The Friends of Poke-O-Moonshine have been working since 1997 to restore the fire tower and trails on that mountain. The group is a coalition of Adirondack Architectural Heritage, the town of Chesterfield, Champlain Area Trails (CATS), the Mountaineer, local summer camps and businesses, several Adirondack Mountain Club chapters, and hundreds of individuals who know and love the mountain.
The fire tower was fully restored as an interpretive site in 2005. Educational displays showcase fire-tower and local history and the land uses within the viewshed of the mountain. Since 2002, the Friends have employed tower stewards for the summer hiking season.
We have redeveloped the Ranger Trail as an interpretive trail with eleven numbered stops keyed to a brochure on the human and natural history of “Poke-O.” We also worked with the Adirondack Nature Conservancy to guarantee access to a second trail, the Observers’ Trail, which was the original vehicle route to the fire observer’s cabin below the summit. » Continue Reading.
The Open Space Institute has announced that a private landowner has donated a conservation easement that will protect a nearly 1,400-acre forest in the northeast corner of the Adirondack Park. The property borders the western shore of Butternut Pond and is bisected by several brooks, most of which feed into Auger Lake, which in turn empties into the Ausable River and eventually into Lake Champlain.
The parcel, a largely wooded Essex County tract owned by the Johanson family, buffers state lands, including Pokamoonshine Mountain, and sits within the viewshed of the historic firetower on the summit of Pokamoonshine, a popular destination for rock climbers, hikers and cross-country skiers. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Thursday, May 12, 2011 at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook, NY. This month’s meeting is one day only. The meeting will be webcast live online. Meeting materials are available for download from the Agency’s website.
The Full Agency will convene on Thursday morning at 9:00 for Executive Director Terry Martino’s report where she will brief the Board on monthly activities and accomplishments. At 9:30 a.m., Regulatory Programs Deputy Director Richard Weber will update the Board on the status of the Champlain Bridge project, telecommunication projects and the Agency’s emergency flood response. The Regulatory Programs Committee will then consider approving a shoreline setback variance and a second renewal for construction of structures in Resource Management and Rural Use lands. The Committee will also deliberate authorizing General Permit 2011G-2 which allows for the use of Herbicides for vegetative management around guide rails, signs and delineator posts adjacent to wetlands.
At 1:00, the Park Policy and Planning Committee will convene for a staff presentation that highlights the various Geographic Information System applications and services which staff diligently provides to local governments and other stakeholders in the Park. The Agency’s GIS and staff expertise is routinely used by municipalities in support of local land use planning efforts.
At 1:45, the Enforcement Committee will hear a second reading of the revised Civil Penalty Guidance. The guidance is intended to assist Agency staff in the determination of appropriate, fair civil penalties for violations. The committee will also discuss a new strategy to deal with violations related to older subdivisions of land.
At 2:30, Town of Chesterfield, Essex County Supervisor Gerald Morrow will provide the Community Spotlight with an overview of his Essex County community. Supervisor Morrow will discuss town accomplishments, opportunities and challenges ahead.
At 3:15, the Legal Affairs Committee will hear a report on legal guidance for the upcoming building season. Agency staff will review information flyers prepared for the general public that cover camping units in DOH-permitted private campgrounds, shoreline expansions and group camp principal buildings.
At 4:00, the Full Agency will assemble to take action as necessary and conclude with committee reports, public and member comment.
The June Agency is scheduled for June 9-10, 2011 at Agency headquarters in Ray Brook.
July Agency Meeting: July 14-15 at the Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters.
Untouched scenic vistas and natural landscapes are treasured in the Adirondacks. Seventy years ago, a popular landmark, since admired by millions, was nearly transformed into something far different from its present appearance.
It all began in 1937 with the editor of the Essex County Republican-News, C. F. Peterson. Formerly a Port Henry newspaperman, active in multiple civic organizations, and clearly pro-development and pro-North Country, Peterson was a force to be reckoned with.
