Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It’s Sustainability Month at Paul Smith’s College

A reading from a nationally known author, a photo exhibit of eco-friendly houses and a lesson on how to breed cold-hardy plants highlight Sustainability Month at Paul Smith’s College. The events, to be held in February, are free and open to the public.

Kristin Kimball, author of 2010’s “The Dirty Life,” will speak on Wednesday, Feb. 9, from 10:10-11 a.m. in Adirondack Room of the Joan Weill Adirondack Library. Kimball’s critically acclaimed memoir relates her experiences as a farmer in the North Country after leaving behind a journalism career in New York City. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dave Gibson: Little’s Forest Preserve Logging Amendment

I’ll risk it and take the bait in responding to Senator Betty Little, Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward and others concerning a proposed constitutional amendment to permit logging and forest product utilization on newly acquired Forest Preserve.

Their simplistic ecological arguments for the amendment, such as wanting to see more rabbits on the Forest Preserve, or expecting that logging the Preserve would help the climate are being made up as they go along and will not withstand serious scrutiny. I prefer to focus more on their constitutional hurdles.

The Senator is clearly motivated to keep the Finch lands and Follensby Pond out of the Forest Preserve. Unstated may be a desire to maintain certain leaseholders occupying the Finch lands – such as the politically influential members of the Gooley Club west of the Upper Hudson. These are at least rational positions to take and, while I have a different viewpoint, I can respect theirs. They will also attempt to accomplish their objective of keeping the lands out of the Forest Preserve through legislation, and one would think that an easier step than a constitutional amendment. Perhaps they think not.

They apparently believe a good way to accomplish their objective is to create a separate class of Forest Preserve that on some date certain, after a constitutional amendment is approved by the voters some years hence, and after new Forest Preserve is acquired will permit the practice of forestry on the new land. They may feel that the public would accept this, knowing that the existing three million acres would still be “forever wild.” They may believe that all they need to do is neatly sidestep a sticky clause in Article 14, Section 1 of the Constitution, and exempt new lands from its provisions. That clause states: “nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.”

But that’s not all they have to do. Theirs is no technical amendment. By attempting to exempt only new Forest Preserve from the strictures of Article 14, they must amend all 54 words of Section 1 of Article 14. They must roughshod over the very constitutional language which voters have refused to change – despite given numerous opportunities to do so – in 116 years.

Perhaps they are betting on a constitutional convention virtually doing away with Article 14 as we know it, and I’d say that’s a poor bet.

Section 1 unifies the Forest Preserve. Its first sentence states that “the lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands.” A simple exception clause for new acquisitions after some date would not do the trick. “Hereafter acquired” means just that. “Forever kept” means forever. The words pertain to any lands owned before, or acquired after the effective date of Section 1 of January 1, 1895. They were reaffirmed at the 1938 and 1967 constitutional conventions, and on many other occasions in the 20th and 21st centuries through passage of over 30 limited, site specific amendments which nonetheless preserve the overarching language of Section 1.

The second and final sentence of Section 1 is just as problematic for the Senator. “They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.” Allowing DEC, a public corporation, to supervise and control logging on newly acquired Forest Preserve would constitute a clear taking of the lands. The legal agreements to permit logging activity by private parties on any parts of the Forest Preserve might likely constitute a lease, further violating that provision. The third and final clause of that sentence – the one that the Senator may think is the only hurdle – speaks for itself.

I conclude that pretty much all 54 words of Section 1 would need to be amended, rewritten and stripped of their present and historic meaning in order to achieve a separate class of Forest Preserve managed for forest products. The public may be willing to make occasional, limited, site specific amendments to Article 14 for worthy objectives that both meet a legitimate public purpose and enhance the Forest Preserve. However, the voters have demonstrated over a very long period that they are unwilling to make substantial changes to the “forever wild” policy because the Forest Preserve as now constituted provides such enormous benefits. It is the envy of the world. It distinguishes New York from all other states and from all other nations. It is woven into our social fabric, as well as our laws. It provides billions of dollars in ecological and recreational services. It pays taxes for all purposes. The voters would be especially unwilling when the reasons for doing so, on economic, ecological, social and public policy grounds, are so questionable.

