Marion Carry Acquisition Opens Portage Trail Connecting Blue Mountain, Utowana and Raquette Lakes;
State Celebrates 125 Anniversary of Adirondack Park at Formal Map Signing;
Encourages New Yorkers to Visit 200 Mile Trail System and Outdoor Attractions Across the State
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the acquisition of Marion River Carry, a 296 acre property in the Adirondacks. Coinciding with the 125th anniversary of the Adirondack Park, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos signed ceremonial maps to resolve more than a century of differences between the state and Raquette Lake occupants located on 216 parcels within Township 40. As part of the resolution, the state acquired the property from Open Space Institute, which will now be added to the Adirondack Forest Preserve and made open to the public.
"By working together with local residents, businesses and elected officials, a challenging dispute that has simmered for more than a century is now resolved," Governor Cuomo said. "This settlement not only acquires nearly 100 acres of land for public use – it adds to the beautiful and growing Forest Preserve that has provided New Yorkers and visitors outdoor recreation for decades. I look forward to inviting even more travelers to the Empire State to experience unparalleled scenic beauty and hundreds of trails connecting communities and world-class destinations across New York."
On November 5, 2013, New York State voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment that allowed the longstanding title dispute in Township 40 in the Raquette Lake area of the Town of Long Lake, Hamilton County, to be resolved. On December 18, 2013, Governor Cuomo signed legislation that adopted a new Title 19 in Article 9 of the Environmental Conservation Law to implement the constitutional amendment.
To support the agreement, in 2012, OSI purchased the Marion River Carry. The property contains noteworthy ecological and scenic resources, as well as an important portage trail, which provides a connection between Blue Mountain, Utowana and Raquette lakes, and beyond. At the time, the property faced the possibility of development, and critical public access to the site was under threat of being lost.
Earlier this year, OSI transferred the property to DEC, donating the majority of its value. Today, thanks to the joint effort, including funds totaling approximately $750,000 from those claiming the contested parcels and a $1.3 million contribution from OSI, the land is part of the Forest Preserve and is permanently open for public recreation.
The new legislation authorized DEC to offer all persons who claimed title to the disputed parcels a one-time opportunity to participate in the settlement. All property owners of the 216 tax parcels in dispute agreed to be part of the settlement.
The law required DEC to survey and map the areas in dispute. DEC surveyed the exterior boundaries of the disputed parcels and created survey maps that identified the parcels to which the State will relinquish its claims. These maps were signed today by Commissioner Seggos. Upon filing the maps, the State’s claim will be relinquished.
As required by law, DEC had to identify a parcel to be acquired with the money paid to the Town of Long Lake, which constituted a net benefit to the Forest Preserve as compared to the disputed parcels. DEC identified the Marion River Carry as that parcel. In June 2016 the Legislature passed legislation sponsored by DEC approving this as the exchange parcel to meet the constitutional and statutory requirements of the settlement.
"Today, my signature on these surveyed maps clears the way for the affected property owners to be free of the State’s claim to lands that in many cases have been privately occupied for more than a century," said DEC Commissioner Seggos. "DEC worked diligently with the Town of Long Lake to acquire the Marion River Carry property from OSI and provide permanent public access to the carry and protect the property’s significant natural resources."
"As the Senate sponsor of the Township 40 Constitutional Amendment, I want to thank all the voters across the State who voted for the settlement and exchange of land that makes this day possible," said Senator Betty Little. "I am so very grateful to everyone in State government, especially the team at DEC, the environmental community, our local officials in Hamilton County, Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward who sponsored the amendment in the Assembly, and especially the landowners who endured a lot of stress and frustration for so many years but never gave up. Through perseverance, we have achieved a great result."
Assemblyman Daniel Stec said, "It is really nice to finally be able to put this important and old issue to rest."
Assemblyman Marc Butler said, "I am so please that we are finally able to bring to an end this long-standing dispute over property ownership on Raquette Lake. I thank Commissioner Seggos, the DEC and the administration for their efforts in helping with this issue, for the property owners on Raquette Lake, this is a new era."
Clark Seaman, Supervisor, Town of Long Lake said, "This is truly a momentous occasion. The Township 40 property dispute has languished for over 100 years and to see it finally resolved is extremely gratifying. Many people have been working for years to bring this to fruition, including a core committee of Raquette Lake residents chaired by Carolyn Gerdin. She has been tireless in her pursuit of this settlement. All of the affected property owners owe Carolyn and the committee their gratitude. I also want to acknowledge DEC staff who have been working so diligently over the past several years to finalize this settlement. Finally, the affected Raquette Lake residents have closure on this issue."
OSI President and CEO Kim Elliman said, "After decades of impasse, OSI's agility and skillset, along with supporters who were willing to take risks, led to a long-term resolution to preserve the region’s recreational legacy and distinct Adirondack character. We commend the State and the scores of stakeholders and partners who came together to reach a resolution that will serve the public and expand recreational access in this spectacular corner of New York State."
Carolyn Gerdin, who claims title to disputed property that has been in her family for many decades, said, "The solution of the centuries-old problem of title in Township 40 is a testament to the power of people working together. Those of us with property on Raquette Lake will never be able to adequately express our gratitude to everyone who has helped to make the dream of solving this problem a reality."
Also, as authorized by the terms of the legislation, two persons claiming title to contested parcels transferred their interests in portions of their parcels to the state. The first parcel, a 20-acre piece donated by Carol Redenbaugh, is on the northwest end of Sucker Brook Bay, and provides a trailhead for a hike to the summit of West Mountain. The second parcel, donated to the State by Jeffrey Sellon, is a beautiful 116-acre parcel located on the south shore of Sucker Brook Bay. This acquisition preserves more than 3,000 feet of pristine shoreline. Both parcels are now DEC-managed Forest Preserve properties.
To show its commitment to protecting the Forest Preserve, DEC is also moving forward with acquiring at least 1,400 additional acres of property throughout the Adirondack Park – at no charge to those claiming the disputed parcels – for inclusion in the Forest Preserve.
New York State features more than 2,000 miles of trails, from challenging mountain climbs to gentle bicycle paths. The State Park trail improvements reflect Governor Cuomo’s commitment to improve parks outdoor recreation and expand opportunities for hiking and cycling. Governor Cuomo is creating the Empire State Trail, the largest state multi-use trail in the nation. The state has committed $200 million in the 2017-18 budget to develop 350 miles of new trail to create a statewide pathway for hiking and biking along scenic vistas and through charming, historic communities. For more information on trails in State Parks, visit www.nysparks.com/recreation/trails.