The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Adirondack Park Agency (APA) have acknowledged up to this point that attempts to measure carrying capacity have fallen short.
As a requirement in the Adirondack State Land Master Plan, the DEC and APA are charged with examining carrying capacity — the amount of visitor-use a unit in the Park can withstand without detrimental impacts to its natural resources — and develop limits or regulations to prevent it from being exceeded.
While both agencies are creating ways to measure visitor impacts and the results of their management efforts, these tasks were not applied to the proposed Fish Creek Campground Unit Management Plan.
In a recent public comment submitted to the APA, the Upper Saranac Foundation (USF) has requested that the APA reject the current proposed DEC Fish Creek Unit Management Plan. USF believes that until carrying capacity limits are addressed in this plan, the proposal is incomplete and lacks several key components that would assure the protection of the Upper Saranac Watershed.
The proposed final Fish Creek Campground UMP states: “All DEC campground facilities should be operated within the physical, biological and social carrying capacity of the site. Operation within these limits will ensure the continued natural character and integrity of the resources at this location and that the impact of continued public use is conditioned within the capacity of the physical, biological and social resources to withstand such use.”
While the proposed plan addresses the facility’s infrastructure capacity, it lacks insight and an assessment of the impact of actual and projected camper use on the aquatic natural resources, the ecosystem, and the waterbody’s social carrying capacity. Even though this UMP refers to Fish Creek Campground as the “busiest facility operated by the DEC,” it does not evaluate or assess its influences on the water body it surrounds, nor the profound impact on neighboring water bodies.
Increasing watercraft size, noise, speeds, and wakes are magnifying watercraft presence in the environment. The carrying capacity for the campground must be based on the character of the water body. The NYSDEC – State Land Master Plan notes that Intensive Use Boat Launch Sites “should not be provided where the threat of overuse exists.” Not addressing or knowing the answers to “how many people is too many?” or “how much is acceptable?” and implementing a management plan that includes developing a boat launch is unacceptable.
Other Management Units within the Park are experiencing overuse and overcrowding. These problems are becoming problematic region wide. The Fish Creek UMP provides an opportunity to address these issues before they become irreversible. Without considering management strategies that apply to the cumulative impacts of the UMP proposals affecting the watershed, a responsible decision regarding the appropriate balance between environmental protection and development is impossible.
The APA is accepting public comments on the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan conformance for the Fish Creek Pond Public Campground Unit Management Plan through June 14. For more information.