Adirondack legend Clarence Petty died at his son’s home in Canton on Monday at the age of 104. Petty was the subject of Christopher Angus’s biography The Extraordinary Adirondack Journey of Clarence Petty: Wilderness Guide, Pilot, and Conservationist which chronicled his remarkable life.
Petty spent his early life in a squatters cabin on Upper Saranac Lake and later moved with his family to Coreys. He graduated from Saranac Lake High School and the College of Forestry (now SUNY-ESF). He worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression and was a pilot during World War Two. Later he worked for the Conservation Department and the Adirondack Park Agency where he influenced the classification of Adirondack lands. New York State Conservationist featured Petty in its February 2009 issue.
PROTECT! the Adirondacks issued the following statement:
Since his retirement from State service in 1974, Clarence Petty provided Protect the Adirondacks! and its parent groups, the AFPA and RCPA, with critical historical perspective, information, moral and financial support. He served as volunteer committee member, Director and Honorary Director from 1976 until his death yesterday.
“In every meeting we had with him, Clarence never let us forget that the Forest Preserve and Article XIV of the NYS Constitution, the Forever Wild clause, were unique on planet earth. The Forest Preserve was, as he put it, ‘the goose that laid the golden egg’ for the Adirondack Park. The Forest Preserve and its protection and stewardship were central to him and his vision of the Park and its future,” said David Gibson, PROTECT executive director.
Clarence started or helped to start many initiatives in the Adirondacks, including one of the first citizen organizations to protect the Adirondacks in 1974. In 1990, Clarence joined the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks. In 1994, the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks presented him with its Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2000 its Howard Zahniser Adirondack Award. In 1998, Clarence inspired leadership gifts to the organization’s first capital campaign to create the Center for the Forest Preserve. In 2005, Clarence provided seed funds for the Clarence Petty Fund to Protect the Adirondacks which supported PROTECT’s first internship, and which evolved to become the Adirondack Park Stewardship Training Program. “Clarence was always thinking about and acting for the future, and helping nonprofit, citizen organizations from the Adirondacks to Alaska to plan ahead and strengthen themselves,” Gibson added.
Local media around the region are also remembering Petty: