A native of Ticonderoga, Ronald Moore remembers riding up state Route 9 as a young chid to visit Frontier Town more than a half century ago.
He can't shake the adolescent memory that was the thrill of the amusement park's stagecoach ride, when masked horsemen would surprise guests with guns blazing.
"It was a great place," Moore said. "It provided a lot of jobs for a lot of people through the years. It had to be, I would think, in the hundreds. People worked as cowboys, Indians, cavalry, there were people who manned all these different buildings, the rodeo, the mills.
The main lodge at the former Frontier Town is seen last week as plans were announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to create a “gateway to the Adirondacks” on this site. (News photo —?Justin Levine)
Sixty five years after the wild-west-themed Frontier Town was built in 1952, and nearly two decades after the park closed in 1998, the 66-year-old town Supervisor Moore has worked closely with county and state officials to return some of that magic to the Frontier Town site that overlooks the Dix Mountain Wilderness area and features views of mountains such as the smaller Nippletop and Niagara mountains.
Amid the pomp and circumstance of his 2017 budget proposals, Gov. Andrew Cuomo dubbed his $32 million state investment plan for Frontier Town as a "Gateway to the Adirondacks." The plan is to utilize 300 acres adjacent to Exit 29 of the Adirondack Northway (Interstate 87) to create a new hub within the park, complete with a visitor information center, a state Department of Environmental Conservation campground and day-use area along the Schroon River, an event center with tourist accommodations and facilities for hosting shows and festivals, areas designated for commercial business development, and historic interactive exhibits about the Adirondack Park.
For Moore, who moved to North Hudson in 1993, has served on the towns' board since 2002 and has been supervisor for the past five years, this news was a 180-degree change economically for a town that has struggled since the amusement park closed nearly two decades ago.
"It was very difficult," Moore said of the economic downturn in the town after the closure of Frontier Town. "Back then, there was actually probably at least two, maybe three gas stations, a diner, a grocery store, and actually where the A-frame is now there was a McDonald's. So when Frontier Town closed, slowly but surely each one of those businesses closed."
As of the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, 240 people lived in North Hudson, a figure that dropped to 196 as of the bureau's 2015 American Community Survey. In 2000, 266 people lived in the town. And according to the 2015 ACS, the media age in the town was 52.8, 20 percent higher than the Essex County average of 45.9. And residents reported an average travel time to work of 30.5 minutes, more than 10 minutes above the county average.
But with the planned development and desired private investment at the Frontier Town site, elected leaders like Moore are using words like "elated," to describe just what this plan could mean for North Hudson and the surrounding towns such as Schroon Lake. The key word is "hope."
"It's an amazing, amazing situation, not only for the town of North Hudson but also for Essex County and surrounding communities." Moore said. "We've got Paradox Brewery coming in (to open a brewery site on the Frontier Town land). Hopefully that will create jobs. Hopefully we will connect to the community connector trails between North Hudson and the Five Towns Upper Hudson Recreation Hub.
"Everything fits together really, really well," he continued. "It's what we work for."
As a member of the so-called "Five Towns" around Exit 29?- Minerva, Newcomb, North Hudson, Indian Lake and Long Lake - Moore supports the Adirondack Park Agency's Alternative 1 for the classification of the Boreas Ponds. It's a half-Wild Forest half-Wilderness plan that Moore thinks would open up the proposed Frontier Town development corridor between the Northway and Route 9 to business's such as wilderness outfitters, restaurants and lodging.
"This all ties together like a glove, he said. "A lot of times what we lack is four season recreation, and snowmobiling is a big, big recreation sport that brings millions into the state every year and that all is going to start right here in North Hudson, or it can because of the close proximity to the Northway.
"People will be able to go for miles and miles and go through different towns," he continued, "you take that and couple that with a brewery, it's all very exciting, and it's going to bring, I believe, a destination unlike anything we have in the state, in my opinion."
Moore said he is hopeful the development of the Frontier Town parcel would entice outfitters like those with bicycle rentals, guiding services, hiking gear, canoes and kayaks as well. Moore points to how the Schroon River runs along the property and would be ideal for adventure-based businesses to set up shop.
As for a timeline, Moore said he isn't aware of any at this point, though he anticipates the work will be completed in phases.
"The campsite could be a year away or more, I'm not sure, it's pure guesswork," Moore said. "But we'd like to keep as much along the Route 9 corridor open as possible for private investment, such as what the brewery is doing. And I think because the land for the campsite is being purchased through a conservation easement, it allows some flexibility for private investment down within the campsite itself.
"It could take a long time before everything is complete," he continued, "but we would like to see the equestrian portion done as soon as we can get going on it."