Monday, February 28, 2011

Almanack Founder John Warren at Saranac Library

John Warren, founder and editor of Adirondack Almanack, will present a talk entitled “Adirondack Media: History and Future” this Thursday, March 3, at noon in the Cantwell Community Room at the Saranac Lake Free Library.

John will discuss the history of media in the Adirondacks, the current media environment and its possible future. A lively discussion is expected to follow. Bring a lunch; enjoy dessert and coffee provided by the Hospitality Committee. For more information, call 891-4190. The event is free and open to the public.

Over 25 years John’s work has ranged from traditional broadcast and print to new media. In addition to Adirondack Almanack, he is also the founding editor of New York History, the author of two books of regional history and a weekly contributor to North County Public Radio. John was the 2010 recipient of the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Eleanor Brown Communications Award for “outstanding talent and journalistic achievement in building an online, independent news source about the Adirondacks.”

John has a Masters Degree in Public History, and holds credits on more than 100 hours of primetime television programming, including documentary projects that have aired on PBS, History Channel, A&E, Discovery, TLC, and Travel Channel. Since 2001 he has carried out documentary program development work for PBS affiliate Maryland Public Television.

He also manages an archival new media project for the New York State Writers Institute at the State University at Albany and teaches documentary studies and media production at Burlington College.


Monday, February 28, 2011

Local History: A True Story of Sunken Treasure

Recent acts of piracy on the high seas brought to mind stories of what some call “the Golden Age of Pirates” (like Blackbeard, or Henry Morgan). That conjured images of sunken treasure, which in turn reminded me of what might well be the shallowest sunken treasure ever recovered. And wouldn’t you know it? It happened right here in the North Country.

It occurred at the southern tip of Lake Champlain, near Whitehall, already the site of many historic lake-related treasures. Arnold’s Valcour fleet was built there, and it’s also the final resting place of the ships that survived the Battle of Plattsburgh. Most of them eventually sank in East Bay, which is a vast marshy area surrounding the mouth of the Poultney River.

If you’ve never toured the lower part of Lake Champlain, you’re missing a great experience. Besides playing a critical role during centuries of regional history, the scenery is spectacular. South of Ticonderoga, the lake narrows into a 20-mile, river-like channel previously referred to as Wood Creek. It features cliffs, narrows, lush vegetation, and copious wildlife.

Just outside of Whitehall is South Bay, bound in places by high, steep, cliffs that once hosted a historic battle. It also hosts a healthy population of rattlesnakes. The long, high ridge to the west, from here to Ticonderoga, separates South Bay from Lake George. Of all the canoe trips I’ve taken, South Bay is one of the all-time best.

A little further east down the lake is a sharp bend known simply as the Elbow, a shortened form of Fiddler’s Elbow. It was here that a famed member of Roger’s Rangers, General Israel Putnam, led an attack against Marin’s forces in 1758. To the east, just past the Elbow, is the entrance to East Bay, less than a mile from downtown Whitehall, where Lock 12 provides access to the New York State Barge Canal. Like I said, this place is extremely rich in history.

The story of sunken treasure is tied to the possession of Fort Ticonderoga, about twenty miles north. In early July, 1777, General Arthur St. Clair was the US commander at Ticonderoga, but the American troops were far outmanned and outgunned by the forces of Sir Johnny Burgoyne, whose great show of strength prompted St. Clair’s decision to evacuate the fort.

Some of St. Clair’s men crossed Lake Champlain and retreated across Vermont territory. Others went south on the lake to Whitehall. Burgoyne pursued the latter group, taking control of Whitehall (known then as Skenesborough). As the patriots fled, they destroyed many boats and just about anything they couldn’t carry, lest it fall into enemy hands.

Burgoyne’s forces were involved in other battles before finally meeting defeat at Saratoga, but it’s his time at Whitehall that is a vital link to the treasure story. His men at Fort Ticonderoga and elsewhere frequently suffered the same problems as the Americans—exhaustion, hunger, and lack of pay. Many unpaid soldiers voiced their discontent, and mutiny could soon follow.

To alleviate the problem, British authorities in Quebec dispatched a sloop. Manned by a crew of ten, it carried sufficient gold to pay Burgoyne’s thousands of soldiers. After the long trip down Lake Champlain, the sloop reached Fort Ticonderoga, only to find that Burgoyne had traveled farther south. Captain Johnson (first name unknown), in charge of the gold-laden craft, decided to deliver his goods to Burgoyne at Whitehall.

