Thursday, July 1, 2010

New Study: Visitors Are Younger, More Affluent

Visitors to Lake Placid and Essex County in 2009 were younger and more affluent than in 2008 according to the latest travel and tourism study. For the seventh year in a row, the Technical Assistance Center (TAC), based at SUNY Plattsburgh, was contracted by the Lake Placid CVB/Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (LPCVB) to conduct an independent, third party Leisure Travel Information Study.

According to the report, the average household income of 2009 respondents was $93,211, which is slightly higher than in 2008 and the 5-year average of $91,610. The average age was 49.9 years, slightly lower than in 2008, with a 5-year average of 48.9 years.

Respondents live primarily in the Northeast. Hotels remain the most common type of lodging respondents used during their stay. When asked to select the activities which attracted them to the region, the top three were consistent with the 5 year average: outdoor activities, relax/dine/shop and sightseeing.

The results affirm many of the findings from previous years according to the study’s authors. Although there are seven years of data, the 2009 report compares to a five year rolling average to smooth out anomalies.

The LPCVB promotes the Schroon Lake, Lake Champlain, Whiteface, Saranac Lake and Lake Placid regions. The study is based on a survey of the LPCVB’s 2009 trackable leads database. New leads are added on a constant basis; walk-in visitors, phone and mail inquiries, bingo cards from magazine advertising, and web signups provide a snapshot of the respondents to the 2009 overall marketing efforts.

Although alone receives millions of unique visitors, the survey takes only these trackable leads into consideration. In order to calculate the economic impact of the LPCVB’s marketing efforts exclusively, the results do not include any standard economic multipliers, such as the impact from group visitation, staff expenditures, sales tax or events.

In addition to valuable demographic data and trends, the study’s intent is to determine the effectiveness of the LPCVB’s marketing programs, to measure the return on investment (ROI) ratio for public marketing expenditures and the conversion rate factor, or the number of those leads who actually visited the region.

The report found that the percent of visitors who stated that the information or advertisements viewed influenced their decision to visit the region was 79%, which is near the five-year average of 82%. And, for every occupancy tax dollar the LPCVB spent on marketing, visitors to Essex County spent $89, which is slightly higher than in 2008, and lower than the five-year average of 99:1.

The 2009 report, additional CVB research and more is available for download at a new online resource developed specifically for local tourism-related businesses at

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ellen Rathbone: Thoughts on Flies and Death

Last night at chorus practice a fellow tenor and I got to discussing flies and death. The conversation started off normally enough, with her asking me how the flies were in Newcomb. I allowed as how the blackflies were still around, but not terribly problematic, the mosquitoes were quite numerous and taking over my house, and the deerflies were holding their own. Mostly, however, I told her of how the large black “house” flies were filling up my kitchen window and buzzing around the house until all hours of the night.

From here the conversation turned to her childhood. She told me of how her father had deer hanging in the cellar at all times of the year so the family could eat. Sometimes in summer the meat would start to get rather ripe. And then the flies arrived: they would line the doors, crawl on the tables. For a small child, they could be quite terrifying. » Continue Reading.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

To The Top: Biking The Whiteface Memorial Highway

File this one under, “What took so long?”

The Olympic Regional Development Authority, which operates Whiteface Mountain, will let bicyclists ride the Whiteface Memorial Highway, a 5-mile auto road, to the summit for a $5 fee during its summer operations.

Extreme cyclists have always plied their leg strength against Whiteface’s 3,500-foot climb from Wilmington (2,300 feet from the toll booth). But bicycles have never been allowed on the road when the toll booth was open during the summer — they had to sneak in before or after hours.

Why? Turns out the culprit was an old DEC memo that prohibited non-motorized transportation on the road, said ORDA spokesman Jon Lundin. “We just kind of abided by that,” he said. “There hasn’t been a demand until recently.”

These days, more and more people are taking bikes to the Adirondacks, as witnessed by Whiteface’s mountain-bike activities at the ski center, a nearby mountain biking area called the Flume Trail system and the debate about turning railroad tracks into rail-trails happening a few miles away.

Finally, someone at ORDA thought to ask the DEC to rethink the memo. Turns out, now it’s OK.

So, if you want to ride during the day — and get to visit the summit house — it’s $5 per cycle. Helmets are required (but you’d be a fool to go screaming down that hill without one anyway). Whiteface is the state’s fifth-highest peak at 4,867 feet.

Cheapskates who just want to ride to the top can still ride around the gate before or after hours for free.

For those who like thrill, challenge and lactic burn of hill-climbing, Whiteface is only one of a handful of mountains in the Northeast that allow cycling to the top. Mt. Washington in New Hampshire (6,288) and Mt. Mansfield (4,393) and Mt. Equinox (3,850) in Vermont do not let cyclists on their roads, except during a yearly race held on those peaks.

