Sunday, April 16, 2017

Big Plans For Adirondack Gateway In North Hudson

frontier townSince its closure in 1998, Frontier Town could be more accurately described as a ghost town, but parts of the moldering theme park would be granted new life in a $32 million plan by the state to establish a Gateway to the Adirondacks at Exit 29 on the Northway.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the plan in his State of the State Message in January and filled in some of the details later in the month. It will include an information center, day-use area, equestrian trails, and a campground along the Schroon River.

Built in 1952, Frontier Town thrived for many years, but business started to tail off in the late 1960s after the Northway diverted traffic from the Wild West park’s main entrance on Route 9 and after airline tickets became more affordable, enabling people to fly to Disneyworld and other distant vacation spots. The tax-foreclosed property is now owned by Essex County and the Town of North Hudson.

Most of the Frontier Town buildings are badly decayed and will be removed, though a few structures, such as a chapel and a covered bridge, might be restored. The old rodeo arena would be restored as part of an equestrian center, with access to a network of riding trails already maintained by the town. (An A-frame building visible from Exit 29 and next to Frontier Town is privately owned and not part of the state’s plan.)

North Hudson Supervisor Ron Moore is thrilled about the project, calling it “an amazing opportunity.” He hopes the gateway will enable the towns to capitalize on the state’s purchase of sixty-five thousand acres formerly owned by Finch, Pruyn and Company.

The Boreas Ponds Tract, one of the jewels of the Finch deal, lies just seven miles west of Exit 29. The Essex Chain Tract and other former Finch lands lie somewhat farther west.

North Hudson Frontier Town Adirondack Gateway Vision DrawingLocal towns hope the Finch parcels, purchased over several years from the Nature Conservancy, will attract tourists who want to hike, paddle, cross-country ski, snowmobile, or mountain-bike.

John Sheehan, a spokesman for the Adirondack Council, said the visitor center could divert people from the High Peaks to the Finch lands. As reported in the Explorer last year, environmental groups are concerned about overuse of the High Peaks.

“It would be a very attractive place for the traffic coming up the Northway to pop off and find a not-so-busy campsite and find someplace not so busy to hike,” Sheehan said of the gateway. “All of this sounds very encouraging.”

Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks, is skeptical that the gateway will change the economic fortunes of North Hudson and nearby towns. “On a certain level, the state has gone down this route before,” he said.

Years ago, the state built Visitor Interpretive Centers in Newcomb and Paul Smiths, but Bauer said they failed to live up to their economic promise. Eventually, the Adirondack Park Agency turned over management of the centers to colleges.

Then there is what Bauer views as vague budget numbers. It’s unclear who came up with the $32 million price tag or how they arrived at it. The state is expected to put up $23 million, part of which will pay for conservation easements that ensure public access. And water and sewer lines would have to be designed and built.

Cuomo has stressed that the project would include private partners to operate restaurants, lodging (perhaps in yurts or cabins), and other amenities. Paradox Brewery intends to spend $2.8 million to establish a facility there.

The Adirondack Gateway would lie along the governor’s proposed Empire Trail, which he envisions as a hiking and biking path from Canada down to Albany and beyond, south to New York City and west to Buffalo.

Photos, from above: Frontier Town ruins  by Carl Heilman II and North Hudson Adirondack Gateway Vision Drawing.

This story originally appeared in the Adirondack Explorer, a nonprofit newsmagazine devoted to the protection and enjoyment of the Adirondack Park. Get a full print or digital subscription here.

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Rick Karlin covers the New York State Capitol. A reformed ski bum, he has previously covered education, consumer affairs and features at the Albany Times Union.

Before working at the Times Union, he worked at newspapers in Maine, where he covered the state Capitol, and Colorado, where he covered the energy industry and natural resource issues as well as government beats.

