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Canoe case going back to court

Tuesday, August 05, 2014 - Updated: 8:47 AM



JOHNSTOWN -- The lawsuit over canoeing two miles of a waterway through privately owned lands in the Town of Long Lake is headed to the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court.

The legal journey started when Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine Editor Phil Brown paddled from one parcel of public land to another in the William C. Whitney Wilderness Area in May 2009, using Mud Pond, Mud Pond Outlet and a section of Shingle Shanty Brook.

Instead of using an .8-mile carry around the private land, Brown paddled past 'No Trespassing' signs and through property owned by Friends of Thayer Lake, in which Brandreth Park Association has an interest, and published an article about his trip.

The Brandreth Park Association and Friends of Thayer Lake sued Brown for trespassing in the fall of 2010.

"I believed I had the right to canoe the waterway, and so I did," Brown says. "My aim was to write about navigation rights, using the Mud Pond-Shingle Shanty stretch as an example of a disputed waterway."

In February of 2013 NYS Supreme Court Justice Richard T. Aulisi ruled in Brown's favor, saying the route is navigable-in-fact. He opened it to the canoeing and kayaking public and dismissed the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs have now appealed Aulisi's ruling. A hearing is expected in the fall.

Under the law, a navigable waterway may be used as a public highway for travel, regardless of whether it flows over public or private land. The debate is over whether or not it must be able to accommodate commercial traffic to be deemed "navigable-in-fact."

Attorney Dennis Phillips of Glens Falls represents Friends of Thayer Lake and Brandreth Park Association. Attorney John Caffry of Glens Falls represents Brown.


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