The Third Department of the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, located in Albany, handed down the 3-2 decision on Thursday morning. It affirmed a 2013 ruling by State Supreme Court Justice Richard T. Aulisi supporting the public’s right to travel down an isolated, two-mile waterway that connects two pieces of the William C. Whitney Wilderness.
Almanack Contributor Kenneth Aaron
A state appeals court is expected to hear arguments this fall in a trespassing lawsuit filed against Adirondack Explorer Editor Phil Brown after he paddled through private land on a remote waterway that connects two tracts of state land in the William C. Whitney Wilderness.
The landowners—the Brandreth Park Association and Friends of Thayer Lake—sued Brown in the fall of 2010, more than a year after he wrote about the paddling trip for the Adirondack Explorer.
Last year, State Supreme Court Justice Richard T. Aulisi dismissed the suit, but the landowners have appealed to the court’s Appellate Division in Albany.
Dennis Phillips, a Glens Falls attorney representing the Friends of Thayer Lake and the Brandreth Park Association, confirmed via email that his clients intend to file an appeal. He did not explain the basis behind it.
Now that attorney John Caffry has successfully defended the public’s right to paddle a remote waterway near the Whitney Wilderness—at least for the time being—he hopes the case will have broader benefits for canoeists and kayakers.
“It’s a good victory for the rights of the public and the rights of paddlers that the judge upheld the right to use this waterway,” Caffry said. “Hopefully it will discourage other property owners from trying to close off streams through their property that are navigable, so people don’t have to go court.”
The Glens Falls lawyer represented Adirondack Explorer Editor Phil Brown, who paddled the disputed waterway in May 2009 while traveling between tracts » Continue Reading.
Or did he have a right to be there because the waters he canoed are navigable and provide a useful link between parcels of public land?
The question rests with State Supreme Court Justice Richard T. Aulisi, who heard arguments on the case Friday in Johnstown.
The landowners suing Adirondack Explorer Editor Phil Brown for trespass say he’s just the latest in a long line of people who have tried to pry open closed waters for public use, and if he succeeds, they argue, he will weaken traditional standards of property rights.
In a legal memorandum filed in late September, Dennis Phillips, the attorney for the Friends of Thayer Lake and the Brandreth Park Association, asserts that Brown is carrying the flag for a small band of paddling fanatics, including members of the Sierra Club, who would open just about every stream in New York State to canoes and kayaks.
The state’s effort to intervene in the trespassing case against Adirondack Explorer editor Phil Brown hurts private property owners, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit argued early last week.
“This case is asking the court to say, basically, ‘Have canoe, will travel,’” said Dennis Phillips, the Glens Falls attorney representing the Friends of Thayer Lake and the Brandreth Park Association.