Proposition 4 could end century-long conflict in the Adirondacks


BLOSSVALE, N.Y. (WKTV) -- Generations of families have been fighting for the right to their own property in the Adirondacks for over 100 years.

"The state entered the whole Township 40 as wild and vacant state land even though there's people living there, even though there's people paying their taxes," said Ken Hawks, who owns property on the north shore of Raquette Lake in Township 40.

His family has been paying taxes on the property since 1949 and the title chain goes back to the 1800's. But, as long as Township 40 is part of the forest preserve, 216 properties will have conflicting claims.

"There's always this threat of the state coming in and saying 'ejectment, you're out,'" said Hawks.

Township 40 can be removed from the preserve through individual court cases or a constitutional amendment. That's where Proposition 4 comes in. If it passes, "It becomes my property. It becomes my land free and clear and that's what this is about. There's this cloud that's over people's heads," said Hawks.

In exchange, the contested property owners will have the option to pay into a fund. The money will be used to purchase 295 acres including the Marion River Carry from a private owner that will then be given to the state.

"The current precedent is if you take an acre out you've got to put something back in. So that's the exchange we're working," said Hawks. "The state is actually gaining some very desirable, recreational and historical land and being added to the forest preserve at no cost to the taxpayer and only at cost to those of us with contested properties."

Hawks hopes that on election day, a lifelong battle for not only him, but also his father and hundreds of other property owners, will finally come to an end.

"Now's the time. We've gone this far. It's down to a vote next Tuesday," he said.

The proposition was approved by the state legislature twice and has gained wide bipartisan support. Although there are some opponents that believe each individual property owner should have to take their case to court in order to clear their title.

Whichever side you support, you can take your opinion to the polls on Nov. 5.

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