NORTH HUDSON — State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos stood at a podium, wearing a cowboy hat. Behind him were seven riders on horseback and one little girl on a pony. A pile of horse manure lay only a few feet from Seggos.
“It isn’t often we can have a press conference with manure on the ground,” he said. “A guy was about to shovel it up, but I told him not to. On any other occasion it wouldn’t be appropriate, but I think today it makes sense.”
Above Seggos’s head, attached to timber archway was a sign that read “Frontier Town.”
The old amusement park Frontier Town, which is located on Route 9, only a minute from I-87, has been given new life as the “Gateway to the Adirondacks” tourism hub. It’s still called Frontier Town, but it has a new identity. The DEC and the state Office of General Services unveiled the first phase of the hub at a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed the “Gateway” in his 2017 state of the state speech. The new tourism hub is a $25 million public-private investment to repurpose the theme park to bolster the local economy and to link recreational opportunities in the Adirondacks.
Thursday’s ceremony officially marked the opening of a campground, two day-use areas, trails and 33 equestrian sites for horse riding.
The speakers at the opening included Seggos, OGS Commissioner RoAnn Destito, Essex County Board of Supervisors Chairman Randy Preston, state Sen. Betty Little, state Assemblyman Dan Stec, Open Space Institute Senior Vice President Erik Kulleseid and North Hudson Supervisor Randy Moore.
The speeches were mainly thank yous and bravos to all the folks and organizations who helped make the “Gateway” possible, along with a few cowboy jokes and “howdy, partners” thrown in there.
Seggos said there were two main aspects of Frontier Town: accessibility and green initiatives. The site is right off the Northway at Exit 29, and the landscape and trails are gentle. There is space for hikers, riders, campers, horses, people with RVs and folks looking to barbecue. As for environmental initiatives, Seggos pointed out a large system of solar panels that was powering a nearby ticket and informational booth. He also noted how many of the lots and roads will be made with gravel so that water diffuses more easily into the ground.
Phase two, which is expected to finish in summer 2019, will add RV and tent sites, 10 miles of equestrian trails, snowmobile trails and a private development the DEC hasn’t yet announced. Electric car chargers are also scheduled to be added during this phase. At the nearby Sunoco gas station, owned by Muhammad Ahmed, there will be a free boat washing station to help protect environments from invasive species.
Once completed, Frontier Town hopes to draw plenty of visitors, Seggos said.
“We want to make this a major destination, not just for New Yorkers or folks in the area, but well beyond that,” he said. “I think it can be that because it’s situated so perfectly right next to some of these world-class outdoor amenities like the Boreas Ponds, the Essex Chain Lakes and the High Peaks. I mean, this is a perfect launching pad for all those wonderful destinations, so I think this will see real record user-ship from all over the country and all over the world. You’re going to have people talking about New York and people talking about Frontier Town like they used to many years ago.”
A private development on the site is the new Paradox Brewery. The current brewery is located in Schroon, only a few miles away. The new building is just a shell right now, but crews will soon begin pouring concrete.
“We’ll maybe start brewing by January,” said Paul Mrocka, Paradox owner, “and hopefully the tasting room will be open in the spring. It’s awesome. We’re moving from 1,400 square feet to 25,000. We just can’t brew as much at the other location, but the demand is there. We’ve already started hiring employees that are all local. There’s a lot of opportunities at Paradox. Plenty of jobs will be coming in. We’re very excited for the town, the community and the Adirondacks.”
The original Frontier Town opened in 1952 and operated for almost 50 years. It showcased life in the 1800s. There were rodeos, stagecoach rides and shootouts in the street, which were followed up by an undertaker measuring the corpses for casket sizes. The park shut down in 1998, and since then many of the kitschy shops and phony jails had become overgrown with plant life.
Since then, North Hudson has seen some economic trouble and a lack of jobs. Moore thinks the new Frontier Town is a much-needed improvement for his town.
“There’s a hope in the future for increased business and job opportunities,” Moore said. “There’s going to be 13 or 14 part-time jobs here at the campsite alone, and then you’ve got Paradox Brewery coming in. They’re going to have full-time jobs, maybe upwards of 20, so I think the outlook is great. I think it’s sort of a rebirth, not only for the town, but for Frontier Town, and they kind of go hand-in-hand.”