Posts Tagged ‘DEC’

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pending Adirondack Related State Budget Items

Here is an e-mail recently received from the Adirondack Council’s John Sheehan outlining the pending Adirondacks related budget deals. According to Sheehan, this is the “Environmental Conservation budget plan agreed to by Legislative leaders, which is in the process of being passed by both houses. The Governor is expected to sign the bills.” At least some time soon, the budget is now a week late.

The big news for us is that it looks like the the money is available to finish the (Pataki initiated) Domtar land purchase, the Lake George West Brook money didn’t make it, but money to study the impacts of road salt did.

The Almanack reported in January Spitzer’s budget proposals relating to the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 24, 2008

$1 Million Awarded to 18 Adirondack Projects

Here is a press release that just arrived from Governor Patterson’s Office. The projects include wireless, historic preservation, affordable housing, tourism, beautification, and more.

GOVERNOR PATERSON ANNOUNCES SMART GROWTH GRANTS FOR ADIRONDACK PARK COMMUNITIES

Projects Link Sustainable Development, Environmental Protection and Community Livability

Governor David A. Paterson and Commissioner of Environmental Conservation Pete Grannis today announced “smart growth grants” for Adirondack communities to help counties, towns, villages and their partner organizations develop plans that link sustainable development, environmental protection and community livability.

A total of $1 million will be awarded to 18 projects – ranging from one proposing a new life for the Indian Lake Theater to another designing a better wireless communication network across the Adirondack Park. The initiative, announced last July, proved so popular that the DEC received more than $3 million worth of proposals from around the Park. The grants relate to a mix of local, regional and park-wide projects.

“The Adirondack Park is a unique American treasure, a special place for residents and the millions who visit each year,” said Governor David A. Paterson. “The Park serves as a model for how to merge environmental sensitivity with the pressing needs of development and expansion. By providing local planning assistance, we hope to meet the challenge of developing sustainable communities while protecting natural resources.”

“This program is dedicated to the belief that sustainable development and environmental protection go hand-in-hand,” said Commissioner Grannis. “Safeguarding the assets of the forest preserve and fostering sustainable development and a good quality of life for residents throughout the Park is in everyone’s best interest. This initiative provides the local planning assistance needed to accomplish both. The overwhelming response demonstrates the program struck a chord with Adirondack Park communities.”

Smart growth is sensible, planned growth that balances the need for economic development with concerns about quality-of-life, such as preserving the natural and built environment. Smart growth is also becoming a useful tool to attract businesses that value community quality-of-life.

The 2007-08 Environmental Protection Fund included $2 million in grants to promote smart growth initiatives; $1 million was earmarked for the Adirondacks. Smart growth can be useful in addressing land-use issues facing rural communities – workforce housing, aging infrastructure, water quality, economic development, open space protection and village/hamlet revitalization.

The grant winners include 12 projects that address local issues, four that are regional in nature and two that are park-wide in impact.

The grants include:

– $106,971 to the Town of Saranac to develop the “Wireless Clearinghouse” project to create a comprehensive plan for identifying potential structures for telecommunications infrastructure to bolster wireless networks in the Park. The State University of New York at Plattsburgh and the Adirondack North Country Association will assist the Town;

– $100,000 to the Town of Tupper Lake to produce a “Community Development Priorities” plan. Part of the plan includes developing a “visual identity” for the Town and Village of Tupper Lake, and concept designs for streetscape and waterfront projects;

– $42,600 to the Town of Indian Lake to plan the re-opening of the Indian Lake Theater. The 250-seat, Main Street venue has been closed for more than a year. Local officials want to explore re-opening the facility as a year-round community stage and screen, offering films and musical and theatrical performances, and a public space for schools, libraries and other organizations for meetings, lectures and seminars;

– $100,000 to Essex County to create an “Essex County Destination Master Plan” that will focus on communities beyond Lake Placid. It will explore opportunities to take advantage of recreational and natural resources in an economically sustainable way in locales such as Moriah, North Elba, Schroon Lake, Ticonderoga and Wilmington;

– $50,000 to the Town of Wilmington to conduct feasibility studies for a community center, municipal offices, historical society building and a fly fishing museum; and

– $35,000 to the Town of Chester to make plans for retaining existing affordable housing and establishing new affordable housing opportunities for working families.

Senator Betty Little said: “Balancing stewardship of the environment with the economic, housing and infrastructure needs of our Adirondack villages, towns and counties is critically important. I am pleased to see this partnership between the State and our local governments. I want to thank Commissioner Grannis for spearheading this initiative and congratulate the recipients for their successful applications.”

Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward said: “I applaud Commissioner Grannis and the DEC for addressing the needs of the North Country. These grants as well as collaboration among State and local officials, business leaders and concerned citizens are a good step toward a balanced approach to our economic development while sustaining the character of the Adirondack region.”

Assemblywoman Janet Duprey said: “I am pleased DEC has recognized the unique issues facing municipalities within the Adirondack Park. I congratulate the local governments that have been awarded smart-growth funding and look forward to working with these communities as they complete these projects. The large number of competitors for the grants points out the struggles facing Adirondack Park municipalities, and I encourage Commissioner Grannis and DEC to continue this competitive grant program.”

Adirondack Park Agency Chairman Curt Stiles said: “We were impressed by the innovative and comprehensive grant applications that were submitted by Adirondack municipalities. We extend our congratulations to the grantees and look forward to the successful implementation of their plans. This was a very competitive grant program and demonstrated a strong need for future support. Partnering with local governments and State agencies enables smart growth through synergy and shared values, and makes for stronger communities.”

Upstate Empire State Development Corporation Chairman Dan Gundersen said: “I look forward to seeing these projects enhance and shape the Adirondack communities in a way that invites economic development that is compatible with the Adirondack’s natural environment.”

Secretary of State Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez said: “The Adirondack smart-growth initiative represents a model for inter-agency and inter-governmental collaboration on some critical challenges and opportunities in the Adirondacks. With these grants, the State and the individual Adirondack communities have demonstrated an impressive commitment to economic and environmental sustainability in the region.”

Brian L. Houseal, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council, said: “It was a great pleasure to stand with Commissioner Grannis last summer as he announced in Lake George that half of the State’s smart growth grants would be awarded to communities and organizations in the Adirondack Park. Sound planning is a wise investment for municipalities, and it helps preserve open space, natural beauty, water quality, and wildlife habitat.”

Established in 1892, the Adirondack Park features world-class natural and cultural resources, including the Nation’s only constitutionally-protected wild forest lands. In contrast to America’s national parks in which no one resides, the Adirondack Park is home to 130,000 full-time residents and hundreds of businesses whose future depends on continued protection of the natural resources and a sustainable economy.

Many Adirondack communities lack the resources to comprehensively address the land-use challenges before them. The smart-growth grants program will provide communities with technical capabilities necessary to plan for the future.


Friday, February 29, 2008

Adirondack Snowmobiling: Resources, Conditions, and Controversy

This winter, after a number of years of lackluster snow conditions, Adirondack snowmobiling has once again made a resurgence. Here are a few things about Adirondack snowmobiling you should know:

Snowmobile Trails
The Adirondacks are criss-crossed by hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails. A free Adirondack Snowmobile Trail Map is available here. Trailsource is also an excellent resource for New York State snowmobile trails.

Snowmobile Conditions
Conditions throughout the region vary depending on elevation, nearness to large lakes, and latitude.

Current Northeast Snow Depths

Snowmobile Online Resources
Snowmobile forums offer sled fanatics discussions of videos, people offering sleds or parts for sale and other classifieds, snow tech, snowmobile politics, vintage snowmobiles, and any number of topics related to sledding. Some of the more popular are:

Trail Conditions.com
Snowmobile Forum
Snowmobile Fanatics
Net Sleds
Snowmobile World

Snowmobile History
Our post on the history of snowmobiling in the Adirondacks tracks the development of the snowmobile (or more generally, motorized snow travel) from the emergence of snow machines in the early 1900s, through the development of the personal sled that is so familiar today. The five part history continues into the explosion of makes and models and the spread of snowmobiling throughout the Adirondack region with races, clubs, and dealers taking advantage of the boon in snowmobile sales that occurred from 1965 to 1970. It concludes with the emerging conflicts over snowmobiles in the Adirondack Region.

Snowmobiling Controversy
The DEC and the Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation are developing a Snowmobile Plan for the Adirondack Park. The plan will establish a baseline for creating a comprehensive and integrated Adirondack Park snowmobile trail system. It also establishes standards for developing and maintaining trails on DEC managed lands in the Adirondacks. Despite the excitement of some snowmobile clubs who have misrepresented the plan’s goals and effects by claiming that it will mean no new trails in the Adirondacks, the plan will likely call for the establishment of long-awaited new connector trails between towns.