44 Responses

  1. Frank says:

    I think it’s a dumb idea terrible waste of money

  2. Festus says:

    I’m not trying to rain on the parade but could someone tell me what the attraction will be at that spot in North Hudson. Why people would rather stay in that flat lowland near the Northway as opposed to driving another exit and staying in/near the mountain villages of Keene, Keene Valley and Lake Placid (with numerous amenities, great scenery, beautiful lakes, cliffs, mountain ponds, swimming holes, waterfalls, spectacular hikes etc.)? I get the desire to spread out the people and feel it is a noble idea but I’ve been to both Boreas and the Essex Chain and while I appreciate them as great additions to the Preserve, I don’t see myself returning there. I don’t think that those 2 areas (even with a trail up Boreas Mountain) will create the traffic needed to fill this proposed campground and lodging facility. They need a more special location in my opinion – perhaps on a lake or mountain river with several hikes to open summits that start from the property. Lacking those natural features the site would need man-made features (adventure park – zip lines etc.) to attract the numbers necessary for economic survival – and of course this kind of development would be totally inappropriate there…so how are they going to survive in 5 – 10 years when the buzz wears off? Can they just operate at a loss and not care? The new, hoped for businesses around there need to turn a profit of course…and what about the winter? Please respond as I am hoping it succeeds but am truly curious as to how?

    • Boreas says:

      I think Gov. Cuomo has a “If you build it they will come.” philosophy about the area. The camping/recreation area, if done right, may attract a lot of families with younger tykes that may be too young for the HPW. As far as businesses, I foresee a motel, a Stewart’s shop, and a diner – which is infinitely more than what is there now.

      A hut-to-hut system may be problematic and won’t likely generate much income for the town. Two trails heading NW and NE out of BP could provide interesting access to the HPW and take some of the load off northern approaches. Spring & fall fishing/hunting could generate some revenue in the mud seasons.

      Winter activities may be more problematic unless the campground rents cabins/yurts year round. That would be a little more unique than just staying in a motel and eating at the diner after a ski or snowmobiling. I don’t know how big the equestrian area is, but perhaps it could be used for snowmobile racing if snow shows up. Or possibly flooded to provide ice skating.

      But ultimately, it is kind of a Hail Mary attempt to stimulate the area. Perhaps it will simply attract people tired of the HPW area and expensive villages and looking for something more laid back. I hope it succeeds.

    • Jesse B says:

      Festus, I think you’re pretty spot on with this comment. Bottom line is, what’s the appeal of staying here to go hiking/swimming/shopping/skiing/etc. when you’ve got to get in your car and drive to another place?

      I like the addition of the Pdx Brewery. A brewery (with some decent food) will be an attractive feature (e.g. think Dogfish Head brewery being a classic stop on the way to the Maryland beaches) and will not rely entirely on tourism to generate business. It also has potential to be a deciding factor for people to stay here versus another campsite. That said, a brewery, restaurant, and campsite do not make a $30 million economic hub. The area will need several unique and appealing businesses to overcome it’s deficiencies in terms of location.

  3. craig says:

    Is there anything new in this article?

    This is a fine spot for a new DEC campground, and I would expect it to do fairly well as a basecamp or even just a place to camp late Friday night on your way to other places.

    If you look at the area around Rollins Pond, there are a few small businesses there, like a seasonal gas station and some small seasonal restaurants. Perhaps we can expect the same for North Hudson. 32 million is a lot to pay for that kind of economic development.

  4. Bruce says:

    Whatever may develop will adhere to the rule, “there is no free lunch,” someone has to get the ball rolling. Bauer’s point about Newcomb and Paul Smith’s centers is valid but for one thing…the roads through those areas are not the Adirondack Northway and don’t carry the year-round traffic as does the Northway.

    • Boreas says:


      The VIC centers were kind of an odd venture to say the least. I think they were a great idea and visited them many times. I think the state had a noble plan that went sour with the economic downfall when the state ran out of money. I don’t feel they should have been given up, but the economics of the situation likely made it impossible to keep them.

      I don’t know how the VIC centers could have been expected to jump start any small village, but why put them in an area that is already overdeveloped? I feel their locations were very good, but perhaps another one close to a major artery would have spurred more interest in the more remote centers.

      They are very educational and beautifully designed – both the buildings and the trails. Perhaps they could be integrated into any future hut-to-hut systems. Many people visited them and continue to do so. I wouldn’t consider them a failure. Perhaps what is needed is to revisit the idea and promote them along with the new Northway project. I doubt the colleges would object to some help by the state. The Newcomb center isn’t far away and the Paul Smith’s center not far from the proposed Rail Trail. Why not include them with any development?

