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source: PostStar.com

Two historic fire towers closed for more than 20 years could be reopened under a plan to boost tourism in the Adirondacks.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation said this week that restoring the Hurricane Mountain and St. Regis Mountain fire towers would allow full public access. The plans also call for interpretive materials related to the towers’ history.

If the projects go ahead, the restorations are expected to result in increased tourism in Essex and Franklin counties.

Both towers have been closed to the public since they were discontinued for use as fire observation stations. The Hurricane Mountain tower closed in 1979, and the St. Regis Mountain tower was shut down in 1990.

The towers are listed on the state and national registers of historic places, which allows government officials to look at alternatives that would allow for their preservation.

The towers had been slated for removal because Hurricane Mountain is classified as a primitive area and St. Regis Mountain is in a canoe area. Both land classifications called for the fire towers to eventually be removed, but in October 2010 the Adirondack Park Agency board voted to classify the land beneath the two towers as historic, a move that allowed them to remain and be restored.

The restoration plans are available online and for public review at DEC headquarters in Albany and the Region 5 headquarters in Ray Brook, located just outside Lake Placid. CDs of the plan also will be available at the same locations, as well as the offices of the Town of Keene and Town of Santa Clara.

The DEC is accepting public comment through Nov. 15.
Online:
Hurricane Mountain tower: http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/78001.html
St. Regis tower: http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/78006.html

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The NY DEC has opened a new trail to the fire tower on top of Loon Lake Mountain in the northern Adirondacks. The 2.8-mile trail starts on Route 26 in the Town of Franklin in Franklin County, about 5 miles north of the hamlet of Loon Lake.

29 Fire Tower Trails in the Adirondack & Catskill Mountains

29 Fire Tower Trails in the Adirondack & Catskill Mountains

The trail rises more than 1,600 feet from the trailhead to the 2,264-foot summit of Loon Lake Mountain. The open bedrock summit provides views of Lyon Mountain, Whiteface, the High Peaks, and other nearby summits.

The 35-foot Loon Lake Fire Tower is listed on the New York State Register of Historic Places but isn’t open to the public. The trail, trailhead and parking were constructed over the summer by DEC crews and members of the Student Conservation Association Adirondack Program.

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Written by Marci Diehl, Democrat & Chronicle, link to original post
Finger Lakes Land Trust acquires new properties to conserve for nature walks, birding adventuresIt’s some of the most unspoiled, spectacularly beautiful and ecologically important land in the state. And if all goes according to plan, it will be accessible to the public for low-impact uses like hiking, kayaking, fishing and bird-watching.

Take A Paddle - Finger Lakes  available at www.footprintpress.com includes West River & more.

Take A Paddle – Finger Lakes available at http://www.footprintpress.com includes West River & more.

In the past year, the Finger Lakes Land Trust has acquired two important pieces of land overlooking Canandaigua Lake and adjacent to the West River — the lake’s principal tributary — adding to the group’s growing list of acquisitions and conservation easements. The goal is to link a crescent of land extending from Bare Hill southward through South Hill to High Tor and the highlands surrounding Naples.

This is serene land that is teeming with wildlife, forests, waterfalls and flora — and facing watershed and potential erosion problems if developed. The proposal to create a Canandaigua Lake water trail and birding trail could prevent some of these issues for generations to come.

The newest acquisition is a 68-acre property that encompasses a 390-foot cove beach on the east side of Canandaigua Lake, along with extensive woodlands on Bare Hill. Last year, the trust acquired 13 acres adjacent to the entrance to the Bare Hill State Unique Area. And in 2011, Constellation Brands donated 64 acres of an abandoned vineyard in the town of Italy at the south end of the lake — land that the National Audubon Society designated an “Important Bird Area.” Over the summer, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will cultivate native grasses to create a grassland area connecting with the state’s emergent wetlands of the West River.

Take A Hike - Finger Lakes available at www.footprintpress.com includes Bare Hill & more.

Take A Hike – Finger Lakes available at
http://www.footprintpress.com includes Bare Hill & more.

The more that people can see land and experience it, the more connected they become to conserving it, says Andrew Zepp, executive director of the trust. The organization’s goal, he says, is to “work cooperatively with landowners and local communities to maintain the character of this area, while enhancing opportunities for outdoor education and recreation.”

Connecting these preserved lands to the DEC’s High Tor Wildlife Management Area is significant. High Tor’s 6,100 acres encompass habitats, wooded hills, cliffs and marshlands in the West River Valley — along with South Hill’s 1,000 acres of wooded hillsides.

And the West River contains one of the largest wetlands in the state — a popular area for kayakers and canoeists.

Bruce Lindsay has managed 700 acres on the top of South Hill for 43 years, and he sees some species actually returning to former habitats, including porcupines, black bears, coyotes, foxes and wild turkeys.

