Property Rights Foundation of America®

Original E-mail:

To: "Thomas L. Gilbert" <>
Subject: Q re North Country National Scenic Trail

Dear Mr. Gilbert,
Thank you again for the courtesy of your informative conversation at the Warrensburg. N.Y., hearing on December 5.

DEC, as always, has not responded to any of my questions.

Two question could as well be addressed to you:

I. Please tell me which agency, the National Park Service or the NYS DEC, will be the owner of the North Country National Scenic Trail segment through the Adirondacks?

A related question is: Will the National Park Service become the owner of all segments of the trail when it is complete?

Is there some variation in the ownership scheme, either geographically or on the basis of time?

II. What is the width of the trail? Both the actual functional walking trail that is, presumably, cleared and maintained, and the width of the acquired property or trail right-of-way, which I assume are two different widths. Will this be in accord with NPS standards or NYS DEC "standards," which actually do not exist in practice.

Thank you very much for your assistence.

Carol W. LaGrasse
Property Rights Foundation of America
P. O. Box 75
Stony Creek, NY 12878
(518) 696-5748


Subject: Re: Q re North Country National Scenic Trail

Date: Tue, 19 Feb 2008 5:48:43 PM

Dear Mrs. LaGrasse:
Attached, as promised in my earlier response, is the letter we sent last month to the NY Department of Environmental Conservation giving our comments on the draft Adirondack Park Trail Plan for the North Country National Scenic Trail.

In regard to your Question I, I believe you will find the answer in numbered point 1 in our letter.

In regard to your first followup question, the NPS will NOT become the owner of all segments when the trail is complete. The National Trails System Act, in section 7(e) directs the administering Secretary (Interior in the case of the North Country Trail) to encourage state and local governments to enter into agreements with landowners to provide a route for the trail or to acquire lands for this purpose. If the land is already owned and protected by another public agency, it is in everyone's best interest to let that agency retain ownership and management of those lands. Could there be an occasional specific case where it might be advantageous for a public agency to transfer title to a parcel of land it owns for the trail to the NPS? Hypothetically, there could be. To the best of my knowledge, lands that have been purchased by states for the Appalachian Trail have not been transferred to the NPS, although there may be an exception or two. Even if we should eventually get authority to purchase lands from willing sellers for the North Country Trail, we can not foresee circumstances which would make it desirable for the NPS to be involved in acquiring lands within Adirondack Park. State agencies should always be the acquiring and managing entity for those lands.

To answer your further question on this point, when the North Country Trail is finally completed and protected through land acquisition and easement agreements with landowners (what decade that will be, I do not know), ownership and management authority will be a patchwork all along the trail. That is the way it is along the Appalachian Trail. However, the ownership and management responsibility along the North Country Trail will be much more broken up than along the Appalachian Trail. This is one of the challenges we face in trying to work with so many partners who will own and control various segments--how do we bring about some degree of uniform signing and management such that a long-distance hiker will realize he/she is on the same North Country Trail in the Adirondacks as when he/she is hiking on a segment across private lands in the Finger Lakes Region or on a segment through a county park in southern Michigan, etc?

In regard to your Second Question, you correctly surmise that there are two different trail "widths" that we consider--(1) the amount of land that is owned or managed for the trail, and (2) the width of the "actual functional walking trail that is cleared and maintained." Let's take the second point first. The standard we use for the "actual functional walking trail" is a 24-inch tread plus an additional foot of vegetation clearing on either side, or about 4 feet total. New accessibility standards, when they become final, MAY push the tread width to 32 or 36 inches, or a total of 5 feet, but this remains to be seen.

On the first point, we have this guidance on page 26 in our Comprehensive Management Plan for the North Country National Scenic Trail:

"The extent of land area that needs to be protected and/or managed for the NCT is a matter to be determined by the local managing authority and should reflect the resource management objectives and the unique environmental characteristics and opportunities associated with each portion of the route as well as the type of experience which the managing authority desires to provide for the trail user. The decision will be influenced by the surrounding land uses, the terrain, the need for sight and sound buffers, and the ease or difficulty of securing or setting aside lands to be managed for the trail. The lands associated with and managed for the trail may therefore vary from a mere 2-foot tread to 1,000 feet or more. It is not the intent of this plan to completely isolate the user from land use practices surrounding the trail, but rather to allow the traveler to enjoy the mosaic of resources and land uses through which the trail passes while taking special advantage of the natural and scenic elements along the way. Thus, resource management activities such as timber cutting, even occasional clearcutting, are not out of harmony with management of the NCT."

Within that 2 feet to 1,000 feet range, we view 200 feet as kind of an optimal minimum width. It provides both a minimum natural/scenic buffer for the trail as well as a minimum distance to keep the trail away from residences, agricultural buildings, and other developments on private lands.

The greatest influence on the width of land protected and managed for the trail is really the wishes of the individual landowner with whom an agency partner, like the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, is negotiating. Some landowners wish to minimize the size/width of the corridor that is protected or purchased. We use 50 feet as a guideline for the minimum width on which we and our partners would be willing to spend public funds to acquire. In many cases, especially here in the Midwest with its surveyed grid of land descriptions and ownerships, most often a rural landowner prefers to sell an entire 40-acres (~1,320 feet wide), rather than split off a strip or corridor from a "40." So in Wisconsin along the Ice Age and North Country National Scenic Trails, we are often looking at a string of "40s" for the trail ownership by the State Department of Natural Resources.

Who ultimately makes the decision as to how much land is devoted to or acquired for the trail?--the public agency doing the negotiating and the private landowner who is negotiating as a willing seller or partner. The guidance in our management plan is just that--guidance.

I think I have answered your questions. If I have missed something or you have other questions, feel free to contact me again.

Tom Gilbert
Ice Age and North Country National Scenic Trails
700 Rayovac Drive, Suite 100
Madison, WI 53711
608-441-5606 fax

(See attached file: Adirondack Park Plan-NPS comments 010408.pdf)

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