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DEC plans big improvements to Buck Pond campground

April 12, 2017
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer ( , Lake Placid News

ONCHIOTA - The state Department of Environmental Conservation is planning major upgrades to a local campground, and will take public comments on the plan until May 15.

Buck Pond campground is operated by the DEC in Onchiota. The campsite is nestled between Buck Pond and Lake Kushaqua and has 116 camp sites, including two on an island that are boat access only.

The proposed UMP action will cost just shy of an estimated $3.3 million and will be implemented as funding becomes available.

Article Photos

The boat launch on Lake Kushaqua from Buck Pond campground in Onchiota would see $200,000 worth of improvements if a plan proposed by the DEC goes through.
News photo — Justin A. Levine

The DEC's plan was released earlier this month and should guide management of the campground for the next five years. While some of the changes are likely to go unnoticed by campers, other actions will be immediately palpable.

The first improvement campers will notice is replacement of the registration booth. The current one was built in 1967 and sits within a raised area in the middle of the campground access road. The UMP says the booth will be expanded within that paved area to better accommodate computers and printers and allow staff to check in campers and day-users at the same time. This project will cost an estimated $25,000.

Another major improvement will be the replacement of four existing bathrooms around the campground. Two bathrooms in Loop B will be replaced, as will one bathroom in Loop C and the lone comfort station in Loop D. Each bathroom contains stalls, sinks and showers. The DEC estimates that each replacement will cost $400,000.

The proposed UMP notes that all of the campground bathrooms are more than 50 years old, and none meet current accessibility guidelines. The fixtures are inefficient and difficult to drain for winterization.

The other major visible project, in terms of cost, will be improvements to the Lake Kushaqua boat launch. Motorized boats are prohibited on Buck Pond, but Lake Kushaqua is a popular boating destination that connects to Rainbow Lake via the Rainbow Narrows.

The current boat launch has a dock on one side and a short paved ramp that is largely broken up. The bulk of the launch is unimproved dirt and prone to washouts that can make launching or hauling a trailer difficult.

The UMP proposes repaving the launch, as well as expanding and paving the parking area. The current parking area is a dirt lot adjacent to the launch.

In addition to the paving, the DEC will replace the dock and add an accessible fishing pier at the launch. The agency would also like to make a dedicated area for watershed stewards for boat inspections and a wash station. DEC will also install solar lighting at the launch to help early and late boaters.

Another major change will be the relocation of the trailer dumping station from the boat launch to the recycle center nearby.

The current dumping station requires campers to enter the boat launch area to empty their gray and black water tanks. This setup can result in traffic jams at the boat launch and increases the risk of effluent reaching the nearby lake. The new dump station location would eliminate many of these issues to the tune of $25,000. The boat launch rehabilitation is estimated to cost $200,000.

At the beach on Buck Pond, the DEC is proposing two changes.

The first is to replace the existing playground equipment. The current facility is a swing set that does not meet modern safety requirements. The DEC plans to replace that with one of a modern design that is estimated to cost $15,000.

The second improvement at the beach house is to extend the water line out to the day-use area. Currently, the beach house has running water with flush toilets and sinks, but the adjacent area with picnic tables does not have any running water.

The DEC is planning to extend the water line about 500 feet to the picnic area and install water spigots. DEC estimates this will cost $27,500.

DEC is also expecting to make improvements to about 20 of the campsites. Four will be upgraded to universally accessible sites at a a cost of $5,000 each. An additional 15 sites will be improved through hardening of the camping pad, new fire pits and picnic tables and removal of dangerous trees and stumps. The DEC warns that it may take sites out of service as they are improved.

A short way out into Lake Kushaqua from the boat launch, there is a small island that currently houses two campsites. DEC says in the UMP site R2 does not meet certain criteria and will be moved to Loop C as site 79A.

Site R1 will remain on the island as a group campsite that can accommodate up to 12 people. DEC regulations limit the number of campers to six per site on non-group sites. Site R1 will remain accessible only by boat.

Another major improvement to the campground would be an ADA-accessible trail along the old D&H railroad bed.

The main entrance road through the campground is actually a paved portion of the abandoned railway. The rail line continues south and becomes the Bloomingdale Bog Trail, while also extending north from the campground and following the shore of Lake Kushaqua.

The state is proposing a 1.25-mile accessible portion of the trail along the rail bed. That stretch of the rail bed is currently used as a snowmobile trail in the winter and many hikers and mountain bikers use it in the summer.

Portions of the trail would be located within the campground, and also within the Debar Mountain Wild Forest. DEC is currently developing a UMP for the Debar Mountain Wild Forest, and this trail would be addressed in both UMPs.

The more mundane improvements that shouldn't affect campers are replacement of the main water line and an addition to a small cabin on Loop B. The cabin has in the past been used for additional staff housing, but does not contain a bathroom. Staff have used the adjacent public bathroom, but the UMP call for construction of the addition as well as installation of a leech field for the cabin.

Another change would be the shift from overhead power lines to buried lines. The water line replacement and power line work are estimated to cost $600,000 each. The DEC is also planning to spend $5,000 to plant trees and vegetation around the campground.

The DEC is taking comments on the proposals for another month.

Public comments can be submitted by mail to: Josh Houghton, NYS DEC Bureau of Recreation, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-5253, or by email to:

To read the proposed UMP in full and find out more about Buck Pond, go to



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