Posts Tagged ‘Lake George’

Friday, July 30, 2010

State Bans Phosphorus Fertilizers

Two years from now, the use of phosphorus-heavy fertilizers will be prohibited not only in the Town and Village of Lake George, but throughout the Adirondack Park and, in fact, the entire state.

Governor David A.Paterson has approved a measure that prohibits homeowners and landscape contractors from applying fertilizer containing phosphorus on any lawns within the state.

The Town and the Village of Lake George adopted regulations limiting the use of fertilizers with phosphorus earlier this summer.

The only exceptions to the state law will be for property owners who are installing a new lawn, or if a soil test shows a phosphorus deficiency. Retailers can still sell phosphorus fertilizer for consumers who fall into those categories, provided signs about the dangers of phosphorus are posted.

The new law, which takes effect January 1, 2012, also prohibits the application of any fertilizer whatsoever within 20 feet of a water body. Fertilizers can be used within ten feet of water if a vegetative buffer has been established along a shore.

“We think this is a great step forward,” said an official with New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

Phosphorus has been shown to contribute to the spread of aquatic weeds and the growth of algae, robbing water of oxygen that fish need to survive and limiting the recreational use of lakes and ponds.

“In time, we’ll see a marked difference in plant growth in Lake George once the full effect of the phosphorus ban is achieved,” said Walt Lender, executive director of the Lake George Association.

According to Lender, the bill also bans phosphorus in dishwashing detergent.

“This will keep additional phosphorus out of septic systems and municipal wastewater treatment systems,” Lender said.

“We’re very pleased Governor Paterson signed the bill into law,” said Lender. “It’s a huge step in the right direction, not least because it has generated a lot of discussion about the effects of phosphorus on water quality.”

New York State Senator Betty Little said she voted in favor of the bill after it was amended to allow retailers more time to rid their shelves of phosphorus fertilizers.

She also noted that the New York State Farm Bureau had withdrawn its objections to the bill.

According to Peter Bauer, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George, the ban on phosphorus-based fertilizers should be followed by a ban on the use of all fertilizers.

A fertlizer ban would reduce pollution by another nutrient, nitrogen, which can be just as harmful to water quality, Bauer said.

“Phosphorus free fertilizers are like low tar and nicotine cigarettes – they’re just as dangerous as the originals,” said Bauer. “We don’t need any of these products for healthy lawns.”

Illustration courtesy the Lake Champlain Basin Program’s Lawn to Lake initiative.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Lake George Loop: Queen of Bike Rides

As bike rides go, the loop around Lake George isn’t perfect. It’s got traffic, a tedious, 25-mile straightaway between Ticonderoga and Whitehall, and a challenging hill climb after Bolton Landing.

But it’s also almost exactly 100 miles from point to point, a distance known as a “century” in biking parlance, and a sort of Holy Grail for bike-tourers looking to up the ante of a day-ride.

I hadn’t biked a century in more than 20 years, and I was looking for a challenge before undertaking a three-week bike tour of Colorado. So in early July I recruited my friend Steve, a surgeon from Latham, to join me on a day-long circumnavigation of the Adirondacks’ most famous lake.

We parked the car in Lake George Village, not far from the water, and began pedaling before 8 a.m. The village was just waking up and the air was
cool and still. It was the Saturday of July 4th weekend, and we knew it would be a busy day, but the heavy traffic gave us no trouble as we rode north on the narrow shoulder of Route 9N.

The loop is a pretty simple design, and you don’t need a map for most of it — Route 9N north for 40-odd miles to Ticonderoga, then Route 22 south for another 25 miles to Whitehall. From here, you can either take busy roads back to Glens Falls before getting on the bike path back to Lake George, or you can follow beautiful but hilly back roads to avoid the traffic.

Two hours after starting, Steve and I had left the traffic of Lake George Village behind, as we climbed the steep shoulder of Tongue Mountain and ripped down the other side. This was the best part of the ride — a shaded road, few cars, tantalizing views of the lake and charming communities like Hague and Sabbath Day Point to pedal through.

We reached Ticonderoga in a little more than three hours. I’ve been to this historic village at least a half-dozen times, and finding downtown is always a challenge. Would a sign — “This way to village” — be such a bad idea? Even an un-staffed tourist information booth left no clue about which direction to take.

The idea was to stop and buy some food, but somehow we missed downtown completely. We had to satisfy ourselves with the shade of a tree on Route 22. Sorry, Ti.

From here, it was a long, steady plod down to Whitehall on Route 22. This is not the best part of the ride, although the rolling farmland of the Champlain Valley has a certain charm. The route is wide and shadeless, more like a highway than a country road. But the hills are easy to climb, and it took less than two hours to traverse the route.

