Monday, February 7, 2011

UN International Year of Forests 2011 Kicks Off

The U. S. Forest Service, with partner organizations the National Association of State Foresters and the American Forest Foundation, have announced the U.S. celebration of the official United Nations International Year of Forests 2011. The theme of the U.S. campaign is “Celebrate Forests. Celebrate Life.”

Trees and forests provide a wealth of social, economic, environmental, aesthetic, cultural and health benefits. Because of forests, millions of Americans have access to clean drinking water, an abundance of recreational opportunities, cleaner air, and countless jobs. Urban trees and forests also make important contributions by enhancing neighborhood livability, increasing home prices, and reducing household energy use and the effects of climate change. In short, trees and forests improve the quality of life in urban and rural areas alike. » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 7, 2011

The Wreck of the George W. Lee

In November 1886, Captain John Frawley of the canal boat George W. Lee reached the eastern terminus of the Mohawk River at Cohoes. Before him was the Hudson River leading south to Albany and New York City, but Frawley’s intended route was north. At this critical waterway intersection, the Champlain Canal led north from Waterford to Whitehall at Lake Champlain’s southern tip.

Access to the Champlain Canal was on the north bank at the Mohawk’s mouth, opposite Peeble’s Island. Just as there is today, at the mouth of the river was a dam, constructed by engineers to enable canal boats to cross the river. About 500 feet upstream was a bridge. Canal boats were pulled by tow ropes linked to teams of mules or horses. To cross from the south bank to the north, towing teams used the bridge, which is what Frawley did.

Sounds simple, and usually, it was. But the Mohawk was badly swollen from several days of rain. Traveling at night, Frawley was perhaps unaware that the normally strong current had intensified. Water was fairly leaping over the nine-foot-high dam.

Accompanying the captain were his mother, around 60 years old; his ten-year-old son; and the boat’s steersman, Dennis Clancy. To help ensure that things went okay, Frawley left the boat to assist the team driver during the crossing of the 700-foot-long bridge. They moved slowly—the rope extended sideways from the bridge downstream towards the boat, which was much more difficult than pulling a load forward along the canal.

Below them, the George W. Lee lay heavy in the current, straining against the rope. All went well until the bridge’s midpoint was reached, when, with a sound like a gunshot, the rope snapped. Horrified, they watched as the boat swung around, slammed sideways into the dam, and plunged over the edge. Nothing was left but darkness.

Shock and grief enveloped them at such a sudden, terrible loss. Within minutes, though, a light appeared on the boat’s deck. It had held together! At least one person had survived, but no one knew how many, or if any were injured. The roar of the river drowned out any attempt at yelling back and forth. With the boat aground, there was nothing to do but sit and wait until morning.

With daylight came great news. All were okay! But, as had happened the previous evening, great elation was followed by great uncertainty. How could they be saved? The river remained high and dangerous. The boat, resting on the rocks below the dam, could not be reached. And the November chill, heightened by cold water pouring over the dam all around them, threatened the stranded passengers with hypothermia.

A rescue plan was devised, and by late afternoon, the effort began. The state scow (a large, flat-bottomed boat), manned by a volunteer crew of seven brave men, set out on a dangerous mission. Connected to the bridge by a winch system using two ropes, the scow was slowly guided to the dam, just above the stranded boat.

The men began talking with the passengers to discuss their evacuation. Then, without warning, disaster struck. Something within the winch mechanism failed, and again, with a loud cracking sound, the rope snapped. Over the dam went the scow, fortunately missing the canal boat. Had they hit, the results would have been catastrophic.

Briefly submerged, the scow burst to the surface. A safe passage lay ahead, but the drifting scow was instead driven towards nearby Buttermilk Falls by the swift current. Two men leaped overboard and swam for shore in the icy water. The rest decided to ride it out.

In one reporter’s words, “The scow sped like an arrow toward Buttermilk Falls. It seemed to hang an instant at the brink, and then shot over the falls. It landed right side up and soon drifted ashore.” Incredibly, everyone survived intact. Chilled, wet, and shaken, but intact.

