Despite concerns from its commissioners, the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) approved upgrades to the Fish Creek Campground. With 355 campsites accommodating up to 2,130 people, and with almost all sites having direct water access to Upper Saranac Lake, the campground has a significant impact on the watershed.
The NYSDEC plans infrastructure improvements to comfort stations, day-use areas, the amphitheater, and bike paths. As well as developing a new boat launch and repaving of the main road to accommodate two-way traffic.
The boat launch was the focus of a lot of the discussion among APA board members, who indicated they were frustrated that upgrades in the Unit Management Plan (UMP) didn’t include a boat wash station to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS). The plan did suggest designing space “for a boat steward area and/or infrastructure to support a boat washing station”. Boats in need of invasive species removal are currently directed to the USF’s decontamination station on Upper Saranac Lake. Watershed Stewards at the Fish Creek Launch, who lack the authority to mandate the washing of watercraft, have reported reluctance by boaters to travel the 11-mile round trip.
The plan references AIS spread prevention measures and work done by the USF, supported by a DEC grant. The DEC grant funding required a match by the USF. DECs support for AIS management concluded in 2019. The USF has shouldered the responsibility of AIS harvesting since, investing over $30,000 in 2020 alone.
The carrying capacity of the waterbody to withstand various watercraft uses and boater traffic was also discussed among the APAs board. The campground is the largest and most popular of DEC’s campgrounds in terms of the number of campsites, visitations, and revenue. While the plan indicates potential environmental impacts from water-based recreational activities, the plan deferred carrying capacity analysis to the Saranac Lake Wild Forest UMP. This, despite the entirety of the campground completely surrounding the waterbody. Unfortunately, a monitoring program to determine waterbody capacity, as part of the Saranac Lake Wild Forest UMP has not been implemented.
The plan also mentions a DEC partnership with the USF to “monitor use and water quality”. While the USF does monitor water quality, there are no current assessment efforts in place to evaluate boater traffic in relation to the impact of boat size, noise, speeds, wakes, wave action, or social effect.
The one disdaining vote among the APA Board came from Andrea Hogan who said she was “disappointed that the UMP isn’t stronger with a commitment to a boat wash station. I think it’s a wonderful place, but I do not believe we’ve done enough in terms of species protection.” She went on to say she is also voting no because the DEC has yet to formally study the carrying capacity of the pond and adjoining lands.
The Fish Creek Pond Public Campground Unit Management Plan can be found here.
Click here to view the APA Agency Meeting. Discussion on the Fish Creek UMP begins at 3:10 of the video.
The Upper Saranac Foundation (USF) submitted comments to the NYSDEC provided input to better protect water quality and prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS). Suggestions by the USF that were not included in the plan included:
- Mandate that all watercraft be inspected by Watershed Stewards upon entering the Campground.
- New Boat launch ramp usage open only during set Watershed Stewardship Inspection hours
- Include an AIS decontamination station on site at the newly located boat launch.
- Conduct a comprehensive carrying capacity analysis to determine the waterbody’s capacity to withstand various watercraft uses and boater traffic.
- Implement findings and execute carrying capacity measures into the management of the Campground.
Upper Saranac Foundation Comments to the APA can be seen here.