Chub Pond lean-to 1 is unlike any other lean-to on the Adirondack Forest Preserve.
I recently visited this spot in the Black River Wild Forest while surveying trail damage from ATVs. I had heard that this lean-to was being used as a private camp and using Google Earth I could see a chimney and skylights in the lean-to roof and a large cleared area. When I reached the site, it was even worse than I expected.
Chub Pond lean-to 1 had been modified with a new roof, two skylights, and a chimney where a wood stove is hooked up. The lean-to has extensive shelving, tables, benches, bunkbeds, and even counters wrapped in a checkerboard laminate covering. A gas cook stove and oven is stored in the lean-to. Tables, benches, and chairs were strapped onto the ceiling. The lean-to had a wide porch. The whole place was very neat and tidy, yet these types of modifications are prohibited by state-land regulations.
The outhouse was used for storage of private supplies and had extensive shelving. A number of shovels, rakes, poles, a trash can, a ladder, and other yard tools are stored on site. Nearby, cut lumber is stored under a tarp. A second supply stash, wrapped under a tarp, had mattresses, a wood stove, and other materials. A lawn mower was also stored at the site. The storage of private supplies on the Forest Preserve is prohibited.
A significant number of trees had been cut down around the lean-to. Cutting down a tree on the Forest Preserve is illegal. While I did not undertake a total stump count, dozens of stumps within a close proximity to the lean-to were seen. In addition to the tree cutting, it also appears that the wetland field around the lean-to has been mowed. Lawn mowing is prohibited on the Forest Preserve.
All of the modifications to the lean-to and all the furniture strapped to the ceiling made for an uninviting and unwelcoming atmosphere for other visitors.
See a more extensive array of pictures of Chub Pond Lean-to 1 here.
I contacted the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and submitted a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for documents about the history and management of this lean-to. There was nothing in the Black River Wild Forest Area Unit Management Plan about special, exclusive use. When I recounted what I saw, DEC staff agreed that all those things were illegal and were supposed to have been cleared up years ago.
When I received documents through the FOIL request, three key points became clear. First, when this lean-to was originally built in the 1960s, DEC was uncomfortable with the arrangement. From the record, it appears that a group of individuals built this lean-to for public use on their own dime, but that there was a quid pro quo that they would get exclusive use during big-game hunting season. Any DEC reservations about this arrangement were met with intervention by area political representatives on behalf of this group.
The Chub Pond lean-to 1 group was given the right to build and maintain this lean-to. They were allowed to mow the field and cut Forest Preserve trees around the lean-to after storms to clean the site up. They were allowed to fix damage from fallen trees. They were also allowed to erect an outbuilding and store some personal materials there.
The second thing the FOIL documents show is that DEC tried to reign in the private use of this lean-to, including modifications and storage of personal supplies and equipment. In 2003, DEC issued a Consent Order detailing a series of violations. A well built at the site was ordered disconnected, various private supplies were supposed to be removed, and the skylights were ordered removed. If these things were not undertaken, the group would be hit with a $5,000 fine. From my field visit in August, it appears that not only were the majority of these violations not enforced, but that illegal activities were expanded.
The third thing the FOIL documents show is that members of the original group had died or were no longer in physical condition to use lean-to. The lean-to was largely accessed by floatplane and ATVs. The use of this lean-to had been passed along to a new generation. One statement in the record made by a current user was that he and others were bequeathed exclusive use of the lean-to in the will of one of the original group.
It appears that the new generation of users had expanded modifications at the lean-to and taken its private use to whole new level since 2003.
If annual permits were given to this group, they were not provided as part of my FOIL request.
I submitted letters to the DEC and Adirondack Park Agency (APA) requesting more information about this unusual arrangement and calling for an investigation. DEC has since told me that legal action is being taken and because of that they can no longer talk about the issue.
The various Forest Preserve violations need to be resolved, but another important issue that should be investigated concerns internal DEC management. When I talked with staff at the DEC Region 6 office in Watertown they expressed dismay and said they thought the issue was resolved years ago. They were surprised to hear that uses and violations had been expanded. DEC staff in Albany professed that they knew nothing whatsoever about this lean-to.
