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‘Forever Wild’: Adirondack Land Trust makes land conservation purchase on Upper Saranac Lake

UPPER SARANAC LAKE — The Adirondack Land Trust purchased 5 acres of forest along the shore of Upper Saranac Lake to ensure that a mile-long stretch of shoreline between Indian Carry and Indian Point remains forever wild.

The tract features 570 feet of rugged lakeshore edged by boulders and northern white cedars. The Adirondack Land Trust will work with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to transfer the land to the state to close a gap in the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest, which is protected under the “forever wild” clause of New York’s constitution as part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve.

“I’m sure my father would be very happy to hear that this land is going to Forest Preserve,” said Ed Petty, of Canton, the son of pioneering Adirondack conservationist Clarence Petty. “He thought it was a great place because it was surrounded by state land.”

Clarence and his brother Bill Petty, who was once DEC’s regional director for much of the Adirondacks, spent the first years of their lives on Forest Preserve just south of this parcel, until 1908, when the New York Forest, Fish and Game Commission ended the practice of squatting on state land, and the Petty family moved to nearby private land.

The family remained fond of Upper Saranac Lake, and in 1952 Bill purchased the private inholding, which is accessible only by foot or motorless boat. Bill hoped to build a simple retirement cabin there, but he worked into his 70s and never found time. Bill Petty’s daughter eventually sold the land, and in 2017 it was acquired by Ed and Teresa Palen, of Keene, who bought it as an appurtenance to a separate property with the intention of seeing it added to the Forest Preserve. The Adirondack Land Trust purchased the property on Jan. 17 for $200,000.

The tract is along the path of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, a 740-mile route of paddling and portaging from the Adirondacks to the coast of Maine.

“We’re grateful to our partners at the Adirondack Land Trust for their continued work to promote access to and preservation of wild places in the Adirondacks,” said Karrie Thomas, executive director of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. “The purchase of this section of shoreline on Upper Saranac Lake will ensure that future generations of paddlers will be able to enjoy this incredible canoe trail. Collaboration with landowners, businesses and nonprofits is critical to outdoor recreation.”

“We recognize the importance of town-to-town trails as a way to strengthen connections between communities and wildlands,” said Megan Zack, land protection manager for the Adirondack Land Trust. “Protecting shorelines is also a conservation priority. Wild shorelines improve water quality, promote flood resilience and provide fish habitat.”

The Adirondack Land Trust worked with DEC and another landowner in 1989 to purchase land to reroute a portage trail at Indian Carry, which connects the Raquette River to the Saranac Lakes chain. In 2003, the land trust worked with partners to conserve 1,800 feet of shoreline east of Indian Point. Indian Carry and Indian Point are named for Abenaki residents who had settlements in that area until the early 20th century, according to the 2019 book “Rural Indigenousness: A History of Iroquoian and Algonquian Peoples of the Adirondacks,” by Melissa Otis.

The five-acre inholding remains closed to the public until it can be transferred to New York State. The purchase was made possible by donations to the land trust’s Wild Adirondacks Fund.

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