APA: Grannis ruling could lead to reopening of old roads

The state Adirondack Park Agency says a 2009 ruling by former state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis jeopardizes the status of abandoned highways inside the Blue Line.

That's according to a legal briefing filed last Friday, the latest twist in the ongoing saga of an old town road that connects Lake Placid and Keene.

The figurative can of worms was opened years ago, when a Lake Placid man named Jim McCulley drove his pickup truck and snowmobile on the jackrabbit trail connecting the Essex County towns of North Elba and Keene.

Pete Grannis was commissioner of DEC in 2009 when he ruled that McCulley did not illegally drive along Forest Preserve lands in the Sentinel Range Wilderness, seemingly putting the issue to rest.

Then, late last year, acting DEC Commissioner Peter Iwanowicz granted a request by the DEC, APA, and an environmental organization to seek further clarification of Grannis's ruling.

Those state agencies and the Adirondack Council have now filed their various arguments with Louis Alexander, assistant commissioner of the DEC's Office of Hearings and Mediation Services.

At the core of the briefings is a belief that Grannis's decision could lead to the reopening of long-closed town highways across the Adirondack Park.

In the Park Agency's argument, APA legal counsel John Banta says the State Land Master Plan determined that a 3.5 mile stretch of the Old Mountain Road was "non-conforming" and should have been barricaded in accordance with wilderness guidelines.

Further, the 1987 version of the State Land Master Plan declares that Old Mountain Road "has been closed and the area now fully conforms to wilderness standards."

Officials with the APA now say that former Commissioner Grannis lacked jurisdiction when he ruled that the road was never properly abandoned by the towns of Keene and North Elba.

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