The Open Space Institute (OSI) has announced that a series of projects aimed at improving public access at its historic, 212-acre Adirondac Upper Works property are near completion. The property serves as a southern entrance to many popular High Peaks Wilderness Area trails. Once completed, this project will better accommodate the growing number of people coming to explore the High Peaks – and in doing so, better disperse visitors to the area and protect the region’s hiking trails and precious natural resources.
Among the projects underway is the construction of a new, 60-car parking area and trailhead. The projects are part of OSI’s $1 million capital improvement plan to upgrade overall public access to Upper Works, Henderson Lake, and the Adirondack High Peaks; preserve and improve its historic structures; and deepen visitor engagement.
In addition to the physical improvements underway on site, OSI also unveiled a new logo for the property, which will be incorporated into new signage planned for the site.
“With every construction milestone, we are growing more excited about the completion of the trailhead and parking area,” said OSI’s president and CEO, Kim Elliman. “Moreover, we are excited about the prospect of improving southern access to the High Peaks, which we hope will make the area more welcoming and help relieve some of the pressure on other locations within the Adirondacks.”
OSI has been working on the redesign and expansion of the Upper Works parking area with the Town of Newcomb, which is providing an in-kind contribution toward the work. The parking area is expected to open by Memorial Day 2021.
OSI also indicated that it is pursuing additional partnerships, private funds, and grants to fully achieve the ambitious plan.
Other future, planned upgrades for Adirondac Upper Works include: the renovation of the historic MacNaughton Cottage which will provide a space for a satellite private outfitter and visitor information; the installation of new kiosks, wayfinding signage, and bathroom facilities; and additional stabilization of the 1854 MacIntyre Blast Furnace.
Recognizing the historic and environmental importance of this spectacular landscape located in the heart of the Adirondack Park, OSI acquired the 10,000-acre Tahawus tract in 2003. OSI then transferred most of the property to DEC, but retained 212 acres for educational, historic, and recreational purposes.
Work to date
Since then, OSI, with support from the Overhills Foundation, Prospect Hill Foundation, Walbridge Foundation, and New York State Council of the Arts, has invested nearly $900,000 in improvements at Adirondac Upper Works, including site planning; the initial stabilization of the blast furnace; the creation of an interpretative trail with educational panels that guides visitors from the northern parking area, through the former Village of Adirondac, to the historic 1854 Blast Furnace; and the structural preservation of MacNaughton Cottage. Built in 1845, MacNaughton Cottage is the site from which then Vice President Theodore Roosevelt began his midnight ride to the presidency in 1901.
Attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, the High Peaks Wilderness Area is the best known, most heavily used, and largest wilderness in the Adirondack Park. Increased visitorship to the High Peaks over the past few years is providing a boon in certain Adirondack communities.
Photo of MacNaughton Cottage from Almanack archive