APA approves campground, wild forest changes

Chairman rejects call to separate Boreas classification from others’

Ice thaws on Buck Pond in April. The state Adirondack Park Agency board on Thursday approved plans to upgrade the state campground at Buck Pond as well as the one at Caroga Lake. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

RAY BROOK — The state Adirondack Park Agency board approved plans that call for major upgrades to two Adirondack campgrounds and changes to several other tracts of land, but the agency will not make any decisions on pending land classifications soon.

Board member Chad Dawson called for separating out the hotly contested classification of the Boreas Ponds tract from about 100 other tracts of land, but Chairman Sherman Craig said he saw no benefit in such a move.

The APA has more than 100 tracts of land up for classification, one of the — if not the — largest group of classification decisions the agency has ever handled. The vast majority of these classifications are uncontroversial and may only address parcels of land that are less than an acre.

However, there are a few parcels — mainly the Boreas Ponds tract — that the agency has to classify in the face of intense public scrutiny.

Dawson wants to separate the Boreas decision from the others so quick decisions can be made on the non-controversial parcels, but Craig denied the request outright.

“I don’t think it could take longer than we’re taking now,” Dawson said. “I know I’m putting my chair on the spot here, and I renew my request to move those forward.”

“I have said before that after looking at our staff information and all of the comments and the meetings, that we found we needed to do some additional field work,” Craig said in response. “That is occurring as we speak. There is no advantage in separating them.”

Unit management plans

The APA found that the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s unit management plans for Buck Pond Campground in Onchiota and Caroga Lake Campground were in line with the State Land Master Plan.

Upgrades to Buck Pond include two new bathrooms, new water and power lines, upgrades to the Lake Kushaqua boat launch and replacement of the entrance booth. The DEC also plans to upgrade a few sites each year and has already relocated one site off an island at the campground.

The Caroga Lake plan comes on the heels of a total sewer system failure at the park last year and calls for the elimination of about 50 campsites. That park is currently closed while undergoing renovations to the sewer system.

Discussion of changes to the Blue Mountain and Jessup River wild forests, along with the Siamese Ponds Wilderness, dragged out due to debate over the inclusion of language in the plans that some APA board members construed to be an endorsement of a proposed plan.

The Hamlets-to-Huts initiative is a private undertaking funded largely with state money. The idea is to develop a plan that would use trails to connect towns, villages and other lodging options within the Adirondack Park.

Some board members thought mentioning the hut-to-hut plan could be seen as an endorsement of the plan, which is not fully developed and has also not undergone any sort of legal or SLMP scrutiny.

APA legal counsel James Townsend added language indicating that mention of any hut-to-hut plan is not an endorsement of any kind.

Talk of the hut-to-hut plan stemmed from a proposal in the Blue Mountain Wild Forest that would build a spur trail to connect hikers of the Northville-Placid Trail to the hamlet of Long Lake.

Despite the drawn-out discussion, the board approved the plan amendments for the Blue Mountain and Jessup River wild forests, along with an amendment to the Siamese Ponds Wilderness.