Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Peter Bauer: Sporting Clubs, Hinchey Law, And The Forest Preserve

The State of New York continues to face the challenge of managing buildings on the Forest Preserve in the Adirondack Park.

This has been an issue for decades and is now an even bigger issue at the inner Gooley Club, a complex of more than a dozen buildings, on Third Lake in the heart of the Essex Chain Lakes Primitive area.

The Cuomo Administration has provided an opening for advocates hoping to keep the Gooley Club by its decisions to retain two buildings on the Forest Preserve in recent state purchases: the farmhouse (known as the outer Gooley Club) overlooking the Hudson, just above the confluence with the Indian, on Chain Lakes Road in the Blue Mountain Wild Forest; and the historic cabin at the 4 Corners on the Boreas Tract in the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest. Though the state has decided to keep these two buildings it has not determined what their use will be or divulged how much they’ll cost to maintain.

Last week, the state released a list of buildings that various historic preservation groups have nominated for the National Register of Historic Places. This list included the inner Gooley Club on Third Lake in Essex Chain Lakes. The consent of the landowner is not required for buildings on public lands, but it is when a building is on private lands. The nomination for the inner Gooley Club was made by Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH).  Leaders from the Department of Environmental Conservation who I spoke with said the state has no plans to retain the inner Gooley Club buildings.

Under the terms of the state’s agreement to purchase of the Essex Chain Lakes from The Nature Conservancy, the hunting clubs throughout the 69,000 acres of the former Finch, Pruyn & Company lands were grandfathered for five years of additional use before their camps must be removed by the end of 2018. Last fall was the last year that club members could use their buildings for big game season, though they will get use their buildings during the summer fishing season this year. This fall, club members can either remove their camps and relocate them to other lands where they have contracts, or abandon them.

Under the terms of the state’s purchase, The Nature Conservancy is responsible for clearing all buildings that remain on these lands this fall. In the case of the outer Gooley Club on the Chain Lakes Road in Indian Lake, the state formally requested that the farmhouse remain and relieved The Nature Conservancy of its obligation to tear it down. The state has made no such request in the case of the inner Gooley Club.

AARCH is making the argument that the inner Gooley Club should be maintained for historic preservation purposes. Phil Brown broke this story at the Adirondack Explorer‘s website last week. In his piece, AARCH staff state that the state “did not follow its own rules” regarding the inner Gooley Club and its responsibility to assess the historic significance of the buildings.

The state requirement under the “Hinchey Law” (ECL 9-0109), passed after the state’s decision to retain Great Camp Santanoni. The Great Camp had been managed inconsistently until the Pataki Administration made it a Historic Area under the Adirondack Park State Master Plan and committed funds to stabilize and restore the buildings, work that has been ongoing incrementally ever since.

The Hinchey Law directs the state not to purchase any buildings when it buys land for the Forest Preserve unless they are part of a large and important transaction and cannot be avoided. If the case where the state does buy lands with buildings, it is directed to undertake an analysis of the historic resources of such buildings.

Last fall, I submitted Freedom of Information letters (FOIL) to the Department of Environmental Conservation and to the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation requesting the Hinchey Law analysis for the buildings on the former Finch lands. I received information from both agencies that showed the state had undertaken the required analyses on the inner and outer Gooley Club buildings.

The Hinchey Law was passed in recognition of the state’s difficulty in managing buildings on the Forest Preserve. Without going into great detail, buildings on the Forest Preserve are limited to two uses by more than 40 years of state policy in the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan: 1) state administration as necessary facilities for Forest Preserve management; 2) educational and historic preservation purposes. Buildings on the Forest Preserve cannot be used for any kind of public residential purposes. They cannot be leased or rented or used by the public for lodging purposes.

Today, the state manages a small number of state administrative buildings on the Forest Preserve, such as the caretakers cabins at Lake Colden, Marcy Dam, Raquette Falls and Wakely Dam. The state also manages a complex of buildings at the Whitney Headquarters on Little Tupper Lake in an area classified as State Administrative.

There are also many state buildings on Forest Preserve lands classified as Intensive Use areas. Those at Gore and Whiteface Mountain Ski Areas have been approved through Constitutional Amendments, while those that exist at dozens of State Campgrounds have been approved through administrative actions and the State Land Master Plan.

