Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Support the Preservation of Debar Pond Lodge

Debar Pond LodgeDebar Pond Lodge is an historic Great Camp designed by noted Adirondack architect William G. Distin, a protégé of Saranac Lake architect William Coulter, and built in 1940. This spectacular rustic-style log lodge stands on the shore of scenic Debar Pond in the northern Adirondack town of Duane (Franklin County). It is listed on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places.
Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) supports the preservation and public use of Debar Pond Lodge. We should treat this valuable cultural resource the way we treat our incredible natural resources – with great care and stewardship.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) has released a Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) that calls for the removal of the historic lodge and other outbuildings. AARCH has advocated for the preservation and public enjoyment of this historic site for more than 15 years and has developed multiple alternatives for the site that are legal and compatible with its Forest Preserve setting. That NYSDEC has so completely and thoughtlessly dismissed these alternatives flies against its obligations under the State Historic Preservation Act and sections of Environmental Conservation Law.

Two of these alternatives include operating it as an historic site, using the Camp Santanoni model and, managed through a nonprofit partner, using it to provide healing retreats for traumatized veterans and their families.

NYSDEC has opened the first window for public comment on the future of Debar Pond Lodge. This initial public comment period is set to expire Thursday, November 12. For more information on DEC plans, see the draft DGEIS at: https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/lands_forests_pdf/debarscope.pdf

We encourage you to speak up for the preservation and public use of Debar Pond Lodge by sharing your signature of support with AARCH here. Also consider sending your comments directly to NYSDEC via email to Steven Guglielmi at r5.ump@dec.ny.gov.

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Steven Engelhart is the Executive Director of Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH), the regional historic preservation organization of the Adirondack Park. AARCH's mission is to promote better public understanding, appreciation and stewardship of the region's built environment.

Among AARCH's many activities are: sponsoring a series of tours of historic places; offering workshops; giving slide presentations; publishing a newsletter; managing Camp Santanoni, advocating on behalf of threatened historic sites; and providing technical assistance to individuals, organizations and local governments.

Steven is a native of the region and has a BA from SUNY Plattsburgh and a MS in historic preservation from the University of Vermont. He is the author of Crossing the River: Historic Bridges of the AuSable River, a small book about bridges and local history of the AuSable Valley. He resides in Wadhams and loves to hike, canoe, read, play the banjo, explore the region, and spend time with family and friends.

33 Responses

  1. Gerald Duffy says:

    Open it up to the public. Make it available for all.

  2. joeadirondack says:

    Been there many times. It’s a poorly constructed, rotting old building. Historic? With a hot tub? Tear it down, build a lean to ,put up a plack and be done with that money pit.

    • Marc Wanner says:

      The hot tub was added later. It doesn’t lessen the historic value of the place. Twenty years from now, the building will be a hundred years old.

  3. gabe susice says:

    i dont care what they do.but let the public drive theroads in there.

  4. Big Burly says:

    Thank you Steven. Seems now that DEC folks, like the head of DEC Police Mr. Streiff who has used this site as living quarters in recent years, no longer think it has value we will yet again witness destruction of a historic resource that could contribute to a wider, better understanding of the history of the area. Instead, another day-use facility with some type of historic markers? What a farce. Folks in the North Country have earned and deserve better.

    • scott van Laer says:

      John Streiff was Captain of the Forest Rangers not the DEC Police. He played no role in decision making. He has not lived there in many years and is retired. He did nice maintenance work to keep it up on his own time when he was there.

      • Marc Wanner says:

        Right. We ran into him and his family there many times. If not for his efforts, the place would have been a mess long ago. Yes, he had a sweet deal when he lived there, but he has paid it back in uncompensated effort. Great guy.

      • Jeanne says:

        Thanks Scott

  5. Boreas says:

    “Two of these alternatives include operating it as an historic site, using the Camp Santanoni model and, managed through a nonprofit partner, using it to provide healing retreats for traumatized veterans and their families.”

    Funding for either of these endeavors, both of which have merit, would be problematic at best. I would think the veteran’s retreat would be more likely to get proper ongoing funding since federal VA funds could be brought into the picture. I also believe it would provide a more important resource than 1940’s history.

    • Marc Wanner says:

      The history of the site goes back way before 1940. A mere twenty years from now, 1940 will be a hundred years ago.

      If the place is torn down, the setting will still be beautiful, but the building and the landscape add greatly. And if it is made a veterans retreat, how many people will get to see it? The general public would be kept out, presumably.

