Keeseville, NY – For the past three years, state legislators, local and regional government officials, state agencies, environmental and economic development groups, and others have deliberated over the future of historic Debar Pond Lodge. The 10-bedroom lodge and support buildings are located on State Forest Preserve land in the northern Adirondack town of Duane, Franklin County, and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
From July 29 to Labor Day, averaging five days a week, the non-profit organizations Adirondack Architectural Heritage and Debar Pond Institute conducted a public opinion survey on the shore of Debar Pond to ascertain public attitudes about the future of Debar Pond Lodge. (From the Almanack archive: Should Debar Pond Lodge be saved?)
A total of 239 visitors completed the survey forms, representing at least 75% of the total number of visitors those days. Respondents provided their names and hometowns. 42% came from the region, from Saranac Lake and Bloomingdale to Malone. 19% were from other Adirondack and North Country locations. 13% came from elsewhere in New York State. 26% hailed from other states and provinces.
When asked, “How does the presence of Debar Pond Lodge affect your experience at Debar Pond?” 97% of visitors said, “The building enhances the experience,” 2% said “The building detracts from the experience,” and 1% said the building “makes no difference.”
A similar 97% said they favored an outcome for Debar Pond Lodge that would, “Preserve the buildings; use the Lodge for educational programs, public lodging and tours; and allow the public to access the shoreline of Debar Pond for picnicking, swimming, paddling and hiking.” 2% preferred to “Remove all the buildings and allow the public to access the shoreline of Debar Pond for picnicking, swimming, paddling and hiking.” 1% were uncertain.
The last question described the bill currently before the New York State Legislature that would amend the state constitution to allow the State to trade six acres including Debar Pond Lodge to a non-profit organization in return for at least 400 acres of at least equal value, require the buildings to be preserved and available for a variety of public uses, protect the natural and historic character of the site, and allow the public continued access the shoreline of Debar Pond. It then asked, “Would you support this legislation?” 98% said “Yes” and 2% said “No”.
About a third of respondents wrote optional comments on their survey forms. Typical comments included: “What an amazing location”. “Hope you are able to preserve the building for everyone to enjoy.” “My family and I come here often and love swimming and fishing. The lodge is beautiful!” “Enjoyed my paddle”. “Definitely would be an extraordinary piece of history preserved.” “I love it here! The buildings are very special and add to the atmosphere.”
Commenting on the survey results, AARCH’s Executive Director Erin Tobin said, “We know that groups and individuals all across the Adirondack North Country have gone on record supporting Debar Pond Lodge’s preservation. We were delighted to see how incredibly high the support is among individual visitors who hike to Debar Pond.” Howard Kirschenbaum, President of Debar Pond Institute, the group championing the Lodge’s preservation, said, “Visitors who see the historic Lodge in its beautiful setting see how architecture and nature can be mutually enhancing. We can save and use the historic buildings and also preserve the natural setting.”
In releasing the survey results, Kirschenbaum emphasized that after the land exchange, the public will continue to be able to walk through the Debar property, alongside the historic lodge, on the most scenic approach to the lakeshore and adjoining state land. This right of way, along with dozens of other terms and conditions, is included in the most recent draft of the proposed Conservation Easement protecting Debar Pond Lodge’s historic and natural character.
This survey provides additional information for legislators and interest groups considering the future of Debar Pond Lodge.
Photo at top: Debar Pond Lodge, 2020.