Monday, May 1, 2017

Is Frontier Town ‘Gateway’ A $32 Million Boondoggle?

North Hudson Frontier Town Adirondack Gateway Vision DrawingThe plan to rebuild and reinvent the former Frontier Town wild west theme park site in North Hudson has not received much scrutiny, but it’s now being fast-tracked for planning and construction by the state. It’s short on details, but has a $32 million allocated in the new state budget. There are many questions around this project. Generally, the news following Governor Cuomo’s announcement to revitalize the former Frontier Town site has been greeted with great enthusiasm from local government officials and Adirondack leaders, but it has left me scratching my head.

My one clear thought among many questions is that it’s stacking up as one of the great boondoggles of all time.

Frontier Town has long been abandoned and has fallen into disrepair. The lands are now owned by the Town of North Hudson and Essex County, though the actual A-frame and large parking lot (and billboard) at Exit 29 on the Northway are owned privately. Governor Cuomo and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) budgeted $32 million in various accounts in the new state budget to build a new Intensive Use campground area, equestrian center, commercial facility, day use area, and information and interpretive center, among other things. The details are still being flushed out.

One of the many uncertainties concerns the need for a new state campground. There are two private campgrounds at Exit 29 – the Blue Ridge Campground on the Blue Ridge Road and Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Campground across the street from the former Frontier Town site. Should the state be competing with long established local businesses?

Then there’s the question of existing state campgrounds in the general neighborhood. A few miles north on Route 9 is the Sharp Bridge State Campground, which is built on the banks of the Schroon River. A few miles south are major campgrounds at Paradox Lake and Schroon Manor. A bit further away are the Putnam Pond and Roger’s Rock campgrounds. All of these state campgrounds have much more attractive access to beautiful lakes or a wild river. What does a new campground at Frontier Town offer that these nearby campgrounds don’t?

The DEC says that the new campground will be popular because it’s on the shores on the Schroon River. I have canoed this stretch of the Schroon River exactly once. It was interesting and there are beautiful stretches and sandy shorelines on this classic Adirondack meandering river, but the roar of the Northway is continuous and at a half dozen points one canoes alongside the highway. It’s nothing like the Raquette, the Oswegatchie, the Jessup, or Osgood, or any number of other beautiful and remote Adirondack rivers. Campgrounds in the Adirondacks get a lot of return business. Families and extended families camp at many of the Adirondack campgrounds year after year. Think of Fish Creek or Cranberry Lake or Golden Beach or the Lake George Islands or Eighth Lake. I do not foresee how this new campground will build up popular support when it’s sited next to a highway and doesn’t have a great place to swim or hike and does not have boating access to a lake.

Governor Cuomo calls this a “gateway” to the Adirondacks. Should a gateway be built in the center of the Adirondacks or on the boundary? Would it make more sense to improve the rest area/tourism information center south of Northway Exit 17, just outside the Park boundary that Warren County operates? Would it make more sense to improve the newer rest areas on the Northway between exits 29 and 30 that were once billed as High Peaks Information Centers?

And then there are the two existing – and forgotten by the state – Visitor Interpretive Centers (VICs) in Newcomb and Paul Smith’s. These were built with great fanfare by the Adirondack Park Agency during the tenure of Governor Mario Cuomo. They were then abandoned by Governor George Pataki and have been taken over by Paul Smith’s College, SUNY ESF, and local non-profits, but are struggling and have not received any meaningful state support. I think the Newcomb and Paul Smith’s VICs serve as a cautionary tale for the new gateway at Exit 29. In New York there is funding and political support to build new things, but the funding to sustain institutions is less reliable. In lean economic times will the state cut and run like it did with the VICs?

There are other practical issues with the Frontier Town site that demand answers. There is no public water or sewer. The most visible parcel of land is the parking lot and A-Frame at Exit 29 that right now is not part of the project site. Will the state acquire this parcel? People getting off the Northway at Exit 29 will have to hunt for the new facility entrance off of Route 9. Then, what about the long-term staffing costs? Will these positions be DEC staff on a year-round basis or part-time? Will they be Essex County staff? What are the long-term carrying costs of this new gateway and where will the funding come from?

The state has already committed to keeping the old building at the Outer Gooley Club, though it has no plan for what to do with the structure. The state has not done much with the cabin at Duck Hole. The state is currently mulling taking on another building in the Forest Preserve with the old cabin at the 4 Corners on the Boreas Pond tract and is considering a plan to retain the DeBar Lodge. Where is the funding for these buildings?

My biggest question is whether this is the best investment to be made in the Adirondack Park? This is not land for the Forest Preserve, which provides great public outdoor experiences for all people (and all time) and protects the great forests of the Adirondacks, which grows more important each year as lands throughout the northeast U.S. grow more fragmented and developed. This is not a purchase of a conservation easement, which does the same things and helps to support the wood products industry. This is not an investment in major facilities and institutions like the Adirondack Museum, the Wild Center, Gore or Whiteface Ski Mountains, Paul Smith’s College or many other deserving and valued institutions.

I think that there are better investments to be made in the Adirondack Park.

In my mind, I’d much rather see $32 million spent to improve trails and provide public education and to protect the natural resources of the High Peaks Wilderness Area. We’re in the midst of a major, possibly historic, resurgence of public use and enjoyment in the High Peaks. Day use of the area is at an all-time high. Over 33,000 people signed the register to hike Cascade Mountain last year. The first 1,000-hiker winter weekend was recorded there this past winter. The state has a five-year backlog of maintenance projects on the trails and facilities in the High Peaks. This area is the most successful and highly used Forest Preserve area, but is not receiving the support and investment that it needs.

$32 million could also build a lot of boat-washing stations and reconfigure boat launches throughout the Adirondacks to protect lakes and ponds from aquatic invasive species.

