Float plane wilderness access suit filed

ALBANY - A lawsuit filed Monday by several elderly park residents in U.S District Court alleges the Adirondack Park Agency and the state Department of Environmental Conservation violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act when last year the state moved to ban float planes from Lows Lake.

In the complaint - filed by Lake Placid attorney Matt Norfolk - defendants Maynard Baker of Queensbury, Mark Schumaker, Ronald Dixon, Richard Kenny and Joseph Franklin claim the two state regulatory agencies and Governor David Paterson ignored the supremacy clause, which states federal law supersedes state or local regulations.

"In support of their lawsuit, the plaintiffs allege that by closing lakes to float planes the state effectively barred the handicapped from the wilderness," Norfolk said.

The five men refer to themselves as disabled veterans who require motorized vehicles to access remote areas.

Baker is a former supervisor of the town of Warrensburg, and has been a funeral director at the Maynard Baker Funeral Home in Queensbury.

The suit also alleges that state regulators give preferential treatment to hikers and canoeists and that these activities are more detrimental to the environment than float planes on Adirondack lakes.

"Float planes actually will have less of an impact than the tens of thousands of hikers and campers that each year continue to devastate those lands already classified as Wilderness," the suit alleges.

After a lengthy and contentious debate, APA and DEC approved a plan last year that will phase out float planes on Lows Lake by January 1, 2012.

Baker garnered financial support for the suit from numerous in-park towns and counties located in the Adirondack Park.

DEC had originally proposed allowing the float planes to remain on the lake, which is primarily surrounded by a designated Wilderness area.

The suit seeks to bar APA and DEC from any further restriction on float plane use in the park.

Adirondack Park Agency officials were not immediately available Friday for comment.

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