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New uses for Camp Gabriels explored

Brewery, Native education site, vets cemetery are possibilities

August 12, 2011
By NATHAN BROWN and JESSICA COLLIER - Staff Writers , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

An Adirondack brewer plans to make a pitch to Sierra Nevada today to put the beer company's new East Coast brewery in Lake Placid and Gabriels instead of Tennessee.

Ken Tucker, a Saratoga County resident who has been working to get breweries to locate in the Adirondacks and has looked at the former Camp Gabriels prison before, told the Enterprise Thursday he plans to propose that Sierra Nevada locate its main brewery at the former Upstate Biotech site in Lake Placid. Camp Gabriels, he suggested, could be the site of an affiliated brewing school.

This is one of several reuses different people and groups are exploring for the former minimum-security prison. Doug George, a Mohawk writer and activist from Central New York, has been exploring the possibility of putting a Native American educational institution there. And U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, wrote a letter to state officials a couple of months ago supporting Robert St. Maur's idea to establish a state-operated veterans' cemetery on the grounds.

There have been no formal proposals to buy the camp since it closed in 2009. The state has put it up for auction twice but received no bids either time.

Tucker thinks the Adirondacks, which have plentiful supplies of pure water and are close to major markets such as Montreal, New York City and Boston, would be an ideal location for a craft brewery.

Sierra Nevada is currently looking at siting in eastern Tennessee. Tucker said Thursday he thinks the Adirondacks would be a better fit culturally, given the area's environmental focus and many hiking trails, which he compared to Sierra Nevada's main location in Chico, Calif.

Tucker also said Sierra Nevada is a "green" company, which would fit better here than in Tennessee, where coal mining is a major industry. Also, he said, many counties in the South still have laws banning the sale of alcohol.

Tucker said he doesn't think Sierra Nevada will change its plans. However, he said, he has been in contact with other brewers and would like to see one of them locate at Camp Gabriels.

"Camp Gabriels is still very much on my mind, either included into an operation like this or independent - have somebody just take the site (and) develop it as a brewery or destination location," Tucker said. "I got other guys, but Sierra Nevada is at the top of the list. I really don't want to see them go to Tennessee."


Native American center

Sue Mayer of Rainbow Lake, who chairs the Redevelopment Citizens Committee that has been examining potential reuses for the property, said George contacted her last spring about possibly touring the 92-acre property. However, she said she never received a proposal, and she learned of the details of George's idea when contacted by North Country Public Radio, which first reported on the proposal Wednesday.

George, who did not return calls from the Enterprise by press time, said at a writers' conference in Ticonderoga last week that he hopes to set up a school, in partnership with Syracuse University, for people interested in learning about Native American culture, language and heritage. The Hiawatha Institute for Indigenous Knowledge, a nonprofit group affiliated with SU, would run the school in Gabriels.

Mayer said the idea "sounded very interesting, but a lot of people, in the beginning, approached us with various ideas, and we weren't sure how serious people were. We always helped arrange tours of the facility with the state, anyone who's contacted us who was interested in touring it."

George has also been in talks with state Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, whose district includes the former prison.

"He has a lot of different ideas," Little said. "They could certainly some activity there and create some jobs. I'm waiting for them to make a proposal ... and bid on the property."

George told NCPR he doesn't yet have funding for the project and hopes Native American groups will pitch in.

Town Supervisor John Quenell said he hasn't heard from George.

"We're certainly open-minded, and willing and hopeful that some use can be put to Camp Gabriels that'll be agreeable to the community and beneficial to all concerned," Quenell said.


Veteran cemetery

Bonnie Stewart, who heads the Franklin County Veterans Services Agency, told the Franklin County Board of Legislators last week that retired Chief Master Sgt. Robert St. Maur is pushing to locate a cemetery for veterans in the North Country. With information St. Maur gave him, Owens wrote a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo asking him to consider this use for Camp Gabriels, noting that there are more than 43,000 veterans in the North Country who he says are deserving of a cemetery to honor their service.

"These men and women have dedicated, in many cases, many years of their lives to our country, and I think that it is fitting that they and their family members have the opportunity to be buried in a cemetery that is in or is near a community in which they have resided for many years so as to facilitate their family members being able to visit the grave in subsequent years," Owens wrote in the letter.

A veterans cemetery requires 25 to 30 acres, according to Owens' letter.

New York doesn't currently have a state-operated veterans cemetery, "and for many people, this represents a real failure on the part of the New York state government," Owens wrote.

Owens asks for Cuomo to connect St. Maur with someone to discuss the idea with, saying the man has spoken with a number of state officials, "all of whom have responded in the negative, if you will, to this proposal.

"I'm writing because I believe that this opportunity is not only extraordinary, but appropriate," Owens wrote.

Stewart asked the Franklin County legislators for a resolution supporting the idea, but Legislator Paul Maroun, R-Tupper Lake, said there were some other ideas in the works for Gabriels, and he wanted to wait to see what panned out before supporting this one specifically.

"It'd be a great idea, but let's just see," Maroun said.

Little said she has been working to establish a state veterans' cemetery somewhere in this area. The state would operate it, and the state and federal government would both fund it. Little credited Steven Bowman, director of veterans' services in Clinton County, with starting the push for it.

"We have since talked to Clinton County (about) finding a large enough piece of property," Little said. "A piece of property that everyone agrees on is always a challenge. If everyone agreed, (Gabriels) would be fine, too, although ... it doesn't create an awful lot of activity. What we need there is activity and jobs."

Both Mayer and Quenell said they hadn't heard anything about the cemetery proposal for Gabriels.

The state Office of General Services has received no proposals for the property. According to Mayer, Quenell will meet with new OGS Commissioner RoAnne Destito soon to discuss the future marketing of the property.

"We want the state to continue to give Camp Gabriels attention, and come up with some new ideas for marketing the property," Mayer said.



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