After another long break in Whitehall, we looked at a borrowed map and made a choice. The fastest route would be to take Route 22 down to Fort Ann, and then traverse over on Route 249 to Glens Falls. But these are busy roads, and we wanted something a little more relaxing.

So we made up our own route, using a variety of county and town roads, including one that was gravel. This gave us one more big hill to climb, but it was worth it — we found ample shade, no cars and some of the best views of the trip.

By now we were both feeling the mileage. Especially Steve, who hadn’t been drinking enough to stay hydrated on this hot, cloudless day. But one final rest and a bottle of Gatorade at a small general store in Oneida Corners fueled us up for the final few miles. We biked past Glen Lake, found the entrance to the bike path, and enjoyed the final, breezy miles back to our car.

There, a hundred miles and about 10 hours after we started, we washed away our sweat in the cool waters of Lake George and celebrated a successful century.

* * *

Interested in biking Lake George but don’t want to commit to a full century? On Sunday, Aug. 8, local cyclists organize a 42-mile ride from Lake George north to a small dock outside Ticonderoga. There, they are picked up by the cruise ship Mohican at 11:30 a.m., which brings cyclists back to Lake George on a 2 1/2-hour scenic journey.

The trip costs about $20, and tickets must be purchased in advance. And, of course, if you don’t make the boat or can’t find the dock (it’s not well marked and harder than it sounds — get directions) you’re on your own.

For more information, call the Lake George Steamboat Company at (518) 668-5777.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Hague’s Rick Bolton: A Life in Music

“As a young man, I was chasing a dream. As I got older, I realized the ultimate gig was a mile down the road, playing with and for my friends and then going home to my wife and kids. That’s really making it.”

That’s local legend Rick Bolton’s idea of a successful career in music, and by that definition, he’s made it.

From playing in garage bands on northern Lake George, where he traveled to gigs by boat because he was too young to drive, to touring out west, only to return home and help launch a thriving music scene in Saratoga, Rick Bolton has led a life in music and found the music that reflects his life.

“I grew up in Hague,” he recounts. “When summer hit, we got some culture, but not not enough to hurt us. I buried myself in my room in winters and learned to play guitar. I listened to the Beatles and the Stones, and I worked backward toward the music’s roots. I got lucky. I was exposed to old time guitar players, banjo players and fiddlers, here and in northeastern Vermont where I went to college. That’s the music that makes sense to me.”

Those traditions have found their way into the music he’s been playing for the last forty years, with bands like the T-Bones, northern Lake George’s favorite dance band, Rick Bolton and the Dwyer Sisters (which includes his wife Sharon and her sister Molly) and Big Medicine, which will perform in Lake George Village’s Shepard Park on July 28.

“I’m a tavern singer, I make no bones about that, but I love playing town concert series,” said Bolton. “You have a chance to mix it up with towns people and tourists; they’re better venues than taverns for playing original tunes and trying different takes on cover material. They’re always a lot of fun.”

Bolton characterizes Big Medicine, which consists of Jeff and Becky Walton, Tim Wechgelaer, Arlin Greene, Mike Lomaestro and Bolton on guitar, as “classic Americana; we cover a lot of bases – swing, rhythm and blues, rock, folk.”

Musicians younger than Bolton and from such unlikely places as Brooklyn and Somerville have re-discovered the acoustic roots music that Bolton has been playing for most of his life. In fact, they’re popular draws at the concert series in Shepard Park.

Rather than disparaging the young bands’ grasp of the traditions or resenting their intrusion upon fields he’s tilled for decades, Bolton welcomes their enthusiasm.

“It’s awesome, they’re bringing they’re own influences to bear on the music, just as we did, and they’re taking the music back to the garage, where it started,” says Bolton.

Although Bolton still has his day job with Warren County, he’s performing nearly every night with one band or another.

“We had 27 or 28 gigs scheduled for July, and June was just as busy,” he said. Bolton has lived in Saratoga for the past twenty years. In the last six years, he says, “the music scene has just taken off.”

“Sooner or later, a place just gets touched,” he says. “It happened to Austin, Texas, it happened to San Francisco. I can envision the same thing happening to Saratoga. Within blocks, you can hear jazz, acoustic folk, blues or rock. There are a lot of influences, conducive to vibrant original music. There’s a definitive Saratoga style, and there’s an audience for it.”

A sampling of that Saratoga style can be heard soon on “Saratoga Pie,” a compilation of Saratoga bands that Bolton has helped produce as a benefit for the Saratoga Center for the Family.

