Harrietstown may jump-start Dewey

SARANAC LAKE – The town of Harrietstown is looking for ways to get a new Dewey Mountain Recreation Center base lodge built this year.

Dewey Mountain Friends and the Saranac Lake Rotary Foundation have raised funds for the project at the town-owned cross-country ski and snowshoe center. So far, they’ve collected $125,000 and have a design for a new lodge, but with the project’s estimated price tag at $565,000, they still have a long way to go.

Town officials said Thursday the condition of the existing lodge, a 21-year-old converted job-site trailer, may force them to do something sooner.

“The building is in delicate shape,” said Councilman Ron Keough. “Something has to be done with the building. The options are to try to fix it up and go with it; if it gets condemned or whatever, we’d have to deal with that issue. The other option is to sit with the Friends of Dewey and the Rotary Foundation and put together a financial plan that gets this job done this year. That’s the direction (Supervisor) Bob (Bevilacqua) and I would like to go.”

The existing lodge needs a new roof and has structural and electrical issues, Bevilacqua said.

“The building has really outlived its useful life,” he said.

Councilman Howard Riley said it wouldn’t make sense to spend $50,000 to $100,000 to fix up the building when, in a few years, it would be torn down for a new lodge anyway.

“Let’s put the money toward the new building,” said Councilman Ed Goetz. “It’s not going to get any cheaper.”

Bevilacqua said the town has been considering borrowing money to renovate the Harrietstown Town Hall for several years. He suggested the town could add money to that bond to help the Friends of Dewey get the new lodge built this year. The group would have to raise a certain amount of money each year to pay for that portion of the bond, Bevilacqua said.

“We own the property. We own the facility,” Keough said. “The obligation for a building of some type up there is the town’s. The volunteers have been really great about raising $125,000. There have been some other options for sponsorships up there that may reduce the amount the town has to do. It just seems we need to get at it and get it done.”

Friends of Dewey had sought funding for the new lodge from the state in the last two rounds of its Regional Economic Development competition, but their applications were unsuccessful. Bevilacqua said there’s another round of funding later this year and the group could try again.

The board unanimously approved a motion to meet with the Friends of Dewey and the Rotary Foundation to discuss the financing options and a timeline to move the project forward.

Happy at Dewey

Jason Smith, Dewey’s main manager, wasn’t at Thursday’s meeting and was happy to hear the news from an Enterprise reporter this morning. He works for Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters, a Saranac Lake business that contracts with the town to run Dewey.

“A new building would suit the area really well,” Smith said. “We’ve done a lot of work in improve the trails. We’re seeing increased enrollment in everything from the Saranac Lake High School nordic ski team (to) more kids signing up for the Dewey Mountain Youth Ski League each year.”

In Smith’s nine years of running Dewey, he’s also seen a gradual increase in Dewey visitors from outside the area, and more of them returning year after year.

The existing trailer and log cabin can’t accommodate those extra people.

“We run a Tuesday night race, and we may see 75 people there, and we can’t put everyone indoors,” Smith said. “A lot of the formalities, like the awards ceremony at a paintball biathlon race, is done outdoors.”

A new lodge would also would help with the non-winter programming Lakes and Trails has added to Dewey, like mountain biking that started this past summer.

It’s already an exciting time for Dewey regulars since the Winter Olympics are four weeks away. Several of the area’s local Olympians grew up skiing at Dewey and have come back occasionally to join kids in their ski lessons. In December, immediately after biathlete Annelies Cook of Saranac Lake clinched a spot on the U.S. Olympic squad, she was at one of Dewey’s first Youth Ski League sessions to ski with kids and to have a trail named after her. Olympians Bill Demong and Tim Burke previously had Dewey trails named for them.

Managing Editor Peter Crowley interviewed Jason Smith for this report.