SARANAC LAKE - The Saranac Lake 6er bell has been silenced.
Someone apparently stole it and the accompanying sign about the village's new hiking program late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning from the gazebo in Berkeley Green.
"I was told the sign was stolen, so I went down and the bell was gone, too," said village Mayor Clyde Rabideau. "I looked around the parking lot thinking maybe somebody just threw it overboard, but I couldn't find it. I have no idea. Maybe somebody dumped it nearby."
Loring Porter of Lake Placid rings the 6er Bell as the first Saranac Lake Ultra 6er on May 25.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
Rabideau said a $250 reward is being offered to anyone who has information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the theft.
The bell and sign hadn't been found as of Thursday night. Village Police Sgt. Bill Cote said police didn't have any leads in the case, but it was still early.
"A lot of times these things will turn up," Cote said.
The village launched the 6er hiking program over the Memorial Day weekend. It's a small-scale version of the program run for decades by the Adirondack 46ers, an organization of hikers who have summitted the 46 traditionally recognized Adirondack High Peaks.
Hikers who climb all six mountains in the Saranac Lake area - Ampersand, Baker, Haystack, McKenzie, St. Regis and Scarface - can apply to the village for certification and pay $5 get a patch and bumper sticker featuring the 6er logo, along with their official 6er number. An "Ultra 6er" patch is awarded to those who climb all six mountains in less than 24 hours. There will also be a "Winter 6er" patch.
In addition to the patches and bumper stickers, the village put a bell in the gazebo that hikers can ring six times after they've completed all six mountains. Rabideau credited local chiropractor Joe Dockery with coming up with that idea. Dockery also purchased the bell and donated it to the village; Rabideau said it cost $450.
"He's the one that said, 'This could be a place where everybody could take a picture after completing the 6ers. It would be like a tourist attraction,'" Rabideau said. "That was his idea."
As of Thursday, roughly a month after the initiative started, more than 85 people have become Saranac Lake 6ers. Many have submitted photos to the village of themselves ringing the bell, which the village has posted on its 6er Facebook page.
"The place really became an honored and revered site," the mayor said. "You could tell by the responses on the Facebook page that people are pretty upset about (the bell being stolen)."
Rabideau said he hasn't given any thought to buying another bell because he's hopeful the original will turn up. He said the village plans to install a webcam in the gazebo to try to deter future theft or vandalism.
Anyone with information about the theft is asked to call village police at 518-891-4422.
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.