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The idea that a private property right that's been in the family since 1851 becomes a public nuisance is a huge leap to the left.

NY Attorney General wades into Adirondack paddler vs. property rights case

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New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is suing private landowners in the Adirondacks in an effort to force them to open a stretch of water that the state says is navigable.

Schneiderman announced yesterday that the state is intervening in a case that has pitted canoers and paddlers against property rights advocates. Brian Mann has details.

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Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

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In a statement, Schneiderman accused two groups – the Friends of Thayer Lake and the Brandreth Park Association – of creating a public nuisance by stretching steel cables and posting what he called “intimidating” signs along the route, which includes a section of Shingle Shanty Brook located between Tupper Lake and Long Lake

"The public has a right to travel and enjoy this beautiful waterway without being stopped or harassed," Shneiderman said in a statement.

"I will not hesitate to defend the public's right to travel on these or other navigable waters.”

Schneiderman says his office will work with state Environment officials to make sure that paddlers can use Shingle Shanty Brook, which canoists have prized as a way of traveling from Little Tupper Lake to Lake Lila.

Dennis Phillips is an attorney representing the landowners.  He said he was disappointed but not surprised by the Attorney General’s suit.

"We're defending a private property right here," Phillips said.  "The idea that a private property right that's been in the family since 1851 becomes a public nuisance is a huge leap to the left as far as I'm concerned and that would be strongly defended against."

This case was launched in November when the landowners sued journalist Phil Brown with the Adirondack Explorer magazine based in Saranac Lake. 

Brown paddled the route and published articles and blog posts suggesting that the route is navigable and should be open under state law.

Brown declined to comment yesterday on the Attorney General’s decision to intervene.  But his attorney, John Caffry, said the decision is a huge boost to the magazine’s defense.

"I think it's very significant," Caffry said.  "I think it shows first that this is an important case.  Second I think it bolsters our argument that the state believes that these waters are navigable and is willing to take steps to enforce those public rights."

The Adirondack Explorer has created a legal defense fund to pay for the court case.  The property owners have said that they hope to recoup their legal costs from the magazine if they prevail.

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