The final Saranac Lakes Wild Forest Management Plan outlining plans to improve opportunities for outdoor recreation on the lands and waters in the northern Adirondacks was recently issued, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today.
The Saranac Lakes Wild Forest is comprised of 75,000 acres of Forest Preserve lands and 19,600 acres of lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds located in the towns of Santa Clara, Brighton, Tupper Lake, Harrietstown, and Franklin in Franklin County and the towns of St. Armand and North Elba in Essex County. Three of the largest population centers in the Adirondack Park—the villages of Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake, and Lake Placid—are within the general boundaries of the unit.
The waterways of the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest are plentiful, making the area a popular destination for boaters, paddlers, anglers, and campers. Biking and hiking are popular outdoor activities in the summer and cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are popular in the winter.
The management plan allows motorboats to continue to use all waters currently available for motorboating. However, to address the public’s desire for “quiet waters” for paddlers, there will be horsepower limits on several waterbodies, motor boat speed limits will be enacted on Weller Pond, and DEC will increase efforts to enforce motor boat speed limits on the Raquette River.
DEC seeks to preserve some traditional access while complying with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (APSLMP). Although directly launching boats from trailers will be prohibited at most fishing and waterway access sites, trailers will be able to approach the water’s edge to launch boats at some sites.
DEC will close 60 campsites in the wild forest and construct 59 new campsites to comply with the APSLMP’s 0.25-mile separation distance between designated tent sites. Closures will also help to revitalize various tent sites. New tent sites will be constructed before current tent sites are closed.
To comply with the APSLMP’s 0.25-mile separation distance between campsites, DEC will also close 17 roadside campsites, reduce access to two campsites, and construct 13 new campsites in the unit. Little Green Pond will have three roadside campsites, Hoel Pond will have one roadside campsite, and Floodwood Road will have 15 roadside campsites and two campsites without direct access.
In the Saranac Lake Islands Campground, DEC will expand campground regulations to include the campsites on Middle Saranac Lake and Weller Pond. DEC will also construct four new campsites to bring the total to 91 campsites and relocate 14 campsites to comply with APSLMP minimum separation distance of 500 feet. The campground will develop a program to address heavily used and significantly impacted campsites.
New trail systems are proposed near the communities of Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, and Tupper Lake, which will provide additional opportunities for the public to enjoy the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest. Plans include constructing 38 miles of new trails for non-motorized use, of which 35 miles will be built for mountain bike use.
Significant acreages that lack developed trails help protect wildlife habitat and provide unique recreational opportunities. The final management plan will maintain 7,400 acres south of Forest Home Road as trail-less. Herd paths may remain, but formal trails will not be built or maintained.
Snowmobile trails will follow DEC’s Management Guidance for Snowmobile Trail Siting, Construction, and Maintenance on Forest Preserve Lands in the Adirondack Park. Plans include constructing two miles of new snowmobile trail and closing 15 miles of existing snowmobile trail due to location or limited use.
Governor Cuomo and DEC are committed to providing quality outdoor recreational experiences on Adirondack Forest Preserve lands and improving the Adirondack economy while continuing to protect the vast and precious natural resources of the region. The final Saranac Lakes Wild Forest Unit Management Plan is available to view and download on DEC’s website.