Prior to 1983, Senator Little’s amendment might have a better public policy rationale and more public appeal. That was when the conservation easement legislation was approved that permits the State to acquire rights in land without the land becoming Forest Preserve, and which has been so effective in keeping forest management and forest employment alive in the Park, which are the stated objectives for the amendment. Putting more resources into effective programs like this would be the more realistic way to achieve them.

Photo: Article 14, Section 1, NYS Constitution.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Adirondack Family Activities: Adirondack Winter Carnivals

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities

When the weather hits the negative digits and my kids are stuck inside for any length of time we, like so many other people living here, look forward to opportunities for getting outside. Though with winter storms, weather warning and family time spent shoveling snow, it may be difficult to remember all the reason why we love the snow.

Festivals, carnivals and celebrations of winter are here to remind us why we choose to visit, live and be a part of the snow. Plus a little competition never hurt anyone. Lake George, Old Forge and Saranac Lake are embracing their winter spirit and inviting people to step outside and enjoy the Adirondack weather.

The Coronation of Carnival Royalty kicks off the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival on February 4th.In its 114 year, Saranac Lake’s Winter Carnival’s 2011 theme is Medieval Times. People have been donning their costumes and preparing their serfs (in our case our children) to decide which of the over 80 events to attend.

On Saturday, February 5, watch fireworks over Lake Flower and the lighting of the Ice Palace. From February 4-13, the town of Saranac Lake turns into a medieval fortress of family-friendly activities from a carnival for kids, ski races to treasure hunt. The downtown parade on the 12th doesn’t even finish the array of activities. Sunday brings on cross-country ski races and opportunities to play volleyball or softball in the snow.

McCauley Mountain in Old Forge has a weekend packed with winter activity that will remind us why we love the snow. Twelve-dollar lift tickets at the mountain and a parade to celebrate the 10th Mountain Division and other military branches are reason enough to brave the cold and cheer on the troops. Spend some family time ice-skating at the outdoor Joy Tract Road rink or just relax and watch while sipping hot chocolate by the bonfire.

On Saturday, February 5, the Kiwanis Club of the Central Adirondack will sponsor their 11th Winter Sports Challenge benefiting the Old Forge Community Youth and Activity Center. These snowshoe and cross-country ski activities are held at McCauley Mountain.

Lastly, Lake George celebrates 50 years of Winter Carnival with a month packed with activities. Some weekend events such as face painting and petting zoo are reoccurring while other activities like kite flying, dog sled races and hot air balloon rides are just on specific weekends.

However you choose to celebrate winter, there are so many opportunities to get outside, meet new people and enjoy the Adirondacks.

Photo of the Saranac Lake 2011 Ice Palace content © Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities ™. Diane is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recent released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates) This is the first book of a four-book series of Adirondack Family Activities. The next three editions will cover Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga, Long Lake to Old Forge and Newcomb to Lake George. 


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Gore Mountain Interconnect, Whiteface Troubles

The long-awaited Gore Mountain Interconnect with the Historic North Creek Ski Bowl was opened, and then closed as a lack of snow hampered the celebratory first weekend of the newly installed Hudson Chair connecting the Ski Bowl with the upper mountain. The snafu was the latest in a string of problems that have plagued the area’s state-run ski areas.

Members of the public joined state and local politicians on Saturday for a ribbon cutting ceremony at the base of the new Hudson Chair, but Sunday morning a key trail connecting Gore with the Ski Bowl, the Pipeline Traverse to Little Gore, was closed keeping skiers on the upper mountain.

Patrons using the Hudson Chair to access the Eagle’s Nest Trail at the summit of Little Gore could ski to the base of Burnt Ridge Mountain – where a quad provides access to the rest of Gore Mountain’s trail system – and then return to the Ski Bowl via the the Pipeline Traverse. By noon on Sunday however, the only trail leading from the Upper Gore area to the Ski Bowl was closed, severing the ski link with the lower mountain. Those wanting to take the new Hudson Chair were required to use a locally supplied shuttle to get to the Ski Bowl. The Hudson chairlift and Pipeline Traverse remain closed today, but are expected to reopen following this week’s snows.

“We had enough snow cover to run hundreds of skiers on Pipeline Sat, but it got a little too thin for Sunday unfortunately,” Gore Mountain’s press contact Emily Stanton, told the Almanack by e-mail.

