The state will take more time with and substantially revise its plans for managing the Essex Chain of Lakes property in Essex and Hamilton counties.
In response to a round of public comment, the state Department of Environmental Conservation will take the time to refine where a snowmobile trail through the state forest should be located.
It will also consider whether a planned pedestrian bridge over the Cedar River should be designed to handle snowmobile and mountain bike traffic as well.
DEC expects to release a revised draft unit management plan for further public comment this fall, with the goal of completing the plan in 2015.
“Through the draft UMP process, we will also give the public the opportunity to provide input into the future public use of this magnificent property,” DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens said in a statement on Friday.
The lands in question cover 19,600 remote acres between Newcomb and Indian Lake, including numerous lakes, miles of Hudson River shoreline and the former sites of the Gooley and Polaris private clubs. It is part of the former Finch Pruyn & Co. lands the state has been acquiring since 2012.
In June, DEC released a draft plan that said the location for a snowmobile trail linking Long Lake, Newcomb and Minerva would be addressed in a future amendment. Now, the route will be addressed during current planning.
An interim access plan put into effect last year will remain in place, giving public access to the lands.
“DEC staff have spent a great deal of time and effort preparing this area for the public, recognizing that it contains sensitive natural resources that must be protected,” Martens said.
At least one environmental group, Protect the Adirondacks, said the previous plan put recreation ahead of wilderness protection.
“The public comments that the DEC received were a clear vote of no-confidence in the DEC’s proposals for management of the Essex Chain Lakes area,” said Protect Executive Director Peter Bauer. “The DEC proposals violated the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act and violated state regulations for natural resource protection.”
The Adirondack Council, however, said taking more time is the right decision, and snowmobile advocates also welcomed the news.
“Advancing this discussion in a revised [unit management plan] will get us that much closer to being able to ride this trail in 2015,” said Dominic Jacangelo, executive director of the New York State Snowmobile Association.
The chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors said the revision is an appropriate response to what local governments said about the draft plan, snowmobiling, and its importance to the regional economy.
“Snowmobiling has been determined to be one of the most significant economic drivers associated with these lands,” said Supervisor Bill Farber, R-Morehouse.