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APA moves Debar rec plan to public comment

Debar Pond is seen in April 2017. (Enterprise photo – Justin A. Levine)

The state Adirondack Park Agency board on Thursday voted 9-2 to advance a draft unit management plan for the Debar Mountain Complex, opening a 60-day joint public comment period that ends Feb. 12, 2021.

Board members Chad Dawson and Zoe Smith cast the no votes. John Ernst, Mark Hall, Andrea Hogan, Art Lussi, Kenneth Lynch and Daniel Wilt voted yes, as did state agency designees Bradley Austin (Department of Economic Development), Lynne Mahoney (Department of State) and Joe Zalewski (Department of Environmental Conservation).

The plan, written by the DEC, would demolish the Debar Lodge and its outbuildings, and create a day-use and picnic area at Debar Pond. For the day-use area, it would reclassify about 41 acres of state Forest Preserve from wild forest, a moderately restrictive category, to intensive use, the least restrictive option.

The Debar Mountain Complex is a patchwork of state lands totaling 88,300 acres in the Franklin County towns of Brighton, Duane, Franklin, Santa Clara and Waverly. It includes the Debar Mountain Wild Forest, Deer River Primitive Area and Madawaska Flow/Quebec Brook Primitive Area.

The plan has faced some criticism from various fronts. Dawson abruptly resigned from the APA board Thursday, saying the DEC is being too careless about the consequences of increasing recreation at the expense of wilderness. On the other hand, Adirondack Architectural Heritage and some nearby residents have asked the state to restore rather than remove the rustic Debar Lodge, which was built in 1939.

As part of the plan, the DEC would build 53.4 miles of new trails, including 40 miles open for mountain biking, and establish long-distance trails to connect existing systems.

It would close 9.3 miles of snowmobile routes the state agencies say are seldom used and add 2.9 miles of new snowmobile trail, including connections to nearby snowmobile network.

Parking areas would be built and improved, and access points to several waterbodies would be improved and formalized.

The day-use area would have access for people with disabilities, including picnic tables, fireplaces, restrooms, trails and a water access site. A trail near Buck Pond would be become more accessible as well, as would primitive tent sites.

All campsites in the complex would be brought into compliance with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan’s new requirements that they be set back from water. Some primitive tent sites would be moved, others would be closed, and some new ones would be established.

The plan mentions some alternatives. These include establishing a campground around Debar Pond, making it a historic area, making it an administrative center, or to do nothing.

DEC also requests public input on what action it should take for the dams at Madawaska Pond and Santa Clara Flow. Alternatives under consideration are to remove the dams, repair and maintain them, or take no action.

APA and DEC are holding two virtual public hearings on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021: at 1:30 and 6 p.m. DEC and APA staff will present on the proposed changes, answer questions and receive public comment. More information about the hearings is on the APA website, www.apa.ny.gov.

The draft plan, environmental impact statement and more are on the DEC’s website at https://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/109817.html. The proposed DMC Unit Management Plan and DGEIS can also be downloaded from APA’s website.

Comments can be submitted by email to DeBarComment@apa.ny.gov or by mail to NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Steve Guglielmi, Division of Lands and Forests, P.O. Box 296, 1115 NY-86, Ray Brook, NY 12977.

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