Almanack Contributor Mary Thill

Mary Thill


Mary Thill is a freelance journalist based in Saranac Lake.

You can follow Mary on Twitter.



Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Hudson River Rafting: Pat Cunningham’s Rocky Ride

On March 30, 2012, Hamilton County Court gave Patrick Cunningham a second chance. It came with conditions and a warning.

Judge S. Peter Feldstein told the defendant: “My goal in this matter, as I said at the beginning, was to affect how you do business. Now, I understand, Mr. Cunningham, through your attorney, that you do not feel that you’ve committed any crimes and you’re perfectly within your rights and you’re innocent before this court, but I want to be sure you understand that if you engaged in the behavior alleged in the indictment, I have no doubt that you committed crimes.”



Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Scene from Kateri Tekakwitha’s Fonda Shrine

As I was leaving St. Peter’s Chapel Friday, a white van with New Jersey plates pulled up. Nine young, smiling nuns filed out. They were dressed in the white and blue-striped saris of the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa’s order. They opened an off-kilter screen door and entered the dusky chapel. I followed, conspicuously tall, pale and bareheaded at the end of the line. The sisters walked to the front of the church, knelt before a cross and sang “O What Could My Jesus Do More.” I listened for a minute then left them alone.

I had come to the National Shrine of Kateri Tekakwitha, south of the Adirondack Park in Fonda, » Continue Reading.



Thursday, October 18, 2012

One Man’s Experience with Hudson River Rafting Company

Tomorrow there will be a hearing in Hamilton County Supreme Court (convening in Fulton County, in Johnstown) as the New York State Attorney General’s Office seeks a formal court order requiring Hudson River Rafting Company to cease operations until a list of safety concerns can be addressed.

As one of the company’s guides remains jailed on a charge of criminally negligent homicide in the death of a customer who drowned last month, Hudson River Rafting Company and its owner Patrick Cunningham also face a Hamilton County District Attorney motion to reinstate two 2010 charges of reckless endangerment. The DA argues that Cunningham violated the terms of a dismissal agreement by sending passengers down the » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Night of Art, Skiing and Music in Saranac Lake

Dewey Mountain is the subject and beneficiary of a show opening Friday at the Adirondack Artists Guild, in Saranac Lake. The exhibit is inspired by the 2,050-foot mountain southwest of the village. I’m eager to see what the artists come up with.

The north side of Dewey hosts a cross-country-ski and snowshoe center by winter. The rest of the year it’s an in-town place to walk, hike and mountain bike. The Saranac River flows around the mountain as it enters the village. Like Pisgah and Baker, two other low peaks bounding the village, Dewey defines Saranac Lake’s topography as well as our love of mountain » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Adirondacks Waited Decades for Mercury Limits

It was immensely satisfying to watch EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson announce today that power-plant mercury emissions will be reduced 90 percent.

We in the Adirondacks have waited more than two decades for this. You would think limiting a toxin such as mercury, which harms the nervous systems of children exposed in the womb, would not be subject to protracted debate. But coal- and oil-fired power plants resisted the regulation shamelessly for decades.



Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Autumn is Warming at the Fastest Rate

WPTZ meteorologist Tom Messner reported a record high (65°F) in Montpelier Monday. The low (46°) in Saranac Lake yesterday was higher than the average high for November 14 (43°), according to Weather Underground. Last week, on November 9, Saranac Lake broke a record when the temperature reached 67°.

As much as the odd warm fall day seems to take us by surprise, temperature fluctuations are a normal part of the transition to winter. But it is strange to see fresh sprouts in the garden, which is ordinarily frozen by now.

Autumn is warming more rapidly than any other season locally, evidenced by » Continue Reading.



Friday, September 2, 2011

Hobofest: Fun Despite Its Name

If you are hobophobic or festival-averse Hobofest may not sound like the way to spend your Labor Day Sunday. But it’s actually pretty much free of hobos and absolutely free of the fakery that accompanies a lot of events cursed with the suffix fest.

