Outdoor skills from one generation to the next
I learned to camp from my father, who had been the director of several summer camps for boys back in the 1950s. He was also an archery and riflery instructor and physical education instructor. Although he served in the US Navy in World War II, he wasn’t the most avid camper in the family. That title went to our mother, who had spent the majority of her youth in the pine woods, while taking the cure for tuberculosis.
I remember most of our annual family camping trips — to places such as Lake George, Raquette Lake, Schroon Lake and Fish Creek, among others. After tent camping for years, she finally purchased a small, Igloo brand camper-trailer, which allowed her to camp in comfort and style, which served her well into her 80s.
Fortunately, she passed on her love of camping to her children and her grandchildren. It is difficult for to imagine where I would be now without the positive influence of camp life.
While l was blessed to have parents who camped, it is nice to know the state Department of Environmental Conservation currently provides special hands-on, learn-to-camp education programs at public campgrounds across the state. The program provides first-time campers with all of the necessary equipment, including tents, sleeping bags, stoves, lanterns, coolers, cookware and more, along with outdoor educators and instructors. Best of all, the entire package is available to the public for the fee of a regular campsite.
While such programs are being offered primarily at state campgrounds, the DEC Outdoor Educators may soon have an opportunity to provide hikers, paddlers and other wilderness travelers with similar programs for backcountry travelers. The proposed visitors center and campgrounds, which are currently under construction at the former Frontier Town Park, have the potential to provide hunters, anglers, skiers, paddlers and fellow backcountry travelers with current information on trail conditions, pests, water levels, wildlife encounters and more.
At the same time, DEC could utilize students to offer hands-on outdoor education programs to the public, possibly provided and facilitated by college interns. Currently, there more than a half-dozen two- and four-year college programs at institutions within an hour’s drive of North Hudson.
The infrastructure is readily available, and a built-in staff can be recruited from the surrounding communities. The facility also has the potential to better disperse travelers, in order to alleviate the growing impacts of overuse in the High Peaks Wilderness.
The visitors center may also be better able to redirect travelers by introducing them to the wonderful woods and waters that are so readily accessible in the Champlain Valley. I have very high hopes for the potential economic impact of the new visitors center.
However, l have serious misgivings concerning the decision to locate a brewery and a bar room in such close proximity to the campsite, especially while considering the fact that non-campers will have a 20- to 30-mile drive over dark country roads in either direction. Alcohol and campgrounds do not mix well. Studies indicate incidents involving alcohol rank high on the list of problems.
The proposed visitors facility has the potential to revitalize the entire corridor from Chestertown, Newcomb and North Creek to Westport and Ticonderoga. There is a lot of wild land and not a lot of people. Sharp Bridge Campsite, which is one of the first state campsites developed in the region, is still open, as are many others including Lincoln Pond and Schroon Lake.