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Points made for, against removal of Debar Lodge

The Debar Lodge is pictured here in April 2017. (Enterprise photo — Justin Levine)

DUANE — With the public comment period over, the future of Debar Lodge will be decided as the proposal process moves forward with points both for and against the historic lodge’s removal under discussion.

A new state 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 88,300-acre Debar Mountain Wild Forest.

According to Jeff Wernick, spokesman for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the department has worked for the past 17 years to identify options for managing the lodge and the surrounding site, consulting with community and local leaders.

“After exploring many options for re-use, DEC ultimately determined there are not any suitable administrative purposes for the lodge structure,” Wernick said in an email response to a request for comment.

Multiple factors contributed to the department’s decision, including the location and condition of the lodge.

“DEC took an extensive look at not only the building’s location, but also the condition of the building, the potential renovation costs, and the current accessibility standards before reaching a decision,” Wernick said in his email.

Wernick said the proposed day-use area can be used by the public as a picnic area, and gathering site linked to camping and recreation areas on adjoining Wild Forest lands, incorporating the lodge’s history.

“There is an opportunity, however, to repurpose the Debar Lodge site as a day use area for the public to enjoy the site on Debar Pond, including interpretive material that recognizes the original Debar Lodge structure and history of use on this site,” Wernick’s email said.

Boyce Sherwin, a Malone resident, is in favor of retaining the lodge, citing the architectural heritage that would be lost if the lodge was removed.

“Architectural heritage matters, it is an economic opportunity for the whole area, certainly for Duane but for Malone too,” Sherwin said.

Sherwin said the short-term benefits of tearing down the structure should not outweigh the long-term benefits of keeping the lodge.

“It is a business opportunity it would bring tourists here, it is something we want to keep,” Sherwin said, “It is a great entry point to the Adirondack Park from the north.”

Sherwin said he sees no reason why the site cannot accommodate both the lodge and a new day-use area, explaining both uses can exist together.

Sherwin said the town of Duane restored the nearby Little White Church and said the lodge can be restored in a way that supports and enhances use of the state-owned property, increasing seasonal use of the site during the winter months.

“That way it supports use of the existing building and the existing economic opportunity that comes with it,” Sherwin said, “If we lose it we have lost it, there are day use areas all over the place, I am not denying that opportunity, I think it would be excellent, but it doesn’t mean they have to burn down the architectural heritage.”

The public comment period on the department’s proposal came to an end on Nov. 12.

The next step in the planning process is for the state Adirondack Park Agency and DEC to review public comments prior to proceeding further with the project, according to APA Public Information Officer Keith McKeever.

The Debar Pond Lodge was built in 1939 by Adirondack architect William Distin, according to Executive Director Steven Engelhart of Adirondack Architectural Heritage of Keeseville, a nonprofit group that supports preservation efforts in the Adirondacks.

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