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APA gets feedback on trains, bikes, and bridges

Adirondack Daily Enterprise
January 7, 2016

RAY BROOK - About 20 people attended as the state Adirondack Park Agency held the first of four public meetings regarding proposed changes to the State Land Master Plan Wednesday night.

There are dozens of changes proposed, most of which are simple changes to grammar, staff listings and other mundane issues that don't change the scope, scale or substance of the SLMP.

However, a few changes are drawing attention.

Railroad corridor
Sunita Halasz of Saranac Lake, a former APA employee and member of the Trails with Rails Action Committee, spoke about a supposedly minor change that would replace the word "railroad" with the phrase "right-of-way."

"This single-word proposed change actually has potentially significant environmental impact which therefore requires a full SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review) analysis," Halasz said during the public comment period.

She says that this would have an impact on the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor, adding, "the railroad is the reason for the travel corridor classification in the first place."

The other two major changes have to do with allowing bicycles in primitive areas and allowing the use of non-natural materials for a bridge over the Cedar River.

Bikes
With the state's acquisition of the Essex Chain Lakes and the Pine Lake tract, the APA has proposed five alternatives for the bicycle issue.

The first, for both the bikes and bridge, is the "do nothing" option. This would mean that bikes would still be allowed on existing roads and truck trails that are open to the public and vehicle traffic, but only on those.

Option 2A, as the APA calls it, is to allow bikes on former all-season roads in both the Essex Chain and Pine Lake Primitive Areas. However, no motor vehicles would be allowed on the newly established bike trails.

Option 2B would do the same, except that this option would let the state Department of Environmental Conservation use vehicles and motorized equipment to maintain the trails. This use would not be regular and would largely be available only to fix serious drainage issues such as washouts.

Either option, if adopted, would apply only to the Essex Chain and Pine Lake tracts.

Paul Capone, a retired state forest appraiser who lives in Vermontville is in favor of allowing bicycles in the Forest Preserve more widely. "I'm here to support alternative 3A. Bicycles are a quiet, muscle-powered low-impact form of transport and do not degrade the primitive character of these areas," Capone said. "It would create new opportunities for bicycling on trails with easy grades, fewer obstacles and away from vehicle traffic."

Option 3A would amend the SLMP to allow for bikes on any former all-season road located in a primitive area but would not permit any motorized vehicles. Option 3B authorizes the state to designate these same roads as bike trails but would allow the DEC to use motor vehicles for maintenance.

Ron Moore, supervisor of the town of North Hudson, supports Alternative 3B. "Bicycling is a rising recreational activity that would bring additional tourists to our communities and spur economic growth," Moore said.

Dan Plumley of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve has a less rosy view of the proposed changes. "We are expressly concerned about the possibility of downgrading all 40 primitive areas in the Forest Preserve by introducing public mountain biking," Plumley said.

Bridges
The do-nothing action concerning bridges would still let a bridge to be built, but using only natural materials. Alternative 2 would allow for the use of non-natural materials in the construction of a controversial bridge over the Cedar River near the Essex Chain Lakes.

The non-native materials are stronger and therefore would require fewer materials to make the bridge safe, reducing the overall footprint and size of the bridge. Environmentalists have said replacing the old logging bridge violates the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act.

Alternative 3 would change the guidelines to allow for the use of non-natural materials in all wild forest-designated land, but only after DEC completes a "minimum requirement approach" which would include justification and a public hearing and notification process.

Willie Janeway, executive director of the Adirondack Council, is in favor of allowing nonnatural materials in the construction of the bridge and allowing mountain biking in the Essex Chain.

"Non-native materials that lowers the physical impact of that bridge, it lowers the aesthetic and the visual impact of that bridge," Janeway said.

The APA is accepting written public comments until Jan. 29. There are three more hearings where the public can comment in person. The next meeting is tonight at 7 p.m. at the Newcomb Central School, with two more meetings scheduled for Tuesday in Albany and Saratoga Springs.

The full text of the proposed changes is available on the APA website, and comments can be sent to slmp_comments@apa.ny.gov.

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