APA’s Proposed New Road Policy

Updated April 2023!

The Adirondack Park Agency is currently reviewing its policy on roads in Wild Forest areas, and as part of that process it is once again holding a public comment period on their proposed alternatives. In this second iteration, the APA seems poised to suggest that the modest offering of Forest Preserve routes dedicated to disabled access is the cause for an “overall overabundance” of roads, and that the only alternatives are to either close these CP-3 routes or else approve a more forgiving counting method.

Roads are a critical topic for AWA: no issue in the Adirondack Park more affects our core mission to preserve and increase remoteness and solitude. In an ever more developed world, this is an issue of global importance, as few places on Earth are more than three miles from a road. Even in our magnificent Forest Preserve, only a small amount of public land is more than three miles from a road or snowmobile trail, as the map at right, which AWA produced during the Boreas campaign, clearly shows.

Over fifty years ago, the fledgling APA assessed the current condition of the Adirondack Forest Preserve and issued its first State Land Master Plan. Among many other things—such as designating the park’s first wilderness areas, for instance—it implemented the concept of “no material increase” in regards to roads. Without providing an absolute number, the SLMP simply said there should be no material increase in the amount of road mileage open to motor vehicles compared to what existed in 1972.

Unfortunately, the APA of 2022-2023 now seems anxious to gift itself a “road budget.” Modern road inventories show the amount of mileage in the regions designated Wild Forest have seen a 15% increase in the last half-century. Yes, while some obsolete roads have been phased out many more new ones have been added (Gulf Brook Road on the Boreas Ponds Tract comes to mind). Now the state is in violation of its own guidelines, and the APA board appears to be floundering for a resolution.

Almost a year after the first public comment period, no progress has been made by the APA except to devise a proposed new workaround: to administratively declare, as if by fiat, that the CP-3 routes for disabled access don’t need to be counted and that the remaining road network poses no threat to the concept of “no material increase.”

We fear that by posing such a flagrantly false choice, the Agency seems to be manipulating the outcome toward a “compromise” that, regardless of the specifics, will permit more motorized uses in the Forest Preserve than historically allowed.

The development caps put in place in the 1972 master plan were a deliberate control against the upward creep of motorization in the Adirondack backcountry. But rather than trying to abide by its own regulations, the APA is attempting to divide public opinion by pitting one set of outdoor users against the other—and then perhaps “resolving” that manufactured crisis with a “compromise” that effectively rewrites the same policy the Agency no longer finds convenient.

Make no mistake: our organization fully supports access for disabled individuals. Most of the existing CP-3 routes were well-chosen and do no harm the remote motorless areas we seek to protect. But we also oppose the expansion of motorized access routes into the interior of the Forest Preserve, and thus these attempts to recalibrate “no material increase” to a more liberal standard eat at our conscience.

For this second public comment period, our organization is doing something a little different. We have drafted our official response to the Adirondack Park Agency—and we are inviting our supporters to join on as co-signers! Our hope is that a united front will make a strong impact, and what better way to get the APA’s attention than a letter with pages and pages of names?

If you want to learn more about this topic, we’ve thrown everything we have up on the green links shared all over this page—essays, official documents, even an entire episode of our new podcast series!

But the time to respond is upon us. The Agency is expecting all comments by Monday, April 17, 2023, so if you wish to add your name to our cause the time to do so is now. The Take Action! link below will let you read a copy of our letter and give you the option to add your own name.

Thank you in advance for your participation!

Read the Official State Documents