The concept of charging an entrance toll, a user fee or a parking permit to utilize public lands, such as those encompassed within the 6.5 million acres Adirondack Park is an issue that always stirs people's emotions.
However if the quality of the experience declines due to misuse and abuse of the woods and waters, lack of conservation law enforcement, wilderness protections and other similar matters, we will all pay in the end.
On busy summer weekends there may be up to 100 rafts, each holding 8 to 10 people, riding a dam released bubble through the public waters of the Hudson River gorge.
At a cost of around $75 to $85 per person, the 17-mile run from Indian Lake to North River provides nearly a dozen whitewater outfitters with a steady, three season income.
Incorporated into each outfitter's rate structure is a town imposed user fee for each paddler in the raft. Annually, these user fees contribute over $75,000 to the town of Indian Lake, a sizable chunk of change for a small town budget.
The regularly scheduled water releases from Lake Abanakee have enabled outfitters to reliably offer rafting adventures throughout the summer and into the fall. And while the ride is exciting, it's a far more family friendly experience than springtime runs when the raging Class V-VI river is filled with snowmelt and chunks of ice.
To the paddlers, the user fees go unnoticed. Guests leave happy after a thrilling, 17-mile wilderness adventure, the hotels and bars are full, the restaurants are busy and local taxes are relatively stable.
A similar process plays out on the Sacandaga River near Lake Luzerne, where a regularly scheduled dam release provides whitewater enthusiasts with a similar, watery bubble of opportunity all summer long.
However, user fees collected for the use of the Sac's public waters are deposited into the bank account of National Grid, a British consortium that now owns the former Niagara Mohawk Power Company dam.