State considers effects of adding area parks to Adirondack Preserve
By JEFF MEYERS
PLATTSBURGH -- Adding local state parks to the New York Forest Preserve would probably not have a major impact on them, the state says, though a study of the idea is just beginning.
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation -- which manages parks at Cumberland Bay, Point au Roche, Macomb Reservation and Crab Island -- has initiated the study to determine how to best manage those areas in the future.
"There seems to be some disagreement between some environmental groups and us as an agency about what defines a Forest Preserve and park land," said Eileen Larrabee, spokesperson for the Office of Parks.
The issue arose last spring when work to install a waterline at Moreau State Park in Saratoga raised concerns. Environmentalists said that work could not be conducted because Moreau State Park was in the Forest Preserve, which is protected by the Forever Wild clause.
Three groups -- the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks and the Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks -- came forward with concerns.
The parks in question, which also include Higley Flow on the Raquette River in Colton, Pixley Falls in Boonville, Saratoga Spa and Whetstone Gulf on the Tug Hill Plateau, are all outside of the Adirondack Park "Blue Line" but within a county that is partially in the preserve.
"The agreement the Office of Parks made with us was that they would take at look at the parks in question to determine if any of them meet the definition of the Forest Preserve," said David Gibson, executive director for the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks.
As defined by the New York State Legislature, the Forest Preserve consists of public lands in the Adirondacks and Catskill parks but also within Forest Preserve counties.
Lands within the Forest Preserve must be forever kept as Wild Forest lands, according to the New York State Constitution.
Forest Preserve lands are also broken into several categories based on their capacity to withstand use, including Wilderness, Wild Forest and Primitive areas.
Wilderness areas, for instance, are considered lands that are visited by humans but unsettled.
Wild Forest lands allow for a higher degree of human use and permit a variety of outdoor recreation.
"There appears to be areas such as Cumberland Bay that on the surface may appear to be exempt (from Forest Preserve classification), but we believe the state needs to do a legitimate study to officially determine the status of these areas," Gibson said.
Gibson and the other groups believe a study will clearly show that the areas in question are indeed eligible for Forest Preserve protection.
"If they do decide that Cumberland Bay and the others are legitimate Forest Preserve lands, then that will allow those areas to be managed as the Department of Environmental Conservation manages Forest Preserve lands within the park," he said.
Both Gibson and Larrabee said such a designation should not have a significant impact on the eight parks in question since they are minimally developed as is.
"There are camping facilities within the park that are managed effectively," Larrabee said.
"This is more of a management issue. Any designation will most likely have little effect on those parks."
"The bottom line is to see that this does not happen again," Gibson said of the activity at Moreau State Park. "The intent on our part is not to tear down any recreation facilities. We want them to look at what these areas are managed for on behalf of the public."