Almanack Contributor Guest Contributor

Guest Essayist

The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional guest essays from Adirondack residents, visitors, and those with a biding interest in the Adirondack Park.

Submissions should be directed to Almanack editor John Warren at adkalmanack@gmail.com.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Adirondack Regiment in the Civil War:
“The Home Voices Speak Louder than the Drums”

What follows is a guest essay by Wanda Burch has spent 42 years in historic preservation. She recently retired as site manager of Johnson Hall State Historic Site and now serves as Vice-President of Friends of Johnson Hall. She is a regular contributor to the online news magazine New York History.

On August 7, 1862, Henry Graves, physically exhausted from walking, fighting, and from four days detail digging trenches under a Petersburg, Virginia, sun and not “a breath of air stirring,” sat down and wrote to his wife, describing the importance of the imagination to survival. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Analysis: Rail or Trail on the Adirondack Railroad?

What follows is a guest analysis by Billy Martin, a senior at Paul Smith’s College in the Natural Resource Management and Policy program who is interested in the economic and environmental sustainability of the Adirondack Park.

Adirondack history has been shaped by contention over how to manage the region’s resources. Maintaining this historical trend, contention over the use of a state-owned rail corridor between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake has led to another divide among residents. The Adirondack Recreational Trails Advocacy (ARTA) and the Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) represent opposing poles on the issue, each with seemingly equal support from residents of the Tri-Lakes Region.
» Continue Reading.


Monday, January 9, 2012

Peter Brinkley: The Adirondack Brand

What follows is a guest essay by Peter Brinkley who lives in Jay and is Senior Partner of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve. This essay was prompted in part by new Almanack contributor Kimberly Rielly’s piece “Understanding the Adirondack Brand“.

We hear of the need for businesses in the Adirondacks to develop a universal brand to attract tourists.

This impulse indeed is strange. The Adirondacks has enjoyed a brand since the second half of the 1800s, one which has broadened and deepened its appeal. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Guest Essay: Wintertime Backcountry Sanitation

What follows is a guest essay by Jim Muller, a regular Almanack reader and an avid winter camper who edits the site WinterCampers.com. Muller noted that Dan Crane’s recent post on Adirondack Backcountry Hygiene assumed summertime conditions and he wanted to provide us his take on camping sanitation in winter.

Let’s face it – it is tough to contemplate washing up when winter camping, but that doesn’t mean that sanitation should be ignored. Especially keep your hands clean. Backpackers are more likely to become sick from improper hand sanitation than from contracting Guardia from untreated water. Use a multi-purpose soap or hand cleaner. Don’t touch shared food. Pour snacks and trail mix into your hand as opposed to reaching in a bag to grab a handful. Use food utensils when portioning out dinner rations. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dogs and the Adirondack Forest Preserve

What follows is a guest essay from the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership (AFPEP).

Dog owners should act responsibly and always ensure that their dogs are under the control; for the safety of the dog and wildlife, and to allow an enjoyable outdoor experience for other recreational users.

Wildlife approached by dogs may feel threatened and defend themselves, causing injury to the dog. Porcupines, racoons, coyotes, bears, moose and deer can all cause injury to dogs when cornered. Also there is a danger of rabies, distemper or other wildlife diseases being transmitted to the dog. » Continue Reading.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Fred Monroe: Economic Councils Need Coordination

What follows is a guest essay by Frederick H. Monroe, Executive Director of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board (LGRB). The LGRB was created by the Adirondack Park Agency Act “For the purpose of advising and assisting the Adirondack Park Agency in carrying out its functions, powers and duties.”