What Hobofest does have is a lot of really good musicians playing for free in a low-key setting on the lawn between 7444 gallery and the train depot, in Saranac Lake. Bands include Brooklyn-based Frankenpine, among a well-chosen roster of local talent. This year Monsterbuck, an understated, intense quartet from Upper Jay, tops » Continue Reading.



Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bill McKibben, Christoper Shaw Arrested in Climate Protest

Writers Bill McKibben and Christopher Shaw were arrested Saturday in front of the White House as they took part in a demonstration trying to persuade the Obama administration to deny construction of a 1,700-mile pipeline that would carry Canadian tar-sands oil to American refineries.

McKibben, Shaw and approximately 65 others were being held in a DC jail over the weekend pending a court appearance Monday. Both McKibben and Shaw are former Adirondack residents who maintain strong ties to the region. Shaw is a contributor to Adirondack Almanack; McKibben is a climate change activist who co-organized the tar sands pipeline » Continue Reading.



Friday, July 1, 2011

DEC Claims ADK Supports Frack Plan

In a letter today complaining to The New York Times about its coverage of a new Department of Environmental Conservation study on fracking, commissioner Joe Martens lists the Adirondack Mountain Club as one of three environmental groups who support its move toward partially ending the freeze on the controversial gas-drilling technique.

Except that’s not the case. In fact, the Mountain Club (ADK) supports only the DEC’s decision not to allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing on state-owned forests, parks and wildlife reserves. “This is great news and a major victory for the 28,000 members of the Adirondack Mountain Club who use these lands for outdoor recreation,” » Continue Reading.



Friday, June 24, 2011

Yellow-Yellow: Still Keeping Campers Sharp

Yellow-Yellow, a shy black bear with a yellow tag on each ear, became famous in 2009 as the one bear in North America who could open a food canister specifically designed to baffle her kind. She’s still at large, still popping the occasional can, but a truce seems to have settled over the Adirondack High Peaks.

The 18-to-20-year-old bear came out of hibernation this spring and continues to roam near South Meadow, Klondike Notch and thereabouts, reports Ben Tabor, a Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) wildlife biologist. Tabor will discuss black bears in a free lecture at 8 p.m. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Long Lake Graduates a Class of One

This is the Long Lake Central School class of 2011, Stephen Pitcher. According to a school newsletter Stephen is an honors student who plans to attend Onondaga Community College to study electrical engineering. He was a member of the student council, played varsity basketball for the Long Lake/Indian Lake Orange, and helped build an electric race car, which his school team drove to second place at Watkins Glen. The school will not hold a graduation ceremony this year, at the Pitcher family’s request.People in this Hamilton County town of 800 are exploring the feasibility of a magnet school, mainly to draw » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Keene Property Values Slide with Land

For more than a month, millions of tons of earth and millions of dollars in property value have been inching down a Keene Valley mountainside. As 82 acres of trees and homes continue to break loose, a state geologist says other Adirondack slopes could fail.

The slow-moving landslide on the side of Little Porter Mountain is unnerving residents in the town of Keene, which includes the hamlets of Keene and Keene Valley. The year-round population of 1,000 is nearly doubled in summer by wealthy seasonal residents, many who live upslope for the lofty views of the High Peaks. Four half-million-dollar houses » Continue Reading.



Friday, May 27, 2011

Mary Thill: Hudson River Rafting Travails

Hudson River Rafting Company owner Pat Cunningham pleaded not guilty in Hamilton County Court Thursday to two counts of reckless endangerment. He is scheduled to go to trial in August. Adirondack Life just posted details of the case in “Risky Business,” a story Mary reported for its May/June issue. The Almanack asked Mary Thill to bring our readers up to speed on the latest developments – ed.

The charges are connected to two trips on the Upper Hudson River last summer. But for more than a decade, guides who’ve worked for Cunningham have said that the Hudson River Rafting Company » Continue Reading.



Thursday, July 1, 2010

Remembering Ketch: Educator and Conservationist

Dr. Edwin H. Ketchledge died peacefully yesterday. He was 85.

