Friday, May 17, 2024

Great Camp Santanoni access: What should next steps be?

woman in a motorized wheelchair on an outdoor trail
WAGON UPDATE: While the horse-drawn wagon rides at Great Camp Santanoni are starting up again this year, the state is also considering other alternatives to provide people with disabilities access to the Great Camp site.
Adirondack Park Agency and state Department of Environmental Conservation staff met with members of the APA and DEC’s accessibility advisory committee. They discussed “any viable options that provide meaningful access” to the Great Camp, according to the agenda. The meeting was closed to the public and included remarks from Interim DEC Commissioner Sean Mahar, who participated virtually. Read more about the discussion here.
One of the ideas is to create a free loan of motorized wheelchairs like the one pictured here.
What do you think should be done? Should the road be reclassified to allow for motorized use?
Photo at top: The Rig, by Not a Wheelchair, was purchased by the state and is planned to be loaned for use at Great Camp Santanoni. Photo from Not a Wheelchair and state Department of Environmental Conservation

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Melissa is a journalist with experience as a reporter and editor with the Burlington Free Press, Ithaca Journal and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. She worked as a communications specialist for the Adirondack North Country Association and is currently digital editor for Adirondack Explorer, overseeing both the Explorer's website and its community forum the Adirondack Almanack. She enjoys hiking, camping and other outdoors activities, and spending time with her husband, their twin daughters, and rescue animals -- two dogs and two cats.

14 Responses

  1. Bill says:

    I’m all for increasing access to this magnificent camp. My only concern with the horses is the abundant scat they leave all over the trail. It makes it difficulty for cyclists, walkers and runners and the nutrient load can’t be good for the streams abutting the path. Cities have found ways to deal with this. I don’t see why we can’t as well. But yes, let’s make the camp available to as many as possible.

    • SIRod says:

      I guess the deer scat and bear scat and ever other animals in these woods are an issue also. Let’s use the city’s way of dealing with this issue and get rid of them all. I’ll play both sides of this I’ve been in this discussion before I’m all for everyone getting to see this magnificent place BUT it’s not truly ADA accessible there no level ground. The buildings doorway’s and saddles are not ideal for wheelchairs. I was back there with a wonderful woman in a wheelchair who was not with my party but I spent much of my tour helping her navigate the building doorways. In which I did without hesitation and would do every day. I often thought if I wasn’t there what would her party have done So where do you draw the line. It sucks but there are limitations.

    • Pat Smith says:

      Horse “scat” consists of entirely plant matter due to the fact that horses are herbivores. Should we also be concerned about all the carnivores and omnivores and their impact on the nutrient load of streams throughout the state?The “trail ” to Santanoni is certainly wide enough to easily avoid any “scat”. Be honest, you just don’t want to be inconvenienced by having to keep an eye out for any obstacles on the road.
      PS gardeners will tell you that horse manure makes excellent fertilizer.

      • Bill says:

        Actually if it wasn’t all over I wouldn’t have brought it up. At peak season it is very hard to avoid. I’m aware of its composition and the analogy to wild animals is a weak one given that their scat is spread over a large and varied area rather than a popular recreation trail. I am also aware that this is a horse trail, however prior to the regular wagon trips along this one 5 mile stretch it was never a problem. I enjoy seeing the horses and even the wagon rides but something should be done about the amount of manure they are leaving behind.

        • nathan says:

          agree that later in the season the roadway becomes cover with manure, something as simple as a angled horse draw rake to clear trail once in awhile by the very person running the wagons should be required or fined/banned…they are responsible for the mess and rightly should clear to the sides. maybe some wheel barrels and put on his front porch in Newcomb?

          He makes a profit and mess, be responsible!!!

      • Boreas says:

        Horse apples can also contain invasive plant species. Certified feed should be an important consideration, not an afterthought.

  2. Tim says:

    Quiet, non-motorized access is one of the reasons Camp Santanoni is so special. What worries me are the number of people I see abusing handicapped permits. Many of these people could ride the existing wagon.

  3. christine duffy says:

    Non disabled people can get in their car, use their legs to go for a walk in the woods and have a quality of life experience with nature. Mobility impaired people need a permit to go to the park and camp to use a device suited for their legs to experience nature. It’s sad that there are so many non disabled people deciding how the legs of disabled can and cannot be used when it is truly the opposite that non disabled people are deciding what non disabled people want and will not allow. Far too often, non disabled people say, “of course, we want disabled to be included” then the able bodied state their objections, the disabled can use a horse is suitable. Then someone else will complain about the horse. Discrimination is a wolf in sheep’s skin. Non disabled people should be standing up (pun intended) and demanding equality for ADK use for people with disabilities. When you see a restroom in disrepair, broken items at camp sites, lacking disabled accommodations on trails or site use, be an advocate not a gatekeeper. All you need to do is send an email that you saw a problem that would not work for a person with a disability. It only takes a minute to help the disabled. If you commit to one minute a year that will change New York.

