About Michael Virtanen

Michael Virtanen is a former Explorer staff reporter who also previously worked as a correspondent for the Associated Press and for daily newspapers in Albany, Utica and Amsterdam, N.Y.

Reader Interactions


  1. rum says

    As a new land owner (300 acres) in this amazingly beautiful Park, I must say that perceived private property rights are very different than what one might think. I bought this property to have solitude. What I have so far are more people hunting and hiking on my property than I see in my home town in a neighboring and very populated state. “we (or my family) have been hiking/hunting here for over 100 years” they claim. As if that entitles them to continue to hike or hunt against my will. 3 million of the 6 million acres are public lands, I believe. Hike and hunt there and give me the private property rights I deserve. My property was “for sale” for over 5 years. EVERYONE had an opportunity to buy it. They should have done so if they wanted to use it so much.
    I realize this particular “waterway” issue is a bit different but my guess is the laws that were put into place were not intended to allow private property invasions as we will see here.

    • chris says

      Your situation sounds clear cut, in situ terra firma is defined by privately owned mapped boundaries, whereas navigable, flowing water that is passing through is public property distinct from terra firma.

      Seems that the Brandreths are using the same nonsense entitlement argument as your trespassers: “We’ve always been doing (closing) it, therefore that’s what I decide to call the law.”

      • Andy says

        I see your arguement about flowing water and agree in almost all cases. We have similar situations where I am about canoe/kayak rights in the nearby river and whitewater streams. What has always been the rule in our area is you ask permission to pass through a property if the property boundry encompasses the river bottom and/or both shores (as in this case). The minute you touch river bottom or the shore you are on their terra firma.

        Brown admits in the article and in trial that he used the property owners trails to get around areas of the brook where it was not navigble. That is tresspassing plain and simple. The proprty owners built that trail for their use and enjoyment, not the publics. The owners have not granted anyone right of way on the property to get around the rapids or other impedements. What happens if there is debris blocking thr river; trees, beaver dams, etc. Are the proprty owners now responsible for maintaining the waterway? Is the DEC?

        Lets say the judge says that the river is navigable and open to people traveling through it. Do the owners have the right to detain and arrest tresspassers who walk on the river bed in low water or stop on the shore to take a break? You bet they do and I would do exactly that. At the proprty boundry there would be a nice sign saying that you are entitled to paddle through but not to stop on land. Any deviation from that without expressed permission leave you subject to arrest and fines.

        Not allowing property rights to be respected without established right of way agreements leads to these lawsuits and the mess that will follow. I am just waiting fot the lawsuits in three years when a person is hurt from a tree across the river and sues the property owner for not maintaining the navigable waterway.

  2. Jane Mackintosh says

    I am dumbfounded by this statement: “When I paddle I like to get away from civilization so to speak.” Therefore Phil Brown and all others like him should be able to travel two miles on a remote waterway and, when no one is looking, take a shortcut on private property through the woods, because those two miles are actually somewhat annoying.

    For my part, when I walk to the store, I like to go in a straight line through people’s back yards, it’s so much more convenient for me. And it allows me to get away from the traffic associated with civilization.

    I get it that water use and land use are two different issues, kind of. But if we’re going to pay the courts to sort out whether that two miles of waterway was once commercially used, or is navigable-in-fact, let’s go the whole way and split hairs about the meanings of “commercial” and “navigable.”

    Supposedly it was commercially used because of local trapping activity at one time: the property owners carried one or more canoe load(s) of animal skins on the Mud Pond waterway. But how much money did they get for those skins? Was that money a profit after all expenses were factored in? If there was no profit three years running, was their trapping just a hobby?

    If it wasn’t commercially used in the past, it could be in the future: boats should be allowed access to this waterway because their occupants have the potential to generate “recreational” commerce. If only use could be limited to visitors who actually spend money. Oh, wait. Phil Brown is spending money. And DEC. And the property owners. Is this the recreational commerce that’s promised for this waterway?

    And navigable used to be defined as a waterway that could be sailed on — isn’t that a bother! Today, I can navigate a sidewalk, or navigate my way through a town — so why can’t I navigate by foot down a stream? When I’m in town I can carry a handbag for my belongings. Surely when I’m walking down the stream I can have a boat with me to keep my sandwich dry. I say let Phil Brown and his friends walk down as many private streams as they like.

    There’s a lot of gorgeous and remote waterway scenery in the Adirondacks. Once it’s all been visited, all used up, then let’s tackle the problem of little streams in the outback.

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