The director of the New York Forest Fire Lookout Association says the state Department of Environmental Conservation's cost estimates for repairing the Hurricane and St. Regis Mountain fire towers are "grossly inflated."
The DEC has said it would cost $50,000 to repair each fire tower, but Forest Fire Lookout Association Director Bill Starr says similar work has been done for much less across the state.
"Across New York State over 25 fire towers are in various stages of restoration, some projects are complete and some projects are currently on going," Starr wrote in a Sept. 24 letter sent to the state Adirondack Park Agency's Board of Commissioners. "Not a single one of these projects have cost anywhere near the DEC Region 5 estimate of $50,000."
Hurricane Mountain fire tower
(Enterprise file photo — Lou Reuter)
Starr's letter was copied to seven parties with interest in the future of the fire towers, including Gov. David Paterson, local elected state lawmakers and Local Government Review Board Executive Director Fred Monroe.
Starr also says that in 2005, the Friends of Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain completed the restoration of that peak's fire tower for a little more than $10,000. The Friends of Hurricane Mountain have already pledged $10,000 for the repairs of that tower.
"All 12 of the diagonal "X" braces on the fire tower had to be replaced with remanufactured steel parts, which were funded by historic preservation grants and private charitable donations," Starr wrote. "Ironically the 35-foot fire tower on Poke-O-Moonshine is identical to the fire towers on Hurricane and St. Regis Mountains."
The St. Regis fire tower also has a friends group that has expressed a desire to restore the structure.
The fate of the fire towers is expected to be determined at the APA's October meeting. They are currently slated for removal by the DEC, but the APA's board is still debating their futures after a request by the Local Government Review Board to do so. The towers have also received overwhelming support from the public over the past year.
In September, the APA staff recommended that the fire towers be allowed to remain but not be restored other than minor repairs to the structural integrity of them. Under that proposal, the land under them would be classified primitive. The towers would remain for an unspecified amount of time and then be removed when the DEC determined it was appropriate to do so. That decision would be made in conjunction with the APA and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
Another option, preferred by many fire tower advocates, would be to classify the land under the towers as historic and allow them to be fully restored.
The St. Regis Mountain fire tower is currently on land classified as a canoe area, which doesn't allow for fire towers. The Hurricane Mountain fire tower area is classified as primitive, which doesn't allow the structure to be restored. The intention of land classified primitive is for it to eventually become wilderness, which it would be in this case if the tower were removed.
Contact Mike Lynch at 891-2600 ext. 28 or email@example.com.