Adirondack Daily Enterprise
LAUREN YATES / Staff Writer
RAY BROOK — The Adirondack Park Agency board has approved the state Olympic Regional Development Authority’s proposed amendment to the Whiteface Mountain Unit Management Plan.
The plan — which was unanimously approved at the agency’s board meeting on Thursday — gives ORDA clearance to widen some existing ski trails on the mountain and construct new connector ski trails, mountain biking, and hiking trails. The amendment also gives ORDA the authority to build a new lift from the Bear Den Lodge to the Legacy Lodge and expand the existing New York Ski Education Foundation building.
Agency board member Art Lussi, who is on the ORDA board of directors, recused himself from the vote on Thursday.
State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos still has to sign the APA’s resolution before the amendment is finalized, according to ORDA Director of Communications Darcy Norfolk.
ORDA held a public comment period for the amendment at the end of 2021, and the amendment moved to public comment with the APA as the agency board considered whether or not the amendment conformed with the agency’s State Land Master Plan. The APA received 10 public comments from March 11 to April 11; nine of those were from individuals, and one was from the North Creek-based environmental advocacy organization Protect the Adirondacks.
The public comments submitted through the APA varied in their support and criticism of the amendment.
Some commenters — like Protect the Adirondacks Executive Director Peter Bauer — were concerned about the plan’s conformance with Article 14 of the state Constitution and the widening of ski trails. Others voiced their disapproval of the new lift. One person — Stephen Shafer, of Malone — said he disapproved of the new mountain biking trails altogether and asked ORDA to close the existing biking trails on the mountain.
A few people showed support for the new mountain biking trails, which will connect the Whiteface biking system with the Wilmington Wild Forest trail system. One Whiteface Ski Center customer, Bob Dickie, called for more uphill skiing features in the amendment. Bauer applauded the authority’s efforts to mitigate negative effects on the habitat of the Bicknell’s Thrush, a bird that the state identifies as a species of “special concern.”
The amendment’s various trail construction activities involve cutting nearly 10,000 trees, though the amendment prohibits tree cutting above an elevation of 2,800 feet between May 15 and Aug. 1, when the birds are most active in the area.
Trail construction wouldn’t start until after the state Department of Environmental Conservation releases its revised tree cutting policy.
People can view the final UMP amendment at https://tinyurl.com/yfpv7z74.