What Does "Forest Preserve" Mean?

November 16, 2012
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I took a short walk today to the undeveloped pond pictured above. It was a beautiful day and I encountered no people, no signs that warned me against trespassing, no abandoned appliances or waterfront mega-mansions. I could, in that moment, pretend that I was the first person to visit this pond. It was all mine.
In fact, it is mine. And yours. It is part of the New York State Forest Preserve, those protected woodlands, mountains and waters that help make the Adirondack Park special. Of course, roughly 50 percent of the 6 million-acre park is comprised of private land, but that is a discussion for another post. When you see an unbroken view of undulating green from a summit or a shore lined only with trees, think about the word preserve. These lands are where hiking, paddling, fishing, hunting and skiing are encouraged even as the presence of man is minimized. (Yes, there ARE snowmobile trails, but since many fewer people are in the woods during the winter, and since snow melts, it seems fair that motorized access is allowed in highly limited parts of our Forest Preserve.)
I talk to people who find the idea of solitude and backcountry intimidating. Thanks goodness. If the Forest Preserve were appealing to everyone all the time, I could no longer lay claim to azure ponds in my imagination.