In Massachusetts, cyclists are allowed to ride up the road to Mt. Greylock, the state’s highest peak, but the elevation is not nearly as high as these more significant peaks. Further to the northeast, Ascutney, Okemo and Burke mountains in Vermont all allow bikes to the top (but with pitches significantly steeper than Whiteface’s 8-percent grade).

Photo courtesy of ORDA.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tupper Lake Woodsmen’s Days, July 10-11

The Tupper Lake Woodsmen’s Days, which has grown from a small local one-day affair to a large two-event attracting thousands of visitors, will be celebrating its 29th year this July 11th and 12th. The event features lumberjack and lady jack events, heavy equipment contests, the Adirondacks’ largest horse-pull, chain saw carvings, and a wide range of games and contests for geared toward the entire family.

The festivities kick off Friday evening and the public is invited to join with woodsmen, heavy equipment operators and representatives of the woods industry at the event’s annual banquet – this year being held at the Park Restaurant on Park Street in Tupper Lake, beginning at 6 p.m.

Woodsmen’s Days will kick off at 10 a.m. Saturday morning with what organizers are calling “one of the largest parades ever staged in the North Country.” “The miles long procession, featuring well over 50 entries of floats, marching bands and logging equipment, will wind its way through the business district en route to the municipal park where the thrilling events take place,” according to a press notice.

Contestants (lumberjacks and lady jacks) from around the United States and Canada, will chop, saw, roll and maneuver heavy logs in a number of contests beginning at noon. The events that day will include open and modified chain sawing (four classes), cross-cut and buck-saw matches, log rolling, axe throwing, human log skidding, tree felling and horizontal log chop.

Last year Dave Engasser of Cortland and Julie Miller of Branchport were crowned 2009 Lumberjack of the Year and 2009 Lumberjill of the Year.

Outside the park staging area, as well as the lakefront area, various vendors and heavy equipment dealers will be on display. Games and contests, as well as a varied menu of food and refreshments will also be offered both days.

That afternoon, at 1 p.m. in the heavy equipment area, heavy equipment operators from around the northeast will face off in the popular loading competition.

A highlight of the evening will begin at 7 p.m. when youngsters compete in their own games. At 7:30 p.m., the men and women to take over the area to team up in various competitions including the tug-of-war and greased pole climb.

At noon Sunday, the Adirondacks’ largest horse pull will compete for nearly $4,000 in prizes in the heavy and lightweight horse pull divisions; skidding and truck driving competitions will begin at 1 pm. Last year Jon Duhaime emerged as the 2009 Heavy Equipment Operator of the Year.

For more information or a reservation for Friday’s banquet contact the Woodsmen’s Association at (518) 359-9444 or online at

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Chris Morris: Fall 2010 Election Preview

We’re a little more than two months out from the September primary elections, so it’s a good time to take stock on what we’ll be dealing with this fall.

Statewide, the governor’s race is sure to capture most of the headlines, although early polling indicates Democrat Andrew Cuomo will be our next governor.

Former Long Island Congressman Rick Lazio is the front-runner for the Republicans, and then there’s Carl Paladino, who’s picked up some tea party support and hopes to challenge Lazio come September.

And Mr. Paladino has already added a little sizzle and spice to what has so far been a ho-hum gubernatorial race. For starters, some of the first press the Buffalo-area mogul received followed leaked emails that featured racist material and images of bestiality. That’s one way to kick off a campaign with a bang.

Then, last week, Paladino set his sights on New York Governor David Paterson. During a meeting with voters and some members of the press, including Jude Seymour of the Watertown Daily Times, Paladino called the governor a “drug addict.”

Seymour recorded the meeting, and you can watch it here.

The comments were downplayed by Paterson and his staff, perhaps because Paterson isn’t running for reelection and has more important things to worry about at the moment (see: NY’s ongoing budget mess).

In fact, Paladino’s comments about Paterson seem to have caught the ear of voters who were unfamiliar with him. Judging from subsequent interviews, it doesn’t appear that Paladino will back off in the near future.

Howie Hawkins is running for governor as the Green Party’s candidate. Hawkins’ has a history of activism that dates back to the 1960s; in 2005, he ran for mayor of the city of Syracuse on the Green Party Line. He also ran for the U.S. Senate in 2006, during which he campaigned to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

There’s tons more about Hawkins at his website.

There’s a fourth person in the mix, but whether or not he’ll end up in a primary battle with Cuomo is hard to say. Charles Barron is a New York City councilman who says he’s running for governor because there’ s a lack of diversity on the ticket this year.

Barron is referring to the fact that most of the gubernatorial candidates are white men. He says he’ll run on the newly-formed New York Freedom Democratic Party line.

In the Adirondack region, it’s the two Congressional elections that are sure to dominate headlines here on out. Democratic Representative Bill Owens faces a potential three-way race in the 23rd Congressional District, as Republican businessman Matt Doheny and Conservative accountant Doug Hoffman gear up for a September primary.