  6. Camp Santanoni was rotting to the ground as well. The Town of Newcomb and ARCH were instrumental in its restoration and preservation. It’s now a major attraction in our town. Many day visitors and campers who return year after year to our great camp use terms like healing, good for the soul, magical, calming, and enlightened. We have plenty of wilderness preserved in the park, we need to save these historic places and utilize them to help heal the soul. Our society should be focused on helping our veterans damaged from war by using the healing properties of these rustic estates imbedded in the natural environment. If it’s anything close to Great Camp Santanoni I can’t think of a better use.

  7. Linda Matysek says:

    Please preserve Debar Pond Lodge. As an annual visitor to my beloved Adirondacks for my 59 years, I have seen many changes.
    My personal opinion is to keep the Adirondacks as pure and pristine as possible.
    Tearing down a historic lodge to be replaced by public use facilities is not in line with that thinking. Parking areas, picnic tables, grills and bathroom facilities will only contribute to the rise in public pollution. I believe the ecological affect is more dangerous to the Park.
    Forever Wild!!!!

    • Matthew Manning says:

      I with you! Keep it wild for future generations. Anyone who has paused for a moment on the north shore of Debar Pond has been absorbed by its tranquility and wild beauty. The abandoned lodge and buildings only add to the noticeable quiet setting. As soon as you let public vehicles into eyesight and earshot of the pond, it’s gone,

  8. Scot slater says:

    Please take it down, the lodge has been unavailable to the the public for the past 16 years. It has served as a lawn ornament long enough.

    • Marc Wanner says:

      Sorry, Scot, but you are mistaken. My wife and I have been there many times, starting in 2015. It would be a shame to tear it down.

  9. Merrill says:

    I went to the Pond with my family this past Saturday. I made this video so people knew what was there, and what you can do to help. Hope you enjoy.


    • Matthew Manning says:

      Your drone images captured some of the visual beauty at Debar Pond very nicely, but it didn’t capture the tranquility that exists there. Do you have any footage without the music or drone noise? There is a remarkable tranquility there, on the water and sitting under the old growth white pines. It’s been threatened by the DEC/APA plans to change its land classification and lower its protections. Would you still want to visit those 1940s historic structures if there were surrounded by parking lots, restrooms, pavilions, grills, and crowds?

      • I’m glad you enjoyed the video. I understand what you mean about the tranquility of the place. That is why my wife and I make at least one trip a year there.

  10. Donald Potter says:

    I am extremely upset over today’s radio announcement that my much beloved Debar Lodge
    was going to be torn down. My aunt and uncle, Arlene and Albert Lintner, were the long-time
    custodians of the property and I spent many a hunting season in the woods around the pond.
    It is a crying shame that another great camp is to be torn down instead of saved for posterity.
    I ate many a breakfast there cooked by my aunt and have fond memories of time spent there.
    I hope there will be pictures taken of this great camp before it’s torn down.
    Donald Potter
    Hannawa Falls, NY

  11. Pam mensink says:

    Plz plz restore this beautiful historical landmark…. it would make a beautiful wedding venue a day camp for underprivileged children. So many possibilities.. to tear down history would be a sin

  12. Darryl says:

    I don’t understand these comments to open the area to the public…. It already is open to the public. I’ve been there many times and always see people fishing, kayaking, picnicking. There is parking and a very enjoyable short walk to the lake.

    Haven’t we seen enough this year of what the Adirondacks look like when you have an influx of people? Each year there are less and less hidden gems in the ADK’s. For those of us that live and long for the Adirondacks the High Peaks regions was rendered basically unusable this year. The trash, the graffiti, the stories we have all heard. Why invite that in at Debar? The water at Debar is pristine, the surrounding wilderness is teeming with wildlife. We don’t need more trails and more people pushing further north unwilling to practice “leave no trace”.

    The house definitely needs a plan and NYS and DEC shouldn’t continue their inept plan of letting the structure and outbuildings rot away but tearing down something so beautiful and historic for picnic tables and lean-tos?

    There are a multitude of solutions for keeping the land open to the public while maintaining, if not improving, the camp.

    • Matthew Manning says:

      I agree Darryl, Debar Pond is an Adirondack wild gem that only asks for a few minutes of walking to reach. Turning the shore into public park, grill, and crap spot would a giant loss for the future generations.