“Turkey vultures with five-foot wing spans soar above the hill,” Lindsay says. “On rare occasions, eagles are seen here. Goldfinch, blue birds, bobolinks and the rare indigo bunting fill the fields. It’s a birder’s paradise.”

The two southeastern hills of the lake are largely undeveloped. Naples resident Kevin Armstrong donated 32 acres of woodland in the area, on steep property along South Hill above the West River.

“There are many people who would see the land as something to be developed just for the views alone,” Armstrong says.

Lindsay, too, is passionate about protecting this land the Seneca people held sacred.

“In the 21st century, we still have an opportunity to ‘do no harm,’ ” he says. “There are vast areas surrounding this lake that still are pristine. The challenge is to do no harm for the future of pure water, appropriate but not unchecked development, and, yes, just space to enable natural beauty to be the essence.”

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If you are a New York state resident 62 or older on any weekday (except holidays) you can obtain free vehicle access to state parks and arboretums. Simply present your current valid NYS Driver’s License. This policy applies both to Office of Parks and Recreation and DEC facilities.

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source: Times Union.com

Student researchers are shuffling through thousands of pages from hundreds of trailhead sign-in logs to transform information penciled in by hikers into sophisticated maps that could help manage, protect and market New York’s 6-million-acre Adirondack Park.

The overall goal is to develop a comprehensive computer-based map system containing information about the plants, animals, land, water, roads, buildings and other aspects of the park to inform the land-use planning required by state law to protect the Adirondacks.

“Knowing how recreational use distributes across the park can help us make more fine-tuned decisions about how to reach sustainability in the Adirondacks in terms of community development, recreation management and tourism,” said Abigail Larkin, a doctoral student at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry who’s leading the trail project.

The Department of Environmental Conservation will use the digitized trail-use data in land-management decisions. Larkin and other scientists at the college will use it in future research projects. And local and regional economic development officials and tourism businesses plan to use it in decisions about scheduling events and targeting marketing programs.

Trail registers are kept in wooden kiosks at 269 trailheads on state Forest Preserve land in the park, which is a patchwork of public and private land. The main reason for the logbooks is for safety; if a hiker is reported missing, rangers can check trail registers to see if the person signed in and out.

A hiker signs in with name, address, contact number, number of people in the group, destination and estimated length of stay. There’s also a space to check off to show the hiker has made it back out.

Larkin and four student interns are working full time this summer at the college’s Adirondack research center in Newcomb, collecting boxes of 2012 trail register pages from various DEC offices and scanning them into a computer. Then they’re typing information from the registers into a geographic database program. Names aren’t recorded; only date, home city and state, number in group, destination and length of stay.

Some trails have hundreds of register pages per year, with 40 entries per sheet. Less popular trails may have only one page for the whole year.

While only 2012 records are being compiled this year, project leaders plan to select trails for additional long-term data collection going back to 2000 to provide a basis for analyzing recreation trends over the past decade.

“Most parks don’t have any hard data about how people are using trails and other infrastructure, but in the Adirondacks we have all these trail registers with decades of data,” said Colin Beier, an ecologist at the research center.

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The Pharsalia Woods Unit Management Plan, covering 13,622 acres in western Chenango County, has been approved by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The plan includes four states forests: New Michigan, Pitcher Springs, Perkins Pond and Pigeon Hill which are located in the towns of Pharsalia, Plymouth, Pitcher, and Otselic.
“These forests offer a wide variety of recreational opportunities for all of the public including a lean-to for camping on Perkins Pond State Forest,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens.  “DEC staff work diligently at maintaining our forests for multiple-uses and it clearly works well in places like Pharsalia Woods.”

“The high elevation forest habitats found at Pharsalia Woods make it standout as a critically important area on the Atlantic Flyway in Central New York, supporting a great diversity of forest breeding birds,” said Erin Crotty, Executive Director of Audubon New York.  “We commend Commissioner Martens and the DEC staff for finalizing the Unit Management Plan and prioritizing actions that will ensure the high quality forests at the Bird Conservation Area are maintained, and economically important wildlife recreational opportunities are enhanced.”

Donald Windsor, who first proposed that Pharsalia Woods be named an Important Bird Area in July 1997, and member of the Chenango Bird Club, the New York Flora Association, the Chenango County Historical Association, the New York State Archaeological Association, the Bullthistle Hiking Club and the Finger Lakes Trail Conference noted, “The Unit Management planning process is useful to our organizations because the public meetings allow our suggestions to be integrated with those of other organizations. This broad-based contribution enables DEC to optimize the special interests of all its stakeholders to establish a multiple-purpose use of state land.”