There are many questions for the DEC. Why was the 2003 Consent Order never enforced? Who from DEC visited the lean-to? What reports were provided from the field to Forest Preserve management supervisors in Watertown or Albany? Who in Watertown or Albany followed up on the Consent Order? What information was sent to the APA?
The easy thing for the DEC will be to throw the book at those who occupied this lean-to as a private camp and violated numerous Forest Preserve laws and regulations. What remains to be seen is how the DEC will examine its internal management failures and what reforms will be undertaken.
The APA just announced it’s looking at revision of the State Land Master Plan, the management policy for the Forest Preserve. One weakness of joint APA-DEC management of the Forest Preserve has long been enforcement of Forest Preserve management violations by the DEC or in situations such as the Chub Pond lean-to 1 where violations are tolerated by the DEC.
It sounds like this is going to go.
Clarence Petty lived the first years of his life in an illegal cabin on Forest Preserve land near Upper Saranac Lake.
Well, I am glad to learn that “Protect” is focusing on matters other than stopping freight trains to Tahawus and shutting down the ACR in Tupper Lake, endeavors that create jobs.
Justice for Tupper Lake
Scott Willis, Saranac Lake NY
Yeah and that GIANT Toxic Mess of Village of Ticonderoga , Lake George Paper Co., Ticonderoga Paper Company and INTERNATIONAL PAPER / FINCH PRUYN’s Massive Mess in front of Fort Ticonderoga …. The FINANCIERS behind these Guys have BOUGHT THE SILENCE. Millions of cubic yards of chemicals and sewage and industrial AND Pulp Waste and the SILENCE is DEAFENING. Champlain is IN THE PARK and CHAMPLAIN is an ADIRONDACK LAKE ….. Can You Hear The CRICKETS LOL
Looking at the pictures, the stumps were cut long time ago; and it would appear the bunks/tables are also very old. I say, as long as the public gets to utilize; keep the lean-to as it is. The lawnmower can go. Am actually going to keep this in mind for one of my hunting/fishing trips into the ‘Daks.
I am not sure that cutting those trees for firewood on FP land is illegal. If you look at some of the similar trees still standing they look like standing dead timber which is legal to cut for firewood.
Camp should never include the need to mow the lawn!!
This is not correct. All fire wood must be dead and down- it is illegal to cut standing trees, even dead ones.
A stump is a stump. Regardless of whether the tree was alive or dead, cutting it down has the same visual impact. Also, standing dead trees provide important habitat and food resources for wildlife.
NO! The enjoyment is the rustic and remote wilderness experience. Why do people bring all the amenities of home? Take the time to learn how to camp without the conviences. You people are spoiling our Park and is the reason to have a protection agency. If the lean-to is left as it is, others will think they can do it elsewhere. I have seen plenty of violations lately such as tents set up inside the lean-to at Fish Pond. Also I am getting annoyed at having to bring out ignorant people garbage. Please return it to originality and prosecute these idiots!
Troutstalker, Given this logic we should not have things like lean-tos on forest preserve land at all. Perhaps we should outlaw tent usage?
Apparently this thing has been here like this for about 50 years and seen by many many people. If it was going to make lots of others “think they could do it elsewhere” they would be all over the Forest Preserve by now.
When you see someone with a tent in a leanto do you tell them to “knock it off” or pull it out yourself? There are not enough rangers if you don’t like it you have to self police. Just like as if it were your own land because it is.
Paul, I could camp without a tent or a lean-to. If people have known about this for 50 years, why are we just finding out about it? Now more people know about it due to this article! Yes I would tell them in a tactful way about how it is a rule. Maybe if we all educated these people by speaking up there would be more respect for the laws. We all need to get involved to help the rangers. My last trip into the Bog River Flow I found toilet paper and feces above ground 50 feet from the water line! There is no excuse for this when a box privy is provided. Put the lean-to back to its original state!