“There’s a lot of money for the arts in Saratoga, but often places that serve people don’t get the attention they need. There are battered women and abused children in every town in the Adirondack Park, but people never talk about that,” he says, explaining the purpose of the album. “They need our help.”

As Bolton describes it, Saratoga’s music scene is not that different from Hague, where, he says, everyone knew everyone else’s business, but everyone looked out for one another.

That’s probably why Bolton’s happier there than if he had stayed out west. He may be “only in it for the beer,” as the title of a recent CD puts it, but he’s made a full, rich life out of it.

Photo: Rick Bolton (left) with Big Medicine.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lake George Conservancy to Hold Field Day Event

The Lake George Land Conservancy is holding an Annual Meeting and Field Day event, this Saturday July 24, 2010. The public is invited to participate in a themed hike or presentation around the lake in the morning, then join the group for a picnic lunch in Hague, listen to brief remarks on LGLC’s recent conservation efforts, and family games and activities.

While the brief annual meeting will discuss LGLC accomplishments and goals for the future, the focus of the event is the set of morning field events. Five scheduled events are being offered:

1. Timber Rattlesnake Talk and Walk at 9 am – noon on Tongue Mt. Join Dr. Bill Brown, a trained zoologist and wildlife ecologist, who will demonstrate the habits and habitats of this fascinating native reptile. With luck, participants may actually observe a rattlesnake in its natural environment. Presentation will be held at the LGLC’s Macionis Family Center for Conservation meeting room in case of severe weather. Moderate hike; 2 miles, round-trip.

2. Bat Update – the White Nose Syndrome, from 11 am – 12:30 pm at the Hague Community Center. A member of the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation team that has been immersed in the White Nose Syndrome effort since the problem first appeared in North America will present this update on bats and the current status of the syndrome that has decimated bat populations across the northeast. Multimedia presentation.

3. Sucker Brook Hike, from 8:30 – 11:30 am in Putnam. LGLC staff will lead participants on Gull Bay’s trails to the rookery and beyond through dense forest and along the Sucker Brook wetlands into the new Last Great Shoreline. This inaugural hike connecting the two preserves will introduce participants to the internal habitats and inhabitants of Sucker Brook. Challenging hike (some steep sections, requires climbing); 4 miles.

4. Wetlands Exploration, from 9 am – noon in Bolton. Volunteer naturalist Corrina Parnapy will excite young and old explorers as they hike into the Padanarum forest and wetlands and get acquainted with its plant and animal inhabitants. Use nets, magnifying glasses and other tools for finding wetland creatures, identify trees and flowers, and leave with a better understanding of our secret natural world. Easy hike; 1 mile, round-trip.

5. Silver Bay Association Nature Center, from 10 am – noon at Silver Bay. Explore Silver Bay Association, YMCA of the Adirondack’s Nature Center and Guided Nature Walk on the campus – great for families of all ages. The Nature Center features displays such as the fish of Lake George and live atriums nestled on the shoreline of Lake George.

Lunch will begin at 12:30 pm at the Hague Foundation Park, just north of the Hague Town Beach. The annual meeting will be from 1:30 – 2:15 pm. Activities for kids and families will continue until 4 pm. In case of inclement weather the annual meeting will take place inside the Hague Community Center.

Anyone who wishes to participate must pre-register with their field event preference. There is a $10 fee for each participant, which includes the full day of activities. There is no fee to attend the annual meeting only.

The Annual Meeting and Field Day Registration Form can be downloaded from the Lake George Land Conservancy website or interested persons may call the LGLC office at 518-644-9673 or email Sarah Hoffman, LGLC Communications and Outreach Manager, at shoffman@lglc.org to register or for more information.

Photo: The scenic overlook onto Lake George from the Gull Bay Preserve.


Friday, July 16, 2010

A Lake George Clinic for Hudson Headwaters?

Lake George Town officials want the Hudson Headwaters Health Network to establish a clinic in their community, and have initiated discussions with the Network to determine its feasibility, Supervisor Frank McCoy has announced.

A clinic could be housed in a new building constructed for Lake George’s Emergency Medical Services squad, McCoy said at the Town’s monthly board meeting on Monday.
“Land is so expensive in Lake George that it makes sense to buy property for two entities,” said McCoy.

According to town councilwoman Fran Heinrich, Hudson Headwaters’ Tripp Shannon informed the town that a sufficient number of patients from Lake George visit the Network’s other clinics to justify a thorough investigation of the proposal.

Dr. John Rugge, the president and CEO of Hudson Headwaters Health Network, said the Network staff’s meetings with McCoy and Heinrich had been productive. “We’re committed to working with the Town to meet the long term health care needs of Lake George,” said Rugge.

