Stec visits Debar Lodge to hear appeals to save it

State Sen. Dan Stec, right, speaks Monday afternoon at Debar Lodge in Duane, alongside Malone village Mayor Andrea Dumas, who works as a liaison for his office. (Provided photo — Alexander Violo, Malone Telegram)

DUANE — A state senator and officials from the town of Duane paid a visit to Debar Lodge Monday afternoon as the state Legislature mulls a constitutional amendment that could save the building.

Sen. Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, visited the Duane fire station before proceeding to the lodge with town officials.

The lodge, built in 1939, sits in a strand of tall pine trees on the edge of Debar Pond. It is at the center of a proposed amendment to the state constitution to preserve it and use it in the public interest. A state management plan released in November 2020 called for removing the lodge and adding a new day-use area at Debar Pond. Local officials are working with a nonprofit group to preserve the building.

In January Duane town officials passed a resolution in support of a proposed land exchange at Debar Lodge, aiming to preserve the site while also promoting recreational opportunities in the area of the camp.

Stec said the lodge and the surrounding property were an impressive sight, adding it was his first time visiting it and the nearby pond.

“I’m glad I came up. The pictures don’t do it justice,” Stec said, “I’ve been reading about it for a few years now, but this is my first change to get in here and look at it.”

Steven Engelhart, executive director of Adirondack Architectural Heritage, a Keeseville-based nonprofit group that supports historic preservation efforts, credited the town of Duane for its support of the Debar Pond Institute, a nonprofit organization working to aid the preservation of the lodge.

According to Stec, without the local support for the land exchange from Duane, and similar resolutions in Bellmont, Malone and by the Franklin County legislature, it would be difficult for the state legislature to consider a constitutional amendment.

A constitutional amendment necessitates a vote in the legislature during two different legislative sessions, and then a vote of the people statewide.

“If it wasn’t for the local support, if the ground wasn’t set behind this, it would be harder to pursue,” Stec said, “The legislature, both sides of the aisle, both houses have interest in it. We are going to see if we can figure this amendment out.”

One of Stec’s committee assignments in Albany is on the Environmental Conservation Committee.

He said with restoration projects there is a window in which action needs to be taken.

“When you make that decision, that’s it. You aren’t putting it back. If it gets torn down, you are never going to put it back. This is the window now,” Stec said, “It is a beautiful structure, and I can see what they are saying where it can use some work. I don’t know what building that age doesn’t, but what a beautiful spot.”

Engelhart said the site could accommodate both the historic camp and outdoor recreation opportunities called for in the state’s management plan.

“Really, what is special about this site is the opportunity that is presented here from the buildings, from the setting, in this town, for some kind of public use,” Engelhart said.

Engelhart said the site also provides an opportunity to relieve stress on the High Peaks portion of the Adirondacks during the summer season.

“The more we can spread it out, the better it is for everybody, better for road safety and economics,” Stec said, “You don’t have to be in the High Peaks to have tremendous beauty.”

Stec said the lodge’s location near a state highway is advantageous to drawing visitors to the area.

“I mean, it is not in downtown Saranac Lake, but it is right off of (Route) 30; it’s easy to get to,” Stec said.

The Debar Pond Institute is looking to enter into a land exchange agreement with the state to trade acreage elsewhere in the park in return for approximately 6 acres of land including Debar Lodge, with the goal to refurbish the lodge and operate it in the public’s interest, according to Engelhart.

Engelhart also talked about the history of the property. He said the lodge was built by Adirondack architect William Distin, but the site’s history predates the construction of the lodge itself. According to Engelhart, Robert Schroeder, the son of a German brewer, began acquiring land around Debar Pond in the 1880s to plant hops.

An amendment to the state constitution is required because Article 14 of the state constitution states, “The lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.”

In addition to his stop in Duane, Stec’s trip to Franklin County included a visit to the Visitor Interpretive Center in Paul Smiths, according to Mayor Andrea Dumas of Malone, who works as a community liaison for Stec’s office.


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