Just how influential was he? The Champlain Bridge that was recently blasted into oblivion probably should have been named the Carl F. Peterson Bridge. In fact, efforts were made to do exactly that. Peterson originated the bridge idea, and as Vermont and New York debated whether to locate it at Ticonderoga, Crown Point, or Rouses Point, it was Peterson who put his all into promoting the Crown Point site. Still not convinced? This should help. At the grand opening of the bridge in 1929, Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt summoned him to the reviewing stand and said, “Peterson, you have done a great work. I am proud of what you did and you have every reason to be very happy. This is your bridge because, without your zeal, it is very doubtful whether it would be here. You sold the bridge to New York State and Vermont, both of which should, and do, feel grateful.”
When Peterson talked, people listened, and eight years later, when he urged the Essex County Board of Supervisors to action, they took him at his word. The 200th anniversary of the birth of New York State’s first governor, George Clinton, was approaching. To honor the occasion, Peterson pushed for an appropriately lasting memorial to an undeniably great American.
The board responded with a succinct message to state leaders: “The resolution requests the legislative body at Albany to name a commission for the observance next year, asking that the group should consider the feasibility of perpetuating the memory of Governor Clinton by the carving of his likeness on the side of Pok-o-Moonshine Mountain.”
Seeking support for his proposal, Peterson framed the idea in patriotic terms, and it worked like a charm. Among the first to jump on the bandwagon was Senator Benjamin Feinberg of Clinton County (the library at Plattsburgh State -— Feinberg Library -— was named in his honor).
A man of great power and influence, Feinberg wrote this in a letter to Peterson: “Your suggestion … is a good one. Undoubtedly, some action will be taken by the Legislature to fittingly observe this anniversary, and I shall be glad to aid in carrying out such a plan. The carving of the likeness of Governor Clinton on the side of Pok-o-Moonshine would not only be a great attraction to visitors, but would commemorate the birth of the first Governor of the state in a magnificent manner.”
With Feinberg on board, the idea gained momentum. Soon the Essex County branch of the American Legion adopted a resolution in support of the memorial. The idea also received the unanimous backing of the Adirondack Resorts Association.
After all, it sounded like a great cause and a fine way to express patriotism. Widespread approval was expected, and it didn’t hurt that the idea coincided with the pending completion of a national monument—the one on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.
An editorial by the Plattsburgh Daily Press added this supportive comment: “We can think of no son of the State who has deserved better from the hands of the people, and it is sincerely to be hoped that the Legislature will show its recognition of this by providing for this statue on rugged old Pok-o-Moonshine Mountain.”
The gung-ho beginning preceded a period of thoughtful consideration; then, dissent began to surface. In January 1938, a Ticonderoga organization passed their own resolution, stating in part: “ … it is the considered opinion of the Ticonderoga Kiwanis Club that the forests, streams, lakes, and mountains of Essex County constitute the county’s greatest asset … and that unnecessary artificial alteration of the natural state of these resources irreparably diminishes their value to our citizens … Be it hereby resolved that the Ticonderoga Kiwanis Club is unalterably opposed to the said requested legislation and to any attempt to alter or deface the natural beauty of Pok-o-Moonshine Mountain…”
The letter was sent to several officials, including Governor Lehman and Senator Feinberg. The Kiwanis were soon joined by Ti’s Chamber of Commerce, the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the Keene Valley Garden Club. All supported the observance of Clinton’s birthday, but opposed the altering of Poko’s steep cliffs. One alternative proposal was a “super-improved highway through this region, to be known as the Governor Clinton Memorial Highway.”
Though many protests against the plan had surfaced, the danger to Pok-o-Moonshine was real. In March, among the final rush of bills passed by the legislature was the Feinberg-Leahy bill (by Feinberg and Assemblyman Thomas Leahy of Lake Placid). It called for a $5,000 funding package to prepare a celebration in Clinton’s memory.
