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Legislation aims to end state authority over old Adirondacks roads

"What the legislation does is say that it's not legal for anybody but a highway superintendent to close a town road," she said. "Roads that were town roads that were never abandoned, legally, by a town highway superintendent should only be abandoned by a highway superintendent."

Sayward notes that currently, under highway law section 212, the state has authority to alter or change the use of a road that passes through state-owned land.

Under her amendment, those provisions would no longer apply to any highway within the Adirondack Park, essentially taking the authority to alter or change those roads away from the state and handing it to local government.

Matt Norfolk, an attorney from Lake Placid, represented Jim McCulley in the Old Mountain Road case. He says state law currently gives DEC the ability to declare roads abandoned when the agency sees fit.

Norfolk says that's what the state did when it closed the Crane Pond Road in the Pharaoh Mountain Wilderness area.

But if Sayward's amended legislation passes, it still doesn't affect the outcome of McCulley's case, Norfolk says.

"Frankly, the DEC never attempted to close Old Mountain Road pursuant to highway law 212," he said. "It would really have no effect on the outcome or if you reviewed it again with the McCulley case."

Norfolk says if passed, the legislation could have an impact on the current status of Old Mountain Road, in the sense that the state would no longer have the ability to make a determination.

Meanwhile, environmental officials argue that Sayward's proposed bill is confirmation that DEC, APA and green groups were right all along.

John Sheehan is spokesman for the Adirondack Council.

"Highway law section 212 gives the commissioner of DEC the right to close or alter a highway that crosses public land in the Adirondacks," he said. "If it's on the Forest Preserve or state lands, DEC has the right to say 'no, it can't be used for a highway anymore.'"

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