We’ll see what kind of public information is released in the months ahead about the Frontier Town project. We’ll see what the final plans are for revitalization of this dilapidated theme park. We’ll see what $32 million in state spending gets. But mostly, I fear, we’ll see a squandered opportunity and poorly conceived investment in the Adirondack Park.

Illustration: The State’s North Hudson Frontier Town Adirondack Gateway Vision Drawing.

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Peter Bauer is the Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks. He has been working in various capacities on Adirondack Park environmental issues since the mid-1980s, including stints as the Executive Director of the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and FUND for Lake George as well as on the staff of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century. He was the co-founder of the Adirondack Lake Assessment Program (ALAP) in 1998, which has collected long-term water quality data on more than 75 Adirondack lakes and ponds. He has testified before the State Legislature, successfully advocated to pass legislation and budget items, authored numerous articles, op-eds, and reports such as "20% in 2023: An Assessment of the New York State 30 by 30 Act" (2023), "The Adirondack Park and Rural America: Economic and Population Trends 1970-2010" (2019), "The Myth of Quiet, Motor-free Waters in the Adirondack Park" (2013), and "Rutted and Ruined: ATV Damage on the Adirondack Forest Preserve" (2003) and "Growth in the Adirondack Park: Analysis of Rates and Patterns of Development" (2001). He also worked at Adirondack Life Magazine. He served as Chair of the Town of Lake George Zoning Board of Appeals and has served on numerous advisory boards for management of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve. Peter lives in Blue Mountain Lake with his wife, has two grown children out in the world, and enjoys a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities throughout the Adirondacks, and is a member of the Blue Mountain Lake volunteer fire department.Follow Protect the Adirondacks on Facebook and Threads.

89 Responses

  1. Tony Goodwin says:

    I agree with Peter on all of his points regarding why this project has had me scratching my head since it was announced. And even $16 million for the High Peaks would be huge – saving the State $16 million they don’t have to spend.

    • Pete Nelson says:

      I am in favor of a gateway project at Frontier Town, have written about it and am actively working on a transportation piece with potential government resources.

      That said, I’m not in favor of the Governor’s proposal as it is. Like Tony, I agree with Peter’s points. I don’t understand the campground concept, what with abundant camping resources nearby. I also don’t see the need for $32 million, and agree the State could spend most of that money in ways much more beneficial to the region. In general I find the proposal to be old-fashioned, in an era when we really need “new-fashioned” proposals.

      So why do I support some kind of “gateway” facility at Frontier Town? One word: transportation. The challenges of transportation in the region, namely that travel in the Adirondacks is not practically feasible without a car and disposable income to use it extensively a vacation (all the while spewing carbon in the air), is a major problem. The Frontier Town site is just about ideally positioned to be a hub for further adventures in the Park. Unlike any entrance point at the Blue Line it equally serves Canadian, east coast and down state visitors. It’s relatively close to the train line and Lake Champlain, and it is a straight shot from the Plattsburgh and Albany airports. By focusing on it as a hub we include the larger Adirondack region as a whole, not just the area around North Hudson.

      I imagine a network of transportation options, including EV’s shuttles, and charging stations and travel resources, all linked to intelligent on-line and social media networks that help in planning and facilitating experiential travel. This can be done without the State spending anywhere near $32 million. There are hundreds of millions of dollars in funding available specifically for such projects.

      More soon.


      • Alex says:

        This area could be used to shuttle people into the Highpeaks and Boreas Pond areas. The large parking area is already there so it makes sense. There could additionally be shuttles for kayaking and tubing the Schroon river. Having an interpretative center with maps and trail conditions supplements nicely with this. This will also keep more cars out of the more sensitive areas.

        As far a having a campground, I cant say I know for certain if the demand would be there but I can say this property has plenty of space for it. In addition, developing campsites is one of the least costly pieces to the plan.
        There could be many folks who might want to hunker down here after a long day of hiking peaks – especially if their car is already there from shuttling in.

  2. Paul says:

    Maybe? But there are lots of people in NYS that might be attracted to something like this. Up here we seem to frame everything as to what we want (Peter says the river is close to a road so he doesn’t like it). Many people that may want to experience the Adirondacks may actually want a less wilderness experience. Maybe some don’t care about the road noise if they live in a place where they are surrounded by highways. May even be more comfortable a little closer to civilization. The more remote it is the safer I feel. My wife (who grew up in a big city) feel more safe where there are people (and cops) close by. I imagine that some folks like a road side sort of camping thing. Look at how crazy popular many of the state parks are as well as the polarity of many less remote camping experiences in the Adirondacks (look at the floodwood pond road as an example or fish creek or buck pond etc. etc.). Maybe trying to attract some of these folks that may be more urban and diverse may be a good thing? I agree with many of the folks writing here that the future of the Adirondack Forest Preserve may lie in getting a more diverse crowd up here to experience what is here. Maybe this is the kind of thing that will get them up – then you direct them to places like the Essex Chain the Boreas Ponds etc. Ease them into an experience that they might take some getting used to.

    Or this could also be a huge waste of money.

    • Bruce says:


      I agree with the different strokes for different folks idea. As far as the Interpretive center at Newcomb, I wouldn’t drive several miles off the beaten path just to see what’s available. I went through there on 28N and Blue Ridge road last year, it’s desolate. That information should be close to where people routinely travel, it’s all about location, location, location. Camping for some folks is little more than a less expensive way to spend the night or a few days, and many like having the amenities close at hand. It seems obvious Peter prefers not to and as you said, frames his discussion around that.

      • Paul says:

        When they were setting up those VIC’s I thought that they did a study to see the numbers of folks that traveled those roads. Don’t know about the Newcomb site but the one near Paul Smiths was chosen because (I was surprised to see!) a large number of people travel that route into the Adirondacks. I guess quite a bit of people drive that way especially coming from Canada. But they do seem to be out in the sticks!

