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Group decides to test 'precedent' set by Stiles

I stand corrected - at least in part. Two weeks ago, I wrote a column faulting Adirondack Park Agency chairman Curt Stiles and his decision to open a locked gate to gain access this spring to a public camping area at Lake Lila.

The gate was closed for early season maintenance, but Stiles and three others, not wanting to hike the 5-plus miles to Lake Lila, decided to open the gate with a key they found hidden under a nearby rock.

The group was later found camping on state land by a forest ranger, and no tickets were issued, with the state DEC saying no laws were broken because a section of the road Stiles accessed was private and those landowners could drive through the gate.

The state holds a conservation easement across those lands to Lake Lila beyond.

Last Saturday, a group of eight individuals, led by Black Brook town councilman Howard Aubin, decided to drive around a gate - or in this case, a cable - onto public land to see if they'd get the same leniency shown to Stiles.

They did - which is why I stand corrected. I said they most likely would be ticketed, which they were not; not yet, anyway.

In fact, while four state forest rangers eventually turned out to investigate and take down names and information from the group, in the end they weren't even asked to leave.

"We drove right past two forest preserve signs," said Mike Vilegi, one of the protesters. "We just started barbecuing and tossing a football."

The goal, of course, was to bring attention to Stiles' decision to drive around the gate, a move many have called hypocritical by a man who has consistently come out in favor of restricting motorized access to public lands in the Adirondack Park.

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