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Lewis Co. legislators want ATVs in western Adirondack tract

LOWVILLE — Lewis County legislators, echoing community feedback given in the public hearing last week, approved a resolution asking the Department of Environmental Conservation to include ATV trails in the recreation management plan for the Croghan Tract Conservation Easement in the Adirondack Park.

“Taxpayer dollars are used to purchase conservation easements and should provide for all recreation rights and access, including ATV access, especially in Lewis County which is known for its extensive ATV trail system,” the resolution says. “With expansion of the system only enhancing (the county’s) economic development through recreational and tourism features.”

The board also emphasized the Department included ATV trails in other easements, specifically the Santa Clara Conservation Easement Tract in the northern area of the park, and asked that Lewis County be afforded the same consideration.

The resolution proposed the DEC work with county representatives, especially the director of Recreation, Forestry and Parks, “to develop a plan that acknowledges the economic importance and significance of ATV access and use for recreational and sporting activities in Lewis County” so the ATV-using public can use the “tract like others who are provided access simply because they are in other motorized vehicles.”

About 30 people attended the public meeting for the draft recreation management plan at the DEC’s Lowville office on Feb. 26.

Hikers, horse people and snowmobile club members all said they are pleased with the plan, however the primary suggestion was to allow at least Main Haul Road to be used for ATVs to connect with other trails in the county.

The Croghan Tract Conservation Easement consists of 12,800 acres in the towns of Croghan and Watson just within the Adirondack Park’s blue line next to the Pepperbox Wilderness area and Watson’s East Triangle Wild Forest, although there does not appear to be ATV access to those areas, either, according to the DEC website.

This draft plan is 20 years in the making.

In 1999, the state purchased the conservation easement on the tract as a “biologically and economically sustainable working forest,” to conserve wildlife habitat and natural resources, and to allow the public access to the land for recreation, according to the draft recreation document.

The land is a forest managed by Molpus Woodlands Group LLC for one of its funds called Jackson Timberland Opportunities — Champion LLC since 2014.

There are currently 11 miles of road for public passenger-vehicle use with 5.3 miles added through the plan and 19.7 miles of designated snowmobile trails through the Croghan Tract that will increase to 28.6 miles.

“No public ATV use is proposed at this time” in the easement primarily because of damage that has been recorded by the off-road vehicles to “forested landscapes” and the challenge of keeping riders off old forest management and snowmobile trails, the plan states.

Although it is not a full 30-day period, the public comment period determined by the DEC that opened on Feb. 19 will end on March 19.

To obtain a copy of the full plan, go to the DEC website, or email r6.ump@dec.ny.gov or call 315-785-2263.

Written comments on the draft plan can be sent to NYS DEC, Attn: Matt Nowak, 7327 State Route 812, Lowville NY 13367, or email the above address.

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