        • Terry says:

          I would think Paul Smiths was chosen as a VIC to give the students a place to get some work experience.

          • Boreas says:


            I don’t believe so. If I remember correctly, they were initially staffed by state employees, then later by volunteers. They were typically older individuals. Perhaps students were employed elsewhere on the complex. Anyone remember for sure?

            • Both VICs were initially operated by the state with state employees. The state closed them during a fiscal crisis and turned them over to the colleges that no operate them.

  3. Is their possibly a link between the Frontier Town Gateway and the Boreas Ponds purchase?

  4. Larry Roth says:

    I’m going to make a guess that somebody got the Governor’s ear long enough to get him to sign off on this so he’d have headlines about doing something for the North Country. It doesn’t have to make sense or actually solve problems as long as he gets those headlines, plus whatever other considerations are being discussed behind closed doors.

  5. fred warner says:

    I couldn’t agree more with this article.

  6. John says:

    The “Gateway” project, in my jaundiced view, was a bone thrown on the floor to distract Essex County and its towns from the difficult questions of economic and social viability they are facing. They have the money, and now they must fill in the many gaps in Cuomo’s “plan.”

  7. Joe Hansen says:

    I also agree,spend the money where people want to go which is the High Peaks and larger lakes. In the interest of full disclosure, I much prefer the less trafficked areas the way they are.

  8. Dick Carlson says:

    Excellent Peter! I have canoed the lower Schroon near the Northway and I couldn’t wait to get out – the road noise was so annoying. Back in the day Frontier Town was 75% Canadian business – “45 minute from the Champlain Bridge” . Yeah – this has boondoggle written all over it.

  9. This guy was not hugged enough as a child! Clearly his parents didnt take him to Frontier Town and he has little insight into what built the beloved tourist trap. That was my first thought. The opposition to the project has included all out hysteria including a video with a celebrity endorsement to fight the rampant destruction of the forever wild Adirondacks… and this article shows the same level of piling on that amounts to someone trying to undermine the work already put into trying to preserve local history. Never-mind that the site needs serious clean up that affects the environment nor the poverty that it represents due to overzealous environmental conservation that had tunnel vision which lead to current day overuse of trail systems at the next exit up the interstate… The competition themselves have realized the potential of a Zero Sum system of tourism boost that they will get. Trying to say that the state is in competition would mean that any improvement to the falling down buildings that resulted in the ghost town effect is somehow a positive? The “Roar” of the interstate is clearly not an issue for one of the competing campsites that the author wants you to be overly concerned for. The location of the site does not need to be on the Candadian boarder or just inside the state line above the city. That location has historical value as it was the site of Roths Forge Village (see articles posted in Frontier Town Abandoned Theme Park Then And Now) and was chosen by New York City investors as the perfect location in regards to VT NY and the distance from three major cities. The tourism location Draws people who will then notice points west that are otherwise overlooked due to the interstate. Frontier Town worked with Arto Monico and other local businesses to set up a network of forward thinking business minded people that overcame these problems collectively. The feel that I got was that somehow if Frontier Town received money that it would take away from other sites. The reality is that the plan was to link to the major towns that were to give the Adirondacks a unique advantage for exactly the types of sports that conservation groups actually approved of. Frontier Town was a situation where management could not branch out to add a waterpark due to over-regulation. It didnt fail in Frontier Town OC in fact the addition of a campground saved it! They still have pop guns firing in shootouts and a ropes course beside a water park of all things! The APA turned down the permit applications yet a business built a waterpark just outside the park. Boat launches and boat washing are a limited tourism issue. Seriously how many locals even own a boat? How many boat businesses would be supported more in the way of tourism because more people visit the Adirondacks in the long run? The funds for other projects were not cut and if you read or paid attention there was more funding allotted for just such infrastructure projects. Art Bensen addressed these same issues when he worked to employ 300 people at Frontier Town. The town had over one million visitors. The adaptations need to be made to modernize and if other sites are failing, they might need to look at their admission costs, advertising and stagnant efforts to work with each other instead of against each other. If you have to pay outrageous prices for food, have a hard time finding a cheap place to stay or have to drive too far from the interstate to get a camp site then you already have too much competition from Great Escape. Give it a chance. Cuomo Jr might actually have good idea if it is well managed.

  10. Seth says:

    Boo hoo! For once the state is not buying land preserve. There are tourists who don’t have interest in a ten mile remote hike. Not only will this project put some local people to work, it will attract more tourism in an all new form. Individuals who pay good money to stay and enjoy concerts, camping and spend money along locally run route 9 businesses. Hiking, canoeing etc in remote state land is free in the park, what money do they actually bring? This project will be a positive for Essex county.

    • Taras says:

      “pay good money to stay and enjoy concerts, camping and spend money along locally run route 9 businesses”

      They can do that now.

      The allure of this project is the belief that a state-run campground/tourist kiosque/equestrian center/bandshell/etc will not only succeed in itself but draw so much excess business it’ll spill over to benefit local, private operations.

      Does the state have some form of business plan to support its claims … or is it all based on “belief”?

  11. Rosco Coltrane says:

    You are really GREAT at asking question… Try contributing something to the area, rather than questioning the motives of others all of the time. If you want to understand why the area can’t capture any economic growth, i suggest you and your ilk look inward.

  12. Boreasfisher says:

    As a local, I share some of Peter’s concerns and also find merit in the other comments supporting the experiment. Mostly since it appears to be a done deal, I fervently hope it succeeds, and that the requirements of economic viability do not turn it into Great Escape north. Yikes!

  13. Tim-Brunswick says:

    Hooray for Jennifer and Seth and few others here!

