The state’s effort to intervene in the trespassing case against Adirondack Explorer editor Phil Brown hurts private property owners, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit argued early last week.
“This case is asking the court to say, basically, ‘Have canoe, will travel,’” said Dennis Phillips, the Glens Falls attorney representing the Friends of Thayer Lake and the Brandreth Park Association. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Explorer has set up a legal defense fund to raise money to fight a lawsuit filed by private landowners who claim I trespassed when I canoed through their property.
As a small nonprofit publication, we operate on a shoestring and will have to struggle to pay all the costs associated with a court case that could last two or three years. Given the principle at stake, however, it’s imperative that we not back down. We have hired Glens Falls attorney John Caffry, an expert in this field of law, to represent us. The decision in this case could define paddlers’ rights throughout the Adirondacks and the rest of New York state. If the case reaches the state’s highest court, it may even influence judges in other parts of the country.
The Explorer and the landowners have starkly different views of the common-law right of navigation. In brief, our contention is that the public has an age-old right to paddle through private property on navigable waterways that can be legally accessed and exited. The other side contends that the common law applies only to waterways that have a history of commercial use (such as log drives).
If you’re a paddler, the implications of the landowners’ claims should give you pause. Most rivers in the Adirondacks and elsewhere in the state flow through private land at some point. If you paddle much, you probably have been on some of them. Do you know their commercial history? Should your right to paddle these rivers depend on whether or not logs were floated down them in the 1800s? What if the commercial history of a river is unknown?
If you’d like to learn more about the legal arguments, click here to find copies of the landowners’ complaint and our answer. You also will find links to some of the stories we’ve published on navigation rights.
Meantime, if you care about paddlers’ rights, please consider contributing to our legal defense fund. Click here to find out how. Donations are tax-deductible.
We need your support. Please let your friends know too.
A few days ago, the Brandreth Park Association filed a lawsuit against me, alleging that I trespassed when I canoed through private land last year on my way to Lake Lila.
As part of the suit, the association is asking the New York State Supreme Court to declare that the waterways in question—Mud Pond, Mud Pond Outlet, and Shingle Shanty Brook—are not open to the public.
I did my two-day trip last May, starting at Little Tupper Lake and ending at Lake Lila, and wrote about it for the Adirondack Explorer. Click here to read that story.
I believe the common-law right of navigation allows the public to paddle the three waterways even though they flow through private land. The state Department of Environmental Conservation—as well as several legal experts I consulted—support my position. In September, DEC wrote to the association’s attorney, Dennis Phillips, and asserted that the waterways are open under the common law. The department also asked the association to remove cables and no-trespassing signs meant to keep the public out. Click here to read about DEC’s decision. But the landowners are not backing down. They served me with the complaint in the lawsuit at the Explorer office on Tuesday.
The legal papers do not mention DEC’s decision. We have reported previously that the department and the association disagree over whether a waterway must have a history of commercial use to be subject to the right of navigation. The association contends that Shingle Shanty and the other two waterways have no such history, so they are not open to the public.
The department maintains that if a waterway has the capacity for trade or travel, and if it meets other necessary criteria (such as legal access), then it is open to the public. Furthermore, DEC says recreational use can demonstrate this capacity.
If the Mud Pond-to-Shingle Shanty route is open to the public, paddlers traveling from Little Tupper to Lake Lila will be able to avoid a 0.75-mile portage. That certainly would be a boon. But the larger question is whether the public has the right to paddle waterways that connect parcels of public land, public lakes, or other legal access points. After all, how many rivers in the Adirondacks and elsewhere in the state pass through private land at times? I’m guessing a lot.
The Adirondack Explorer has been publishing for more than eleven years. Our primary mission is to educate people about environmental issues facing the Adirondack Park, but as our readers know, we also have a strong interest in outdoor recreation.
