Thursday, September 30, 2010

State Expanding Efforts Against Asian Longhorn Beetle

This fall, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will use a new tool to expand survey efforts for the Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB). High-risk campgrounds throughout the state have been identified for the survey work, including 13 DEC campgrounds and four state parks under the jurisdiction of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP).

The invasive Asian Longhorned Beetle feeds on and kills several species of hardwoods, including ash, maple, birch, elm, and willow trees. “If ALB becomes established in the forests of the Northeast, it could become one of the most economically and ecologically costly invasive species ever introduced to the United States,” according to Emily DeBolt, the Lake George Association’s director of education. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

10/10/10 Global Work Party at The Wild Center

On Sunday October 10th, 2010, communities in over 100 countries are expected to join the 10/10/10 Global Work Party by participating in activities that are designed demonstrate local sustainable food, energy, water, and transportation solutions to climate change. Organized by 350.org, the 10/10/10 Global Work party will represent the world’s largest day of practical action to fight the climate crisis.

In honor of this event The Wild Center has a planned a full day of activities for the whole family that will celebrate more sustainable ways to coexist with the natural world. The theme of the day is composting. Come and learn about simple methods to save money and the environment by recycling your organic waste using worms. Then participate in programs that will explore nature’s fascinating decomposing organisms, such as worms, insects, fungus and bacteria, which make composting possible. In addition, learn about the ways The Wild Center has put green practices to work on a tour of the museum’s sustainable building features.

Schedule of Events

11:30 Going Green with Worm Composting – Worms composting is a natural form of recycling you can do at home. Join Wild Center naturalists and learn the simple practice of composting your household waste using worms. With just a few minutes of work each week you can reduce your contribution to landfills, feed your plants, and improve your soil.

12:00 The Mystery of Decay – Why is composting so easy? It’s because all of the work is done by nature’s decomposers — fungus, bacteria and invertebrates. ”Dig” for answers about the organisms that break down our waste at our hands-on table top display.

1:00 Nature’s Decomposers Walk – Join a Wild Center naturalist on a walk to search for nature’s decomposers along our trails.

3:00 New Path Walk – Join a naturalist on a guided walk around The Wild Center and learn about the many ways in which the museum has put “Green Practices” to work.

Please note the schedule is subject to change.

For additional information on The Wild Center, visit www.wildcenter.org or call (518) 359-7800.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

DEC Reminder About Regulation Changes

Hunters and other users of state lands in the Adirondacks are reminded by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) of recent changes to state land use regulations. Using motorized equipment is now prohibited on lands classified Wilderness, Primitive and Canoe. Also placing structures and storing personal property is prohibited on all state lands, unless authorized by DEC.

The prohibition on use of motorized equipment on lands classified as Wilderness, Primitive and Canoe in the Adirondack Forest Preserve became effective March 10, 2010. The prohibition includes, but it is not limited to, chainsaws and generators. The use of motorized vehicles and vessels is already prohibited on these lands.

The use of chainsaws, generators and other motorized equipment may still be used on the approximately 1.3 million acres of forest preserve lands classified as Wild Forest, provided the user complies with all other applicable provisions of state land use regulation. Also, the use of small personal electronic or mechanical devices such as cameras, radios or GPS receivers are not affected by this new regulation.

The prohibition on placing structures and storing personal property on all state lands without authorization from DEC became effective in May 2009. The regulation does allow for the following exceptions:

* a camping structure or equipment that is placed and used legally pursuant to the provisions of the state land use regulation;

* a tree stand or hunting blind that does not injure a tree, is properly marked or tagged with the owner’s name and address or valid hunting or fishing license number, and is placed and used during big game season, migratory game bird season, or turkey season;

* a legally placed trap that is placed and used during trapping season;

* a wildlife viewing blind or stand that is placed for a duration not to exceed thirty (30) days in one location per calendar year, does not injure a tree, and is properly marked or tagged with the owner’s name and address or valid hunting or fishing license number; or

* a geocache, except in the High Peaks Wilderness, that is labeled with the owner’s name and address and installed in a manner that does not disturb the natural conditions of the site or injure a tree.