    The above article penned by one of the Almanac frequent flyers was long overdue and predicted by me to my wife more than a couple of weeks ago. Be aware, though that there are many other views by folks that visit and boost the Adirondack economy other the “Wilderness only” crowd.

    The resurrection of “Frontier Town” may not be everyone’s cup of tea, however, at the least, it’s a visible step in the right direction by the present administration in Albany to improve tourism up North.

    The Towns/Villages are dying from economic deprivation. Markets, restaurants, motels throughout the North Country are financially starving at best with too many closing their doors forever. Indian Lake is becoming a Ghost Town and neighboring villages/hamlets are in similar dire straits. The “best restaurant” in many towns/villages is or soon will be “Stewarts” and hopefully they stay healthy for the local population.

    Thanks for listening

    • Boreas says:


      Who is this “wilderness only crowd”? Is there a reason you have to start every comment by trying to alienate people?

    • Joe Hansen says:

      T-B why do I suspect that if Mr. Bauer were for this project you would be against it!

  14. Brian M. says:

    This will be self-sufficient about 4 weeks a year.

  15. Zazzy Journey says:

    I agree with your feelings about spending a ridiculous amount of money on a place that was fun in its heyday but has since become obsolete. Not to mention the equestrian center was never up to snuff, the horses were thin and gaunt, probably wormy, and opening a place for patrons to ride around in a paddock isn’t in my opinion a very true feeling of being out on the frontier.
    You’re going to have accidents, either on horseback or canoeing, and exactly put it’s right off the interstate.
    An equestrian center for locals to celebrate the day’s of the wild west and Roy Rogers would be fun, but wouldn’t walking possibly on a trail intended for horses into an area of wilderness where wildlife could be identified with no fear of not being able to hear a red eyed vireo’s call or possibly witness a scarlet tananger protecting its territory without the constant thrum of interstate traffic posses so many more unique possibilities?
    It’s like a person with adhd, and not being able to focus on one part of what would get trails, rest stops, etc completely up and running, instead they’re throwing away money for a sensational dream that has the potential for unrest. You know hotels/motels will probably get built by investors, damaging up the scenery, then there’s the giant carbon footprint we’re leaving by digging back into a grave that’s since given up the ghost…please don’t waste that money!

  16. Andy says:

    This will do nothing to “bring back” Frontier Town, a place I enjoyed as a boy and then my daughter loved it too.

  17. Diane O'Connor says:

    Excellent points — every one of them. The location is anything but the best glimpse of the Adirondacks. I imagine this is a “bone” tossed to us by Albany, so we cease complaining for a few months. VIC is a wonderful facility and should be enjoyed by so many more individuals than actually take time to experience it.

  18. Does N.Y. Need Yet Another Public Campground? : Woodall's Campground Management says:

    […] For the full story, click here. […]

  19. Jon says:

    Excellent article. Another attempt by the Gov to bolster his image as a champion of the North Country. Feels similar to the ACR in Tupper. Hailed as a great economic engine that will resurrect the whole Adirondack Park creating thousands of jobs. Here we are 5 yrs after it’s approval and nothing is happening, except the “developers” ongoing financial woes. (Foreclosures, mechanic liens, Fed tax liens, unpaid Property and School taxes).
    I’d rather see the state take about 15% of the Frontier town money and put it toward buying and opening up the ski hill in Tupper. With the Wild Center and the new trail coming I think it would be money well spent.

  20. ADKerDon says:

    Instead of Frontier Town build a campground and park at Boreas Pond. Open all these lands as Wild Forest and allow the public full, unrestricted use, including RV’s, camping, snowmobiling, Horse and ATV trails. Stop locking the public out of the forest preserve or abolish it!

  21. Todd Eastman says:

    $32 million, the cost of buying local politicos out for the Boreas Wilderness designation…

    … the price approved by the Governor for support and silence…

    … good Op/Ed Peter!

    • Boreas says:


      Wow! I hadn’t thought of that! Great insight. Now I don’t mind the expenditure so much.

  22. Charlie S says:

    Tim Brunswick says: “The Towns/Villages are dying from economic deprivation. Markets, restaurants, motels throughout the North Country are financially starving at best with too many closing their doors forever.”

    This is not just an Adirondack problem. Many communities in this country are starving, many of their stores are boarded up, houses with plywood over their windows. Pete has some very valid points and why would we not put money into what the Adirondacks really stand for….a unique wilderness experience. Just another way to create a new tax haven for poor Newcomb. I’m with Pete in that we should be spending money to improve trails and public education and for protecting the precious natural resources which are going to be more stressed if the thermometer keeps breaking records every year as it has been doing. And if this project does prove to be beneficial financially because of all the people coming in…… is that wilderness going to be the better for it?

    • Bruce says:


      Let’s see if I have this straight…I don’t think anyone disagrees that the overall Adirondack Experience is suffering economically. One answer is to bring in more money and guess who brings it in…more people. But as you said, more people can be harmful. Sounds like a conundrum.

      I’m reading hints that people with certain kinds of recreational interests would be more welcome than those with others.

      • Charlie S says:

        We bring in more people at what expense Bruce? And generally yes….more people more harm. I’m very skeptical about our corporate leaders and the private-enterprise way they go about doing things which of course is all about money first environment last. Granted NY has a very good track record when it comes to protection but when you see what’s happening outside of the park I figure it’s only a matter of time before snake-oil salesman will be rampant in the Adirondacks trying to sell their wares to a desperate population. I have my doubts about the so-called good intentions from our erected officials…is all! And I cannot help this desire in me always wanting to stand up for the underdog which our last wild remaining places are.

  23. Paul says:

    It looks like it might cause miscarriage if taken in amounts that Charlie is suggesting so I would be careful with it if you are pregnant or planning on it.

    And high doses can lead to a buildup of toxic thymol in your liver so proceed with extreme caution when taking Charlies advice here.