Actually, it’s impossible to separate environmental issues from recreation. Many debates in the Adirondacks pit muscle-powered recreationists against advocates of motorized access. The Explorer has run numerous stories that reflect the divide over motorized use. We’ve delved into such controversies as: Should all-terrain vehicles be allowed on the Forest Preserve? Should more waterways be declared motor-free? Should old woods roads be open to vehicles? Should the Adirondack Scenic Railroad corridor be converted into a bike path? Should floatplanes be allowed on wilderness lakes? Should tractor-groomers be allowed on snowmobile trails?
Although we always try to get both sides of every story, we cannot deny that we at the Explorer prefer non-motorized recreation as more environmentally friendly. This is not to say that motorized recreation does not have a place in the Park. The debates are over where motorized use is appropriate.
Every issue of the Explorer features several first-person accounts of muscle-powered recreation: hiking, paddling, cross-country skiing, rock climbing, biking, snowshoeing. We’ve published hundreds of such stories over the years, and they’ve proven quite popular with readers looking for new places to explore.
We’ve collected some of these stories in the anthologies Wild Excursions and Wild Times, but now we have begun putting them online as well, where you can read them for free.
The brand-new Adirondack Explorer Adventure Planner is a unique online resource that allows you to search for recreational stories by sport and region. If you select “Hiking,” for example, you will get a list of stories split among six regions in the Park. Select a particular region, say “Southern,” and you’ll see all the hiking stories for that part of the Park.
The Adventure Planner has been in the works for months, but we’re not done. Although it’s complete enough to show the public, we plan to add more content and features in the weeks, months, and years ahead. We also want to fix whatever bugs arise and make the site as useful and user-friendly as possible.
This is where the readers of Adirondack Almanack come in. Please visit the Adventure Planner and let us know what you think of the site and how we could improve it. You can post comments here or send an e-mail to me at [email protected]
Click here to visit the site. We look forward to hearing from you.
Photo: The Cedar River Flow by Phil Brown. Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorernewsmagazine.
Monday was hot, but I barely noticed. I spent most of the day paddling on Hatch Brook and the Salmon River in the northern Adirondacks.
When it’s too hot to climb a mountain, I often get out my canoe and take advantage of outdoor air conditioning: cool breezes blowing over the water. If the breezes falter, I can always jump in the water.
It looks like we’re in for a string of hot days this week. And no doubt we’ll have other scorchers in the weeks ahead. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of links to paddling stories from the Adirondack Explorer to help you beat the heat. In the latest issue of the Explorer, Brian Mann writes about kayaking to the little-visited Schuyler Island on Lake Champlain.
In the May/April issue, I wrote about canoeing on the Deer River Flow, a scenic piece of flatwater north of Meacham Lake.
In an earlier issue, Publisher Tom Woodman described a trip down the Jessup River and Indian Lake.
Last year, Dick Beamish, the magazine’s founder, paddled up Lower Saranac Lake and down the Saranac River, nearly circumnavigating Dewey Mountain in the process.
If you’re into whitewater, check out Mal Provost’s suggestions for novice and intermediate river runs.
And if you’re still looking for other ideas, check out my Adirondack recreation blog, where I describe fourteen paddling trips–with more to come. Scroll down to find a list of all the trips in the right-hand column.
Please join me in welcoming Phil Brown of Saranac Lake as a new contributor to Adirondack Almanack. Phil has been the editor of the nonprofit Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, since 1999. He is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing, all experiences that will no doubt inform his his weekly posts here at the Almanack. Phil’s work will appear mostly on Monday afternoons, but occasionally at other times as well. Brown is also the owner of Lost Pond Press, which has published Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings, Adirondack Birding by Gary N. Lee and John M.C. Peterson, and Within a Forest Dark, a prize-winning novel by Michael Virtanen.
Regular readers of Adirondack Almanack know that the site has been growing dramatically over the past year with the addition of a dozen new contributors. In contributing to the Almanack, Phil Brown will be joining quite a stable of outstanding local writers: longtime local journalists Mary Thill and Lake George Mirror publisher Anthony Hall, experienced local naturalists Ellen Rathbone and Brian McAllister, paddling guru Don Morris, local inquiring family writer Diane Chase, outdoors writers Alan Wechsler and Kevin MacKenzie, local music contributors Shamim Allen and Nate Pelton, and local politics sketch commentator Mark Wilson. Our complete list of contributors is located at the lower right side of the page.