The DEC press release on the snowmobile plan

Opposition from The New York State Snowmobile Association

Opposition from Winter Wildlands: Snowmobiles Stress Wildlife In Winter

New York Times Article Snowmobilers vs. Hikers in the Adirondacks

The APA is accepting comments on the plan until March 4, 2008.

Snowmobile Safety
Statewide there were nine people were killed on snowmobiles in December 2007. In January 2008 an ATV and two snowmobiles went through the ice on Lake Pleasant in Hamilton County and a snowmobile went through the ice on Lake George in Warren County. Worse news came in February 2008 however, with the tragic deaths of three snowmobilers within five days on Trail 7C connecting Boonville and Forestport.

The winter of 2007-2008 has claimed 18 snowmobilers lives so far (the deadliest sledding season was 2002-2003 when 31 riders died, their were 10 fatalities in New York in the 2006-2007 season and 14 the year before that). Snowmobiling can be dangerous. Use common sense and avoid thin ice on lakes and rivers, and high speeds on trails.

Take a minute to think about snowmobile safety and make others aware of the potential dangers:

Take the Safe Riders Online Quiz


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Spitzer’s Budget Proposals: Adirondack Edition

The latest on Governor Eliot Spitzer’s Budget Proposals courtesy of John F. Sheehan
Communications Director of The Adirondack Council:

Below is a summary of the NYS Budget as it relates to the Adirondack Park and the NYS Environmental Protection Fund.

Adirondack Park Agency

Budget same as last year ($6.2 million; $700,000 is federal money)

Staff remains the same at 72

$350,000 increase for computers and cars (located in DEC’s capital projects budget)

Olympic Regional Development Authority

– State Budget would rise to $8.6 million

– Total budget $32 million – they get most of their revenue from lift tickets

– $400,000 increase (benefits, retirement)

– staff level stays the same at 203

Department of Environmental Conservation

– Total budget $1.1 billion

– Decrease of $31 million from last year

– half of that decrease caused by reductions in federal aid

– DEC will eliminate some local and regional initiatives to compensate

– Total employees up by 4 to 3,752 (two of the 4 are likely to be assigned to invasive species control programs)

Environmental Protection Fund

Total of $250 million (guaranteed in statute) – $25 million could be added if the Bigger Better Bottle Bill is approved

Land

$66 million of the $250 is for open space protection statewide – that means purchases of new public lands and parks, conservation easements (development-limiting agreements with private landowners).

The other $184 million will go into the two other broad categories: Municipal recycling and solid waste projects and state parks, historic preservation and zoos/botanical gardens.

Additional Projects/Other Changes

Masten House – $125,000 from the EPF goes to SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry to purchase and rehabilitate the Masten House, on the site of the former iron mines in Tahawus, Town of Newcomb, Essex County. It will become a forestry research facility for the college, which owns nearby Huntington Experimental Forest. The college is based in Syracuse.

There are also three new categories in the EPF from which money may be drawn for specific purposes:

1. Air quality enforcement (only vague details available)

2. Renewable solar energy (community college tech training programs)

3. Farmland protection (plastic-waste and pesticide management programs)

Smart Growth Back at Department of State

This grant program to encourage environmentally sound community planning rises from $2 million to $2.5 million. It was transferred back to the Department of State, where the program started, after spending one year under DEC’s supervision in 2007.

The Sweep-Out

This is the worst news of the day, but not quite unexpected. Due to the $4.5-billion budget shortfall projected by the comptroller, the Governor will “borrow” $100 million of the unspent funds of previous EPFs. This is the largest sweep-out proposed since Governor Pataki started this distasteful practice more than five years ago.

Since the EPF was created in 1993, a total of $322 million in unspent EPF revenue has been diverted to other state purposes. If the Governor’s proposal is accepted, that amount would jump to $422 million in unredeemed IOUs. That would be nearly two years’ worth of missing revenues.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

2007 Adirondack Memorial – Remembering Those We Lost

This will be an annual series highlighting the careers of those who passed during the year who had important impacts on the Adirondack region.

