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Stone Valley Rec Area members listen to suggestions Monday night

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COLTON - Critics say if all-terrain vehicle users are still going to be banned from the Stone Valley Cooperative Recreation Area, accommodations shouldn’t be made for mountain bikers, either.

Owners and managers of the Stone Valley Cooperative Recreation Area are updating a 24-year-old management plan for the area.

A draft plan from December is available on the Adirondack Mountain Club Laurentian Chapter website at http://adklaurentian.org/. The plan outlines management goals and objectives. Appendices include a number of associated maps and project descriptions.

Users and other interested people attended a recent session at the Colton Town Hall to learn more about the revised management plan.

“We are going to take the comments that we hear today, meet again once more and put the current agreement together and then send it out to the various partners for essentially the sign off on it, which we haven’t done yet. We won’t call it final because it’s never final,” Adirondack Mountain Club Representative John Omohundro said.

Representatives of Brookfield Renewable Energy, St. Lawrence County, the Adirondack Mountain Club Laurentian Chapter, St. Lawrence County Mountain Bike Association, American Whitewater, and the towns of Colton, Parishville and Pierrepont are working together to update the management plan.

St. Lawrence County Trails Coordinator Deb Christy questioned the draft’s proposal to allow bicyclists to use the area, saying that if that is the case ATV users should be permitted as well.

“I just know in the original plan, biking wasn’t part of the original plan, but it seems to have been added. So if that can be added, why can’t other things be added? (That) was my wonder as trail coordinator,” Ms. Christy said.

“I can’t comment on that now because that came over from the Raquette River Advisory Council. The current land use policy of Brookfield does not mention bikes one way or another, either permitted or disallowed. I understand that that document is being revised in the near future, and we have asked them to specify bicycles as permissible, so we shall see. If it’s not, then there will be no bike trail,” Mr. Omohundro said.

Ms. Christy added that ATV users accessed road until 2006, before it was disallowed, and asked Brookfield Renewable Power Compliance Specialist Daniel Daoust about that decision.

“The biggest changes, and I don’t have a tremendous amount of history with the company, FERC has changed their rules with what they expect from us as far as public safety and access and critical infrastructure. We also have the flexibility to pull out public access in areas or not in areas where we deem it to either be sensitive or too close to infrastructure,” Mr. Daoust said.

He said the area where ATVs were allowed previously was too close to equipment, creating security and safety issues.

“That’s our primary road, up and down through there, so there could be vehicle conflicts having to maintain that road above and beyond what we already do. There could also be speed limit conflicts,” he said.

Art Wilson agreed with Ms. Christy’s sentiment that ATV usage should be allowed.

“My feelings are if it’s unsafe for snowmobiles and ATVs then it ought to be unsafe for mountain bikers,” Mr. Wilson said. “I’ve seen them glide, going speeds that are unbelievable.”

Mr. Omohundro stated that he believed bicyclists would not be able to bike on the specified route, but rather on a built in trail in the woods between the water and penstock.

Because the partners only started working on the current draft of the agreement in 2013, long after Brookfield’s regulations were set, the renewable power agency has no obligation to listen the group, according to Mr. Omohundro.

New York State Conservation Council Specialist Walt Paul said he worried about a process that would allow Brookfield to sign off on changes to the plan before the partners have it finalized.

He also said that the power company’s improvements over the years have resulted in a need for an environmental impact study.

“Sometimes lands get loved to death,” he said.

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