Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Where Veterans Stand: Paul Schaefer and the Pack Forest

Photo by Paul SchaeferPaul Schaefer took this photo in the Pack Forest in Warrensburg sometime in the 1940s or 50s when he was fighting elsewhere in the Adirondacks to save ancient groves from dam builders.

At Pack Forest Paul told us he took one of his best and luckiest shots. Wanting to capture the public’s imagination with something as ancient and compelling as a 500 year old stand of white pine, Paul was at a loss with the scale and the difficult angle and the lighting until the clouds parted for an instant and sun suddenly shot through the forest canopy.

Paul clicked, the shutter opened. Opportunity and preparedness aligned.

Paul told us that his photo was in demand all over the Adirondacks and the country, including in Washington, DC, where a representative of the USDA Forest Service put it on the wall. By the 1960s, the photo came to represent the urgent need to expand the Forest Preserve, protect the Adirondack Park’s remaining old-growth forests, and plan and care for the entire Park, public and private. It has been used in many publications since then, including Defending the Wilderness: The Adirondack Writings of Paul Schaefer (Syracuse University Press, 1989).
Paul liked this photo in particular because the ancient grove it captures is part of the State University College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s Pack Demonstration Forest. The forest was donated by Charles Lathrop Pack in the early 20th century for purposes of forestry education and silviculture at the College of Forestry, Syracuse (now SUNY ESF).

Growing up as he did when money was scarce, including public funds for to buy more Forest Preserve, Paul Schaefer encouraged private philanthropy as one of the principal ways to conserve critical places in the Adirondacks. The fact that this old-growth stand withstood the Royal English Navy in the 18th century, much less rapacious lumbermen of the 19th century, wind and hurricane, and 20th century development, and was the result of a donation by Charles Lathrop Pack surely brought Paul back to this spot many times. This grove has surprised and inspired countless students and visitors since, who if they don’t know the rest of these 2,500 acres at Pack Forest, surely know about the Grandmother Tree and this great stand. Today, Pack Forest is the site of NYS DEC Environmental Education Camps, and is training ground for many a SUNY student and many a future steward of the Adirondack Park.

During the Adirondack Park Centennial year, 1992, photographer Mark Kurtz of Saranac Lake invited a number of people involved in Park affairs to be photographed, each in their favorite place in the Adirondacks, and to write the caption below the scene. Due to Paul’s influence, I chose this great white pine forest as my place, and wrote as my caption the following:

I stand at this most public and private of places – publicly traveled, decidedly private in its mood and in my thoughts. The image of these remnant and giant pines, still vigorously dusting the fine air aloft, graces the office of a forestry official in Washington, DC, a photograph taken by Paul Schaefer decades before at a moment when sunlight streamed through skudding clouds to light up this splendid grove, seeded centuries before. Protected trees spared from the axe and saw. Without mentors, nothing inspiring would have occurred here, nothing kept and passed forward to hands less calloused than his which once held the camera, but eager to receive all the same. So, we must all return once in a while to places where veterans stand, look ahead, and be ready when the sun lights up the grove and the path through it.

Photo by Paul Schaefer.

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Dave Gibson, who writes about issues of wilderness, wild lands, public policy, and more, has been involved in Adirondack conservation for over 30 years as executive director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks and currently as managing partner with Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest PreserveDuring Dave's tenure at the Association, the organization completed the Center for the Forest Preserve including the Adirondack Research Library at Paul Schaefer’s home. The library has the finest Adirondack collection outside the Blue Line, specializing in Adirondack conservation and recreation history. Currently, Dave is managing partner in the nonprofit organization launched in 2010, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve.

6 Responses

  1. Tony Hall says:

    Dave, Thanks for calling attention to Pack Forest, an asset to the Adirondack Park that is far less appreciated than it should be. At the very least, it’s a great place for a quiet stroll

  2. Scott says:

    Dear Dave,
    How would we get to this location of old growth pines? I would love to bring my family there this summer.
    Scott McManus

  3. loggerhead says:

    The Pack Forest is a fine example of what should occur on any new state acquisitions within the park of former forestry, paper company or resource management lands. Continue good forestry practice, and careful selective logging harvest. Give the graduates of SUNY-ESF a place to work within the Adks.
    A recently completed job is visible along the north side of Route 28 , just north of the Rt. 9 & 28 intersection above Warrensburg. Kudos are well deserved to contractor, a remarkable job visible from the highway.

  4. Dave Gibson says:

    You can access this old stand of white pine by entering the SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry campus known as Pack Forest located off Rt. 28 just north of the village of Warrensburg. Drive in, park and you will find a boardwalk on the left (south) side of the road. Follow that boardwalk as it winds through this beautiful area.

    • John Warren says:

      Last fall there were signs for the nature trail at the parking lot. You can’t miss it.

  5. Paul says:

    Curious? Is this land owned by the state as part of the SUNY property or is it part of the Forest Preserve? It is the former correct? Are all state owned lands withing the park subject to Article IV or only Forest Preserve land. If it is the former why is it legal to do things like cut down a tree to build a boat launch or to build a building at a place like Sunmount or Camp Gabriels etc?

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