Protest on the water to make Weller Pond motorless

SARANAC LAKE — An environmental group is hosting a Canoe-In for Motorless Waters on Weller Pond, calling for the state to ban motorboats on Weller Pond and Little Weller Pond.

Protect the Adirondacks aims to get 100 canoes and kayaks in a “flotilla of protest” at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, it said in a press release.

Protect wants the state to manage Weller Pond and Little Weller Pond as a 190-acre “quiet waters” area, only accessible by non-motorized vessels, making them the only motorless area in the Saranac Lakes chain. The two ponds take up 2 percent of the chain, Protect says.

The state owns the entire shoreline around both Weller Pond and Little Weller Pond, as well as the navigable channel that connects them to Middle Saranac Lake. The land is part of the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest, which after many years recently got a new draft unit management plan, which has not yet been approved by the state Adirondack Park Agency.

Weller Pond also has five pay campsites, part of the 79-site Saranac Lake Islands Campground run by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Reserve America booking company.

Protect proposes placing a no-motorboats sign at the channel from Middle Saranac Lake and changing the campsite reservation system to accommodate that.

“Wild places grow more scarce with each passing year,” Protect Executive Director Peter Bauer said in a press release. “The Adirondack Park offers great opportunities for hiking in wild places … but opportunities to do this by boat are limited.”

Protect asks participants to register on its website to get a boat and head count and to help connect people with boat rentals.

This Canoe-In will also mark the 20th anniversary of a similar event. On Aug. 15, 1998, environmentalists held the Canoe-In for Wilderness on Little Tupper Lake. More than 300 people took part in more than 200 canoes, kayaks, guideboats, rowboats and one small sailboat. The protest preceded the creation of the William C. Whitney Wilderness Area, and Protect sees it as a successful turning point.