  5. Steve says:

    Looks like King Andrew is planning on running for higher office in the future and is trying to buy votes by wasting our tax dollars on this dubious project and the Whiteface and Gore giveaways.

  6. Boreas says:


    We can’t complain about being ignored by Albany and turn around and complain when they pay attention to us. Small towns have been asking for help. Why impugn the governor for answering their requests?

  7. Beverly Stellges says:

    Money has been finally allocated to upgrade some other campgrounds like Buck Pond with its 50 year old bathrooms and other necessary improvements. However, all that money being designated for a supposed welcome center is ridiculous! Ask any DEC campground worker or all the forest rangers where that money could be better spent! DEC keeps getting cut and less personnel are available to maintain and patrol what we already have. Just check out the cars lining the roads along the stretch of rt. 86 during hiking season.

  8. Paul says:

    Will it have a monorail?

    People drive to the garden and the lodge and hike in to places like JBL and Marcy Dam in the middle of the night. The people who overuse and abuse the HPW will not be deterred!!

    Limit the number for hikers then maybe people will choose a second option. A place like this is probably not the answer.

  9. Larry Rth says:

    This looks like one of those projects that gets done because they cause a splash in the news, can be pointed to by various political types saying “Look what I did for you” and throw a little hope towards areas that have been looking for good news for a while.

    It’s easier and more glamorous than funding longstanding but unsexy things like refurbishing neglected facilities, maintaining existing infrastructure, and so on. Plus whatever political pull someone might have…

    I’m not against it per se, but I’ll point out that $32 million could find a far more immediately useful place fulfilling state promises that have languished for over 20 years, with a lot bigger economic pay off.

    • Boreas says:


      Don’t forget paying new DEC staff that has been sorely needed for the Park – especially since the new acquisitions! I would think new Ranger and ECO positions would be sexy as well. But is that government expansion? Who knows… I would think it would be considered necessary for new Forest Preserve lands at least.

  10. Charlie S says:

    Festus says: “tell me what the attraction will be at that spot in North Hudson.”

    Personally I think a Walmart in that location would appease Ron Moore’s desire to bring money into the Newcomb area. A car wash would help, new subdivisions with boring,look-alike houses where you cannot tell one from the next, a new Adirondack Tire. I know… Toys R Us! Let’s face it! Our economy is tanking and we need to make up for the deficit no matter where it is, no matter the tactics, no matter the consequences to the environment, to clean water, to what remains of sacredness, because money is number one damned be all things else. Cuomo is strange fruit. He’s not real he’s a politician like the rest of them and it’s because of their kind why we’re in the mess we’re in in the first place. It is sad that we will sacrifice the last remaining paradises on earth just so the town coffers can be filled with tax dollars.

  11. Charlie S says:

    Boreas says: “it is kind of a Hail Mary attempt to stimulate the area.”

    That’s what i’m saying. It’s short-term stinking!

  12. Charlie S says:

    Jesse B says: “The area will need several unique and appealing businesses to overcome it’s deficiencies in terms of location.”

    A super mall! This will do it. What do you say Ron?

  13. Charlie S says:

    Boreas says: “Small towns have been asking for help.”

    Yeah but what do we do Boreas? Turn the Adirondacks into what they’re doing everywhere else? This is what the powers that be would like more than all things else – new development,new tax havens,gold mines for the few the proud… the machines.

    • Boreas says:


      Perhaps as things warm up and the coasts flood, with a good internet trunk and reliable electricity (I know – a stretch) we could become the new Silicon Valley. At least we have fairly clean water – at least from the old EPA era…

    • Bruce says:

      Charlie S,

      “turn the Adirondacks into what they’re doing everywhere else?”

      Hey, what they got isn’t working so hot, is it? Businesses, jobs, people are leaving and towns are dying. Sounds like something different is needed and yeah, some of that different will look like everywhere else.

      • Charlie S says:

        There’s always going to be a need for jobs Bruce. For people trying to earn a wage. This will never go away. So what do we do in 2050 when there’s much less woods,much more development,less clean water (if there’s any clean water t’all)…. Keep doing what we’re doing? People are leaving and towns are dying but the earth is dying too Bruce. The very essence of life…soul, is apparently in a massive die-off.

        Something different ‘is’ needed but if it’s gonna look like everywhere else…that’s not different!