The Gore Interconnect’s stutter start was one of a series of travails that have beset both state-run Adirondack ski areas. Lack of snow and an early January thaw at Gore has meant a slow start to the season, meanwhile lift problems have plagued Whiteface.

Just before the new year a chairlift malfunction at Whiteface stranded 76 people for up to two hours. Last week, the Kid’s Kampus chairlift malfunctioned and a lift operator suffered a fractured arm and was airlifted to Fletcher Allen in Burlington.

On Saturday, the Summit Chair malfunctioned eliminating access to the upper mountain. Whiteface personnel were relegated to using a snow cat to ferry riders to the top a few at a time. Then on Sunday, Whiteface’s Lookout Mountain chairlift stalled 45 minutes stranding patrons, although none were evacuated.

The Gore Mountain Interconnect is hoped to make North Creek’s downtown more accessible to Gore Mountain skiers and riders. A massive new resort by FrontStreet Mountain Development LLC of Darien, Connecticut, designed to take advantage of the Interconnect has not materialized. The project was first proposed in late 2005 and was approved by the Adirondack Park Agency in 2008. Only one model home has been built and none of the more than 130 condo properties have been sold.

Critics of the projects have claimed the estimated $5.5 million cost of the connection between Gore and the Ski Bowl would be an improper use of taxpayer money to help a developer.

For the second year the North Creek Business Alliance has organized a shuttle that facilitates access between Gore Mountain’s Base Area, the North Creek Ski Bowl, North Creek’s Main Street, and area lodging properties.

Gore opened January 25, 1964. The first ski train arrived in North Creek in March of 1934, and the Ski Bowl was home to one of the first commercial ski areas and ski patrols in the US.

Photo: The Gore Mountain Interconnect’s new Hudson Chair. Courtesy Gore Mountain.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Travelling by Ice: Ice Bridges and Short-Cuts

Ice sports bring us out on frozen lakes for the sheer pleasure of being there. But through the years, folks have traveled our “winterized” lakes and rivers for a number of more practical reasons such as visiting friends and relatives, or hauling food, hay, coal, firewood, furniture, logs, milk and just about everything else imaginable.

In the late 19th to the early 20th century, the term “bridge” was commonly used to refer to the ice which allowed for these crossings. Note the following report from the Plattsburgh Sentinel, 2 March 1923: “The ice bridge between Willsboro and Burlington is quite extensively used, many visiting the city for both profit and pleasure.”

Throughout the 1800s, horse-drawn sleds and stagecoaches carried paying passengers on regularly scheduled trips back and forth across Lake Champlain between New York and Vermont. As recently as 2010, when the worn Crown Point bridge had to be destroyed, folks again took advantage of the ice to commute across Lake Champlain to their jobs.

Milda Burns of North River said her father told her that from 1890 until 1930, he bridged the Hudson River by “brushing” it. This meant laying tree branches and twigs across a shallow part of the river to damn up the ice flowing downstream. In this way, ice built up to a depth sufficient to make a road strong enough to support horses and wagons crossing to the other side.

Ice crossings were also carried out for military reasons. By the 1600s, Indians, French Canadians and the English traversed Lake Champlain, most often to do battle with one another. One of the more famous crossings was that of Rogers’ Rangers, a British scouting force, which in the 1750s, retreated from the French by snowshoeing some thirty miles down the length of Lake George.

In 1870, Thomas H. Peacock accompanied his father on a trip from Saranac Lake to Tupper Lake to bring supplies to several lumber camps. As the road would have been long and hilly, they cut the distance in half by traveling over the frozen Saranac Lakes, pulling a sled full of 25 to 30 bushels of potatoes, two or three quarters of beef, a large load of horse hay and eagerly anticipated mail. The trip took eighteen hours.

Loggers also followed frozen lake routes to shorten trips and bring logs out onto the ice where they were dumped and left waiting until spring. When the ice thawed, the timber was floated downriver to the sawmills.

An extraordinary variety of “freight” has been moved across the ice. Some folks still live year-round on road-inaccessible lakeshores or islands. In the winter, they must pull their groceries home using skis, snowshoes or snowmobiles.