Doheny has stated he’ll bow out of the race if he loses the primary. Hoffman, on the other hand, says he’ll forge ahead on the Conservative line if he fails to lock up the Republican line.

The wrangling in the 23rd district begs the question: does a three-way race guarantee a second Owens victory?

In an interview with North Country Public Radio, Siena Research Institute pollster Steven Greenberg told Jonathan Brown there’s some concern with the conservative block of voters that a split ticket will end in Owens winning again. Conversely, on the liberal side, voters may be prematurely raising their glasses in victory.

I asked Upstate New York Tea Party (UNYTEA) chairman Mark Barie about the “third party” issue. Here’s what he told me:

“It’s a question on both sides of the political aisle now,” he said. “Hoffman has the Conservative Party endorsement, Doheny has the Independence Party’s support. Continuing in the race on a third party line, for either candidate, is very difficult.”

Barie also said that Doheny is “no Dede Scozzafava.” I took that to mean he’s a more cut and dry Republican candidate than the North Country Assemblywoman — who ended up throwing her support behind Owens just days before the election.

The 20th Congressional District election will be easier to follow. Republican Chris Gibson will challenge incumbent Democrat Scott Murphy, who won the seat last year in a special election to replace U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

There’s also the two U.S. Senate races, as Gillibrand and Charles Schumer both battle to keep their seats. It should be a good ride, and I’ll do my best here to keep you updated on developments as they occur.

If you like politics, buckle up. This fall should be fun.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Summer Ski Jumping Season Begins in Lake PLacid

A tradition that dates back to the beginning of the 20th century will continue Saturday, July 3, when ski jumpers take to the Olympic Jumping Complex for the beginning of the summer ski jumping season.

Summer ski jumping actually began on snow when blocks of ice were removed from area lakes and stored until needed for the competitions. This ice was brought to the jumps and crushed into the hill. Crews laboriously spread this “snow” along the length of the site to allow the event to occur.

In the late-1980s artificial surfaces, introduced in Europe for summer training, made their way to Lake Placid. Now the in-run, where the jumpers gain speed, is made of porcelain tile troughs, while the landing hill is a synthetic surface layered like a thatched roof. When the in-run and the landing hill are watered, the result is a winter replica of speeds and jumping distance.

The July 3 winner will have a leg up on the 2010 Art Devlin Cup chase. This is a season-long series that includes the July 3 event, the Flaming Leaves meet in October and the Masters Ski Jump in December. The day begins at 1 p.m. with the first of two official rounds.

Admission is $15 for adults, $9 for juniors and seniors and includes a chairlift ride and an elevator ride to the top of the 120-meter ski jump. Food and drinks are offered by ORDA’s concessionaire.

Admission into this event is included when purchasing an Olympic Sites Passportwhich provides purchasers access to each of ORDA’s Olympic venues for $29. They are sold at the ORDA Store on Main Street in Lake Placid and all ticket offices. For more information about the Olympic Sites Passport can be found online.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Wilderness on the Raquette River:Should Motorboats Be Banned?

Ah, the ideal Adirondack day: sunny, mild, few people, no bugs. These circumstances aligned the other day when I paddled from Axton Landing to Raquette Falls.

The six-mile trip up the Raquette River is one of the more popular flatwater paddles in the Adirondacks. (Click here for a description and photos.) Meandering upriver, you see lovely silver maples overhanging grassy banks, kingfishers darting across the water, common mergansers with their young in train, inlets that lead to hidden marshes. » Continue Reading.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Local Power and Energy History: Windmill Déjà Vu

Scores of gigantic wind turbines in the Adirondacks’ northeastern and southwestern foothills are a startling site amidst historically bucolic scenery. The landscape appears “citified,” with structures nearly 40 stories high where the largest buildings rarely top 3 stories. It is a dramatic change, and a far cry from simpler days when family farms were prevalent.

Few realize that in those “simpler days” of dairy farms, windmills were actually quite common across the region. Of course, the windmills once dotting the North Country’s landscape were nothing like today’s behemoths, which stand nearly 400 feet high from the ground to the tip of a skyward-pointing blade. And, the windmills of old weren’t always efficient machines.

Wind technology took a tremendous leap forward in the 1850s thanks to Daniel Halladay, a Connecticut machinist. Halladay’s windmill not only pumped water, but automatically turned to face into the wind as it changed directions. Almost as important, he devised a way to control the speed of the blades (windmills are prone to destruction from within when operating at high rpm levels). Halladay established the US Wind Engine & Pump Company, setting up shop in Illinois. From the start, the business flourished.