Thank you, Peter Bauer, for doing something about the site itself, and especially for all the work on the DEC’s history in the story.
This is another instance where they turn a blind eye to an obvious need of law enforcement. Worse, in this case, apparently DEC is an accomplice.
Seems it should be perfectly legal for Joe and Jane Citizen to carry off the supplies and turn them in to the local sheriff’s lost-and-found. If nobody claims them, the finder can keep them and donate them to a good cause.
Watertown didn’t know anything about it? No ranger, no other DEC staff ever patrol that area? Not in a decade? Baloney. Were they told to ignore it? By whom? Sanction that person sorely.
Can’t talk because “legal action is being taken?” Translation: CYA gag-order.
I called a certain ECO at Ray Brook, whose first statement to me, regarding rampant abuse of multiple sites going on for decades, “We know about it, but we certainly don’t sanction it.”
Yes, you do.
It was the first thing out of his mouth. I hadn’t asked if they sanctioned it. I was just reporting it.
I found an ECO deliberately walking by an obviously severe, currently ongoing abuse of many trees and other blatant problems at a site, including storage of personal property. I was doing cleanup at the time. His explanation for inaction was that it had been “going on for a long time.” Oh, then it’s okay.
Squatters rights. Land for the taking.
“Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above / Don’t fence me in / Let me ride through the wide open country that I love / Don’t fence me in”
I know how much effort goes into Peter’s effort here, because it wasn’t easy to get them to clean up that one site the ECO (and the local ranger) ignored, and it didn’t even have this Lean-to 1 history of DEC failures.
I believe we’re facing an era of rampant, uncontrollable abuses, because we’re continually increasing the acreage, but decreasing law enforcement resources.
Odd use of taxpayer funds. What moneyed interest is driving that agenda?
I am not opposed to the land acquisitions — I think — I simply don’t understand the imbalance. Would we decrease the highway patrols after building a massive new road? Then tell them to turn a blind eye?
What a shame! Return the lean-to to its original, intended use condition, and give whomever helps clean it up whatever stuff they want to take, and wait until someone squawks about it, then deal with them. Now that it’s been publicized, I doubt we will hear much or anything from the folks responsible, on the chance they might be prosecuted. What’s to stop others from going in and taking stuff…is the place guarded?
I think it shouldn’t be any trouble to get a group to volunteer to do it, at little out of pocket except for repairing the roof after the skylights and stove pipe are removed. No matter who built it, or how much personal stuff they keep there, it was intended for public use on public land; therefore the lean-to and everything on the property belongs to the state, and the state can do whatever they want with it.
Handling it in this manner will send a clear message to others with similar designs on public property. Any personal property you deliberately leave behind belongs to the next person who finds it, unless they want to return it themselves. Carry it in, carry it out.
In this case, the job is “Carry it out, Carry it out.”
Interesting idea. Make it a tent site.
Doing that could be a “necessary evil,” if the trouble was ongoing abuse by too many people, so rampant as to be unenforceable with reasonable efforts. I think DEC has done things like that in rare cases.
But this is a case of nearly institutionalized offenses apparently by a group or groups (given the history) that could be identified and prosecuted with reasonable effort, leaving the site exposed to only the “normal” degree of abuse after restoration.
Removal would be an absolute last resort after protection proves untenable.
DOH! That was supposed to be a reply to Jim S. below, on the idea of removing the lean-to. Maybe the moderator can move it?
Interesting……we had observed some squatters building a lean-to on state land that adjoined our property. We contacted the DEC and they said they would let them finish it and then they would tear it down – which they did. I’m not sure if the perps were fined or not, but they were from out of state and had the nerve to cross our land with their truck and trailer of supplies. The person at DEC we contacted said he wanted them to complete it so that they would think twice about doing it again. They also didn’t want them to move the “operation”. This was a while back, but to this day I still am amazed by the nerve of some people…….
While it would seem that one illegal leanto can’t do that much harm, such selective and uneven enforcement of laws can’t be tolerated. Multiply this case by several others
and we would be back to the bad old days. Public Forest Preserve is public, not for someone’s private use. DEC should remove all the nonconforming aspects immediately.