“Our organization is especially in favor of the proposed relocation of the Finger Lakes hiking trail that will eliminate the present 1.8 miles of road walking and place the trail entirely on public lands with no road walking,” said Joe Dabes, former Director of Trail Inventory and Mapping of the Finger Lakes Trail Conference and ten time end- to- ender of the 560 mile long main Finger Lakes Trail. “We also appreciate that the plan calls for a proposed new lean-to along the Finger Lakes Trail and  relocation of the Plymouth Lean-to Trail which will eliminate the present 0.7 mile walk along Stewart Road, putting this section of the trail entirely in Pharsalia Woods State Forest.”

Stephen C. Catherman, Vice  President of Trail Maintenance for the Finger Lakes Trail Conference noted, “It is a privilege and a pleasure to work with your organization to further our commitment to maintain a premier hiking trail across New York State.  The Adopt a Natural Resource program and the agreement we have in place with you enables us to realize this goal.  We hope to continue this cooperative relationship far into the future.”

Mark Money, Vice President of the Chenango Sno-Rides, a local snowmobile club that works with the DEC through an Adopt a Natural Resources Stewardship Program, said, “We worked closely with the DEC in creating a parking area at Camp Pharsalia so that snowmobilers can have a safe place to park their vehicles during the winters months. This has provided an excellent opportunity for the Snowmobiling community to park and load/unload vehicles and equipment safely.  Our club keeps the parking area free of snow throughout the winter for anyone who wishes to use the parking area to access the forest.  We appreciate the opportunity the DEC has provided in supplying the community with a safe environment to start and end the day of snowmobiling in Chenango County and beyond.”

The plan outlines management activities on the Unit for the next 20 years and defines goals and objectives for various issues, including biodiversity, timber and public recreation. The Audubon Society has designated a portion of the Unit in the town of Pharsalia as an “Important Bird Area” because it is a regional migratory concentration site and provides breeding habitat for a wide variety of forest nesting species.

Currently the forests in the Unit contain 231 acres of roads and developed areas, nine acres of quarries, 11 acres of open land, 58 acres of shrub land, 347 acres of open/shrub wetlands, 1,603 acres of forest wetlands, 751 acres of mixed hardwoods/natural conifers, 5,558 acres of natural hardwoods, and 5,054 acres of conifer plantation. The remote character of many areas on the Unit provide ideal conditions for recreational activities such as wildlife observation, pleasure driving, hiking, hunting, trapping and snowmobiling. The tornado that impacted this area in 1998 created approximately 1,000 acres of disturbed shrub/young-forest land with hundreds of standing snap trees. This area has attracted interest from the public for nature observation, as it is remarkably different from much of the surrounding area.

Hunting, fishing and trapping are permitted anywhere on the Unit, except where prohibited by regulation, law or sign. Snowmobiling is one of the most popular activities on the Unit. The Nine Mile Trail on New Michigan State Forest is part of the Corridor Trail 7 and is a popular regional destination for snowmobiling. A portion of the Finger Lakes Trail traverses through the Unit on Perkins Pond State Forest and New Michigan State Forest.

New Michigan State Forest’s name will be changed to Pharsalia Woods in the near future to more accurately reflect the history and geography of the area.  All maps and information on the DEC web site will be updated to reflect this change.

The plan may be viewed online at http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/67631.html.  Copies of the plan on CD are available for pick up at the DEC Lands and Forests office in Sherburne, 2715 State Highway 80, and Sherburne, NY 13460

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by Denis Slattery / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, link to original post

Runners and cyclists are butting heads over a plan to pave a 1.5-mile stretch of trail in Van Cortlandt Park. The NYC city’s plan to pave the Putnam Trail, a scraggly dirt path that runs through the center of the park, has been a source of controversy since the project was announced in 2011.

Even as the $2.4 million restoration awaits approval by the state Department of Conservation, the debate over the use of asphalt to pave the trail — and make it accessible to bikers as well as the handicapped — continues to rage. “There is such precious little green space in the city and we are trying our darnedest to prevent them from using asphalt,” said Will Sanchez, an avid runner and member of the Save the Putnam Trail campaign.

Opponents insist the trail, a former railroad line, is unsuitable for pavement because it runs through a wetland.Save the Putnam Trail members have argued that a thorough environmental assessment needs to be conducted, and they insist stone dust would be preferable to asphalt.

A city landscape architect countered that suggestion at a Community Board 8 Parks Committee meeting last week, saying that using stone dust would require more excavation and exact a heavier toll on the environment.

On the other side of the path, supporters of the pavement plan say that asphalt would open the trail to cyclists and the disabled, and link up to existing bike trails in Westchester County. “Paving the trail is not going to cause the level of environmental damage that opponents are claiming. It’s not going through areas where the railroad hasn’t already been,” argued Rich Conroy of Bike New York, a cycling-geared nonprofit.

“The path could have a lasting environmental impact if we see the trend of people commuting by bicycle continue to grow,” he said.

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