Though his sales were focused on the country’s expansion westward, New York State was also experiencing dramatic growth, particularly in the remote northern Adirondack foothills, where pioneers faced a harsh climate and difficult living conditions. Halladay’s invention eventually helped turn some of those weather negatives into positives by taking advantage of wind patterns across upper New York State.

In 1874, the railroad was expanding north from Whitehall towards Plattsburgh. Since steam engines require water, the line generally followed the shore of Lake Champlain. Tanks were constructed along the route where the rails neared the lakeshore. Steam pumps or windmills were used to fill the feeder tanks, which had a capacity of 33,000 gallons each.

As settlers moved north on both sides of the Adirondacks, windmill technology crept northward with them. Farming was necessary for survival, and the enormous workload was eased by mechanical devices like windmills. The description of one man’s operation about 18 miles south of Lowville was typical of the times: “ … a beautiful farm of 280 acres, milks 35 cows, and is a model farm. House, barns, windmill pump, all systematically arranged.”

In situations like that, windmills often filled tanks placed on the upper floor of a barn. The water was then gravity-fed to the livestock below, and piped to other locations as needed. The machine was also used to grind various grains. Early models were mounted on wooden frames, but many fell victim to the very power they were trying to harness, toppling before raging windstorms. Eventually, steel frames supported most windmills.

Wind power wasn’t just for individual homes and farms. In July 1879, H. H. Babcock & Sons of Watertown was hired to install a windmill at 1000 Islands State Park. Water was drawn from the St. Lawrence River to large tanks near the dining hall, and from there was conducted to the various cottages by galvanized iron pipe.

And at Hermon, a contract for $6,595.00 was signed with Daniel Halladay’s company to install a new waterworks system. Included were a wooden tank of 50,000-gallon capacity, a windmill with a wheel diameter of 20 feet, and more than a mile of piping. The frost-proof tank was 24 feet in diameter, 16 feet high, and 3 inches thick. It sat on a trestle 20 feet high, while the windmill stood on a trestle 80 feet high.

Many hotels, including the Whitney House in Norwood and the Turin House in Turin, used windmills to power their water systems. At Chazy, windmills pumped water from the quarries; at Port Henry, they filled water tanks for the trains; and at Saranac Lake, they fed the water supply of the Adirondack Sanitarium.

In 1889, George Baltz of Watertown handled the Halladay display at the Jefferson County Fair, demonstrating that windmills furnished cheaper power than steam engines and could run a feed mill, a circular saw for cutting wood, or pump water.

Though Halladay’s products were widely known, he did have competitors. Some added their own modifications, and some were “copycats.” And they weren’t all products from afar. In 1882, an advertisement touted a windmill “warranted to take care of itself in high winds, equal to the best western mills, and is sold for half the money. It is manufactured at Potsdam.” It featured a self-regulator, and appeared to be based on Halladay’s own successful model.

In the late 1890s, most of the windmills in the Ticonderoga and Lake George area were products of the Perkins Windmill Company, which had already installed more than 50 units across the lake in Vermont. Though windmills in the Midwest were primarily for irrigation, most of those in the North Country supplied water to homes, businesses, and farm animals.

Wind power did face competition from other sources. Gasoline engines became more and more common, offering a reliable alternative. However, they were expensive, noisy, and costly to run. An operator had to be present to start and stop a gas engine, while windmills employed a system of floats to start and stop filling the tanks automatically. A once-a-week oiling was the only required maintenance. The biggest problem at the time was that gas engines ran when you wanted them to, but windmills depended on the weather.

The giant turbines we see in northern New York today are not a new idea. In a peek at the future, Charles Brush of Cleveland, Ohio demonstrated in 1888 the first use of a large windmill to generate electricity. As early as 1895, observers noted that windmills were “destined to be much used for storing electricity. We predict an immense future for the windmill industry.”

In 1910, a farm in America’s Midwest employed windmills to charge a bank of batteries. Wind power provided electricity to light the farm and operate the equipment, and when the wind didn’t blow, the farm ran on battery power for a few days.

By 1925, wind turbines had been used to run refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, and power tools. And in 1926, the NYS Fair urged farmers to purchase windmills, using a 12-foot-high model to show the benefits they might enjoy. It was an enticing glimpse at the potential of electricity. Ironically, the popularity of windmills soon became their undoing.

Though they were a wonderful source of cheap power, the main problem was intermittent operation. When the wind didn’t blow, the tools didn’t go. Battery storage systems were only good for brief periods, and people wanted power WHEN they wanted it. Soon, another overriding factor arose—the growing need for huge amounts of electricity.

By the late 1930s and 1940s, constantly flowing electricity was the goal, relegating wind power to the background of the energy battle. It was still used, and advancements were pursued, but success was limited. One notable effort was the huge Smith-Putnam windmill installed atop Grandpa’s Knob near Castleton and Rutland, Vermont, in 1941.