Through his vision and leadership, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has offered to the communities of New York a major opportunity – with the potential for large rewards: The chance to set our own economic agendas, regionally, with the ten Regional Economic Councils. And, initially, a piece of the $200 million in state funding that goes along with them. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mike Matthews: Hunter Safety

What follows is a guest essay contributed by Mike Matthews, DEC Sportsman Education Coordinator a member of the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership:

It’s about 45 minutes after sunrise, but because of the fog I can=t see more than 20 yards in any direction. Off to my right I can hear a deer walking toward me. I can hear the foot fall – it=s not a squirrel – I know that sound. Slowly the deer approaches, stops and gives out a grunt – it is a buck! Here is where training, experience and ethics come into play. I do not raise my firearm and the firearm remains on safe – I wait. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Naj Wikoff: Digging Out in Keene

What follows is a guest essay by Naj Wikoff, a member of the Keene Flood Recovery Fund steering committee.

“The hardest thing I had to do this week was let three employees go today,” said Rob Hastings, owner of Rivermede Farm in Keene Valley. He and I were standing amongst a crowd of over 200 residents attending a pig roast, block party and benefit for the Keene Flood Recovery Fund on Market Street in Keene Valley Friday, September 9.

The event, which raised over $21,000, was further buoyed by the news that Route 73, the hamlet’s vital artery to the Northway that had been closed since Irene’s 11 plus inches of rain washed away major sections, would open on Monday. Just seven days earlier Governor Cuomo, countering DOT estimates that the roadway might be opened by Columbus Day but possibly not till December, stated that unless it was opened within 10 days, “Wheels will roll or heads will roll,” a statement followed by his suspension DOT and DEC restrictions on construction, such as requirements of going out to bid for contracts. Since then in a near 24-hour cycle DOT trucks have poured in with load after load of boulders, gravel and other road foundation materials.

The closure of 73 as well as 9N north to Upper Jay, and DEC media and web announcements that all trails in the eastern High Peaks were off limits to hikers, brought visitor traffic in Keene Valley to a dead stop and caused dozens of cancellations of room reservations during Labor Day weekend, the second busiest holiday of the year for local stores. Thanks to a massive volunteer effort that put hundreds of people at McDonough’s Valley Hardware and elsewhere scraping off mud, pumping out basements, cleaning shelves and merchandise, most stores, B&Bs and restaurants had managed to reopen, but what was missing was the people.

“Road Closed” said the sign to Keene Valley. “Don’t even think of going there” was the message. The hamlet of Keene was hardly better off as it was the center on incoming politicians and state officials, the media, National Guard, DOT trucks and Labor for Your Neighbor volunteers so that what visitors made it through the gauntlet scurried west to the relatively untouched Village of Lake Placid, though a fleet of water ski boats sank during the storm and River Road and Snowslip Farms were certainly torn up.

No question the attention by Governor Cuomo, who visited the hamlets on two successive weekends, and the outpouring of volunteers, the National Guard and DOT transformed the hamlets along with Upper Jay, Jay and Ausable Forks bringing them back from what appeared to be war zones to a somewhat sense of normality, though deep scars and uncertain futures remained.

Knowing this outcome likely to occur, a grass roots effort was launched while the rains were still falling and fields flooding to create the Keene Flood Recovery Fund with perhaps a greater sense of urgency than the media’s scramble to film the unfolding disaster. Jim Herman and Dave Mason, the soon to become president and vice president of the Keene Community Trust, lead the effort. Working in partnership with the Adirondack Community Trust (ACT) a small team was assembled. The goal was simple; raise as much money as fast as possible and begin giving it out in grants to local residents and business to help cover critical needs not met by FEMA, other government sources, insurance or sweat equity.

The process was not unlike the building of the Continental railroad wherein the trains followed the rails as they were built. The public relations and fund raising effort was launched simultaneously with the recruiting of five people to serve on the allocations committee while application and funding guidelines were being written, the Keene Valley Trust board reorganized, agreements with ACT negotiated, and web and Facebook sites created.