Peter Berle, Environmentalist

Known to many as the long-time host of WAMC’s Environment Show, environmental lawyer Peter A. A. Berle had important impacts on the Adirondack region. He served three terms as a New York State Assemblyman (1968-1974), and three years (1976-1979) as Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation. Under his tenure the state started action against General Electric for knowingly polluting the Hudson River with PCBs and began work to address Love Canal. Berle helped author New York’s first solid-waste plan which ended in the closing of many Adirondack landfills. He also helped write the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan and was appointed to the Task Force on the Future of the Adirondack Park. Berle was also President and CEO of the National Audubon Society (1985-1995) and was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the Joint Public Advisory Committee to the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation under NAFTA. He died suddenly at the age of 69 when a barn at his farm collapsed.

Bill Frenette, Tupper Lake Historian and Outdoorsman

William Charles Frenette was a lifetime Adirondacker who spent his working career in the family business — Frenette Bros. Beer Distributors and Tupper Lake Coca-Cola Bottling Company. Bill was an avid outdoorsman who loved to hike, paddle, and ski. Although he travelled extensively the Adirondacks was his lifelong home. He was an early 46er, and climbed all 46 in both summer and winter. He was also a gold medalist in the prestigious Coureur de Bois ski marathon. Frenette was actively involved in organizing Sugarloaf Ski Hill, and helped layout the trails on Mount Morris for Big Tupper, for which he served as the resorts Ski Patrol founding chief and an early member of the Search and Rescue Team. Bill was also a founding trustee of the Wild Center (the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks), a board member of the Adirondack Medical Center and served on the board of the Friends of Mount Arab. He served as the historian for the Town and Village of Tupper Lake. He died at his Tupper Lake home at the age of 80.

Paul Jamieson (From Nov 2006)

Paul Jamieson taught English at Saint Lawrence University for 36 years, but his longest lasting legacy for the Adirondacks comes from his 20 year fight to force New York’s Courts to recognize that free-flowing rivers are open to paddlers as public transportation routes, just as they were in the nineteenth century. Jamison was critical in initiating state purchases of two scenic stretches of Adirondack rivers: Lampson Falls on the Grasse and Everton Falls on the St. Regis. He has been recognized by innumerable accolades. Adirondack canoe builder Peter Hornbeck named a boat design Jamieson. Jamieson was honored in 2003 by the Adirondack Mountain Club with its Trail Blazer award. He was given an Honorary Life Membership to the Adirondack Mountain Club and was a founding member of its Laurentian Chapter. He received the Stewardship Award from the Nature Conservancy, the Navigable Rivers Award by the Sierra Club and a Founders Award by the Adirondack Museum. The Adirondack Council awarded him its Distinguished Achievement Award. Jamison was the author of Adirondack Canoe Waters: North Flow and an autobiography Uneven Ground. He edited The Adirondack Reader, Man of the Woods (a memoir by Wanakena guide Herbert Keith), and Adirondack Pilgrimage (a collection of his writings). He was also an Adirondack 46er and received honorary doctorates from St. Lawrence University and Paul Smith’s College. He was 103.


Monday, October 29, 2007

Is Another Adirondack Fire Disaster On The Way?

Next year marks the 100th anniversary of one of the most terrible Adirondack years on record. Forest fires ravaged the region in 1908 and led to a widespread system of fire detection. The recent California fires point up the danger Adirondackers face as global warming tends the region to increasing episodes of drought such as that that occurred this fall and contributed to the historically low levels at the Hinckley Reservoir.

According to the APA:

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, fires raged out of control in the many of New York State’s vast wooded areas. The years 1903 and 1908 were particularly disastrous, and because of public outcry for protection from the devastation, the state began a rigorous fire and prevention and control program, including the building of fire towers. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Adirondack Snowmobile History, Part Five

In Part One of Adirondack Snowmobile History, we traced the emergence of snow machines in the early 1900s, in Part Two we looked at the development of the personal sled that is so familiar today. Part Three followed the explosion of makes and models and the spread of snowmobiling throughout the Adirondack region with races, clubs, and dealers taking advantage of the boon in snowmobile sales that occurred from 1965 to 1970. Part Four covered the emerging conflicts over snowmobiles in the Adirondack Region, a topic we’ll conclude this series with today.

As the the 1970s began, new snowmobile clubs and riders argued for more trails and Adirondack locals increased their investment in the industry. The New York Times, noted in an piece tilted “Snowmobiles in the Adirondacks” in 1972:

An economic boom is putt-putting into the remote fringes of the Adirondack Forest Preserve these days on the rubber tracks and diminutive skis of the snowmobile. Some restaurants, banks, gasoline stations, and grocery stores, long accustomed to depressingly quiet winters in this snowfast region, now are doing a volume of business that reminds them of days in July and August. Each weekend, some 11,000 snowmobilists fan out from . . . downstate areas for a day or two of picnicking and racing on the lakes and mountains.

