Private landowners in New York can't prohibit paddlers from navigating streams on their property, a state Supreme Court judge ruled Tuesday. The Brandreth Park Association and Friends of Thayer Lake had sued canoeist Phil Brown after he wrote an article about a trip in which he used Shingle Shanty Brook, which crosses Brandreth land, to travel between two lakes in the public Whitney Wilderness Area in the Adirondacks.
In its ruling, the court pointed to a similar decision in 1998, in which the Sierra Club won a case over the right to navigate a stretch of the Moose River that crossed private land. Speaking to North Country Public Radio, Brown said he had some sympathy for the landowners.
I can understand why they wouldn't want the public walking on their land, but the state court of appeals has said portaging around rapids is part of the common law, it's a right the public has. And it's an understandable right, because you can imagine having a long waterway, that can go on for miles and miles, and you have a small stretch of rapids. Should that small stretch of rapids prevent the public from using the entire waterway?
The Whitney Wilderness area attracts about 2,000 visitors annually, according to New York's Department of Environmental Conservation.