The expense of establishing a new clinic is among the issues that need to be addressed, said Rugge. Typically, municipalities provide a building, equipment and maintenance of a clinic, which Hudson Headwaters then staffs with medical personnel.

The not-for-profit network currently operates health centers in Bolton Landing, Chestertown, Glens Falls, Indian Lake, Moreau, Moriah, North Creek, Queensbury, Schroon Lake, Ticonderoga and Warrensburg.

Other issues to be discussed include the functions of a Lake George clinic within the network as a whole and the development of a program that could be adapted to Lake George’s fluctuating population, Rugge said. “The population is like an accordion,” said Rugge. “It expands ten-fold in the summer. We would have to address that.”

As a federally-certified community health care centers, a Lake George clinic could be eligible for funding under the 2010 federal Health Care Reform act, though it may be at least four years before that money becomes available, Rugge said.

Despite those obstacles, Rugge said, “it’s a pleasure working with such a far-sighted administration. Whenever a community wants to work with Hudson Headwaters Health Network, magic can happen; obstacles can be overcome.”

A new facility for Lake George’s rescue squad, while urgently needed, will also take time to fund and construct, said Bruce Kilburn, the president of the Lake George Emergency Squad.
Founded in 1960, the rescue squad celebrated its 50th anniversary in February with a gala at the Georgian, intended to kick-off a fund raising campaign for the new building.

“We’ve outgrown our building on Gage Road,” said Kilburn. “Training, meetings, every day activities are getting more difficult to co-ordinate.”

With the loss of volunteers and increasing reliance on professional Emergency responders, who are frequently assigned over-night shifts, separate facilities for men and women are needed, Kilburn said.

“Without separate facilities, we could face sexual harassment suits,” said Kilburn. “That’s a big concern to us.”

Town officials anticipate assistance from Lake George Village taxpayers in the fund drive for new EMS headquarters, said McCoy. “We expect Lake George Village to step up to the plate,” said McCoy. “The Town funded fifty percent of the new firehouse.”

A number of locations for the new facility are under consideration, but none have been made public.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Unsung Adirondack Heroes: Lydia Serrell

In thinking about Adirondack unsung heroes, singer-songwriter Peggy Lynn’s powerfully moving song Lydia about Lydia Smith (wife of Paul Smith) comes to mind. I write about another Lydia who related very strongly to that song, and who did so much for the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks (AFPA). Her name was Lydia Serrell. I worked with Lydia for 18 years, and can attest that she was an extraordinary Adirondacker in her own right, and instrumental to the success of the organization.

Lydia Serrell fell in love with the Adirondacks at an early age. The daughter of Hungarian immigrants and carriage makers working in Schenectady, she was “shipped out” after her mother’s death c. 1918 to live with her mother’s sister, her Aunt Anna and Uncle Chris Kohler, at their farm in Gravesville, Town of Ohio in the southwestern Adirondacks. Lydia’s great friend Linda Champagne writes: “Lydia attended a small north country school. Her uncle, a guide in the nearby Adirondack League Club (Uncle Chris), and his wife (Aunt Anna), who had been a cook at the club, created a comfortable life for the city girl. The modest home had only a spring for water. Entertainment meant skating on ponds and reading Zane Grey novels by kerosene lantern in the evenings. When her father remarried, and she returned to Schenectady, she continued a lifelong love of hiking, touring and reading the history of the Adirondacks.” » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Floyd Bennett: A Local Aviation Legend

Among the rock-star personas of the Roaring Twenties were a number of aviators who captured the public’s imagination. Some were as popular and beloved as movie stars and famous athletes, and America followed their every move. It was a time of “firsts” in the world of aviation, led by names like Lindbergh, Byrd, and Post. Among their number was an unusually humble man, Floyd Bennett. He may have been the best of the lot.

A North Country native and legendary pilot, Bennett has been claimed at times by three different villages as their own. He was born in October 1890 at the southern tip of Lake George in Caldwell (which today is Lake George village). Most of his youth was spent living on the farm of his aunt and uncle in Warrensburg. He also worked for three years in Ticonderoga, where he made many friends. Throughout his life, Floyd maintained ties to all three villages.

In the early 1900s, cars and gasoline-powered engines represented the latest technology. Floyd’s strong interest led him to automobile school, after which he toiled as a mechanic in Ticonderoga for three years. When the United States entered World War I, Bennett, 27, enlisted in the Navy.

