The suit sought to reopen nearly 40 Adirondack lakes and ponds, arguing that a state ban violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. It followed a floatplane ban on Low's Lake near Tupper Lake.
Baker says he brought the suit on behalf of people with disabilities, but he can't afford to go head to head with New York State over the issue any more.
Baker and five other disabled men filed the lawsuit in 2010 against the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Adirondack Park Agency.
Baker said the state's ban on the use of floatplanes and other motorized vehicles to access a list of 38 lakes and ponds in wilderness, primitive and canoe areas violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. "I was hoping the state would realize they have discriminated against disabled American veterans and the mobility-impaired people of our nation by closing those 38 lakes to seaplanes," said Baker, who's also a licensed pilot.
The state argued that the ADA doesn't require it to provide motor vehicle access to each and every location on state-owned land, and that "a substantial portion of the entire Adirondack Park is accessible” to the disabled.
In June of this year, a judge allowed the case to proceed to trial but limited the suit’s scope to just one of his arguments: that the state failed to make him a "reasonable accommodation" to access the lakes.
But now, almost three years into the case, Baker said Wednesday that he's accumulated more than $31,000 in attorney fees. "I just can't afford anymore. I had to quit,” Baker said. "I just can't compete dollar-wise with the state,"
Baker’s lawyer, Matthew Norfolk of Lake Placid, said few people can singlehandedly challenge the state on such issues. He said “help from deep pockets is needed."
While he can't afford to continue the litigation, Baker said he hopes someone else will. He said he's going to ask the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and the Seaplane Pilots Association to get involved.