The state has added the historic Marion River carry to the Forest Preserve, ending a long-running dispute over the ownership of 216 parcels of land near the hamlet of Raquette Lake.
The deal secures a five-hundred-yard trail used by paddlers portaging between Utowana Lake and the Marion River. The carry is an essential part of a canoe route between Blue Mountain Lake and Raquette Lake.
The Open Space Institute bought the 296-acre parcel in 2012 for $2 million and transferred it to the state this year at no cost to the state.
Before OSI stepped in, the Marion River property faced the possibility of development, which might have cut off public access. But the OSI acquisition also offered a solution to a legal dispute dating back to the 1800s.
Over the decades, residents of Raquette Lake had drilled wells on parcels that they believed they owned but that the state claimed title to. To settle the matter, the state agreed to a land swap. The Raquette Lake landowners would raise money to pay OSI for the Marion River carry, which would then be given to the state.
The landowners raised $750,000 to reimburse OSI for part of its cost. OSI donated the balance of the property’s value to the state. All 216 landowners of the Raquette Lake acceded to the arrangement.
“The solution of the centuries-old problem of title … is a testament to the power of people working together,” Carolyn Gerdin, one of the property owners, said in a news release issued by the state. “Those of us with property on Raquette Lake will never be able to adequately express our gratitude to everyone who has helped to make the dream of solving this problem a reality.”
“After decades of impasse, OSI’s agility and skill set, along with supporters who were willing to take risks, led to a long-term resolution to preserve the region’s recreational legacy and distinct Adirondack character,” said OSI President Kim Elliman.
The deal required an amendment to the state constitution, which was approved by voters in 2013. The state legislature then needed to approve the details of the land swap.
At the time, Assemblyman Steven Englebright questioned whether the Marion River carry was sufficient compensation for the state, given that the Raquette Lake properties were worth tens of millions of dollars.
To allay his concerns, DEC Commission Basil Seggos wrote Englebright to say the state also planned to acquire properties on Lake Champlain and on Huckleberry Mountain in Warrensburg. In addition, Seggos said DEC was looking at buying “some or all” of Four Brothers Islands on Lake Champlain, Anthony’s Nose on Lake George, and a fifty-acre parcel on the west side of Lake George.
Some observers wondered how the letter changed anything, since the state planned to buy the Lake Champlain and Huckleberry Mountain properties anyway and would be using its own money to do so. In any case, Englebright dropped his objections to the Marion River acquisition.
Two of the Raquette Lake owners also donated portions of their parcels to the state. One is a twenty-acre piece on the northwest end of Sucker Brook Bay that provides a trailhead for a hike up West Mountain. The other is a 116-acre parcel located on the south shore of Sucker Brook Bay with more than three thousand feet of pristine shoreline.
The state said the Department of Environmental Conservation is moving forward with the acquisition of 1,400 acres throughout the Adirondack Park.