Groups join in effort to save historic club

The main lodge of the Gooley Club, on the shore of Third Lake near Newcomb, is seen Friday. The state plans to tear down the lodge and adjacent buildings, but a group has formed to save the camp’s buildings as part of a hut to hut initiative. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

NEWCOMB — A trio of unlikely allies has joined forces to lobby the state to save a group of buildings in the central Adirondacks.

Members of the private hunting club, the Gooley Club, have partnered with Adirondack Hamlets to Huts and Adirondack Architectural Heritage in an effort to convince the state to preserve about a dozen buildings that now reside on state land.

The Gooley Club, which has been in existence in its current incarnation since the 1940s, formerly leased land for the club from the Finch-Pruyn wood products company. However, the land the club is on, which follows the shore of Third Lake in the Essex Chain of lakes, was sold to the state a few years ago and became part of the Essex Chain Primitive Area.

The unit management plan for the area calls for the buildings of the club to be removed after the club’s lease expires on Sept. 30 2018, but the coalition has formed with a new plan to try and save the buildings, some of which pre-date World War II.

The idea is to get the club’s buildings — a collection of rustic bunk houses and support buildings, plus a central lodge — listed on the state and national historic registers. Then, the Hamlets to Huts folks could step in to try and convince the state Department of Environmental Conservation to maintain the buildings as part of a larger hut to hut network in the Adirondacks.

The Gooley Club sits along an existing dirt road and is just about halfway between Newcomb and Indian Lake, and the trio of organizations hope it can be utilized as part of the larger system.

“(This is) the only practical way to connect Newcomb and Indian Lake,” hut to hut adviser Jack Drury said. “It’s a no-brainer.”

But even the ones behind the plan admit it may be a crap-shoot.

“It is winnable, but there are still a lot of impediments,” Steven Engelhart, executive director of AARCH said, adding that they hope to have the club’s collection of buildings listed on the historic registers within six months.

“Camps like this represent an important part of the Adirondacks,” he said. “It’s a simple complex of buildings, nothing fancy at all.”

Engelhart said that they’d like to take a broader view of what’s historic, and pointed to the Gooley Club’s lack of great camp-ness as one of the reasons it should be preserved.

“A large, blue-collar contingent has always been part of the Gooley Club,” long-time club member and current Vice President Donald MacElroy said. “We’re kind of sitting in the dead zone here. If nothing more than a test case, give it some time and see how it works.

“At this point, there’s no future for us here, but there is a great feeling of wanting to preserve it.”

Under this proposal, the state would own the land and buildings, and could contract out management of the complex, which would be used by hikers, bikers and skiers. The hut to hut plan calls for lodging options no farther apart than what could reasonably be walked in a day.

The members of the club, which now number about 50, have a lease on about 3,000 acres of land nearby, but there’s no buildings on that site. So, the club will still exist, but the members won’t have the buildings and sleeping quarters its enjoyed for 70 or so years.

The current club sits tightly against the shore of Third Lake, and is hemmed in by thick woods all around. There are un-insulated sleeping bunks, a bathhouse, lodge with kitchen, dining room and caretaker’s quarters, and a couple of storage sheds.

Of course, there are legal impediments to this plan as well. The state said in its UMP for the Essex Chain that the buildings are to be removed and replaced by a single lean-to at the site, which would be handicap accessible.

And while the UMP also calls for the state to explore all options when it comes to non-conforming historic buildings, the DEC says “a decision has been made” in regards to removing the buildings.

For more information, visit www.dec.ny.gov/lands/97474.html.


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