    I will continue to sprinkle the dried up version on my meatball subs and use it in my spaghetti sauce.

  24. Terrence DeMaso says:

    I agree with you 100%. There is nothing there… and no one would bother going there. Invest in Westport, port Henry along the shores of lake Champlain. Both towns have been crushed by the loss of the mines but offer some great useful water front and would welcome funds to make the towns prosper. Invest in other towns that are struggling rather than try to build in a town that doesn’t have anything to offer.. Westport town beach could be constructed into a beautiful waterfront t.v. park. Port Henry has a 1 mile stretch of land on the south outskirts owned by the railroad that could be purchased and allow the state to sell off the parcels for a new water front community, bring jobs and residents to the area. Yes you would have to relocate the railroad switch track but the sale of the new open waterfront could cover those costs.. in the end there are so many better locations along established lakefront communities that would prosper from 32 million dollars..

  25. Syd Haley says:

    If thus comes to fruition, there will hopefully be no back room bargaining with influence peddling. The money trail will have to be followed, with an eye toward who knows who and who is related to who.

  26. John T. Hicks says:

    Leave it up to cuomo to blow money in the adirondack park. Before its done,it will surely cost 50% more,as thats how this administration works. And then doesnt care.

  27. Justin Farrell says:

    I think the concept and idea is encouraging and forward thinking, but I also think a name like “Gateway to the Adirondack High Peaks Region” would be more appropriate than “Gateway to the Adirondacks”, which many Adirondack peripheral towns already claim. Does the Governor of New York State not know this?

  28. Alex says:

    I feel that this piece of land is getting treated a bit unfairly in this comments section. This is a very large property that has some very open spaces with gorgeous views of the blue ridge/hoffman range. There are thousands of feet of schroon river frontage. The river from this parcel goes for miles south with little to no development. Yes, you can hear the Northway at points, but I wouldn’t say it is “roaring” by any means. Just google frontier town photos and you will see the breathtaking mountain vistas that will be possible from many vantage points of this property.
    I have paddled from frontier town to schroon falls on route 9 and have to say it is a great paddle. Is it completely wild? No. Are there parts where you see roads or hear traffic? Yes. But overall, the trek is of wild character and I believe will be enjoyed by many. This is a great river for novice paddlers. It is very accessible and can be enjoyed by paddlers of varying skill levels. In addition, it is a fantastic river for tube rides. Maybe there could be a couple shuttle pickups or something to accommodate this.
    There are a lot of complaints here that the area is to close to major roads. I believe that is the point; for this to be a “gateway” destination. I don’t see this as a primary destination. It is meant to be more of a starting point or base camp for people entering the park. In just a 20 minute drive from this location you have Schroon Lake, Paradox Lake, Pharaoh Lake Wilderness, and the Highpeaks Wildrness.
    Then factor in an authentic rustic ADK brewery/pub, entertainment venue, and horses and you are looking at a lot of recreational opportunities. I think there are a lot of us who forget that there are people who appreciate camping and the outdoors but are not looking for complete solitude and remoteness. They are in many cases looking for convenience, recreation, dining and entertainment. This is a camping spot that offers a combination of ammentites/recreation that will be unmatched by other DEC campgrounds.

    Here is my optimistic scenario of a day here: You wake up from your campsite and take a walk to one of many open areas and take in the grand view of the mountains. After dining at a breakfast spot just outside the campground you come back in and do some horseback riding on the trail network on site. You then talk to the staff at the interpretive center and they set you up on an awesome kayak route on the schroon river that you can access just feet away from where you are camping. After your kayaking you kick back in the river doing some tubing and swimming with friends/fam. After all the fun in the sun you walk right up to Paradox brewery where there is an outdoor seating area and a bonfire. You enjoy your ADK craft beer outside in their beer garden watching the sun go down over the mountain range with the smell of camp fire in the air. You then take a couple of growlers on the go as you start your way to the most unique music venue in the ADK park. You take a seat in a refurbished rodeo surrounded by tall pines and get ready to enjoy bluegrass/folk music from some artists you like. When the show is over you meander down to your campsite realizing you didn’t even have to get into your car the whole day.

    I think that will be appealing to a lot of people. If it is developed right, this camping area having a rustic brewery and music venue in the woods (made from an old rodeo), could totally make this a destination.

    • mrdale says:

      Alex, I think that you nailed it! Your observations are, what to my thinking, is what the state has in mind for this parcel’s concept.

    • Bruce says:


      Right on! I think you summed it up in a nutshell. There are those who see this as a threat to “their” wilderness, and some who see another dead Frontier Town (businesses go under for many reasons, with poor management a primary one.) New businesses spring up in their place…are they destined to fail just because the previous one failed? There are also those who believe their style of recreation is what it’s all about and anything else should be discouraged.

      • Boreas says:


        Who is viewing it as a threat to “their” wilderness? Just because someone feels the $$ could be better spent mitigating overuse issues in the HPW (lack of Ranger staffing, for instance) doesn’t mean they view this expenditure as a “threat”. Where is the money to properly maintain the current Forest Preserve to come from?

        But personally, I don’t see a problem with the expenditure/promotion of this area because it may relieve pressure elsewhere while possibly boosting local economies. If it doesn’t work, it will simply have been a failed experiment. $24M isn’t going to bankrupt NYS.

        • Boreas says:

          Whoops – make that $32M.

          • Boreasfisher says:

            I agree with your assessment. Easy to understand the “mistake”….you are confusing the number of people about to lose health insurance with the amount of money thrown down the rat hole, or not. Let’s hope it helps someone.

