By CRISTINE MEIXNER
INDIAN LAKE - Spring white water rafting has begun, but the fledgling outfitter that had hoped to open its business here has instead opened it in North Creek.
Lori Phoebe Benton and Lincoln "Link" Marsac changed their plan to locate Square Eddy Expeditions at 7761 State Route 28 here after a contentious public hearing in October 2012.
The hearing was required because the pair needs a conditional use permit to open a business at that location.
Their timing could not have been worse. Despite their years of experience working as guides for a number of outfitters, the drowning death of an Ohio woman while being guided by another company just six days before the hearing stacked the deck against them.
Several nearby property owners spoke against the plan. There was a tone of contempt for "the rafting crowd" and worries about lowered property values.
Also, Attorney for the Planning Board Michael Miller pointed out the Adirondack Park Agency would have jurisdiction, because the area is within 150 feet of a scenic highway. The APA regulates land use in the Adirondack Park.
DOWN, BUT NOT OUT
Benton said Saturday that she and her partner went ahead and bought the Rt. 28 property, along with 24 rafting slots from Wayne Failing, owner of Middle Earth Expeditions, but didn't feel they would have enough time to seek an APA permit before the spring rafting season began.
So, because they are currently living in the North Creek area, for this year they opened Square Eddy Expeditions there.
"[The Rt. 28 property] is a scenic corridor that would require an APA permit," Benton explained. "We just decided this year we would go an easier route and perhaps pursue it in the future."
However, they will be moving to the Rt. 28 property and living there soon, she said. It includes a camp and a garage; if they pursue and obtain a conditional use permit they would build a pavilion to be used in the rafting business.
OPENING APRIL 20
In the meantime, Square Eddy Expeditions will be operating from a garage behind Izzy's Market & Deli at 282 Main Street in North Creek, owned by friends Dave and Kathy Waite. The Town of Johnsburg Planning Board approved the arrangement Feb. 25.
Benton and Marsac have three rafts and can accommodate 24 people a day. They will take their very first customers down the river Saturday, April 20.
"We're opening April 20," Benton said. "We're hoping it will warm up and we will get some snowmelt. We have a party of eight scheduled."
Other outfitters started running the river this past weekend. Benton said after guiding on the river for years "when it is this cold and with low snow melt we decided to wait."
27 YEARS GUIDING
Benton, who is from Indian Lake, says she has been guiding on the Hudson River for 27 years.
"Yesterday I was blowing up my own boats to move them when it suddenly hit me: they are my boats, they are my paddles. It was really super cool. It's such a great feeling.
"I've been pouring my heart and soul into other people's businesses for a long time. Now I'll be doing it for ours."
She and Marsac met when he came here to raft the Hudson River and have been together for five years, Benton said.
"He is from south of Boston and has always been around water," she said. "He came to run the Hudson and I snatched him up.
"We've had two 21-day white water rafting trips down the Grand Canyon since we met," she added.
Square Eddy Expeditions can be reached at (518) 251-5200. Its website is at squareeddy.com/.