Warren County makes deal to open fire tower trail

Warren County officials hope to reopen public access to the fire tower and observer’s cabin on Swede Mountain in Hague. (Photo courtesy of National Historic Lookout Register)

The prospect of having a new hiking trail to a historic fire tower trail in northern Warren County appears to have improved.

Warren County leaders hope to allow public access to the Swede Mountain fire tower, which is on land that Warren County owns off Route 8 in Hague, just east of the Horicon town line. But the county’s property is surrounded by forestland owned by Lyme Adirondack Timberlands, which has asked for compensation to allow access to the property.

That price tag would have been $3,000 a year, paid through the county’s bed tax on hotel, motel and bed-and-breakfast rooms. But some supervisors took issue with the price last month and tabled a vote on the contract to seek a better deal.

Warren County Administrator Ryan Moore went back to Lyme, which agreed to cut the price to $2,500 per year for five years.

That was satisfactory to the county Board of Supervisors Occupancy Tax Coordination Committee, although committee members John Strough, the Queensbury supervisor, and Chester Supervisor Craig Leggett said they would rather see a permanent easement purchased instead of an annual payment.

Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson, chairman of the committee, said the county had little choice but to accept Lyme’s terms, “or you don’t have a trail.”

Horicon Supervisor Matt Simpson, a proponent of the project who was critical of the funding defeat last month, said he was optimistic the full Board of Supervisors would support the new price tag. Leaders in the northern part of the county believe the tower could be a new tourist attraction to capitalize on the increased popularity of hiking.

The trail would be less than a mile from a parking area off Route 8 to the tower, which has been closed since 1968. The county bought it and 11.4 acres around it in 1999, when officials were considering the placement of emergency communication equipment there. But the plan to put equipment there was ultimately scuttled, and the tower has sat unused.

Lyme owns thousands of acres of woodlands in the area. The company already leases parts of the property to hunting and fishing clubs, so there may be a “blackout” period for use of the trail during hunting season for safety reasons. Those rules are in effect on a number of other trails and properties around the Adirondacks.

“There are hunters everywhere,” Strough said. “That is part of the risk of hiking during hunting season.”

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