Photo submitted Mello Testa waves to supporters.

Photo submitted Mello Testa waves to supporters.

By M. Lisa Monroe
Express Editor

Mello Testa has spent Labor Day weekend waving to boats cruising down the channel between Third and Fourth Lake. People are honking and waving to say goodbye to an 18-year-old landmark, the Blues Brothers statues on Testa’s porch.
A generation of vacationers has grown up seeing the iconic Blues Brothers duo at their perch on the channel. When Testa put a post on Facebook letting people know that this would be the Blues Brothers last summer in Old Forge, the outrage was loud and widespread.
The original post has been viewed over 10,000 times, it’s been shared almost 500 times and been commented on over 500 times. The majority of comments are from people who are very upset that the Blues Brothers are being evicted.
“I spent every summer there since I was six years old. Our family has a camp on First Lake. I will be so sad to not see this anymore! Hope y’all find a new location,” said one commenter.
Testa has rented a spot for his camp in the Bald Mountain Colony campground for 20 years, but he thinks this is his last year here.
“We’ve had 20 years of enjoyment here. The whole family came up a couple of weeks ago. It’s the first time we’ve all been here in a long time. I’m losing the chance to make more memories with them,” Testa said of the move.
He has a condo in Myrtle Beach and thinks that’s where his family will spend vacation time in the future. That’s where he got the Blues Brothers from 18 years ago.
“I saw them on the side of the road and they were kicked back with their arms behind their heads and I thought, ‘That’s the Adirondacks right there.’”
He’s put them out on the porch in May and taken them in October every year since then. This year, as part of a general shake up at the campground, Testa was told that his waterfront needed to be cleaned up.
Bill Barnes, campground manager and co-owner, says that he never specifically requested that the Blue Brothers be removed, just that the waterfront be cleaned up. Testa disputes this saying that he was told to remove the statues.
Barnes says that his intention is to get the campground cleaned and in compliance with Town of Webb codes. He said that he is a cousin to the Barrett family, the long time owners of the campground, and since he has been brought in to manage Bald Mountain Colony he wants to take the opportunity to make updates and get the campground looking sharp.
“It’s going to be neater and more organized,” said Barnes. “I want to transition it into something that is more compliant. If we want to maintain a campground in a protected area we have to work to be better at what we do.”
Barnes spent the summers of his formative years at Bald Mountain Colony and has a deep affection for, not only the campground, but the Adirondack Park.
“We want to be a great campground in the middle of the best park,” said Barnes.
Toward that end, Barnes has an involved business plan that includes things that he needs to accomplish over the next five years. The first phase is general cleaning, maintenance and repair. Which is where the Blues Brothers came into the picture, Town of Webb code and Adirondack Park Agency code both state that nothing can be built within 50 feet of the waterfront, there are many properties along the water at the Bald Mountain Colony that do not comply to codes.
“All of the things that have happened on the shoreline are all prohibited,” says Town of Webb Codes Enforcement Officer Andy Getty.
Much of the construction that is not compliant to codes is older and grandfathered in, but Getty’s job is to advise property owners on how to bring properties into compliance.
“The town is not undertaking any enforcement activity,” said Getty. “But we certainly encourage owners to come into compliance.”
Barnes is determined to usher the campground into the modern era. He says that he believes that is the best way to insure that the investment that long term campers have made at the campground will be protected. So even though he understands how attached people become to landmarks in this area, he says that he’s trying to be fair.
“Would it be acceptable for people to put up their favorite two characters all along the waterfront, from Betty Boop to Donald Trump? It would be easier [to let the Blues Brothers stay], but what’s fair and what’s easier sometimes don’t align,” said Barnes.
Testa has determined that whatever is said from this point, the Blues Brothers will be finding a new home. He says that he’s had offers from businesses in the area to give the pair a new place to hang out. He’s been touched and amazed by the support shown.
“The calls, the messages, I’ve read every single one,” Testa said.
And while he says that it’s too late for him, he hopes that the new management will take a lesson from the Blues Brothers saga.
“I hope they’ll say, ‘Maybe we’ll do things a little differently,’ when they deal with the people here,” Testa said.