EXPIRED: 11/30/09 – Clarence Petty, 104, was a voice for the wilderness. He was a park ranger, conservationist, and avid outdoorsman well-known for his advocacy of protection of the Adirondacks. However, his defense of the wilderness often put him at odds with other Adirondackers.
For the first few years of his childhood, Petty lived in a cabin on Upper Saranac Lake, NY. As a boy, he hunted and trapped in the neighboring woods.
He graduated from the State College of Forestry in Syracuse and then, during the Great Depression, worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps. It was his job to classify land in the Park as either forest or wilderness, a classification that determines what uses are permitted. In wilderness areas, almost no motor vehicle access is allowed, with snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, seaplanes, and motorboats completely prohibited. The classification resulted in large part from a solo study of more than 1,3000 miles of rivers and streams, which he undertook by foot and canoe in the early 1970s. He was in his 60s at the time.
He also served in the Navy as a pilot in the Pacific during World War II. He remained an active pilot, giving private lessons, until he was 94.
But it was the wilderness that Petty liked best. He was once quoted as saying,”I would be just as pleased if I could stand on the Capitol steps in Albany and look towards Montreal and not see a damn thing except wilderness.”
At least you knew where you stood with Clarence Petty.
For an extra good read try The Extraordinary Adirondack Journey of Clarence Petty by Chris Angus on Syracuse University Press