When Frontier Town builds it, they will come

As the winter weather continues to take hold of the land, the recent cold snap served to deliver an echo from the past. Frigid temperatures provided locals and visitors alike with a taste of the arctic in the Adirondacks. As if we needed it.

The cold snap solidified an ice cap on most of the local lakes and ponds, while it also presented a series of recurring ice jams, and lingering threats along the Ausable River. With temperatures forecast to remain in the negative digits, the standard inconvenience of life in the north will again be apparent.

Jumper cables, dry gas, warm clothes, sand bags and a shovel should now be considered standard equipment, even if you’re only going to the post office or the grocery store. While the deep freeze provided a timely reminder of the season’s omnipresent threat to burst pipes, drain batteries and turn your nose into leaky faucet, it isn’t all bad.

The new season has also ushered in the alpine and backcountry skiing, pond hockey, ice fishing, ice boating, ice climbing, Ice Palace seasons, along with dozens of other ways to take advantage of the winter.

If you don’t know how or where to properly enjoy the winter season, it can be the longest, toughest and cruelest season of all.

Fortunately, I enjoy skiing, especially in the backwoods. I am also an avid free skater, which is a term used to describe skaters who use ski poles while skating across the large, wind-swept lakes and ponds of the region.

I often combine the various pursuits, especially when snow-cover is light and the lake ice is clear. One of the finest combo tours entails skiing and skating over the Seven Carries route, from Paul Smiths to Little Clear Pond in Lake Clear. The journey usually involves a vehicle shuttle, or it can be re-routed into a variety of long, out-and-back loops.

Frontier Town on the horizon

Last week, I decided to attend the regular, monthly meeting of the state Adirondack Park Agency. Although the agency has it’s hands full with the ongoing deliberations surrounding classification of the recently acquired Boreas Ponds tract, I was interested in learning about the planned visitor’s center that will be located on and around lands that once encompassed Frontier Town.

Plans for the new complex include the development of a network of equestrian trails, primitive and developed campsites that will include electric/septic hookup, barns and more. Although the facility will include dedicated horse trails, it will also include a day-use area with waterfront on the river and a variety of riverside campsites.

Plans for the facility include the development of a Frontier Town visitor’s center. Although the project is not likely to be completed for the coming tourist season, it will likely be fast-tracked as a priority. The current state budget has already earmarked $13 million for the project; and it is expected to attract a variety of appropriate commercial projects, in addition to a local brewery that has already announced intentions to establish a facility on the property.

Although the complex will offer camping and a day-use area on site, the facility also has the potential to offer outdoor travelers the opportunity to acquire hands-on outdoor skills and wilderness-use instruction; before they step off into the the Big Woods.

Currently, there are more than a dozen local colleges that offer associate and bachelor’s degree programs in outdoor education, adventure travel, expeditionary studies, travel and tourism. It also has the potential to provide student interns with a practical, in-the-field learning experience.

With the obvious overuse of popular trails and campsites located in the High Peaks Wilderness, the St. Regis Canoe Area and a host of similar locations, there is a pressing need to educate outdoor travelers and spread them out.

Reportedly, New York forest rangers were called out for rescues on every single day of the past season. Even though the Adirondack Park has wild lands to spare, the traveling public does not disperse equally across the landscape.

As a result, a strange type of “Green Gridlock” has befallen the trails and waters of the region. It is not due to the carrying capacity of the land; rather it is due to a lack of information.

While the proposed visitor’s center will not instantly clean up the trails or take a load off the ranger’s “Lost Again” book, it is ideally located to provide visitors with an opportunity to provide travelers with the necessary tools, skills and knowledge necessary to travel safely and comfortably in the wilds of the largest wilderness area east of the Rockies.

They are the same lands that launched a back to nature movement in the 1880s, and they are ideally positioned to accommodate a revival of that fabled era. Build it, and they will come.


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