About Gwendolyn Craig

Gwen is an award-winning journalist covering environmental policy for the Explorer since January 2020. She also takes photos and videos for the Explorer's magazine and website. She is a current member of the Legislative Correspondents Association of New York. Gwen has worked at various news outlets since 2015. Prior to moving to upstate New York, she worked for a D.C. Metro-area public relations firm, producing digital content for clients including the World Health Organization, the Low Income Investment Fund and Rights and Resources Initiative. She has a master's degree in journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She has bachelor's degrees in English and journalism, with a concentration in ecology and evolutionary biology, from the University of Connecticut. Gwen is also a part-time figure skating coach. Contact her at (518) 524-2902 or gwen@adirondackexplorer.org. Sign up for Gwen’s newsletter here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Skeptical ADK says

    “That didn’t satisfy neighbors, however, and the Kerns hired their own ecologist to conduct the wetland and botany study the APA apparently did not do. In fact, they hired a former APA executive director—Raymond Curran—to study their subdivision’s bog.”

    The problem for the Upper Saranac Lake Association is that their “experts,” like Mr. Raymond Curran, are no more than relatives (Re: Penny Curran of the Upper Saranac Lake Association) or the USLA’s own lake manager, whose job is literally funded by the USLA membership. We are supposed to believe the biased judgement of these individuals over the Adirondack Park Agency? It’s a sad state of affairs that the Upper Saranac Lake Association continues to peddle frivolous lawsuits in the name of the environment, all the while receiving actual tax payer money via their attached nonprofit, the Upper Saranac Foundation. It should not be. Hopefully Paul Leinwand and Maria Cicarelli will demand counsel fees, and this lawsuit will be dismissed like the ones before it. This family is not the first and certainly not the last family/business/party to fall victim to the Upper Saranac Lake Association’s bullying tactics, letter writing campaigns, and NIMBY lawsuits.

    This isn’t about the environment. This is about not wanting to share and feelings of entitlement by those who think they were here first. “The Kerns have a host of concerns about the development. They worry about increased noise and light, about not being able to use walking trails that have been frequented by Deerwood Subdivision residents and the negative aesthetics and decreased property values they expect from a new building project… In their complaint, filed with the court by Attorney Claudia Braymer (who also represented Jorling), they requested the judge keep walking trails on Leinwand and Cicarelli’s property open to their use.”

    The Kerns purchased their property next to an unoccupied building lot, as did the other residents of this subdivision. They shouldn’t have been using the trails over this family’s lot, and they certainly have no right to the land now that their new neighbors want to build their home there. This is right from the USLA’s playbook, but the tactics are getting worn out. Enough is enough. Bullies deserve to lose.

  2. GMM says

    “He had crossed out the plaintiffs’ request … [of] use of existing walking trails on their land.”

    How entitled do these people think they are? I hope they lose on all counts and have to pay court fees. Nothing material seems to be at play here except trying to get these people people to run away and not build.

  3. nathan says

    wow, Kern’s certainly feel entitled..they trespassed for years on private property, made illegal trails, then some one goes to build their dream house, they scream they dont want neighbors and want to trespass still….looking for technicalities for keeping their entitlement. Maybe the Kerns should get everyone together, buy the lot at a good markup and donate to adirondack park. so go collect and pay 2-3 times value of lot…money talks , kerns whine.

  4. John says

    Just another example of ” I’ve got mine,you can’t have yours ” snobbery that’s been going on forever here in the northcountry.

  5. Paul says

    “they requested the judge keep walking trails on Leinwand and Cicarelli’s property open to their use”

    I knew there was more to this than “water quality”. How come none of this was in these earlier reports? This request totally debunks the whole case.

    No we don’t want them to get a permit because we will have to stop trespassing on their property.

    The headline here should be different.

  6. Skeptical ADK says

    “How come none of this was in these earlier reports?”

    Because somebody knows somebody, which is how it works with everything in this area.

    There would have been a deep dive by now by the Adirondack Explorer or the Enterprise into the USLA and their nonprofit Upper Saranac Foundation, their ongoing litigious behavior, as well as their unique ties to local government, but no one is touching the story. It’s a shame when journalism becomes propaganda. The USLA has been posting every one of the Explorer and Almanac’s articles to their website and social media pages like free advertisements for months. Sad times.

  7. nathan says

    So the Kerns knew that lot 9 &10 were to share a common septic area. So kerns purposely built without out a simple pipe connection. Purposely making additional costs and hard ships for lot 10 development. trespass without permission, make trails, they should be held accountable for costs of correcting septic field, and property damage and trespass. if i was building lot 10, i would certainly sue and then put some nice led spot lights aimed at their house and music everytime i see them outside….Karma

  8. Vanessa B says

    Lol as a future potential homeowner, this reads like a whole lotta “yikes!” … I personally think you should try to protect the environment to the greatest extent you can when building a home. That’s moral. But this also screams “exclusive club resorting to NIMBYism.” A wealthy homeowner’s association has real good reason to watch their image in a community. I sincerely hope I can avoid ever having to be a part of an HOA, because I know so many people who have been burned by them, all over the country.

