Sterling Fire Tower
US 102, NY 4

Lookout Details

Registry Numbers US 102, NY 4 (view other lookouts in United States, New York)
Date Registered January 18, 1995
Location Town of Warwick
Orange County, New York
Coordinates N 41° 11.686' W 074° 16.686' (view using Google Maps)
N 41° 11' 41" W 074° 16' 41"
N 41.194770° W 074.278100°
Elevation 1,320 ft (402 m)
Built 1922
Administered by NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation
Cooperators N.Y. Dept. of Environmental Conservation, the Highlands Group of the Forest Fire Lookout Association

Description

Sterling Fire Tower was built by the area fire wardens in fall of 1922 on the Harriman Family's Sterling Park estate. Constructed using steel hauled to the ridgetop by muletops, the 60’ Aermotor LS-40 tower with 7x7’ steel cab was first used in the spring of 1923. Over the course of its first year, the tower had 137 visitors. More importantly, 104 fires were spotted by Sterling and its companion Jackie Jones Fire Tower.

In 1968, the tower and cabin were improved. A new access road was also bulldozed. The road was lined with 38 numbered cedar poles carrying a 2-conductor phone line to the tower.

Sterling Fire Tower was placed on the Federal Register of Historic Places on June 12, 2006 along with the observers cabin.

Map

Change Basemap

Photos

Older view of tower

Older view of tower

2007 photo of cabin by Bob Spear

2007 photo of cabin by Bob Spear

1992 photo of cabin and tower by Bob Spear

1992 photo of cabin and tower by Bob Spear

Visit Reports

March 7, 2006: Bob Spear

Condition

Needs paint? No Response
Shutters OK? Yes
Condition of wood OK? Yes
Stairs OK? Yes
Glass intact? Yes
Comments: Beginning it's 84th year of fire detection service to the NY/NJ Highlands Region. Staffed April 1st thru Oct 1st annually. 3,800 visitors in 2005 Season

Electronics and Enroachments

Are electronic sites enroaching on tower? No

Access and Signs

NHLR sign posted? Yes
Directions to tower signed? Yes
Comments? Located on the Sterling Ridge & Highlands Trail; 6 miles South of the Appalachian Trail Correidor- Accessible by hiking trail only by the public.

Staffing

Staffed? Yes

Opportunities for Volunteer Support

Volunteers staffing opportunities? Yes
Volunteer maintenance opportunities? Yes

May 1, 2007: Bob Spear

Condition

Needs paint? Yes
Shutters OK? Yes
Condition of wood OK? Yes
Stairs OK? Yes
Glass intact? Yes
Comments: needs complete painting inside & out- stairs-landings etc, need new American flag for tower

Electronics and Enroachments

Are electronic sites enroaching on tower? No
Other enroachments? Visitation by park patrons in 2006 topped 3,800

Access and Signs

NHLR sign posted? Yes
Directions to tower signed? Yes

Staffing

Staffed? Yes
Several "first reports" credited so far Spring 2007 of wildfires in Regional area- Cooperative with New Jersey towers and Balsam Lake fire tower in the Catskills

Opportunities for Volunteer Support

Volunteers staffing opportunities? Yes
Volunteer maintenance opportunities? Yes

April 9, 2009: Bob Spear

Condition

Needs paint? No Response
Shutters OK? Yes
Condition of wood OK? Yes
Stairs OK? Yes
Glass intact? Yes
Comments: State Park still refuses to accept volunteer support even though the State Commissioner has made comments in support of it. This is the biggest stumbling block to any continuing volunteer effort at Sterling tower even though it was one of the very first FFLA restoration projects. Problem seems to be a "personal" dysfunction of the Sterling Forest Park managmement or unwillingness of Park officials to accept volunteer help. As a result the fire tower is for all intensive purposes abandoned with no regular maintenance. This site still has high potential for good fire detection and educational for the general public - over 4000 visitors annually - if Volunteer work could resume would be a benefit for all. Tower is now in its 89th year but in good shape.

Electronics and Enroachments

Are electronic sites enroaching on tower? No
Comments: Cabin now has a wind charger unit attached by a metal mast directly to the cabin which may become a lightening attracter, Tower still retains old grounding cables put on it several years ago, one is ripped out.
Other enroachments? There presently is no telephone line to the tower- the old one was never replaced. Also no outside power line so electricity is generated on site for radios etc.

Access and Signs

NHLR sign posted? No
Directions to tower signed? Yes
Comments? The NHLR sign, both the metal and the wood grouted one are gone- unknown if they are kept inside the cabin or not as it was not accessible. Trail register booklet in letterbox on the cabin details lots of dissappointed visitors that the tower is locked and cannot be climbed. Without that, there is No view from the mountain-top. In general, the site appears in good shape with new work having been done- there remains great potential here as visitor records indicate large turn-out. Volunteers would be able to help with this if allowed by State Park authorities.

