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End the Prejudice and Discrimination

By Peter J. LaGrasse

Statement for Public Hearing
Guilderland Town Hall
Guilderland, N.Y.
February 9, 2004

My name is Peter J. LaGrasse and I reside in Stony Creek, New York, which is located within the Blue Line of the Adirondack Park. I am a graduate architect and worked as an engineer. I am Chairman of the Stony Creek Board of Assessors, and have been assessor since 1976. I have been a member of the Stony Creek Volunteer Fire Company for over 25 years and am now the Captain of the Emergency Squad of the Volunteer Fire Company.

Approximately one-half of the area of the Town of Stony Creek is Forest Preserve land owned by the State of New York. This land is largely inaccessible to the public, except for a few hiking trails and the areas immediately adjacent to town and county highways. During the fall of each year, hunters bushwhack in short distances to take advantage of the deer and bear hunting opportunities, but their distance is limited by the inability to manually haul out their game any distance. Even though their use of State-owned land is so stringently limited by the lack of motorized access, hunters are by far the most prolific, and I say this in quotation marks, and most economically important use of the State-owned land.

Snowmobiles are allowed during winter on selected seasonal town highways and certain private property, but the State does not maintain a snowmobile trail on the approximately 25,000 acres that it owns in Stony Creek. As a result, senior citizens, disabled, and all but the most extremely physically fit have no opportunity for access to State-owned land in Stony Creek. In addition, the lack of trails to any extent, hampers all but those expert in bushwhacking and pathfinding in safely attempting to enjoy the State-owned land during winter.

The Comprehensive Snowmobile Plan makes a step toward opening up the State-owned Forest Preserve to use by the public. The continuous trail from Lake George to Plattsburgh is an important and positive plan, and I applaud this. However, more roads should be developed for snowmobile trails and other uses, which I will discuss in the context of Stony Creek.

Harrisburg Road already goes to Moosewood Lodge and beyond to Bakers Clearing. This road should go clear through to Wells, where the Town Highway records show it to be a highway. This would provide an uninterrupted snowmobile trail from Warren County on a public road through to Hamilton County. An access road should be opened from Harrisburg Road to Wilcox Lake. Topographic features lead ideally to access from Harrisburg Road to West Stony Creek off Wolf Pond Road.

These access roads and the highway Harrisburg Road will form a trail system that would go through to Wells. All trails should be built for pickup truck access so that snowmobile access would double as fire and emergency access.

Accidents do happen. The snowmobile trail system should anticipate emergency and rescue access needs of local squads.

This area is vast in size. There is ample opportunity for diversity of public uses. Snowmobile access can also be pickup truck access for the disabled and senior citizens, as well as anyone not obviously disabled, but unaccustomed to long hikes.

The Wilcox Lake Wild Forest area of Stony Creek and adjacent towns in Warren and Hamilton Counties is not a sensitive area. It has terrain suitable for development of trails. In fact, the land supported little villages with pastures and intensive agriculture that have reverted to forest. Roads went from Harrisburg not only to Wells but south to Hope Falls near Edinburgh. The present road to West Stony Creek in Thurman could be extended to the full loop that once was used to travel back to Harrisburg. At the present time, Harrisburg in Stony Creek has tourist facilities that would nicely serve snowmobiles from Wells.

The State of New York is putting an extreme burden on local services. An effective network of roads, or snowmobile trails, is needed. All should be pickup and ambulance accessible. Many could be used by the aging population of our area. Many people do not have ATV's, and would prefer to go fishing in a pickup trucks.

I support the long-awaited achievements of this plan and object to those few environmental fanatics who would lock up the Forest Preserve to their particular narrow interests. But we need to go further, and develop a local network of trails to serve the local population and visitors during all seasons of the year and to serve emergency services.


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