While becoming an aviation mechanic, Floyd discovered his aptitude for the pilot’s seat. He attended flight school in Pensacola, Florida, where one of his classmates was Richard E. Byrd, future legendary explorer. For several years, Bennett refined his flying skills, and in 1925, he was selected for duty in Greenland under Lieutenant Byrd.

Fraught with danger and the unknown, the mission sought to learn more about the vast unexplored area of the Arctic Circle. Bennett’s knowledge and hard work were critical to the success of the mission, and, as Byrd would later confirm, the pair almost certainly would have died but for Bennett’s bravery in a moment of crisis.

While flying over extremely rough territory, the plane’s oil gauge suddenly climbed. Had the pressure risen unchecked, an explosion was almost certain. Byrd looked at Bennett, seeking a course of action, and both then turned their attention to the terrain below.

Within seconds, reality set in—there was no possibility of landing. With that, Bennett climbed out onto the plane’s wing in frigid conditions and loosened the oil cap, relieving the pressure. He suffered frostbite in the process, but left no doubt in Byrd’s mind that, in selecting Bennett, he had made the right choice.

The two men became fast friends, and when the intrepid Byrd planned a historic flight to the North Pole, Bennett was asked to serve as both pilot and mechanic on the Josephine Ford. (Edsel Ford provided financial backing for the effort, and the plane was named after his daughter.) In 1926, Byrd and Bennett attained legendary status by completing the mission despite bad luck and perilous conditions. The flight rocketed them to superstardom.

Lauded as national heroes, they were suddenly in great demand, beginning with a tickertape parade in New York City. Byrd enjoyed the limelight, but also heaped praise on the unassuming Bennett, assuring all that the attempt would never have been made without his trusted partner. When Bennett visited Lake George, more than two thousand supporters gathered in the tiny village to welcome him. As part of the ceremony, letters of praise from Governor Smith and President Coolidge were read to the crowd.

Both men were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award for any member of the armed services, and rarely bestowed for non-military accomplishments. They were also honored with gold medals from the National Geographic Society. Despite all the attention and lavish praise, Bennett remained unchanged, to the surprise of no one.

The next challenge for the team of Bennett and Byrd was the first transatlantic flight from New York to Paris, a trip they prepared for eagerly. But in a training crash, both men were hurt. Bennett’s injuries were serious, and before the pair could recover and continue the pursuit of their goal, Charles Lindbergh accomplished the historic feat. Once healed, the duo completed the flight to Europe six weeks later.

Seeking new horizons to conquer, aviation’s most famous team planned an expedition to the South Pole. Tremendous preparation was required, including testing of innovative equipment. On March 13, 1928, a curious crowd gathered on the shores of Lake Champlain near Ticonderoga. Airplanes were still a novelty then, and two craft were seen circling overhead. Finally, one of them put down on the slushy, ice-covered lake surface, skiing to a halt.

Out came local hero Floyd Bennett, quickly engulfed by a crowd of friends and well-wishers. While in Staten Island preparing for the South Pole flight, he needed to test new skis for landing capabilities in the snow. What better place to do it than among friends? After performing several test landings on Lake Champlain, Bennett stayed overnight in Ticonderoga. Whether at the Elks Club, a restaurant, or a local hotel, he and his companions were invariably treated like royalty. Bennett repeatedly expressed his thanks and appreciation for such a warm welcome.

A month later, while making further preparations for the next adventure, Floyd became ill with what was believed to be a cold. When word arrived that help was urgently needed on a rescue mission, the response was predictable. Ignoring his own health, Bennett immediately went to the assistance of a German and Irish team that had crossed the Atlantic but crashed their craft, the Bremen, on Greenly Island north of Newfoundland, Canada.

During the mission, Floyd developed a high fever but still tried to continue the rescue effort. His condition worsened, requiring hospitalization in Quebec City, where doctors found he was gravely ill with pneumonia. Richard Byrd and Floyd’s wife, Cora, who was also ill, flew north to be with him. Despite the best efforts of physicians, Bennett, just 38 years old, succumbed on April 25, 1928, barely a month after his uplifting visit to Ticonderoga.

Though Bennett died, the rescue mission he had begun proved successful. Across Canada, Germany, Ireland, and the United States, headlines mourned the loss of a hero who had given his life while trying to save others. Explorers, adventurers, and aviators praised Bennett as a man of grace, intelligence, bravery, and unfailing integrity.

Floyd Bennett was already considered a hero long before the rescue attempt. The selflessness he displayed further enhanced his image, and as the nation mourned, his greatness was honored with a heavily attended military funeral in Washington, followed by burial in Arlington National Cemetery. Among the pile of wreaths on his grave was one from President and Mrs. Coolidge.