Nearing the village, Johnson was informed that Burgoyne’s men had been victorious at Hubbardton, about 15 miles northeast of Whitehall. East Bay led directly towards Hubbardton, and about 8 miles upstream was a bridge the soldiers would cross as they made their way towards Albany. Johnson entered the bay, planning to intercept the troops at the bridge and give them the gold.

The sloop traveled as far as possible, anchoring just below Carver Falls, not far from the bridge. While waiting for Burgoyne’s men, the sloop came under attack by patriot forces, (possibly men retreating from the loss at Hubbardton). Captain Johnson scuttled his ship, but the men were killed trying to escape, and the Americans quickly left the area that would soon be crawling with British soldiers. The sloop lay on the river bottom.

Years later, it was learned that England’s military had offered a reward for the capture of Captain Johnson, for it was assumed he had made off with the booty, it having never been delivered.

Fast-forward 124 years to fall, 1901. Civil Engineer George B. West, who oversaw construction of the power dam at Carver Falls, learned that raging spring torrents had left part of a watercraft exposed in the riverbed below the falls. Aided by a crew of 30 men, he diverted the river temporarily to further explore the wreck and clear it from the channel. Using tools, and then a charge of dynamite, they managed to free the hull. Inside, they found various glass items, several muskets, and an interesting iron chest in the captain’s quarters.

Imagine the excitement of the moment, opening the lid to reveal 10,000 gold sovereigns, coins that today might fetch between $5 and $10 million!

As the spoils of a long-ago war, the coins were deposited in the Allen National Bank in nearby Fair Haven, Vermont. But ownership of the money was questioned by the New York Times, Boston newspapers, and many others across New England. Some said it should be returned to Great Britain as a gesture of good faith. Others said to keep it. After all, if the soldiers had recovered the gold when the boat sank, it surely wouldn’t have been returned to the Brits.

But it wasn’t that simple. The boat sank in 1777. Previous to that, the battle between New York and New Hampshire over land grants had led to the creation of the Republic of Vermont, located between the two litigants. Neither New York nor New Hampshire recognized Vermont independence, which led to an interesting scenario: in 1777, the site at Carver Falls could have been part of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, or British territory.

Further complicating matters, when statehood was finally settled (and before the gold was discovered), the NYS-Vermont border in that area was placed right down the center of the Poultney River. In the end, it is believed the money remained in Vermont coffers.

There is an interesting side story that was not included in published accounts about the recovered gold. It helps explain how the boat went undetected for more than a century. Above Carver Falls, seven years after the sloop sank, the river’s path was diverted, whether by natural means, man-made means, or a combination of the two. A supposed dispute over water rights may have played a role, or the river may have naturally chosen a new course through a widespread sandy area.

What’s most important is the result of the change in path. Up to 1783, East Bay was navigable by ships weighing up to 40 tons. The course diversion caused massive amounts of sand and sediment to wash over the falls, reducing the channel’s depth dramatically.

In subsequent years, though rumors of sunken treasure persisted, it hardly seemed plausible that a boat of any size could have made the journey to Carver Falls. Who could have known the river was once much deeper? It wasn’t until 124 years later that nature released a torrent strong enough to reveal the truth. And to clear the long-sullied name of Captain Johnson.

Photos: Top, map of key locations; below, sample of a British gold sovereign from the late 1700s.

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


Monday, February 28, 2011

Dave Gibson: Tupper Lake and the APA Act

It is noteworthy to read local supporters of the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort expressing their full faith in the NYS Adirondack Park Agency’s ultimate review of that proposal. The Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce and ARISE (a Tupper Lake nonprofit) were quoted this week as saying “let the agency do its job.” Meanwhile, these organizations deride the efforts of others – “outsiders” – in the public hearing as obstructing the agency’s work.

Four years after it was ordered to adjudicatory public hearing by the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), the proposed subdivision and second home development known as the Adirondack Club and Resort encompassing 6400 acres near Tupper Lake may finally get the close scrutiny it merits. The hearing, encompassing a dozen interrelated issues and over three dozen parties, should begin this spring. The group I work with, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, is one of those parties.

The Chamber’s apparent embrace of the APA Act and its implementation through this public hearing is both interesting and gratifying: interesting because Tupper Lake rejected sharing local land use controls with the APA in the early 1990s because it might lend legitimacy to the APA legislation that the Chamber now apparently embraces; gratifying to hear because the APA Act mandates the very statewide concerns that “outsiders” can help to bring to the table.

