Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Debate Over Navigability: Lecture and Discussion

river navigation postcardOn Thursday, March 16 at 5:30 pm, the Kelly Adirondack Center in Niskayuna will host a lecture and discussion with John W. Caffry on the debate over navigability on rivers in the Old Chapel at Union College.

In the mid-19th century, the rivers of the state were declared public highways to allow their use for transportation of logs to market, regardless of whether they ran over public or private land. This principle was “forgotten” late in the century. Since the late 20th century, recreational paddlers testing the public use concept have been arrested for trespass.

An exposition of both sides of the question that probes the age-old question of how a park composed of public and private land should be managed.

John Caffry is a 1984 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and was admitted to the New York State bar in 1985. He is also admitted to practice in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He graduated cum laude from Middlebury College in 1980. Caffry grew up in Queensbury and began his legal career in 1985 in Glens Falls. He served as outside counsel for the Lake George Park Commission from 1987 to 1990 and was village attorney for the Village of Argyle from 1988 to 1999.

He has lectured on environmental law issues and has authored environmental law journal articles. He received the Distinguished Service Award from the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York in 1996 and was awarded the Distinguished Volunteer Award by the Adirondack Mountain Club in 1995. He resides in Glens Falls with his wife and family.

Union College is located at 807 Union Street, Schenectady. Light refreshments will be provided beginning at 5 pm.

Photo: Nobel laureate Irving Langmuir transporting rocks to rip rap eroded Lake George islands (provided).

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6 Responses

  1. James Marco says:

    Yes, if you can paddle it, it is navigable, hence a public highway. Some exceptions apply, of course. But like the Hudson River, you are allowed to travel the water, regardless of who owns the land on either side. Falls, etc may be portaged. No you cannot camp on private land.. One exception that comes to my mind is if you own a pond/lake, with an outlet. Such wholly owned properties can be considered private.

    • Bruce says:

      I think it was Phil who found out there are questions about portaging and how far one can travel on another’s land to get back into the water.

    • Paul says:

      It is much more complicated than you make it out to be. That is why there are court cases, lawyers with many billable hours, and lectures like this one. One of the major legal questions for using the common law on navigability in fact is based on economic issues. Things like a waterways “utility for travel and trade” – it is not just a question of what can be paddled.

  2. Anthony Hall says:

    For anyone interested, that photo is of Nobel laureate Irving Langmuir on Lake George, transporting rocks to rip rap eroded islands

  3. Keith Silliman says:

    Good lecture. Nice presentation–good visuals (maps and photos– thanks Phil).

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