Meanwhile, still stuck at the base of the dam was a canal boat with cold, hungry, and frightened passengers. A new plan was needed, but darkness was descending. The stranded victims would have to spend another night on the rocks.

On the following day, Plan B was tried. According to reports, “A stout rope was stretched from the Waterford bridge over the dam to a small row boat at Peeble’s Island [a distance of about 1800 feet.] Two men stood on the bridge and pulled the skiff upstream until it came alongside the canal boat Lee. The party embarked and the boat was allowed to drift back to the island.”

What an amazing, fortuitous outcome. Two boats (one at night) over a dam; three people trapped for more than 36 hours in a raging river; two men swimming for their lives in icy water; and five men and a boat over a waterfall. All that potential for tragedy, and yet all survived unscathed.

Photo Top: The dam at Cohoes, looking west from Peeble’s Island.

Photo Bottom: A canal boat scene at Cohoes.

Lawrence Gooley has authored nine books and many articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. He took over in 2010 and began expanding the company’s publishing services. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Study: Three Local Colleges Generate $563 Million

Three Northern New York private colleges, Clarkson University, Paul Smith’s College and St. Lawrence University contribute an annual $563 million to the economy and are directly and indirectly responsible for an estimated 4,200 jobs and more than $208 million in payroll according to a newly released study.

The new economic analysis by the Center for Governmental Research (CGR) found that
New York’s independent colleges and universities are major private employers in all regions of New York State with total payroll exceeding $19.5 billion for 360,200 direct, indirect and induced jobs.

More than 6,500 students enroll each year at Clarkson, Paul Smith’s, and St. Lawrence; about 57% are drawn from New York, 35% from out of state, and 8% from outside the United States. Detailed figures can be found online.

In nine of the state’s counties, the study found, private higher education employment represents five percent or more of total employment and six percent or more of total wages. In 2009 two of the top employers in New York State were private higher education institutions: Cornell University and University of Rochester.

In total, the 100-plus independent colleges and universities in New York State are believed to have contributed $54.3 billion to the state’s economy in 2009. This is an increase of $6.8 billion (up 14%) since 2007 and more than $12.9 billion (up 31%) from 2005. In 2009, direct institutional spending was more than $46 billion and academic medical center spending more than $4.3 billion.

The release of these updated figures complements those released by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli in October 2010. The Comptroller’s report, The Economic Impact of Higher Education in New York State, stated “New York has the largest private higher education sector in the nation, with 167,450 jobs in 2009 – more than 40 percent larger than second-ranked California.” That report also noted that “Most of the growth in higher education employment this decade has been at private colleges and universities.

Editor’s Note: By way of comparison, the Olympic Regional Development Authority is believed to contribute about $271 million to the counties of Franklin, Essex, Warren, and Clinton.

Photo: Matt Barkalow of Paul Smith’s College woodsmen’s team. Photo by Pat Hendrick.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

War Of 1812 Symposium Planned for Ogdensburg

During the War of 1812 the dogs of war barked and bit along the U.S. northern frontier from Lake Ontario to Lake Champlain as American forces tangled with their British and Canadian counterparts for two-and-a-half years. The War of 1812 in this region, and its wider implications, will be topics at the third annual War of 1812 Symposium April 29-30 in Ogdensburg, NY, sponsored by the Fort La Présentation Association.

The five presentations by authoritative Canadians and Americans are: Ogdensburg and Prescott during the War of 1812, Paul Fortier; American supply efforts on Lake Ontario: “Cooper’s Ark,” Richard Palmer; “Colonel Louis” and the Native American role in the War of 1812, Darren Bonaparte; The war on the St. Lawrence River, Victor Suthren; and Excavation of American Graves at the 1812 Burlington Cantonment, Kate Kenny. The post-dinner address by Patrick Wilder is the Battle of Sackets Harbor

“We established the symposium in advance of the war’s 2012 bicentennial to help develop a broader public understanding of the War of 1812, so important to the evolution of the United States and Canada,” said Barbara O’Keefe, President of the Fort La Présentation Association. “The annual symposium is a vibrant forum of scholars from both sides of the boarder presenting informative seminars to an enthusiastic audience of academics, history buffs and re-enactors.”