The local residents of such villages as Speculator are happy to see the winter weekenders trundling along the highways with their snowmobiles cradled on trailers behind their cars. “Most winters we used not to make expenses,” said Howard Romaine, a restaurant proprietor here. “But with these snowmobile people coming in, the millennium has arrived.”

As snowmobilers talked about the economic impacts of their sport in the Adirondacks, the number of snowmobile being sold every year boomed to unprecedented levels. In the early 1970s there just over a hundred snowmobile makers. The most profitable were the big three – Bombardier / Ski Doo, Polaris, and Artic Cat – but motorcycle and outboard motor companies also branched out to take advantage of the increasing popularity in the sport.

From 1970 to 1973 more than 2 million sleds were sold but the popularity of the sport was at its peak. Never again would sled sales equal those golden years. The recession of 1973 and a declining economy throughout the 1970s helped slow outdoor sports sales at a time when other opportunities to ride – namely ATVs – were beginning to emerge.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, a new environmental awareness made it less desirable among many to run the trails on a noisy motor powered machine. Noise was a major factor in the first attempts to seriously regulate snowmobiles. The reason was explained by snowmobile historian Leonard Reich:

Snowmobiles were noisy for technical, economic, and social reasons. Technically, it was difficult to quiet their two-stroke engines without compromising power output. Baffled mufflers that worked well on four-stroke engines disrupted the two-stroke’s exhaust flow and robbed it of power. To be effective a muffler had to contain substantial quantities of sound-absorbing materials, which made it large, bulky, and expensive. Even if the exhaust could be quieted, the engine’s air intake created noise, and the entire drive system of clutches, gearing or chains, and track added even more. Shrouds and other enclosures helped, but they too added weight, bulk, and expense.

Even though noisy snowmobiles could have an adverse impact on riders’ hearing, many wanted loud machines. An article in Snow-Mobile Times commented, “For some snowmobilers, noise is a large part of the fun of the sport. The sound of that loud motor means power, speed, the thrill of being in control of a revved-up machine.” Snowmobile dealers knew their market. As one commented, “If it’s noisy and goes like hell, it will sell.”

By 1972, a number of state legislatures had acted to curb snowmobile noise, setting decibel limits for a full-throttle machine heard from 50 feet. When the maker of the Johnson Skee-Horse and Evinrude Skeeter committed itself to achieving 73 decibels within six years, the ISIA [International Snowmobile Industry Association, formed in 1965 by Bombardier] grudgingly went along, and several states wrote that limit into their legislation. It was not long, however, before the industry “recognized that it had spoken too quickly and had to backtrack when subsequent engineering and marketing analyses led most industry members to conclude that they could not produce a marketable machine meeting this noise standard.” What that statement meant, of course, was that the added expense and reduced “vroom” would significantly cut into sales.

In 1971 efforts to increase the miles of trails as a hedge to the rampant trespassing and misuse of cross-country ski trails began in earnest. By 1973 more than 40,000 miles of snowmobile trails had been built in North America. By the end of the 1970s the number had more than doubled. In 1980, an ad-hoc DEC survey of snowmobile trails in the Adirondacks estimated that there were about 850 miles of snowmobile trails in the region. When the DEC announced it 2006 Snowmobile Plan for the Adirondacks it noted that there were about 850 miles of snowmobile trails in Wild Forest and Primitive Areas alone and another 1,172 miles of funded snowmobile trails in the park as a whole not including perhaps more than a thousand additional miles maintained through lease agreements with private landowners by towns (particularly Webb and Inlet) and local clubs. The entire 2006 Snowmobile Report can be found here.

While the number of snowmobile trails in the Adirondacks has increased dramatically since the sled boom of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the number of sleds sold each year continues to slump.

According to Leonard Reich:

For the 1968 model year, an unpleasant statistic, called “carryover,” crept into the industry’s production and sales figures. That year, 170,000 machines were produced but only 165,000 sold to consumers. The remaining 5,000 awaited the following year in dealers’ hands. The next year carryover increased to 35,000, then shot up to 100,000 in 1971 on a sales volume of just under 500,000.