After the loss of his partner and best friend, Richard Byrd’s craft for the ultimately successful flight to the South Pole was a tri-motor Ford renamed the Floyd Bennett. Both the man and the plane of the same name are an important part of American aviation history.

It was eventually calculated that the earlier flight to the North Pole may not have reached its destination, but the news did nothing to diminish Byrd and Bennett’s achievements. They received many honors for their spectacular adventures. On June 26, 1930, a dedication ceremony was held in Brooklyn for New York City’s first-ever municipal airport, Floyd Bennett Field. It was regarded at the time as America’s finest airfield.

Many historic flights originated or ended at Floyd Bennett Field, including trips by such notables as Howard Hughes, Jimmy Doolittle, Wiley Post, Douglas “Wrongway” Corrigan, and Amelia Earhart. It was also the busiest airfield in the United States during World War II, vital to the Allied victory. Floyd Bennett Field is now protected by the National Park Service as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.

The beloved Bennett was also honored in several other venues. In the 1940s, a Navy Destroyer, the USS Bennett, was named in honor of his legacy as a flight pioneer. In the village of Warrensburg, New York, a memorial bandstand was erected in Bennett’s honor. Sixteen miles southeast of Warrensburg, and a few miles from Glens Falls, is Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport.

In a speech made after the North Pole flight, Richard Byrd said, “I would rather have had Floyd Bennett with me than any man I know of.” High praise indeed between heroes and friends. And not bad for a regular guy from Lake George, Warrensburg, and Ticonderoga.

Top Photo: The Josephine Ford.

Middle Photo: Floyd Bennett, right, receives medal from President Coolidge. Richard Byrd is to the left of Coolidge.

Bottom Photo: Floyd Bennett Field, New York City’s first municipal airport.

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.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Lake George Conservancy Seeks to Protect Pinnacle

The Pinnacle, the prominent Bolton Landing ridgeline where a developer has proposed situating houses, may be preserved after all.

The Lake George Land Conservancy’s Board of Directors has voted to apply for a grant from New York State’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for funds to help acquire the ridgeline, said Nancy Williams, the Conservancy’s executive director.

Bolton’s Town Board approved a resolution endorsing the application at its July 6 meeting, said Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover.

“My personal feeeling is that protecting the Pinnacle is an admirable goal,” said Conover. “If there’s a willing seller, and it can be kept in a natural state, with hiking trails for the community, that would be a terrific thing.”

Last week, The Fund for Lake George and the Lake George Waterkeeper announced that law suits have been filed against the Town of Bolton for its approvals of a mile-long road to the Pinnacle’s summit.

“This is a clear case where rules and standards exist for a reason. Roads should not involve acres of clear cuts and traverse steep slopes. The extent of disturbance and excessive clearing involved in this proposal will scar the Pinnacle for generations,” said Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky.

According to Conover, the Town Board was also set to approve a resolution to retain Mike Muller, the town’s legal counsel, to defend Bolton’s Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning Board and Zoning Administrator from the suit.

But if the Pinnacle is protected and no road is built, the lawsuit would in all likelihood be dropped, said Peter Bauer, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George.

“If conditions on the ground change, obviously, that would have a huge effect on the suit,” said Bauer. “But we’d have to see the final result.”

Bauer said he could not comment on the proposal to protect the Pinnacle because he was unfamiliar with the Conservancy’s plans.

According to Nancy Williams, protecting the Pinnacle “is very much a local project; we’d like to see hiking trails connecting it to Cat and Thomas Mountains and into Bolton Landing itself, creating a significant trail system.”

But, Williams said, “it will take the community to protect the Pinnacle; we want to see how much support there is within the community.”

Williams said the Conservancy had made Pinnacle owner Ernie Oberrer aware of it’s interest, but had yet to hear from him.

Oberrer could not be reached for comment; reportedly, he has expressed an interest in building below the ridgeline if he could sell the Pinnacle’s summit for an unspecified sum. 


Not having discussed its plans with Oberrer, Williams said she had no idea how much money would have to be raised by the Conservancy and other local organizations to protect the Pinnacle.

Photo: The Pinnacle from Cat Mountain, courtesy Lake George Waterkeeper.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Friday, July 2, 2010

Lake George: Upland Development Battle Continues

The front lines in the battle over upland development continues to be Lake George. In the latest skirmish, a recent approval of a controversial, three lot subdivision atop a prominent ridge in Bolton Landing has prompted The FUND for Lake George and Lake George Waterkeeper to bring a lawsuit against the Town of Bolton.

