It was always about striking a balance — and to the credit of Adirondack Park Agency Commissioners, that is exactly what the new land-use plan put forth for the Essex Chain of Lakes does.
The new land classification adopted for the Essex Chain of Lakes — known as “preferred alternative 2A” — classifies eight water bodies in the Essex Chain tract primitive, allowing for motorless paddling. First and Pine lakes will remain open to floatplanes and access points will be strategically located in Wild Forest, to ensure easy access to all.
Some of the most wild sections of the former Finch Pruyn lands — the Hudson River Gorge and OK Slip Falls — will be forever protected under a Wilderness classification.
Perhaps more importantly for local communities, the plan calls for a narrow strip of Wild Forest through the corridor — following and utilizing existing roads and infrastructure — that will provide a critical link for recreational opportunities like mountain biking and snowmobiling between Essex and Hamilton counties.
It will also allow access to the Wilderness corridor for those who would otherwise only be able to stare at it on a map, and gives at least some conciliation to hunting and fishing leaseholders who have or will lose access.
Many officials, residents and business owners in the five towns bordering the tract have said that opening it to as many recreational users as possible is key to drawing people and jump starting local economies.
Business owners like Ruth and Dave Olbert of Cloud-Splitter Outfitters in Newcomb have said they would like to expand, but need a classification that would attract people to town before making the investment.
It now appears those pleas did not fall on deaf ears.
To be honest, we were skeptical that the voices of Adirondack Park officials and residents wouldn’t once again be droned out by the wishes of downstaters and environmental groups.