In 1971, snowmobile sales for the first time failed to increase substantially over the previous season, thus exacerbating the carryover problem. Whereas 1968’s 165,000 sales had become 1969’s 250,000 and 1970’s 460,000, sales fell short of 500,000 in 1971. In an industry accustomed to rapid growth, many producers soon faced bankruptcy, and the shakeout began. Sales remained in the 400,000-500,000 range through 1974, while carryover increased from 125,000 in 1972 to 315,000 in 1973, and to 500,000 in 1974, a colossal drag on the industry.

By 1997, sales had reached 260,000 sleds and have continued to drop ever since. With the advent of ATVs (which evolved in the 1960s and spread in the 1970s and 1980s) and the reduction of annual snow cover due to global warming, the snowmobile may be on its way to becoming a relic of the past.

Return to Part One. Read the entire series here.


Monday, October 8, 2007

Adirondack Snowmobile History, Part Four

In Part One of Adirondack Snowmobile History, we traced the emergence of snow machines in the early 1900s. In Part Two we looked at the development of the personal sled that is so familiar today. Part Three followed the explosion of makes and models and the spread of snowmobiling throughout the Adirondack region with races, clubs, and dealers taking advantage of the boon in snowmobile sales that occurred from 1965 to 1970.

From the beginning some snowmobile riders and some folks concerned about the impacts of snowmobiles on the rural and wilderness environments began to debate the new outdoor sport. With 200,000 snowmobiles already traveling American lakes, fields, and trails in the 1966-1967 season and many more apparently on the way, government and environmental advocates began to address the possible impacts and attempt to responsibly manage them.

Snowmobile historian Leonard Reich noted that:

During the mid-1960s, snowmobile enthusiasts began to organize clubs whose activities were oriented toward safety, social events, and group activities such as festivals (“snodeos”), clearing, marking, and grooming trails, and trail rides (“snofaris” and “sno-mo-cades”) that could include as many as fifty sleds. One observer of a large nighttime ride recalled that “from a distance, their bobbing head-lights resembled a religious procession,” and in a way it was. Some clubs shipped their snowmobiles to distant sites, then flew or bussed members there for group touring.

In 1970, New York State began requiring riders to register their sleds with the Parks and Recreation Department’s Division of Marine and Recreational Vehicles. Registration forms could be had a local dealers, county clerks, Sheriff’s offices, and regional offices of the Department of Conservation. Registration cost just $5, although some sled riders complained at the cost despite the fact that events organized by local clubs often cost as much as $1 to $2 per sled. The 1970 regulations also required young riders to take a Young Snowmobile Operator’s safety course before riding alone.

Beginning in 1971, a number of governments across the United States and Canada began investigating the boom in snowmobiles in order to asses and mitigate their impacts. In 1971 Congressional testimony, Sno Goer magazine publisher Susie Scholwin voiced the freedom snowmobilers felt on their new machines:

Before snowmobiles, in northern Wisconsin] winters were something just “to be lived through.” Nice winter days on weekends brought the sleds, skis, toboggans, and general fun-in-the-snow. Nights were long and lonely. As were the weekends as a whole. Ice fishing on the lake was good, but the best spot was over a mile away. . . .

The winter of 1964 and early 1965 took on a different tone than those before [with our family’s purchase of a snowmobile]. Mom and dad loved it–the kids loved it. Winter was not the gloomy thing it had been–but each day was an adventure of its own. It was much easier to get “over to the other side of the lake” fishing. . . .

There were races held, but they were something minor. . . . The important thing . . . was that more and more of the neighbors in the area were buying these fantastic little machines and, lo and behold–winter was turning into FUN! The little snowmobile had become a funmobile–one that made winter something to look forward to! Everyone in the area looked forward to weekends, with their picnics, trail-riding, exploring, scavenger hunts, and social gatherings. . . . Many in their fifties and sixties, who were not enthused about the muscular sport of skiing, found that the snowmobile was the answer to their dreams.

For their part of the debate, the dozens of snowmobile clubs in the Adirondack region began exercising their muscle. For example, the President of the Keeseville Trail Riders wrote to local papers in 1972 to remind riders that a $1.15 billion bond issue coming before voters in November would include $44 million for land acquisition in the Adirondacks, but he “doubts very much if any of this money would be used to acquire land for snowmobile trails.” In opposing the bond issue, the Trail Riders noted that their $5 registration fee was being used to build boating services in the Adirondacks.

Take your neighbor or friend or the fellow down the street who owns a boat, the fee to register it for three years is $3.00 and the state has built parking lots and boat launching ramps.

