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DEC pitches primitive campsite changes

From left, John Ernst, Bob Stegemann, Terry Martino, Matt McNamara, Art Lussi, Kris Alberga and Bradley Austin discuss primitive campsites during a state Adirondack Park Agency field trip to the St. Regis Canoe Area Thursday. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

LAKE CLEAR — Members of the state Adirondack Park Agency board ventured away from agency headquarters Thursday afternoon for a field trip to look at how the state Department of Environmental Conservation evaluates primitive campsites.

The APA board, along with DEC and APA staff and a couple of representatives of environmental groups, went to visit primitive campsites at Little Green Pond, which is on the border between the St. Regis Canoe Area and the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest. The pond was chosen due to the number of campsites and their condition.

The crowd split into two groups and visited five campsites: two that are closed and one open in the canoe area, and two large sites that currently can be driven into in the wild forest. Staff showed the recovery of the two closed sites in the canoe area and had a tent set up at the open site to demonstrate the various aspects of a primitive campsite. A primitive campsite is one that is not part of a campground, such as Wilmington Notch or Lake Eaton.

The APA recently approved a DEC guidance document that lays out guidelines on how primitive campsites should be evaluated and measured. The field trip was a good example of this, as the site in the canoe area measured about 900 square feet, while the car-access sites in the wild forest measured at more than 12,000 square feet.

DEC Region 5 Director Bob Stegemann, who is also the DEC’s representative on the APA board, said the sites show that agencies have to be “thoughtful of how you put policy on the ground.”

DEC forester Steve Guglielmi speaks to Adirondack Park Agency board members and staff at Little Green Pond on the edge of the St. Regis Canoe Area on Thursday afternoon. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

About half of the nine sites on Little Green within the wild forest will be closed because they do not meet setback and distance requirements laid out in the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. DEC forester Steve Guglielmi walked the group through some of the steps the DEC would take to close and rehabilitate the sites.

“Just a little bit of use can set back restoration efforts,” he said. “We’d remove the fire pit (and) turn over the soil to reverse compaction. We want the water to infiltrate the soil.

“We have to make it obvious where we want people to go and where you don’t want them to go.”

APA board member Chad Dawson said that the monitoring and measuring is a good step.

“It’s going in the right direction,” Dawson said. “Slowly — glacially at times — but it’s going the right way.

“Nature will heal itself if you give it a head start and keep people away.”

Guglielmi said that while some of the campsites are slated to close, a recent court ruling against the DEC’s tree cutting policy has held up work on building new campsites that are outlined in the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest Unit Management Plan.