The full regulation regarding the use of motorized equipment on state lands (Section 196.8) may be found at http://www.dec.ny.gov/regs/4075.html and the full regulation regarding the structures and storage of personal property (Subsection 190.8(w) may be found at http://www.dec.ny.gov/regs/4081.html

A map of the Adirondacks showing the state lands and their classifications may be found at http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/lands_forests_pdf/adk012209.pdf (3.93 MB) or contact the local DEC Lands and Forests office. For a list of DEC Lands & Forests Office see http://www.dec.ny.gov/about/27790.html


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Adirondack Geology: Some Fascinating Rocks

I was going to write about skunk cabbage today, but I find myself sitting in a local rock shop where the proprietors offered to let me use of their Wi-Fi. Surrounded by all these geological wonders of the world, I feel compelled to tip my hat to some of our local geologic treasures.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, geology isn’t my strong suite, but I sure do love rocks. I suspect most of us do. Who hasn’t, at least as a kid, stuffed his or her pockets with rocks found along beaches, roadsides, or in gardens? Some of us never outgrow this obsession. And even though geologic terms run through my mind like sand through an hourglass, I am drawn to the varied forms and colors that most of us only encounter in rock or New Age shops.

When it comes to local (Adirondack) rocks of note, the one that springs first to mind is garnet. Garnet is found in pretty good quantity in the North River area, where Barton Mines is the primary business capitalizing on this semiprecious gemstone. I have been to programs where Barton representatives gave presentations, and it is simply amazing what garnet is used for. Most of us probably think of garnet as a lovely wine-red stone that is featured in jewelry and is January’s birthstone. But at Barton, much of the garnet that is mined is used for things like sandpaper, or to make a blasting compound that is used to etch glass. Who’d have thought it?

A mineral that we find in pretty good quantity around the Park is mica. Usually we only find little bits of broken flakes, but I have found small sheets sitting on top of the ground. In North Creek, at the Ski Bowl Park, some folks put in a lovely garden, complete with some terrific boulders. On these boulders are fanned protrusions of mica, thin sheets, stacked one on top of another, and then fanned out and emerging from the hardened grasp of the rock – it is amazing to behold.

Labradorite is a feldspar mineral found in large crystal masses of anorthosite. For those who don’t know, anorthosite is one of the major rock types in the Adirondacks, or at least in the High Peaks. It is a very old rock, not common on earth and found on the moon. One of the neat things about labradorite is the way it can shimmer with colors, an effect called labradoresence, or the schiller effect. Lesley, one of the shop owners here, showed me some labradorite rocks she picked up from the Opalescent up near Calamity Brook in the southern High Peaks. She polished them up and there, when the light catches it just right, it looks like blue and green northern lights skittering across the glossy surface. Of course, I had to purchase one for my collection.

Another interesting rock here in the shop is moonstone, which is a type of feldspar. Apparently rockhounds used to be able to mine it up in Saranac Lake. It isn’t a rock with commercial value, except in the rock-collector’s world. Lesley showed me a large chunk she got from up in Saranac Lake, as well as some jewelry made from small polished bits of moonstone. Like the labradorite, it has a bit of the schiller effect – a blue, green or even pinkish dash of color when the light hits it just right.

For those interested in Adirondack geology beyond the academic level, rock shops are the place to go. The folks who run these places love rocks and geology and are always willing to share their passion with others. I wrote before about the shop at Natural Stone Bridge and Caves, but other rock shops dot the park, like Lesley’s Minerals Unlimited in Long Lake. While much of her merchandise is from other parts of the world, she has a nice collection of local rocks and minerals that make a stop here well worth the drive.

Photo credit: Labradorite, courtesy Wikipedia.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Adirondack Balloon Fest: Up, Up and Away in Queensbury

Advice for anyone who attends the Adirondack Balloon Festival next year: get there early.

Early, of course, is a painful thing when balloons are involved. They take off at dawn, mostly, which means waking up at 5 a.m. if you live an hour away, as I do. It’s even more painful if you get up early and don’t get any balloons. Thanks to high winds, three launches scheduled for Saturday morning and Friday and Saturday evenings had to be canceled. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Local Museums, History Scaled Back Over Economy

The Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake has announced that it will close it’s satellite retail store in Lake Placid on October 30th. The store, which opened in 2003, was an initial step in the museum’s long-range plan to reach out to communities in the Adirondack Park. Lake Placid was considered by museum officials to be the best place to begin.