The economic argument was also put forward early:

Take a minute to think how much money this sport has brought to the North Country. We have Boonville over in the western part of the state where thousands come to view races on weekends. Then closer to our community we have our friendly neighbors, Schroon Lake, where the Chamber of Commerce is in the process of putting out our their winter brochure.

So you see everyone stands to gain either enjoyment, money or employment from this sport.

True or not (and their was some question about the actual impact of snowmobilers on the Adirondack economy, even in the boom years), the economic arguments of the clubs and their supporters found important allies in the local press and among the property rights and anti-government crowd. We’ll explore those conflicts in Part Five.

Return to Part One. Read the entire series here.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Outdoor Adviser Lost On Adirondack Peak

Stories of being lost in the great north woods were so prolific in the early centuries of America that there could be jokes about them like this one from 1873:

Conversation between an inquiring stranger and steamboat pilot Andrew Hulett: “This is Black Mountain?” “Yes, Sir! The highest mountain above Lake George.” “Any story or legend connected with that mountain?” “Lots of them. Two lovers went up that mountain once and never came back again.” “Indeed-why, what became of them?” “Went down the other side.”

An 1895 newspaper account warned of the “unburied bones of hundreds of men and women who have lost their way in the pathless miles of timbered country, and have ran on terror-stricken until death overtook them in their madness.” The reporter’s caution: “sit down and wait until they find you.”

Today, geographic positioning systems (GPS), emergency beacons, and helicopter rescue teams mean that being dangerously lost in the Adirondack wilderness is usually only a temporary situation. The lack of significant large predators capable of harming us and our generally warmer weather (thanks to persistent global warming) all make traveling in the Adirondack region less dangerous.

Still, at every river crossing, every icy trail, and every dangerous ledge or mountaintop, every swimming hole and picturesque lake, danger continues to lurk. The unprepared and ill equipped, the inexperienced, and sometimes the just plain unlucky, can all still find themselves in dangerous, life-threatening and sometime life-taking situations. Each year dozens of people are lost, stranded, injured, and killed in the wilderness, on mountaintops, and lakes and rivers of the Adirondack region.

Recently, there was one more.

Barbara Brotman, who describes herself as the Chicago Tribune‘s Outdoor Adviser columnist, found out that it takes more than a cushy newspaper job title to make someone safe in the wilderness – it takes careful planning and preparedness.

Brotman, her Tribune photographer husband Chuck Berman, and their daughter, decided to take on Crane Mountain in Johnsburg, Warren County. Without a map and without enough water.

They did remember to bring their poorly charged cell phone however.

Before they left, Brotman called Adirondack Mountain Club Executive Director Neil Woodworth, apparently thinking he had little more to do then give hiking advice:

His advice was a warning. Crane was an outlying mountain. The trail was hard to find and hard to hike.

“Crane Mountain is a very steep climb,” he said. “Many Adirondack High Peaks are not as challenging as Crane.”

And Adirondack trails in general are difficult and steep, he said. Unlike in the Rockies, where switchbacks allow gradual gains in altitude, Adirondack trails were cut by 19th Century guides who took the shortest route to the top.

First, Berman dropped out. While he no doubt got some great snap shots and video footage, he had failed to drink enough water as he climbed the fairly steep 1.4 miles. As he approached heat exhaustion and dehydration two young hikers descending on the same trail met the Chicago party. Did the Outdoor Adviser assist her ill husband back down the mountain? No. She left it to the other hikers to take him down.

Brotman and her daughter continued up, saw the sights, and while eating lunch realized they had little water left. That didn’t stop them from continuing on for an afternoon swim on the shoulder of the mountain – no trail markers, no map, no problem.

Swim complete, it was finally time for Brotman to begin to worry:

Again, my failure to bring a trail map was proving costly. There was no sign telling how to return to the parking lot. The trail continued along the pond’s edge, but it was in what felt like the wrong direction. We had passed what seemed to be another trail heading back into the woods marked by two red blazes on trees, but where did it lead?

I had no idea which way to go.

There was no one to ask.

It was 4:30 p.m. The sun was getting lower.

We had no water.

And now we crossed the line from challenged to scared.

But we did, at this one spot, have cell phone service. I used it to call the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation emergency line.

No sign telling how to return to the parking lot? Outdoor Advisor expected signs to lead her through the wilderness?

This time they were lucky. They had climbed a minor Adirondack mountain unprepared and had gotten lost. Sure they hadn’t listened to Woodworth’s advice, had divided their party and burdened other hikers, and had relied on a cell phone to call for help from the DEC. Luckily, they managed to make it back to the car before dark.