Thank you Peter this is something we can agree 100% on and why when others complain I tell them you guys do many good things also.
I visited this lean-to back in the mid-1990’s when I was first teaching myself about solo backcountry adventuring. It sounds like the lean-to is in an almost identical condition as it was back then. I don’t remember the skylights, the shack or the lawnmower, but I remember the stove, tables, chairs, an exterior sink (with a water pump that worked) and a flag pole. They even had a little liquor cabinet, complete with a few full bottles.
The DEC didn’t know about it? I find that hard to believe. Didn’t anyone patrol the area in the last 20 years?
Heads should roll over this, though I doubt any will, especially not with the current administration in Albany.
Hey IP’s / Finch Pryn’s GIANT Mess in LaChute River and Lk Champlain ….. THAT Giant MESS is In The Adirondack Park VISIT The GIANT Cesspool In The Adirondack Park …… https://www.facebook.com/groups/433274403456554/
Oh yeah and the DAMNED Northway RT 87 was SLASHED straight through the Mountains so the WALL STREETERS like Hochschild and the Rockefellers could PROFIT from the KING’s Forests. Leave the Lean-to ALONE
International Paper and Finch Pryn and the Lake George Paper Company and Ticonderoga Paper Company and WALL STREET stole the Adirondacks via WASHINGTON honoring British Land Grants and British Patents. The LOGGING COMPANIES and WALL STREET’s BANKSTERS are THIEVES and the People that WORSHIP them are Green, Environmental NAZIS. The Vast Adirondacks were STOLEN from Abirigonals by the ALBANY LAWYERS like COLVIN and the Rockefeller / Hochschild MOBSTERS and the Rothschilds.
SCREW the RULES and SCREW the 1% that WORSHIP the APA. The ULTRA Wealthy have LORDED over the Adirondacks and Catskills while STUFFING Their pockets with BUSINESSES like the Adirondack Museum and other PRIVATE Lodges and B & Bs and Taverns and Sporting Goods and Outfitters Businesses for DECADES. Go start questioning the DEC and APA about the VAST Poisonous MESS on the Bottom Of Lake Champlain ….. That is the ADIRONDACK PARK as well. https://www.facebook.com/groups/433274403456554/
This is a “curious case”. Certainly different than your run of the mill “outlaw” camp. I have seen at least a half dozen over the years. If the DEC was “uncomfortable” with the arrangements when the built it fifty years ago why just tell them not to build it? It sounds like the state didn’t build this. The skylight are the weirdest thing. Who puts skylights in a real camp? They usually leak anyway.
Part of this is that the rangers have to live in the local communities that surround the land they are patrolling. They don’t get to run off to Albany when someone is annoyed at them for getting rid of a camp they have allowed to remain for 50 years. It isn’t just the DEC, it sounds like basically everyone has turned the other way for decades. If you care about something like this getting removed than do something about it. Personally it doesn’t bother me and it has not caused any kind of spike in this type of abuse as some suggest, otherwise these things would be all over the place by now. It sounds like most people (probably thousands over the years) have simply left it alone so I suspect that maybe most people don’t really have a big issue with something like this.
There are dozens of hunting camps in the Forest Preserve that are dismantled at the end of the season and hidden under brush until next year. The rangers know where this stuff is.
This reminds me of a story a good friend told me years ago where he came across a ranger mowing the lawn in front of an illegal tent platform in the Forest Preserve, acting as the caretaker while the “owner” was away.
These abuses of the “forever wild” Preserve and Article 14 have been going on since time immemorial, like 1885. Including timber poaching, illegal hunting and many more serious cases of illegal occupancy. Much of it happens because DEC staff turns a blind eye to the trespasses of their neighbors. The other part of it is that current and recentGovernors have slashed DEC staffing to ribbons and much of the agency’s enforcement capability has been lost and morale is at an all time low.
Internally inconsistent. If it’s been going on for forever, it can’t have anything to do with recent budget cuts.