“The subsequent and continuing economic downturn have forced a strategic re-thinking of the museum’s plans,” Adirodnack Museum spokesperson Katherine Moore told the press in a recent announcement. “At the present time it is no longer feasible to operate two retail operations and maintain a growing online sales presence.” The museum will concentrate its efforts and financial resources on the Blue Mountain Lake campus Moore told the press.

It’s the second set-back for the Adirondack Museum in Lake Placid. In June of 2008, the museum ended its plan to erect a building on Main Street to house a new branch of the museum and its existing store. That decision was made “very reluctantly” museum officials said, citing a strained economic situation.

Last year, Adirondack Museum Marketing Director Susan Dineen told WNBZ that they were feeling the effects of the recession. “Like many large nonprofit institutions, our endowment has seen a downturn,” she told Chris Morris, “It’s unavoidable.” Dineen said today that the museum has not yet instituted a museum-wide hiring freeze or any layoffs. However, three employees at the Lake Placid store have been notified that their positions will be eliminated.

The Adirondack Museum’s economic travails are part of wider trend for local historical organizations. First Fort Ticonderoga faced financial ruin after Deborah Mars, a Ticonderoga native married to the billionaire co-owner of the Mars candy company Forrest Mars Jr., bailed on her long-time support for the fort just before completion of a new $23 million Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center. The Mars paid for nearly all of the new building’s construction but left before it was finished leaving Fort Ti about two million dollars in debt.

Then there was the well-publicized New York State Historic Site closure debacle that threatened the John Brown Farm in Essex County and the Macomb Reservation State Park and Point Au Roche State Park, both in Clinton County.

The long-awaited preservation of Rogers Island in Fort Edward is on hold after preservation funds dried up in July. Earlier this month, Governor David Paterson vetoed a bill that would have funded the celebration of the 200th Anniversary of America’s Second War of Independence, the War of 1812.

The news about the Adirondack Museum’s retreat was not the only troubling local museum news this week. The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM) abandoned its plan to occupy a 7,000 square foot former generating plant on the Burlington waterfront. The LCMM had planned an installation of the museum’s collection of historic shipwrecks.

“The City of Burlington has done an outstanding job putting together a sound plan for redeveloping the Moran site, but the Maritime Museum has significant concerns about our ability to raise sufficient funds to participate in the project and the long-term financial sustainability of a future Moran maritime museum site. We felt our continued participation in the project, given our funding concerns, was not helpful to the City in meeting their overall goal of redeveloping the Moran site,” Art Cohn, Executive Director of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, announced.

Photo: The Adirondack Museum’s store on Main Street in Lake Placid. Photo courtesy Sarah and Marc Galvin, Owners of The Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Diane Chase Adirondack Family Activities: The Ladies’ Mile

By Diane Chase

While my in-laws were in town, my husband suggested revisiting some of his father’s old haunts. Both 46ers a couple times over, my husband knew his father would no longer be able to hike the High Peaks but would still enjoy sharing some tales. On his recommendation we go to the Ausable Club and walk an easy path known as “The Ladies Mile.”

My first thought was he was joking. There is such a thing as a ladies’ mile? Have I been walking a man-mile all this time and not knowing it? I am going to run a 5K and I’m not in shape. So if a ladies’ mile is shorter, I plan on requesting a few of them. No such luck. The Ladies’ Mile is a beautiful path, part of the private Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR) and Ausable Club. Though the public has permission to hike in the AMR it is still private land and has strict rules to follow in order to have access. No dogs, camping or swimming. (Please do not leave the trails and carry out anything you bring in.)

Most hikers entering the Ausable Club property usually bypass this easy trail for the larger gain of the St. Hubert region consisting of such High Peaks as Sawteeth, Nippletop, Dial, Colvin, Blake and Gothics.

We enter the club property and my husband kindly offers to drive the car to the hiker’s parking lot the half-mile past the golf course. We turn left by the tennis courts, and follow the gravel road past guest cottages. At the main gate a watchman greets us and hands us a trail map. We sign in and I make a comment about The Ladies Mile. Honestly, it was funny. All I got was a roll of his eyes. I am guessing he has heard all the comments before.

