Coming to the Adirondacks as a visitor for a week at a time, it felt as if I was always rushing to a trailhead or a boat launch or a fishing hole. I rigorously, almost militarily, mapped out my schedule to include hikes that must be completed and waterways that must be paddled, and heaven forbid that anything should get in the way of these forced, forested marches.
You miss a lot that way. For example, on each trip to the Upper Works for a crack at peaks like Marshall and Cliff, I would drive Blue Ridge Road from the Northway toward Newcomb without noticing its splendid array of creeks, waterfalls and feathery green tamaracks.
The state intends to break ground this spring for an enlarged Adirondack Welcome Center along the northbound lanes of Northway (I-87) just south of Glens Falls. The work will add to an existing rest area just south of Exit 18 near Big Boom Road and Hudson River Park. People driving north reach the rest area just after crossing the Hudson River into Warren County.
The expanded center is expected to have kiosks, photographs of the Adirondack Park, an electric-vehicle charging station, a market selling local food and beverages, and a boat-wash station for removing invasive species. It is scheduled for completion late this year or in early 2018.
An article in the Post Star on July 16 by reporter Amanda May Metzger announced that the Zip-flyer, the thrill ride from the top of French Mountain in Queensbury-Lake George, has received its final Town of Queensbury approvals.
The 900-foot ride on three inch steel cables running down a 35-50 foot wide swath cut on the north face of French Mountain at the very entrance of the Adirondack Park has been controversial from the moment it was proposed. Adirondack Wild asked the NYS Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to convene a public hearing on the project because only through a hearing could all the impacts and viable alternative routes for the Zip-Flyer be discussed comprehensively and openly. APA Staff did not recommend a hearing, and APA members, to my memory, did not even raise the possibility of a hearing. Adirondack Wild strongly disagreed with the APA’s decision in March to issue a permit in the absence of a hearing. Several actual or anticipated project impacts, including visual impacts along State Route 9, loss of the scenic values and hiking opportunities on the summit, consistency with the area’s Rural Use classification and Towers Policy, and rigorous analysis of alternatives, among others, went largely unaddressed in the APA’s discussion and permit conditions. » Continue Reading.
The 1924 sign law that effectively banned billboards throughout the Adirondack Park shows how our forbearers were braver, wiser, and more prescient than we are today.
It was a bold decision that resulted, by some accounts, in the removal of over 1,400 billboards. In the Adirondack Park this law largely prevented an assault of rooftop and roadside billboards that dominate broad stretches of the U.S. – the cluttered strips of Anywhere USA. » Continue Reading.
After publishing “Robert Moses and the Lake George Park Commission” in this space a couple of months ago, several people asked me to explain a reference I had made in that piece to a proposed Adirondack Park-wide authority or commission modeled upon the original Lake George Park Commission.
It’s not surprising that few people remember it. After the legislative session of 1964, the enabling legislation was shelved, and by 1967, the public’s attention had shifted to Laurence Rockefeller’s proposal for an Adirondack National Park and later, to Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s Temporary Study Commission on the Future of the Adirondacks and its most important recommendation, the formation of an Adirondack Park Agency. » Continue Reading.
Recently I was asked to present a talk about the life and careers of Paul Schaefer, the 20th century Adirondack conservation coalition leader. The location for my talk was Niskayuna, where beginning in the late 1920s into the early 1980s Paul built and restored hundreds of homes, including his own, out of natural, recycled materials – stone, slate and timbers from old buildings then facing the wrecking ball. The host for the lecture was the Niskayuna Town Historian, fitting because Paul was also intensely interested by American history.
A healthy collection of American Heritage can be found on the shelves of his Adirondack cabin. During my talk I mentioned that Paul and his siblings, growing up after 1910, were constantly outside, and among their outdoor pursuits were days exploring for arrowheads and other implements of the Mohawk, a member of the Great League of the Haudenosaunee. I then described the outlines of Paul’s remarkably successful career defending and extending the wilderness of the Adirondacks, from its wild rivers, to its highest peaks and the wildlife rich valleys threatened from inundation by large dams. Some of this history is found in Paul’s first book, Defending the Wilderness (1989, Syracuse University Press). » Continue Reading.
Seven people were ticketed for transporting firewood more than 50 miles without certification of heat treatment at three checkpoints held by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Police in the Adirondacks on Friday, August 17.
“DEC and its partners continue to educate campers and others about the importance of the firewood transportation regulation and preventing the spread of invasive insects,” said DEC Regional Director Robert Stegemann. “The level of compliance with the regulation indicates that the public is getting the message. We must make every effort to protect the forest preserve and private woodlands in the Adirondacks from invasive insects, including enforcement of the regulation for those who don’t comply.” » Continue Reading.