Though less than half the size of today’s models, it was still large, featuring a 16-ton, 175-foot steel rotor that turned at 28 RPM. Occasional use ended abruptly in 1945 when metal fatigue caused the blade to snap, hurling a huge section 1000 feet down the mountain.

In the North Country, windmills have returned after a long hiatus. They stand ten times taller than their predecessors, and now pump electricity instead of water. Where potato, hop, and dairy farms once dominated, the wind farms of today stand above all others.

Photo Top: Windmills 400 feet tall at Churubusco (and another under construction in the foreground).

Photo Middle Right: Typical use of windmill to fill railroad water tanks.

Photo Middle Left: Halladay windmills were offered by George Baltz of Watertown.

Photo Bottom: Advertisement for Halladay’s company.

Lawrence Gooley has authored eight books and several articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Monday, June 28, 2010

VIC Commentary: Vital Service, No One’s Responsibility

I went to the ceremony this week that formally announced plans for a smooth transition of the Adirondack Park Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) in Newcomb from the Adirondack Park Agency to the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

It was a great relief to learn that APA, SUNY and the Town of Newcomb had been planning for this transfer of responsibilities even before the Governor’s budget announced plans to close both VICs in 2011. The fate of Paul Smith’s VIC remains very much up in the air, despite a long-held awareness that interpreting the Adirondack environment is a vitally important job and service that should be available to anybody throughout the Adirondacks at low or no cost.

The tragedy of the commons holds that all parts of the environment that we share in common is everybody’s to use, perhaps to exploit, and nobody’s to care for. The resource seems abundant, someone is responsible, it just isn’t me. The failure to systematically make the incredibly diverse and exciting natural and cultural history of the Adirondacks accessible to more Adirondackers and visitors to the Park is one of those tragedies.

Interpreting what is in a Park, and how it came to be there, and how it relates to people’s lives is a fundamental mission of the National Park Service, but not of any one agency in the Adirondack Park. It is said that not systematically offering to interpret a place to which so many are drawn, like the Adirondacks, is akin to inviting someone into your own home, and then abruptly disappearing. How many families have come and left the Park without ever encountering an Adirondack expert, in whatever field, who is also well versed in this form of public communication? Well over ten million people visit the Park each year. Less than one percent may seek out or casually encounter someone who can deepen their awareness, understanding and knowledge of Adirondack wildlife, Forest Preserve, unique architecture, or cultural history. This failure to reach more people with expert interpretation remains one of the greatest gaps in the continuing maturation and overall performance of the Adirondack Park.

The building and opening of the NYS APA’s VICs at Paul Smith’s and Newcomb in the late 1980s were expected to be the catalyst for the development of a well distributed and coordinated network of interpretive services across the Park. The Commission on the Adirondacks in the 21st century made the “development of a comprehensive interpretive system for the Adirondack Park” one of the core functions of a proposed Adirondack Park Service (see the Commission’s Technical Report Vol. 1, #11 by Thomas L. Cobb, one of the Commission’s staff). Once built, in the 1990s the APA finally selected Adirondack Discovery as its nonprofit partner or arm of the VICs. Discovery featured expert presentations, coupled with field trips covering a wide range of Adirondack subjects, and convened these programs in town halls and libraries throughout the region, thus expanding the reach of the two VICs at very low cost since all expertise and service delivery were volunteered. Discovery’s founder, Joan Payne of Inlet, said at a 1987 conference called Envisioning an Interpretive Future for the Adirondack Park (see Cobb), “the trick in this whole field of interpretation is to bring together people who are receptive and eager to learn with people whose love of the place and all of its components just overflows.” She and Discovery did this very well for 25 years. I was just one of hundreds of people she invited to speak to local audiences throughout the summer months. In my case, I spoke about the Park’s conservation history that dated to the 19th century, and tried to relate that history to current events and threats. These talks and walks introduced me to some great towns and villages, people filled with curiosity and local knowledge, and opportunities for enlisting them in our cause of protecting the Adirondack Park.

Adirondack Discovery has ended its work, Joan died in 2009, and the VICs are threatened with closure. We can be grateful that the Newcomb VIC will in 2011 be under new management which has a similar commitment to “educational resources for both students and visitors so that they can learn about the wonders of ecology in the Adirondacks” (SUNY ESF President Neil Murphy). I walked Newcomb’s Peninsula Trail after the ceremony, feeling the freshness of discovery that I felt in 1990, gratitude for all the staff and volunteers who for 20 years have devoted themselves to enriching the lives of visitors, and the hope that anybody who comes here in future years will be guaranteed the chance to meet a naturalist who can help them gain fresh insights, and rekindle their love of and commitment to this Park that is so unique on planet earth.

