The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has finalized the Unit Management Plan (UMP) for the Sentinel Range Wilderness.
The Sentinel Range Wilderness is comprised of 23,874 acres of Forest Preserve lands in the towns of Keene, Jay, Wilmington, and North Elba, Essex County. The lands consist primarily of rugged, mountainous forest land with relatively few ponds and wetlands. Mountain views are one of the Wilderness Area’s main attractions, although a portion of the Jackrabbit Ski Trail also runs through the wilderness. The area borders the north side of Route 73 through Cascade Pass and includes a number of popular climbing areas. The plan sets aside for the time being a reroute on Pitchoff.
The summit of Pitchoff Mountain offers outstanding views of the surrounding area. Recreational use occurs mainly on the trails to Pitchoff Mountain or Copperas and Owen ponds. Most visitors are day users, but some camping does occur at the Copperas Pond area. Much of the unit is undeveloped and provides opportunities for solitude and unconfined recreation.
The final UMP includes the following objectives and actions for management of the Sentinel Range Wilderness Area and the Bartlett Primitive Area on the eastern edge of the wilderness. These descriptions were provided by DEC:
Improving trail systems and trail maintenance by providing visitors with a trail system that offers a range of wilderness recreational opportunities in a manner that minimizes impacts and preserves a significant area without marked trails.
- The trail to Copperas Pond will be rerouted. Most of the current trail is heavily eroded and is too steep to be maintained for sustainable use.
- Trail maintenance will include minor relocations, removal of downed trees, ditching, clearing of brush, water bar construction and cleaning, bridge repairs and reconstruction, and installing other trail structures.
- Trail structures may be built where needed for resource protection or visitor safety, including bridges, ladders, turnpike, rock cribbing, and bog bridges.
Enhancing and adding skiing opportunities as appropriate throughout the area.
- Build about 0.5 miles of new ski trail to reroute the Jackrabbit Trail off Mountain Lane in North Elba.
- Construct a new ski trail to allow some Jackrabbit Trail users to avoid two road crossings of State Route 86.
- Build trail reroutes to bypass flooded portions of the Jackrabbit Trail along Old Mountain Road.
- Two proposed loop trails at Scotts Cobble.
- Proposed loop trail at the northeast slope of Pitchoff Mountain.
Introducing options for sustainably managing Pitchoff Mountain. Portions of the Pitchoff Mountain Trail need significant rehabilitation, particularly the trail to Balanced Rocks. Options for rehabilitating the trail in place are limited due to thin soils and steep slopes. A set of options for trail reconstruction, management, and potential relocation is described on page 98 of the final UMP.
Maintaining trail-less Area. The core of the wilderness, about 10,500 acres, will remain undeveloped and managed as an area without formal trails to help preserve remote and undeveloped recreational opportunities. Herd paths in the area may remain, provided the use of the paths do not result in significant damage to the natural resources. The herd paths will not be improved or maintained.
Restricting group size by implementing regulations limiting group sizes to address impacts to natural resources and visitor experience over the next two years. Regulations will limit camping groups to no more than eight people and day use groups to 15 people. This is consistent with regulations proposed in other wilderness UMPs.
- Two campsites on Copperas Pond will be closed and restored to a natural condition. One new campsite will be built in compliance with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.
- Close the campsite at Holcomb Pond.
- Build two campsites off Bartlett Road. Neither of these campsites will allow vehicle access on to the campsite.
Managing rock climbing sites to minimize environmental impacts.
Stabilize soil at the top and base of climbing routes where erosion is identified as a problem.
Access trails to the Barkeater Cliffs, Notch Mountain, and Pitchoff Chimney Cliff will be formalized and upgraded where necessary.
Maintain adequate parking for climbers. This may be in official parking areas or at roadside pull-offs.
Convene a focus group, including DEC, members of the climbing community, environmental organizations, and other interested parties, to develop a park-wide policy on the management of fixed anchors on Forest Preserve lands.
The final UMP for Sentinel Range Wilderness is available to view and download on DEC’s website.
Map of Sentinel Range Wilderness courtesy Adirondack Atlas.