The plan would require landowners in Racquette Lake to pay roughly $600,000 to buy a new piece of land for the Adirondack Forest Reserve. In exchange, New York State would drop claims on roughly 1,000 acres of disputed property around Racquette Lake.
“Well certainly it’s something hanging over your head all these years,” said Jim Blanchard, one of the landowners who took part in the negotiations. “My great-grandfather came to Racquette Lake with his father, my great-great-grandfather, and they built a hunting camp on the property that I now own.”
Blanchard’s family has owned one of the 200 disputed parcels since the late 1800’s, which is when clear title to the property came into dispute. This triggered decades of lawsuits and animosity. According to Blanchard, a new plan to settle the issue was unveiled at a landowner meeting earlier this month and drew unanimous support. He said, “The deal on the table is, though we’d rather not pay anything, we think it’s reasonable. We’re contributing some money so it’s not totally without paying and we feel that it’s acceptable to us to move ahead with this.”
Three green groups, the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Adirondack Council and Adirondack Wild, have also endorsed the deal. Blanchard says that the biggest change is a clear effort by the Cuomo administration to put the issue to rest. “You know, we always saw the state as our enemy for years and now we really, and I want that message clear, that we feel the state is as interested in having this be a reasonable solution as we are.”
Because it involves the state forest preserve, the deal requires an amendment to the state constitution. That requires the legislature to pass a bill this session before adjournment, and again next session. Then the issue would be placed on the state-wide ballot. An earlier effort to settle the case failed in 2009.