For the past two years, Team Rubicon Region II teamed up with the nonprofit Forest Fire Lookout Association and the New York State Park Service to complete significant maintenance on fire towers and related structures. Team Rubicon Membership Manager for the Northeast Territory Todd Adrian said, “Although fire towers in New York State are no longer staffed, they are used by the park service for fire spotting during the peak fire season and are open to the public, such as to hikers.” Fire towers in New York are also one way for park visitors to learn the history of an area and how to care for their surroundings, according to the Forest Fire Lookout Association newsletter.
During two weekends in July and November 2017, 40 TR volunteers replaced all stairs and platforms on the 60-foot tall fire tower at Sterling Forest State Park in Tuxedo, New York, and made repairs to and painted the observer’s cabin, which is over a century old. Sterling Forest State Park covers more than 21,000 acres and extends to the New York-New Jersey border, and has only one fire tower for that whole area.
During two weekends in April and June 2018, 50 TR team members completed repairs and maintenance on the Jackie Jones Tower located in Harriman State Park in Ramapo, New York. (Harriman is New York’s second largest state park at more than 47,000 acres.) All stairs and platforms on the tower were replaced, as were the floor and the windows in the observation cab, which sits on top of the tower. And when all of the construction and maintenance improvements were done, the whole structure was given a fresh coat of paint.
Forest Fire Lookout Association historian Bob Spear said, “The view from Jackie Jones’ windows looking southward was always breath-taking looking down the Hudson River Valley into New York City environs and beyond towards the Atlantic Ocean. To the north is Bear Mountain and east is Fort Smith Military Reservation…” Thanks to the work TR did, the public can once again climb the tower and check out that view.
All materials for both projects were provided by the state of New York, either through the park’s budget or through grants funding. And the partnership between TR, the New York Park Service and the Forest Fire Lookout Association went so well that, “we’re already in talks about future tower projects in other parts of the state for next year,” Adrian said. He calls fire tower restoration “great projects to engage TR members and to help restore public assets” as well as being in alignment with TR’s wildland firefighting program.