  13. Annie Davey says:

    Such a beautiful piece of history! Please do not destroy it!

  14. Mary Lou Leavitt says:

    Annie Davey said it: a beautiful piece of history.. please don’t destroy this! Figure out a way to keep it intact and open, or else sell it to a NGO that will preserve it for public use.

  15. Donald Potter says:

    Please, Please Don’t Destroy this great camp. My Aunt and uncle were the caretakers of this property and I spent many hours fishing and hunting on this Great Camp property. It is a Jewel in the Great Adirondacks and must be preserved for the next generation of sportsmen, The view from the lodge is enough to require that it be spared the wrecking ball. All the remaining Great camps must be saved as they represent our past. This is history and it must be saved and opened up to the public’s use. We seem to be to eager tear down our collective history rather than enjoy it.
    Please find the money to preserve this one-of-a-kind jewel and open it up the people to enjoy.
    Thank you

  16. Ellie wall says:

    This has been an ongoing tale of mismanagement by dec in allowing this treasure to deteriorate. Over the years the town of Duane has advocated to purchase this spot and when that failed Aarch attempted to work with local veterans group who was looking for sites for retreats and were willing to maintain property and still allow gen public to utilize property. Dec has been unresponsive to petitions, public comment and recurring publicity and concern about vandalism. The state is so inept they took down the old boat dock put up a new one then a couple years later tore down the new one!! I believe they now realize what a treasure this place is and now will properly maintain and upgrade this place. There was even a proposal that a huts to hamlets group might try to takeover. We the taxpayers deserve to be heard and want a fair resolution so that the public and the community can benefit and use this treasure properly. Reach out to your congressmen, governor, senators local politicians to save debar pond and take it out of the inept hands of nys DEC.. by the way I have emailed the rep in ray brook manytimes and have yet to get a reply that my opinion was heard.. shameful..

    • Matthew Manning says:

      Hi Ellie. The docks have broken, probably because of freezing winters, and can still be found in pieces along the western shore of the pond. The “treasure” of Debar Pond for me is earned by the quick walk in to find the scenic wonder and tranquility Debar Pond offers. If we have to weave through parking lots, pavilions, grills, and restrooms, the treasure will be stolen. I hope you feel the same way.

      • Ellie says:

        These were brand new docks and it made me angry as this is a waste of taxpayer $. I agree putting a day pavilion is ridiculous and not a well thought out plan. I want the camp saved.

  17. Sue says:

    Preserve the lodge.

  18. Donald Potter says:

    Since when does progress mean tearing these great camps down? These old great camps represent the golden age of the Adirondacks when the only people who got to enjoy them were the monied class. These belong to all of is mow, but NO we should stand by as the state decides to destroys the history of these mountains and camps instead of letting the private sector develop these “Gems” into revenue-generating places for weddings or retreats. This lodge is truly a gem of the Adirondacks. Please, please find a way and the money to save Debar Pond Lodge. It can never be rebuilt to what it once was, so save what you have for our grandkids to enjoy

    • Matthew Manning says:

      HI Donald. I believe the “gem” is also the location of the historic lodge. Would you honestly go visit those buildings if there were in the suburbs? The remote wild forest and the remote wild pond there also need protecting. The DEC/APA plans to remove the buildings, then reclassify the land as Intensive Day Use, which lowers its protections, and then finally build public use parking lots, restrooms, pavilions, grills, tables all on the footprints of the buildings. This is beyond a wasteful use of wild lands and waters. Those kind of amenities are already offered just down the road at Lake Meacham Campground and at the public picnic spot on Hogsback Road in Duane.

  19. Ellie wall says:

    It’s looking like Steve englehardt with the debar pond institute has come up with an amendment to save debar pond buildings from being destroyed. Let’s pray this amendment is passed and this group of people can get the process started to keep great camp and restore it as needed.

  20. Holly Dressel says:

    It would be criminal, both ecologically and historically, to raze the beautiful old lodge and replace it with car parks, bathing houses etc. as the state suggests. Surely we have come further in our understanding of the value of history and beauty together. The suggestion that more amenities be provided on nearby Meecham Lake is a good one; keep this place MINIMAL; a little swimming and motorless boating, fishing, gazing at its untouched glory is plenty. Those of us who enjoy the back country need nothing more than a spot to wade in or to haul out a canoe. Leave the rest to nature; the lodge itself, if it could be structurally restored, could provide lovely educational/cultural/ecological meeting place!