Speakers were passionate about their feelings concerning plans for the Hurricane and St. Regis fire towers.

Most North Country residents attending a hearing in Keene Valley Wednesday night pushed for preservation of the towers after the State Department of Environmental Conservation recommended removal.

OPTIONS

Adirondack Park Agency Natural Resources Planner Kevin Prickett outlined the options, which are, basically:

▶ Alternative 1: Reclassify the base areas (.25 acres) to Historic, reclassify the balance of Hurricane as Wilderness, retain the power line as Primitive and allow fire tower restoration.

▶ Alternative 2: Revise the guidelines to include towers as conforming structures and restore them, if funds are available.

▶ Alternative 3: Create small Primitive areas (.25 acres) around the towers, retain the towers without full restoration and reclassify the balance of Hurricane Primitive area as Wilderness.

▶ Alternative 4: Take no action, which would result in removal of the fire towers.

TOWERS PLEASING

"I feel it ironic that the APA is working with the people to save the towers and the DEC wants to remove them," said Jim Foley of Lake Placid.

He felt the State Master Plan should never have classified the areas as Wilderness.

"Mankind is the only living being that can enjoy aesthetics, and most people consider the towers aesthetically pleasing," Foley said.

He cited an apparent 90-percent approval rating by the public for the towers to remain.

Laura Jackson Beck of Keene Valley remembers visiting the tower as a kid.

"I thought it was the best thing there was and got to know the role of the rangers and the work they do. I support Alternative 1."

READY TO HELP

Alta Jo Longware of the Friends of Hurricane Fire Tower read a letter directed to James Connolly, deputy director of the APA Planning Division.

"The Friends believe that the Hurricane and St. Regis fire towers should remain at their current locations, be restored and made accessible to the public for historical and educational purposes, and reclassify an area around the base of the fire towers on St. Regis and Hurricane Mountains to a Historic Area classification."

The letter pointed out that both towers have been in place for more than 90 years and have become a part of the ecosystem and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

"The towers are a large part of the history of the Adirondacks and the people who spent their lives protecting the Adirondack forest lands," the letter said, and they "represent a commitment to the preservation of nature and show strength that is required to withstand the elements of the Adirondacks Mountains."

The letter continued, "Established friends groups are ready, willing and able to assist with the restoration of the towers with $10,000 in private funds and contractors already committed.

"A new petition with over 260 signatures, as well as support by several groups, will also be submitted."

BEGGING TO STAY

The most impassioned plea came from Elizabethtown's Melvin "Stubby" Longware. Not only has his family had a long history with the tower, but his wife, Gretna, was at the forefront to save the structure.

He said his wife passed away with a smile on her face two days after the announcement that the tower might be saved.

He traced his family history to his uncle Joe Denton, who was an observer before the tower was constructed.

"I grew up there. The tower is begging us to keep it there," Longware said.

Kevin McBride of Wilmington feels fire towers are a valuable addition to the wilderness experience.

CASE FOR REMOVAL

The only advocate speaking for tower removal at the meeting was Dan Plumley of Adirondack Wild. He pointed out that many towers exist that can be visited.

"Save the fire towers but also save Wilderness classification," Plumley said.

Bringing the Hurricane Mountain tower down to the Keene community and having it tell the story of fire suppression would be a "win-win" situation, said Plumley, who favors Alternative 4.

The Adirondack Park has 34 towers, 25 of which are accessible to the public. Eleven towers on Forest Preserve land have been or are in the process of being restored.

After all comments are considered, recommendations will be sent to the governor.

E-mail Alvin Reiner at: rondackrambler@yahoo.com

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