The cost of the symposium is $100 for the Saturday seminars and after-dinner speaker, including a light continental breakfast, a buffet lunch and a sit-down dinner. The Friday evening meet-and-greet with period entertainment by Celtic harpist Sue Croft and hors d’oeuvres is $10.

The symposium and dinner fee for Fort La Présentation Association members is $90, and they will pay $10 for the meet-and-greet.

Other pricing options are available: $80 for the Saturday seminars without dinner; and $35 for the dinner with speaker.

Seminar details and registration instructions on the Fort La Présentation Association webpage.

The Freight House Restaurant in Ogdensburg will host the symposium, as it has in previous years.

The Fort La Présentation Association is a not-for-profit corporation based in Ogdensburg, New York. Its mission is to sponsor or benefit the historically accurate reconstruction of Fort de la Présentation (1749) in close proximity to the original site on Lighthouse Point.

Seminar Presenters

Darren Bonaparte from the Mohawk community of Ahkwesáhsne on the St. Lawrence River is an historical journalist. He created the Wampum Chronicles website in 1999 to promote his research into the history and culture of the Rotinonhsión:ni—the People of the Longhouse. Mr. Bonaparte has been published by Indian Country Today, Native Americas, Aboriginal Voices and Winds of Change, and he has served as an historical consultant for the PBS miniseries The War That Made America; Champlain: The Lake Between; and The Forgotten War: The Struggle for North America.

Paul Fortier, of Kingston, ON, worked 10 years as a military curator and historian for Parks Canada and a following 10 years as a manager at the National Archives of Canada. While living in Prescott, ON, the home he restored was the Stockade Barracks, British military headquarters on the St. Lawrence River during the War of 1812. Mr. Fortier is a founder of the re-enacted Regiment of Canadian Fencible Infantry. He owns Jessup Food & Heritage, providing period food services at Upper Canada Village, Fort Henry and Fort York.

Kate Kenney is the Program Historian at the University of Vermont Consulting Archeology Program. She supervises historic artifact analysis and also helps supervise field work, particularly at historic sites. She is the senior author of Archaeological Investigations at the Old Burial Ground, St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Ms. Kenny has organized and conducted UVM CAP public outreach, including presentations to elementary and high school students. Personal research projects involve Vermont history from the earliest settlement through to the Civil War.

Richard F. Palmer of Syracuse is a senior editor of “Inland Seas,” the quarterly of the Great Lakes Historical Society, and has written some 40 articles for the publication, covering more than 250 years of Lake Ontario’s maritime history. His presentation on “Cooper’s Ark,” is the story of a short-lived floating fortress built in Oswego during the War of 1812, but lost in a storm while sailing to Sackets Harbor. He’ll also recount the attempt to raft lumber for the construction of ships from Oak Orchard to Sackets Harbor; the delivery was intercepted by the British.

Victor Suthren, from Merrickville, Ontario, is an author and historian. He served as Director General of the Canadian War Museum from 1986 to 1998, and is an Honorary Captain in the Canadian Navy and advisor to the Directorate of Naval History and Heritage, Department of National Defence (Canada). He has worked as an advisor to film and television productions and has voyaged extensively as a seaman in traditional “tall ships.” Mr. Suthren has published several works of historical non-fiction, as well as two series of historical sea fiction.

Patrick Wilder is an historian retired from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. He is the author of The Battle of Sackett’s Harbour, 1813.

Photo: Canadian Fencibles Colours, courtesy Fort La Présentation Association.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Adirondack Artists Guild Fundraiser of Humane Society

Help out the Tri-Lakes Humane Society and get some original art at the same time. by attending “Giving Paws”, a fundraiser at the Adirondack Artists Guild during the month of February. Each member of the Artists Guild is donating work depicting animals for the fundraising silent auction. 100% of the proceeds will go to the Humane Society.

