By Gwendolyn Craig
A Saratoga County man admitted to painting the mysterious orange blazes on the Cascade Mountain trail in the fall of 2019, so he could find his way back down the mountain.
A summit steward had alerted a DEC forest ranger at that time that 20 painted markings were on trees and rocks.
Records show Thomas Prusinowksi of Malta was issued a notice of violation for the illegal markings he painted. Prusinowski is also responsible for similar ones painted on a mountain trail in the Catskills. A spokesperson for the state Department of Environmental Conservation said as part of an administrative settlement decided this month, Prusinowski will pay a $500 civil penalty.
In a voluntary statement, Prusinowski wrote that “as a military vet of 30 years, I mistakenly marked the trail to aid me getting down. I am very sorry for my mistake and will never do it again.”
Scott van Laer, a forest ranger and union leader with the Police Benevolent Association of New York, said the incidents are an example that more beginner hiker education is needed. Prusinowski was hiking alone, van Laer said, and was worried about getting lost. Though the Cascade Mountain trail is an obvious one for experienced hikers, van Laer said, it might not be for those who have never hiked in the wilderness.
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Forest rangers were convinced this was the case for Prusinowski, as the paint marks he made on the trail were in strategic locations where a less experienced hiker may get confused.
“In his mind he was helping the public,” van Laer said. “That goes to the mindset, the educational level, Leave No Trace of newer hikers and the lack of a collective educational program for beginners.”
A DEC spokesperson said the agency “strongly discourages hikers from marking or maintaining trails on the Forest Preserve, but rather contact the local DEC Office to report areas that require trail maintenance.”
Van Laer also talked about the investigation process for the case. Forest rangers were able to zero-in on a time window of when the blazes were made via the summit steward’s report of when they had seen the markings. Forest rangers then contacted a number of people signed in on the trail register to further narrow the timeframe and find out if anyone had seen the painter.
Prusinowski did not sign in at the Cascade Mountain trail register.
Rangers eventually did get in contact with a hiker, who had signed in at the register and had seen a man with a spray paint can. That hiker provided a description of the person. Another registered hiker, whom rangers contacted, said he had met a man on the summit, who fit the description rangers were given. They had taken a photo together, but the hiker did not have a name.
Prusinowski was wearing a hat with details about his branch of military service in the photo.
Van Laer said he used social media sites, especially Facebook, to narrow the search. Van Laer went on a Facebook page specifically for that military branch and posted the photo. Within 30 seconds, van Laer said, someone from the group identified Prusinowski.
Meanwhile, Catskill forest rangers were also conducting a search for someone who had posted blaze orange on a mountain trail. Both Adirondack and Catskill rangers conferred and found the markings were similar, were the same paint, and were made at about the same height from the ground.
Rangers contacted Prusinowski, and he admitted to making the markings. Van Laer said he believes the incidents could have been prevented if there were more forest rangers, more stewards at trailheads and more educational programming for new hikers.
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Wow! I can’t believe they found him! Great sleuthing!!
great that your teams found the guy, but also a $500 fine??? he should have to go remove the graffitti or serve trail litter policing….community service type commitment.
Tony rhoda says
30 year military loser…
As a retired vet he doesn’t represent us.
Prusinowski should be hot harder on punishment.
Susan Harris says
Actually since there was no malice involved he should have gotten a written citation and no fine. The article here should have also explained why a person should not leave their own markings on a trail and how it might affect other hikers. People that need to be forced to pay for their mistakes to society are not this kind of person!
THOMAS WOJTAN says
Multiple markings on trails only serve to disorient hikers, particularly beginners.
If every bad act required “malice”in order to warrant a penalty intended to deter future bad acts, their would be a breakdown in society. Catch a clue.
Jamie Janetsky says
How much time did it take to do all that investigating?? Was it worth $500.. Prolly cost the state way more than that. Good economics nydec hope you feel accomplished
Wow, an innocent mistake and people are calling him a losser denouncing his military service. If he got lost, what would they call him? The paint and story will fade. Take a breath people. Everyone is entitled to forgiveness. I’m more concerned about plastic litter & beer bottles left on the trails.
Eric Martin says
“As a military vet of 30 years, I mistakenly marked the trail to aid me getting down”. I’m not really sure where the guy is going with this line. Its like some sort of passive/aggressive apology that doesnt hold any water. I’m a 7 year vet and have no problems with my criticism here. Just say you were scared of getting lost and messed up with the orange paint. No need to make this a “but I’m a vet and deserve a reprieve”. Just own it and move on. Semper Fi.
30 yr winner says
A 30 yr loser more like. When you go out on patrol you don’t spray paint the back to your base so everyone can find you what an idiot the military should disown him I’m embarrassed to be a vet. How selfish.
I have two unpopular opinions to offer. They shouldn’t have fined the guy – sounds like an honest mistake. Also, it is very important to educate folks and it’s nice he went on record to apologize.
But also – I don’t get what his military service has to do with any of this. I don’t like it when vets are used as props for any purpose. Vets are people like the rest of us and of course they need recognition and care for their unique role in society, but your veteran status is not an excuse for silliness or a justification for mistakes. Marcy Dam Jeep guy also used the “but I’m a vet” defense.
That I want a vet to be treated the same way I’d want a 20 year old kid treated in this case, (nevermind a 20 year old black kid!) is the mark of the equal society our vets are defending – one where we are treated the same despite our identities. The posts in this thread seem to indicate we’re a long way from getting there.
Geezer people give the guy a break! Well that’s exactly what kind of response I would expect out of stock up there huggers! You would expect the complete opposite though, forgive and forget people.
Brian Joseph says
Many Adk trails need better markings. A summer helper at DEC could do wonders in just 2 months.
Douglas Anderson says
What happened to my comment, it is half right
A J Howard says
I agree that he should have been made to clean off the paint, and that his military service is irrelevant to the deed. A $2500 fine would not have been excessive. He could use his “stimulus payments” to cover it, if he hasn’t spent them on beer.
Cascade and Porter are known as the two easiest climbs in the “46”. Once, an old woman with a cane and her grandkids, on a bus in Seattle, admonished me when I said I’m from the Adirondack Mountains in northeastern New York, saying that I would be “HUMBLED” by the western mountains. She was obviously oblivious that hikers have died on Mt Washington, and in the Adirondacks in winter. I wasn’t interested in being humbled, but I have hiked as high as 17,000 feet, and also 15.600 feet, amidst snow-capped trekkers’ peaks 22,000+ feet high. Mount Whitney, the highest in the lower 48, is only 14,500 feet high. The farthest I’ve hiked in one day with a 65-pound pack was 25 miles, admittedly in lake district lowlands. In the 1990s, I carried such a pack, with stove and my share of the food and supplies, on the continental divide in Colorado and in Utah, for a week at a time. Alas, no more.
I personally don’t buy the fear of getting lost excuse – not on that trail. Look at the picture – two blazes within feet of each other in the middle of a 10 foot wide trail! Now if he was visually impaired, he may have an excuse. But in that case he should probably be hiking WITH someone.
50 years ago flagging tape was occasionally used on the trail-less peaks, and it was eventually outlawed for obvious reasons. But when I used to do more bushwhacking I carried some nonetheless. I never needed to use it, but at least it is easily removed. It was lighter than a paint can and never froze in winter.
Char Staats says
I saw some similar orange blazes on Ampersand this summer.
The trails should be better marked so that no one gets lost. Even experienced hikers can get lost on trails that aren’t properly marked.
The first problem is that there is insufficent supervision and maintenance. If he was aware of some of the basic facts, leave no trace, have a map, don’t travel alone, etc., this would not have happened. As a retired firfefighter I know no one calls 911 because they just did something smart. This is the same type of situation
Lord Brucifer says
I think they should also fine at least half of you who commented. Justice has been served. He said he would never do it again. Done deal. Shut up with your comments as I will after this one.
Lillian Antoci says
This is what happens when you keep encouraging people to re-create outdoors during the pandemic. They flock from every corner of the earth and they bring their carelessness, trash, destructions, and disregard for nature. Comment sense would say NOT to spray paint on trees even those on trails. Yes, education would help but these are outsiders and how do you teach them before they arrive here? The more advertising and the more people come, there will be more destrction of the Adirondack sadly.
I just spotted this article and it kills me the way the majority of comments focus upon beating up the guy who was honest enough to step forward and take whatever punishment was due. The world is falling apart because of a pandemic and loved ones are dying, yet there’ still time to beat up some one who just plain made a mistake and ha the back bone to step forward and admit it………seriously!!??
Well…aren’t you a VERY special person!!
“if he hasn’t spent them on beer.”….seriously…how ridiculous/presumptuous is this statement or what….like nobody who reads/writes in this arena ever (God forbid….) partakes in alcoholic beverages………..really!!??
Ritaclare Streb says
How ignorant can that man be to destroy the beauty of nature with paint?!
If he was so worried that he couldn’t find his way back, why did he choose to hike Cascade in the first place. He apparently met others on the trail so, again, why the stated concern for getting lost?
Since he did this same damage once before in the Catskills, he should not only be fined but also banned from trails in the park. This was premeditated crime…he brought a can of orange spray paint!!
He didn’t step forward at all. He was fingered by someone on Facebook when they recognized his picture. When he was caught, he made a “voluntary statement”. He didn’t do the right thing and turn himself in as you suggest.
I’ve hiked Cascade. It’s a very well marked trail- whether a beginner or not. I can’t understand the logic here…sheer stupidity.