We walk a short distance to a two-plank bridge with a green sign clearly marked for the Ladies’ Mile. It is a bit slippery but the chicken wire attached to the planks helps keep us steady. There is a half–mile option but we choose to go the whole distance today. It is nice to be able to find a wonderful walk that fits all levels of our family. Grandmothers hold hands with granddaughters while grandfathers relay hiking experiences to grandsons.

The path is clearly marked with orange AMC markers. We soon come to another bridge that will cross the Ausable River. We will save that for another day. Our trail cuts back behind us so we turn around and follow the river, keeping it on our left.

Stone steps are set into a small incline. The river flows swiftly by. I sit and relax watching the water rush over stones and fallen branches. The path veers back toward the main road. After passing a wood shed we start to hear sounds of civilization again. One more footbridge over a small creek and we are back at the main gate.

I am not sure where the mile is measured from, perhaps the parking lot. Either way, it is nice to find a place where all hiking levels can walk together and still feel lost in the woods.

From Keene Valley continue south on Route 73 for about 2.5 miles. Turn right onto Ausable Road. The parking lot is located ½-mile east of the Ausable Clubhouse.


photo and 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, September 28, 2010

Olympic Medalist Billy Demong Returns to Dewey Mtn

2010 Olympic gold and silver medalist Billy Demong will speak at the Town of Harrietstown’s Dewey Mountain Recreation Center at 4 p.m. Monday, October 4. The Vermontville native, who cross-country-ski raced at Dewey as a kid, returns to his home mountain to kick off a fundraising campaign to replace its base lodge. All are welcome.

Demong will be available to meet well-wishers and sign Dewey stickers after remarks, which will also feature Saranac Lake skiers and coaches Natalie Leduc and Kris Cheney Seymour. The public is invited to stay for coffee and cookies, and to walk or mountain bike on Dewey’s trails.

Dan and Debbie Stoorza of the Bean-To will introduce “Hammer Down,” a limited edition of its popular Hammer roast coffee. Demong and the Stoorzas came up with the idea for Hammer Down last winter, inspired by the four-bean blend and the phrase Demong uses to psyche himself up at the start of a race. The proceeds from each bag of Hammer Down beans sold this ski season will go toward Dewey’s lodge-replacement project.

From 4:30 to 5:30 the Dewey Mountain Youth Ski League will register kids ages 5 to 13 for this winter’s program. Parents must accompany children who want to sign up.

Adirondack Lakes & Trails Outfitters, operators of Dewey Mountain under a contract with the Town of Harrietstown, will sell season passes for skiing and snowshoeing.

Demong, a four-time Olympian in Nordic Combined, and Tim Burke of Paul Smiths, a two-time Olympian and 2009 World Cup leader in Biathlon, are dedicated alumni of Dewey Mountain. They are also honorary trustees of Dewey Mountain Friends, which is fundraising to improve Dewey’s facilities in partnership with the Town of Harrietstown and the Saranac Lake Rotary Foundation.

Dewey Mountain Recreation Center is on State Route 3 west of Saranac Lake, between Algonquin Apartments and the National Guard Armory. For more information call 891-7450.

Photo: Billy Demong with Dewey Mountain Youth Ski League members Adrian Hayden, left, and Ruben Bernstein, right, in March. Photograph courtesy of Chrissy Hayden.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Adirondack Moose Numbers Continue to Rise

Moose numbers in New York continue to increase rapidly, with upwards of 800 moose estimated in the northern part of the state, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) projects this fall. That is up from 500 just three years ago and from 50-100 moose in the late 1990s. Moose are currently a protected species in new York State.

As their population has grown in New England and Canada, Alces Alces, or the North American Moose, began migrating to New York in the last decade, establishing a base in the North Country. That trend has continued with increases in young and adult moose populations and increased sightings by hunters and the public at large. DEC biologists stress that the population numbers are estimated but that the growth is clear. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Adirondack River Access: Who’s Elitist?

This weekend I paddled the West Branch of the St. Regis for the first time. Until a few years ago, nearly all of the West Branch inside the Adirondack Park was closed to the public.

As a result of a conservation-easement deal with Lyme Timber, fishermen and paddlers now have access to about eight miles of the West Branch northeast of Carry Falls Reservoir.

However, the public is allowed in only from May 1 through September 30, so Thursday is the last day you’ll be able to enjoy the river this year. But don’t fret too much: the river will still be there next spring.