The show runs from February 4 through February 28. A reception with animal-inspired snacks hosted by the Humane Society will be held at the gallery on Friday February 11 from 5-7 PM. Everyone is welcome to visit the exhibit and bid on their favorite pieces, starting on Feb 4.

In addition, Art students at Petrova Middle School have created a dog and a cat sculpture as donation boxes for the fundraiser.

The Adirondack Artists Guild is a cooperative retail art gallery representing a diverse group of regional artists residing and working in the Tri-Lakes region of the Adirondack Park.

The gallery is located at 52 Main St, Saranac Lake, 518 891-2615. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 until 5 and 12-3 on Sundays, closed on Mondays.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Build A Greener Adirondacks Expo Announced

The greatest change in homes since the invention of the chimney is underway, and for three days some of the biggest and smallest new ideas will be on center stage at The Wild Center’s second Build EXPO. Expert builders, interested home owners and people who want to see the absolute latest green building ideas can gather at the Center’s Build a Greener Adirondacks EXPO. Some of the nation’s leading practitioners will convene in the Adirondacks to demonstrate energy and money saving ideas and products.

The EXPO uses ski trail signs to distinguish between its expert and easier days. The three day EXPO starts April 29 with Black Diamond day for experts and builders. Day Two will be Blue Square day for residents who feel like they have a strong idea of Green Building and want to add to their knowledge. On the last day it’s Green day, when the public is invited to have a look at the latest ideas and meet the vendors and presenters.

Contractor Green Building Training – Black Diamond Day, April 29

This is a Green Building Training Day. A Fundamentals of Building Green course will be offered to those individuals interested in integrating green practices into the core knowledge of their building business. Once this four hour prerequisite course is successfully completed, participants may opt to take a certificate exam based on the Fundamentals material or select an additional trade specific 6 or 8 hour course offered elsewhere in the state and take a combined Fundamentals/Trade Specific certificate exam. Additional information can be found at www.gpro.org. The course costs $150, which entitles participants to admission on all three days.

Green Building Symposium & EXPO – Blue Square Day, April 30
The middle day of the EXPO will consist of a Green Building Symposium and EXPO with more than 30 building science, product and technology experts from around the northeast sharing information on the latest green building technologies. Presentation topics will include: high performing windows, alternative and unique green building construction techniques, green building science, effective building insulation, passive design considerations, reclaimed lumber, energy saving major building appliances and eco-design concepts (subject to change). The event will include a green building product trade show with numerous exhibitors displaying products and systems that have been recognized for their ability to contribute to safe, healthy, sustainable and/or highly energy efficient building environments. The day will be highlighted with a keynote address offered by Tedd Benson, called one of the most interesting builders in America by Treehugger.com and featured on This Old House, Good Morning America, and the Today Show, and recently recognized with a BuildingGreen.com award for his innovative design. (Day 2 sessions only will be $45 with advance online registration or $55 the day of the event. A combined Day 2 and Day 3 will be $55 with advance online registration and $65 the day of the event.)

EXPO and Community Energy Efficiency Forum “The Doctor is In” – Green Day, May 1

May 1 is The Wild Center’s official reopening day for the 2011 spring visitor season. On this final day the EXPO hall will be open to the public with paid general admission (free for Center members and Season Pass holders) and offer consumers the chance to ask questions and see what kinds of choices they have when they make building or renovation decisions. There will be special speakers and a “The Doctor is In” booth where you can talk about your home’s symptoms and find out if there’s a cure. This day will include a Community Energy Efficiency Forum. People interested in ways to make a greener Adirondack home will have the chance to ask experts on hand here in the Adirondacks thoughout the day.


Friday, February 4, 2011

This Week’s Adirondack Web Highlights

On Friday afternoons Adirondack Almanack compiles for our readers a collection of the week’s top weblinks. You can find all our weekly web round-ups here.

Subscribe! More than 4,800 people get Adirondack Almanack each day via RSS, E-Mail, or Twitter or Facebook updates. It’s a convenient way to get the latest news and information about the Adirondacks.


