Stec, Jones sponsor land exchange for Debar Pond Lodge
State senator, assemblyman see plan as ‘win-win’ for region
DUANE — A pair of North Country elected officials announced Monday they are sponsoring a land exchange constitutional amendment to help save Debar Pond Lodge.
The proposed amendment, sponsored by state Sen. Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, would allow a land exchange within the Adirondack Park between the state and the Debar Pond Institute.
The bill would allow the state to transfer the lodge to the Debar Pond Institute in exchange for more than 400 acres of land in the Adirondacks, according to a press release from Stec’s office.
“The Debar Pond Lodge Land Exchange Amendment is a win-win for the Adirondacks and our efforts to protect our natural environment,” Stec said in a press release. “This amendment would enhance the size and beauty of the forest preserve in the Adirondacks, while also protecting the historic lodge.”
Stec’s amendment would ensure the Duane property remains protected moving forward, according to Stec’s office.
“By passing this amendment, we can ensure that both the Debar Pond Lodge and its surrounding space are maintained and preserved for future generations,” Stec said in the press release.
The proposed amendment has also been sponsored by Assemblyman D. Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay Lake, and could be on the ballot as early as fall 2023.
“Historic preservation and environmental conservation are important to North Country residents and I am proud to sponsor this bill in the assembly to save the Debar Pond Lodge,” Jones said in the press release. “Not only will this amendment add more land to the New York State Forest Preserve, but it will also preserve an important part of the history of the Adirondack region and provide a community space for meetings and outdoor recreation.”
Howie Kirschenbaum, of Adirondack Architectural Heritage, a non-profit organization in Keeseville that promotes historic preservation in the Adirondacks, said in the release that the land exchange would add land by Meachum Lake, the site of an existing state campsite in Duane.
“This is an elegant solution for saving the historic building complex, maintaining the wild forest character of Debar Pond, and adding 406 acres adjacent to Meacham Lake to the Forest Preserve,” Kirschenbaum said in the press release.
The Debar Lodge was built in 1939 by Adirondack architect William Distin, and sits in a strand of tall pine trees on the shore of Debar Pond.
Stec visited the lodge with Duane town officials in April 2021, after efforts to save the building were prompted by the unveiling of a new state management plan.
In November 2020, a new management plan for the state-owned site called for the addition of a new day-use area and the removal of the lodge.
In January 2021, 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.
Similar resolutions were passed in Bellmont and Malone, and by the Franklin County Legislature.
An amendment to the state constitution is required because Article 14 of the document states that 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.
Stec said a constitutional amendment necessitates a vote in the legislature during two different legislative sessions.