Debar Lodge no more?

NY state plan moves to APA review after public comment

Debar Lodge is seen in April 2017. (Enterprise photo — Justin Levine)

DUANE — A new management plan for Debar Pond calls for the addition of a new day-use area and the removal of the Debar Pond Lodge, a historic camp in the Debar Mountain Wild Forest.

A major component of the proposal outlined in the state’s draft scope includes a discussion on the removal of the Debar Lodge and other buildings located near Debar Pond and the incorporation of elements of the lodge complex into the new day-use facility where possible. The draft scope calls for the day-use area to be located at the former lodge site.

The Debar Mountain Wild Forest is an 88,300-acre unit of state-owned Adirondack Forest Preserve land located in the northern Adirondack Park within the towns of Brighton, Duane, Franklin, Santa Clara and Waverly within Franklin County, according to a press release from the state Adirondack Park Agency.

The draft scope says the proposed day-use area will include two pavilions, picnic tables, grills, parking, restrooms, foot access to Debar Pond, connections to existing trail networks, interpretive elements related to the site’s historical past, and a new primitive tent site.

A potential benefit of an additional proposal outlined in the draft scope, to reclassify approximately 41 acres of land on the shore of Debar Pond as intensive use, include allowing for a higher level of public use in a small area where the potential for such use already exists.

The APA and the state Department of Environmental Conservation have been holding a public comment period on the proposal that ended Thursday, according to APA Public Information Officer Keith McKeever.

McKeever said the next step in the process is for both the Park Agency and the state to review these comments prior to proceeding further with the project.

“We will use the comments to reflect what is being proposed to the APA board,” McKeever said, referring to the board which manages the Adirondack Park.

According to Executive Director Steven Engelhart of Adirondack Architectural Heritage of Keeseville, a nonprofit group that supports preservation efforts in the Adirondacks, the existing lodge was built in 1939 and designed by Adirondack architect William G. Distin, a native of Plattsburgh known for his work throughout the northern portion of the park, especially in Saranac Lake, for around 70 years.

Engelhart described the property as a unique site within the state park, differentiated from other areas by the great camp sitting at the head of Debar Pond.

“The wonderful thing about Adirondack great camps and their rustic architecture is the ways they integrate themselves into the landscape,” Engelhart said.

Engelhart said the existing lodge was built for Arthur Wheeler, who constructed the lodge on the 1,200-acre pond, in the same area of a stone building constructed by German-born brewer Robert Schroeder in the 1880s.

“The stone building had been abandoned and was in poor condition, so they tore it down,” Engelhart said.

Though the lodge at Debar Pond was built after great camps rose to popularity in the 1870s, and at a time when Adirondack retreats were not required to be as self-sufficient as they were in the 19th century, it still meets the definition of a great camp.

“It was a multi-building campus, with a caretakers house, barns and a boathouse,” Engelhart said.

A letter from Adirondack Architectural Heritage to the DEC urges the state to slow down its process and convene a group of interested parties to engage in a deliberative process of exploring the alternatives to current proposals.

“I think you would lose an important cultural historic resource, and I think you lose an opportunity,” Engelhart said, “There is an opportunity here to make Debar Pond into more of a tourist attraction and that will benefit the town of Duane and Franklin County.”

According to Engelhart, preserving and promoting the lodge could be a way to help reduce pressure on the High Peaks and draw visitors to another portion of the park.

According to the National Park Service’s website, Debar Pond Lodge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014 and is an architecturally and historically significant property.

The lodge is owned by New York state.


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