Friday, February 4, 2011

Lake George Groups Praise Cuomo’s Choice to Head DEC

Joe Martens, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s choice to become the state’s new Commissioner of Environmental Conservation, was instrumental in protecting the 1,423-acre Berry Pond Tract on Prospect Mountain that includes the headwaters of West Brook.

Protecting the land was a crucial part of the West Brook Conservation Initiative, a $15 million project to restore the water quality of Lake George’s south basin; as president of the Open Space Institute, Martens arranged a $2.64 million loan to the Lake George Land Conservancy to buy the property.

“We wouldn’t have been able to protect the Berry Pomd Tract without OSI, and Joe Martens was instrumental in securing the OSI’s loan to the Conservancy,” said Nancy Williams, executive director of the Lake George Land Conservancy.

“Joe Martens understood the importance of the Berry Pond tract and the necessity to protect it from development if we are to protect the water quality of Lake George,” said Walt Lender, the executive director of the Lake George Association.

When Cuomo announced that he would nominate Martens to head the Department of Environmental Conservation on January 4, Lake George conservation groups were unanimous in their praise.

“Joe Martens has a strong grasp of the importance of Lake George to this area’s economy and way of life. We expect him to be an advocate for protecting the environment around the state and around Lake George; we all know that when we protect the lake, we protect this area’s most important economic asset,” said Peter Bauer, Executive Director of the FUND for Lake George.

“It’s a positive sign that someone who’s already familiar with our issues, who has an intimate knowledge of Lake George and the Adirondacks, has been appointed to the position,” said Lender.

“We feel his experience and leadership on conservation issues will set a good precedent for the Department and hopefully sets a strong commitment for the new administration on environmental issues,”
said Chris Navitsky, Lake George Waterkeeper.

According to The Fund for Lake George, Martens brings a long resume in state government to the new position. In addition to serving as president of the Open Space Institute and president of ORDA, he worked in the State Legislature, as an administrator at the Adirondack Park Agency, and as a top environmental aide to Governor Mario Cuomo.

Martens studied Resource Economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and received an M.S. in Resource Management from the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse University.

Photo: Tim Barnett, Adirondack Nature Conservancy; Dave Decker, Lake George Watershed Coalition; Peter Bauer, The Fund for Lake George; Mayor Bob Blais, Lake George Village; Walt Lender, Lake George Association; Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward; DEC Region 5 director Betsy Lowe; Nancy Williams, Lake George Land Conservancy; with Joe Martens in Lake George to announce the protection of the Berry Pond Tract, 2008.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror.


Friday, February 4, 2011

Long Time Saranac Lake Resident Phil Wolff Passes

Philip George Wolff, 95, a Saranac Lake resident and florist for decades and an Adirondacker well known for his public service and wry wit, died Thursday February 3, 2011, at his western home in San Diego.

Phil, as he was known to friends and several governors, was the oldest living licensed bobsled driver, the chief of staff of the 1980 Winter Olympic Organizing Committee, and the proud founder of the Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum. He achieved State Historical Site recognition in 2009 and National Historic Site recognition in 2010 for the 1932 Mt Van Hoevenburg Bobsled Run. Phil’s hand-restored 1921 Model T nicknamed “Jezebel” was donated to the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, NY.

Phil was a veteran of WW II, serving in the Army Corps of Engineers in the South Pacific from 1943 to 1945. At the end of the war, he was among the troops sent to occupy Japan, where he and several fellow soldiers on an assignment there just six days after the atomic bombings that ended the war saw a road sign for Nagasaki, and out of curiosity, detoured into the heart of the destroyed city and took photos of one another at ground zero. The adventure became one of the many stories of his incredible life that Phil loved to tell, showing the snapshots that proved it. He received the Purple Heart, Silver Star and other citations before returning to Saranac Lake and a reunion with his wife Elsie (Hughes) Wolff, who had built up their business during the war years and given birth to their first daughter, Cynthia, during his absence. Phil served an additional 17 years as an Army Reserve officer, starting an Army Reserve unit at Paul Smith’s College. He retired with the rank of Captain.

