Friday, October 6, 2023

Public Opinion Survey Supports Debar Lodge

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.

Related Stories

Community news stories come from press releases and other notices from organizations, businesses, state agencies and other groups. Submit your contributions to Almanack Editor Melissa Hart at

30 Responses

  1. Dan Way says:

    The survey makes the idea of preserving and utilizing the facilities a no-brainer, just as it was with Santanoni and other historical sites. One can only hope that the State will do the right thing and proceed with the plan to trade the site for undeveloped land, which would be a win-win situation.

    • Steve B. says:

      They would need to cough up a lot of money to renovate and turn into a museum for rich people’s summer camps. Then they need to staff it. I’m not seeing the state wanting that expenditure. I’d sooner see them increase funding for additional DEC Rangers.

      • Susan says:

        I am assuming that the Debar Pond Institute, a private group, would own and manage the site, not the State.

      • Marc Wanner says:

        The state definitely needs to increase funding for rangers. But the Debar Institute would handle the costs you’re worrying about. And a whole lot of folks enjoy Debar Lodge who are not rich summer camp owners.

        • Steve B. says:

          That’s good to hear that there’s a non-profit that wants the facility, and I was referring to the camps original purpose as a summer camp for the wealthy, not current wealthy users.

        • Todd Eastman says:

          The Debar Pond Institute’s maintenance of structures would likely be funded through annual NYS Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) appropriations. The EPF is taxpayer funded…

  2. upstater says:

    The headline is misleading. The “public” encompasses more than visitors to Debar Lodge. “Visitors to Debar Lodge Support its Preservation” is more accurate. Having said that, I support its removal and not a swap.

    • Dana says:

      I agree the title was poorly worded and the study has limited validity. Kinda like polling people in a movie theater and asking them if they like movies. The public is another matter altogether.

  3. Scot Slater says:

    Just take down the lodge, so the beautiful lake setting can be enjoyed. Simple

    • Marc Wanner says:

      Have you ever been there? The beautiful lake setting can be enjoyed with the building there. Ever been to Santanoni Preserve? The public has full access there to the lake AND the wonderful historic buildings.

      • I have never been there, Marc, but I have been to Santanoni, and I thought it was wonderful! I agree that this lovely lodge should be preserved, and there would probably be good uses found such as for the veterans. The problem I see with tearing down a building like this is that, once it is gone, regrets won’t bring it back—it will be gone forever. Bill Distin may not be as renowned as Coulter, but as time goes on, his buildings probably will be more and more valued.

  4. Smitty says:

    I continue to be suspicious of just how much access the public would have. The way the survey was worded, it makes it sound like the non-lodge staying public would have as full access as those paying to stay there. So of course most favored leaving the lodge. But still I wonder.

  5. Todd Eastman says:

    Bull snit survey…

    … captured audience, not worth a damn.

    • Pat Smith says:

      Six acres and a building that is on the National Register of Historic Places, there are trail head parking lots bigger than that. Oh wait, if it’s not for hikers, paddlers or bikers exclusively, the rest of you be damned.

  6. Paul Kietzman says:

    When and by whom were these buildings constructed?

  7. Mary says:

    The truth is that very few new yorkers will ever visit. Might make more sense to demolish. But if private interest group wants to use it for donors, it goes against the idea of forest preserve. Seems like it would be used as a wedding venue or rental, even under hands of non- profit.

  8. Lorraine Duvall says:

    What does this part of the questionnaire mean? “and allow the public to access the shoreline of Debar Pond for picnicking, swimming, paddling and hiking.” The public now has full access to the shoreline and its surroundings. Limiting the ability of all to savor this gem would be a shame.

  9. Teresa Whalen says:

    I applaud Howard Kirschenbaum, Steven Engelhart, and now Erin Tobin, collectively Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH), for preserving the built environment within the Adirondack Park. As a resident of the Adirondack Park for almost 40 years, I feel that these “Great Camps” are a very unique part of our culture. Santanoni is a wonderful example of how these properties enhance the Adirondack experience. Remember, we are not a National Park, we are a State Park, where for over 130 years people and natural have co-existed. I, for one, am very thankful that both our natural and historic resources are being preserved. To say that this land is “Forever Wild”, is to erase the generations of people who were born, raised and lived in harmony with the land. Yes, our beauty attracts visitors who appreciate all the Adirondacks have to offer. Destroying our culture that only enhances the experience and enriches our lives would be unthinkable. Working together is always the best solution.

