Posts Tagged ‘Lake George’

Friday, February 5, 2010

When Tourists Stay Home, Local Governments Suffer

Last year, for the first time in decades, sales tax revenues in the Lake George region declined in every one of the year’s four quarters. Revenues dropped by as much as 15% over the summer. That’s not only an indication that resorts, restaurants and shops saw less trade in their busiest season than in years past; the drop in revenues left local governments scrambling to fill gaps in their budgets.

According to Warren County Treasurer Frank O’Keefe, 1.5% of the 7% sales tax collected by New York State in the county is distributed to local towns.

And, as O’Keefe explains, “The sales tax is apportioned on the basis of a town’s share of the collective value of the property in the county.”

Lake George, Bolton and Hague represent approximately a third of the value of all property in Warren County, and the lion’s share of sales tax revenues are returned to those towns and to Queensbury, where more than 32% of the assessed value of the county is located.

At the start of 2009, Warren County expected to receive approximately $45 million in sales tax revenues; instead, it received only $42 million, a drop of more than 8%, O’Keefe said.

Newly-elected Town Supervisors in Lake George and Bolton now find themselves with less revenues, and less flexibility, than their predecessors had.

The Town of Bolton received $3.2 million, approximately $333,000 less than it had received the previous year.

“That could have been devastating,” said Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover, who said he had carefully observed the previous administration’s budget making process before he himself took office in January.

“Whenever there’s a drop in sales tax revenues, there’s additional pressure on property taxes,” he said.

While the town’s tax rate did rise by 2.5%, that increase was much less than one that hit residents of Lake George, where municipal taxes rose by 26%.

“The members of the Bolton Town Board were very careful, knowing that sales tax revenues would be impacted by the recession. They knew this was no time for wishful thinking,” said Conover. “The Board went over every expenditure. The result was a good budget that allows the town to operate without reducing existing levels of service.”

Warren County estimates that Bolton’s share of sales tax revenues will rise in 2010, but Conover says the town will continue to follow a prudent course.

“Sales tax revenues may rebound, although not to the historically high levels of the past; but if the economy picks up, it will take some pressure off the property-owners’ taxes,” he said.

Although Bolton will watch its expenses, it will continue to maintain and improve its infrastructure of parks, beaches and public docks, said Conover.

“These are assets that we need for economic development and tourism,” Conover said.

In Lake George, according to Supervisor Frank McCoy, sales tax revenues dropped by 12%, leaving the town with $300,000 less than it had anticipated, said McCoy,

The market for recycled paper and plastic also crashed, costing the town another $100,000 in revenues, said McCoy.

But those losses in revenue were not wholly responsible for the 26% increase in property taxes, McCoy said.

For the past several years, the town had drawn from its reserves rather than raising taxes; by mid-2009, those reserves were all but exhausted.

“From 2004 to 2009, we chipped away at the reserves,” McCoy acknowledged. “Instead of using the reserves, we should have increased taxes incrementally, by 3% a year.”

The increase in property taxes will enable the town to rebuild its reserves, McCoy said.

“We’re on the road to recovery,” said McCoy. “We’ll watch the pennies, we’ll review finances monthly and meet with department heads every quarter to make certain we’re on track, just as any business would.”

No reductions in the town work force are planned, said McCoy.

Any new positions would be part-time posts, he said.

“Last August, when the sales tax revenues dropped, we went into an austerity mode,” said McCoy. “We’re still in an austerity mode.”

For more news from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror

Photo: Newly-elected Bolton Supervisor takes the oath of office with his family at his side.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Inside the Adirondack Museum’s Boat Collection

“Hall’s Boat Corporation is not just a center for wooden boat conservation, but a center for wooden boat lovers,” says Steve Lamando, the owner of the historic Lake George marina.

Every month, Reuben Smith, who oversees wooden boat building and restoration at Hall’s, offers free wooden boat clinics, and every summer members of the Antique and Classic Boat Society (based in Clayton) gather at the marina for receptions and banquets.

Hall’s staff reaffirmed its commitment to the preservation of wooden boats and to those who prize them in mid-November, when it hosted a tour of the Adirondack Museum’s boat collections with curator Hallie Bond.

“Reuben Smith, Hallie Bond and I were talking about how we could foster a stronger relationship between Lake George and the Adirondack Museum, and we decided this trip would be a good start,” Lamando said.