The state has also built a policy of retaining buildings for public educational and historic preservation purposes, such as the Great Camp Santanoni and some buildings associated with firetowers. These areas are classified as Historic Areas under the Master Plan. DeBar Lodge also hangs out there in the wind as the state tries to figure out its future. The whole issue of buildings on the Forest Preserve has never been litigated.

The inner Gooley Club application argues that the buildings and associated activities provided significant contributions to local history. The application talks about the importance of the hunting club in Adirondack history.

Across the Adirondacks, we have clearly done a better job at preserving the “Great Camp” culture of the 19th century Gilded Age – Santanoni and Great Camp Sagamore – are available to the public, but others have also been preserved by private landowners, including Great Camp Uncas, among others. Outside of the “Virkler” hunting camp at the Adirondack Museum we have not done enough to preserve traditional working class hunting camp culture and buildings.

Across the Adirondack Park today there are dozens and dozens of hunting camps, both on privately owned lands (such as the Grasse River Club, to name one of many), as well as on conservation easement lands, that merit nomination for many of the same reasons as the inner Gooley Club. But these camps have the benefit of upholding traditional cultural attributes while not undermining Forest Preserve law and policy.

Hunting camp culture is alive and well across the Adirondacks, and though memberships fluctuate due to long-term national trends that show a decline in hunting, it has stabilized over the last ten years. Any hunting club in the Adirondacks that has been around for decades should contact AARCH to work with them to get your club nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. Note that listing a building on the National Register does not prevent the landowner from tearing it down.

It’s hard to see how the Gooley Club would conform with the Master Plan and be a State Administrative area used as a caretaker’s cabin or be a Historic Area and maintained as a living museum. AARCH has spoken about the possibility of using the buildings for public lodging as some form of hut-to-hut stopover. The Master Plan is quite clear that buildings for residential uses on the Forest Preserve are prohibited. The new final report from Adirondack Community-base Trails and Lodging System, which looked at hut-to-hut routes across the Adirondacks, does not include use of the inner Gooley Club as one of its 59 recommended routes.

As mentioned at the top of this piece, the state opened the door the inner Gooley Club issue because the it decided to keep two other buildings on the Forest Preserve as part of the Finch land purchases. The state also opened the door on the Essex Chain Lakes tract by deliberately weakening the Master Plan to allow state management activities with motor vehicles and public mountain bike riding in a Primitive Area, a classification that until then had been managed as if the lands were Wilderness. If the state can so easily weaken the Master Plan for motor vehicles and mountain bikes in Primitive areas, why not do it for buildings too?

What retention of the inner Gooley Club does do is threaten and undermine the Forest Preserve. Essential Forest Preserve values are on the line with this decision. Third Lake on the Essex Chain should be a landscape that is allowed to rewild in the future. The roads that access the Gooley Club should be allowed grow over and reforest as should the lands where the buildings now sit. The buildings should be torn down and the docks pulled out.

The hunting club culture of the Gooley Club that occupied the site for decades was part of a culture associated with an industrial forest and actively lumbered lands. State policy has ensured that this culture is an important part of all state conservation easements, some 750,000 acres in the Adirondacks.

The Essex Chain Lakes area is no longer an industrial forest, it is now forever wild and part of the Forest Preserve, lands where human intrusions, through both public use and state maintenance, should be managed to limit the permanent presence of humans and the vast forests should be let loose to grow wilder year after year.

Photos: The Inner Gooley Club on Third Lake in the Essex Chain.

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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.

41 Responses

  1. tom prevost says:

    I am all for preserving the Gooley buildings. Just as much as we need to preserve our natural environment by creating the ‘forever wild primative’ areas, we must also be concerned with preserving our heritage. They are not in an environmentally sensitive area where preservation would significantly impact the natural resources. If they and many other significant landmarks were in an urban environment , it would be a no-brainer as to declaring them historic landmarks pouring mega bucks into preserving them. What makes these and many other landmarks in the Adirondacks any less significant than urban ones?

  2. Jim S. says:

    I can understand walking several miles to see an architectural treasure like great camp Santanoni but to travel a great distance to see a bunch of shacks? There are plenty of hunting camps scattered throughout the park what makes this one worth tens of thousands of dollars so people can look at it.

  3. Justin Farrell says:

    Why keep these camps yet the cabin on Thomas Mountain was removed this past winter? Did that cabin have no historical value?