  14. Charlie S says:

    Beverly Stellges says: ” DEC keeps getting cut and less personnel are available to maintain and patrol what we already have.”

    This is all by design Beverly. Same thing as less regulation so that there’s less government involvement and before you know it they’ll be putting the State up for sale because they’re broke and people like our billionaire Prez will step up to the plate and say ‘Hey, I’ll bail you out….’ This has been going on for a number of years now in case anyone wasn’t aware, the rich bailing out the public. Of course they’ll be stipulations as there always are…..Ere long the Adirondack Park will be called Pence Park. I know I’m stretching it but that’s because I have imagination I have doubts and I am very suspect of any thing that has a price attached to it.

  15. Charlie S says:

    Larry Rth says: “This looks like one of those projects that gets done because they cause a splash in the news, can be pointed to by various political types saying “Look what I did for you” and throw a little hope towards areas that have been looking for good news for a while”

    I am reminded of that sad event in NYC some few years ago when the new mayor Bill DeBlasio was being a politician in front of tv cameras around Ground Hog day and as one of his actors was holding a groundhog it fell from his arms and the fall killed it. All so that they can ’cause a splash in the news’ like you say Larry. We are a sad excuse for a society I must say!

    • Boreas says:

      Wow! Those babies are pretty tough, but I guess even ground dwelling rodents are susceptible to a politician’s faux pas.

    • Paul says:

      Boreas don’t buy this nonsense.

      That “groundhog” story is a classic example of how the media is doing us a huge disservice these days.

      Apparently there is ZERO evidence that the animal dropping a few feet to the ground had anything to do with it dying a week later. The vet who necropsied the animal ruled that it was likely the animal had suffered some other trauma just prior to it dying. This is backed up by the fact that the animal was examined after the “dropping” incident and it was fine.

      People will believe anything that they read. And then spread the false information around in places like this. Also, watch a video of it it didn’t fall it jumped – and landed on its feet.

      • Charlie S says:

        This one takes the cake with you Paul! Paul who is always trying to justify wrongs because of his ‘right’ view of things. I never saw the video Paul I’m going by what I read in the news (who were lying according to you) and my point in bringing it up was…. I have to explain this don’t I?

        There you go with your justification for a wrong when you say, “Apparently there is ZERO evidence that the animal dropping a few feet to the ground had anything to do with it dying a week later.”
        > Groundhogs don’t normally drop from heights and fall to the ground Paul! I’d be willing to wager three years pay that this was a new experience for this unfortunate animal and it would have never fallen in the first place had DeBlasio not tried to soak up an audience.

        Gullible you are easily swayed when you believe the veterinarian who comes out and lies to the news that the groundhog did not die as a result of its fall. What would you expect him to say Paul when putting up a defense for the mayor? Something that would make a politician look bad?

        “People will believe anything that they read.”
        > And hear ! I might add.

        “Also, watch a video of it it didn’t fall it jumped – and landed on its feet.”
        > It shouldn’t have even been held Paul!! What’s your point?

        I’m trying to be civil with you Paul and trying to be understanding of your narrow views of the world but the things you come up with!

        • Boreas says:


          I agree. Animals in the care of untrained humans are always at risk.

        • Bruce says:

          Charlie S,

          “Gullible you are easily swayed when you believe the veterinarian who comes out and lies to the news that the groundhog did not die as a result of its fall.”

          Where, besides your own opinion, or the opinion of the NY Post is your evidence the animal was killed by the fall. The report of a licensed veterinarian is evidence, where’s yours?.

      • Boreas says:


        I am always skeptical of anything that involves politics. That being said, internal injuries (especially bowel injuries) can occur that don’t become lethal until there is a rupture or tear that may occur some time later. They are tough, but may not do well with falling from 3-4 feet – especially when full-grown. I would have to go with the vet who did the autopsy since he/she was there, but I am still skeptical…

        • Paul says:

          I didn’t even know about this till I saw it here. When I searched the press on it I did find one publication that reported a “cover-up” that was the NY Post. As in the tabloid NY Post. All the other legitimate stories showed no connection between that incident and the death of the animal. So it is just pure speculation that there is any link. And that speculation is seriously called into question with the fact that the experts that examined the animal said the two are not linked. Those are just the facts. I personally don’t have an opinion on it. I do feel bad the little critter met an untimely end. But I am not going to say that the two things are linked when it looks like the probably are not. My only point here is that this illustrates how easy it is these days to fall into the trap. You have a headline that reads x happened then y happened. It might look like x and y are related. In the same story they say that it appears that x and y are not related. Nobody cares its too late they saw the headline the story goes viral anybody who tries to defend the truth is just part of the cover-up.

