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DEC issues final management plan for Saranac Lake Wild Forest

Weller Pond gets speed limit; 60 campsites to close

Lorraine Duval of Keene floats on Weller Pond in her canoe while a motorboat sends up spray in the background in August 2018. Duval, who wrote a book called “In Praise of Quiet Waters,” participated in a paddle-in protest urging the state to make Weller and Little Weller ponds motorless. (Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)

RAY BROOK — The state Department of Environmental Conservation has finalized its plan for about 75,000 acres in and around the Tri-Lakes area after nearly two decades in the works.

The unit management plan for the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest includes dozens of miles of new trails, the closure and opening of dozens of backcountry campsites, and speed and motor limitations on some bodies of water.

Released in 2017, the UMP has now been finalized after both DEC and state Adirondack Park Agency public comment periods. The SLWF encompasses much of the Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake and Lake Placid area, and will determine how and where people recreate.

Wild Forest areas are less restrictive than those classified as wilderness, allowing some motorized and mechanical recreation and structures.

The plan calls for 38 miles of new trails, including several connections to the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor. Thirty-five miles of the new trails will be open to mountain biking. The DEC also plans to leave more than 7,000 acres near Ampersand Mountain trail-less, which the department says will be a boon to hunters and wildlife.

Management actions outlined in the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest unit management plan will have sweeping changes to the area’s primitive and backcountry campsites. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

Boating restrictions

Last summer, there was a “canoe-in” protest in an effort to get Weller Pond — off of Middle Saranac Lake — to be motorless. Although the UMP does not keep the remote pond free of motors, there are some restrictions in place.

Weller and Little Weller ponds will have a 5 mph speed limit, while motors will be prohibited on Bear and Bog ponds, each of which provide access to the St. Regis Canoe Area. Follensby Clear, Polliwog, Middle, Green, East Pine and Horseshoe ponds will each have a 15-horsepower limit imposed, and all other restrictions currently in place will continue.

Camping

One of the biggest aspects of the UMP is the changes it will bring to popular backcountry camping spots. The UMP calls for a quarter-mile separation of backcountry campsites — those sites that are not part of a DEC campground — which will result in the moving of many sites, although the plan will only result in a net loss of one campsite.

Due to the quarter-mile restriction — which is outlined in the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, along with a new primitive campsite guidance under consideration by the DEC — the DEC will close 10 sites at Follensby Clear Pond, three at Hoel Pond and six at Little Green Pond. Sites will be added at Coreys Road, Forest Home Road, Rollins Pond and Upper Saranac Lake.

The changes mean that 60 sites will be closed, while 59 will be opened. This will result in a total of 169 backcountry campsites within the SLWF.

Fourteen campsites on Middle Saranac Lake and Weller Pond — which are part of the DEC-run Saranac Islands Campground — will be relocated, and up to four new sites will be constructed.

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