    • Anthony Hall says:

      That cabin had absolutely no historical value. It was a prefab structure hauled to the summit by a local contractor at the behest of the developer and realtor who sought to market the site as “a great camp” before the Lake George Land Conservancy stepped in and bought the property.

  4. Scott says:

    I would rather have just forever wild forest lands on the forest preserve. If the buildings are that important or that significant that they should be preserved, remove them to the museum.

  5. M. Finn says:

    “The Cuomo Administration has provided an opening for advocates hoping to keep the Gooley Club” No it hasn’t. The advocates are hoping to keep some of the buildings.

    “I received information from both agencies that showed the state had undertaken the required analyses on the inner and outer Gooley Club buildings.” The State did not provide any analysis. In fact, if you read the application for the acquisition, it states that there were no buildings in the parcel, when in fact there were close to 200 buildings. The application is full of falsifications. Please publish it. Furthermore, it wasn’t signed by the authorized personnel.

    The club attempted good faith negotiations with the Nature Conservancy to purchase the 50 acres on Third Lake Bay, and egress, for $500,000.00 and the offer was declined.

    The economic importance of this one club can not be disputed; it infused a half million dollars annually into the local economy.

    The deal was a sham and the local towns fell for the lies.

    The State should return the parcel to private title.

  6. Paul says:

    This is potentially an opportunity to preserve something like this in its “natural area”. I’d rather see something like John Brown’s cabin on John Brown’s farm not at the Wild Center or in Blue Mt. Lake.

    Peter is overdoing it saying that this is some “threat” to the Forest Preserve. A cabin in a sensitive area like Avalanche Pass in the heart of the HPW is not a threat but a few cabins in the woods here is?

    What is this? Preserve the history of the rich land barons that demoed the environment and raze any trace of history where regular folk stewarded the land to the point that we have the opportunity as a state to own something like this tract.

    This is a teeny tiny portion of FP land, as usual this is already getting blown way out of proportion.

    • Boreas says:

      But again, who will see or use it? Rondeau’s hermitage would have been interesting to preserve, but how many people would have seen it? How would it have been protected without staffing?

      I guess I just don’t see the benefit of preserving the Gooley club structures if they aren’t going to be protected and staffed. Add the cost of maintenance, and that is a pretty big bill for the few people that would ever visit it. If we can find a good use for it, then I am for preserving it. If it is just going to be admired and not used, send the best structures to a museum – perhaps somewhere at the Frontiertown development.

      • Paul says:

        Aren’t there supposed to be lots of people hiking in this area? The people who will see it are the people (like with other things) that make the effort to go see it. People who took the time and effort to hike back into the cold river country are the people that would have seen that hermitage. Many people, myself included, have gone back there just to see where the hermit hung out, another neat part of Adirondack history. I would amend the UMP to allow people to use the cabins to stay back there, hardly that much different than the camps that are currently allowed on FP land under TRP’s. As far as maintenance… I would think you would set up something like the “friends of the gooly club” just like with a fire tower.

        If it doesn’t work out you are just back to having to remove them anyway or just let them “blend” into the forest.

  7. Paul says:

    You put up on social media that a place like this is out there for people to check out – they will come.

    • Jim S. says:

      I would travel to cold river to see where the hermit lived. I would not hike to see a bunch of shacks where people used to hunt.

      • Paul says:

        Yes, I understand that you don’t have an appreciation for that part of Adirondack history and culture. To each his own.

        Dave Gibson had a nice article one time here about going back into an Adirondack hunting camp one fall.

        Barbara McMartin does a nice job of explaining the importance and impact on land preservation ion the Adirondacks played by hunting clubs in her book – The Privately Held Adirondacks. Here is an opportunity to preserve some of that for the public to see on public land.

        • Jim S. says:

          I appreciate the history very much as well as the culture. My point is that it isn’t truly part of the past, it is current events. When hunting clubs like this are gone is the time to remember them. If they are important to people now they should join one.

          • Paul says:

            You should take a look at Barbra’s book and see what clubs are left compared with what we had 30 years ago. Many of the remaining clubs are the ones that only the wealthy can afford to join if they can get in at all. If you have enough money you always can find a way. I feel sorry for these guys many of them can’t just “join one” like you suggest.

