GARNET LAKE CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION
a 501 (c)3 Not-for-Profit corporation
This website is created for the benefit of the members of GLCA and all those people who want to keep Garnet Lake pristine.
A Short History of Garnet Lake & Garnet Lake Conservation Association
by Roy Keats & Robert Manning
Garnet Lake was originally called Mill Creek Pond. Mill Creek Pond was enlarged by a dam in 1853 for the purpose of logging. The logging operation went from Lizard Pond all the way to the Hudson River. Around 1905 Frank Maxam, and his wife Alma (and their 6 children), were looking for some property to buy for the purpose of hunting and fishing. They bought an 89 acre parcel of land with 1/2 mile of lake frontage on Mill Creek Pond. They opened a rustic hotel (Maxam’s Lodge) catering to hunters and fishermen. They added a boardinghouse, dining room, a recreational wing, and a three story dormitory up the hill named Buckhorn. They also had a 17 acre trout pond behind the lodge. The Maxams bought the dam from North Creek Electric Company (which had modified the dam in 1913 for power production). They then raised the level of the lake flooding the marshy upper Bay. At this time he renamed it Garnet Lake probably for advertising and business reasons. In 1925 Frank’s oldest son, Floyd and his wife Bernice bought Maxam’s Lodge from his parents. By 1923 there were at least four businesses- Maxam’s, Baker’s Lodge (now Garnet Lake Lodge), Ross’s boarding House, and McElroy’s cottages.
In 1964 Bernice sold much of her property to Elizabeth Filkins, of Riparius. In1968 a fir broke out and destroyed the Lodge and the dormitory. The only remains are the small housekeeping cottages. (Maxams Lodge was on the east side next to the present day DEC Boat Launch.)(Much of this history was researched by Garnet Lake residents Candace O’Connor and her husband, Bob Wiltenburg and published in an article from Adirondack Life, October 2008.)
Many of the original camps around Garnet Lake were built in the 1930s,40s and 50s. These were camps built with outhouses. The story goes that one summer the women rebelled to have indoor plumbing, so extensions to these camps were built for bathrooms! Most camps were for summer people-only the women and children stayed all summer. The men would drive up on Friday night and stay through until Sunday.
Garnet Lake Civic Association, Inc. was incorporated August 29, 1956 as a not-for-profit corporation. The purpose of the Association is to maintain Garnet Lake and its Dam for the benefit of homeowners around the lake and the general public, and to promote community around the lake. The dam became part of GLCA after purchase from Lester Ross in 1957 for $1.00. He had bought it from Bernice Maxam in 1955.
The dam was reconstructed into its present configuration in 1957. At that time members of the Garnet Lake Civic Association replaced the existing timber crib dam with a concrete and stone structure. The Town of Johnsburg rebuilt the roadway and installed the three spillway culver pipes at this time.
In 1981 the Army Corps of Engineers, as part of its National Dam Safety Program, provided an analysis of the Garnet Lake Dam. This analysis determined that the Garnet Lake Dam provided insufficient flow for a high hazard dam during catastrophic flooding events. It requested that the GLCA get engineering analyses done, and do remedial work. In 1989 the GLCA completed the analysis work, and with the Town of Johnsburg’s assistance, added an emergency spillway on the west side of the dam (the dip in the road).
For 20 years all was quiet. Then the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation changed its Dam Safety Regulations in August of 2009 to put 100% of the burden of dam inspection, analyses, and maintenance on the dam owners. The GLCA officially owns the dam (but not the road over the top). Since 2009 we have paid professional engineering firms to do written Safety Inspections, develop an official Emergency Action Plan with an inundation report, and do an Engineering Assessment of the adequacy of our dam. As of June 2015, this report is still waiting for a DEC response on our recommendations. We also are required to certify our dam annually, review the EAP annually, and do monthly dam inspections. In 2018 we hired another firm to do a verification of the results of the Engineering Assessment looking for excess conservatisms. The original analysis results were confirmed. So far the new requirements have cost the GLCA approximately $41,000, and countless volunteer hours.
In September of 2018 we received a NYS DEC inspection report from Dam Safety informing us that the DEC now considers our dam to have a condition rating of “Unsound-Fair.” This letter gave us 30 days to contest this ruling and 30 days to come up with a schedule for fixing the problem. We were allowed to delay our reply because of extenuating circumstances at DEC and with our own volunteers. Since our 2014 Engineering Assessment was issued, DEC has never met with us on our recommendations, so the original schedule proposed in 2014 was no longer valid. Action was never taken because DEC did not respond to our recommendation (3 potential concepts). On 10/29/2018 the DEC engineer gave us an email indicating which concept they consider acceptable. We now have a proposal from C.T. Male to come up with a preliminary engineering design to remediate the problem. This design will probably entail a complete replacement of the dam and bridge.
In addition, GLCA volunteers have been monitoring the water quality of our lake since 1989. Water samples are sent to be tested for water quality several times over the summer. Mainly the water quality is unchanged from year to year. Volunteers are now monitoring for invasive species in the lake. At this time we do not have the invasives that many other lakes have. Our goal is to keep it that way by monitoring especially around the DEC public boat access site. We are also going to be educating the public on how to keep invasives from entering our lake from their boats and trailers.
We have an annual Picnic and GLCA meeting to discuss any issues that are pertinent at that time. The meeting is always scheduled for the last Saturday in July.