The Nature Conservancy provided the forum for committees to form, meet, and stayed energized with hot coffee available morning till night. Critical was the early blessing and support by Keene supervisor Bill Ferebee, agreement by the Keene Community Trust to take on a project of such scope, the talent pool assembled, and the full support of the Adirondack Community Trust, aided in no small measure that their president Vinny McClelland and donor recognitions officer Melissa Eissinger were residents of Keene. Another was the sheer mass of community development knowledge stored in the brain of Henrietta Jordan, who could draft funding guidelines the way some can cast a dry fly into an eddy on their first try.

As of this writing about $100,000 has been raised and the first wave of grants has already been approved, but the amount needed to raise is far, far higher if they are to reduce layoffs like those already done by Hastings. While to the casual observer the hamlets might not look so bad, the damage done has been severe. Over a dozen families are not able to move back to their homes and are in need of temporary housing, just two businesses lost over $200,000 in inventory, the Keene Firehouse has to be relocated and rebuilt, the public skating rink replaced, the Keene Library, which also houses the Food Pantry, needs an aggressive abatement program to keep mold from settling in, and one third of Rivermede Farm’s sugaring lines have to be replaced along with all their storage tanks and two greenhouses. The first 12 applicants’ losses, which does not include many of the previously listed, have totaled over $2.5 million, this before FEMA and insurance are factored it.

Meanwhile a recently constituted Keene Business Committee (aka chamber of commerce) is attempting to stop plummeting income and lure back visitors. Led by Rooster Cob Inn owner, masseuse and rustic furniture salesperson Marie McMahon, they have taken on the DOT, DEC and later the State Police to change their signs that announce the closing of High Peaks trails, detour visitors to Placid via Plattsburgh and other actions that discouraged traffic to local businesses. Plans are underway to host events over Columbus Day and a conference for high school and college geology professors to showcase the wide array of major environmental changes that include the largest landslide in recorded state history, 22 new slides in the high peaks, and the rerouting of streams and waterfalls creating what can be best described as moonscapes in some locales.

“Our goal is to help the community come out stronger,” said Herman. “One benefit of all these landslides, rerouting of streams, and other environmental changes is that there are many new features for hikers, geologists and environmentalists to see and experience. We are trying to get the word out that now is the best time to come see them while they are fresh. We have some new vistas of Giant that didn’t exist before and old streambeds that have been hidden for centuries are now revealed. New growth will cover them up. The time to see them is now.”

Another benefit was the Governor discovering that Keene Valley had no cell phone coverage. “Where can I get cell service?” Cuomo asked Ron Konowitz, a local volunteer fireman and on-the-ground coordinator of volunteers. Konowitz told the governor not only that he would have to travel three miles down the road and stand in the middle of Marcy Field to pick up a signal, but in fact there was a cell tower in place, had been for four months, though had yet to be turned on by Verizon, a consequence that had hampered communication amongst all the various state agencies, volunteers, rescue workers, civic leaders, the media and one governor and the outside word. The piercing brown eyes of the wheels-will-roll governor swiveled and locked on the “Frankenpine” hidden amongst the tall White Pines behind the Neighborhood House. Two days later a frantic Verizon worker stuck his head in the Birch Store asking if anyone could help him locate their cell tower. Pam Gothner did and the next day the hamlet had cell service.

The Keene Flood Recovery Fund can be reached at www.keenerecoveryfund.org

Photo: Keene Valley flooding during Tropical Storm Irene; Volunteers at work.

Naj Wikoff, a member of the Keene Flood Recovery Fund steering committee, is local artist, columnist for the Lake Placid News, president of Creative Healing Connections, which organizes healing retreats for women living with cancer, women veterans, and other special audiences, and arts coordinator for Connecting Youth and Communities of Lake Placid and Wilmington (CYC).


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Kate Fish: Local Rail Remains Important to Infrastructure

What follows is a guest essay by Kate Fish, Executive Director of the Adirondack North Country Association and a member of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council.

Recent news that the Lake Placid to Saranac Lake rail side recreation path project received a $1.2 million grant should put to rest any debate about what “should” be done with the northern portion of the 119-mile Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor.