  10. Bobo Jones says:

    Smitty asks a good question. Just how will general public be provided access to the pond? What about ADA access for general public? I am afraid this will be run just like Great Camp Sagamore. Not exactly general public friendly unless you have a lot of money. This will be a private operation trying to create a unique experience for those lucky few who can pay for it that the general public will not have to make it work. Remove this fake log structure and open to all as the original plan intended.

  11. Jeanne says:

    Take it down. Needs too much work! Concentrate on adding additional Rangers. We need them desparetly! Theses kind of questionaires to people walking Debar do not fit with reality in the Adirondacks.

  12. Tom Paine says:

    Another NYS land trade deal. No way. The Adirondack villages, towns and counties have already been screwed over enough. If the NYS Environmental looby wants it let them buy it. They have millions.

  13. Raymond Budnick says:

    The “Lodge” is so quintessentially Adirondacks, that it boggles the mind to even think that there is consideration for removal!
    Whenever there is doubt about an irreplaceable structure, we should always err on the side of preservation, until such a time that the future direction becomes clear and evident.

  14. Boreas says:

    I think NYS needs to determine if this is considered a “Great Camp”, or if it is just a nice structure built in that style. It is not from the classic Great Camp period. I have seen rest areas built in the Great Camp style – it doesn’t make them historic. I personally can’t see taxpayers paying to restore/maintain a structure because it is “Adirondacky”. If the lodge has a significant history or obvious potential function that is obvious, then we should consider keeping the structure into the future. Think MacNaughton Cottage at Upper Works. Certainly no Great Camp, but significant history.

    • Todd Eastman says:

      It is listed in the National Historic Register as being only of “Local Significance”, the lowest level of the categories of significance (State, National, and International). As it was built in the 1940s, its well outside of the realm of other great camp buildings from the previous century.

      This structure is a monument to what enough money can re-create to impress people…

      … year round maintenance of summer buildings is a money pit.

      • Boreas says:


        We should all be reminded of the VIC center fiascos. Great idea, great buildings/property, much taxpayer treasure spent, but dropped like hot potatoes by NYS during the first financial/funding crisis only a few years after they were built. NYS has never had a great track record WRT maintaining historic structures in the Park.

        I am not saying the lodge needs to be torn down – I don’t have a dog in the fight – but I am not sure NYS/taxpayers should be the ultimate guardian if the structure is saved. AARCH or similar private concerns may be a better option if taxpayers decide to keep it.

    • Paul says:

      I trust Historic Saranac Lake on this. Many folks there thinks it is historically significant. They have the expertise.

      In fact the idea here may be that it is different from some of the other “Great Camps” and is a good example of a more modest camp in an area that is just classified as Wild Forest. This isn’t like asking to keep something in an envelope of a Wilderness Parcel?

      But again it is already in the works and smarter people are on the case! I defer to them.

      • Boreas says:

        I understand this. But at what point should NYS taxpayers pay for maintaining a local landmark in the FP? I suppose it is done all of the time elsewhere in the state, but does that make it right in this context? Virtually every structure that has been razed/dismantled/moved upon NYS acquisition of the property into the FP was locally historic to some degree. Who decides – and when?

        I don’t have an issue with keeping this structure in place, I just have an issue with who should be paying for its conservation into the future. Would moving it to a different location on land other than the FP be an option?

        IMO, the main reason for the state acquisition was for the land, not the structures. This is a basic flaw in the FP acquisition process. Once acquisitions are part of the FP, they have to comply with the FP policy currently in place.

    • Paul says:

      Historic SL has a Wiki on this you can just do a google search. All the information on the pond and the lodge, the architect, etc. and its history is all there.

  15. Paul says:

    Why are we talking about this like it isn’t something that is already on the legislative docket? This is why we elect people to represent us, so we can do other things..

    Just see how the votes go.

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *