(Editor's note: The original version of this commentary appeared as an editorial in the Free Press' April 4 issue.)
In our editorial column last week we chastised the two preservationist groups - Protect the Adirondacks and the Sierra Club - for their frivolous lawsuit against the state of New York and others that seeks to undermine the permits granted to the proponents of the Adirondack Club and Resort by the state Adirondack Park Agency board in overwhelming fashion in January. In that editorial we expressed in strong words our disappointment that three of our summer residents - Phyllis Thompson and Bob and Leslie Harrison - have essentially turned their backs on our community by joining the suit.
We received several calls from our column readers applauding the points we raised, including one from a local elder statesman here whose occasional counsel we enjoy and appreciate.
Rock Island on Tupper Lake, where the Harrisons have a house, wasn't always developed, it seems. The caller remembered vividly a time during the 1940s and 1950s when the island, situated in the appropriately named Rock Island Bay near the end of the lake, was pristine and untouched by the hands of man.
Many Tupper Lake residents routinely ventured there by canoe or motorboat to sunbathe on the island's massive granite rocks and enjoy picnics there. The caller told us he and his wife, when their children were young, visited it many times each summer to enjoy its unspoiled beauty, as many others did.
That all ended, however, when it was sold and a new owner erected a summer house there and began using it exclusively for their own enjoyment, as they were certainly entitled to by law. So much for the public picnics on Rock Island!
One of the new owners of Rock Island was David Weeks, who was highly regarded by a number of people who grew to know him here on his frequent visits to town. David and his wife had a humble, rustic camp on Rock Island.
The Harrisons purchased the property about a decade ago and constructed a modern new house there. They have obviously enjoyed the beautiful spot in the years since.
Our point this week is that the use of property changes as ownership changes.
A unique feature of the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park is that it is a model of public and private ownership. By its design, there is to be ample public space for the citizenry at large to enjoy as well as millions of acres of private land for the exclusive use of its owners.
The use of the thousands of acres of Oval Wood Dish Corp. lands, where a large portion of the ACR will sit and which have been heavily logged here for nearly a century, will change. The locals and visitors who are members of the Teachers' and Springhill hunting clubs and who have leased the land from the owners will no longer be able to hunt there. It will be a profound loss felt by those sportsmen for many years. But there will be new owners, and Tupper Lake will have new residents, and we suspect they will covet their new properties, keep them in pristine condition and enjoy them like the hunting club members did before them. The impact of residential improvements on those forest lands will be tiny, given the large tracts proposed and the severe limitations on where new owners will be permitted to build. Those lands, by the ACR design, will be essentially kept as wild forest forever.
Bob Harrison is a leader of the Protect the Adirondacks group which has been opposed to the ACR development from the start. The Protect group ("Who are they protecting and from what?" we often wonder) is an extremist group dedicated to driving year-round people from the Park - as evidenced by their actions and public positions.
The Harrisons have manicured Rock Island, a once-pristine and once-public piece of paradise, into a comfortable place for them to live on Tupper Lake. By their opposition to the ACR, they are obviously opposed to others having the same chance that they did a decade or so ago.
There's a popular and telltale riddle in the Adirondacks: "What's the difference between a developer and a preservationist?" Answer: The preservationist already owns his piece of paradise.
Could that be any truer than in this case?
Dan McClelland is editor and publisher of the Tupper Lake Free Press.