Take a walk through history
TUPPER LAKE — A large group of local leaders, volunteers and history buffs gathered in the Junction neighborhood Tuesday to cut the ribbon on the Crossroads of the Adirondacks Trail, an addition to an existing multi-use trail, turning it into a celebration of Tupper Lake’s cultural and natural heritage.
This trail has been known as the Junction Pass Trail, but now with the addition of 21 signs focusing on Tupper Lake’s history of logging, immigration and nature, it’s become an educational trail, too.
The mile-and-a-half-long trail runs from behind the train station at the original Tupper Lake Junction, to the shopping plaza next to McDonalds, where it continues to the Municipal Park shoreline walkway along Raquette Pond, ending at the Beth Joseph Synagogue.
Ken Ritzenberg said the synagogue was built in 1904 and was the first building in town to have state and national historic recognition.
Standing at the train station end of the trail, village Mayor Paul Maroun noted that this is where the state and Adirondack Rail Preservation Society plan to bring people in by trains from Utica, and the site of where the state and Adirondack Recreational Trial Advocates hope to soon have people walking, biking or snowmobiling toward Saranac Lake and Lake Placid.
The trail travels behind the historic Oval Wood Dish factory, which was recently purchased with a plan to renovate the empty structure, to the Municipal Park diamond, where the Riverpigs professional baseball team now plays all last week.
Village Trustee Ron LaScala said while the economic engine of Tupper Lake used to be at the shore of Raquette Pond, where logs were floated downstream and cut into boards, the Riverpigs have become a new economic engine for the town, bringing in crowds.
The interpretive signs were a collaboration between the Aseel Legacy Fund at the Adirondack Foundation, Adirondack Residents Intent on Saving their Economy, the village of Tupper Lake and the state Department of State’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program.
The Aseel Legacy Fund was established at the Adirondack Foundation by Alfred Moneer Aseel in honor of his parents Alfred and Fadwa Khechen Aseel. It is now managed by his sisters Linda Kahn, Ellen Maroun and Alfreda Bradt, who were all present at the ribbon cutting.
“It takes money to have a fund, but it takes vision to know how to spend the money,” Paul Maroun said of the group.
“Ellen steers a very clear ship,” said Jim LaValley, who started ARISE.
Ellen said her brother Alfred’s dream was to do good for Tupper Lake.
“My brother would be smiling,” she said.
The whole project cost around $100,000, village Community Development Director Melissa McManus estimated. Signs about Tupper Lake’s heritage were paid for by the Aseel Legacy Fund, and signs on the area’s natural history were funded by the Department of State.
Independent historian and consultant Caroline Welsh of Lake Placid, former director of the Adirondack Museum (now Adirondack Experience), researched all the information found on the signs. Rob Carr of Darwin Design in Saranac Lake designed them.
Welsh said she hopes every time someone walks the trail, they learn something new.
The signs on the natural environment include information on how industrialization affected the landscape and how nature began to reclaim the area when Tupper Lake’s mills were shuttered.
The signs about Tupper Lake’s history include information on the many people who traveled from around the globe to live here in the town’s early days.
“What a beautiful thing for Tupper Lake and the diversity here and the culture here,” town Supervisor Patti Littlefield said.
Paul Maroun ran through some of Tupper Lake’s immigration history. French Canadians came here for logging in its early days. The Lebanese, including the Maroun family, came to set up grocery stores, clothing stores and hotels, and sold boots and other wares to the loggers. The Jewish Ginsberg family opened Ginsberg’s department store. There were Italian, Polish and Irish immigrants, too.
Paul recalled a conversation he had with a Ginsberg on bringing people of different nationalities together.
“Muriel (Ginsberg) and I were talking, and we thought if both of us went to the Middle East we could solve the situation there in no time,” Paul said.
Ellen Maroun explained why she thinks it is important to tell the story of Tupper Lake’s past and immigrant communities.
“You can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been,” she said. “This is who we were. A diverse group of immigrants from everywhere in the world came here with the same hopes that all immigrants have.”
LaScala called the trail a “shining example of diversity.”
“Tupper Lake has always been welcoming to the immigrant communities,” Ellen said. “When we look back on our past, it’s a building block for our future.”
There were plenty of acknowledgements to go around as every speaker in turn thanked the others who funded, designed, installed and supported the installments.
There were thanks for village Department of Public Works Superintendent Bob Degrace, who led the installation; ARISE, the group that became the project’s nonprofit partner; former state Sen. Betty Little, who brought in state money; and McManus and village Clerk Mary Casagrain, who did all the paperwork.
“It’s tons and tons of paperwork, and Paul Maroun’s not doing paperwork,” Paul Maroun said.
Little said she’s always been impressed with how Tupper Lake raises money to improve its village and get things done. She said her biggest legislative regret was not knowing all the history of the towns in her district, but now she’ll learn a bit more.
Already on Tuesday afternoon, children were riding bikes on the trail, people were walking dogs, and many from the throng of people gathered took a jaunt down the trail to learn a bit of Tupper Lake history.