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.
In a hearing before Justice Richard T. Aulisi in Fulton County Supreme Court, Phillips argued the state’s stance would give the public the right to travel down just about any waterway that can be floated upon by canoe. “That is a very extreme position, and that is why we are in opposition to the state’s intervention,” Phillips said.
The state announced in February that it would seek to join the lawsuit because the property groups had improperly hung cables, no-trespassing signs and a camera to dissuade paddlers from making their way down the Shingle Shanty Brook in the William C. Whitney Wilderness Area.
Kevin Donovan, the assistant attorney general handling the case, told Aulisi that if the state were denied, it would ultimately bring another case to settle the matter. “The state will need to bring another action in which the same facts and law will be tried,” Donovan said.
Brown’s lawyer, John Caffry, told Aulisi he supports the state’s involvement.
The property groups sued Brown for trespass following a canoe journey he made in 2009. His two-mile paddle included a stretch of Shingle Shanty Brook they contend should be off-limits to the public.
In arguing against the state, Phillips charged that officials had chosen to represent the interests of advocacy groups such as the Sierra Club over those of the public—a reason why Aulisi should deny the state’s request, but a contention Donovan denied. “I’m not going to address the conspiracy theory,” he said. The reason why the state is involved, he said, is to protect the public’s right of navigation.
Aulisi will decide whether to allow the state to join the lawsuit at a later date.
Photo: Phil Brown on Shingle Shanty Brook.