Given the looming deadline, I was motivated to paddle the river this past Saturday. Much of the eight miles contains rapids, but there is a 3.5-mile stretch that will delight flat-water paddlers. Here is a description of the trip.

The opening of the West Branch is just one example of the public benefits of conservation easements. Under easement deals, the landowners agree not to develop their land. In return, the state picks up a portion of the property taxes. Most deals allow public recreation, though the degree of access differs.

In the case of the West Branch, the public has the right to fish and canoe. The state Department of Environmental Conservation has opened four parking areas along the timber company’s Main Haul Road, with carry trails leading to the river. Camping is permitted only at designated campsites.

We all should be grateful that at least part of this beautiful river is now open to the public.

But I do have a complaint.

From the put-in, you paddle upstream through marshland for 1.6 miles. Rounding a bend, you can see the buildings of the Weller Mountain Fish and Game Preserve, a hunting club whose main lodge sits at the confluence of the river and Long Pond Outlet. At this point, you must exit the river and portage 0.3 miles through a spruce forest and put back in upstream of the lodge. You can canoe another mile and a half upriver before reaching rapids.

The river near the hunting club is perfectly navigable flat water. It’s just that the members don’t want the public paddling past their piece of paradise, which is leased from the landowner (Woodwise Land Company bought the property from Lyme Timber this summer).

OK, I understand the club desires privacy, but my portage around flat water struck me as unnecessary. Would the members (if any were there) have had their day ruined by a lone canoeist quietly paddling past their camp? They would have had to endure the sight of me for at most a few minutes.

I sometimes hear people complain that paddlers are “elitists”—because paddlers advocate banning motorboats from some waterways. But paddlers are not elitists. And certainly not in this case. If anybody is elitist, it’s the members of the hunting club who object to the public paddling by their lodge.

Some readers might wonder how the landower can keep the public off this short stretch of the West Branch. If the river is navigable, isn’t it open to the public under the common law? Unlike other rivers I’ve written about, such as the Beaver and Shingle Shanty Brook, the public must cross private land to reach the water. Thus, the landowner has the right to set conditions for access to and use of the river.

But the law doesn’t always square with common sense, not to mention common courtesy. It just seems mean to force the public to portage past the hunting club. And the portage may discourage, if not prevent, the elderly, disabled, and less-than-fit from continuing their trip and enjoying the river upstream from the lodge.

DEC should negotiate a better deal for the public. After all, we do pay taxes on this land. Ideally, this condition would be scotched. At the very least, it ought to be modified to allow the public to paddle past the club during those times of year or days of the week when the club is little used. Requiring people to portage past the club when no one is there is the height of absurdity.

I do respect the club’s wish for privacy, but that needs to be balanced with the public’s recreational claim on this stretch of river. Let canoeists paddle past the lodge, but forbid them to fish, picnic, or otherwise linger in the vicinity. And instruct paddlers to keep quiet while traveling by. This strikes me as the basis of a reasonable compromise.

George Fowler, Weller Mountain’s secretary/treasurer, told me that he will raise the public-access issue at a meeting of the club. I hope some good comes out of it.

In the end, though, if the only way we can enjoy the West Branch is by putting up with the portage, so be it. Those who can do it will be amply rewarded.

Photo by Phil Brown: West Branch of the St. Regis River.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Thomas W. Symons: Father of Barge Canals (Part II)

The first 20 years of Keeseville’s Thomas Symons’ career were incredibly successful. The highlights from Part 1 of this story include: graduating number one in his West Point class; joining the historic Wheeler Expedition to several western territories; becoming the nation’s acknowledged expert on the Columbia River in the Northwest; negotiating with hostile Indians; and engineering the noted Columbia River jetty.

Add to that improving Washington, D.C.’s water, sewage, and pavement systems; developing river and harbor facilities in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington; improving the Mississippi River works; developments in Portland, Seattle, Spokane, and Tacoma; and surveying the US-Mexico border. The list sounds like a career review, but Thomas Symons was just getting started.

In 1895, he returned to the East, charged with planning and designing the river and harbor works at Buffalo. He was named engineer of the 10th Lighthouse District, which included Lakes Erie and Ontario, encompassing all the waterways and lighthouses from Detroit, Michigan to Ogdensburg, New York.

Among his remarkable projects was “a very exposed, elaborate lighthouse and fog signal” in Lake Erie, near Toledo. Grandest of all, however, was one of Thomas Symons’ signature accomplishments: planning and constructing the world’s longest breakwater (over four miles long). Built along the shores of Buffalo, it was a project that earned him considerable attention. Further improvements he brought to the city enhanced his reputation there.

Another major project talked about for years came to the forefront in the late 1890s—the possibility of a ship canal spanning New York State. The 54th Congress in 1897 commissioned a report, but the results disappointed the powerful committee chairman when Symons’ detailed analysis named a barge canal, not a ship canal, as the best option.

In 1898, New York’s new governor, Teddy Roosevelt, assigned Thomas to personally investigate and report on the state’s waterways, with emphasis on the feasibility of a barge canal to ensure it was the correct option. A concern on the federal level was national security, which was better served by Symons’ plan to run the canal across the state rather than through the St. Lawrence, to Montreal, down Lake Champlain, and down the Hudson to New York City.

Thomas’ route across New York kept the structure entirely with America’s borders. (This and many other projects were requested by the War Department, which explains the security factor.) His additional work for Roosevelt reached the same conclusion, and after extended arguments in Congress, $100 million was appropriated for canal improvements. The decision was affirmation of Thomas’ judgment and the great respect in Congress for his engineering capabilities.

In 1902, the senate noted “the conspicuous services of Major Thomas W. Symons regarding the canal problems in New York,” and that he had “aided materially in its solution.” A senate resolution cited “his able, broad-minded, and public-spirited labors on behalf of the state.”

During the canal discussions, his life had taken an unusual turn. Teddy Roosevelt had won the presidency in 1902, and in early 1903, the decision was made to replace his top military aide. Keeseville’s Thomas Symons was going to the White House.

It was sad news for Buffalo, Thomas’ home for the past eight years. At a sendoff banquet, the praise for him was effusive. Among the acknowledgments was that his work in Buffalo’s harbor had brought millions of dollars of investments and widespread employment to the city. From a business and social perspective, one speaker professed the community’s “unbounded love, affection, and admiration.” The comments were followed by an extended ovation.

For a man of Symons’ stature, some of the new duties in Washington seemed a bit out of place. Officially, he was the officer in charge of Public Buildings and Grounds of the District of Columbia, a position for which he was obviously well suited. (And, the job was accompanied by a pay raise to the level of Colonel of Engineers.)

However, Thomas was also the president’s number one military aide, making him the Master of Ceremonies for all White House functions. Every appearance by Teddy Roosevelt was planned, coordinated, and executed by Symons, his close personal friend. Depending on whom the guests were, Thomas selected the décor, music, food, and entertainment.

He became the public face of all White House events. In reception lines, it was his duty to be at the president’s side. No matter what their stature, he greeted each guest as the line progressed, and in turn introduced each guest to Roosevelt. Everyone had to go through Roosevelt’s right-hand man before meeting the president (though he actually stood to the president’s left).

He also played a vital diplomatic role by mingling with the guests, ensuring all were seated and handled according to their importance, and allowing the President and First Lady to feel as secure as if they had planned each event themselves.

He was also the paymaster general of the White House, seeing to it that all funds appropriated for expenses were spent properly. The media regularly noted that, in Teddy Roosevelt’s home, Symons was the most conspicuous person except for the president himself.

With so many responsibilities, the job of top aide to the president seemed impossibly busy, which is why Roosevelt expanded the staff from one to nine aides, all of them placed under the charge of Symons, who could then delegate much of his authority.

The only sense of controversy to arise during Thomas’ career was related to the development of New York’s barge canal, and it had nothing to do with him personally. He was the designer of the proposed system, and many felt it was critical that he stay involved in the project. But the new duties in Washington kept him very busy. Because congress approved additional engineering employees to work under Symons, some felt it was wrong to allow Thomas to spend some of his time working on the canal project, away from his regular job.

Symons even agreed to forego the higher pay he received from the White House position in order to help with the canal. There was considerable resistance, but Roosevelt himself stepped forward, telling Congress that, as governor, he had hired Thomas Symons to closely examine New York’s waterways. Thus, there was no man better suited for overseeing the $100 million expenditure.

