The New York state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) might be breaking ground in more than one way soon on the shores of Schroon Lake near the town of Chester, the Glens Falls Post-Star reported.
DEC officials said Wednesday (Jan. 26) the department is primed to open Scaroon Manor to camping by mid-June and they are hailing the project as the most handicapped-accessible facility of its kind in the state and perhaps the nation.
“We’re pretty excited,” said Region 5 Operations Director Jim McEnaney. “It just might be the most ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant campground in the country.”
Although the campground has been open for day use since 2007, this summer will be the first time the 62 camping sites DEC has designed to accommodate the disabled will be accessible.
McEnaney said, in addition to the campsites, the beach, showers and bathrooms will be on the cutting edge of accessibility for the disabled. Even some of the walking trails at Scaroon Manor are paved, allowing easy access for people in wheelchairs.
Half of the campsites will require a reservation, while the other half will be open to the first to arrive.
“We’re hoping for a little help from Warren County we got last year in Warrensburg,” McEnaney said.
Over the last year, local governments have increasingly assisted DEC in maintaining day-use and camping sites in the region. The maintenance agreements have allowed state lands — like the popular Moose River Plains in Hamilton County — to stay open despite state budget cuts.
Warren County officials, such as Chester Supervisor Fred Monroe, voiced support for the Scaroon Manor project.
“This is really good news for the town,” Monroe said. “It’s been a sore subject in our area for decades.”
Once a high-dollar resort and the location of the 1958 Gene Kelly movie, “Marjorie Morningstar,” the 242-acre site was bought by the state in 1967. The grand buildings were torn down or burned.
Camping and recreation sites designed for disabled accessibility are becoming more common throughout the Northeast, said Kathy Gips, director of training at the Institute for Human Centered Design, the Boston-based accessibility advocacy organization.
“When the ADA first came out 20 years ago, the focus was on very basic things like getting to work or voting,” she said. “Now, the second breath seems to be to make sure people can have fun and enjoy life.”
States like Massachusetts have instituted universal design programs, requiring state-run campgrounds to have accessible fire-pits and campsites. Gips noted that the largely unregulated private sector camping industry has lagged behind the public sector.
“New York is in the good stream by heading in that direction,” she said.
Some local residents have for years complained about what they call a lack of handicapped access in the Adirondacks. Last year, a group of elderly Adirondack residents — led by former Warrensburg Supervisor Maynard Baker — filed a federal lawsuit against the Adirondack Park Agency, arguing that banning floatplanes from certain Adirondack lakes disadvantages handicapped people.