RAY BROOK - Two Adirondack fire towers located on state lands and listed on the state and federal Registers of Historic Places have been tagged for demolition.
State Department of Environmental Conservation officials outlined two proposed Unit Management Plan amendments to Adirondack Park Agency commissioners Feb. 11 that, if approved, will require the removal of the fire towers atop St. Regis and Hurricane mountains.
DEC officials said the towers must be removed in order to comply with the Wilderness designation in the State Land Master Plan - commonly referred to as the SLMP.
According to DEC forester Steve Guglielmi, the tower atop St. Regis Mountain built in 1918 is now the primary non-conforming structure in the St. Regis Canoe Area.
The SLMP states that Canoe Areas are to be managed in the same way as Wilderness Areas and that fire towers are simply not compliant with the designation.
"The tower is widely visible throughout the area," Guglielmi told commissioners. "It has a direct impact on the wilderness character."
DEC officials said the only alternative to tearing down the towers that top St. Regis and Hurricane mountains is amending the SLMP - a move that APA Chairman Curt Stiles has staunchly opposed.
But for APA Commissioner Bill Thomas, amending the SLMP is better than removing two historically relevant structures.
"When I see a picture of the mountaintop with a tower on it, that's part of the wilderness experience," Thomas said. "I don't think there are a lot of people who would say they shouldn't be there. It's part of our heritage; it's part of our history."
Like the St. Regis tower, the 91-year-old Hurricane Mountain tower must be removed to conform to the current requirements of primitive area management as outlined in the SLMP.
Adirondack Local Government Review Board Executive Director Fred Monroe ripped the proposal to remove the towers, calling it nothing short of brash disregard for local history.
"We've only found three sites, all in Essex County, to save as something of historic importance," Monroe said. "Residents like these things. There's ways to maintain them that won't cost the state any money and I think we should consider that."
Using private money, local citizen action groups have restored several of the remaining towers, including the now potentially doomed St. Regis structure.
According to a DEC study released this month, of the 57 towers originally located in the park, 34 remain and 24 are located on public land or lands under state easements. DEC has removed six towers from Adirondack mountaintops over the last decade.
Guglielmi said that although the two towers slated for demolition are considered historic, they can still be removed as long as the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is consulted first.
A public hearing regarding the proposed Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area UMP will be held at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at Keene Central School.
A similar hearing concerning the proposed amendments to the St. Regis UMP will be at the Paul Smith's College Freer Science building, also on Feb. 25 at 6:30 p.m.
Following the hearings, the proposed UMP amendments will return to the APA board for consideration.