The APA Act states “continuing public concern, coupled with the vast acreages of forest preserve holdings, clearly establishes a substantial state interest in the preservation and development of the park area. The state of New York has an obligation to insure that contemporary and projected future pressures on the park resources are provided for within a land use control framework which recognizes not only matters of local concern but also chose of regional and state concern” (Section 801, APA Act)

Reflecting as it does 150 years of statewide concern for the Adirondacks, the Act and its regulations anticipate statewide interest in the upcoming ACR public hearing, and mandate that the APA take those interests into account in its review. One of the biggest statewide concerns is that two thirds of the ACR proposal involves large second homes across Resource Management lands “where the need to protect, manage and enhance forest, agricultural, recreational and open space resources of paramount importance because of overriding natural resource and public considerations” (Section 805, APA Act)

That public can come from Tupper Lake and from anywhere else within the boundaries of the state, or beyond. Adirondack Council, Adirondack Wild, Protect the Adirondacks and others seek to help represent the broader public’s interests to “protect the delicate physical and biological resources, encourage proper and economic management of forest, agricultural and recreational resources and preserve the open spaces that are essential and basic to the unique character of the park” (Section 805).

There are still many others who want to focus on the local benefits and burdens of this proposal. The proposal if permitted and carried out to its full extent would carve out a new, sprawling development hub miles from current service providers in the village.

All need to bear in mind that whatever comes out of the hearing and agency review will have an effect on the entire Adirondack Park. This may be a precedent setting decision, and hundreds of thousands of people around the state will watch and examine its results carefully. The last time such a large subdivision and second home development was proposed in 1972, APA was a new and untested agency. I suspect the Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce back in 1972 viewed the Agency as “outsiders.” Judging from the Chamber’s news release this week, the Agency and local perspective on the Agency from Tupper Lake has matured since then. The local and regional economy is rough today, but it was also rough in 1972. Second home subdivisions consume more of the environment, demand far more services and draw far more energy than they did in 1972. Meanwhile, one big thing hasn’t changed since that year – the APA Act, which has been amended just once in 38 years.

Photos: Hearing parties at the ACR field visit, May 2007; and visiting the beaver dam holding back Cranberry Pond.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Essential Guidebooks: Adirondack Rock

When it comes to sheer number of routes one can take through the Adirondacks, rock climbing has got to have more opportunities than any other outdoor sport. Any guide that hopes to cover every single one is going to be a tome, and coming in at more than 670 pages, the newest edition of the seminal Adirondack climbing guide, Adirondack Rock, meets that description.

Adirondack Rock includes 242 cliff areas, many of which have never before been documented, and nearly 2,000 routes and variations. The guide’s authors, Jim Lawyer and Jeremy Hass, spent years visiting new and seldom visited climbs around the Adirondacks. Among the regions they turned their focus to was the Lake George basin, long neglected by regional climbing guides.

Because climbing around Lake George had not yet come to prominence, Don Mellior’s classic guide Climbing in the Adirondacks limited its coverage to the lake’s west side climbs at places like Rogers Rock, Deer Leap, and Tongue Mountain. But the Lake George’s east side has been attracting climbers in larger numbers in the past 15 years, to the point of playing host to the Southern Adirondack Rock Climbers Fest in 2010.

Adirondack Rock‘s chapter on the Lake George is impressive covering newly discovered and rediscovered areas like Pilot Knob (Stewart’s Ledge, The Brain), Buck Mountain (Upper Buck, New Buck), Sleeping Beauty, Gull Pond Cliff, Pharaoh Mountain, Barton High Cliffs, and more. Directions, warnings, access, accommodations are all included. There are full route descriptions in an easy-to-read, comprehensive format, aerial photos with route lines, approach maps, and cliff topos. GPS coordinates of every cliff and parking area are provided. Boulderers are not neglected, with six bouldering areas with 350 problems included.

Supporting all the technical aspects are short histories of the routes, an Adirondack climbing chronology and geology notes, almost 200 photos, drawings and paintings and 21 essays written by prominent Adirondack climbers. The forward is by Don Mellor, with a French foreword by Loïc Briand.

You can get a copy of Adirondack Rock online.

Almanack contributor Alan Wechsler wrote about climbing at Shelving Rock in October 2010. Alan also wrote a piece in 2007 while the guidebook was being written for Adirondack Explorer [pdf].

You can read all of Adirondack Almanack‘s coverage of local climbing by writers like Jay Harrison, Phil Brown, and Alan Weschler here.

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


Friday, February 25, 2011

This Week’s Adirondack Web Highlights

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

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


Friday, February 25, 2011

Benedict Arnold’s Retreat from Valcour:
A Revisionist’s Version

When it was reported in the summer of 1997 that the wreck of a Revolutionary War vessel had been discovered at the bottom of Lake Champlain, most newspaper accounts included some information about the battle in which she was lost – the Battle of Valcour –and how Benedict Arnold, in command of the remains of the New American Navy, eluded the British fleet and sailed up Lake Champlain toward Fort Ticonderoga. » Continue Reading.


