An alliance of local government, business, preservation and sporting organizations from both the Adirondack Park and around the State have banded together to launch Preserve the Gooley. This group is asking Governor Cuomo and DEC Commissioner Seggos to place a hold on the removal of a historic sporting camp, located in the Essex Chain Lakes complex. These lands, once part of the former Finch Pruyn property were purchased by NYS in 2012. Advocates for the preservation and public use of the Gooley Club are simply asking for the opportunity to make their case before the state agencies responsible for the site and to the public.
Steve Engelhart, Executive Director of Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH), states that “during the process of developing a management plan for the Essex Chain Lakes, there was never a thorough public discussion about the possible uses of this site, even though such an effort is required by Environmental Conservation Law and the State Historic Preservation Act. It’s not too late to have this conversation if the demolition of the club’s buildings is postponed and a forum is created for an informed and open discussion about the site’s future.”
Supporters of this effort are asking the state to consider possible reuses that will preserve the structures and attract visitors to the Complex. The Gooley Club Camp on Third Lake of the Essex Chain was originally established in 1866 by Harve Bonney, a Civil War veteran from Pittsfield, Mass., and is the oldest continuously operating sporting camp in the Adirondacks. Thanks to the cooperative efforts of Adirondack Architectural Heritage and the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the site was recently placed on both the NYS and Federal Historic Registers.
NYS Senator Betty Little offered the following; “We only stand to lose by failing to preserve the history of the Adirondacks, including notable camps and hunting clubs that have helped define the culture within our region and fostered traditions that stretch back multiple generations. Keeping parts of this history intact is important to people today but will be even more important for future generations.”
Preserve the Gooley supporters are asking that a committee of stakeholders be formed to consider alternate uses for the camp, that would not only preserve an important part of the history and culture of the Central Adirondacks, but also serve as a point of interest to attract visitors to the Essex Chain Complex. Unfortunately, the flood of tourists promised by acquisition advocates has failed to materialize and the area receives few visitors. This has left local communities, still reeling from the loss of forest industry jobs and the economic activity previously provided by 20 dispossessed sporting clubs, with few viable alternatives.
Town of Minerva Supervisor, Stephen McNally offered his thoughts; “Preserving the Gooley Club buildings is important to our town, and to all of the Adirondack. The cultural history of our region is represented by these camps…repurposing them as a destination will help increase tourism. Their use as an interior outpost would provide a needed resource for education and safety for those visiting the Essex Chain of Lakes. I urge Governor Cuomo and the DEC to pause and consider working with us to create alternative uses that can benefit everyone”
Preserve the Gooley advocates feel that a reuse of the camp as a museum or interpretive center chronicling its history, an interior ranger station or as a stop on the proposed “Hamlet to Hut” trail system would provide an incentive for visitors to make the trek to the Chain. Supporters point to the effort to save Camp Santanoni as a good model to follow. Originally scheduled to be torn down, a similar committee was formed, a compromise plan was developed and the Camp, reached via a 5-mile hike, bike or horse ride from Newcomb, now attracts some 15,000 visitors per year.
Mr. Engelhart also added; “the use of the complex would also preserve a National Register listed site and would honor the long and important history of hunting and fishing clubs in the Adirondacks as places where generations of people learned to love the outdoors and developed a conservation ethic so important in the region today.”
The following groups support Preserve the Gooley;
Adirondack Association of Towns & Villages North Country Chamber of Commerce
5 Towns Upper Hudson Recreational Hub NYS Conservation Council
Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board Adirondack Architectural Heritage
NYS Conservation Fund Advisory Board Access the Adirondacks
Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce NYS Fish & Wildlife Management Board
Tri-Lakes Business Alliance Federation of Dutchess County Fish & Game Clubs, Inc.
To learn more about the effort to Preserve the Gooley or to offer support please go to www.preservethegooley.org