March 8, 2023
Barbara Rice, Executive Director &
John Ernst, Chair
NYS Adirondack Park Agency
P.O. Box 99
Ray Brook, NY 12977
Dear Barbara and John,

During the February Agency meeting members and staff continued to debate Wild Forest guideline 4, “no material increase in the mileage of Wild Forest roads and snowmobile trails open to motorized uses by the public” than existed in 1972 when the Master Plan was first adopted.
“Public use of motor vehicles will not be encouraged,” continues the Master Plan, which also defines public roads on the Forest Preserve as being “designed for travel by automobiles and which may also be used by other motor vehicles.”

In February, you asked for a fourth alternative interpretation of Wild Forest guideline 4, that being: “The current estimated mileage of roads in lands classified as Wild Forest, 206.6 miles, does not constitute a material increase in road mileage since 1972, nor would increases of mileage up to and including the 1972 estimated mileage of 211.6.”

The fact that today there could be fewer miles of roads on Wild Forest open to public motorized uses than existed in 1972 could result in several ways. For instance, DEC could have counted motorized roads as existing back in 1972 that were not roads “designed for travel by automobiles,” as defined under the Master Plan, but in fact were old wagon paths not so designed. That possibility should be carefully re-examined today. Re-examination may result in fewer miles of Wild Forest roads open in 1972.

Alternatively, some Agency members today appear comfortable deciding not to count the miles of roads open now, or potentially open in the future exclusively to persons with disabilities. The assumption that such CP-3 routes not be counted significantly reduces the road mileage today. As APA staff have previously reported, counting CP-3 road mileage or potential mileage under approved Unit Management Plans adds 38 miles of motorized roads, yielding a total of 244.7 miles on Wild Forest, or a roughly 16% increase from the stated 1972 mileage.

Agency staff made the point in February that while some on the Agency may be assuming that such CP-3 roads are not Wild Forest motorized roads and that CP-3 permittees are not members of the public, such assumptions may not be valid.

In documents released to us by the Agency under FOIL, the historical record suggests that assumptions that CP-3 roads should not be counted and that CP-3 permittees are not members of the public are unsupported. Those documents include APA memorandum dated Dec. 17 1996, stating that Agency staff met with DEC staff “to discuss identifying DEC roads currently opened for public use of motor vehicles and to quantify the approximate miles of roads open in 1972…all part of an effort to develop a comprehensive park wide list of roads legally open to motor vehicles as part of the Department’s new policy allowing people with disabilities to use motor vehicles on state land in the Park” (emphasis ours).

The memo infers that roads legally open to motor vehicles on Wild Forest included and incorporated the policy (which became CP-3) authorizing persons with disabilities to use motor vehicles. It infers that CP-3 permittees are considered members of the public and the roads driven by the permittees are to be counted toward Wild Forest road mileage under the Master Plan.

Another document released by the Agency is a Nov. 17 1997 letter from the DEC Lands and Forests director to the National Park Service Equal Opportunity Program Manager, copied to the Agency. The letter discusses increasing access for persons with disabilities. However, states DEC, “as we emphasized in our October meeting with you, we are precluded from designating roads or trails for such access where current law prohibits us from doing so. As you know, the Adirondack and Catskill Park and Department rules and regulations currently prohibit the public use of motor vehicles on most locations on state lands within the two parks.” Here, again, DEC seems to confirm what APA staff asserted the prior year that public use of motor vehicles on Wild Forest included and incorporated such use by persons with disabilities.

We believe there are other historical documents at the Agency which may further confirm prior Agency determinations that persons with disabilities, CP-3 permittees, are members of the public and that roads open to their motorized use are Wild Forest roads subject to Guideline 4. Some of these additional documents were withheld from our FOIL request, but ought to be immediately made available to members of the Agency. Given the importance of this Master Plan guideline, and the impacts of road presence and uses so well documented by your staff, all Agency members should, after these many months, now be in possession of all relevant historical documents at the Agency pertaining to “no material increase.”

Thank you, and sincerely,
David Gibson, Managing Partner
Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve
P.O. Box 9247. Niskayuna. NY 12309
Cc: Agency Members and Designees
Agency Counsel Chris Cooper
Agency Planning Megan Phillips
DEC Natural Resources Katie Petronis
DEC Lands and Forests Josh Clague
DEC Region 5
Executive Chamber, Ashley Dougherty