Saturday, February 3, 2024

DEC seeks input to improve Camp Santanoni access via horse and wagon service

horse drawn wagon

Input Sought on Preferences, Feasibility, and Possibilities for Non-Motorized Access for People with Disabilities into Camp Santanoni in Newcomb, Essex County

Deadline for Submissions Feb. 23, 2024

On Jan. 25, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced a call for submissions for input on providing horse and wagon operations to enable people with disabilities to enjoy the historic Camp Santanoni in Newcomb, Essex County. DEC is seeking feedback on a scope of work related to providing access to the site through horse-drawn wagon, including the site, location, and frequency of service as it pertains to the capacity, ability, and availability of vendors, as well as any adjustments that can be made to improve the service.

Regional Director Joe Zalewski said, “DEC has provided horse-drawn wagon rides to Camp Santanoni for many years as a service to members of the public who may not otherwise be able to visit this historic site. This RFI will allow DEC to explore all of our options regarding this service, including learning about potential vendors, the needs and interests of the disabled community, and how we can continue to offer this accessible option in a reliable way in keeping with the character of the area.”

DEC is seeking plans and ideas that address site objectives to include access to the site for people with disabilities through horse-drawn wagon rides on the nearly 10-mile round trip trail. This provision was envisioned and described in the 2016 Camp Santanoni Historic Area Unit Management Plan. While horse-drawn wagon service to the site has been in operation for more than 20 years, this RFI seeks to improve access to people with disabilities and promote a long-term, sustainable plan to continue this service for members of the public.

Exterior of Camp Santanoni in winter time

Camp Santanoni in March of 2019. Photo by Brandon Loomis.

The Camp Santanoni Historic Area includes one of the oldest Adirondack great camps and is a unique historical treasure managed by DEC in partnership with the town of Newcomb, the Friends of Camp Santanoni, and Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH). DEC provides non-motorized access to the site in keeping with the wild character of this historic area in the Adirondack Forest Preserve. During the spring and summer months, Camp Santanoni is a popular destination and accessible by foot, mountain bike, or horse. DEC seeks to contract with private entities to provide reliable horse-drawn wagon rides along the access road to safely serve users with disabilities.

In winter months, the site offers a moderate ski or snowshoe opportunity and traditionally opens its buildings for three winter weekends each year. These weekends allow users unique winter access to the buildings, warming huts, and guided tours.

DEC partners with AARCH to manage interpretation and restoration projects at Camp Santanoni, with significant support from the town of Newcomb. AARCH was awarded a DEC-administered grant of $1 million for fire protection and assistance with site management, and $500,000 was appropriated under the Environmental Protection Fund for stewardship of State lands in both the 2023 and 2024 New York State budgets.

RFI submissions must be emailed or postmarked by Feb. 23, 2024. More information about the Camp Santanoni Historic Area and the RFI can be found on DEC’s website.

DEC also welcomes questions about this RFI process, as well as requests for a site tour to better inform submissions.

RFI Submissions, questions and site tour requests should be submitted to or to the address below:

NYSDEC, C/O Robert Ripp, Forester
Re: Santanoni RFI
1115 State Route 86, PO Box 296
Ray Brook, NY 12977-0296

Photo at top: In 2023, DEC purchased a new wagon with seats of two different sizes, supported by posts, and which can be reconfigured in the bed of the wagon. The maximum seating will accommodate 13 people in forward facing seats, five wheelchairs, or a combination thereof. Photo courtesy of the NYSDEC’s request for information document.

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Information attributed to NYSDEC is taken from press releases and news announcements from New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation.

3 Responses

  1. louis curth says:

    Santanoni is an Adirondack icon that has it all. Who could resist the glorious ,nature there, or its striking great camp architecture? Who will not be drawn to its fascinating local history or the unsolved mystery that still casts its long shadow over Newcomb Lake?

    My introduction to Santanoni came as part of the contingent of forest rangers sent there by DEC to search in July of 1971. We were all on duty to conduct one of the largest and most tragic incidents that I’ve ever participated in.

    In later years, I would re-visit Santanoni numerous times on ski trips led by my late friend and fellow environmentalist Peter Hornbeck, and sponsored by the Upper Hudson Environmental Action Committee (UHEAC). They are fond memories of good fellowship and great skiing. to be cherished.

    Whether by walking, skiing or horse drawn conveyance, Santanoni is a wonderful destination for anyone who enjoys nature, or who seeks a deeper understanding of the complex nature of our Adirondack “forever wild”. That concept is at the heart of the future of the Adirondacks, as we all try to make it work and survive in a world being reshaped – but not always improved – by human efforts to modify nature for pleasure or profit.

  2. Bob Henry says:

    We rode in on an open wooden horsedrawn wagon , jusr after the Camp opened to the public. I walk and my wife uses a folding walker/wheelchair.with large diameter‘balloon’ wheels.
    We recently returned from hiking on low gradient gravel and low gradient paved trails. They were 2 to 5 miles long with some rustic trailside benches along the way. This was in the Lauderbrunen Valley Canton Switzerland in warm Autumn Weather. No motorized vehicles. It would be great to be able to reserve seats on the wagon for returning trip, so we could absorb the wild on lakeshore or paddling in canoes or kayaks. We are kayakers who stay on the water from 4 to 8 hrs in one day.

  3. Barb says:

    Don’t allow any motors of any sort. Build a wheelchair ramp at both ends of the road, and add wheelchair latches to the current wagon. That is a reasonable accommodation.

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