Proposed constitutional amendment would swap lodge for 400 acres
By Tim Rowland
Two North Country lawmakers have introduced a proposed constitutional amendment that would save the historic, state-owned Debar Lodge by swapping it to a nonprofit group in exchange for 400 acres on Meacham Lake to be added to the Forest Preserve.
The legislation was announced by Sen. Dan Stec and Assemblyman Billy Jones, the bill’s co-sponsors.
Located in the Debar Wild Forest, the 80-year-old lodge and an adjacent 1,300 acres were sold to the state in 1979, with the provision that the complex would remain under private control until 2004. After the state took full possession, the buildings were slated for demolition as required by state land-use law.
The public was strongly against demolition of the storied property, whose roots go back more than two centuries, and supporters of the lodge began to seek a workaround that would preserve the lodge.
The constitutional amendment alternative was first publicly proposed a year ago in an essay by Howard Kirschenbaum, the founder and first president of Adirondack Architectural Heritage.
“The Debar Pond Lodge Land Exchange Amendment is a win-win for the Adirondacks and our efforts to protect our natural environment,” Stec said in a prepared statement. “This amendment would enhance the size and beauty of the Forest Preserve in the Adirondacks, while also protecting the historic lodge.”
The lodge is located in a remote, northern part of the park, about halfway between Paul Smith’s and Malone. Completed in 1940, the eighteen-room, two-story lodge is a wood frame structure constructed in the Adirondack “rustic style,” according to the Debar Unit Management Plan.
As state plans to demolish the buildings and convert the property into an intensive use recreational site developed, opposition grew.
In 2014, the complex was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and, according to the Debar UMP, “It was determined that the lodge is architecturally and historically significant (and) central office DEC staff elected to postpone demolition of the structures in order to receive further public comments and consider alternative uses for the structures.”
Senate bill S7868 would allow New York State to transfer the lodge to the Debar Pond Institute, a not-for-profit group of Adirondack residents with experience in historic preservation, lodging and business.
The institute would, according to Kirschenbaum,”operate a diverse program open to the public, including: (a) educational programs, including environmental and outdoor education, Adirondack history and historic preservation, veterans support, and/or personal growth and development, (b) public lodging and recreation, and (c) public tours.”
The constitutional amendment process requires approval in two legislative sessions and a vote of the public. It could be on the ballot as early as 2023, Stec said.
““This is an elegant solution for saving the historic building complex, maintaining the wild forest character of Debar Pond, and adding 406 acres adjacent to Meacham Lake to the Forest Preserve,” Kirschenbaum said.
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Seems a win win. Save some of the old Adirondack lodge culture, but make it accessible to all as a park.
william c hill says
Let’s hope this continues and this piece of Adirondack history doesn’t go up in flames like so many others.
Mike Meadows says
Should have been or should be rented out for venues such as weddings, music venues, antique shows, etc. a place that will generate money for six to seven months out of a year.
I guess I would have to ask, as I honestly don’t know:
1. Why did the State buy the property in the first place? Is it unique or sensitive ecologically, or was it just to keep it from being developed further? Or a political feather-in-cap?
2. What is the ecological value of parcel on Meacham Lake?
3. What are the plans for the Lodge parcel and have any impact studies been done?
Tom Paine says
Be careful Adirondack towns, villages and counties you could be playing with fire again. If the deal seems to good to be true, it probably is. Trust the State of New York, not on your life.
Walt Linck says
I think it’s a total pipe dream for people to believe that any not-for-profit like the Debar Institute will succeed in buying those 400 acres, rehabilitating the lodge adequately, and running public educational programs there that can truly meet requirements for not-for-profit, tax-deductible status. (I.e., they’ll need to offer much more than just lodging.) What professional staffing will be needed, at minimum? Certainly an executive director, a caretaker, and at MINIMUM one top-notch educator/program staff person. Will guests be staying overnight? If so, add in those necessary housekeeping and kitchen staff. Throw in the significant annual maintenance costs and how much is that for an annual budget? And where do all these staff people live – in Loon Lake? This place is in DUANE. Where do the paying customers to sustain the programming come from, and how will the programs offered be so unique and attractive enough as to draw visitors all the way from Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and other tourist centers – at least an hour’s drive away? As I said – a total pipe dream, in my view… a scramble to just try to save the buildings for now with some inspiring words on paper, which I don’t think are really being scrutinized in a business sense.
Matt Manning says
The present parking lot for Debar Pond is intelligently located a 1/4-mile away from the north shore/ old structures. This remarkably short distance down a forest road rewards any hiker with the serenity of a wild, deep mountain pond nestled closely by sweeping mountains slopes. If these plans relocate the parking lot any further in, Debar’s wilderness sounds and silences will be lost not only to those on the shore, by everyone on the water as well, as all paddlers know how sounds travels easy across water. My family has had four generations of regular visitors to Debar Pond, in all seasons, and we, contrary to this article, care endlessly more for protecting the wild resources and experiences found there than for the long abandoned old buildings. Our future generations deserve all the beautiful wild places we have had and that we can protect for them. Please do not allow the convenience of new, closer parking lot to pollute the wonders of wilderness at Debar Pond.