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Newcomb outfitters waiting for APA decision before expanding

Essex Chain Lakes up for classification

Ruth and Dave Olbert, owners of Cloud-Splitter Outfitters in Newcomb

Ruth and Dave Olbert, owners of Cloud-Splitter Outfitters in Newcomb

— Leaders in the five towns affected by the recent state land acquisition of former Finch, Pruyn timber land — including the Essex Chain — are pushing for a wild forest classification. Those towns are Newcomb, Minerva, Long Lake, Indian Lake and North Hudson.

Environmental advocacy groups, such as the Adirondack Council, are pushing for a wilderness classification. They worry that motorized access — such as motorboats, snowmobiles and ATVs — could ruin the natural resources. Therefore, wilderness would restrict the use to hikers, backpackers and backcountry paddlers.

Ruth is not convinced a more restricted use will be good for business in Newcomb.

“I don’t think it’s going to change hugely,” Ruth said. “The campers come in self-contained a little bit, so I think there would be less business than if it had more access.”

The Olberts are ready to offer their services to more day users, people looking for trips lasting a couple hours rather than a couple days.

“The people who study these things say that’s what the users typically want is about a two-and-a-half hour experience,” Ruth said. “Without the access, that’s not going to happen.”

The business

The Olberts grew up in the area. They know the land, the people, the culture. They’ve seen changes in the economy, from mining and lumbering to mainly tourism. And they see the need for more foot traffic if Newcomb business are going to survive.

“Our business is a typical mom-and-pop,” Ruth said. “It started out really small with a few boats in an abandoned garage. It’s been 17 years, and every year we add something and have tried to do it ourselves.”

Dave grew up at the Upper Works, the tiny village known as Adirondac just north of the old titanium mine at Tahawus and then in Newcomb once the National Lead company moved the village of Tahawus to the Winebrook Hills development in 1963. His father was the guide and caretaker for the Masten House. Ruth grew up in Olmstedville.

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