The organizations filed the suit against the Town of Bolton’s Planning Board, Zoning Board and Zoning Administrator late last week. According to the suit, the application should have received a variance from the Zoning Board in order for it to be approved by the Planning Board.

“The approval granted by the Planning Board violates the Town Code for driveway width as well as violating the Town of Bolton Zoning Law, because the applicant never obtained a variance to exceed allowable clearing limits for road/driveway construction,” argued Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky.

According to Navitsky, the mile long road to the top of the Pinnacle was described as a shared driveway. “Under the Bolton Zoning and Planning codes, a driveway should only be 16 feet in width. The Planning Board issued a waiver, exempting the applicant’s access road from the Town’s Planning code restrictions of a 16-foot width. The Planning Board’s approval authorized a “shared driveway” of 20 feet in width with two 2-foot shoulders, totaling 24 feet,” said Navitsky.

“What the Planning Board is calling a shared driveway is a road in every way. We’re challenging the Planning Board’s authorization because what it authorized is not what’s been designed. The applicant is planning a road that is eight times as wide as the 24 foot width approved by the Planning Board,” said Navitsky. “This is a clear case where rules and standards exist for a reason. Roads should not involve acres of clear cuts and traverse steep slopes. The extent of disturbance and excessive clearing involved in this proposal will scar the Pinnacle for generations.”

The suit also alleges that the Town Zoning Board of Appeals should have issued a variance to permit excessive clearing. “Town Zoning Law states that clearing for driveways shall not exceed 16 feet. The Zoning Administrator should have recognized the need for a variance once she reviewed the plans and referred the matter to the Zoning Board,” said Navitsky.

“We asked the Town Boards and Town officials numerous times for an explanation of how a shared driveway that’s supposed to be 24 feet wide was approved given that it involves eight acres of clearcutting, widths of over 150 feet, and will be built on grades of over 25%? We never received a response” said Navitsky. “We feel like we attempted every means practical to work with the Town, but they refused to answer these basic questions. Now we’ll let the courts settle the matter.”

“This is an important legal issue because it seeks to clarify the Bolton code and establish an important precedent for placement and design of these shared driveways and roads to upland developments. As more development continues in the uplands of Bolton, many accessed by long driveways or roads over steep terrain, the issues of clearing widths and construction on steep slopes are very important” said Peter Bauer, Executive Director of the FUND for Lake George. “In this instance it appears to us that the Town is violating its own local laws.”

Photo: The Pinnacle from Cat Mountain, courtesy Lake George Waterkeeper.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Local Power and Energy History: Windmill Déjà Vu

Scores of gigantic wind turbines in the Adirondacks’ northeastern and southwestern foothills are a startling site amidst historically bucolic scenery. The landscape appears “citified,” with structures nearly 40 stories high where the largest buildings rarely top 3 stories. It is a dramatic change, and a far cry from simpler days when family farms were prevalent.

Few realize that in those “simpler days” of dairy farms, windmills were actually quite common across the region. Of course, the windmills once dotting the North Country’s landscape were nothing like today’s behemoths, which stand nearly 400 feet high from the ground to the tip of a skyward-pointing blade. And, the windmills of old weren’t always efficient machines.

Wind technology took a tremendous leap forward in the 1850s thanks to Daniel Halladay, a Connecticut machinist. Halladay’s windmill not only pumped water, but automatically turned to face into the wind as it changed directions. Almost as important, he devised a way to control the speed of the blades (windmills are prone to destruction from within when operating at high rpm levels). Halladay established the US Wind Engine & Pump Company, setting up shop in Illinois. From the start, the business flourished.

Though his sales were focused on the country’s expansion westward, New York State was also experiencing dramatic growth, particularly in the remote northern Adirondack foothills, where pioneers faced a harsh climate and difficult living conditions. Halladay’s invention eventually helped turn some of those weather negatives into positives by taking advantage of wind patterns across upper New York State.

In 1874, the railroad was expanding north from Whitehall towards Plattsburgh. Since steam engines require water, the line generally followed the shore of Lake Champlain. Tanks were constructed along the route where the rails neared the lakeshore. Steam pumps or windmills were used to fill the feeder tanks, which had a capacity of 33,000 gallons each.

As settlers moved north on both sides of the Adirondacks, windmill technology crept northward with them. Farming was necessary for survival, and the enormous workload was eased by mechanical devices like windmills. The description of one man’s operation about 18 miles south of Lowville was typical of the times: “ … a beautiful farm of 280 acres, milks 35 cows, and is a model farm. House, barns, windmill pump, all systematically arranged.”