Just one more adherent at the altar of “more government funding can fix everything”
Yes, this has nothing to do with budget cuts. They have already said that they knew about it since it was built. It is not like Peter just brought it to their attention.
Although Peter may have their attention now.
Suz says: to this day I still am amazed by the nerve of some people…….
I say the same thing over and over to myself on a daily basis Suz which is kinda odd considering that nothing surprises me anymore.
Great article and investigative work!
I’m more worried about the DEC and local law enforcement turning a blind eye toward illegal ATV and snowmobile use all over the Park. The leanto is just a symptom of a broader problem–selective enforcement of existing law.
Just a guess, but I bet that the original problem remains the current problem. As per Peter’s article:
“Any DEC reservations about this arrangement were met with intervention by area political representatives on behalf of this group”
So this is a political issue (if my hunch is correct). Maybe Peter can do some real work and find out who currently maintains the lean-to and take it up with them. Once again, my guess is that he will be “met with intervention by area political representatives on behalf of this group”
Given the history of abuse at the site wouldn’t removal of the lean-to be an option.
i did not know it was illegal to set up a tent in a lean-to. why is that? just asking.
Lean-tos are for shared use. Sometimes they are used by several parties at once.
Because the tent takes up most of the lean-to excluding other campers….so instead of the limit (8 for example) a tent with 2 people in it would take up more than half of the spots ……
Think about it anyway….if you have a tent why would you want set it up in a leanto ?
One thought on bug-free lean-to camping is to turn your limp tent (minus poles) into a bivy sack. I imagine this would be a legal approach to the matter. Bring your tiniest tent, limp and flat, minus poles (of course) and slip into it with your sleeping bag. Zip up in your tent bivy sack for a bug free evening in the lean to. You can now share the lean to with all your many buddies.
Teresa the Cartographer
The lean to was designed to have a big smoky smudge burning in front of it to ward off the bugs. Adding a mosquito net to the front probably wouldn’t be sacrilegious? You can also pull the sleeping bag over your head!
I say Lean-Tos should be all through the Parks. You see Deer Park Preservation Units have existed since the Days of Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest. The Vast Wilderness areas would be GRAND indeed with lots of them. International Logged over much of this ground and the FAT CATS from New York City and Albany have their FANCY PANTS Lake Homes and Businesses all over the State. YES I believe a LARGE Lean-To presence in the Parks would be Very Cool and the Homeless could stay in them. To hell with all the RICH Kids that think the Adirondacks are Their PRIVATE PARADISE. Open the Park for the Homeless.
Peter – PROTECT has started to keep a running list of panther sightings, I believe. Why not start a list of all of the violations of Article 14 concerning the Forest Preserve in different categories and publicize it regularly or keep it prominently on your website? Just put down the obvious Preserve violations on which DEC should take enforcement action as manager or custodian of the Preserve.
Good work Peter. Thanks for exposing this flagrant abuse of public lands. Bringing it to the light of day may finally embarrass DEC into actually doing something about it. I like the idea of keeping a public list of these abuses – including damage from illegal ATV use.
The DEC does have a reporting system available to the public. You can report a violation on-line or by calling our 24hr non-emergency dispatch number. In the ADK that # is 518-897-1300. When a complaint comes in from the public the dispatcher will get the information from you and complete a standard form and a tracking # is assigned to the complaint. The complaint then gets assigned to a Forest Ranger (if it is a state land complaint).
Is that anything like TIPP (Turn In Poachers & Polluters)? I made a report to that line once. They said an officer would call me. Nobody called. I resorted to ink. That worked.
Everyone can also report violations online to DEC through the DEC website. Google ‘nysdec report a violation online’. This generates a complaint with documentation that get supervisory review.
Scott – You are describing the way the system is supposed to work. If it really was working we would not have longstanding violations like this one that Peter has flagged still around after many decades.
In many instances the system is not working. Getting the violation out in the public as Peter has done in this instance of a flagrant violation also should help to get enforcement action by DEC in the “hard” cases. Beyond that, going to court is the final recourse to use in important cases or more generic cases where DEC is not doing its duty or doesn’t seem to understand what its duty is.