Hopefully, Paul Smith’s College and other partners will help maintain and extend the services of the Paul Smith’s VIC. Meanwhile, The Wild Center, Adirondack Museum, Adirondack Architectural Heritage, Adirondack Mountain Club, Adirondack Explorer, and many other diverse institutions are doing wonderful interpretive work. The stubborn questions still remain: who is coordinating and marketing all of those efforts? Who is ensuring that visitors and residents alike receive a schedule of all their program offerings? This continued failure to guarantee a Park-wide system of interpretive services is a gap we all share in common, and a problem nobody has the clear responsibility to solve. As Tom Cobb wrote for the Commission, “the future of education and interpretation in the Adirondack Park hinges on the acceptance of this role as an integral part of park operation and management.”

Photo: From the Peninsula Trail, Rich Lake, Newcomb VIC

Sunday, June 27, 2010

New Director for SUNY Cortland’s Raquette Lake Camps

Officials at SUNY Cortland have announced a new director for the school’s Center for Environmental and Outdoor Education which oversees outdoor and environmental education facilities including the operations at three historic camps on Raquette Lake.

Robert L. Rubendall, who has spent 30 years overseeing environmental and experiential education at institutions in New England and Wisconsin, was named the director of outdoor education at SUNY Cortland on June 1 replacing Jack Sheltmire, who will retire on June 30.

Created in 1991, the Center for Environmental and Outdoor Education includes: the Outdoor Education Center, encompassing Camp Huntington (formerly Camp Pine Knot), Antlers (a former resort), and Kirby Camp (a part of Camp Pine Knot believed to have been built for William West Durant’s mistress). All three are located on Raquette Lake about 155 miles northeast of the Cortland campus. The Center also operates the Brauer Education Center near Albany and the Hoxie Gorge Nature Preserve south of the campus in Cortland County.

Residing at Camp Huntington, Rubendall will make periodic visits to the other facilities. He is responsible for scheduling facilities usage, overseeing lodging operations, managing five budgets, supervising five staff members, marketing and promoting the facilities, engaging in fundraising activities and arranging for some maintenance tasks. He will work with the New York State Parks and Recreation and Historical Preservation Office and the National Parks Service to ensure that the upkeep, maintenance and renovation of the Camp Huntington facility are consistent with its historical landmark designation, according to Cortland officials.

Rubendall of Rindge, N.H., most recently served as director of the Boston University Sargent Center in Peterborough, N.H., from 1995 until 2009.

Photo: Guide boat in front of Antlers, approximately 1902. Library of Congress photo.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Adirondack Museum Calls For Quilts

Do you have an exceptional bed quilt or pieced wall hanging that was made in, inspired by, or depicts the Adirondack region?

The Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake is seeking quilts for “The Second Annual Great Adirondack Quilt Show” to be held from September 14 to October 17, 2010. The show will be part of the museum’s Fabric and Fiber Arts Festival and will complement the exhibit “Common Threads: 150 Years of Adirondack Quilts and Comforters.”

There will be two divisions in the show. Historic quilts (those made before 1970) can be of any theme or technique, but must have been made in the Adirondacks. Modern quilts (those made after 1970) should have a visible connection to the Adirondack region.

An eligible quilt might depict an Adirondack scene in appliqué or be composed of pieced blocks chosen because the pattern is reminiscent of the region – “Pine Tree,” Wild Goose Chase,” or “North Star,” for example.

A “People’s Choice” award will be presented to one quilt in each division.

Although the show will not be juried, applicants must complete a registration form prior to September 11, 2010. A statement by the maker is required to complete the application process. For additional information or to receive an application, please contact Hallie Bond via email at , by telephone at (518) 352-7311, ext. 105, or through the postal service at P.O. Box 99, Blue Mountain Lake, NY, 12812.

Photo: Winner of the “Best in Show” award at the quilt show held as part of the Adirondack Museum’s Fabric and Fiber Arts Festival on September 19, 2009. The quilt is “Poppies” and was made by Betty deHaas Walp of Johnsburg, New York, in 2006.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

APA Extends Comment Period For Jessup River UMP

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) has extended the public comment period for the Jessup River Wild Forest Unit Management Plan (UMP) amendment. The APA will continue to accept public comments on Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (APSLMP) compliance for the Jessup River Wild Forest unit management plan (UMP) amendment until August 2, 2010. A proposed final UMP amendment was completed by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). It was subject to a series of public meetings and public input. The Agency will accept public comments on the proposals contained in the UMP amendment until 12:00 PM on August 2, 2010.

This amendment addresses changes to the Jessup River Wild Forest snowmobile trail system. Proposals are in accordance with DEC and APA adopted snowmobile trail guidance and the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. Jointly adopted guidance established a “community connector” snowmobile trail class. Community connector trails can be 9-feet in width which is one foot wider than previously allowed under DEC snowmobile trail maintenance policy. The new guidance also calls for the elimination of trails that lead onto ice-covered water bodies and dead-end trails while promoting snowmobile trails near the periphery of Wild Forest units.