The Federal Highway Administration grant has been awarded to the Adirondack North Country Association on behalf of New York State Department of Transportation through a very competitive process – 1,800 applications were submitted, requesting more than 30 times the funds available — for projects under the National Scenic Byways Program. This grant is one of the largest amounts received in this round of funding, indicating strong support at the national level to boost recreation and improve infrastructure simultaneously. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The North Country SPCA Needs A New Home

What follows is a guest essay by Margaret Miller Reuther, past President of the North Country SPCA and now co-chair of the capital campaign to build a new animal shelter for Essex County. The Almanack asked Margaret to explain why we need a new shelter.

Since its doors opened in 1969, the North Country SPCA has helped literally thousands of surrendered, abandoned and abused cats and dogs find loving homes. Now, after more than 40 years of helping others, we need your help.

A new shelter is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. The current shelter in Westport is so old and rundown that our only option is to start over. In our small shelter we must put up to four cats in a cage that’s half the size the Humane Society recommends. Our dog cages are about a third of the recommended size. Also, we are forced to keep dogs and cats in the same room. This creates high stress levels, making the animals less adoptable because they are either more aggressive or very shy. And our shelter has no place to isolate sick cats and dogs, putting all of our animals at risk.



The North Country SPCA plans to build a new shelter in Elizabethtown. The new facility has been designed by ARQ Architects, a small firm which has revolutionized the field of animal care with major shelters in New York City and San Francisco.

The new facility will be a prototype for smaller shelters nationwide. It will feature animal housing which meets modern criteria for animal care, a get-acquainted room where people can spend time with a pet before adopting, and an energy-efficient “green” building that will save money as it uses up to 30% less energy. Finally, studies show that modern shelters increase adoption rates by 50 to 100 percent, so our new building will help many more cats and dogs, puppies and kittens find a second chance at a loving home.

Representative Teresa Sayward says “Our cat, Harriet, and I ask that you help us build a new facility that is properly equipped to house the dogs and cats that are awaiting a family of their own. Your tax-deductible donation will be greatly appreciated.” Senator Betty Little concurs. “A new facility is now needed and incorporating environmental and energy-efficient standards is the right long-term approach.”

We are 80% of the way to our goal, but we still need $250,000. To put us over the top, we recently received a Challenge Grant and until October 1st, all gifts will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to a total of $125,000. Please be generous and help us build a new home for the many needy dogs and cats in Essex County.

Westport vet David Goldwasser says “The woefully inadequate facility in Westport can no longer serve the needs of our homeless animal population. I am thrilled that we will finally have a new facility which we can be proud of.” Ticonderoga vet James Mack agrees, “A new shelter is a welcome and needed addition to the North Country.” And Sue Russell at the Westport Veterinary Hospital says “The 1960’s building has outlived its usefulness. A new shelter is a necessity.”

The NCSPCA does not received state or federal funding. Private donors provide 85 percent of our annual budget while adoption fees and town contracts account for only 15 percent.

The NCSPCA is the only SPCA animal shelter in rural Essex County. We are a no-kill shelter that provides refuge to over 400 dogs and cats each year. Some are brought in by owners who can no longer care for them. Others are strays. Numerous cats and kittens are dropped at our doorstep in the middle of the night. And the police bring us animals that are victims of unspeakable abuse.

For more information, log on to www.NCSPCA.org, or Facebook.com/North Country SPCA. You can also watch the video overview of this campaign on YouTube.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Doug Fitzgerald: Recreation Has Value For Everyone

What follows is a guest essay by Doug Fitzgerald of the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership (AFPEP). Fitzgerald, a licensed guide, retired in 2010 after 26 years at the Department of Conservation’s Division of Operations as a Conservation Supervisor. Fitzgerald is also Scoutmaster Emeritus for Boy Scouts of America Troop 12 in Paul Smiths.

Recreation plays a valuable role in our lives. Getting outdoors and having fun are not luxuries; they are a necessary part of life. The benefits of recreation include physical fitness, good health, self-worth, joy, friendship and an appreciation for the environment. Playing outdoors enhances our lives through increased enjoyment and learning.

