RAY BROOK - Proponents of the fire towers atop St. Regis and Hurricane mountains rejoiced last week as officials at the Adirondack Park Agency approved a plan that will allow the towers to be restored at their current locations.
The APA's State Land Committee approved a resolution Oct. 14, that will classify a half-acre plot surrounding each tower as historic land and allow private fundraising groups to finance renovation and maintenance of the towers.
The decision, which passed 9-0 during the afternoon's Full Agency meeting, brings a tentative end to a long-running dispute over the towers' future.
In February, the state Department of Environmental Conservation proposed to remove the towers as the State Land Master Plan considers them non-conforming structures under their current classifications. Lands on St. Regis Mountain are classified as canoe area, while Hurricane Mountain is in the process of being reclassified from primitive to wilderness.
Both towers have been awarded designation on state and national registers of historic places, however, which required the DEC and APA to consider alternatives that would allow the towers to remain in place.
A series of public hearings conducted by the DEC and APA throughout the past several months drew dozens of comments.
Environmental groups in favor of the towers' removal claimed they disrupted the wilderness character of their surroundings, but the vast majority of people expressed a desire to see the towers stay, arguing they represented an important part of the region's history and culture.
The New York State Office of Parks and Recreation, too, indicated a preference to reclassify the land around the towers as historic, which would legally allow them to remain.
"For me this has been a difficult decision," said commissioner Richard Booth, noting his reluctance to circumvent the way fire towers were regarded in the SLMP "but I think the reality is that historic resources are at a different place than they were 30-plus years ago."