Friday, February 25, 2011

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories

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

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


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (Feb. 24)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to sometimes drastic changes.

Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Recreation Report Friday mornings on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1) and the stations of North Country Public Radio.

The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional Forest Ranger incident reports which form a stern reminder that wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Be aware of the latest weather conditions and carry adequate gear and supplies.

SPECIAL NOTICES FOR THIS WEEKEND
» Continue Reading.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

DEC Region 5 Forest Ranger Report (Jan-Feb 2011)

What follows is the January and February Forest Ranger Activity Report for DEC Region 5, which includes most of the Adirondack region. Although not a comprehensive detailing of all back-country incidents, these reports are issued periodically by the DEC and printed here at the Almanack in their entirety. They are organized by county, and date. You can read previous Forest Ranger Reports here.

These incident reports are a stern reminder that wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Hikers and campers should check up-to-date forecasts before entering the backcountry and always carry a flashlight, first aid kit, map and compass, extra food, plenty of water and clothing. Be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods and always inform others of your itinerary.

The Adirondack Almanack reports current outdoor recreation and trail conditions each Thursday evening. Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Conditions Report on Friday mornings on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1) and on the stations of North Country Public Radio. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Springfest Events Announced for Whiteface

There’s more than 160-inches of snow at Whiteface, in Wilmington, N.Y., and you know what that means. More great skiing and riding for the entire family well into March at the Olympic mountain, not to mention the longer days, more sunshine and warmer weather.

Celebration activities have been planned to welcome spring at Whiteface Mountain. the events kick off with Mardi Gras, March 5-6 when visitors can ski, ride, collect beads and enjoy food and drink specials and live music from the funk, R &B and soul group Jocamo at the Cloudspin Lounge.

Kids will have the chance to play in the snow with Curious George, March 4-6. The PBS character can be found at Kids Kampus each day and parents who enroll their children in a full day kids Kampus program with Curious George will receive a $20 discount off a one day lift ticket. More information about Curious George and the Whiteface Kids Kampus can be found online.

On March 12 and 13 Whiteface will celebrate St. Patty’s Day including Super Shamrock Sunday, March 13 when visitors can ski and ride all day for just $35 for adults, $30 for teens and $25 for juniors. Afterward there will be a party in the Cloudspin Lounge with live music by Trenchtown Oddities.

It’s Reggae Weekend, March 19-20, with music in the Cloudspin Lounge from the Big Take Over, Saturday, March 19, and the following weekend, March 26-27, it’s a Pirate Party at Whiteface, featuring music from Y Not Blue.

Every Wednesday it’s Coca-Cola Why Not Wednesday’s?, Present any empty Coca-Cola product and get a one-day adult lift ticket for only $38. Offer not valid with any other offers, programs, promotions, discounts, or frequent skier products. Limit one ticket per can.

There will be free mountain tours each Saturday and Sunday and on March 5, Lake Placid’s own Andrew Weibrecht, the 2010 Olympic Super G bronze medalist, will be at the mountain to sign autographs and pose for pictures.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Camping: Hang Your Food or Lose Your Lunch

Hanging food is one of the greatest annoyances while camping in the backcountry of the Adirondacks. It requires finding a suitable tree, locating an adequate rock, tying a rope onto the rock and making multiple throws attempting to hang the rope on a specific branch in a precise location. At any stage in the process a number of things can wrong requiring starting the whole process all over again.

Unfortunately, not hanging one’s food can easily result in losing all your meals and ruining an entire trip. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Adirondack Birds: The Crow

To the people that study birds, the crow is something of an enigma. While it is often regularly seen in the Adirondacks, its wary temperament makes close-up observations a challenge. Additionally, each crow’s individual pattern of behavior may be either slightly, or vastly different from that of the other members of its flock. This creates difficulty in developing general statements regarding the crow, such as what do crows do during the winter. In some ways, the crow is a bird that is more like a human than any other feathered creature.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Green Building Expert to Speak at Paul Smith’s

An expert in developing energy-efficient buildings will speak at Paul Smith’s College this Friday, Feb. 25, at 10:10 a.m.

Greg Pedrick, a project manager in the Building R&D Sector of the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA), will give a talk in the Pine Room of the Joan Weill Student Center. The event is free and open to the public.

