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Seaplane 'footprint' small in Adirondack ParkSeaplane 'footprint' small in Adirondack Park

Seaplanes operate among America’s most valuable natural resources with a uniquely small “footprint,” setting them apart from other motorized vehicles, AOPA said in comments submitted to a New York state agency reviewing permitted uses on a large tract of state land.

Seaplanes are environmentally unobtrusive, and “require no roads, trails or infrastructure to support their use,” wrote AOPA President Mark Baker in a letter to the Adirondack Park Administration. The agency has begun the process of updating the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, the document that guides public use of the state land in the northeast portion of New York state.

Unlike motorized vehicles that disturb watersheds, inflict erosion or affect wildlife habitat, "a seaplane can land, nudge up to a sandy beach, and depart again without leaving any trace of its visit," wrote Baker, an active seaplane pilot.

Baker also pointed out that seaplane operations are infrequent, involving brief periods of engine operation. During surface operations, the aircraft generate "small, non-destructive" wakes, and their mode of operation generates “minimal” noise compared to other motorized vehicles allowed in parks.

Seaplanes also offer an administrative benefit to park managers by helping conduct surveys of park conditions and providing a mode of emergency evacuation for a sick or injured visitor, added AOPA manager of Airport Policy John Collins, who also submitted comments on behalf of AOPA’s approximately 11,800 members in New York state.

Once visitors in seaplanes have arrived, "the engine is shut down and they go off to enjoy hiking, fishing, canoeing or tenting, the same as other backcountry visitors," Collins wrote.

The Adirondack Park area contains only a few airfields, but many lakes, some of which are currently available to seaplanes, Collins said. He noted the concern of local members that any official inclination to generally reduce the presence of motorized vehicles in the Adirondack Park should recognize seaplanes’ minimal impact—not "lump them in" with more intrusive and impactful vehicles.

The Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan dates to 1972, "but since 1987, there have been no major amendments” to the document despite “changing recreational activities,” says the agency.

The Adirondack Park Administration held several public listening sessions and accepted written comments through Dec. 4 as it moved forward to consider updates to the master plan.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
AOPA Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, Seaplane

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