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Our Hike on the Threatened Road to Whitehouse
A Photo Story

April 11, 2006
By Carol W. LaGrasse

Part II

Open Field for Camping on the West Branch of the Sacandaga River

This large open grassy field accommodated hunters each fall long before the property at Whitehouse became State Forest Preserve in 1962. The DEC intends to eliminate camping on this field because, in the opinion of the radical management at the agency, it is too close to the West Branch of the Sacandaga River. The DEC intends to destroy the West River Road leading to the campsites along the road and at Whitehouse, which will make reaching the sites very difficult while carrying camping equipment and the large communal tents that are traditional. But, even if DEC holds off some of its intention to close the town highway while it negotiates with the town or reaches a compromise about the highway, the plan to destroy any campsites that are within 150 feet of any watercourse could reduce this field to a condition as unsuitable as that resulting from a military attack on an airfield.

DEC's standard plan for non-conforming campsites is: "Restore all closed campsites to to their natural state by removing all evident camping signs and rehabilitating the area as necessary, using the following techniques where appropriate: cultivation of devegetated areas to promote root growth, seeding or planting appropriate vegetation, posting the area as closed to camping." (1)

It is impossible to be certain from the Silver Lake Wilderness plan which of the many campsites at Whitehouse are slated for removal, because the way of counting campsites is unclear and the campsite location diagrams are worse than rudimentary. Camping locations with many campsites seem to be referred to as a single campsite by DEC.

This is the open field where Mike Groff and his family before him pitched their hunting camp with many fellow hunters during the big game hunting season year after year. Somehow DEC's radicals do not recognize that the use of this field without negative environmental impact for over forty years since the land became part of the State Forest Preserve argues for continuing to welcome the public to camp there.



The Chimney at the Suspension Bridge over the West Branch of the Sacandaga

Shortly before our hike to Whitehouse on April 11, a large balsam had fallen across the little clearing at the West Branch of the Sacandaga where the old Whitehouse chimney stands near the suspension bridge. The tree narrowly missed the historic chimney. The chimney is the remains of a building that was most recently a boys' camp. The structures at Whitehouse were removed and burned by New York State when it acquired the land in 1962.



The Suspension Bridge over the West Branch of the Sacandaga at Whitehouse

A view from the opposite side of the West Branch of the Sacandaga River from Whitehouse gives a picture of one of the two spans of the steel suspension bridge that was constructed in 1962. The "swinging" footbridge is deemed non-conforming by DEC and to ultimately be removed because it is not constructed of natural materials. However, the agency plans, according to its Silver Lake Wilderness scheme, to maintain the bridge in a "safe" condition for the next ten to fifteen years while it locates an easier crossing location for the Northville-Lake Placid Trail.



Crossing the Steel Suspension Footbridge at Whitehouse

The chimney remains of the Whitehouse establishment near the shore of the West Branch of the Sacandaga River can be seen in the distance at the far end of the span of the suspension bridge over the river. Susan Allen is seen crossing on the planked walkway between the eye-rod hangers and the stayed suspension cables, as we start our hike back to our vehicle in the evening shadows.



A Steel Tower of the Suspension Bridge Over the West Branch of the Sacandaga

A few yards from the chimney that remains of the Whitehouse establishment on the shore of the West Branch of the Sacandaga, one of the towers of the two-span suspension bridge supports the twisted main cables and the smaller steel stays that help to secure the plank surfaced walkway, which itself suspends from steel eye-rods. An intermediary tower on a small island supports the other end of the cable and a second set of stays, as well as the duplicate structural system for the second span to the opposite shore of the river.

As a civil engineer who was drawn to the profession by the pure beauty of bridges, I find it incomprehensible that DEC would not intend to minimize environmental impact by maintaining such a fine structure indefinitely. Why is the paint peeling off the towers, why are the cables becoming wicked to grasp without gloves, why are the steel stays and eye-hangers rusting, why is the wood structure for the climb at the opposite shore rickety and dangerous? Nor do I find it within comprehension that DEC and the aesthetic mavens at the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation would not choose aesthetically to preserve this charming example of a small suspension foot bridge.



Carol LaGrasse and Mike Groff at the Chimney Remains of the Whitehouse
(Photo: Susan Allen)

Having reached our destination, Susan Allen, Mike Groff and I take a break in the evening sunshine at the doomed chimney at Whitehouse on the shore of the West Branch of the Sacandaga. Just in front of us, the cable from the suspension bridge can be seen stretching out of its underground anchorage. Each of these structures are deemed unfit to remain by the radical New York State environmental agency, DEC.



Susan Allen beside a Fallen Tree at Whitehouse

Susan Allen muses at the "Camping Prohibited" sign that the State had once posted on a balsam fir. The large tree fell shortly before our hike, and landed just to one side of the chimney remains of the camping establishment at Whitehouse on the shore of the West Branch of the Sacandaga…A chance respite for one small remaining evidence of the local heritage that DEC is inexorably destroying as the radical environmentalists carry out their long-term plan to depopulate the Adirondack region.

See Part I - Our Hike on the Threatened Road to Whitehouse


(1) "Silver Lake Wilderness Area - Draft UMP," Aug. 2005 - NYS DEC, p. 75

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