The proposed "Gateway to the Adirondacks" at the former Frontier Town theme park shows signs of being a good project.
First off, it's in North Hudson, a town of fewer than 200 people (U.S. Census Bureau 2015 survey) that has seen almost every business close since Frontier Town shut down in 1998. It's nice to see the state look to forgotten places like this for economic development.
But while North Hudson may be overlooked, it is by no means out of the way. This 300-acre site is in an excellent location on many levels:
It already has its own exit on the Adirondack Northway (Interstate 87). Exit 29 gets little traffic nowadays, but that ease of access is golden, just waiting to be put to use.
This site's land is classified as "hamlet," which is also golden - it allows the most intensive development in the Adirondack Park. In other words, a development cluster already exists here on paper, but not in practice.
It's located in the middle of a long, quiet stretch of I-87 where travelers could really use a place to get gas, eat and get some information about the Adirondack Park.
It has excellent cellphone service, thanks to a tower "hidden" in plain sight.
It's right near many beautiful places to hike, cross-country ski, fish, boat, etc., such as the new Boreas Ponds tract; the High Peaks, Dix and Hoffman Notch wilderness areas; Vanderwhacker Mountain; Great Camp Santanoni and the Essex Chain Lakes. Many of these see little traffic now, so an increase could help the towns of Newcomb and North Hudson economically as well as divert recreationists away from the over-popular mountain trails near Lake Placid.
Some people even hope for shuttle buses to lessen parking congestion at trailheads.
Spreading out hikers is good in many ways, but it could make work even harder for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, especially forest rangers, who are already overburdened. We hope the governor will take this opportunity to increase DEC staffing.
Wherever outdoor recreationists are bound, this "Gateway" could be a good place for them to stop before venturing out, check conditions, get some quick education about best practices in the backcountry, and perhaps patronize new businesses that could start up there - a gear store, for instance.
Furthermore, this would be a good reinvention of what's now a ruin. Remnants of Frontier Town still exist, but in a sad state. Granted, this project wouldn't clean up the theme park's most visible elements from the highway; the family of the late George Moore of Keeseville is hanging onto the land parcel containing the tombstone-looking main building and sign. Still, the rodeo arena, church, storefronts, covered bridge and more could be renovated and integrated into the complex that is expected to include a state campground, equestrian area and day-use area along the Schroon River, visitor center, space for events and festivals, and private businesses including a new brewery by Paradox, makers of craft beer in nearby Schroon Lake.