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October 12, 2010

APA changes fire tower stance

RAY BROOK — The Adirondack Park Agency has now drafted plans to designate land under two fire towers as Historic.

It is an apparent step back from plans last month to leave the structures to degrade naturally.

The resolution on Thursday’s APA agenda to maintain the towers at St. Regis and Hurricane mountains would allow for restoration, recognizing their historic place in the Adirondack Park.

STRONG INTEREST

The two steel spires have been the subject of much discussion and strong public sentiment in public hearings, held first for unit management plans by the Department of Environmental Conservation and then for reclassification by the APA.

Several environmental groups have pressed for removal, claiming the towers are non-conforming in the Wilderness area.

DESIGNATED AREA

The final resolution going before commissioners in the APA State Lands Committee on Thursday says reclassification includes “one-half acre on the summit of St. Regis Mountain, one-half acre on the summit of Hurricane Mountain, each proposed for reclassification to Historic, and 13,449 acres of the Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area to Wilderness.”

The final Environmental Impact Statement, which accompanies the resolution, says a Historic land-use designation “would allow restoration of the fire towers.”

It also acknowledges that fire towers in the Adirondack Park are closely associated with development of the Forest Preserve, since they “were also instrumental in stimulating and managing recreational use in the early 20th century and cultivating a modern conservation ethic with the public. As such, they also represent the first public recreational structures in the nation’s first Forest Preserve.”

LANDMARKS

The Environmental Impact Statement further suggests that a Historic designation would “preserve these historical resources associated with wild land stewardship and forest fire suppression as a community landmark — and provide further opportunities to involve community and private interests in stewardship of the Forest Preserve.”

Of 57 fire towers built in the Adirondack Park between 1909 and 1950, 34 still exist: 11 on state land have been restored, and eight owned by DEC still hold radio equipment.

The towers on St. Regis and Hurricane are both listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

But DEC had tagged those towers for removal 10 years ago in accordance with the Master Plan.

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