Conservancy Buys Famed Adirondack Lake

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The New York Sun

ALBANY — An Adirondack lake immortalized as the site of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Philosophers’ Camp” 150 years ago has been purchased for $16 million by a preservation group for eventual inclusion in New York state’s Forest Preserve.

The Nature Conservancy announced its purchase of Follensby Pond near Tupper Lake in the central Adirondacks yesterday. The 14,600-acre forest tract borders the High Peaks Wilderness Area and includes more than 10 miles of meandering frontage on the Raquette River.

The property has been owned by John and Bertha McCormick of Manchester, Vt., for more than 50 years. They sold it to the Nature Conservancy to ensure that it remains intact and largely wild.

The tract won’t be open to the public for a while, Connie Prickett of the Nature Conservancy said. Several hunting clubs have small cabins on the land, and their leases will be continued for several years, Ms. Prickett said.

“We know that many people are eager to visit Follensby Pond, but ask that the public be patient as we work through the transactional and transitional details,” the executive director of The Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack Chapter, Michael Carr, said.

White Birches, the sprawling McCormick family lodge at Follensby Pond, was dismantled after its contents were auctioned off several years ago, Ms. Prickett said.

In 1858, Emerson, James Russell Lowell, Louis Agassiz, and other Boston scholars set up tents on the shore of Follensby Pond in a gathering that came to be known as the Philosophers’ Camp. Historians note the event as a landmark in the 19-century intellectual movement linking nature with art and literature, as well as a stimulus for early tourism in the Adirondacks.

The significance of Follensby Pond is well-documented and today’s announcement is one for the history books,” the commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Pete Grannis, said.

The Follensby Pond tract has long been coveted by preservationists and recreation groups as the last remaining gem to be acquired and added to the state’s Forest Preserve, protected as “forever wild” by the state constitution.

That vision is shared by John McCormick. “My wife was a true conservationist, and together, we’ve long envisioned Follensby one day becoming a part of the publicly owned Forest Preserve,” he said. “I have every confidence that The Nature Conservancy and New York State will work together over the next few years to make that happen.”

The executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, Neil Woodworth, called the Follensby tract “a canoeist’s dream.”

“The nearly 8-mile-long, undeveloped lake connects by a wonderful, meandering channel to the Raquette River canoe route — the longest and most popular wilderness canoe route in the Adirondacks, stretching from Blue Mountain Lake to Tupper Lake,” Mr. Woodworth said. “The lake has deep bays and is lobed like a big oak leaf, and it’s surrounded by magnificent white pines. There’s really nothing like Follensby Park in the entire New York-New England area.”

In February, the state agreed to buy 57,699 acres of timberland as well as conservation easements on another 73,627 acres in the central Adirondacks from the Nature Conservancy. That land was owned for decades by the Finch, Pruyn & Co. lumber company. Ms. Prickett said the state is still appraising that land and a price has not yet been determined.

The New York Sun

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