The Jessup River Wild Forest lies in the south-central Adirondack Park. It sits entirely within Hamilton County in the Towns of Arietta, Wells, Indian Lake, Lake Pleasant and the Village of Speculator. The DEC estimates the size of the planning area at 47,350 acres. The area includes Snowy Mountain, the highest peak in the southern Adirondacks – elevation 3,899 feet, more than 24 ponds and lakes – the largest being Fawn Lake and approximately 73 miles of rivers including parts of the Cedar, Indian, Jessup, Miami and Sacandaga rivers.

The UMP amendment is available for viewing or downloading from the Adirondack Park Agency website.

All written comments pertaining to State Land Master Plan compliance should be addressed to:

Richard Weber, Assistant Director, Planning
Planning Division, Adirondack Park Agency
P.O. Box 99
Ray Brook, NY 12977

Or e-mail:

The Adirondack Park Agency Board is currently scheduled to consider a compliance determination on the Jessup River Wild Forest UMP amendment at the August 12 and 13 Agency meeting. Any written comments received by 12:00 PM on August 2, 2010 will become part of the public record. Written comments received after 12:00 PM on August 2, 2010, will be provided to Agency Board members on meeting day but will not be part of the Agency meeting materials mailed to the members or posted on the APA website.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Weibrecht’s Bronze Medal on Display in Lake Placid

The Lake Placid 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Museum has added another piece to its collection of artifacts from last February’s 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada, Andrew Weibrecht’s men’s Super-G bronze medal.

“The medal was turned over for display and for safe keeping between appearances,” noted museum curator Liz Defazio. “It’s so nice for these athletes to have a place where they can share their accomplishments with others… sort of their home away from home.”

Weibrecht’s bronze medal helped spark the U.S. alpine ski team to a record eight medals in Vancouver. Overall, the U.S. Olympic squad celebrated its best Olympics ever, claiming the overall medal count with 37.

Nicknamed the “Warhorse” on the international alpine ski tour, Weibrecht began skiing at the age of five at Whiteface Mountain and began racing with the New York Ski Educational Foundation (NYSEF) program by the time he was 10. He had only been on the World Cup circuit since 2006 and Vancouver was his first Olympic Winter Games.

There are quite a number of artifacts on display in the museum from the 2010 winter games donated by several of the 12 area athletes who competed, as well as coaches and officials. The artifacts include race gear, Opening Ceremony clothing, official U.S. Olympic team clothing, event tickets, programs and pins.

Lake Placid’s 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Museum features the largest collection of winter Olympic artifacts outside the International Olympic Committee’s museum in Lausanne, Switzerland. Some of the artifacts include the first Winter Olympic medal awarded, gold in 1924 in Chamonix, France, to Lake Placid native and speedskater Charles Jewtraw, equipment worn by U.S. goalie Jim Craig during the 1980 winter games, parade clothing from the 1932 winter games, athletes participation medals and Olympic medals from every winter Olympics.

Admission to the museum is $6 for adults and $4 for juniors and seniors. Admission is also included when purchasing an Olympic Sites Passport. The Passport gives visitors access to each of ORDA’s Olympic venues—from Whiteface Mountain to the Olympic Sports Complex and everything in between. Sold for $29 at the ORDA Store and all of our ticket offices, the Passport saves you time, money, and gets you into the venues at a good value. For more information about the Olympic Sites Passport, log on to

Photo: Andrew Weibrecht’s Super-G Bronze Medal. Courtesy 1932 and 1980 Lake Placid Olympic Museum, Lake Placid, NY.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Cedar Waxwings: Silk-Tailed Birds of the Cedars

Every day for the last three weeks or so, the air has been filled with the thin, high pitched calls of cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum). Highly social birds, they flock together year round as they forage for food in their favorite haunts. Lately these haunts have been the yards and lawns around town, where daily I see their heads popping up from the grassy carpets, peering at me with their beady eyes while they assess whether my presence is threatening or not.

From the first time I saw a cedar waxwing, I fell in love with it. Its feathers are so sleek that they blend together to form a whole, making the bird look like something made of silk or satin. In fact, the name Bombycilla was coined in an attempt to reflect this: silk-tailed. Add to the fine-textured caramel-colored body a jaunty crest, a black mask, a yellow stripe on the tail and wings tipped with “red sealing wax”, and you have one dapper bird.

I recently found a deceased waxwing on the side of the road and had the chance to examine it in great detail. Those bits of red on the wings really do look like someone dripped sealing wax on the ends of the feathers. In truth, however, each red “thing” is merely a flattened extension of the feather’s shaft. It is quite stiff and does feel waxy.

People have speculated for many years the reason(s) for these decorations, and in the 1980s a theory was put forth that the birds use them to assess each other for potential mates. Apparently the number of “droplets” reflects the age of the bird: more droplets means greater age. It seems that the birds select mates who share the same number of droplets as they sport, thus mating with individuals that are the same age. It seems as good a theory as any.

