After decades of vacancy, former Frontier Town A-Frame readies for re-opening
By Tim Rowland
The former headquarters of a 20th century theme park in North Hudson is on schedule for a grand re-opening in September as the new headquarters for vacationers exploring the southern side of the High Peaks and environs.
Known locally as the A-Frame, the soaring 20,000-square-foot center was once part of Frontier Town, a Wild West theme park that drew throngs of spectators each season between 1952 and 1998.
In 2018, the property was purchased by Muhammad “Mo” Ahmad, whose local investments at that point had been a couple of Sunoco stations just off of Interstate 87. Never in his wildest imagination did he anticipate that he would one day play a central role in luring vacationers and hikers to more modestly trod portions of the Adirondack Park. But now that it’s coming to pass, he’s all-in.
“This is the American Dream, although I never saw it happening; I would have thought it was so much above my pay grade,” Ahmad said. “But I keep thinking, I keep doing and I take the steps one at a time.”
Without hoped-for state incentives, he has financed the project on his own, which for the property and first phase of the center has come to about $1.5 million, he said.
If state financial support has not materialized, local moral support has, and Ahmad said the enthusiastic backing of North Hudson residents — many of whom remember visiting or working at Frontier Town — has helped keep him going. “They come in here and are amazed and appreciative that it’s being saved,” he said. “It’s been heartwarming, and made all the hard work worth it.”
The A-Frame, more or less empty and unmaintained over the last two decades, appeared to be decaying, but was in fact structurally sound. Although COVID-19 has caused some delays, Ahmad’s small, targeted crews have managed to keep plugging away, even to the point of skinning logs and twigs themselves for the decorative Adirondack balustrades in the upstairs mezzanines.
There, guests will be able to eat lunch or sip lattes while taking in a view of the forest. Along with a coffee bar, the first phase of the center includes a restaurant with wide-ranging offerings from subs to ethnic food, a gift shop, a wall of coolers with locally produced Taste of New York foods, and an array of hiking and camping gear. In the wing of the A-Frame is a conference hall, where Ahmad said he is starting to book events.
At an Aug. 24 job fair, more than a dozen people submitted applications, which Ahmad said he considered a decent turnout considering the current workforce conditions.
Eventually, Ahmad is hoping that the state or a local government will fund a front-country steward position at the A-Frame similar to those in Keene Valley who recommend hikes and dispense trail and recreational information.
Ahmad is also encouraged by talk among Essex County supervisors of developing a trail network for hiking, horses and mountain bikes on about 100 acres of land it owns between the A-Frame and the new Frontier Town state campground not far to the south.
Such a network would link the A-Frame not just to the campground, but to the Paradox Brewery, the other major piece of new, private investment in the area just off the Northway’s Exit 29.
“These connections are how we all succeed,” Ahmad said.
Exit 29 was to be a signature public-private development envisioned by the Cuomo administration, but at least partly due to the pandemic, results have been slow to materialize. A plan to work with a master developer did not work out, leading officials to believe that smaller, individual projects such as a hotel and retail outlets might be a better way to go.
In such a remote locale, state economic officials said that investors are cautious, and want to see that commercial endeavors will work before committing.
Ahmad said he hopes the A-Frame will help build that momentum. For the state, and for the Adirondack partisans, the goal is to encourage some of the hikers in the crowded Keene Valley to explore other parts of the park.
Exit 29 would serve hikers and vacationers adventuring to destinations that include the lightly used Hammond Pond Wild Forest, the Hoffman Notch Wilderness, Boreas Ponds, the Essex Chain of Lakes and the South Side of the High Peaks, where the Open Space Institute and Town of Newcomb will on Sept. 12 officially unveil the refurbished Upper Works trailhead.
Ahmad is hoping that these destinations will gain momentum and that the region, branded by the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism as the Adirondack Hub will create some crowds of its own. And if a few of them need a cup of coffee or forget to bring a mattress pad and need to buy a new one, all the better.