The Lake George Association (LGA) has announced the completion of a project to build a new sediment basin at the mouth of English Brook, one of the eight major streams entering Lake George. Tropical Storm Irene changed the route of the brook near its mouth, returning the stream to the path it took 50 years ago, prior to the construction of the Adirodnack Northway.
English Brook has been of high concern for over a decade. Land development in the watershed has increased the volume and velocity of stormwater runoff, leading to increased pollution entering the brook and creating one of the largest deltas on the Lake. English Brook has high levels of total phosphorus, chlorides, total suspended sediments, lead and nitrate-nitrogen. The new basin is expected to slow the flow of water and allow sediment to fall out prior to entering the Lake. The basin is expected to be cleaned out every one to two years, when it reaches about 50-75% capacity. Each time it is cleaned out, roughly 300-400 cubic yards of material is expected to be removed.
The 150-foot long sediment basin was designed by the Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District (WCSWCD) with financial assistance from the LGA.
English Brook is located just north of Lake George Village at the Lochlea Estate. Earlier this summer, the LGA installed a $49,500 Aqua-Swirl stormwater separator on the property, as part of a $100,000 stormwater project. This system is collecting previously untreated stormwater runoff from both the east and west sides of Rt. 9N, as well as the bridge between the two exits at Exit 22 on Interstate 87. The majority of the runoff in a 48-acre subwatershed is now being captured and treated.
Now that much of the upland work is complete, lake advocates believe the final step should be the removal of the sediment that has built up in the delta over the course of generations. The nutrient-rich sediment in deltas supports invasive plant growth, hampers fish spawning, harbors nuisance waterfowl, impedes navigation and property values have been reduced.
Photo: The new sediment pond at English Brook. Courtesy LGA.
Roger Tubby died twenty years ago, in January, 1991, at the age of eighty. In Saranac Lake, if not the entire Adirondack region, people should be celebrating the centennial of his birth. If anyone wonders why, I hope this tribute to Tubby which I wrote for the Lake George Mirror in 1998 will help.
The Harrietstown Cemetery near Saranac Lake is a sloping meadow overlooking the Whiteface and Sentinel Ranges. My wife’s great-grandparents, who farmed nearby, are buried here. As we walk among the rows of headstones, we come upon one which is, if anything, more modest than its austere neighbors. Engraved in the stone are these words: “Ad Astra per Aspera.” Reach for the stars. This is the grave of Roger Tubby. “Ad Astra per Aspera” was Roger Tubby’s motto from youth onward. “At least I got close to some of the stars, earthbound, and even counseled one of them, President Kennedy, to reach for the moon, and beyond,” he once wrote to friends. Quite true, of course. He served, at various times and in a variety of capacities, Presidents Truman and Johnson, Governors Harriman and Carey, and candidate Adlai Stevenson, as well as John F. Kennedy,who appointed him U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations at Geneva. (And for years afterward it was the custom of his friends, if they happened to meet him if the street or in the hardware store, to call out, “Good morning, Mr. Ambassador!”)
Roger Tubby himself may have sometimes doubted that he reached the stars. As a young man, he wanted to be president, or at the very least a senator. But reach them he did, and not because he was an adviser to princes – powerful as that position may be. His greatest achievement may well have been his life in the north country. When he moved to Saranac Lake, he was aware that he was choosing not just a place to live but a way of life. As he himself once said, “I came up here because I wanted to live in an area, a society, where the individual still does have some personal responsibility and can still contribute to the community.”
I cannot claim to have known Roger Tubby well. He was a man of my parent’s generation, and their friend. Even as a teenager, however, I enjoyed talking to him, and because he enjoyed talking to younger people, he was a favorite of his friends’ children. Much of what I know about him comes from those conversations.
Roger Tubby, his wife Ann and their children moved to Saranac Lake from Washington in 1953. With the encouragement and perhaps at the suggestion of Adirondack writer William Chapman White, he and his friend Jim Loeb had just purchased the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. Before that, Tubby had been President Truman’s Press Secretary. After Eisenhower’s inauguration, he accompanied Truman back to Missouri. The President asked him to stay on there as his aide. Tubby declined. “I wanted to be independent,” he said.
When Tubby and Loeb began publishing the Enterprise, the north country was in the midst of one of its frequent depressions. “I thought we needed to work with other communities to bring things around,” Tubby recalled. “It seemed to me that promotion had been carried out in such a piecemeal way – village by village, resort by resort.” With the help of people like Nate Proller of Warren County, Tubby established the Adirondack Park Association, known today as the Adirondack North Country Association, or ANCA – a fourteen-county association whose primary mission is to create jobs in the Adirondacks.
