Picture by Ann Spaziano.
The view from above,as this photo so clearly illustrates,is the only view.Without the reward of a view,there would be few hikers on Wakely;Snowy and Blue would be even more congested than they already are.The web page of the National Lookout Register makes the observation that lookouts may no longer play such a key role in fire prevention as in the past,but that does not mean that they are lacking in utility. The view alone certainly makes the trip worthwhile,and the opportunites to educate people about the history of the towers,the area,and the Park are reason enough to strive for a new lease on the life of Wakely Tower.
The First Annual Report of the Forest Commission of the State of New York,for the year 1885,sought to make the Legislature aware of the causes of forest fires. The report lists berry pickers,who built cooking fires;farmers,who burned 'natural meadows' to increase the yield of hay;people who spend 'weeks at a time' in the woods looking for spruce gum ("Gum hunting is quite an industry in Hamilton and Herkimer counties");bee hunters,who built fires to get the bees out of their hives.
By the 1920's,smokers were the biggest fire hazard,followed by people burning brush,grass,and rubbish. Gum and bee hunters seem to have been replaced by campers,hunters,and fishermen. So the towers served an ever-changing public.
In this new century,with campgrounds reigning in campfires,and recycling centers removing rubbish,forest fires are not as much of a threat. But the public still has a use for the towers,albeit a different use.
All of those rangers,observers,and fire fighters should be remembered for their valuable labor. The 1928 Annual Report cites Section 51 of the Conservation Law,which at that time increased the top wage for firewardens and foremen in fire fighting from 40 to 50 cents an hour,and fire fighters from 25 to 35 cents an hour.