Born in Buffalo on October 19, 1915, he attended Cornell University where he was a member of the ski team and met his wife of 70 years. Another of his favorite stories was of the night he was playing bridge with classmates, discussing whom they were going to invite to an upcoming campus event. When a fellow card player said he was going to invite Elsie Hughes, Phil excused himself from the table the next time he was dummy, went to a phone and asked her himself.

Phil, who earned the money for college by selling furs he trapped on his way to and from high school, took a year off from college for his first job, that of designing and constructing Saranac Lake’s Riverside Park in 1937, before graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in landscape architecture in 1938. Elsie gave him an ultimatum — he could be a farmer without her or a florist with her, and they were married in 1940, opening and operating a greenhouse in Ray Brook that year and a florist shop in Saranac Lake called Wolff Your Florist, which closed in 1981, having delivered thousands of distinctive white corsage boxes to young women over the decades.

Phil became an early 46er in 1940. He loved hiking the High Peaks (in moccasins) with his scouting friend Frosty Bradley. Adirondack Life magazine published his memoir of those trips and his meetings with hermit Noah Rondeau in the April/May, 2010 edition, making Phil, then 94, perhaps the oldest author to have an article published in the magazine, complete with photos he took of Rondeau. He was proud of his paycheck from the publication.

Phil was active in the community, serving as president of Saranac Lake Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club. He was a member of the Town Board of North Elba, Chairman of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival, a member of the Northwood School Board of Directors, the Saranac Lake Golf Course Board of Directors, He also was the Treasurer of the Cornell Alumni Association Class of 1938 (until his death), and a founding member and treasurer of AdkAction.org, an Adirodack advocacy group founded in 2006 when he was in his early 90s. He was elected Town Justice of the Town of North Elba in 1960 and served for 16 years, performing many marriages including those of his children. He was seen during Winter Carnival over the years with other Rotarians as Miss Piggy, among other caricatures. In San Diego, California where he and Elsie took up winter residence in 1987, he enjoyed serving turkey to the “older folks,” most of whom were younger than he, at the Poway Rotary Thanksgiving Dinner for Senior Citizens.

Phil was an Eagle Scout and member of Troop 1 in Barker, NY, where he returned in 2010 to bestow the Eagle badge on their latest recipient in August, 2010. He founded the first Boy Scout Troop in Saranac Lake in 1939.

Phil was a member of the 1976 and 1980 Winter Olympic bid committees. In 1978 he was appointed Chief of Staff of the 1980 Winter Olympic Organizing Committee, a position he held until the LPOOC’s closure in 1987, volunteering his time during the last three years of that assignment. He also served as chief of the Security Committee for the 1980 Games. One of his proudest accomplishments was being the founder and president of the 1932 and1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum, where he remained on the board until his death. He was inducted into the Lake Placid Hall of Fame in 2002.

Phil will be remembered by family and friends for his generosity and thoughtfulness, his ability to fix anything, his love of golf with his friends, the intricate ship models he constructed in bottles, his broad thinking about solutions for the Adirondacks he loved, his bad jokes, his love of his alma mater, his collection of Olympic and Adirondack books and memorabilia, and his love for his wife and family. His favorite saying was, “Isn’t it nice to have the WHOLE family together.”

Phil is survived by his wife Elsie, his children Cynthia of LaJolla, CA (Bill Copeland); David of Ridgefield, CT and Saranac Lake (Holly); and Steve of Poway, CA (Stephanie) as well as grandchildren Dj, Stephen, Alex, and Andrew.


Friday, February 4, 2011

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories

Each Friday morning Adirondack Almanack compiles for our readers the previous week’s top stories. You can find all our weekly news round-ups here.

Subscribe! More than 4,800 people get Adirondack Almanack each day via RSS, E-Mail, or Twitter or Facebook updates. It’s a convenient way to get the latest news and information about the Adirondacks.


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