The Association supported the construction of Gore Mountain Ski Center, the Prospect Mountain Highway, and, most notably, the Adirondack Northway.
“I was accused of being on both sides of the fence, because on one hand, I wanted to keep suburban sprawl from entering the Adirondacks, and, on the other, I felt that the Northway would fulfill our industries’ need for better roads and open the area to year-round tourism,” said Tubby.
He was elected chairman of a state-wide committee appointed to secure passage of a constitutional amendment authorizing the state to build the highway across Forest Preserve lands. Had the referendum failed, the Northway would have been built east of Lake George and along the shore of Lake Champlain. Tubby’s experience as a newspaperman and a press officer was put to good use. He organized public hearings, developed an advertising campaign and sent out press releases; he mobilized the local chambers of commerce and calmed the fears of the conservationists, many of who were initially opposed to the Adirondack route. Due in no small part to Tubby’s efforts, the amendment was approved by a majority of New Yorkers.
Tubby once said, “If we can have a decent level of employment here, or in any small town, there are real living rewards.”
One of the rewards of living in a small town, Tubby discovered, was that being useful to his neighbors could be as gratifying as serving his nation. “There’s much joy in being engaged with all sorts of people on all sorts of projects: joy in being intrigued or challenged by new ventures,” he said. If the performance of civic duty turned out to be a pleasure, it was a noble pleasure.
In one of our last conversations, when I was in graduate school, a story about a long-time town supervisor led Mr. Tubby to recall an essay by G. K. Chesterton, from which I quote:
“The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world. He knows much more of the fierce varieties and uncompromising divergences of men. The reason is obvious. In a large community, we choose our companions. In a small community our companions are chosen for us.”
Roger Tubby may have found his greatest reward in the companions his small town chose for him. He knew the French-Canadian logger, the Calvinist farmer, the merchant, the town supervisors. He knew them, grew fond of them, and became their loyal friend.They returned the compliment.
The village of Saranac Lake has dedicated a park in Roger Tubby’s memory. At least his name will live on. I hope that his example will, too; for it teaches us that small town life, far from being a substitute for life in the capitals, is a life worth choosing for its own sake. Roger Tubby appears to have thought it the best life possible.
For more news and commentary from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror or visit lakegeorgemirrormagazine.com Photos: Tubby with President Harry Truman in 1952, when he was Truman’s press secretary; below, Tubby (left) with Adlai Stevenson in 1956.
The signing of an important conservation easement last week protecting a large percentage of the former Finch, Pruyn lands reminds me of a visit I paid to Paul Schaefer in March, 1990. At that time, Governor Mario Cuomo had proposed an Environmental Bond Act, which required legislative approval before going to the voters (it was ultimately voted down). How was the bond act being received in the legislature, Paul asked. I gave him the news that it was having a rough reception politically. Paul remained optimistic. The bond act was important because it would permit the purchase of conservation easements in the Adirondacks, and that should be enough to tip public support in its favor, he felt.
Later that year, Paul formed Sportsmen for the Bond Act. It was one of many highly focused organizations he created in his lifetime. This effort, one of the last he personally led, revealed an evolution in Schaefer’s approach to Park conservation. Since 1930, Paul had fought for any appropriation that would add more Forest Preserve, public land protected as “forever wild” by Article 14 of the NYS Constitution that would eventually be classified wild forest or wilderness. He persuaded many organized hunters to support his wilderness philosophy. But he also came to believe that many private holdings in the Park should be available for active forest management, which he viewed as complimentary, both ecologically and aesthetically, to adjacent “forever wild” Forest Preserve. » Continue Reading.
The official I Love New York Gateway Welcome Information Center, located near the Canadian border in Beekmantown, is closed to the public until further notice; another victim of New York State’s budget crisis.
Operated by the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council (ARTC) with funding from the State since it opened in 1991, the Center has welcomed millions of visitors to the Adirondack Region and New York State. Funding for the Center was eliminated from the State’s 2010 budget, and the ARTC can no longer afford to operate the facility, according to ARTC Executive Director Ron Ofner. With the favorable Canadian currency exchange rate, visitors from Canada have been heading south in record numbers, Ofner said. “It’s certainly frustrating that no one will be at the center to help direct visitors to Adirondack destinations,” Ofner added. “Instead of pointing people to Plattsburgh, Lake Placid, and Lake George, visitors will pass through the region, and we miss the opportunity to have them stop and spend money in our area.”
