Bramley’s Tower’s History

To listen to an informative and entertaining podcast on Fire Towers and this fire tower project, Check out this great Kaatscast podcast featuring Brett Barry doing an on-trail interview with FOBMFT board member Laurie Rankin. Besides talking about our project and its origins, Laurie gives a short history of New York State fire towers. Laurie is the daughter of Larry Bake who was the observer at the Balsam Lake Fire Tower, and her deep, personal  knowledge of fire towers makes this podcast extremely compelling.

Not to be missed!  Listen here.

The NYC DEP purchased the parcel containing the summit of Bramley Mountain in 2008, and in 2014 the Catskill Mountain Club approached the DEP about building a hiking trail to the summit of Bramley Mountain. A DEP Land Use Permit was issued and in 2016 a loop trail was built to the summit of Bramley Mountain, traveling first to a scenic former quarry and then through a mixed hardwood forest with many interesting rock formations on the way to the summit. The trail descends the mountain on an old woods road to return to the trailhead. The trail has been immensely popular since it was opened in July of 2016, with more than 2000 visitors in 2019, an increase of almost 43% of 2018 usage.

Recently, Tom Clark, the son of the farmer who had originally purchased the tower contacted the Catskill Mountain Club and offered to donate the tower if the Club would be able to return the historical fire tower to its original location. Mr. Clark had been approached in the past about selling the tower to a company who would move it out of the area, but he remained hopeful that it could be returned to Bramley Mountain one day.

The Catskill Mountain Club initially approached the DEP about the possibility of restoring the tower to the Bramley summit. The CMC asked whether there was a reasonable possibility that the DEP would allow this, and if so, the Club would find out more about the condition of the tower now, 50 years later, and what it would take to put the tower back up. DEP’S Paul Lenz gave the CMC the answer that it was definitely possible.

The CMC then engaged Dave Vana, of Davanna LLC, the foremost fire tower restoration expert in the Eastern United States (Mr. Vana was recently engaged by the NYSDEC to help construct the Fire Tower for the Catskill Visitor Center) to examine the tower components stored in the building on the Clark farm and to determine whether the tower was in good enough shape to undertake the project. On October 16th, two members of the CMC accompanied Mr. Vana and the NY State Chapter Director of the Forest Fire Lookout Association to see the tower and the summit site. Mr. Vana determined that the tower components are in excellent condition.

The Catskill Mountain Club approached the Town of Delhi to participate in the project as the lessee and insurer of the tower since the Catskill Mountain Club, owning no real property, would not be in a position to provide insurance on the tower. Tom Clark, the owner of the tower, will keep ownership of the tower, leasing it to the Town of Delhi for $1 for 99 years, with the stipulation that if the tower needs to be taken down for any reason, it will be returned to the Clark family. After many meetings, much deliberation, and with significant community support, the Town of Delhi agreed to be the lessee of the tower and include coverage for it under town insurance policies.

The Catskill Mountain Club initiated the formation of Friends of Bramley Mountain Fire Tower as an organization dedicated to the Fire Tower Project. FOBMFT is comprised of membership from the Club and the local hiker and business community that will live on long after the tower has been returned to Bramley Mountain.

We are working hard to make the project a reality!