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Open Space Institute Announces Completion of Adirondac Upper Works Project to Improve Public Access in the Adirondacks

Town of Newcomb, NY (September 12, 2021)—The Open Space Institute (OSI) today announced that a series of projects aimed at improving public access at its historic, 212-acre Adirondac Upper Works property are completed. In addition to serving as a southern entrance to many popular High Peaks Wilderness Area trails, the property provides easy access to Henderson Lake, a popular kayak and canoe location; contains three trailheads leading to scenic forested hiking trails; and features interpretive panels that provide historical insight to visitors.

With improvements completed, the OSI property can accommodate visitors to the property and those seeking access to the increasingly popular High Peaks Wilderness Area – and in doing so, better disperse hikers and protect the region’s trails and precious natural resources.

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Aerial view of the parking area renovation.

The completed projects at OSI’s Adirondac Upper Works include the redesign, relocation, expansion, and construction of a new, 60-car Upper Works parking area and trailhead; the installation of new wayfinding signage to help visitors navigate the property; and a second-round of stabilization for the historic, McIntyre Blast Furnace.

In addition to the physical improvements underway on site, OSI also unveiled a new logo for the property, which is incorporated into the new trailhead signage.

Having originally pledged $1 million for capital improvements at Adirondac Upper Works to upgrade overall public access, OSI has exceeded its commitment, investing more than $1.3 million on site improvements with more projects still in the planning phase.

“The improvements we celebrate today will add to the enjoyment of visitors who want to take in the beauty and history of this property, as well as those setting out for a High Peak hike,” said Kim Elliman, OSI president and CEO. “OSI's construction and expansion of the Upper Works Trailhead will result in better dispersement of explorers, improve public safety and navigation, and protect precious natural resources. Thanks to our partnerships with the Town of Newcomb and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the generosity of our donors, visitors will be able to learn more about, fully appreciate, and enjoy this unparalleled landscape.”

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "The Adirondacks are one of our irreplaceable natural treasures and this project makes them more accessible. We're proud to partner with Open Space Institute and the town of Newcomb to make this project a reality. With more and more people enjoying the High Peaks, this gives hikers new trails to explore and complements the nearly 10,000-acre Tahawus tract and other ongoing efforts to promote sustainable use in the region.”

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Adirondac Upper Works Logo

“On September 12, 2021 – eighteen years after Governor George Pataki officially welcomed the public to the Tahawus Preserve, the vision of presenting the historic Tahawus Tract by the Open Space Institute has finally become a reality. Supervisor George Canon, who was instrumental in establishing the acquisition of the Tahawus Tracts said, ‘it provides a variety of opportunities for the Town of Newcomb to enhance its goals of becoming a historic destination site and, along with the Santanoni Preserve, and will provide the base to meet those goals.’ The acquisition of the Tahawus Tract is successful only because of the public-private partnership that exists between the Town of Newcomb, New York State, AARCH and the OSI. Our continued partnership will ensure that in years to come the Adirondac Village will remain the historical entrance into the southern high peaks,” said Robin DeLoria, supervisor of the Town of Newcomb.

OSI worked on the redesign and expansion of the Upper Works parking area in partnership with the Town of Newcomb, which assisted with construction.

OSI is also looking to rehabilitate the historic MacNaughton Cottage to further enhance its Adirondac Upper Works property and improve hiker safety and enjoyment, promote tourism, and preserve the region’s historic and natural assets. Upon completion, MacNaughton Cottage will be available for education and interpretation, recreational programming, and visitor information, and will serve as an outpost for a recreational outfitter, enhancing use of this remote trailhead. OSI also indicated that it is pursuing additional partnerships, private funds, and grants to fully achieve the final phase of its ambitious plan.

History of the Land

Recognizing the historic and environmental importance of this spectacular landscape located in the heart of the Adirondack Park, OSI acquired the 10,000-acre Tahawus tract in 2003. OSI then transferred most of the property to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as an addition to the High Peaks Wilderness Area, retaining the 212-acre Adirondac Upper Works for educational, historic, and recreational purposes.

Since then, OSI, with support from the Prospect Hill Foundation, the Overhills Foundation, , the Cloudsplitter Foundation, the Walbridge Foundation, and New York State, has invested nearly $1.3 million in improvements at the Adirondac Upper Works, including site planning; the stabilization of the blast furnace; the creation of an interpretative trail with educational panels that guides visitors through the former Village of Adirondac to the historic 1854 Blast Furnace; and the structural preservation of MacNaughton Cottage. Built in 1834, MacNaughton Cottage is the site from which then Vice President Theodore Roosevelt received word that President William McKinley was dying and began his famous “midnight ride” to the presidency in 1901.

Attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, the High Peaks Wilderness Area is the best known, most heavily used, and largest Forest Preserve unit in the Adirondack Park. Increased visitation to the High Peaks over the past few years is providing an economic boon in certain Adirondack communities.

In addition to providing an alternative southern access to the High Peaks, OSI is seeking additional solutions to improve recreational access while protecting the park and preserving its cultural and natural resources. Recent and ongoing land protection projects include Tub Mill Pond and Trembleau Mountain in Essex County, Hans Creek in Saratoga County, the Boeselager Working Forest Additions in Clinton County, and Huckleberry Mountain in Warren County, among others.

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