Contractors and caretakers take advantage of the frozen lakes to move equipment and materials to road-inaccessible construction and camp sites. There was even an occasion in the early 1920s when rock-loaded sleds were pulled across Lake George by skaters holding sails, the stone used to rebuild the eroded shoreline of Dome Island. To reach remote ice fishing locations, sportsmen cross ice with snowmobiles, ATVs or trucks.

In earlier days the term “freight” included any number of things, not the least of which were houses! That moving buildings across the ice was not so unusual is demonstrated by a real estate advertisement found in the Essex County Republican of 10 September 1915 offering a 141′ long building which “could be moved over the ice to any point on the lake for trifling expense.”

Sometimes overlooked, ice serving as a bridge, has had a major influence on the North Country’s transportation history.

Caperton Tissot is the author of Adirondack Ice, a Cultural and Natural History, published by Snowy Owl Press.


Monday, January 31, 2011

Phil Brown: Skiing Coney Mountain

Old Mountain Phelps cut the first trail up Mount Marcy in 1861. It began between the two Ausable Lakes, ascended Bartlett Ridge, went down into Panther Gorge, and then climbed a slide on the mountain’s southeast face.

Judging from a sketch in Forest and Crag, a history of trail building in the Northeast, Phelps took the shortest route possible from point A to point B. Many early trails in the Adirondacks followed the same pattern, making a beeline for the summit.

The thinking in those days was shorter is better. But trails that are straight and steep often turn into rivulets in spring and over time become badly eroded. Thus, the switchback was born.

A switchback trail zigs and zags up a slope, following the terrain’s natural features. By necessity, such trails are longer than straight trails, but they are easier on the knees and the landscape. In recent years, Adirondack trail builders have adopted the switchback model. The rerouted trail up Baxter Mountain in Keene is one example. Another is the new trail up Coney Mountain south of Tupper Lake.

Coney is a small peak with a panoramic view, a combination that makes it popular throughout the year. The old trail shot straight up the west side of the mountain from Route 30. The new trail, constructed by the Adirondack Mountain Club, starts on the west side but curls around to the north and finally approaches the top from the east. I guess that makes it more of a spiral than a switchback, but the goal is the same: keep the grade easy to minimize erosion. I first hiked the new trail in December for a story that appears in the January/February issue of the Adirondack Explorer. (The story is not available online.)

As I ascended, I kept thinking that this would be a great trail to ski. Not only are the gradients moderate, but the woods are fairly open—always a plus in case you need to pull off to stop or slow down. So I returned to Coney last weekend with my telemark skis. Thanks to the nylon skins affixed to the bottoms, I was able to ascend easily. The trail had been packed down by four snowshoers whom I encountered on their descent. They seemed surprised to see someone on skis. I stopped to chat. Often when I introduce myself on the trail, people recognize my name from the Explorer, but not in this case.

Soon after, I came to the end of the mile-long trail. Although clouds limited the view, the summit was serene and lovely. Snow clung to the bare branches of young trees. Deep powder blanketed most of the summit. Despite the clouds, I could see the southern end of Tupper Lake. Time for the descent. I made a few turns in the powder, then picked my way down a short, steep pitch to a saddle. Next came the best part: a long run down the new trail. Beforehand, I activated the video function on my camera, which was strapped to my chest. Click here to watch the video.

The skiing was a blast. Beware, however, that there is a rocky section of trail that traces the base of the mountain. If skiing, you need to stop before reaching it. If you do, you can shuffle through this stretch without much difficulty as the trail is more or less flat here. I arrived at the trailhead with a renewed appreciation for the principles of modern trail design. As a backcountry skier, I hope to see more switchbacks and spirals. But I also wish trail builders would always keep skiers in mind. Whenever possible, trails should accommodate both skiers and hikers.

Incidentally, when I returned to my car, I found a note from the snowshoers: “Nice article about Coney. We enjoyed it.”

Photo by Phil Brown: Coney Mountain’s summit.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Monday, January 31, 2011

Lafayette Spaulding:
Old Time North Country Music on Broadway

Ol’ time, foot-stompin’ fiddle music is a North Country staple, rooted in times past when people made their own fun. Its heyday was principally from the mid-1800s to the 1940s, finally giving way in the post-war years to the automobile and widespread availability of electricity. Sources of entertainment changed, but before that, the tradition of barn dances and the like was strong across the Adirondacks.