The legislators relented, and by authority of a special act of congress, Symons was allowed to work on the creation of New York’s barge canal system. After Roosevelt’s first term, Thomas left the White House and focused his efforts on the canal work.

In 1908, when the Chief Engineer of the Army Corps was retiring, Symons, by then a full colonel, was among the top candidates for the job. His strongest advocate was President Roosevelt, but, after 37 years of service, Thomas submitted his name to the retirement list.

He remained active in the work on New York’s canals, which he monitored closely, and despite suggestions of excessive costs, the project came in well below the original estimates. He also served on the Pennsylvania Canal Commission and continued working and advising on other engineering projects.

His role in the building of America is undeniable, from New York to Washington State, the border with Mexico, the Mississippi River, Washington, D.C., and so many other places. The world’s longest breakwater (at Buffalo) and New York’s barge canal system stand out as his major career accomplishments. And, Roosevelt’s first administration took him to the highest echelons of world power for four years. He shared the president’s gratitude and friendship.

Thomas Symons, trusted aide, the man Teddy Roosevelt called the “Father of Barge Canals,” died in 1920 at the age of 71. In 1943, a Liberty ship built in Portland, Oregon was named the SS Thomas W. Symons in his honor.

Photo Top: Colonel Thomas Williams Symons, engineer.

Photo Middle: 1904 map of Symons’ planned route for New York’s Barge Canal.

Photo Bottom: A portion of the breakwater in Buffalo harbor.

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, September 27, 2010

Adirondack Museum To Host Harvest Fest

The annual Harvest Festival will be held at the Adirondack Museum, in Blue Mountain Lake, on Saturday, October 2 and Sunday, October 3. Both days will feature activities for the entire family from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. The Adirondack Museum offers free admission to year-round residents of the Adirondack Park in the month of October – making Harvest Festival an affordable and enjoyable fall getaway for every Adirondacker.

Circle B Ranch of Chestertown, N.Y. will provide leisurely rides through the museum’s beautiful grounds in a rustic wagon filled with hay bales. Youngsters can enjoy pony rides as well.

On Saturday, October 2nd only, Chef Tom Morris of the Mirror Lake Inn will offer a demonstration entitled “Extending the Season” at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Chef Morris will discuss techniques for canning, jarring, pickling, and other methods of food preservation.

On Sunday, October 3rd only, Sally Longo of Aunt Sally’s Adirondack Catering will offer harvest related food demonstrations at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

Visitors can relax in an Adirondack chair and enjoy guitar and banjo tunes played by musician Bill Hall. Hall’s love of music and the Adirondacks has inspired his original compositions about early Adirondack logging, mining, and railroading.

Bill studied guitar with the legendary Chet Atkins, and is self-taught in classical style guitar and banjo. He has merged classic style with nature to create a unique finger picking method he calls “pick-a-dilly.” Bill has performed in various venues throughout the region including Teddy Roosevelt celebrations in the towns of Newcomb, Minerva, and North Creek, N.Y.

Other Harvest Festival highlights include cider pressing, barn raising for young and old, as well as pumpkin painting and crafts inspired by nature. Kids can jump in a giant leaf pile on the museum’s center campus.

The museum will accept donations of food and winter clothing for a full month this fall, in collaboration with Hamilton County Community Action.

From September 20 through October 18, 2010, donations of dried or canned foods, winter outerwear to include coats, hats, scarves, mittens, or boots for adults and children, as well as warm blankets, comforters, or quilts will be collected in the museum’s Visitor Center.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Dan Ladd’s Deer Hunting in the Adirondacks

Author and outdoor writer Dan Ladd of West Fort Ann, Washington County, has released an updated version of his seminal book Deer Hunting in the Adirondacks – A Guide to Deer Hunting in New York’s 6-Million-Acre Adirondack Park. This is the second printing of the book, which Ladd first self-published in 2008.

Adirondack deer hunters will want this book and I’m happy to recommend it. What you won’t find here are political statements about the expansion of the Forest Preserve, the advent of easements, and sharing the wilderness with paddlers, hikers and campers. Ladd seems to really understand the subtler history of game laws, environmental conservation, and the economics and politics of the Adirondacks as it relates to hunting. That makes this book a valuable tool for hunters (and non-hunters with an interest), and not the political polemic you might expect from some of the region’s other outdoor writers.