In situations like that, windmills often filled tanks placed on the upper floor of a barn. The water was then gravity-fed to the livestock below, and piped to other locations as needed. The machine was also used to grind various grains. Early models were mounted on wooden frames, but many fell victim to the very power they were trying to harness, toppling before raging windstorms. Eventually, steel frames supported most windmills.

Wind power wasn’t just for individual homes and farms. In July 1879, H. H. Babcock & Sons of Watertown was hired to install a windmill at 1000 Islands State Park. Water was drawn from the St. Lawrence River to large tanks near the dining hall, and from there was conducted to the various cottages by galvanized iron pipe.

And at Hermon, a contract for $6,595.00 was signed with Daniel Halladay’s company to install a new waterworks system. Included were a wooden tank of 50,000-gallon capacity, a windmill with a wheel diameter of 20 feet, and more than a mile of piping. The frost-proof tank was 24 feet in diameter, 16 feet high, and 3 inches thick. It sat on a trestle 20 feet high, while the windmill stood on a trestle 80 feet high.

Many hotels, including the Whitney House in Norwood and the Turin House in Turin, used windmills to power their water systems. At Chazy, windmills pumped water from the quarries; at Port Henry, they filled water tanks for the trains; and at Saranac Lake, they fed the water supply of the Adirondack Sanitarium.

In 1889, George Baltz of Watertown handled the Halladay display at the Jefferson County Fair, demonstrating that windmills furnished cheaper power than steam engines and could run a feed mill, a circular saw for cutting wood, or pump water.

Though Halladay’s products were widely known, he did have competitors. Some added their own modifications, and some were “copycats.” And they weren’t all products from afar. In 1882, an advertisement touted a windmill “warranted to take care of itself in high winds, equal to the best western mills, and is sold for half the money. It is manufactured at Potsdam.” It featured a self-regulator, and appeared to be based on Halladay’s own successful model.

In the late 1890s, most of the windmills in the Ticonderoga and Lake George area were products of the Perkins Windmill Company, which had already installed more than 50 units across the lake in Vermont. Though windmills in the Midwest were primarily for irrigation, most of those in the North Country supplied water to homes, businesses, and farm animals.

Wind power did face competition from other sources. Gasoline engines became more and more common, offering a reliable alternative. However, they were expensive, noisy, and costly to run. An operator had to be present to start and stop a gas engine, while windmills employed a system of floats to start and stop filling the tanks automatically. A once-a-week oiling was the only required maintenance. The biggest problem at the time was that gas engines ran when you wanted them to, but windmills depended on the weather.

The giant turbines we see in northern New York today are not a new idea. In a peek at the future, Charles Brush of Cleveland, Ohio demonstrated in 1888 the first use of a large windmill to generate electricity. As early as 1895, observers noted that windmills were “destined to be much used for storing electricity. We predict an immense future for the windmill industry.”

In 1910, a farm in America’s Midwest employed windmills to charge a bank of batteries. Wind power provided electricity to light the farm and operate the equipment, and when the wind didn’t blow, the farm ran on battery power for a few days.

By 1925, wind turbines had been used to run refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, and power tools. And in 1926, the NYS Fair urged farmers to purchase windmills, using a 12-foot-high model to show the benefits they might enjoy. It was an enticing glimpse at the potential of electricity. Ironically, the popularity of windmills soon became their undoing.

Though they were a wonderful source of cheap power, the main problem was intermittent operation. When the wind didn’t blow, the tools didn’t go. Battery storage systems were only good for brief periods, and people wanted power WHEN they wanted it. Soon, another overriding factor arose—the growing need for huge amounts of electricity.

By the late 1930s and 1940s, constantly flowing electricity was the goal, relegating wind power to the background of the energy battle. It was still used, and advancements were pursued, but success was limited. One notable effort was the huge Smith-Putnam windmill installed atop Grandpa’s Knob near Castleton and Rutland, Vermont, in 1941.

Though less than half the size of today’s models, it was still large, featuring a 16-ton, 175-foot steel rotor that turned at 28 RPM. Occasional use ended abruptly in 1945 when metal fatigue caused the blade to snap, hurling a huge section 1000 feet down the mountain.

In the North Country, windmills have returned after a long hiatus. They stand ten times taller than their predecessors, and now pump electricity instead of water. Where potato, hop, and dairy farms once dominated, the wind farms of today stand above all others.

Photo Top: Windmills 400 feet tall at Churubusco (and another under construction in the foreground).

Photo Middle Right: Typical use of windmill to fill railroad water tanks.

Photo Middle Left: Halladay windmills were offered by George Baltz of Watertown.

Photo Bottom: Advertisement for Halladay’s company.

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.


Page 25 of 37« First...1020...2324252627...30...Last »