Hall’s Boat Corporation views the museum as an educational resource, said Reuben Smith, whose father, boat builder and novelist Mason Smith, is married to Hallie Bond.

“It’s a resource for our customers, for our wooden boat builders, and, as we develop into an educational center, for students,” added Lamando.

According to Hallie Bond, the Adirondack Museum owns “one of the largest, finest collections of inland pleasure craft anywhere. It’s a very nice, representative collection, but we specialize in boats made and used in the Adirondacks. In the 19th century, the Adirondack region was where it was at for small rowing pleasure craft.”

In addition to telling the stories of how people lived, worked, relaxed and made art in the Adirondacks, the Adirondack Museum is, Bond said, an “inland maritime museum,” a fact made evident in the lobby itself, whose focal point is an Idem class sloop, built in the early 1900s for racing on the St. Regis Lakes.

Bond’s tour began in the building housing the museum’s boats and boating collection.

Naturally, the collection is dominated by Adirondack guide-boats, those light-weight, portable boats indigenous to the region, which also happen to be one of the region’s greatest contributions to civilization.

But Adirondack boating is not limited to guide-boats, as Bond’s tour made clear.

The collection includes, for instance, the kayaks and canoes whose near-universal popularity began with the American Canoe Association’s gatherings on Lake George in the 1880s, which the museum highlights in one of its exhibits.

Some thirty or forty canoeists attended the first Canoe Congress on Lake George and virtually every type of modern canoe was represented; canvas, wooden, clinker-built and smooth skinned; some were decked and sailed. There were contests for racing, paddling, sailing, and dumping, the latter being a contest in which the canoeist paddles out to and around a stake boat and on the return, at a given signal, dumps his canoe, rights it, and gets back in.

The prize for winning a race open to canoes of all types was a canoe built by St. Lawrence River boat builder John Henry Rushton.

Rushton saw the Lake George congress as an opportunity to attract new business and develop new ideas. One of those ideas came from Judge Nicholas Longworth, who wanted a better sailing version of Rushton’s Rob Roy, the decked wood canoe whose design was derived from the kayak. The result was the Diana, a Princess type of sailing canoe, commonly regarded as one of Rushton’s most beautiful boats.

The Diana is also on exhibit, in a display called the “Poor Man’s Yacht.” On top of the Diana is a striped, cotton canvas canoe tent, also from Rushton’s shop, demonstrating how the canoes were used not simply for cruising, but as portable camps.

At about the same time that he was building boats for the founders of the American Canoe Association, Rushton built the first of several lightweight canoes for George Washington Sears, whose articles in “Forest Stream” published under the name of “Nessmuk” would popularize both wilderness paddling and Rushton’s own canoes.

The most famous of those canoes, the Sairy Gamp, is also on display.

According to Hallie Bond, Rushton said of the 10.5 pound canoe, “if Nessmuck tired of it as a canoe, he could use it as a soup dish.”

Bond was responsible for persuading author Christine Jerome, who retraced Nessmuck’s route through the Adirondacks in 1990, to use a Kevlar replica of the Sairy Gamp made by local boat builder Pete Hornbeck. That boat, too, is on display.

The group then examined George Reis’s El Lagarto, the Lake George speedboat that won Gold Cups in 1934, 1935 and 1936, before entering the museum’s storage facility.

The museum owns more than 200 boats, only a portion of which can be displayed at any one time. The rest are stored in the Collections Storage and Study Center, located near the museum but difficult to find. “We didn’t want it to be too conspicuous,” said Bond.

The facility contains boats too large to be displayed, such as the beautifully restored 1927, 30 ft Fay and Bowen runabout that once belonged to Camp Echo on Raquette Lake, as well as boats that may never be restored but are preserved for research.

Those boats include a Lake George rowboat built by Henry Durrin and the Hornet, a 28 ft ice boat built on Lake Champlain and brought to Lake George in the 1930s, as well as Merle and Elisabeth Smith’s 23 ft long Yankee class ice boat built by John Alden Beals.

Bond also showed the group a boat that I’ve waited years to see, less for its aesthetic qualities than its historical interest: a fiberglass guide-boat built in the Adirondacks in the early 1960s.

