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For Release: Friday, August 8, 2014

DEC Announces Plans To Revise Essex Chain Draft Unit Management Plan

Public Will Have Additional Opportunities to Comment on Management of the Lands and Resources, including Location of Snowmobile Trails

DEC Will Continue to Manage the Lands under Interim Stewardship Plan

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will make substantial revisions to the Essex Chain Draft Unit Management Plan (UMP), DEC Commissioner Joe Martens announced today. In response to public comments from local businesses, community representatives, individuals and a variety of stakeholders - including many who recommended that potential locations for a snowmobile trail should be addressed in the current Draft UMP - DEC has decided it will revise the Draft UMP to fully assess the options for locating a snowmobile trail and propose a preferred alternative.

DEC expects to release the revised draft UMP for public comment this fall and complete the UMP in time for implementation in 2015. Until that plan is approved, DEC will continue to manage these recently acquired lands and resources under a stewardship plan to guide access and recreation.

"This extraordinary property offers an outstanding outdoor experience and is already attracting a large number of visitors," Commissioner Martens said. "Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, DEC is working closely with the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), environmental organizations, local officials and other stakeholders to protect the area's critical resources while also providing opportunities for appropriate public use. Our interim stewardship plan provides appropriate public access in this area and reflects the work of that partnership. Through the draft UMP process, we will also give the public the opportunity to provide input into the future public use of this magnificent property."

When the APA issued its classification of these Essex Chain lands and adjacent areas earlier this year, it anticipated that DEC would consider alternatives for locating a snowmobile trail through these lands to connect the communities of Indian Lake, Newcomb and Minerva. In June, DEC released a Draft UMP for public review, which noted that the location of this snowmobile trail would be addressed in a future amendment to the UMP.

In addition to addressing the preferred alternative for a snowmobile route through the Essex Chain Complex, the revised Draft UMP will include proposals in the previously released draft plan to designate mountain bike routes on gravel roads used by the lessees within the Essex Chain Complex through 2018, limited parking near the Chain of Lakes for persons of all ages and abilities, and the construction of a bridge over the Cedar River to provide access for all-season recreation from Indian Lake to the Essex Chain area. Originally, this bridge had been proposed for non-motorized recreation including hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

In the revised Draft UMP, DEC will explore options that could include using this bridge for mountain biking and snowmobiling as well.

DEC will also update its interim recreation plan for the Essex Chain Area and issue a formal Stewardship Plan that will guide DEC's management of the area and accommodate continued public use and recreation.

"DEC staff have spent a great deal of time and effort preparing this area for the public, recognizing that it contains sensitive natural resources that must be protected," Commissioner Martens said. "The Stewardship Plan will guide public access and use of this area while DEC prepares the revised Draft UMP pursuant to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan."

DEC is working with partners, including the towns of Newcomb, Minerva, North Hudson, Indian Lake and Long Lake, the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry Adirondack Ecological Center and the Student Conservation Association to implement the Stewardship Plan.

Public access projects already completed include:

  • Designating 13 primitive tent sites on and around the Essex Chain Lakes and related water bodies, which require a (free) permit;
  • Posting signs prohibiting fires within 500 feet of water bodies and at all permitted sites;
  • Posting signs indicting no at-large camping within the Essex Chain and Pine Lake Primitive Areas;
  • Designating primitive tent sites throughout the remaining area of the Complex;
  • Establishing parking areas in the vicinity of Deer Pond;
  • Relocating a parking area closer to the Polaris Bridge;
  • Establishing parking at the vicinity of the Outer Gooley Club;
  • Designating canoe carries;
  • Establishing a horse trailer parking/staging area along the Chain Lakes Road (north); and
  • Designating a cross-country ski loop.

The Stewardship Plan will also include enhanced seasonal access during big game hunting season on the Camp Six Road and Chain Lakes Road (South). This enhanced recreation access will be allowed on an interim basis and will also be addressed in the revised
Draft UMP.

Bill Farber, supervisor of the Town of Morehouse and chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors, said, "I am again impressed by the way DEC and APA are dealing with stakeholder input as they work through assuring that they get the outcome for the Essex Chain right! People who assert that DEC and APA aren't listening, haven't been following the processes around the Essex Chain. I am very pleased that a decision has been made to incorporate the full plan for the snowmobile trail connections into one complete UMP. For the 5 towns, snowmobiling has been determined to be one of the most significant economic drivers associated with these lands."

Jason Kemper, chairman, NYS Conservation Fund Advisory Board (CFAB), said, "This demonstrates DEC's commitment to continue to provide access to excellent opportunities for hunting, fishing and trapping. We are hopeful that the needs of the sporting community continue to be addressed as the UMP is developed for this Complex."

Dominic Jacangelo, executive director, New York State Snowmobile Association, said, "We are certainly supportive of DEC's efforts to locate this important snowmobile trail connection through the Essex Chain Complex as anticipated during the classification of these lands. Advancing this discussion in a revised UMP will get us that much closer to being able to ride this trail in 2015."

Diane Fish, deputy director of the Adirondack Council, said, "We commend the Department of Environmental Conservation for listening to the concerns expressed by those who felt the process was moving too quickly to approve a formal, long-term management plan for the Essex Chain Lakes and the areas around it. We support the state's desire to make these lands available for public recreation as soon as possible through a temporary stewardship plan. Now, the state can take its time to complete a comprehensive analysis of the resources involved and how to best protect and manage these magnificent forests and waters for future generations."

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