Pedrick will discuss sustainable energy use and green construction, including residential construction techniques for both new and existing buildings.

Pedrick developed and runs NYSERDA’s Advanced Buildings Program, which focuses on the development and demonstration of high-performance residential buildings and helps the building industry incorporate those advances in the real world.

An engineer with more than 23 years of experience, Pedrick has designed and managed the construction of a high-efficiency, 1,600-square-foot timber-frame home in the Adirondacks. His recent work has focused on high-performance building shells and dehumidification systems that do not require compressors.

The talk is sponsored by the college’s Natural Resources Sustainability program and the School of Forestry and Natural Resources.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Adirondack Park Agency Issues Annual Report

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) has issued its 2010 Annual Report. The report summarizes yearly accomplishments and includes links to key documents such as the Citizen Guide, Jurisdictional Form, telecommunication sites, broadband coverage and Unit Management Plans. In addition, embedded in this year’s report is a link to the 2010 Agency Board Highlights. The Board Highlights link details Board activity, projects approved and presentations received. The Annual Report is available from the Agency’s website [pdf]. Information about the 2009 Annual Report can be found here.

During 2010, the Administration Division worked to meet budget mandates by reducing the work force. This was accomplished in part through retirements and the closure of both the Visitor Interpretive Centers.

The Economic Services Division participated in the review and approval of 42 projects which are believed to have retained or created jobs in the Park. In addition, staff coordinated with the Town of Brighton on reuse opportunities for the former Camp Gabriels prison site and provided guidance on the Lake Champlain Bridge project which expedited project approval.

Regulatory Programs staff issued 392 permits and processed 167 pre-application requests. 59 economic development and 28 cellular projects were approved. In addition, 73 general permits were issued. APA staff responded to the sudden closure of the Lake Champlain Bridge by issuing permits for bridge demolition, the development of a temporary ferry and the construction of the new tied-arch bridge. Regulatory Program staff helped develop new general permit applications for a change in use for existing commercial, public/semi-public or industrial buildings and the installation of new or replacement cellular equipment.

Planning staff worked with local governments such as the Towns of Westport and Tupper Lake which sought successfully sought planning map amendments. Planning staff also worked with the Towns of Crown Point, Essex and Bellmont on local planning and mapping initiatives. Staff prepared base maps for the Hamlets 3 Smart Growth project and assisted in the development of a Memorandum of Understanding between the APA and the Department of EEnvironmental Conservation (DEC) that defines a process for review of projects on lands in which the State owns a conservation easement.

Local Government Services staff responded to 570 inquiries from local officials on land use issues and participated in twenty-six meetings with town officials providing information on Agency jurisdiction and land use law. In addition, staff reviewed 99 variances from towns with approved local land use programs.

State land staff prepared four State land classification packages which were approved by the Governor in 2010. Actions included were the creation of a new Little Moose Mountain Wilderness Area, establishment of a new Intensive Use Camping Area in the Moose River Plains, and the reclassification of the fire towers on Hurricane and St. Regis Mountain to Historic. Staff also provided advice on five new unit management plans which were determined compliant with the SLMP by the Agency Board.

Resource Analysis and Scientific Services staff completed 271 wetland delineations, advised on 242 wetland jurisdictional determinations and evaluated 81 deep hole test pits. Staff conducted educational workshops on stormwater management and the impacts of invasive species.

Regulatory revision was a significant focus for Legal staff. During the year, staff implemented regulatory revisions related to boathouses. The Legal Division also continued to work on advancing three bills in the legislature: 1) to create a community housing incentive; 2) to create a local planning grant program; and 3) to streamline the Agency’s permit process and enable development rights transfer. Legal staff were also responsible for executing Executive Order 25, which required State agencies to conduct a review of their rules and regulations.

The Jurisdictional Inquiry Office wrote 856 jurisdictional determinations, (560 non-jurisdictional and 186 jurisdictional) handled 510 referrals from other agencies and answered nearly 4,820 general inquiry phone calls. The average response time for jurisdictional determinations was 16 days. In addition, staff processed 233 Freedom of Information requests.

Enforcement staff opened 380 cases and successfully closed 372 cases, including 189 signed settlement agreements and 112 cases closed with no violations. Ongoing outreach with code enforcement and local government officials has dramatically reduced the number of subdivision violations. In 2010, of the 98 subdivisions undertaken within the Park, only one resulted in a violation.

The mission of the Adirondack Park Agency is to protect the public and private resources of the Adirondack Park through the exercise of the powers and duties of the Agency as provided by law. For more information, call the APA at (518) 891-4050 or visit www.apa.state.ny.us.


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