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Commentary on DEC's Proposed Policy for Primitive Tent Sites

By Susan Allen
January 29, 2016

The proposed guidance for roadside campsites should be eliminated. Existing camping spots along roads have evolved organically. They represent a classic tradition in the Adirondacks, that of casual outdoor recreation created in the beginning by the then-new automobile and the rise of the weekend getaway for working people. This tradition must not be lost.

These sites as they exist today, along many of the backwoods in the Adirondacks, are beloved by all and are especially enjoyed by local people. The report several years ago by Chad Dawson of SUNY-ESF (State University of New York Environmental Science and Forestry) confirmed that roadside sites do not substitute easily, either by formal campgrounds or by wilderness settings. Users should be asked for their opinions of the proposal.

The requirement that the camping site be located at least 100 feet from the vehicle parking area is a hardship for the type of camping gear normally used, such as canvas tents, heavy sleeping bags, coolers, and campfire cooking equipment, which would have to be lugged down a long and narrow path. Hikers and backpackers with their lightweight equipment, have many other places to go.

This proposal is part of the ongoing relentless idea that the only proper recreational use of the Adirondacks is in wilderness-type settings. Why must camping be such a chore?

The presentations by DEC have deceptively and maliciously couched the proposal as promoting solitude for campers away from what they termed noisy vehicle roadways, and I fear the commissioners have bought into this argument. They must realize these sites continued to be enjoyed because they are popular just as they are, and if users of these sites are dissatisfied, there are plenty of wilderness options for them elsewhere.

There is nothing in APA (Adirondack Park Agency) or DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) law that disallows their continued existence. They do nothing to harm the environment and are a pleasure for many outdoor enthusiasts who deserve to have this type of convenient camping as a choice.

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