    Further, I really hate that groups like these claim to carry the mantle of environmentalism. I don’t want to hurt any of the loons anymore than the next girl. But they’re in danger because you all built your houses first, essentially. It isn’t a zero sum game where you get to burn lots of propane heating your 4000 sq ft house, and then tell the next person they can’t. Solve the problems for everyone or I don’t need to take you seriously. Put your money spent on attorneys into building yourself a solar system so your home has less impact. Advocate for an ordinance mandating building size and regulation and a tax for even penalties for the people who don’t comply. Get involved in the byzantine debate over the APA and suggest real policy solutions to strengthen it. Or, sue the APA for breaking their law and not the individuals. One person with one admittedly exorbitant building project won’t kill the loons, or even a rare plant species (probably? I am not a botanist with familiarity to this case.) Collectively, lots of people will, so a collective solution is needed.

  9. Skeptical ADK says

    This isn’t a normal HOA. The lake manager mentioned in this article, who puts forth the “environmental arguments” on behalf of this HOA, evidenced by these articles, is actually employed by the funds raised by the foundation directly attached to the USLA HOA (many of the very same leaders).

    The lake manager has, for reasons unknown, also been given an “ad hoc” position on the Town of Santa Clara planning board, despite not even living in the Town of Santa Clara (usually a requirement of board members). In this role, he has been attending almost every planning board meeting and also variance meetings, where single home owners on the lake must bring their plans. Why is an HOA being given opportunity to influence local government in this way, including applications by private homeowners? This seems like it gives the HOA great power above what they deserve to influence specific plans on the lake above others, and also potentially bully private residents they don’t like or don’t want to do something. Most nonprofits would have to register lobbying activities like this.

    Interestingly, the lake manager’s boss, Lynne Perry (one of the directors of the Upper Saranac Foundation AND also a director of the Upper Saranac Lake Association) is a board member of Town of Santa Clara. Her husband, David Perry, is a paid Town Councilman.

    USLA has also created a government affairs committee that brings concerns of USLA right to the Town and thus their own director and her spouse. This committee is how the HOA has orchestrated these letter writing campaigns they then use to justify such lawsuits. When private lawsuit doesn’t work, they can have the Town fight their battles using tax payer money (Re: Marina moratorium). This behavior has resulted in lawsuit against the town, costing more money for taxpayers and by consequence costing the environment funds it could have received without these shenanigans by “environmentalists.”

    The Upper Saranac Foundation for its part claims the funds they have are raised by their membership, but this is also simply not true. The foundation has received money from the taxpayers of the Town of Santa Clara (Re: for the private Bartlett Carry Dam, owned by the Upper Saranac Foundation). Yet, all the while the foundation employs a year-round lake manager despite the lakes being frozen over for at least six months of the year. Begs the question why they should be receiving any money for private dams from taxpayers at all…

    HOAs have been known to cause problems for home owners. But this one is unique. There seem to be circumstances that make it especially problematic.

  10. Eric says

    Can we stop using environmental “concerns” as an excuse for “I don’t want to share”. The people that bought this pre-approved building lot did absolutely nothing wrong and you’re serving them with a lawsuit? What the hell is wrong with you?

  11. ADK Descendant says

    Sadly, these comments seem full of animosity, conjecture and assumptions. Its especially disturbing when you make assumptions about people’s intent, backgrounds, and motives, on either side of the issue. It serves no purpose to make nasty judgements, and is best to simply stick to the facts in this article and situation. Doesn’t sound like there’s any issues with building lot, and building the home whatsoever. That’s already underway, and they have every right. It’s about a protected wetland. This Deerwood Association contains a 25 acre wetland complex on the shores of Upper Saranac with stream and pond, and with a unique aspect of it on one of the individual lots (possibly a mistake of the association to divide it this way at the outset). But, the wetland has always had protections from a 1980s permit. The lot goes for sale and all of a sudden the wetland protections can be circumvented for the first time. How and why? And should it, or shouldn’t it be allowed? Where do you fall on that? Are you OK with that? Should we allow protections to be ignored going forward? Those are the simple questions that need to be answered here. All the rest here is repetitive fluff, and honestly sound like people who want to make their own agendas heard, with bias and no consideration of the simple facts. Its really a good thing this isn’t a jury.