“Ketch,” to all who knew him, was a botanist, teacher and founder of the Summit Steward program, a 20-year collaborative effort to educate hikers and protect vulnerable alpine plants that cling to the Adirondacks’ highest summits.

He was veteran of the 10th Mountain Division’s Italy campaign. Surviving that experience inspired Ketch to live a meaningful life. He dedicated himself to Adirondack conservation, botany and teaching.

Dr. Ketchledge was a distinguished teaching professor of environmental and forest biology at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

He » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Saranac Lake Winter Carnival: Art. Play. Love.

The members of the Adirondack Artists Guild at 52 Main Street, Saranac Lake, and other artists who submitted work for a carnival-themed exhibit invite everybody to an opening reception 5–7 p.m. Friday February 12.

In the meantime Saranac Lake Winter Carnival rolls on all week, with music and sporting events, and the ice palace is open to visitors; you can see a schedule here. But Friday is when things really get going. After the art show, head across the street to the Harrietstown Hall for the 7:30 p.m. Rotary Club Variety Show (you’re advised to buy tickets in advance; it’s a popular event), a » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Protect the Adirondacks!: Name, Imperative or Annoying?

We had no comment when the newly merged Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks announced that they’d henceforth be known as Protect the Adirondacks! (Editor’s note: the exclamation point is part of the name, not a reflection of how we feel about the name. Maybe we should have put a period after it, I really don’t know.)

We figured—like Panic at the Disco, the band formerly known as Panic! at the Disco—they’d soon come to regret the alarmist and inconvenient punctuation. Whoever edits Protect the Adirondacks!’s (!) publications and Web site would » Continue Reading.



Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ski Barbecue and Olympic Send-off Sunday

This Sunday Saranac Lakers and their neighbors will gather at Mount Pisgah to celebrate winter carnival, eat barbecue and wish their four local Olympians well. Also, the village-run alpine ski area will host a freestyle skiing and snowboard competition, its first ever.

The BBQ will be held 11:30-2:30 at the Mount Pisgah lodge. The families of Olympians will be special guests. At 1 p.m. photographer Mark Kurtz will take a group photo from a bucket truck, and the gathering will be videotaped and put on YouTube so that local Olympians Billy Demong (Nordic combined), Tim Burke (biathlon), Chris Mazdzer (luge) and Peter Frenette (ski » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, February 2, 2010

An Invasives Barrier for the Champlain Canal

Asian carp are all over the news and will soon be all over Lake Michigan unless the Chicago canal that links the Mississippi and Great Lakes watersheds is re-engineered. It’s looking unlikely, but if the Obama administration decides to turn this dilemma into a major public works project—keeping a particularly nasty invasive species from upending the remnants of native Great Lakes fish life—there’s a canal on Lake Champlain that could use a lift too.



Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Adirondacks Well Represented at Vancouver Olympics

Yesterday Andrew Weibrecht became the latest of a pack of Adirondackers named to the U.S. Olympic Team. It was really just a formality. Of course Andrew would make the alpine ski squad. He’s fearless, he’s dedicated and he’s got no brakes.

It’s still huge to see his name on the list. He’s a great guy and makes us proud. It’s hard to explain why people who have nothing to do with these kids’ success can feel that way, but in a small town you just do. Six athletes who have grown up in Lake Placid and Saranac Lake are going to the » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, January 19, 2010

State Land Moratorium and Pending Adirondack Sales

Governor David Paterson’s budget would zero-out money for land acquisition and impose an apparent two-year moratorium on state land purchases. Other components of the Environmental Protection Fund would also be reduced (33 percent across the board), but land conservation is the only category proposed for elimination.

This would leave the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy extended on many millions of dollars worth of land that the state has agreed to buy for the Forest Preserve. The tracts involved are 65,000 acres of former Finch Pruyn land spread across 27 towns, and 14,600 acres surrounding Follensby Pond, mostly in the town » Continue Reading.



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