For the past seventy years or so, that tradition has been preserved by a number of outstanding musicians. Back in the 1950s and 60s, when some of the old tunes were rolled out, it brought back memories of Crown Point’s Lafayette Spaulding. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 31, 2011

Lake Placid Skating, Skiing Events

More skiing and skating will return to Lake Placid next weekend.The 29th Annual Lake Placid Loppet, a series of Cross Country Ski races, will be held on February 5th. Hosted by High Peaks Cyclery, this event draws hundreds of skaters from across the US and Canada and consists of a 50 kilometer Loppet (30.1 miles) and a 25-kilometer Kort-Loppet (about 15 miles). More information can be found online.

Also coming to Lake Placid on the same weekend, the Eastern Synchronized Championships will be in town February 3nd through 5th. More than 2,300 skaters from 150 teams from throughout the eastern United States will be competing. The top four finishers in the senior, junior, novice, intermediate, juvenile, collegiate, adult and masters divisions will move on to the 2011 U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships, March 2-5, in Ontario, Calif. The event is organized by the Olympic Regional Development Authority and the Skating Club of Lake Placid. For more information, visit http://www.lakeplacidskating.com/newsite.

Christie Sausa writes about national and international winter sports and blogs at Lake Placid Skater.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

NYS Snowmobile Association: Zero Alcohol

At the height of the snowmobile season, the New York State Snowmobile Association reminds riders that many snowmobile-related incidents would be prevented if every rider made the smart choice for Zero Alcohol. NYSSA endorses the Zero Alcohol program, which urges every snowmobiler to take personal responsibility for choosing to be 100% alcohol-free prior to and during any snowmobile ride.

The Zero Alcohol Campaign is delivering this message to snowmobilers across North America. Zero Alcohol encourages every snowmobiler to set an example to all riding companions to practice Zero Alcohol as part of their own regular safe riding habit.

“We are very confident that many snowmobilers have seen the Zero Alcohol message and that most are making the smart choice to ride alcohol-free,” said NYSSA President Gary Broderick. “Unfortunately, a few riders still don’t get it and our sympathies are with their loved ones who have to live with the tragic consequences of a bad decision. At this sad time, we strongly urge the families and friends of all snowmobilers to remind their loved ones to choose Zero Alcohol. ”

Although Zero Alcohol is not a legal requirement, the NYSSA community points out that unlike driving an automobile on engineered roads, snowmobiling is an inherently risky, off road activity that occurs in a natural setting. Consequently, operating a snowmobile requires peak concentration and reactions at all times. Even a small amount of alcohol can cause tragedy. Studies show that impairment starts from the first drink and that a person with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08% is 11 times more likely to get killed while driving a car than at the .00% BAC recommended by the Zero Alcohol Campaign. Operating a snowmobile is even more challenging than driving a car.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Theater: The Life of Local Fugitive Slave Lavinia Bell

One hundred and fifty years ago, few knew about Lavinia Bell, a fugitive from slavery who trekked from a Texas plantation to Rouses Point, New York, in search of freedom in Canada. Now, for the first time, her experiences will be presented to the public in “Never Give Up: The Story of Lavinia Bell,” reenacted by Melissa Waddy-Thibodeaux at Plattsburgh State University’s Krinovitz Recital Hall. The presentation will begin at 7:00 PM on February 11, 2011. The event is free and open to the public.

Ms. Thibodeaux’s visit to Plattsburgh in February will be her first to the North Country. She has already earned national acclaim for her sensitive depictions of Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks. The North Country location of the premiere of Mrs. Bell’s story, in the region where her vision was at last realized, is as fitting as are the sponsoring organizations: the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association, Plattsburgh State University, and Clinton Community College.

Ms. Thibodeaux will also offer performance workshops for university and college students during her stay in Plattsburgh. On February 12, she will cross into Canada
where, under the sponsorship of the Negro Community Center in Montreal, she will
introduce Mrs. Bell to a waiting audience.

To see Ms. Thibodeaux portray Harriet Tubman visit You Tube.

To learn more about this event, contact Don Papson at NCUGRHA@aol.com or
(518) 561-0277.


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