With the state and the nation still struggling to recover from the Great Depression, many bills were vetoed, and that same fate befell Feinberg-Leahy. In April, Governor Lehman vetoed a second bill “designed to bring about the carving of a memorial to Governor George Clinton, the state’s first chief executive, on the face of Pok-o-Moonshine Mountain in Essex County.” Supporters were disappointed, certain the carving would have been a great tourist attraction.
No one in opposition was suggesting Governor Clinton wasn’t worthy of such honor. He was widely revered as one of the state’s greatest citizens. After serving under his father in the French and Indian War, George Clinton practiced law and held various public offices. A staunch defender of the colonial cause for independence, he was selected as a member of the Second Continental Congress.
Clinton voted in favor of the Declaration of Independence, but missed the signing, and for good reason, having been urgently dispatched to serve as brigadier-general of the militia by his good friend, George Washington (so good, he named his children George and Martha).
Clinton saw action at White Plains and other locations. He eventually served as governor of New York for 18 consecutive years, and 22 years in all, the longest of any New York governors. He was vice-president under Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, one of only two vice-presidents to serve under two different presidents. He also became the first vice-president to die in office, succumbing to a heart attack in 1812.
Perhaps the governor’s carved likeness would have been a great tourist attraction, but Poko today gets plenty of attention for other reasons: spectacular cliffs clearly visible from Interstate 87; its peregrine falcon nests; the climbing trail leading to magnificent views; the preserved fire tower; and a reputation as one of the most popular rock-climbing sites in the Adirondacks.
Photo Above: The cliffs of Pok-O-Moonshine.
Photo Below: NYS Governor George Clinton.
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.
The recent collapse of the bridge spanning the Mississippi River at Minneapolis brought to mind the tragic history of similar events in the Adirondacks.
Workers building the historic Stone Arch Bridge (photo above from the late 1800s) over the Ausable River in Keeseville had a close call in 1842. The bridge of native stone, believed at the time to be the largest such bridge in the country, was being built to replace the original wooden structure erected in 1805. The men had completed the first course of stone including the keystones and had nearly finished the second course when a violent storm blew in. Just as more then 30 men fled the storm’s heavy rain to a wooden shed on the bank of the river the entire bridge collapsed into the Ausable with a thunderous crash. The tremendous crash was said to have shaken buildings as far away as Port Kent.
Delays in the construction of the bridge caused by the collapse inadvertently caused a more tragic accident that same year. On local militia “muster day,” September 13, 1842, the unfinished bridge caused the Essex County militia to cross a smaller swinging bridge (supported by chains) nearby. The bridge was filled with bystanders as they marched across in lock step. It’s believed the overloaded bridge combined with the stamping feet of the marchers caused the bridge to collapse into the churning river below. Local newspapers reported that nine people were drowned, and four later died of exposure. Two boys, Richard Pope and Richard Peabody, were swept over a nearby dam with their arms around each other and were among those drowned.
A similar accident twice befell the men building what was then longest bridge in the world (3,239 feet) over the St. Lawrence River at Quebec. As one of the enormous spans was being raised from pontoons, it gave way and crashed into the river taking with it fifty men. Observers said the central span, weighing more than 5,000 tons, buckled at the center before it fell. At least five were killed. The accident occurred in 1916, but just nine years before a similar accident on the same bridge killed 70.In the spring of 1931 the Whallonsburg bridge, which carried much of the Albany-Montreal traffic over the Bouquet River in Essex County, collapsed while Robert O’Neil of Willsboro was crossing. O’Neil’s car fell nearly twelve feet but he escaped uninjured. The bridge’s steel trusses slipped from one of its abutments. The next day four boys were sitting on the railing of the wrecked bridge when it gave way and they went into the water. Kenneth McDougall was knocked unconscious from a serious head injury but the others escaped relatively unharmed. The photo at right shows the new abutments, made of rough quartzite from Champlain Stone.The 1842 Chain Bridge Collapse ranks among the deadliest accidents ever in the Adirondack region. Read more about the others here.
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