Staffing

Staffed? Sometimes
Staffing appears to be only to answer park patron questions and Not for fire detection. Ranger station status in doubt if proposal to rent out goes through- unknown what that will bring? Detection capabilities with other agencies ended in 2007- there seems to be no willingness to have that again by Park officials. At this time, very little thought for outside volunteer staffing or help. Site is in good shape except needing some grounds work clean-up

Opportunities for Volunteer Support

Volunteers staffing opportunities? No Response
Volunteer maintenance opportunities? No Response
At present, State Park has little intreast in volunteer help and does not encourage it unfortunately.

April 2, 2010: Bob Spear and Bill Wilmouth

Condition

Needs paint? Yes
Shutters OK? Yes
Condition of wood OK? No Response
Stairs OK? Yes
Glass intact? Yes
Comments: Front porch of cabin flooring will need replacing boards

Electronics and Enroachments

Are electronic sites enroaching on tower? No
Comments: Wind charging unit mounted on Cabin staff without proper grounding could cause a lightening strike to the cabin
Other enroachments? Grounds are in "unkempt condition" Fire danger sign needs repainting, Kiosk sign is rotting away. Unsure what PIPC has planned for the site-some rumors of a "rental program" but how? Past history of staffing and maintenance seem to be ignored.

Access and Signs

NHLR sign posted? No
Directions to tower signed? Yes
Comments? NO NHLR sign posted- NO Federal sign of Historic place posted No NY State sign for historic site posted

Staffing

Staffed? No
A "radio check" done last week from tower. Unknown if Osborn fire finder is still in the tower- Tower & cabin locked

Opportunities for Volunteer Support

Volunteers staffing opportunities? No Response
Volunteer maintenance opportunities? No Response
State Park still refuses to accept volunteer support even though the State Commissioner has made comments in support of it. This is the biggest stumbling block to any continuing volunteer effort at Sterling tower even though it was one of the very first FFLA restoration projects. Problem seems to be a "personal" dysfunction of the Sterling Forest Park managmement or unwillingness of Park officials to accept volunteer help. As a result the fire tower is for all intensive purposes abandoned with no regular maintenance. This site still has high potential for good fire detection and educational for the general public - over 4000 visitors annually - if Volunteer work could resume would be a benefit for all. Tower is now in its 89th year but in good shape.

May 14, 2011: Jeff Hutchinson

Condition

Needs paint? No Response
Shutters OK? Yes
Condition of wood OK? Yes
Stairs OK? Yes
Glass intact? Yes
Comments: Sterling Forest State Park has spent hundreds of man hours improving the ground cabin, grounds and tower cab, steps and flooring. A wind turbine generator was added to augment existing solar pannels installed years earlier. All cab glass was replaced and the Osborne Fire Locator is functioning.

Electronics and Enroachments

Are electronic sites enroaching on tower? No

Access and Signs

NHLR sign posted? Yes
Directions to tower signed? Yes
Comments? Kiosk still needs repair.

Staffing

Staffed? Sometimes
Budget constraints are felt but Sterling Forest State Park has staffed the Tower on weekends during the Spring fire season; and hopes to continue weekend operations for educational purposes while feasible.

Opportunities for Volunteer Support

Volunteers staffing opportunities? No Response
Volunteer maintenance opportunities? No Response

July 1, 2015: Bob Spear

Condition

Needs paint? No Response
Shutters OK? Yes
Condition of wood OK? Yes
Stairs OK? Yes
Glass intact? Yes
Comments: The Friends of Sterling Forest group and volunteers organized by Laurie Rankin, NY State FFLA Director, have been successful in making repairs to the tower's footings, stairs, and landings. More Cabin restoration work is planned. The 501(c)3 Friends gruop now has their own website. In 2016, Sterling Tower will celebrate its 94th year of standing on Rough Mountain above Sterling Lake. Volunteers are welcomed, Contact NYS FFLA Director for more information.

Electronics and Enroachments

Are electronic sites enroaching on tower? No

Access and Signs

NHLR sign posted? Yes
Directions to tower signed? Yes
Comments? Sterling Ridge Trail, Rte17A trailhead 3.2 mi Fire Tower trail from Sterling Lake 1.3 mi. <br />Contact Sterling Forest State Park office for details and planned hikes.

Staffing

Staffed? No

Opportunities for Volunteer Support

Volunteers staffing opportunities? No Response
Volunteer maintenance opportunities? Yes

Other Comments

Comments Sterling Forest State Park is a habitat for several endangered species, timber rattlesnakes among these! The Tower site is well known for them...beware!