  16. Timothy says:

    Is there a way to limit the number of responses posted by an individual? I enjoy reading reactions to articles in the Almanack but the same old rants by the same old people gets tedious.

    • Charlie S says:

      In other words…Can we start suppressing commenter’s here on the Almanack because I can only take so much due to my intolerance to openess?

    • Mike says:

      Paul is a constant on this site no matter what the topic of the article(s).

  17. Paul says:

    Yes, I believe the scientist who gave his professional opinion. That the animal died from some trauma that it had to have experienced much closer to when it died. In his scientific opinion that was probably the night before it was found dead.

    Sorry, I can’t buy into your conspiracy theory that the vet is lying for the mayor. I assume that you also have some proof for that claim? Or are you just making that up.

    If the vet said that the animal died from the fall I would have taken his or her word on that. I just prefer to follow the facts rather than the speculation like you. Call that a narrow view if you like. Have a nice day.

  18. Charlie S says:

    Paul says: ” the experts that examined the animal said the two are not linked.”

    The experts also told us there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. What’s your point? I don’t believe in coincidence’s Paul! This animal falling from a height because it was mishandled by a human and then it dying not long after….

    Believe what you wish to believe Paul! And where does conspiracy come into this? You just keep blowing things up. I can think for myself and not you,nor the news,nor this supposed veterinarian nor this supposed scientist,will ever convince me that this woodchuck died other than because of mishandling by a show-man human.

    • Paul says:


      There is no evidence that anyone lied regarding what happened to that animal. You said that someone did. That is how a conspiracy theory starts. Just like when the tabloid NY Post agreed with you on that and said that there was some kind of “cover-up” (someone was lying).

      Do you believe the experts that tell us that climate change is real or do you just believe the experts that support your personal opinions?

      These things are not about beliefs but facts.

      I think we can agree to disagree.

    • Bruce says:

      Charlie S,

      The veterinarian’s report is at the very worst an informed opinion based on physical evidence tempered by years of experience, and more training than the average physician has.

      What evidence outside of conspiracy theory and uninformed opinion can you provide us with?

      • Charlie S says:

        The question should be how can you prove that this veterinarian is telling the truth Bruce? Please prove to me that he is not lying. You cannot so don’t press me to come up with an answer that frankly I don’t owe you or Paul. Believe what you wish to believe I simply disagree. Case closed! And what is this conspiracy theory hogwash that keeps coming up?

      • Boreas says:


        What I have been able to glean from the internet was that “acute internal injuries” were found, but that the vet did not believe them to be from the fall, but rather, of more recent origin. But that is basically an educated opinion. As I mentioned elsewhere, internal injuries are often difficult to detect when they happen and may become acute or life threatening well after the fact. They found nothing to account for any recent internal injuries. Apparently healthy one day, dead the next. Who knows? Perhaps a woodchuck-hater run amok?

        So the way I see it, the autopsy and medical opinion are not necessarily a slam-dunk. Hence, just like the JFK assassination, will likely never be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.

        • Bruce says:


          I agree, but I will believe an educated and informed professional opinion long before I believe some unsupported, half-baked theory about the vet being in cahoots with the Mayor to cover something up.

  19. Jim S says:

    I hope they don’t drop any groundhogs in North Hudson .

  20. Charlie S says:

    How anybody can even think of killing a woodchuck is beyond me as they are the most precious creatures and O’ how so beautiful they are! Yet the tone and words coming from people, men and women alike, hints of a total unconcern for this animal and oftentimes an outright defiance. But then I hear the same regards many other living things also so I suppose this should come as no shock to me. That’s just this society in general…unconcerned,a spiritual apathy if you will.A detachment! Imagine what it will be like in just one generation. I suppose with the earth warming up the way it is just maybe this frigidness will die away. I have my doubts but I can also still paint pretty pictures.

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