By the 1960s, it appeared to many that the only way to ensure the survival of the Adirondack guide-boat was to turn to synthetic material.

John Gardner, in many ways the father of the wooden boat-making revival, wrote in the 1963, “The guide boat might seem to be nearly finished, a thing of nostalgic memory and a museum piece were it not for its recrudescence in plastic.”

At the time Gardner was writing (the piece appeared in the Maine Coast Fisherman) the only wooden guide boat maker still working was Willard Hanmer. A year earlier, Tom Bissell opened the Bissell Manufacturing Company in Long Lake to make what he called Adirondack Fiberglass Boats.

He had grown up with guide boats made by one of the region’s most renowned guides and boatbuilders, Warren Cole. His grandfather opened a Long Lake hotel called Endion in 1888 across the lake from Cole’s boat shop; where his father spent hours as a young boy watching Cole work. He still owns one of Cole’s boats purchased by his grandmother in 1900.

Bissell bought the fiberglass boat company from Fox Connor, whose family owned one of the region’s oldest great camps and was who manufacturing them in Ossining at the family-owned Allcock Company, makers of have-a-heart traps. Their model, which Bissell continued to make, was based on a boat designed by Wallace Emerson for fishermen in Connor’s family.

Bissell, now in his seventies, a retired school teacher and former supervisor of Long Lake, left the guide-boat business early, despite support from Gardner and people like Kenneth Durant, who devoted the second half of his life to researching the history of the guide-boat. At the time, Bissell recalled, working with fiberglass posed health hazards.

But his effort kept the guide-boat alive as a functioning vessel rather than just a museum piece, and helped ensure that people were still rowing them when young craftsmen like Reuben Smith’s father, Mason Smith, and his uncle Everett Smith emerged to revitalize wooden boat building.

The Adirondack Museum’s collection of guide-boats played no small role in that renaissance, and according to Reuben Smith, it remains a source of inspiration for builders – and future owners – of boats of all types.

Photo: George Reis driving El Lagarto. Courtesy of Adirondack Museum

For more news from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Historic Special Management Areas in The Adirondack Park

Yesterday, Almanack contributor (and Adirondack Explorer editor) Phil Brown pointed out the existence of Special Management Areas at the back of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (pdf). The areas are broken into Scenic, Geographical, Historic, and Natural “Illustrative Special Interest Areas”. The historic list includes a sometimes strange selection of 14 places of special historic interest on state forest lands.

Here they are: » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Famous Jerks of the Adirondacks

Today we were going to list the Ten Most Influential Adirondackers, based on input from you, the Almanack readers. We’ve decided to keep nominations open for one more week (please make your recommendations here). In the meantime, one of you suggested, “How about the Adirondacks’ ten biggest asshats? . . . [T]hat’s one discussion I’d like to read.” So, click through for a list of ten all-star Adirondack jerks and a-hats, in no particular order.

1. Nelson Rockefeller (1908-1979): No, not for establishing the Adirondack Park Agency but for the excessive drug laws he instituted as governor. They created an unsustainable dependency in the Adirondack prison economy, which is now contracting. Can’t blame David Paterson for this one.

2. General James Abercromby (1706-1781), British commander-in-chief in the French and Indian War. His 1758 attack on the French near Fort Carillon (now Ticonderoga) was a fiasco. His troops outnumbered Montcalm’s 15,000 to 4,000, but Abercromby “led” from the rear, sending six waves of 2,000 men without cannon support to die on a tangle of sharpened trees the French felled as a barricade. Brigadier General George Augustus Viscount Howe—unlike Abercromby loved by the troops—was killed in a skirmish en route to the battle. “The death of one man was the ruin of fifteen thousand,” a historian later wrote.

3. Bass, or more accurately the conservation officials and fishermen who introduced smallmouths, largemouths and other nonnative game species to brook-trout waters: Despite mostly good intentions, this has done more than acid rain to turn Adirondack lakes into fish zoos. Smallmouths continue to expand their range (anyone stocking bass today should know better) and appear poised to inherit the freshwater.

4. Father Isaac Jogues (1607-1646): The man was an actual saint. But he also could not take a hint. He was the first European to see the Adirondack interior, dragged there in 1642 as a prisoner of the Mohawks. In his memoir Jogues admits to getting on the Indians’ nerves and being repeatedly reminded to stop calling their spirits demons. He is tortured, his fingertips are bitten off. The Jesuit missionary escapes and returns to France. Still, he thinks, They need me. He returns four years later, and the Mohawks club him to death.

