Boat counters on the Northway for the Memorial Day weekend say that 89% of the trailered motorboats traveling north into the Adirondacks on Interstate 87 passed the inspection/decontamination station without stopping, according to the Adirondack Council, which organized the transportation survey.
It is illegal to transport invasive plants, fish or wildlife from one water body to another in New York. The surest way to avoid contaminating one lake, pond or river with species from another is to have the boat inspected and cleaned by trained personnel. A network of inspection stations has been installed in and around the Adirondack Park.
Boat inspections and decontaminations are free, but the state hasn’t required boaters to stop at the inspection stations. The Adirondack Council and others want better protection.
Aggressive, non-native plants and aquatic wildlife can overwhelm local plants and wildlife, changing entire ecosystems. Removing them is usually impossible. Controlling their spread has cost the State and Adirondack local governments tens of millions of dollars each year.
“The Northway inspection station is one of the easiest and most visible boat-cleaning facilities in the state,” Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway, said in a announcement of the survey results sent to the press. “The entire process takes about five minutes and the rest area offers great local food as part of an interesting Adirondack visitors’ center. Yet fewer than 11% of all boat transporters stopped at the rest area, and only 9% approached the inspection station,” Janeway said. “At least two percent of boaters used another part of the rest area and avoided the inspection station when they left. Even some who parked near the inspection station then went around it as they left.”
Janeway said it is time for the state to institute a comprehensive motorboat inspection program, requiring boaters who want to launch in the Adirondack Park to get their boats inspected first, and if needed, have them cleaned of invasive species. So far, only Lake George and Loon Lake (in Chestertown, Warren County) require all boats to be inspected prior to launch.
Officials at the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program say 25 new invasive species infestations have been recorded in the park in the past five years, as the voluntary inspection program has slowly expanded.
“Even if we assume that some of the boats passing the Northway station are going to get inspected in Lake George, there are thousands of other boating choices in the park,” Janeway said. “The good news is that the state has funded an already-impressive network of inspection stations around the park and its entry highways. The bad news is the stations won’t do the job if almost nobody stops at them.”
Janeway said the Northway boat inspection station was open to the public on Saturday, Sunday and Monday of Memorial Day Weekend.
The Adirondack Council’s Memorial Day Weekend count of Northway Boat Inspection Station traffic included:
Saturday May 23 – Station Open (9 am to 5 pm)
Passed without stopping – 174
Pulled into rest area, but not inspection station – 4
Pulled into inspection area – 20
Sunday May 24 – Station Open (9 am to 4 pm)
Passed without stopping – 95
Pulled into rest area, but not inspection station – 1
Pulled into inspection area – 9
Saturday and Sunday Station Open Total (303 total/15 hours- 20.2 boats per hour)
Passed without stopping – 269 (89%)
Pulled into rest area – 5 (2%)
Pulled into inspection area – 29 (9%)
Janeway said the hiking trails around the popular High Peaks Wilderness Area were nearly as busy as last year, even though the Canadian border remains closed to non-essential travel. Hiker parking lots in the High Peaks and Lake George areas were again overflowing, with demand exceeding capacity.
During times of limited air and overseas travel, the Adirondack Park becomes a “staycation” destination for the Northeast. About 80 million Americans and Canadians live within half-day drive of the Adirondacks. The Park received more than 12.4 million visitors last year.
A state-appointed Wilderness Overuse Working Group is developing recommendations for improved management that better protects visitors, the wilderness, and local communities.
The Adirondack Park is the largest park in the contiguous United States and contains thousands of lakes, ponds and rivers with launches that can accommodate trailered motorboats. It would expensive to place enforcement personnel at each launch, but many already have lake stewards who undertake voluntary inspections and cleanings.
Under a comprehensive program, roadside inspections would conclude with a wire seal being placed between the boat and trailer. The seals would allow rangers, other state officials and owners of private launches to conduct spot-inspections to encourage compliance. Inspections conducted on-site prior to launch wouldn’t require a seal, but boaters headed to other lakes could get one as they are leaving.
The original state law banning transport of invasive species was designed to expire after five years, so it could be dropped if it was impractical or onerous. It has been neither, Janeway said.
He noted that the NYS Legislature this spring approved a one-year extension of the law. The Adirondack Council and others support are urging the Legislature to amend the law to require pre-launch inspections, and to make the requirement permanent.
Photo of Adirondack Watershed Institute Decontamination program courtesy Adirondack Watershed Institute.