The Adirondack Explorer is seeking the help of like-minded people to defend itself in a lawsuit that alleges the periodical trespassed and inspired many more paddlers to follow suit when editor Phil Brown ignored posted signs and canoed Shingle Shanty Brook.
The Brandreth Park Association and the Friends of Thayer Lake contend that they have the right to bar public access to the Mud Pond and Shingle Shanty Brook because neither have ever been used as commercial transportation waters.
But Brown - with the backing of the state Department of Environmental Conservation - counters that the waters are "navigable in-fact" and must therefore be open to public access.
In a statement, Brown said the lawsuit could be a landmark decision with far-reaching ramifications over what has long been a legal grey-area.
"The decision in this case could define paddlers' rights throughout the Adirondacks and the rest of New York State," he said. "If the case reaches the state's highest court, it may even influence judges in other parts of the country."
Brown paddled the contested waterway in May 2009 and subsequently wrote an article about the trip. It has been widely speculated that the purpose of the article was to force a showdown with the property owners and potentially clarify state law on the issue of paddlers' rights.
Asked if it was the Explorer's intent to force a showdown, Brown declined comment.
The property owners contend that the article has led to dozens of paddlers entering the contested site.
Information regarding the legal defense fund can be accessed at www.adirondackexplorer.com.