APA OKs Whiteface changes

RAY BROOK — The state Adirondack Park Agency unanimously approved changes to Whiteface Mountain Ski Center Thursday, which will widen several trails, create a new trail and replace or move several ski lifts.

The APA’s State Land Committee found the proposed amendment to Whiteface’s unit management plan to be in conformance with the State Land Master Plan.

Whiteface, which is the fifth highest mountain in New York, is owned by the state and overseen by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The state Olympic Regional Development Authority manages the ski center under a memorandum of understanding with the DEC. ORDA also manages the 1980 Olympic venues in Lake Placid, plus the Gore Mountain Ski Center in North Creek and Belleayre Ski Center in the Catskills.

ORDA proposed to widen numerous trails in Whiteface’s Bear Den section, which is mainly for beginner skiers and snowboarders. The amendment also proposes a new intermediate trail on the Little Whiteface spur and expansion of parking in several areas. A few of the lifts will be lengthened or rerouted as well.

Board members raised some questions on how construction of new lifts would be conducted, and the APA made a change to the amendment that offers stronger protections for the rare Bicknell’s thrush bird, which mates during the summer in the higher elevations of the Adirondacks, including on Whiteface.

ORDA already solicited public comments on the Whiteface plans earlier this year, so another public comment period is not required. That means the APA’s decision is final.

The APA board also approved, and sent out for public comment, changes to several other areas, as proposed by the DEC. The department plans to make changes to the Cranberry Lake boat launch, the Lake George Beach and Battlefield Park, and the Black River Wild Forest near Old Forge.