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DEC Announces the Opening of Trail and Rehabilitated Fire Tower on Spruce Mountain
Restoration Work Underway on Additional Adirondack Fire Towers
Spruce Mountain's rehabilitated fire tower and new trail in the town of Corinth, Saratoga County are open for public use, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Acting Commissioner Marc Gerstman announced today. From the top of the 5 ½ story fire tower, the public can enjoy views of Vermont, Gore Mountain and the southern Adirondacks. The 2.4-mile round-trip trail traverses through wooded gentle terrain with an elevation change of approximately 1,000 feet.
"Throughout the 20th century, fire towers played a critical role in the protection of New York State's natural resources," said Acting Commissioner Gerstman. "Now fire towers attract visitors and serve as both historic and economic assets to Adirondack communities."
The Adirondack Mountain Club Professional Trail Crew recently finished a reroute of the trail from private land onto Wilcox Lake Wild Forest and then onto Saratoga Preserving Land and Nature (PLAN) property. Student Conservation Association (SCA) Adirondack members began restoration work on the fire tower in 2014 and DEC completed the remainder of the work this year. The state reached a cooperative agreement with Lyme Adirondack Timberlands II, LLC to cross its land just below the fire tower.
For nearly a century, observers watched the forests of New York State from more than 100 fire towers perched atop the highest peaks, searching for telltale signs of forest fires. With the increased reliance on aviation detection of forest fires, use of towers was phased out, and in 1990, the last five towers still in operation were closed. The 73-foot Steel Aermotor LS-40 fire tower on the 2005 ft. summit of Spruce Mountain was built in 1928 and manned until 1988.
Three additional fire towers in the Adirondacks have undergone recent rehabilitation. Restoration work is complete and the Lyon Mountain fire tower is open to the public in the Chazy Highlands Wild Forest. Work began and will continue next season on the fire towers on St. Regis Mountain in the St. Regis Canoe Area and Hurricane Mountain in the Hurricane Mountain Wilderness.
A 35-foot fire tower was erected on Lyon Mountain in 1917, and remained in operation until 1988. Restoration of the tower began in 2005 and is now complete. A new trail was also built to access the tower.
The 35-foot Hurricane Mountain fire tower was discontinued for use as a fire observation station in 1979, and the 35-foot Saint Regis Mountain fire tower was shut down in 1990. Both structures have been closed to the public ever since.
"DEC has worked closely with its partners; including the APA, volunteer friends organizations, local governments, and the State Police Aviation Unit, to ensure these historical resources are maintained and opened to the public for education and enjoyment," said DEC Region 5 Director Bob Stegemann.
New York State's Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) provided $25,000 in support of the work on Spruce Mountain through a trail maintenance agreement with the Adirondack Mountain Club and a conservation stewardship agreement with the Student Conservation Association.
The EPF provides funding to support more than a dozen state and local environmental programs that protect the quality of New York's environment. Through partnerships with volunteer organizations, state agencies use EPF stewardship funding to manage trails and lands, protect natural resources, preserve wildlife habitats, make critical capital improvements at parks and campgrounds, educate students about conservation and provide access to persons with disabilities.
The Spruce Mountain trailhead/parking area is located at the end of Fire Tower Rd in the hamlet of South Corinth. From Corinth, take 9N south for approximately three miles, take a right onto Wells Rd and proceed for two miles. At the "T" take a right onto Fire Tower Rd.
Food, gas, and lodging can be found in the nearby communities of Corinth and Saratoga Springs.
In accordance with the conservation easement agreement for the lands the trail crosses, the trail will is closed to public use during the big game hunting season which begins October 24 and reopens the first Monday in December.
State Senator Hugh Farley said, "I am pleased that this fire tower could be rehabilitated and made available for the public to enjoy. The fire towers are an important part of the region's heritage, and the rerouted trail and tower offer wonderful recreational opportunities to tourists and residents alike."
Assemblyman Dan Stec said, "As an avid hiker I've climbed all the fire tower mountains in the Adirondacks. Years ago I climbed a rough trail to Spruce's closed tower with no views. Last week my son and I climbed a great new trail to a refurbished tower that provides great views of the Southern Adirondacks. Recreational infrastructure improvements like this project are great not only for our residents' quality of life but also bring visitors to our community which is good for local businesses."
Saratoga County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matthew Veitch said, "Saratoga County is happy today to celebrate the opening of the Spruce Mountain trail and the rehabilitation of the fire tower. It will be a great resource for our citizens, as another option for recreation, and stunning views from the fire tower of the Southern Adirondacks. We are proud to have partnered with the State in getting public access to the site."
Town of Corinth Supervisor Richard Lucia said, "I want to congratulate and thank all the agencies involved in bringing this project to fruition. Many tireless hours were put into bringing Corinth's fire tower to life again."
Adirondack Mountain Club Executive Director Neil Woodworth said, "It has been a goal of the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) and its Glens Falls - Saratoga Chapter to restore public access to the Spruce Mountain fire tower. We are elated that through the hard work of the Department of Environmental Conservation and stakeholders like ADK that this goal has been achieved. Spruce Mountain has a very unique and special view and now this beautiful vista is available for us and future generations."
Saratoga PLAN Executive Director Maria Trabka said, "We are thrilled to finally see Spruce Mountain and its fire tower reopened to the public thanks to the hard work and dedication of many partners over many years. Not only does this mountain serve as a local favorite for hiking, but its views of Saratoga County from atop remind us all of just how beautiful and special this region truly is."
Friends of St. Regis co-chair Doug Fitzgerald said, "After 25 years of inactivity, the St. Regis Mountain fire tower is springing back to life. Two weeks ago DEC Region 5 Forester Steve Guglielmi coordinated restoration work on the tower. The Friends of St. Regis Mountain Fire Tower and the Student Conservation Association's Adirondack Program joined forces to replace and repair stairs, landings, the cab floor, railings and safety fencing. This work represents a wonderful start to the eventual total restoration of the tower. The Friends are pleased to be partnering with the DEC through a Volunteer Stewardship Agreement to help facilitate the restoration process and to provide educational and interpretive activities on the mountain."
Friends of Hurricane Chair Peter Slocum said, "We are excited that the Hurricane Fire Tower, a truly iconic Adirondack historic site, is being restored and returned to public use, thanks to the state DEC, the Student Conservation Assn., and local citizens who have worked for years to make this happen," said Peter Slocum of the Friends of Hurricane Mountain."
Student Conservation Association ADK Program Manager Jeremy Burns said, "For the past 17 years the SCA New York AmeriCorps program has partnered with the NYS DEC to field teams of like-minded young adults performing critical outdoor conservation projects throughout the Adirondacks. The 18 members of the SCA Adirondacks Corps in 2015 completed miles of priority trail construction and maintenance projects, fire tower rehabilitation, as well as hundreds of acres of invasive species management and campground rehabilitation. This is a great example of a win-win partnership between a state agency and a not-for-profit, as SCA Adirondack Corps members gain valuable hands-on experience, unique training and certifications, and develop leadership skills that propel them into lifelong careers in conservation."