For people with disabilities, these benefits are equally important. Positive recreational experiences can be life changing. My son John is a perfect example, here is his story. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Watching Wildlife in the Adirondacks

What follows is a guest essay from the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership (AFPEP).

Bald eagles are the largest bird species that nest in the Adirondacks but they are just one of 220 species of birds that reside in the Adirondacks or pass through during fall and spring migration. 53 species of mammals and 35 species of reptiles and amphibians also make the Adirondacks their home.

Due to the vast size, unique habitats and geographic location of the Adirondacks many species of wildlife are found nowhere else in New York or are in much greater abundance here. Birds such as the Common Loon, Spruce Grouse, the Black-backed Woodpecker and the Palm Warbler; Mammals such as Moose, Otter, Black Bear and American Marten; and Reptile & Amphibians such as Timber Rattlesnake and Mink Frog. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Jamie Savage: Have Kids Will Recreate

What follows is a guest essay by Jamie Savage, professor of forest technology at the SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry Ranger School at Wanakena, part of our series of essays from the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership (AFPEP).

Kids just want to have fun. They have fun when they feel safe and comfortable, when they’re well rested and well fed, and when they’re with family and friends in a stimulating environment. The key to getting kids involved with outdoor activities—and keeping them involved—is remembering and providing for these fun-damentals.

The following tips for successful adventures are based on my own experiences as a father, Outing Club advisor, and former summer camp counselor and those of several of my friends who regularly spend time outdoors with their kids.

Fun-damental #1: Kid-Centered Activities

My friends Caren and Brian allow their three children to take turns choosing their activities. They also encourage their kids to help plan each outing, offering maps, guidebooks, etc. as assistance. My friend Bill warns that what we adults consider a “good day’s outing” may not be appropriate for small children. Instead of hiking the Great Range in a day, consider something less ambitious—OK, a lot less ambitious—like a hike to the top of Roaring Brook Falls or up Mt. Jo. Start easy, he suggests, and let them grow into it; “They’ll soon grow up and you’ll be trying to keep up with them!”

My friend Celia, who regularly hikes, skis, camps, and paddles with her two children, adds, “Be willing to turn around—remember that these days are not about you.” Kathy, also a mother of two kids, could not agree more: “Take your time, and if your children are tired, take a break or cut short your day. Remember, this is not a race to a destination; it is all about what happens on the way.” Allow ample time for exploring and enjoying a waterfall, glacial erratic, or, if paddling, a clear, shallow bay where underwater flora and fauna can be observed.

Fun-damental #2: Safety and First Aid

As a parent, you want to keep your children safe and free from harm, but also give them some freedom to experience, explore, and learn from their surroundings. Accordingly, pick locations that are accessible and secure. Choose a trail that will allow you to let the kids run ahead a bit without fear of a cliff or dangerous stream crossing. Choose campsites that don’t present obvious dangers nearby, so that you feel comfortable letting your kids explore. The more kids feel free to do what they want, the more fun they will have.

My friends Bill and Sue do a lot of camping with their three children. Bill says that successful outings require some negotiation, particularly with his nine-year-old son. “If you want him to learn how to build a fire,” Bill says, “then you have to let him use the small hatchet. Yes, I know this is dangerous, but if you say ‘no’ to everything, you may as well not take him.”

Minor cuts and bruises are inevitable, especially on the knees and palms of our “four-wheel drive” kids, so I always bring a small first aid kit. I agree with my friend Kathy on some essentials: moleskin for blisters, small and large adhesive band-aids (including some big enough for knees and palms!), anti-bacterial cream like Neosporin, and sunblock. It’s also nice to have some wipes and/or a clean bottle of water in reserve for wound cleaning.