    • Vanessa B says

      Sorry Descendent, but if you’re looking for a place free of opinions and even some grousing, you may not be in the right comments section. (Or on the right mode of communication i.e., the internet)…

      All flippancy aside, I gotta be honest that this small town drama stuff makes me really nervous as a hopeful resident of the region. I’m a millennial who, despite working really hard to do all the “right things” financially, is priced out of most communities I could imagine living in. I wouldn’t be able to afford most of LP, which is a great town besides for the insane property market. Now there are lots of discussions to be had about structural issues that cause the above, but let’s turn back to NIMBYism.

      As you note, at some point the process was completed to approve a development next to a protected wetland. Bummer – that original decision is likely the real problem here. I do not buy that 9 presumably fancy houses built next to the wetland were environmentally harmless, but the 10th will be critical. Now perhaps this is legitimately the case based on the biology.

      Further, I’m not politically aligned, nor can I relate to, anyone’s motives here. What I can relate to is the feeling that an argument among two groups of super wealthy, privileged people, which to build a 4000 sq ft house on a lot in LP I’m gonna assume these folks AND the HOA are, isn’t really of benefit to the rest of us. So the fact that they’re framing this discussion in such a way (environmental concerns) is a legitimate thing to critique. I’m a strong, strong believer in preserving the environment, and I love the ADK park for its ability to do so. But I maintain that from what anyone can tell, that’s mostly being used as a smoke screen here to regulate the “type of people” welcomed in LP.

      If I walked down the street as a resident, I fear I wouldn’t be welcomed by a lot of people. And this is as a young, middle or working class progressive – a person that a lot of people on the right grouse about for “having it too easy” or whatever. I’m saying that the attitudes espoused in this article compound, not alleviate, my concern.

  12. Gerry says

    If you read past the first paragraph you can see that this is not about the owners or neighbors at all, this is about a concerning decision that was made by the APA. In the article – Several people are suing the APA. The article states that the APA took one of their old permits and reversed it. To allow for a septic system on-site in the middle of a wetlands area. According to the article a septic field was already available for the septic system and the rest of the homeowners have complied:

    In June, APA staff granted amendments to an old 1980’s permit for lots on the subdivision, amendments that circumvented water-quality protections built into the original permit. For example, the original subdivision permit required a septic system to be set back a minimum of 200 feet from wetlands. The 1980s permit references a bog wetland complex on the subdivision with rare plants that could be impacted by any influx of nutrients. It also calls on APA to hire a botanist to inventory the bog, though it doesn’t appear that was ever done.

    The APA’s amendment allowed to build it 100 feet back. The old permit also had stricter regulations around tree cutting, though it did suggest the APA could amend that.

    I have paddled up that way on Upper Saranac many times and have seen this wetland which is really contiguous with the lake. This part of the lake is very shallow and it is right to be concerned. If the wetland is destroyed by either tree cutting or an on-site septic system, the water quality could definitely be impacted. It’s time to hold the APA accountable. I don’t see how we can “blame” so many neighbors and organizations when in fact the APA has just set a dangerous precedent.

    It’s not a bad thing to scale back and do the right thing.


    • Vanessa B says

      For the record, I agree with this sentiment 100%. APA reform, or whatever you’d like to call the Byzantine subject of what the hec to do about the flaws of the APA, is a totally legit and fair target. The target of the neighbors personally by other neighbors is where I get off this train.

  13. Gull Pointer says

    Seems to me these comments are all ignoring the fact that the new owners were granted exemptions to the permit conditions that were in place when they bought the parcel, conditions that the other HOA members were held to.

    “In June, APA staff granted amendments to an old 1980’s permit for lots on the subdivision, amendments that circumvented water-quality protections built into the original permit. For example, the original subdivision permit required a septic system to be set back a minimum of 200 feet from wetlands. The 1980s permit references a bog wetland complex on the subdivision with rare plants that could be impacted by any influx of nutrients. It also calls on APA to hire a botanist to inventory the bog, though it doesn’t appear that was ever done.

    “The APA’s amendment allowed Leinwand to build it 100 feet back [instead of 200 feet]. The old permit also had stricter regulations around tree cutting, though it did suggest the APA could amend that.”

    I think there’s plenty of “rich self-entitled” thinking on the part of the new owners– like “why should WE have to comply with these conditions”?

    Paul Leinwand is an expert on strategies. He may have gotten a bit too tricky here.

  14. Dan says

    Seems like most of the comments here do not take into account the environment and that the APA has continuously sided with people that have money, lots of money.As a Adirondack native one can just take a look at shoreline development along Long Lake. New McMansion structures built with very little set back. The arguments here appear to be from those that feel “if I own it, I can do anything”. The Adirondacks are quickly becoming a playground for the wealthy and losing much of what I have seen in my 71 years. Again, the bickering and using petty excuses to justify the destruction of the environment is reprehensible .

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