The APA wants your comments on Adirondack wild forest road limits
Back in 1972, New York adopted a state land master plan for the Adirondack Park. It laid out how it would manage millions of acres of state land in the park.
One part of that plan put a road mileage limit in wild forest areas, places like the Debar Mountain Wilderness and the Siamese Ponds Tract. Specifically, the master plan said from 1972 onwards, there should be “no material increase” in the miles of roads on state wild forest lands in the Adirondacks.
But as the Adirondack Park Agency’s Megan Phillips told the board last week, that 1972 limit was vague.
“Material increase for roads was never formally interpreted by the agency," said Phillips. "We haven’t officially determined what that road mileage was in 1972 or what additional mileage would constitute materiality.”
In other words, the APA has three big questions to tackle– how many wild forest roads were there back in 1972, what counts as a road and what does material increase actually mean?
The APA has unofficially answered the first question, determining that there were 211.6 miles of wild forest roads in 1972. The second question, what counts as a road, is still up for debate.
But APA board chairman John Ernst said last week that there’s a clear answer to that question.
“It comes down to one very simple sentence, which was quoted and is in all the documents– 'A road is maintained by the Department of Environmental Conservation or other state agency and open to the public on a discretionary basis.'”
One category of road that’s gotten the most attention in this debate is one built specifically for people with disabilities, known as a CP-3 road. Without those roads included, there are currently 206.6 miles of roads on wild forest lands in the Adirondacks.
Ernst said the 21.6 miles of roads for people with disabilities should be included in the total, putting the current mileage at 228.2. There are an additional 16.5 miles of disability access roads that have been acquired but are not yet open to the public, which would put the total at 244.7, well over the baseline set in 1972.
Board member Jerry Delaney said one way to avoid going well over the 1972 baseline is to not count those roads for people with disabilities.
At last week’s board meeting, Delaney said that would avoid having to close public roads in other wild forest areas around the park.
“I’m going to ask this board– when are you willing to close Vanderwhacker, the nine miles you just gave to them? When are you going to take the mileage away from Boreas or when are you going to take the miles away from Essex Chain? Those accesses were given because they were important accesses.”
There was still no consensus at last week’s APA board meeting about what counts as a road and what a material increase in mileage actually means. The APA is looking into four different definitions of material increase.
The fourth is open for public comment right now. It essentially confirms the 211.6 mile baseline from 1972. It also says any mileage at or below that doesn’t count as 'material increase.'
But it would mean roads would likely need to be closed in the future. It would also mean the APA would have to revisit the definition of material increase down the line. The APA is accepting public comments on the issue through April 17.