Jonathan DeSantis
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC)
Division of Lands and Forests
701 South Main Street
P.O. Box 1316
Northville, NY 12134

Re. Work Plan for the Wilson Ridge Trail, Arietta

Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve and Adirondack Wilderness Advocates appreciate this opportunity to comment on the July 12 ENB-noticed work plan for bridge construction across Silver Run and the outlet of Little Moose Lake, part of the Wilson Ridge-Otter Brook Wild Forest trail running between the West Canada Lake and Little Moose Wilderness areas.

The problems we have with the Silver Run and Little Moose Lake bridge work plan lie in its  inconsistency with DEC trail standards under development, and with the bike trail definition in the State Land Master Plan. Furthermore, the alternatives are too limited. Both criticisms relate strongly to foundational context.

The Wilson Ridge trail cuts remotely into the Forest Preserve greater than five miles from a motorized road between two Wilderness areas, Little Moose and West Canada Lakes. The bridge work proposed at Little Moose Pond is not peripheral to these Wildernesses but embedded within them.

Given this reality and the APSLMP bicycle trail definition –  that access have the least effect on the local environment – we question whether two bridges of six feet in tread width and requiring re-barred sills, rock cribbing, ramps, stringers and decking exercises needed restraint called for on a Wild Forest trail running between two Wilderness areas.

According to the Moose River Plains Complex UMP we believe this was to be a single-track bicycle trail connecting Otter Brook with the Limekiln-Cedar River Road. We question why a mountain bike trail requires a six-foot tread width. In fact, DEC design parameters for Class 2 or Class 3, single-track bicycle trails in Forest Preserve Wild Forest call for a maximum tread width of two feet. Six-feet bridges for a combined bicycle and hiking trails seems completely out of scale according to DEC’s own trail standards now under review.

The limited alternatives examined at Little Moose Pond include sleeker bridge profiles involving less material but that alternative, states the work plan, would require removal of the beaver dam. The no action alternative, states the work plan, endangers the recreating public in their transit over the beaver dam. Neither need be true. Narrow, rustic, bog bridge designs on top of the beaver dam that would not endanger the public appear unexamined. By keeping the entire trail to two-feet cleared width for bicycling and foot travel, the alternatives of bog bridging or of strengthening of the beaver dam for public crossing may be the most effective alternative from user, wild character, materials and cost perspectives.  

Finally, DEC should consider the alternative of seeking to amend the UMP, reclassifying the trail to Wilderness, and closing it to bicycles. The work plan admits there has been very little bicycle use over the 12-years of the Unit Management Plan. This 15-mile, slow, rugged, remote trail was never designed for or welcoming of family-style biking. Regardless of the bridge projects, increased bike use is unlikely to commence anytime in the future. To build and maintain in perpetuity six-foot bridges in order to meet low demand for single-track bicycling on a trail between two Wilderness areas appears to violate DEC trail standards and common sense. Designating and reclassifying Wilson Ridge-Otter Brook trail as a foot trail through the West Canada Lakes or Little Moose Wilderness avoids conflicts, enhances public safety, reduces administrative costs, and allows DEC to consolidate its care, custody and control of the area.

Thank you for the chance to comment on this work plan.

David Gibson, Managing Partner
Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve

Pete Nelson
Pete Nelson, Chair
Adirondack Wilderness Advocates

Bill Ingeresoll
Bill Ingersoll, Vice Chair
Adirondack Wilderness Advocates

Cc: Fiona Watt, DEC Director, Lands and Forests
Peter Frank, DEC Assistant Director, Lands and Forests
Josh Clague, Forest Preserve Coordinator
Joe Zalewski, DEC Regional Director
Megan Phillips, APA

Adirondack Wilderness Advocates
P.O. Box 191
Keene, NY 12942

Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve
P.O. Box 9247
Niskayuna, NY 12309