By MIKE LYNCH
When paddlers head to the Essex Chain of Lakes in the central Adirondacks next spring, they’ll find a major change to the landscape.
The Inner Gooley Club complex, which included seven buildings and several sheds on the shoreline of Third Lake, the biggest lake of the chain, was removed in late September. Club members took down the structures as a requirement of their lease with The Nature Conservancy, which purchased the land about a decade ago and later sold it to the state in the spring of 2013.
The lands surrounding the site opened to the public that November. This is the first time the public has been allowed to use the Inner Gooley site.
Structures are generally not allowed on the Adirondack Forest Preserve unless they are designated historic or used for administration purposes. The buildings were on land designated primitive, a precursor to the wilderness classification.
The management plan for the Essex Chain now calls for the DEC to install a lean-to in the vicinity of the Inner Gooley clearing. The lean-to will have features that will make it accessible for people with disabilities, including a privy, access to the shoreline, and a horse mounting platform.
“The site of the former Gooley Club will make a terrific campsite on Third Lake in the years ahead. It’s an extraordinary place that now fully belongs to the people,” Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks, said in a press release.
The Gooley Club, which included both the Outer Gooley and Inner Gooley areas, was formed in 1946. The Outer Gooley Club site was located near the confluence of the Indian and Hudson rivers. Only a farmhouse remains at that site. It is now in the Blue Mountain Wild Forest.
The DEC is still determining what to do what to do with the farmhouse.
The Inner Gooley Club site was originally established as a camp to serve visitors in 1866 by Harve Bonney, a Civil War veteran from Pittsfield, Mass., according to Preserve the Gooley Club, a group formed to save the buildings and camp. Bonney later hired locals Mike and Olive Gooley to run the operation.
Due to efforts by Adirondack Architectural Heritage and the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the sites were placed on both the state and federal historic registers.
In addition to the farmhouse, the Outer Gooley Club site also formerly included a woodshed, a cabin, an open garage, and an outhouse.
Since the state took ownership, DEC has performed maintenance necessary to maintain structural integrity and keep out weather and animals, according to the Essex Chain management plan.
The management plan calls for the DEC to maintain the Outer Gooley Club farmhouse as a historic structure and use as an outpost for administrative and emergency personnel until a final decision on its future is determined.
The former Gooley Club sites are located on land that the club once leased from Finch, Pruyn & Co. In 2007, the Adirondack Nature Conservancy bought all 161,000 acres of the company’s lands. The state later bought 65,000 acres of Finch lands from the conservancy, including the Essex Chain lands.