Green group: Remove hunting camp as planned

The main building of the Gooley Club, a collection of buildings on what is now state land, is seen last summer from the dock on Third Lake near Newcomb. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

More than a dozen buildings on state land near Newcomb are slated to be removed later this year, but a push from historic preservation activists has at least one environmental group pushing back, publicly pressuring the state to say buildings will be taken down as scheduled.

The Inner Gooley Club, in the Essex Chain of Lakes property overseen by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, sits on the shore of Third Lake. The club consists of a main building and numerous bunkhouses and a bathroom facility. When New York purchased the lands in 2013, the club was given five years before removal would begin.

There is also an Outer Gooley Club with a historic farmhouse, which the state plans to keep in place and use for administrative and emergency purposes until a final plan can be formed. The current controversy surrounds the Inner Gooley Club.

According to the DEC’s unit management plan for the Essex Chain, the Gooley Club lease expires on Sept. 30. The Nature Conservancy, which sold the lands to the state, built in an additional one year of allowed motorized access to the area so the buildings could be removed. After the buildings are removed, the DEC plans to build an accessible lean-to, privy and fishing access at the site.

But last year, members of the Gooley Club partnered with Adirondack Architectural Heritage and hut-to-hut consultants in an effort to prevent removal of the buildings.

During a media tour of the club last August, Steve Englehart, executive director of AARCH, said the buildings represent a type of working-class camp that is less well known than the Adirondack great camps but just as worthy of protection.

Last week, Protect the Adirondacks, an environmental group based in Lake George, called on the DEC to definitively state the buildings will be removed, despite AARCH’s efforts to get the buildings listed on the historic register.

“The campaign to save the Gooley Club is being led by historic preservation advocates, who argue that the club is one of the best representations of Adirondack hunting club and camp culture,” Protect Executive Director Peter Bauer wrote in a press release. “They argue that the public should be able to visit and experience a hunting club as some form of living museum.

“Across the Adirondack Park today, there are hundreds of active hunting camps that share the values of the Gooley Club. Many own their own lands, others lease lands like the Gooley Club did. Many are on conservation easement lands, where they can remain in perpetuity.

“Many of private hunting clubs are thriving with active memberships throughout the Adirondacks,” Bauer wrote. “Unfortunately, historic preservation groups have made no effort to research and protect these buildings and their historic values, but only look to preserve buildings on the Forest Preserve, where they do not belong.”

For its part, the state DEC’s UMP for the area includes a requirement to document the Inner Gooley Club buildings before demolition “and consider relocating one or more of the structures to the site of the Outer Gooley Club in order to ensure long term preservation.” That part of the plan was developed in conjunction with the state’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

In an email, a DEC spokesperson reiterated that documentation of the structures would be completed, as would the plans laid out in the UMP.

“DEC will continue to work with the New York State Historic Preservation Office regarding this nomination, and ensure the rich Adirondack history of the Essex Chain Lakes area is preserved as we implement our ongoing actions identified in our Unit Management Plan,” DEC spokeswoman Lori Severino wrote.

For more information on the Essex Chain of Lakes, including the full UMP, go to