5. Robert Moses (1888-1981). This guy. I heard he wanted to build a highway through Indian Pass. (Let me help those of you shining a light on lazy journalism: here’s some. I absolutely can’t remember where I heard this.) The then-state parks chief makes the list anyway for saying in 1961 that the Forest Preserve should be opened to any highway construction and that a wilderness designation for state lands would benefit only “imitation Indians and amateur mountaineers.” Plus he was a booster of the dumb Rooftop Highway.

6. Magua: James Fenimore Cooper’s two-faced Huron is fictional but still the scariest villain ever to slip silently through the Adirondack woods. Don’t let Magua take you on a hike.

7. Ned Buntline (1813-1886): poser, dime novelist, dog-killer. He shot Alvah Dunning’s dog as it stood between the Raquette Lake guide’s legs. The Elizabethtown Post wrote, “During ‘Ned Buntline’s’ brief sad and checkered career in the Adirondacks he made some friends and a good many enemies. He was a man of rough exterior and spasmodic changes. A man of education and training, one who had associated with those in the highest walks of life, he also associated with those whose only creed—total depravity—kept them down on the lowest possible level.” Did that mean he was a pedophile?

8. Orrando P. Dexter (d. 1903), a case study in how not to make friends: buy up 7,000 acres where locals like to hunt, post the land and treat your new neighbors like peasants. The identity of the New York City millionaire’s assassin has been a Santa Clara secret for 107 years.

9. Samuel de Champlain (1567-1635): Scholars believe that the French explorer was a misunderstood peace-seeker, but as the first white man to see the Adirondacks and then to unload his arquebus on the natives within minutes [correction: a day] of meeting them, de Champlain set a hostile tone.

10. Fred G. Sullivan (1945-1996): briefly a mentor and always a hero to me, Adirondack Fred was a very funny guy, best remembered for writing, directing and starring in the self-deprecating 1987 movie The Beer Drinker’s Guide to Fitness and Filmmaking. At his memorial service, Fred’s lifelong friend eulogized (paraphrasing): “Fred liked to say there are two kinds of a**holes in the world: those who know they are and those who don’t. Fred was an a**hole.”

Illustration: General James Abercromby


Friday, January 15, 2010

Bolton Landing Wrestles With Ridge Line Development

From the heights of Bolton Landing, the views are of water, islands and mountains covered with forests that have not been disturbed for a century or more.

But from a boat on Lake George or from the opposite shore, the hills of Bolton Landing might remind some of a spawling suburb; houses creep along the crests and ridges, all designed with one goal in mind: to capture as much of the view as possible.

Despite the protests of groups like the Lake George Waterkeeper and The Fund for Lake George, more houses on ridge lines have been proposed.

And there appears to be little the environmental groups can do about it.

Bolton’s own comprehensive plan calls for the protection of the town’s hillsides, but that plan has yet to be translated into specific rules.

In the absence of regulations, the town’s Planning Board must work with developers to make roads and houses as unobtrusive as possible and to limit the numbers of trees that are felled.

“The challenge of the board is to allow development without changing the natural environment,” said Kathy Bozony, The Fund for Lake George’s land use co-ordinator.

One proposed development that will change the environment, representatives of the environmental protection organizations claim, includes a mile-long road up a mountainside where houses will be built.

The road and houses will be visible from the lake, the town-owned Conservation park and the Lake George Land Conservancy’s Cat Mountain preserve.

In December, for the third time in twelve months, the Planning Board reviewed the proposal.

According to Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky, the development will “become a permanent fixture of the viewshed from Cat Mountain, one of the most prominent peaks on the western shore of the lake. The clearing and disturbance is excessive and will have an impact on the resources of the community for generations to come.”

“We’re’re sensitive to viewshed preservation,” said Peter Loyola of CLA Site, the Saratoga-based architecture and design firm that planned the road and home sites. “But there’s a dilemna; the higher the home, the better the view. We want the houses to have some views of the lake.”

According to Loyola, the developers worked with the Town to create the most comprehensive and stringent program ever proposed in Bolton to mitigate the effects of tree cutting at the site, including stiff, enforceable fines for cutting trees once the houses were constructed.