A chapter on the history of deer hunting in the Adirondacks is the definitive source on the subject bringing together decades of lessons from Forest, Fish and Game Commission reports with a legal history primer on the evolution of New York’s game laws. Additional chapters introduce the Adirondack region, detail land classifications, address current regulations, necessary equipment, lodging options, several chapters of tips from experienced Adirondack hunters, and a meaty inventory of state lands.

This second edition also includes the latest additions to state lands, including tracts of land along the Moose River near Old Forge and the Chazy Highlands Wild Forest in the extreme northern section of the Adirondack Park. Additional material has been added on the subjects of getting deer out of the backcountry, cooking venison and also information geared towards beginning hunters. The overall size of this edition has expanded from 168 pages to 192.

Dan Ladd is a freelance writer and regular outdoor columnist for The Chronicle in Glens Falls, The Plattsburgh Press-Republican, Outdoors Magazine and FishNY.com. He is also founder of the popular Adirondack deer hunting website ADKHunter.com. He is currently editing his second book, a collection of his newspaper columns expected to be available in November.

The new edition of Deer Hunting in the Adirondacks has a retail price of $20 and is available at local and retail outlets throughout the Adirondack region. More information is available at Ladd’s website, www.ADKHunter.com, where a mail order form can be downloaded. The book will also be distributed by North Country Books.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

19th Annual Oktoberfest at Whiteface

The 19th annual Whiteface Oktoberfest, in Wilmington, is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 2-3. During the two-day festival, the Olympic mountain dusts off its lederhosen, fires up the oompah band and enjoys a tall mug of German beer. But it’s more than that… it’s fun for the entire family with activities including original vendors, arts and crafts, children’s rides including the popular hayride and inflatables, Bavarian food, drink, entertainment.

New this year, volleyball, horseshoes and 60-second challenges for great prizes. Also get ready for the upcoming skiing and riding season at Whiteface with ski shop sales in the Ausable Room.

Of course the Whiteface Oktoberfest offers great traditional German music from Die Schlauberger, performing under the entertainment tent outside the base lodge each day, the Lake Placid Bavarians, who have been performing traditional Bavarian music in the north country for the last 19 years, and Ed Schenk on the accordion. The Cloudspin Lounge will also feature music from Schachtelgebirger Musikanten (Scha-Musi) and performing at their second Oktoberfest will be Spitze and The Alpen Trio.

As America’s #1 German band die Schlauberger is a powerhouse of musical expertise. From the moment they step on stage until they have wrung the final note from their last song, die Schlauberger has the audience up and dancing to their powerful renditions of German favorites and other crowd pleasing tunes.

Spitze will also get the audience involved with their amazing alpine show which features cowbells, the alpine xylophone, and the alphorn and of course – yodeling, while the Alpen Trio will greet Cloudsplitter Gondola passengers at the summit of Little Whiteface with the alphorns.

Finally, Whiteface also welcomes back Schachtelgebirger Musikanten for the sixth year to our Oktoberfest. The lively duo will be performing in the Cloudspin Lounge on Saturday and on Sunday.

Other entertainment to be found during the festival include the Alpenland Taenzer, nominated and accepted as members of the “Gauverband Nordamerica,” a nationally and internationally known organization promoting German Heritage throughout the United States and Canada, and “Kindergruppe,” comprised of 8-10 couples ages 3-19. Older members of the Kindergruppe also dance in the adult group.

Guests can also drive the Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway and enjoy spectacular 360-panaromic views of the region, spanning hundreds of square miles of wild land reaching out to Vermont and Canada from the top of the state’s fifth highest peak.

Oktoberfest will be held Saturday from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. A complimentary shuttle service will be provided both days. Departure from the Olympic Center Box Office in Lake Placid takes place at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Departure from Whiteface to Lake Placid takes place at 2 p.m., 4 p.m., 5 p.m. (Sunday only), 6 p.m. (Saturday only), and 7:30 p.m. (Saturday only). From Wilmington pick-ups are at noon both days with the return shuttle leaving Whiteface at 5 p.m.

Admission is $15 for adults, $9 for juniors and seniors and gondola rides are $12. More information about ORDA’s 19th annual Oktoberfest can be found online.


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