According to local lore, Robert Moses, secretary of the State Parks Commission, and John Apperson, leading defender of the “forever wild” clause of the NY constitution, had a confrontation of historic proportions, one summer day in August of 1923. Moses, who was already carrying out an ambitious scheme to grab power, had convinced Governor Al Smith that the development of state parks would be a very popular election issue.
As the center-piece of his plan, Moses wanted to build a parkway on the Tongue Mountain peninsula (plus, eventually, gas stations, scenic overlooks, and hotels). Apperson wanted to prevent development altogether. He dreamed of bringing the central portion of the lake (Tongue Mountain, the Narrows, Black Mountain and Paradise Bay) under state ownership, and thus under the protection of the NY constitution.
The battle over the highway at Tongue Mountain happened quietly, behind the scenes, and out of the headlines. In fact, Robert Moses’ biographer, Robert Caro, never mentioned this story, and apparently knew little about the work of John Apperson at Lake George. Fortunately, we can now examine letters and documents long hidden from view that shed considerable light on the politics concerning the creation of a Lake George Park.
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