Ojibway, the current reporting policy and tracking is less than 10 years old. It is designed to increase accountability of the department and public participation. Give it a try before condemning it. This article is exceptional and I applaud Peter for his work on this.
I just submitted a Freedom of Information Request for recent Forest Preserve Violations reports. I will share what I find out, but it will likely take months.
In the meantime, we will look at ways to improve public reporting about violations that are reported — both from users of the Forest Preserve and its managers — and how they are resolved. This may be a case where greater scrutiny and sunlight will help to improve the process and improve protections for the Forest Preserve.
There once was a time when Peter Fish was on the beat that it seemed like if you started to anything wrong in the high-peaks he would immediately step out from behind a tree and stop the culprit in their tracks!!
It was like the guy could be in 50 places at the same time!
Please consider this: An Article 78 is an order in NYS that can be brought against any government entity, here against the DEC, for not following or enforcing the law. By not enforcing that Consent Order, DEC has failed to enforce an order for which it went to a court and argued. An Article 78, or even talk of one, will get people’s attention.
There is more about DEC’s use of Consent Orders here on its website: http://www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/25229.html
It was from Commissioner Jorling in 1990, posted on a Region 2 page. Two question: is it the most recent policy, and is it apropos to all regions?
Any affected party can bring an Article 78 action, which is a motion in court. Protect can easily show it has an interest. Costs of drafting the motion and filing the fees are not overly expensive. I predict a focussed fundraiser to get the Article 78 into court would quickly succeed.
The court can grant the motion, which would force DEC to enforce the Consent Order or face contempt. A friendly talk with the Commissioner would not hurt as a first step. Another question I would have is whether there was a statute of limitations concerning the Consent Order?
Just some thoughts on a lovely, rainy fall afternoon.
All of which goes to prove that we not only need effective regulations but we also need professional boots on the ground to do the job on three million acres of Forest Preserve. Sure, volunteers are part of the solutionm too, but only on an auxilliary basis. Unfortunately, that means government funding for more DEC staffing in the Forest Preserve. DEC has lost too many positions in recent decades, including in the Ranger force which has been played off against the ECO’s for decades by State Budget people. Meanwhile the number and diversity of users out there has continued to increase. Foresters are needed to help manage easements but it is wierd that DEC has no staff at all trained in Wilderness Management. DEC is responsible for care and custody of the Preserve. That management capability doesn’t just happen overnight and without adequate funding.
Since there is an extensive use and wills of perpetuating something.
Why not turn it into a refuge-like area, with a proper design.
the main issue here is the mix of odd material and spécific-to-a-groupe’s-practices installations. The lack of site planing is to blame.
It could look like a smaller version of a ranger’s lodge that would respect the standards of the other Adk forest buildings, and still integrate some specific features, like a collective wood stove installation, shelvings, etc…
With an architectural site plan, mowing, tree control, wood-supply could be circumscribed to specific parts of the site.
Funding, association of volunteers, architectural site-planing, I see in this blister to mother nature and to good-taste, a reasonable project.
Demolishing is sad and rebuilding is inevitable, lets make it a better place to everyone’s eye.
Sorry for my weird english, I’m a french guy living in Montréal, I hike ADK peeks all year long, usually a day at a time.
Glad to hear you are enjoying the Adirondacks. I enjoy travelling to Quebec for backcountry adventures. The difference in outdoor culture is significant! I believe Quebec has many more facilities for recreation and camping. Nice to have your perspective in this forum. Your English is far better than my French! Cheers
We have rangers and we have some that actually care. I have paddled Bog River Flow and camped at numerous campsites. I never had a dirty site because the ranger patrols and maintains the sites daily. Last week I paddled to Kettle Hole campsite and it was disgusting. We had to burn at least a trash bag full. Not only trash but the trees were damaged by Paul Bunyan and some idiot that peeled birch bark off live trees! Maybe we need to set up a certification program to educate on camping etiquette. Take a class,get a license to camp.