The Essex Chain Lakes Complex Unit Management Plan (UMP) has been in the works for nearly a year, and has attracted both positive and negative attention throughout that time. In a statement last month, Governor Cuomo officially announced that the plan has been approved, and as expected, the reactions were mixed.
Photo credit: Carl Heilman II
The plan includes projects like the addition of snowmobile trails, public motorized access on certain roads, and additional camping opportunities. Installation of the Cedar River Bridge, one of the more controversial points of the plan, has also been approved.
Environmental groups like Protect the Adirondacks have disputed the UMP, claiming it fails to comply with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan; the New York Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers System Act; and the state’s Snowmobile Guidance for siting new snowmobile routes.
Among other concerns, opponents maintain that the snowmobile bridge traversing the Cedar River, and the re-purposing of another bridge that crosses the Hudson River, is in violation of the Act as both rivers are protected.
In January, environmental groups Protect the Adirondacks and Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, in conjunction with Earthjustice, sued New York State over the plan – specifically, the snowmobile trail and the addition of mountain biking was disputed.
Christopher Amato, former assistant commissioner at the DEC, now attorney at Earthjustice, told Adirondack Explorer in March that the plan is “blatantly illegal.”
In March, about nine miles of existing logging roads were approved to allow mountain bikers; this was somewhat of a compromise, as the alternative that would have opened far more land to bicyclers was rejected.
Now, the remaining aspects of the plan have been given the go-ahead. Despite the controversy surrounding the UMP with the environmental groups, local towns have voiced their encouragement. The Complex encompasses the towns of Minerva and Newcomb in Essex County, as well as the Town of Indian Lake in Hamilton County.
“The opening of these lands with a connecting bridge and the new recreational opportunities that are available will allow all New Yorkers to explore and enjoy the ‘Great Adirondack Experience,'” Town of Indian Lake Supervisor Brian Wells told NYS.
“Governor Cuomo is yet again demonstrating his strong commitment to drawing visitors to the Park which will serve to strengthen local economies. I applaud the hard work of Commissioner Seggos who steered this UMP in the right direction with these goals,” Hamilton County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Farber told NYS.
The Essex Chain Lakes Complex is located in the Central Adirondacks. It includes 6,956 acres of the Essex Chain Primitive Area, the 2,788-acre Pine Lake Primitive Area, and a portion of the 42,537-acre Blue Mountain Wild Forest.
The new access to lands, the connecting of towns, and the multitude of recreational opportunities becoming available are intended to increase access and boost tourism to this 19,600-acre stretch of lands and waters.
- Adirondack Almanack: Adirondack Groups Sue NYS Over Essex Chain Plan
- Adirondack Almanack: The Essex Chain Lakes Lawsuit Explained
- Adirondack Explorer: Essex Chain lawsuit.
- New York State: “Governor Cuomo Announces New Recreation Opportunities in the Adirondacks.”