If my memory services me, I believe 2015 will mark the 20th since the Hadley Mountain Fire Tower Committee was organized in 1995 with the help of a spirited group of local leaders and historians in Hadley and Luzerne and Corinth, as well as the leadership of Jack Freeman of the Adirondack Mountain Club, the NYS DEC Forest Rangers, and a volunteer from the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks (AFPA), Linda Champagne.
As a leader of AFPA I was glad to join Linda at one of the committee’s early meetings. Now working with Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, I still hike the mountain every year in recognition of a voluntary group completely dedicated to an educational, historically significant part of the NYS Forest Preserve. And I hike up in hopes of talking with a Summit Steward.
I doubt any Hadley Fire Tower friends organization can claim to have a better newsletter than the annual Hadley Fire Tower Mountain News issued each spring for twenty years by the aforementioned Linda Champagne. The News is packed with historical, cultural and environmental news, paintings, photographs, perspective and poetry from the viewpoint of mountain people who have known the mountain for generations, and who with the vital help of NYS DEC are doing a lot more than simply keeping the fire tower upright – although the tower’s restoration and maintenance was a founding purpose of the committee.
Public education using the tower as a teaching tool was also a committee purpose from the beginning, and the committee has raised dollars every year since the tower restoration to pay a small stipend towards an enthusiastic, helpful, educational Summit Steward during the warm months. With the help of corporate and private dollar support, and the complete devotion to the task of at least two NYS DEC Forest Rangers since 1995, the Hadley Committee has been at the forefront in providing summit information and interpretation, and summer employment for youthful Adirondack outdoor leaders.
And that is a crucially important service. Many hikers, whether serious or casual, do not necessarily view wild lands the way managers and volunteers do. They cannot fully appreciate the care, planning detail, worry and sweat that go into maintaining a proper path to a summit, how to move water off a trail, how to maintain a fire tower’s safe climb, an old fire observer’s cabin upright and useful, the fundraising and the hiring and the supervision. And yes, even watching out for forest fires remains a vital stewardship function. But most members of the hiking public do appreciate a friendly, outgoing, informative person at the summit, atop the fire tower, or on the trail, who symbolizes all of these public land responsibilities. One can also encourage appropriate public enjoyment and care of the mountain, and orient new visitors to Hadley’s magnificent rocky summit, its trees and views born of a hot forest fire a century ago.
Hadley Fire Tower Committee Chair Linda Ranado writes in the current Hadley newsletter that the summit trail has needed re-routing in places for years. This can’t be done until the larger preserve area of which Hadley is just a small part, Wilcox Lake Wild Forest, has an approved Unit Management Plan. This is part of the challenge. Managing wild lands as a comprehensive whole, not as disparate elements, is a fundamental principle of Wilderness Management. While this land is Wild Forest, it is fully Forest Preserve. North and west of Hadley, the center of the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest has a cluster of troublesome snowmobile trail and other issues in need of sound management recommendations. But none of that has slowed down the Hadley Fire Tower Committee. It is a great tribute to these volunteers, DEC staff and the Summit Stewards who love this wild mountain and all it has to teach us that concerted planning, organizing and activity has been their habit and practice for two decades.
You can send a financial contribution to the Hadley Fire Tower Committee anytime. That way you will be sure to get next spring’s newsletter. Address it to Joe Busch, Treasurer, P.O. Box 4501, Queensbury, NY 12804. Or volunteer for spring trail and other work on Hadley next spring. Lucky 20th Anniversary, Hadley Fire Tower Committee.
Photos: Views from the summit of Hadley Mountain.