  4. Smitty says:

    Is there some sort of legal requirement to even provide wheelchair access, when a horse driven wagon isn’t good enough? Can you have wheel chairs available at Santanoni for people coming from the wagon, similar to on and off a jetway? What about the bottom of the Grand Canyon or the top of Algonquin? I’m all for accessibility but maybe there are just some places or situations where it isn’t practical.

    • christine duffy says:

      This is a great post. The issue in my opinion, the environmentalists do not seem to want any motorized devices including those devices needed by people with disabilities and in their lobbying, the NYSDEC came up w/horse that was never a solution to disabled but kept environmentalists happy. The sports recreation groups seem to be chomping at the bit waiting for disabled to have motorized devices under the if you let disabled people use a motor then we can use our atvs and snowmobiles. Other states have addressed this Trojan Horse nonsense while meeting the Federal ADA on motorized vehicles issuing laws allowing disabled mobility impaired to use mobility assistive devices defining this term to include the Federal motorized vehicles law for disabled. But not the NYSDEC they are keeping the fight alive between disabled/environmentalists/sports vehicles associations by not adopting the term mobility assisted devices which would say the devices are to be solely used by disabled for mobility. So, it seems to me, the sports associates are chomping at the bit waiting for disabled to be allowed to use motorized thus opening the door for their atvs and snowmobiles while the environmentalists are saying in my opinion, no motorized mobility devices because if we say yes to disabled we have to say yes to atvs/snowmobiles. Discrimination is a wolf in sheeps clothing. To your post, Smitty, there are other all terrain wheelchairs that are used elsewhere in NY and the United States that the NYSDEC will not allow and this is as if they and other non disabled have decided how our legs should be used which is egregious. There are parks in the US, that have all terrain Jeeps retrofitted with a lift to help disabled be included, there are disability shuttles, there are golf carts. I have been to the Grand Canyon as a person w/a mobility disability and found the NPS to inclusive. They were willing to offer accommodations everywhere we went. I did not miss out on anything zat the GC. The issue is that Camp Santanoni should have been accessible but they chose solutions in my opinion, for the environmentalists (the horse) not for people with actual disabilities (that cannot get up on or transfer in and out of carts) and have shut out disabled for over ten years. It will take the meeting of the minds and hearts between environmentalists and sports recreation associations and the non disabled to allow disabled to be included in the ADK. The meeting of the minds does not appear to be happening. because your last sentence speaks the non disabled mantra that I hear everyday, “I’m all for accessibility but …. fill in the blank: a) nothing that emits a sound even if disabled need it; B)maybe there are just some places or situations where it isn’t practical or C. see, I can’t put what I hear from nondisabled in print.

    • Boreas says:

      Don’t conflate ADA requirements for buildings and creating new public spaces with federal/state/and local efforts to extend accessability into “wild” spaces. One is a legal requirement, the other simply initiatives attempting to extend access where reasonably practical – typically considered on a case-by-case basis, if considered at all.

      • christine duffy says:

        No one is conflating the ADA. new spaces/bldgs ADA applies. Existing spaces also have ADA requirements such as accessibility in public settings. Where it is reasonably practical, yes ADA applies for example, if you have visited Saratoga parks have been update for handicapped inclusion. No one in the disability community seem to be asking for anything outside norm it is in my opinion the non disabled community that want to use the ADK in a manner that conflicts with the environment. All we want to do is use the parks. I had hoped that one person in this thread would reflect on the articel ask why did the NYSDEC pick the device disabled need for their legs and feet? Does the NYSDEC and APA tell non disabled what shoes to wear to the ADK? Do disabled tell us we can’t use the park? Why does the NYSDEC make disabled get a paermit to use the park for needing to ambulate in the park? So why are we harming the disabled?

        • Boreas says:

          Are you saying all parts of the Adirondacks are required legally to be handicap accessible just because they are public spaces? What about Santanoni Peak? You have to look at each SLMP classification for the usage allowed in that area.

          Camp Santanoni is miles into the woods and exists as an exception to DEC regulations against non-conforming structures. It is hardly comparable to Saratoga. Luckily CS was saved – but just barely. It was falling down while DEC struggled with how to deal with it. The horse-drawn wagon has been a good compromise considering the existing SLMP requirements.

          The reason the DEC “makes” the disabled get permits to enter some areas restricted to vehicles is the same reason people need a license or tag on their vehicle to use a restricted parking spot in town. If you don’t, everyone will use them. Unfortunately, people aren’t very honest or trustworthy.

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