Cairns, the rock pyramids that hikers amass to show the way across treeless summits, are turning up in other Adirondack settings — as memorials, as anonymous art, and as markers of unknown significance.
When Howard “Mac” Fish II died on a trail by Lake Placid on a summer day a few years ago, his family piled stones at the place where he fell. Today the mound stands taller than ever, thanks in part to the superstition that it’s bad luck for a hiker to pass a cairn without adding at least a pebble. Every time I set a new stone I remember the Reverend Fish, who married and blessed many friends in his lifetime and still seems to give guidance through this monument. Ancient cultures are said to have used cairns similarly, to mark burial sites. At the Wild Center’s opening ceremony in Tupper Lake in 2006 the staff asked attendees each to bring a stone to start a cairn at the entrance to its trail system. “So many people helped make the Wild Center a reality and we want everyone to have a part in the monument,” then executive director Betsy Lowe said at the time. The Wild Center’s cairn is atypical in that it includes rocks not just from the immediate area (one came from the Great Wall of China), and the foundation was built by a stonesmith, Mike Donah of Tupper Lake. Most trail cairns are more haphazard and assembled by many hands over many years.
The cute stone statues that popped up beside Route 73 between the Ski Jumps and the Adirondak Loj Road this year are little more than sand paintings, sure to be knocked over by snowplows if they haven’t toppled already.
On a trip around Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula last fall we saw inunnguaqs: cairns in human form for miles along the coastline near the Irish Memorial national historic site. Adirondack granite breaks rounder than the rock up there and is not so well suited to simulating arms and legs, so our cairns are usually pyramidal.
This spring Adirondack Life ran a beautiful photo feature on summit cairns, by aptly named photographer Stewart Cairns, followed shortly by an essay on “Zen and the Art of Cairns” in the July Adirondack Explorer by publisher Tom Woodman. Woodman wonders about the unnamed makers of rock-piles in a field near his Keene home as well as the sculptors whose work guides the hiker: “Even the simple trail-marking cairns embody values worth reflecting on. We place our trust in them and whoever stacked them as we scramble from one to the other. Maybe we can feel a sense of community and solidarity with those who came before us. Surely, if through mistake or mischief, a set of cairns would lead us over a cliff, someone would have set things right by the time we got there. We look out for each other.”
Photograph of children adding stones to the Wild Center cairn in Tupper Lake.
Saranac Lake has an inside man in the former Soviet republic of Georgia at a time when the country’s conflict with Russia remains intense and political opposition is taking to the streets in a bid to oust president Mikheil Saakashvili.
Jacob Resneck, who worked three years here as a reporter for WNBZ, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, NCPR, the Press-Republican, Adirondack Life and the Adirondack Explorer, departed in February to hitch-hike and couch-surf his way across Europe and Asia, gaining entree into local culture with gifts of Adirondack maple candy. His route has taken him into Ukraine, Armenia, Abkhazia, Transinistria and Nagorno-Karabakh. “Admittedly, I’ve developed somewhat of a penchant for quasi-independent nation states,” the native northern Californian and erstwhile Adirondacker writes on his blog, jacobresneck.com.
With local journalism students acting as interpreters, Resneck is reporting in Georgia for Free Speech Radio News. The informal dispatches on his blog are available to all of us and give insight into life in some complicated places.
Resneck plans to move on in May to Turkey and then India, where we trust that his talent for friendship and train-hopping will serve him well. We’ll follow his writing with interest.
The Adirondack Almanack is a public forum dedicated to promoting and discussing current events, history, arts, nature and outdoor recreation and other topics of interest to the Adirondacks and its communities
We publish commentary and opinion pieces from voluntary contributors, as well as news updates and event notices from area organizations. Contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The information, views and opinions expressed by these various authors are not necessarily those of the Adirondack Almanack or its publisher, the Adirondack Explorer.
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