Branding the Great South Woods

Calling a vast forest the Great North Woods just has a nice ring to it, as Bob Dylan realized when h

Calling a vast forest the Great North Woods just has a nice ring to it, as Bob Dylan realized when he wrote “Tangled Up in Blue.”

But maybe, at least in upstate New York, there’s room for a Great South Woods, too.

The southern Adirondacks don’t draw nearly as many visitors as the High Peaks region. Arguably, the High Peaks are so much nicer, as they have themselves a brand image.

But the lower Adirondack Park — the part right in our backyard — has conifer forest that stretches nearly unbroken from western Herkimer County past Lake George and a back country of low hills and hidden ponds far more desolate than what’s found in the hiker-overrun mountains to the north. You’re not going to risk hitting a moose on the drive between Keene and Lake Placid, but you definitely can between Long Lake and Speculator.

An effort to brand the southern Adirondacks as the Great South Woods, and promote them as such, is underway under the auspices of the SUNY College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry in Syracuse. A kickoff public meeting is slated for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 17, at Lake Pleasant Central School in Speculator.

The forestry school is working with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Adirondack Park Agency to come up with ideas to promote the region, so empty of civilization’s attributes that Speculator — winter population of 324 — counts as a major community.

The thinking is that more people would visit if the Great South Woods was a defined destination — and online maps showed where the best hiking, skiing and snowmobile trails are found.

“I explain this project to others as our chance to plan towards a sustainable tourism economy in the park,” said Bill Farber, chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors.

The plan also fits with sincere-seeming efforts by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to boost the Adirondack economy through more tourism — and particularly to draw visitors to the small communities away from Lake Placid and the High Peaks, which already seem to have all the flatland visitors they can handle.

The Dec. 17 meeting will be for gathering ideas for trails and destinations to promote. It will be followed

by smaller meetings over the winter in local communities.

“Front-line” communities like Old Forge and Indian Lake are likely to be suggested as spots for more visitor amenities, while other places — the Silver Lake Wilderness, say — will be identified as perfect destinations for those seeking solitude, remoteness and a sense of nature’s majesty.

The Great South Woods covers 2 million acres, nearly two-thirds of which is state-owned and therefore part of the Forest Preserve, guaranteed to remain wild — if not necessarily wilderness — forever. It stretches west from the Great Sacandaga Lake to Forestport and north to the newly state-acquired Essex Chain Lakes and the southern border of the High Peaks.

It’s full of day-trip hikes you can take without seeing anyone else, which isn’t something you can say about the High Peaks trails.


The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation this week announced nominations for the state and national registers of historic places, including one Capital Region spot: the Dunning Street Cemetery in Malta.

Established in 1775, the cemetery has served as one of the town’s principal burying grounds, but is now bordered by a Price Chopper and fast-food franchises.

It includes the graves of prominent individuals who shaped the identity of Malta when life was about hacking farms out of the woods, not hacking farms into building lots. Those buried there include town founder Michael Dunning and other veterans of the American Revolution.

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