Several years ago, I had a friend who had a parakeet. She had to be sure to provide the bird with red or orange foods to keep its color optimum, otherwise it faded to a pale yellow. Likewise, flamingoes that don’t eat enough shrimp start to loose their pink coloration. The same seems to hold true with the waxwings. Back in the 1960s birds started to show up in the northeast with orange-colored wax droplets instead of red, and orange tips on their tails instead of yellow. It turns out that this color change coincided with the introduction of non-native honeysuckles. The red wax droplets are colored by the presence of certain carotenoid pigments found in the birds’ regular food. The birds eating the foreign fruits consumed different carotneoids and ended up with differently colored feather tips.

Cedar waxwings are one of the most serious fruit-eating birds we have. Most of the year they dine on fruits: cherries, serviceberries, winterberries, dogwood berries, hawthorns, mountain ash, et al (note that all these fruits are red). These small fruits are inhaled whole and digested with such rapidity that the seeds pass right through the birds’ digestive tracts. When fruits are ripe, the flocks sweep in, take a seat on a convenient branch and start gulping them down, although sometimes they will hover mid-air and pluck the fruits. A tree or shrub can be stripped clean in a day or two, and then the flock moves on.

A classic waxwing behavior, and one every bird photographer has captured, is the passing of a fruit from bird to bird. Sometimes this is done between members of the flock, until one bird decides to eat it. Other times it is done as part of a courtship ritual, where the male presents the female with a fruit. She in turn takes it and hops away, contemplating the gift. If she is impressed, she hops back and gives the fruit back to him. This little ritual repeats until the female decides to eat the fruit (or not). Apparently fruit consumption is equivalent to accepting an engagement ring. Shortly thereafter, nest building begins.

By the time late spring and early summer roll around, however, there are few, if any fruits, left for the birds to eat. When this happens, these birds don’t starve and fade away, they have a back up plan. They change their diet to insects. And just as they eat fruit like there is no tomorrow, so, too, do they gorge on insects. This can be quite the boon when insect pests are around, for a flock can go through an insect population like wildfire through a drought-stricken forest. I’d be willing to bet that this is what all those waxwings on the lawns have been doing for the last few weeks: hunting down insects to fill their bottomless bellies. Sadly, this single-minded behavior can get them in trouble, for flocks foraging along roadsides can get run down by passing cars and trucks, like the waxwing I found yesterday.

If you find yourself walking along a forest edge, or a grassy field near a woodlot, keep your eyes and ears open for waxwings. You are bound to hear them, and when you do, it is only a matter of glancing around before you find the source of their distinctive sound.

Photo Courtesy Wikipedia.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Venison and Potato Chips: Native Foodways Lecture

During the nineteenth century, a number of Adirondack Indians marketed their skill as hunters, guides, basket makers, doctors, and cooks.

On Monday, July 5, 2010 Dr. Marge Bruchac will offer a program entitled “Venison and Potato Chips: Native Foodways in the Adirondacks” at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. Bruchac will focus attention on what might be a lesser-known Native skill – cooking.

The first offering of the season for the museum’s Monday Evening Lecture series, the presentation will be held in the Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. There is no charge for museum members. Admission is $5.00 for non-members.

Nineteenth century white tourists paid good money to purchase wild game from Native people, to hunt in their territories, to buy medicines and remedies, and to eat in restaurants or lodgings where Indians held sway in the kitchen.

Dr. Bruchac will highlight stories of individuals such as Pete Francis, notorious for hunting wild game and creating French cuisine; George Speck and Katie Wicks, both cooks at Moon’s Lake House and co-inventors of the potato chip; and Emma Camp Mead, proprietress of the Adirondack House, Indian Lake, N.Y., known for setting an exceptionally fine table.

Bruchac contends that these people, and others like them, actively purveyed and shaped the appetite for uniquely American foods steeped in Indigenous foodways.

The Adirondack Museum celebrates food, drink, and the pleasures of eating in the Adirondack Park this year with a new exhibition, “Let’s Eat! Adirondack Food Traditions.” The exhibit includes a 1915 photograph of Emma Mead as well as her hand-written recipes for “Green Tomato Pickles” and “Cranberry Puffs.”

Marge Bruchac, PhD, is a preeminent Abenaki historian. A scholar, performer, and historical consultant on the Abenaki and other Northeastern native peoples, Bruchac lectures and performs widely for schools, museums, and historical societies. Her 2006 book for children about the French and Indian War, Malian’s Song, was selected as an Editor’s Choice by The New York Times and was the winner of the American Folklore Society’s Aesop Award.

Photo: Dr. Marge Bruchac

Page 444 of 566« First...102030...442443444445446...450460470...Last »