Fun-damental #3: Comfort

The more comfortable your kids are while they recreate, the more fun they are going to have, and the more positive their memories. Footwear is a critical piece of gear when it comes to staying comfortable in the outdoors. For many outdoor activities, I think it comes down to two kinds of shoes:

• Each year, Claire and I outfit our sons with a decent pair of hiking boots. They need to fit well, come up over the ankle, and be of decent quality. They will be outgrown before they wear out, so investing in the top of the line is not necessary.

• I also like our kids to have some type of water shoe, like a reef-walker type of pull-on. Flip-flops and open-toed sandals need not apply! I look for something that will protect toes and the bottoms of our kids’ feet. Water shoes are great for paddling, swimming in rivers and lakes, and just wearing around a grassy or sandy campsite. In general, try to choose footwear that is easy to put on and take off, and that dries out fairly quickly. And always bring extra socks! Once the kids’ feet are wet, it isn’t long before they start complaining that their feet are cold and/or sore.

Pesky insects can ruin anyone’s day, and they may even cause rashes, swelling, or other allergic reactions in younger children. If you’re out during the buggy season, or buggy time of day, encourage your kids to wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and hats. I try to use as little bug spray as possible. If it’s really necessary, I use repellents with low amounts of DEET (25% or less), and apply it sparingly to hats, necks, and other places where the kids can’t reach to fend off attackers. Bug nets fitted over wide-brimmed hats also work quite well, if your child will tolerate such headgear. If using accessories like child carriers, jog strollers, or bike trailers (I recommend combination stroller/bike trailer rigs), invest in models that have good bug netting. Don’t let a few bugs keep you and your kids inside!

Fun-damental #4: Plenty of Good Food

Caren and Brian say that a BIG part of their family’s outdoor adventures is the planning of the food. They plan food together, assigning fun names to their infamous dishes (like the “outhouse wrap”). They even have traditional “camp meals” that they incorporate into every trip, like a special breakfast oatmeal.

Gorp (a.k.a. trail mix) is popular with many kids. Kathy and Bill’s crew get to make up their own the night before a hike, ski, or paddle. It gets the kids excited about the next day, and ensures that certain ingredients aren’t left uneaten at the bottom of the bag. Some of their favorite contents include Cheerios, raisins, dried cranberries, peanuts, cashews, chocolate chips, and M & Ms (of course!). One of my tricks is to bring along a bag of Starbursts, or something similar. I “award” them at the completion of a certain section of trail, and/or at the top of the mountain. It’s a great motivator. I do a similar thing with my college students by offering “S.M.A.F.C.R.s” (smafkers): Sweet Morsels Awarded For Correct Responses!

Fun-damental #5: Stimulating Environment

The fifth and final tip is to give kids fun things to do and fun people to do them with. Try brewing up some hot chocolate along the ski trail, give the kids ‘walkie talkies’ to play with, bring binoculars, write/sing songs about your adventures, conduct scavenger hunts, or hold plant identification contests. Don’t just take your kids to the outdoors—engage them in it.

My kids seem to have an even better time on our adventures if they are with some of their friends, or even just with other kids. They tease, challenge, and teach each other…and they smile and laugh a lot. No friends available? Try a puppy! Caren says that their dog Lily “gets them out and she is a blast to hike with.”

Bottom line: the more time you spend outdoors, the more comfortable your kids will become, and the more fun they will have.

This guest essay was contributed by the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership, a coalition of Adirondack organizations building on the Leave No Trace philosophy. Their goal is to provide public education about the Forest Preserve and Conservation Easements with an emphasis on how to safely enjoy, share, and protect these unique lands. To learn more about AFPEP visit www.adirondackoutdoors.org.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Guest Essay: The Rooftop Highway, A Bad Idea

What follows is a guest essay by John Danis, a member of a new organization (YESeleven) which hopes to put an end the long-standing proposal to build the Northern Tier Expressway (aka I-98 or the Rooftop Highway), a 175-mile four lane divided highway that would link I-81 in Watertown and I-87 in Champlain. The Almanack asked Danis to provide readers with some insight as to why they oppose the highway.