Friday, July 21, 2006

Schroon Lake: Scaroon Manor Day Use Area Finally Opens

The Scaroon Manor Day Use Area, on the site of the old Taylor’s on Schroon, has finally opened to the public (word has it that their will be limited camping facilities beginning next year). According to a DEC press release, it’s the “first new recreational facility constructed in the Adirondack Forest Preserve since 1977.”

Scaroon Manor comprises 241 acres in the towns of Chester, Warren County, and Schroon, Essex County, including 1,200 feet of shoreline on Taylor’s Point on the western shore of Schroon Lake. The day use area, which complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act, contains a beach [next to the abandoned boat crib at left], swimming area, large parking lot, bathhouse, and 58 picnic sites located in the pavilion and surrounding areas. It will be operated by the State Department of Environmental Conservation. The parking lot contains ample parking for all users of the Scaroon Manor Day Use Area, with designated parking spaces for persons with disabilities.

The site features a 120-foot long beach and 10,000 square-foot swimming area that can accommodate hundreds of bathers and swimmers. The lawn area immediately adjacent to the beach provides additional space forrecreation or relaxation. The beach bathhouse has changing areas, flush toilets, and sinks, all of which are accessible to persons with disabilities. The picnic pavilion contains 20 picnic tables and there are 38 additional picnic sites located in three areas close to the beach. Half of the picnic sites in each area are also accessible to people with disabilities.

In the 1700s, the Scaroon Manor site was called Spirit Point because of its use by religious worshipers. The property was home to a large farm, and eventually housed a succession of summer resorts. As a major summer resort from the 1930s through the 1950s, the facility included a grand hotel with a large ballroom, guest cottages, a golf course, and a 500-seat outdoor amphitheater. The last resort at this site – The Scaroon – closed in the early 1960s.

The property was acquired by New York State in 1967, and became part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve. Many of the original buildings were sold and removed to new locations, some of which can still be found on the shores of Schroon Lake today.

That last line is interesting – the big rub has always been that they simply burned down a historic hotel and resort complex. That’s still true.

No word on what will become of the “500-seat outdoor amphitheater” (right) an amazing Greek style theatre that looked pretty rough last time we saw it.


Monday, April 24, 2006

Earth Day 2006 and the Adirondacks

In honor of Earth Day 2006, some interesting and important Adirondack related sites.

It’s still not too late to take part in this year’s Hudson River Sweep a clean-up of the Great North River sponsored by the Scenic Hudson. They even have a cool page to locate your local clean-up event. Unfortunately, the closest clean-ups in our area are down in Saratoga County. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

2006 Adirondack Wilderness Trail Race Debate

Hayduke over at the Adirondack Forum informs us that through a Freedom of Information request he has received documents showing that The Mountaineer in Keene Valley has been granted a Temporary Revocable Permit to run a second Great Adirondack Trail Run along the same route as last year through the Giant Wilderness Area. Naturally, running a race through a wilderness area is, well, a bit incompatible with wilderness – so incompatible that last year’s race was limited to 60 people and was widely reported in the local press, and on the organizer’s website as “the first and most likely the last run we will organize.”

This event is all about celebrating our 30th anniversary, our two river associations, getting exercise and having fun! We are delighted you will be joining us. This run promises to be one of the most beautiful and adventurous runs of your life.

Well that’s beautiful and adventurous as long as you don’t happen to be climbing Giant as 60 people (or more this year?) run by.

Sponsors last year included Patagonia, Salomon, Montrail, Smartwool, Honey Stinger and Trail Runner Magazine with proceeds going to Ausable and Bouquet River Associations.

Here at the Almanack we are always ready to support appropriate use of the Adirondack Park were varying levels of protection ensure that at least some of these great north woods remain pristine – well as pristine as possible given that some folks will always want to explore the wilderness for themselves – it seems pretty clear that these kinds of large scale events belong in Wild Forest or Instensive Use areas rather than Wilderness Areas.

The race is apparently scheduled for June 17, 2006. Comments can be sent to

Denise Sheehan (dmsheeha@gw.dec.state.ny.us)
Acting Commissioner
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
625 Broadway
Albany, N.Y. 12233-1010

And to

The Mountaineer (mountaineer@mountaineer.com)
1866 Route 73
Keene Valley, NY 12943

Of course we love to hear from you here as well – and welcome to fellow NCPR listeners!


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