  29. Meredith Leonard says:

    Cynic here. I can’t help myself: aren’t we really talking about the all new and shiny Frontier Experience? I can already see the overflow crowd from Lake George and lots of partying and jam packed concerts with whomever the hot eight acts are this concert season. I see ropes courses, maybe another water park, cheap and poorly-paying chain restaurants and hotels, and more enforcement presence, both police and DEC. Maybe even a casino? To a developer with an opening and lots of tax incentives, everything looks like heaven on earth.

    • Alex says:

      Knowing that Paradox Brewery is one of the main anchor businesses for this project is highly encouraging to me. Their spot right now in Schroon Lake has an awesome ADK charm to it. There is a great mix of people who enjoy it too (locals, seasonal, and tourists).

      If Paradox Brewery is any indication of the kind of partners that will be involved in this project, I think there is less of a chance that this goes in the wrong direction (waterslides, riffraff, chain restaurants).

    • Boreasfisher says:

      Exactly the direction it should *not* go…that would be a very sad development for this scenic and somewhat sleepy corner of the Daks.

      • Alex Bruce says:


        Have you been to Paradox Brewery on rt 9? Also, have you been back on the frontier town property recently?

        I totally understand not wanting your Lake George style rope climbing water slide type attraction here. If that was the case I would be adamantly opposed.

        Paradox brewery is a quaint local operated brewery that is very authentic . Being that this site is currently filled with falling down buildings and various other junk, its hard for me to understand why having a tastefully done brewpub that is designed to blend with the environment would be the *wrong* direction.

        This is not establishment that gets “riffraff” or obnoxious crowds. It attracts people looking for an ADK experience…..people who respect and appreciate the park.

      • Bruce says:


        Is what’s on that site now any less of a “sad development?” I saw the A-frame and parking lot while getting gas last year. Even if it were bulldozed, the pavement torn up and turned into a patch of Forest Preserve, how many folks would make it a point to go there and enjoy the woods? What’s there now certainly isn’t very “scenic.”

        The point of the exercise is to attract people who might decide to take further advantage of what the Adirondacks has to offer in the High Peaks region. Newcomb and Indian Lake are sleepy, does that make them more attractive to visitors? I found nothing in either place that said, “you really ought to stop, we got stuff going on.”

        • Bruce says:

          I probably shouldn’t have included Indian Lake in my comment, because although it is “sleepy”, I was having a senior moment thinking it was on 28N, rather than 28 proper. It is less likely to be affected by traffic generated at North Hudson than Newcomb.

  30. Cisco Ramone says:

    If Peter B. had endorsed the project, I’d be more concerned. Would he support anything that didn’t add to wilderness or hiking trails?

  31. says:

    I remember Frontier Town as a kid, and taking my kids, but I fail to see the value in this project – and it is NOT a “Gateway” to anything. I agree with Peter.

  32. Byron says:

    One could do a heck of a lot of trammeling in the wilderness with $32 million.

    • Daniel Bogdan says:

      If this $32 million was allocated to the railroad from Utica to Lake Placid to subsidize fares ticket prices could be reduced to $0.00 dollars. Transportation costs for tourists would be reduced to near zero. This would mean more visitors to the Adirondacks with more disposable dollars that would be spent in the Adirondacks. Beer from numerous local brewpubs would be available on the train. Beer drinkers wouldn’t have to worry about driving while impaired! The train is vastly more environmentally appropriate to the Adirondacks than cars. And much more civilized. And by the way, Utica has been known as the Gateway to the Adirondacks for years.

      • Bruce says:


        Far out.

        What do we do when the 32 million is gone if used in the way you suggest? Once the free train rides dry up, your gravy train to benefit the Adirondacks is over. In the North Hudson plan, it’s seed money to get the ball rolling for making more money directly and indirectly..

        • says:

          After the $32 million is used in 20 to 25 years to subsidize fares the plan would be reevaluated. The gravy might disappear then, but the trains would be quite popular. The railroad doesn’t need the fare subsidy to survive. My subsidy plan is to encourage more people to visit the Adirondacks by reducing their transportation costs. Also if tourists spend less on transportation the more they will spend on other items in the Park. And expenditures would be more evenly distributed among the businesses in the Park. It’s seed money to encourage more visitors to the Park and to increase their expenditures in the Park. Also if New York State invests taxpayer dollars to preserve wilderness by purchasing remote land in the Park, they should also invest in a transportation system (the existing railroad) so taxpayers can enjoy their purchase. And in an environmentally appropriate way!

      • Boreas says:

        Here we go… Everything in the Park revolves around the ASR venture.

        • says:

          And us rail with trail supporters will keep going until all of the railroad between Utica and Lake Placid is restored to operational condition!

  33. Neil Luckhurst says:

    Gateway? The Northway itself is a “gateway”.

    I can’t see this thing taking off. By the way, what will become of the rest areas just a few miles north?

    • Boreas says:

      “By the way, what will become of the rest areas just a few miles north?”

      Fewer people sleeping in them? ; )

  34. Bruce says:


    Based on what I’ve seen in many years of driving the Eastern interstate highways, little if anything. A prime example is South of the Border at the NC/SC state line on I-95. There are welcome centers within a mile on either side, which stay busy, and South of the Border has been there for years.

    I think a new edifice at North Hudson will primarily attract those who want more than a potty break, basic information, a drink, a map, or a few brochures. The few dead rest areas I’ve seen got that way because a new one was built with more comprehensive facilities, or perhaps in a better location.

  35. Deb Evans says:

    Agree with Peter. This is a silly project especially with the noisy Northway bordering it. Just not a fan of the state owning and running something that should be private. If it was viable, someone would’ve done it in the past 30+ years.

    • Bruce says:

      The state owns and runs over 40 campgrounds in the Adirondack Park alone. How many millions does that entail every year? Should they be privatized? As far as the noisy Northway goes, who cares. People won’t be coming to this project for solitude, any more than they flocked to Frontier Town in its day because it was quiet. Why do so many assume that everyone visiting the Adirondacks is looking for solitude in a wilderness experience?