Several months ago, a group of concerned citizens began discussions aimed at forming YESeleven, an organization intended to educate the public in Northern New York about the misguided attempts by bureaucrats and politicians in the region to construct a 172 mile, limited access, high-speed interstate highway, from Watertown to Plattsburgh.

For the past 3 years, proponents of this so-called, “Rooftop Highway”, have been quietly and methodically lining up political support across the region to try and force the hand of the state and federal governments to finance the estimated 4-billion, (their number!), or more dollar cost of constructing what we felt was a massively transformational, destructive and financially overreaching plan for the entire region.

The Rooftop Highway, or what proponents refer to as I-98, is an idea with a history going back fifty years or more, to the era of the construction of the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. Periodically over these fifty or more years the notion of connecting the Maine seacoast with the Great Lakes Basin has ebbed and surged. The “Rooftop” highway concept was to be part of this, “Can-Am” highway, particularly the part that would connect I-81 and I-87, across the northern tier of New York State. Adjacent highway development on both sides of the US-Canadian border, have dampened enthusiasm for this grand concept in many regions, with the notable exception of Northern New York.

In 2008, the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT), published a study, which had been three years in the making, called the “Northern Tier Expressway Corridor Study”. This study was an exhaustive and comprehensive view of the US Route 11 transportation corridor, the established and dominant corridor of economic activity across the region, (this study is available at our YESeleven website, yeseleven.org). The study looked at all aspects of life across the region and concluded that the vital Route 11 transportation corridor, with it’s myriad counties, towns, villages, businesses, farms and universities, as well as it’s environmental treasures, was best served by a plan that contemplated evolutionary and targeted upgrades and improvements to the existing corridor over twenty years. Moreover, it would be done at a tenth or less of the cost of what a new and competing economic development corridor could be built for. Further, the improvements would be made in the existing corridor, rather than destroying thousand of square miles of land, dividing the entire region, displacing hundreds of landowners, etc.

The DOT study was rejected out of hand by Rooftop Highway proponents and their political allies. Their rejection of the plan seemed to be based on the belief that the Route 11 upgrades were not good enough, that the region was owed and deserving of a full interstate highway, with four interstate connector spurs criss-crossing the St. Lawrence Valley.

YESeleven’s view is that their position is essentially creating, at phenomenal cost, what amounts to a 172 mile bypass of every economic center in the region. The development of an adjacent economic corridor can only serve to create winners and losers as interstate highways have done in so many other regions. The best argument that the Rooftoppers have put forth is that if we build it, surely, they will come. All other claims about job creation have been poorly documented, if at all.

One of our positions is that every time that this discussion has come up over the past fifty-plus years, it has sapped energy, focus and financial resources away from more immediate and essential maintenance and improvement needs to our existing highway infrastructure and economic activity.

In short, the Rooftop highway plan is an overreaching, pie-in-the-sky distraction and we need to set it aside, once and for all, and move on.

You can visit the YESeleven website to learn more about our positions on highway infrastructure needs and solutions in the Northern New York Region.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Guest Essay: Why Croghan Dam Should Be Saved

What follows is a guest essay by Mike Petroni, a member of the Croghan Dam Restoration Initiative. Concern over the stability of the 93-year-old dam (on the Beaver River in Lewis County) has led DEC to lower the water level of the impoundment by removing stop logs to reduce water pressure on the dam structure. The DEC is planning to remove the remaining logs from the two-section dam in the coming week and eventually breach the concrete structure. The Almanack asked Mike Petroni to provide some background on why local leaders, historic preservationists, and renewable energy advocates hope to keep DEC from breaching the dam.

Straddling the western edge of the Blue Line, Croghan, New York, known for its exceptional bologna, is home to one of New York’s last remaining water powered saw-mills. Over the past few years, the Croghan Island Mill has been the center of a dramatic debate. The question: how will New York manage its aging small dam infrastructure? » Continue Reading.


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