Jim McCulley of Lake Placid is making an impact in a grievous battle between New York State and northern New York communities. The State has been blocking and destroying official town roads within the Forest Preserve for generations, over the objections of local people and town boards. Under New York law, only a town board action or non-use by the public for any travel whatever can cause the legal abandonment of a town road.
On March 23, 2003, Jim McCulley drove his snowmobile on the Old Mountain Road into the State Forest Preserve land in North Elba. When he returned, he telephoned a State Forest Ranger and requested that he be issued a ticket. The road was not one of the very limited number of official snowmobile trails sanctioned by the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) within the three-million-plus acre Forest Preserve. When Mr. McCulley's case finally reached the Essex County Supreme Court, the tables were turned against the State. Judge Andrew Halloran ruled in March 2005 that Mr. McCulley was not guilty of using his snowmobile illegally on Forest Preserve land because the road was a town highway.
The State did not appeal the decision, but instead tried to bring Mr. McCulley before a DEC administrative court. Mr. McCulley turned the tables again and sued the State in Federal District Court for violating his civil rights. The case was heard in October before Judge Lawrence Kahn.