trails. The DEC will add new signs to the interpretive forest walk.

The DEC is also proposing a 5 mile-per-hour speed limit on both Weller and Little Weller ponds. Weller Pond is part of the Saranac Lake Islands Campground, which is also going to see significant changes under the UMP.

Motor boats will be outright prohibited on both Bear and Bog ponds, which provide access to the motor-free St. Regis Canoe Area.

Chance to weigh in

The DEC will hold two kinds of public sessions on the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest Unit Management Plan in July: public availability sessions, where DEC staff will be on hand to give presentations and answer questions, and public meetings, where people can offer verbal or written comments. People can also submit comments in writing by Aug. 11. Email r5.info@dec.ny.gov.

Wednesday, July 12, Saranac Lake

-Public availability session, 1 to 4 p.m., Harrietstown Town Hall auditorium, 39 Main St.

-Public meeting, 6 p.m., Saranac Lake High School auditorium

Thursday, July 13, Tupper Lake

-Public availability session, 1 to 4 p.m., Goff-Nelson Memorial Library, 41 Lake St.

-Public meeting, 6:30 p.m. Wild Center’s Flammer Theater, 45 Museum Drive

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