Ofner remains optimistic that the Center will be able to provide services to visitors to New York State again in the near future.
“It’s a question of priorities, and obviously, keeping the Center open has not been a priority for the State at this time.” According to Ofner, some funding for the Center is making its way through the system, though when it will arrive is unknown.
By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities™ Driving to and past Lake George on Route I-87 I’ve often wondered where the footbridge crossing over the Northway leads. There are always signs or flags hanging over or people waving as we pass underneath. After being able to spend a day in Lake George, we discover the footbridge is one start to Prospect Mountain.
We’ve been told the 1.5-mile trail is steep and can be difficult. We are only wearing sneakers but decide it is worth the attempt if to only cross the footbridge. I am terrified. My children skip across as if huge trucks were not speeding beneath their feet. They gesture to the drivers to beep their horns. They finally look back, realize I am not following and come back to retrieve me. The path is relatively steep and follows the old Incline Railway that had been used for guests to reach the once thriving Prospect Mountain Inn. The Inn was destroyed by fire, twice. Now all that remains are pictures, a partial fireplace and the cable gears.
The hiking trail follows the railway lines. No remnants remain as any usable metals were removed and repurposed during World War I. The trench that remains is rocky and wet. The slightest rain can cause a washout so we end up skirting the gully for higher ground. We cross the toll road twice before reaching the summit.
Hiking in the fall can be tricky. Fallen leaves can hide ice making for a slippery path. Be cautious. Everyone should be familiar with his/her own comfort level. I had read reports that this trail is not suitable for children of all ages. My seven and ten-year-old had no difficulties. Their only complaint was a desperate need to grill hot dogs at the summit.
For those not wishing to walk, from May – October the Prospect Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway is open for an $8 per car fee. There are three designated stops along the 5.5-mile drive to pull over and enjoy the view. Once on top picnic tables, grills and bathrooms (in season) are available.
For us, we climb to the summit arriving on a platform that used to house part of the Prospect Mountain Inn. My family does not wait for me to start exploring the various levels and sights.
A beautiful view of Lake George is to the east with Vermont visible in the distance. The Adirondack High Peaks are off toward the northwest. Some visitors say you can see New Hampshire on a clear day.
To get to Prospect Mountain from Route 9, turn west onto Montcalm Street and continue to the end. One entrance to the trail starts here. This short path has information regarding the funicular railway and other fun facts. Walk this brief path to Smith Street, turn south and walk on the street for about 200’ to a metal staircase that marks the highway overpass. There is some parking on Smith Street near the staircase. The trailhead register is on the west side of I-87. Happy Thanksgiving!
The Adirondacks is prone to powerful windstorms, isolated tornadoes, and occasional hurricanes, derechos, and microbursts. The second most destructive of these in modern Adirondack history (next to the 1998 Ice Storm) occurred in November, 1950.
The Big Blowdown brought heavy rains and winds in excess of 100 mph. In a single day – November 25th – more than 800,000 acres of timber was heavily damaged. The storm caused a complete shutdown of the roads and trails across large swaths of the park, a historic suspension of the State Constitution, a temporary glut in the spruce market, and a political impact that continues to this day. » Continue Reading.
They call it “Crazy Corners” or “Spaghetti Junction” or “Dysfunction Junction.”
For years I’ve driven through the unique, bizarre intersection at Routes 9 and 73 in New Russia, a hamlet of Elizabethtown. For years, I’ve wondered: who on earth designed this crazy confluence, and why?
Today, the route gets about 3,200 vehicles per day, according to the state Department of Transportation, many of which are occupied by hikers, climbers or skiers heading to the High Peaks.
Those who see it for the first time are usually, at least, surprised. When Route 73 hits Route 9, the lanes split off in separate directions, crossing each other in a crazed and seemingly random pattern before coming together again. Even after driving through it for 20 years, I still get confused about where to look for oncoming traffic.
After another surreal experience driving through Dysfunction Junction recently, I decided to investigate. Whose idea was this, anyway, and what’s the point?
My first stop was Peter VanKeuren, public information officer for the state Department of Transportation in Albany. After a little research, he explained that the intersection was built in 1958, using a design that has been instituted (with slightly variations) in other areas, such as Cairo down in the Catskills. That was already news to me, because I always thought it had something to do with preparations for the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid.
According to an engineering book at the time, the design is a “bulb type-T intersection” that “favors the heavier right-turn movement from the upper to the lower left leg of the intersection. Sight distances are excellent and approach speeds are approximately 40 miles per hour.”
