October 18, 2013 - On Tuesday, November 5, New York voters will weigh in on two Constitutional amendments authorizing land swaps that involve public Forest Preserve lands inside the Adirondack Park. Today I’d like to highlight Proposition 4, which would allow permanent public access to a scenic Adirondacks river and resolve a long-standing property ownership dispute between the state and 200 landowners in the town of Long Lake in Hamilton County.
For years, both the private owners and the state have asserted that they own certain lands in Hamilton County. If approved by voters, the amendment will allow the landowners to pay an agreed upon fee to remain where they are. In return for the settlement, New York State would receive a nearby parcel that will be permanently added to the forest preserve.
By giving up its claim to the disputed parcels, the state will incorporate land into the forest preserve that will benefit the public more than the disputed parcels themselves. That’s where this amendment relates to OSI.
The land that the state has tentatively identified is the historic Marion River Carry tract, which OSI purchased in late 2012. The parcel includes pristine forestlands along the Marion River, portions of the Utowana Lake shore, and the river carry—a canoe portage that connects Raquette Lake with Utowana Lake, Eagle Lake and Blue Mountain Lake.
For more than a century, paddlers have used the river carry trail as a portage around rapids in the Marion River to Utowana Lake. It’s an important link in one of the Adiron-dack Park’s most popular canoe routes, and is also an often-used offshoot of the historic Northern Forest Canoe Trail, which runs for 740 miles from Old Forge, New York to Fort Kent, Maine.
Last year, OSI stepped in and purchased the property when a plan to develop the parcel was made public. Development on the tract would have limited the public’s recreational access, and when word spread about the possibility it drew fierce opposition from local residents.
OSI’s acquisition protected the route for public use and preserved a vital attraction for local tourism, the number one employer in the Adirondacks.
If the public passes Proposition 4, the amendment will add this historic treasure—more than 300 acres of forever wild Forest Preserve—to the public lands of the Adirondack Park, at no cost to taxpayers.
We think Prop 4 will bring a fair ending to more than a century’s worth of expensive and often fruitless lawsuits over land ownership claims. In the tiny hamlet of Raquette Lake—also known as “Township 40”—it will permit 200 families, a public elementary school, a volunteer firehouse and a local marina to feel secure in their homes and property without the constant threat of a lawsuit hanging over them. And it will permanently add beloved recreational lands to the Adirondack Park for all to use and enjoy.
For these reasons, OSI and a number of its partners in the Adirondacks all supported the proposal when it was considered by the state Legislature. Now, New York voters will have their say on November 5.