  8. Mick Finn says:

    The Blue Mountain Lake museum had a lot of information about Olive Gooley and the inner camp. It has a lot of historical importance.

  9. Mick Finn says:

    The Gooley Club is historically significant under Criterion A in the areas of social history and recreation for the land’s association with a series of recreational hunting camps primarily catering to urban sportsmen during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Club is also significant as a mid-twentieth century example of a private hunting and fishing club established on an enormous parcel of leased land in the Adirondacks, illustrating the resurgence of hunting and fishing and the establishment of new forms of recreational leasing in the region during that period. A hundred years before, the Adirondacks had begun developing into a popular destination for wealthy sportsmen. To cater to this clientele, Harvey Bonney, a Civil War veteran from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, established the first sportsman’s camp on the Essex Chain Lakes in 1866. Assisted by Michael and Olive Gooley, who later ran a separate camp from their farmhouse closer to Indian Lake, the operation was a success. Arvin Hutchins and his family operated the Chain Lakes camp into the early twentieth century. Gooley and Hutchins closed their camps and sold the land to the Finch Pruyn Company, a major lumber corporation, in 1905 and 1916, respectively. During the early twentieth century, especially after World Wars I and II, more men began participating in recreational hunting and fishing, as vehicles and equipment became less expensive and they had more leisure time. After discovering Oliver Hutchins’ sportsman’s camp at the former Gooley farm property during the late 1930s, Lyman Beeman, then president of Finch Pruyn, and Frank Juckett and Wes Joslyn, executives of the Sandy Hill Iron and Brass Company in Glens Falls, were shocked by the rapid increases in the number of hunters coming to the region. Seeking to preserve the hunting experience that they had come to love, they approached Finch Pruyn with a proposal to form a hunting club and formally lease acreage at the two sites: the former Gooley farm (Outer Gooley Club) and the Essex Chain Lakes (Inner Gooley Club). They were successful and formed the Gooley Club in 1947. In 1950, after incorporating, the club obtained its first formal lease from Finch Pruyn. This lease marked the beginning of what would become the Finch Pruyn Company’s very successful leasing program and set a new pattern of hunters and fishermen leasing land in the Adirondacks during the twentieth century. The club, whose members were largely made up of men from the Glens Falls area, the Capital region, and the Central Adirondacks, was an almost immediate success due to its excellent location, availability of fish and game, and the camaraderie that grew between members.

    • Todd Eastman says:

      Histoy, yes…

      … historical significance, well not so much ?

    • Jim S. says:

      Save the story, not the shacks.

      • Paul says:

        Doesn’t have to be a cathedral to be part of history.

        Some of these are pretty neat little cabins. The hermits place would qualify as a “shack” as well. This type of wording is pretty insulting to the folks that these things mean something to.

  10. robert dimarco says:

    Enough about our heritage, just let the Earth heal, the less impact by humans the better!

  11. Boreas says:

    Stakeholders and others need to realize the difference between a place with history vs. its historical value to its current owners. People who have fond memories of ubiquitous hunting camps from a previous era and their positive points need to be contrasted with people who were either too poor, not connected (invitation only clubs), or not interested in joining a hunting camp – or even hunting for that matter. I would say the bulk of taxpayers fall into the latter category, and they will be footing the bill.

    When I was younger, the only thing a hunting camp meant to me was that it was posted property that I could not hunt on. Often, long strings of postage-size camps (and posted signs) blocked entry into state lands behind them. Never being a fan of posted signs, I never developed a warm & fuzzy impression of camps. Others I knew loved their camps – the leases typically held perpetually in families or corporations excluding any kind of equal access. This, of course is going to give a person privileged or lucky enough to be a member, a much warmer feeling of the history of these small, ubiquitous camps of an earlier era.

    So, if people looking to preserve the history of these small camps want to preserve them, I have no problem with that – especially if they are performing the maintenance and staffing (and not taxpayers). But, by keeping the structures where they are, the DEC most likely would restrict camping and usage of the site (day use only, etc.) – leaving a bitter taste in many mouths.

    • Paul says:

      These points are all well taken. For this I would say look it’s already here. Were getting rid of almost all the other camps. This may or may not be something that folks are interested in. But it takes basically no effort to give it a try. Like I said for maintenance you could look into a “friends” type arrangement so the taxpayer doped’t have to lift anything. Change the ASLMP and let people lodge in there. If they can stay in a little camp under a TRP why not? If it doesn’t work then get rid of them. What do you have to lose?

