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Many favor Wild Forest at Finch land hearing in Indian Lake

Dozens of people turned out Tuesday, June 25 at the Indian Lake Central School for the Adirondack Park Agency public hearing on the classification of former Finch, Pruyn paper company land now owned by the state of New York.

Dozens of people turned out Tuesday, June 25 at the Indian Lake Central School for the Adirondack Park Agency public hearing on the classification of former Finch, Pruyn paper company land now owned by the state of New York. Photo by Bill Quinlivan.

— The intertwined issue of access and economic viability was further reinforced throughout the hearing. Indian Lake resident Mike Farrell approached the issue from the standpoint of fairness.

“All New York state taxpayers contribute to the purchase of land and most use is excluded to only a physically fit few,” Farrell said, pleading with the APA not to make the mistake he felt was made with the William C. Whitney Wilderness Area. “This land belongs to everybody and should be accessible to everybody.”

The few commentators that countered this message predominantly favored either proposals 1A or 1B. Both of these proposed options weighing heavily toward much of the land being classified as Wilderness, the most restrictive of all the possible classifications. The primary argument for supporting these classification options was to protect and provide the solitude of a true wilderness experience.

Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks, pointed to his belief that there is a need for a Forest Preserve with a “wide swath of recreational opportunities.” Specifically, he pointed out, “We are looking for Chain of Lakes to provide paddlers with a motor-free experience on a large lake … a Lake Lila-like experience.”

Bauer communicated his feelings that Wilderness classification is a policy that looks to the future, “to what these lands could be.” In addition, he and other members of Protect the Adirondacks raised issues of invasive species being carried into the area on cars, boats and trailers and some, such as Peter O’Shea, also made the connection between the offering of a wilderness experience and the fostering of long-term economic growth.

Ann Melious, director of Hamilton County Economic Development and Tourism, said the opportunity for solitude is not lacking in Hamilton County.

“I am hoping that we do not find our solitude in the middle of the highway in the town of Indian Lake,” Melious said, adding that Wilderness often has had the unintentional result of being elitist — available for access by a fortunate few. “This is public land and we need to invest in assuring that the public can access it.”

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