VanKeuren, however, was unable to explain why this intersection was chosen for this spot. The Cairo intersection, which I’ve driven through on numerous occasions, involves lanes that are already divided, so it’s less jarring. The New Russia intersection, on the other hand, is just a simple, two-lane country road.
A conversation with Conrad “Connie” Hutchins, historian for E-Town, shed some more light.
The intersection, he reminded me, was built long before the Northway, which was wasn’t completed until the late 1960s. Of course!
Before the Northway, Route 9 was the main artery between Albany and Montreal. The road was filled with motels and restaurants to accommodate the traffic. And the previous intersection — a simple stop sign — would occasionally back up with cars, according to locals alive at the time.
“Route 9 was busy,” Hutchins said of the time. “It would be a real mess if we had the traffic now that we had then.”
Taking that into account, this intersection makes sense for the time. The design allows Route 9 traffic to flow through without stopping, while anyone continuing on 73 would have to wait. Nowadays, they’d probably throw in a roundabout instead, but in the 1950s such an idea would have been seen as so foreign.
At the time the intersection opened, locals didn’t really take much notice of it, said Nancy Doyle, whose husband Walter worked on its construction. “If you follow the signs, it’s no big deal,” she said.
Calvin Wrisley, 61, a lifelong resident of the town, says he doesn’t remember any bad accidents occurring there. “I think it’s fairly safe.”
Of course, now the intersection makes less sense. Most traffic is heading not northeast on Route 9, but northwest on 73 — especially on weekends. And today’s drivers, used to traffic circles and traffic lights, are often flummoxed when they are confronted with this intersection for the first time.
Looking back, the choice certainly seems at least a bit short-sighted. After all, plans for the Northway were already underway when this intersection was being constructed. Did no one think: “Hey, when the Northway opens, traffic on Route 9 will be totally different…”
Still, if it’s any consolation, the state won’t be using this design anymore. Not because it’s unsafe or, yes, dysfunctional. But for another reason, says VanKeuren: it takes up too much space.
Plans are afoot for a large hotel on the shores of Schroon Lake in Essex County, according to the project’s manager Joel J. Friedman of Friedman Realty in Schroon Lake. “Over the next few months we will be refining the project,” Friedman told the Almanack via e-mail, “a final version of the exterior and landscape plan is a month or two away.” The hotel, which is to be located on Route 9 a half-mile south of Schroon Lake Village, is expected to include approximately 81 rooms and suites, meeting rooms, an indoor pool and fitness center. The project’s developers hope to begin construction this spring or summer but, Friedman said, “In this economy that may or may not happen; we will know more in one to two months.” The entity that hopes to build the hotel, Schroon Revitalization Group, LLC- Schroon Lake Hospitality, was awarded $975,000 in October 2009 from the Upstate Regional Blueprint Fund designed to revitalize New York’s Upstate economy. The $120 million Fund, announced by Governor David Paterson in May 2009, “supports projects that help provide a framework for future growth in regions with stymied development,” according to a press release from the Governor’s office. “This first round of funding finances business investment, infrastructure upgrades and downtown redevelopment.”
Over the past several decades, in part due to the construction of the Adirondack Northway (I-87) which diverted north-south traffic from Route 9, Schroon Lake has lost most of it’s tourist accommodations. Friedman however, cites “the dramatic increase in the value of waterfront and real estate properties,” as the root cause, “further exacerbated by a lack of investment into the existing motel stock by some folks over the past few decades.”
“In a small community like Schroon Lake,” Friedman told the Almanack, “it is the churn of tourist dollars that is the key to keeping these [main street Schroon Lake Village] businesses successful.” “It is projected that this hotel will provide almost 20,000 tourist nights,” he added, “that alone will have a significant impact to Schroon’s and our neighboring communities’ economies.”
A number of studies since the 1970s have argued for the need for improved lodging facilities in Schroon Lake including the Town of Schroon’s 1977 Comprehensive Plan (produced by Environmental Consulting Groups, Inc.) and an Adirondack Park Agency (APA) study prepared for the town that same year. The APA study concluded that the town should “Make provisions for the continued growth of commercial recreation by such means as taking steps to extend the recreational season by providing other activities and encouraging a major chain to locate a motel in Schroon.”
Local critics of the plan have noted that Schroon Revitalization Group, LLC- Schroon Lake Hospitality is not listed in the NYS Division of Corporations index of corporations and business entities. This is not uncommon for new projects according to Friedman who said that the LLC’s name was filed in December and it’s Articles of Incorporation were filed early this year. The principles of the corporation are David & Jane Kaufman and Roger & Joel Friedman.
Photo: Proposed Schroon Lake Hotel, photo provided by developers.
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