      This is really not the threat that is being played up to be. Which environmental group said it was the “end of the park” if the ACR project was approved? We’re still here.

      • Boreas says:

        I agree, I don’t see Gooley as a threat to the Park. I suspect people are afraid of the “slippery-slope” effect with similar situations.

  12. Charlie S says:

    George says:Well said. Let’s eliminate all humans from the face of the earth!

    We’re working on it George!

  13. Charlie S says:

    Mick Finn says: “The Blue Mountain Lake museum had a lot of information about Olive Gooley and the inner camp. It has a lot of historical importance.”

    Some notables who have stayed at the Gooley Camp: Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, Astronaut Col. John Glenn & the first American ever to climb Mount Everest James Whittaker. They stayed there on Friday night May 5,1967. The next day Senator Robert F. Kennedy arrived along with Mrs. Ethel Kennedy, their daughter Caroline Kennedy, and also Joseph Kennedy 3rd, and other Kennedy’s, joined them at the Gooley Camp. The next day this party took a 13 mile trip from the Gooley Club south along the Hudson River to North River in rubber boats and canoes. They were there for the annual White Water Derby and at that time the largest crowd in history lined Rt. 28.

    Is not this historical?

    • JohnL says:

      I could be wrong but I’m pretty sure Caroline Kennedy was John’s daughter, not Bobby and Ethel’s.

  14. Hope says:

    Hunters were the original conservationists. There is significant concern nationally about the demise of the sportsman and the interest in supporting the acquisition and support of our natural resources politically and economically. Let’s hope that the environmentalist are up to the challenge to make up the difference.

    • Paul says:

      Yes – Sportsmen and women have preserved far more land than any other special interest group by far.

      166 million acres impacted alone for just this one organization:


      The state doesn’t have to own it for it to be conserved. If you don’t have land conserved you can’t hunt and fish.

      • Boreas says:

        While I agree most duck stamps are bought by hunters, hunters are not the only people who buy them. I know many conservationists and birders, including myself, who have collections of duck stamps going back decades – and have never hunted waterfowl.

        • Paul says:

          Good point. I certainly consider a bird watcher to be a sports person. Don’t have to shoot them to peruse them. .

          • Boreas says:

            The Duck Stamp program has been quite successful in helping waterfowl, but I personally would like to see the program expanded to include all migratory birds (passerines, shorebirds etc.). IF PROPERLY PROMOTED, not only would it increase revenue for wetland protection, but increase coastal and forest protection. If properly promoted to birders, hikers, boaters, paddlers, and recreationists in general, it would get a lot more people involved in protecting wildlife areas. The current program seems to only be promoted to hunters, but they are not the only people interested in increasing habitat. Perhaps changing the stamp to a Migratory Bird stamp would be a good place to start.

            • Paul says:

              Actually it was originally called the “Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp”. It is pretty well promoted to anyone that wants to use a federal wildlife refuge.

              I think they may be doing some of what you are describing:


              I think that traditionally hunters and fishermen (and women) are better at ponying up the dough. People here at this blog are often flip at even the hint that a hiker or paddler should pay up.

              It costs 30 dollars per car in a National Park. That’s probably a large chunk of how they pay for their rangers. That is probably 30-40 million dollars for Yellowstone alone. I am not suggesting that we put up gates and charge for entering this park but we should come up with a way for these users (increasing in number) to cover these costs.

              Hunters numbers are dropping who is going to p/u the slack?

  15. charles wood says:

    Having visited there many years ago it is a place of beauty and that includes the farmhouse. I think it’s a shame that this way of life, and play as some might call it are being erased. On the other hand, who and at what cost are these buildings maintained. There should be a way. I know I would gladly pay to hike in and sleep there one more time.

  16. Riccardo Negri says:

    Dear Mr. Bauer,
    I am a 28 years old Italian civil engineer, and I am kindly asking you an important information.
    I read that Brandon Park, part of the Adirondack Mountains reserve, has been purchased by a private owner in 2014.
    I am desperately trying to reach out to that person, and, since I read that two houses insist on the land, I am kindly asking you the correct address of the two houses. In this way, I will be able to send a mail through postal service.
    Thank you very much,

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