      • Boreas says:


        I suspect Deb was simply talking about the noise from the Northway interfering with a good night’s sleep. A public campground is the last place to go for solitude.

  36. “Seriously how many locals even own a boat? ” Um? Quite a few. Have you not driven through the Adirondacks and seen the canoes and boats on trailers in people’s driveways/yards. They are everywhere. I have 4 canoes. They are stashed in my barn, so you won’t see them if you drive by but they are there. My brother owns a fairly large boat and several kayaks. Many, perhaps most, of my Adirondacks friends own a boat or a canoe. Yes, Jennifer, the locals have boats.

  37. Jeff Dickson says:

    I seldom agree with Peter Bauer. This time I do. It is not good economic policy for the state to establish and support a facility utilizing taxpayer funds that will directly compete with a local for-profit business. Is it an eyesore that should be revitalized in some way? Perhaps – but placing the burden for revitalization on the backs of taxpayers is wrong. If private enterprise has not seen fit to utilize this property, despite its location, it is likely to continue as a burden on the taxpayers until some future administration decides to defund it. Then it will just return to its status as an eyesore, albeit a newer one.

  38. Lisa Marks says:

    I have carefully read the article and ALL the responses before composing this. I feel like lots of people are missing the point of this project.
    1) Nobody is trying to bring “Frontier Town” back. They are proposing to preserve its history (and a few buildings) for future generations. Bringing Frontier Town back would be a colossal failure, since this is NOT how Americans vacation anymore.
    2) The development of this project, including “glamping”-style camping options, equestrian camping, event venue, private investment brewery/ restaurant/ retail is something not offered elsewhere in the ADKS, and offers fresh options that appeal to the next generation of travelers
    3) By offering lodging opportunity such as this so close to the Northway and so close to the Boreas Tract, it fills a void in lodging for new consumers to the Boreas Tract. And new visitors to the Boreas Tract should help alleviate some wear-and-tear on the High Peaks.
    4) It is not “in the middle of nowhere”. This project is strategically placed, visibly, off the Northway and an 8-mile drive to Schroon Lake and its amenities, such as restaurants/ shopping/ hiking/ free beach/ boat launch, etc..
    There may be a few flaws with this idea, but the Adirondacks always has and always will thrive (or not) based on the health of its tourism industry. And this particular corner of the ADKS is hurting. So it’s worth the chance.

  39. David Baltzer says:

    Something good should be done with the Frontier Town site, but I don’t believe that this $32 million plan as it stands is the way to go.

    Additionally, yes, the strong popularity of ‘wild west’ theme parks just doesn’t exist anymore. However, there are other themes today that are strongly popular that could revitalize the site if it were changed over. Renaissance Faires are quite popular and some run for several months in good weather. Also popular are Revolutionary War, Civil War, and World War II re-enactments. It seems like something could be done with one or more of those ideas. Encouraging privatization would probably be best. As others have stated, state funding would best be utilized elsewhere. But if responsible developers were to re-boot the site, while working in close cooperation with environmental conservation to minimize negative impact, a new theme park could be born that would capitalize on current interests while at the same time being less environmentally invasive than Frontier Town was. Knowledge, thinking, attitudes, techniques, and technology have all advanced since Frontier Town was built. A new theme park could be built in such a way that it could more easily evolve and change over time, to keep up with public interests, and never become completely obsolete to a point where it couldn’t easily be made over. Think of the back lots at the Hollywood studios that were quite easily made over time and time again for all sorts of productions. One may have been a western town for filming one week and a sci-fi landscape the next. Actually, I think that the folks behind Frontier Town suffered from a lack of vision by the end. They tried to hold on to something that had become passe instead of looking around them and identifying what was newly popular and making a change before it was too late. Sometimes people get too caught up in the fear of what something will cost. Often, the ‘window dressing’ to make successful changes comes down more to ingenuity and imagination than it does to throwing money at it.
    I would like to take a few minutes to address something else here that is tangentially related. There are all these places across the country that have been abandoned over time and that have fallen into neglect. Just think of all of the abandoned properties in Gary, Indiana, as another example. Then there are the increasing numbers of homeless people in the country. If these two issues were matched up, it could be a way of working toward eliminating both problems. Not all homeless people fit the stereotype. Not all want to be homeless. Not all are drug addicts, alcoholics, mentally ill, and lazy. As I write this, it’s from a motel room in Canastota, New York. My wife and I are on our way from Cincinnati, Ohio to Old Forge, New York. We are basically homeless at the moment. Our situation came about through circumstances, not negative choices on our part. We both basically took care of elderly parents full-time for many years. In decades past, that was something that employers looked at as a sign of good character. That is no longer true today. Now, if your circumstances were different than the average and you do not have ‘experience’, an average work history, a resume, and references, it is becoming extremely difficult to find ANYONE who will hire you. Nothing seems to matter. Not education, not a history of volunteerism in your background, not strong ethics, morals, drive, and enthusiasm….nothing. My wife and I are preservationists and restorers by nature, yet we have not been given a chance to get a start anywhere yet.

    • Boreas says:


      I also am familiar with the cold-heartedness of many employers nowadays. Luckily, the cards I was dealt didn’t land me in your circumstances. Perhaps in the meantime you could consider working/volunteering for groups that help out people who have fallen upon hard times, such as the Salvation Army. They may be able to at least put a roof over your head until you can find employment with a more understanding employer. Good luck and try to stay positive.

