$1M upgrade project nearing completion
By Mike Lynch
Hikers looking to access the High Peaks from the south will be greeted with a new entrance and parking lot this summer.
Located on Open Space Institute property, the new lot is part of a $1 million capital improvement plan that was launched a few years ago to upgrade access in the area and preserve and improve the historic structures that are part of the 19th-century mining village of Adirondac in the town of Newcomb.
The 60-vehicle parking area, which opened June 18, is located roughly one-tenth of a mile from the old lot and now requires visitors to walk through the remains of the historic village, which is also referred to as Tahawus. Most of what remains are old chimneys and some foundations. Each of the structures is accompanied by interpretative panels, some of which have been in the area prior to this summer.
Hikers can take an historic tour of the area by following the various trails there, including one that leads from the old village to the 1856 Blast Furnace.
The only remaining structure near the new lot is the MacNaughton Cottage. That building is famous because in September 1901, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt was staying there when he received the news that President McKinley had been struck by an assassin’s bullet and was dying in Buffalo. From there, Roosevelt took a wagon to the North Creek Train Station.
OSI has owned the land since 2003 when it bought the 10,000-acre Tahawus tract. It later sold most of that land to the state but kept 200+ acres for educational, historic and recreational purposes.
Dave Olbert, Newcomb town board member and owner of Cloudsplitter Outfitters, said the old village and historic trails are a substantial visitor attraction.
“We send people there all the time,” Olbert said.
OSI still plans to fully renovate the MacNaughton Cottage and create a visitor center. The space would be rented to a private outfitter to provide equipment rentals and guidance to visitors, similar to what is offered at the Adirondack Mountain Club’s High Peaks Information Center near Lake Placid.
Olbert said having someone to greet visitors would be beneficial to provide advice on subjects such as bear canister regulations, which are required for people camping in the High Peaks. Getting a canister is more difficult in Newcomb right now, than say, for those entering from the north, where there are more outfitters and the High Peaks Info Center. Olbert said his operation offers them but he isn’t aware of anywhere else to get them in Newcomb.
Olbert said the one complaint he’s heard about the Upper Works improvements that he’s heard is from paddlers looking to visit Henderson Lake because the portage is now slightly longer.
The town of Newcomb Highway Department did the work on the ground for the latest stage of this project, while OSI raised funds for it.