Not that long ago, or at least within living memory, Cleverdale on the east side of Lake George was home to fewer than five year-round families; the children attended a one-room school house on Ridge Road. A common footpath followed the shore, allowing residents to walk to church in summer.
Modern times, however, came quickly enough. Lakefront residents appropriated the sections of footpath that crossed their lawns. New York State acquired 28 acres on Sandy Bay and planned to build a public beach and picnic area there, a prospect so alarming to local residents, they sought to purchase the tract themselves. Eventually, the state reconsidered, perhaps as a result of pressure applied by some politically well-connected locals, and the land is still undeveloped.
Many of the cottages that were typical of Cleverdale in the 1960s and 70s have been razed, replaced by mini McMansions. One long-time resident recently remarked that she liked the new houses, but that on occasion, she and her husband felt as though they were living in someone’s servants’ quarters. The year-round population has grown from five to at least 100 families. And the road that residents use to reach the Cleverdale Country Store, the Post Office and the firehouse is now so busy during the summer months that it’s considered unsafe by some for joggers, walkers and bicyclists.
One indication that Cleverdale is not the remote place it once was is the fact that more than forty people, attended a meeting at the North Queensbury firehouse to discuss a new, one-mile pedestrian and biking path along Cleverdale Road – in January.
According to Ron Miller, one of the residents who organized the meeting, the path’s design would also incorporate a storm water management system.
The idea for “the Greenway,” as it’s called, emerged from the meetings of the local Lake Stewardship Group, formerly the Cleverdale-Rockhurst Water Quality Awareness Committee, Miller said.
“Our meetings were a natural forum for discussion,” said Miller. “Although our focus is lake issues, it came up that a lot of frustration had built up for both the pedestrians and drivers who use the road. We saw a chance to do something that would be good for the lake and good for the neighborhood. What began as a casual conversation grew into something more productive.”
Last fall, the group applied for a $1,500 grant from The Fund for Lake George to retain Linday Zeftig of Alta Planning and Design an Aaron Vera of L. Sipperly & Associates, an engineering firm, to make preliminary studies for a pedestrian and bicycle path and stormwater management system for the road.
They presented their findings to the residents on January 25, a Sunday afternoon.
According to Zefting, the right of way is wide enough to accommodate “active modes of transportation,” including snowshoeing or cross country skiing, without infringing upon landowners’ rights.
Aaron Vera said there were “lots of options for infiltrating and capturing storm water along the road.”
“It was a good first step,” former Queensbury Town Councilman Bill Mason said of the meeting. “I think the public supports the project, but it will require authorization from the Town Board, which won’t act unless there’s a consensus.”
Harrison Freer, a cyclists’ advocate who lives at the edge of Rockhurst, sought to gauge the depth of that consensus, or the lack thereof, stating, “People appear to be in favor of this, but in my experience, if there are neighbors, landowners, taxpayers who oppose a project like this, it goes into cold storage.”
Freer asked, “Is there a consensus here that everyone can live with?”
Apparently not. “This is in the interest of only a few. The property owners are against it. It would be a frivolous use of the taxpayers money,” said Wendy Kraft, whose family owns land on both sides of the road.
According to Ron Miller, that was a minority position.
“Most of the kibitzing was about how it should be done, not whether it should be done. Most people agree we should do something,” he said.
At some point, it was suggested, a foot path through the state’s wooded 28-acre tract at Sandy Bay might be constructed, creating more opportunities for recreation.
That led Judy Wetherbee to wonder if such a proposal would rouse the state to dust off its plans for a public beach and picnic area.
After Linday Alta reassured her that this was an unlikely scenario, Bill Mason remarked that the project was an opportunity to rid the road of the No Parking signs that had lined it for decades.
“No one has parked on that road for fifty years,” he said, noting later that they were probably erected in the first place to discourage any non-residents from taking advantage of the proposed public beach.
What William Faulkner said of the south is also true of a hamlet in upstate New York: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
Photo: Above, archival photo of the footpath along Cleverdale’s shore; and below, More than 40 people attended a meeting at the North Queensbury Firehouse in January to discuss the Cleverdale Greenway project.
A version of this story first appeared in the Lake George Mirror.