“In twenty years, you won’t even see the houses,” said Loyola. Anyone violating the prohibition on tree cutting could be fined as much as $35,000 per violation, Loyola said.

But John Gaddy, a member of the Planning Board, said he questioned the efficacy of tree-cutting restrictions. “We’ve tried re-vegetation programs; they’re abused to get views. The Town won’t be a strong enforcer because it does not want to become the Tree Police,” said Gaddy. Moreover, he said, “There’s too much disturbance and the houses are in too sensitive
an area for me to support this project.”

Gaddy and another Planning Board voted against the project at the December meeting, just as they had at the two earlier meetings. With two members absent, having recused themselves, the proposal could not muster the support of a majority.

But according to lawyers for the developers, that vote does not mean the project has been denied. Instead, citing state law and local zoning codes, they argue that a stalemate constitutes “no action” rather than a denial. They assert the application must be deemed approved by default.

“We’re very disappointed the town could not reach a decision on one of its most controversial projects,” said Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky. “We’re contemplating legal challenges if the deadlock is treated as an approval.”

For more news from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror

Photo: Artist’s rendering of a proposed development on Bolton’s ridge line, after reforestation has begun. Image courtesy of Lake George Waterkeeper.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

APA May Exempt Lake George Boathouses from New Rules

If a proposal by the chairman of the Lake George Park Commission is adopted, Lake George camps will be exempt from pending Adirondack Park Agency (APA) regulations banning rooftop sun decks on boathouses.

At a heated public hearing on the Adirondack Park Agency’s proposed rules, held at the Lake George Town Hall on January 7, Lake George Park Commission chairman Bruce Young said the APA should authorize the Commission to continue regulating boathouses and docks on Lake George.

“I don’t see what the APA will do that is different from what the Lake George Park Commission does now,” said Young. “There should be provisions in the new regulations exempting the Lake George Park, and I would hope that the APA would honor our request.”

Adirondack Park Agency chairman Curt Stiles will meet with Young to discuss his proposition, said Keith McKeever, a spokesman for the agency.

Speaking one day after the public hearing, McKeever said that APA staff members have already expressed interest in Young’s proposal.

“Chairman Young made a valid point that overlapping regulations can be confusing and redundant, and that can lead to inefficiency,” said McKeever. “Deferring to the Lake George Park Commission would provide the Adirondack Park Agency with an opportunity to adhere to Governor Paterson’s directive to save taxpayers’ money by sharing services and eliminating duplication.”

Mike White, the executive director of the Lake George Park Commission, said he was not informed of Young’s proposal in advance of the public hearing.

But, he said, the Commission has a history of assuming authority from other state agencies to regulate activities on Lake George.

“We’ve directly co-ordinated with other agencies in the rule-making process to avoid duplication, and we’ve been delegated authority by other agencies to issue permits for some regulated activities,” said White.

If the new rules are adopted, authority to regulate boathouses could easily be transferred back to the Lake George Park Commission through a Memorandum of Understanding, said Peter Bauer, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George and a member of the APA’s Technical Advisory List, which the agency consulted when drafting the proposed regulations.

Without that delegation of authority, any new boathouses constructed on Lake George would probably be shorter and smaller than most of those currently permitted by the Lake George Park Commission and local governments.

Under the proposed rule, boat houses will not be allowed to exceed 15 feet in height, can be no larger than 900 square feet and must have pitched roofs.

At the public hearing on January 7, the requirement that roofs be pitched drew the heaviest fire from Lake George residents, contractors and boathouse builders.

According to Jeff Provost, the owner of a firm specializing in the construction of docks and boat houses, “Boathouses with flat roofs are the most popular type of boathouses in this region; it’s what people want.”

The flat roofs are typically used as sun decks, which increases the homeowner’s access to the lakefront and the value of his property.

Because boat houses are exempt from APA rules prohibiting structures within waterfront setbacks, the agency was compelled to develop a definition of boathouses that limited their use to boat storage.

That led to the requirement that roofs be pitched, said Keith McKeever.

It’s also something of an aesthetic mandate, he said.

In 2002, when the Adirondack Park Agency last revised its boat house regulations, the Agency was accused of forcing home owners to build flat, unattractive structures when it contemplated limiting the height of boathouses to 16 feet.