      • David Baltzer says:

        After the tornado that hit Tuscaloosa, Alabama in April of 2011, my wife and I went down there and volunteered for 2 months. We were working 16 hours a day 7 days a week in a temporary Emergency Services warehouse that processed all kinds of donated goods that came in by semi from all over the country. We can say from firsthand experience that in the wake of such disasters it is NOTHING like the glowing people-helping-people situation that the media portrays. That is a falsehood done for show. Behind the scenes it is MUCH different. The higher-ups in the volunteer organization were the bankers-attorneys-insurance people in the community. At night at the warehouse they would sit around drinking beer from a little trailer they had sitting out front with taps conveniently right on the side. Photo ops during the day would make it seem like these people were working hard right alongside the ordinary volunteers. Such was not the case. When the cameras were off, these people spent their time playing on Facebook all day. The Red Cross wanted all bottled water organized by brand and size. There was not enough time and volunteers for that. An enormous amount of donated water was ruined because it sat out in the hot sun in the parking lot and the chemicals in the plastic were leached into it. FEMA stepped in and provided WIC and a lot of people took that money and rejected donated baby formula and coupons that then went to waste and expired. The head of the regular Emergency Services Warehouse fought with the heads of the temporary satellite warehouses in a clash of egos. Unfortunately, the Salvation Army and any other organization is all based on whomever you happen to deal with based on the locale. AmeriCorps was also sent to Tuscaloosa. That was one more big mess. We saw more power struggles among those who wanted to be in control than we did anything else. Stay positive? Always. No matter what. But it’s always a real eye opener when you see what things are really like, contrary to what the media presents.

        • Boreas says:


          There is no solution for idiots in high places. But you did more to help than 99.9% of the US.

          Interesting anecdote about the Red Cross. My father was in the infantry in WWII from Normandy on. He said when the Red Cross showed up with donuts & coffee, the soldiers had to pay for them! He said the Salvation Army was always there to help for free. Can’t say whether it was true, but he was quite a cheapskate and he donated to the Salvation Army the rest of his life because of that, so I tend to believe him.

          But again, good luck. You have some good Karma heading your way.

          • John Warren says:

            “The organization started charging only because the U.S. Secretary of War asked it to. British soldiers had to pay for their snacks, and the free doughnuts for Americans were causing tensions. So the Red Cross complied, after protesting to no avail. It didn’t last long — for most of the last 70 years, Red Cross doughnuts have remained free — but veterans haven’t forgotten.”


            • David Baltzer says:

              My father fought in the Pacific Theater of Operations in World War II….New Guinea, Morotai, and Mindanao. I don’t think that the Salvation Army had people there….at least I can’t recall him mentioning that organization. But the Red Cross….his unit came off a really bad mission that lasted many weeks. Supply drops had been very difficult for the Air Corps to accomplish due to flak, weather, etc. A lot of stuff ended up dropping into the hands of the Japanese. Anyhow, when the mission was finally over and the beards of the men were long, socks mostly rotted away, etc, everybody went to the Red Cross tent to get toiletries and basic supplies. They were told they could not have them. “This stuff is for COMBAT troops only!” To which the men replied, “What in the F$CK do you think we’ve been doing all these weeks?!?” They would not release the supplies. Because you see, the ones in charge of that particular Red Cross group were selling all of the material on the black market. That’s the problem….an overall organization may be good, but the rotten apples spoil things. But sometimes it gets taken care of in different ways. That Red Cross tent mysteriously burned to the ground late that night.

              • Boreas says:


                • John Warren says:

                  Or complete BS.

                  • David Baltzer says:

                    Yeah, Karma is just another myth. Life-long good people are not protected and bad apples are not targeted. Basic everyday news stories shatter the karma myth all the time but some people just can’t let go of the myth and face reality as it is.

            • Boreas says:

              Wow! I thought my Dad was the only one irritated by this. I can only imagine how many donations the Red Cross DIDN’T get over the lat 70 years because of this SNAFU. Thanks for the link John!

  40. Scott says:

    I say: Do NOT build it. The forestlands, wilderness areas and the wildlife they contain are continually under attack by money-grubbing fingers. This is another scheme to bring people (city-slickers) who potentially do not respect the areas they are entering to pollute those areas. This would bring money into the state coffers at the expense of the beautiful Adirondack Mountains. With how much talk liberals usually spew about reducing carbon footprints, this is a ‘bigfoot’ imprint being imposed by a liberal Governor of NY (I guess all that ‘Nature stuff’ gets the boot when it has the potential of bringing in the extra money. The main focus of the article was on money; however, foot-traffic on trails will increase, pollution from candy wrappers, soda bottles, cigarette butts, beer cans and other disgusting litter will increase and pollute the areas. Wildlife will, once again, be pushed out of the area, or forced to alter their habits as people who have no respect for that wildlife habitat invade it. Lost city-slickers in the woods because they were unprepared and/or left the trails, forest fires from careless campfires-fires and/or discarded (lit) cigarettes, etc will increase. The infringement of city-slickers on wildlife always leads to the death of wildlife because of the fear city-slickers have of wildlife. This was exemplified in the state of Florida (2016) with the extra Black Bear hunting tags issued because people were frequented by those Bears in their suburban developments. The problem is: where are the Bear supposed to go? with all the new construction invading wildlife habitat, it should be expected that more wildlife will be roaming around in what was once their home areas. Unfortunately, the cry of the city-slicker was to demand that more Bear must die because they were an inconvenience to those people. Thus, people clear cut the forests, build big ugly houses where wildlife once made their homes, bring in their noise and light pollution, etc., and demand the Bear must die because they fear it may attack them, their children, fido, fluffy, etc. All those brand-spanking new developments while there are many homes that already exist for sale in those areas, that don’t require a further invasion into the habitat of wildlife — Convenience for them means death. Next thing you know they’ll be protesting people fishing while demanding abortion is their ‘right’, and stomping their feet about climate change (and that tax money (our money) should pay for it all … oops, wait, (we’re already there) — pay no attention to their cry to kill the Bear and to build an additional park in the Adirondack Mountains.

    So, NO! DON’T build it!

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