The Agency rejected that provision and chose instead to allow for a wider variety of designs and styles.

According to an APA memo, though, the 2002 regulation was too vague to be easily implemented, and new rules were drafted.

For more news from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror http://www.lakegeorgemirror.com


Monday, January 11, 2010

Impact of Fireworks On Lake George? Not Much

A Lake George Association study of weekly fireworks displays on Lake George found that there is apparently no significant increase in key contaminants found in fireworks in the lake’s water and sediments. The Association warned, however, that the study was limited in its scope and there is still questions about what level is safe for a key environmental pollutant, perchlorate. Perchlorate is absorbed by the thyroid gland in place of iodine, which can interfere with the thyroid, essential to metabolism and mental development. Perchlorates, barium, and antimony are all associated with fireworks.

Each year lakes around the around the Adirondacks are host to dozens of fireworks display. Lake George sees the most, with weekly displays in Lake George Village, and regular displays at other town parks such as Bolton, and at private organizations and hotels. There is, however, no registration or permitting process for fireworks, so no way to know exactly how many. The sense of some members of the Association that the displays were becoming more numerous each year led to the study.

The Association collected water samples from three sites in Lake George Village before and after five fireworks events last summer and also made a comparison of sediment samples from the village and those taken near Shelving Rock, where no large fireworks displays are believed to have occurred. The samples were analyzed for perchlorates, barium, and antimony. The entire study is available in pdf, but this is what the Association said in a press release this week:

There is no federal or NYS drinking water standard for perchlorate. In 2006 Massachusetts was the first to set such as standard, and set the drinking water standard for perchlorate at 0.002mg/L. Part of the problem is that there isn’t really much agreement on what is or isn’t a safe amount of perchlorate. But for the purposes of our study we used 0.002 mg/L as a reference point. Our results showed no change in perchlorate, with perchlorate levels less then 0.002 mg/L for all tests, before and after firework events. We also did not find a change in antimony levels, and while barium levels slightly fluctuated, the results were also not significant. We also found perchlorate levels of less than 0.002 mg/L in the sediment samples from both locations. Perchlorate-free fireworks are available for use, however they are much more costly than traditional fireworks. Since perchlorate has implications for human and environmental health, a switch to perchlorate-free fireworks for fireworks used over Lake George might want to be considered.

However, our initial findings did not find changes in perchlorate levels in the water attributable to fireworks, so they do not necessarily support the need of this additional expense at this time. We would still like to caution that this study was by no means comprehensive, so we can not know for certain if there is need for a concern over perchlorate or not. We can only weigh our options based on the knowledge we have available to us and do our best to protect Lake George and the economic viability of the region.

Other studies that did find changes in perchlorate levels measured at much smaller intervals. For instance, one study we reviewed had a method detection limit (MDL) of
0.003 ug/L, compared to the MDL of 1.2 ug/L that our lab was able to achieve. So we
might not have been able to detect changes that were present. However, the question of
what levels are relevant in terms of safety for human and environmental health is still
unanswered. Do we need to be able to detect 0.003 ug/L of perchlorate in our drinking
water? We don’t have that answer right now.

What does at least seem to make sense at this time is to track the fireworks displays that occur over Lake George every year, so that we can have a better idea of the number and locations of these events. This is at least a starting point. And then in the mean time we can look for answers to some of the questions that are still out there.


Friday, January 1, 2010

Lake George Counts itself a Zebra Mussel Survivor

In December 1999, researchers discovered that Lake George was not immune to Zebra mussels after all.

During an annual dive to retrieve litter from the lake bottom in Lake George Village, volunteers discovered what appeared to them to be the exotic mollusk that had already wreaked havoc in Lake Champlain and in nearby rivers, competing with native animal species for food and clogging water systems.

Diver Joe Zarzynski contacted the Darrin Fresh Water Institute, whose scientists confirmed that the brown and cream striped shell attached to a beer bottle was indeed a Zebra mussel. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 28, 2009

The Lake George Mirror: An Adirondack Insitution

The Lake George Mirror has finally found a spot on the web and has begun posting occasional selections from his archive. The paper, which holds the title of longest running resort newspaper in America, was founded in 1880 by Alfred Merrick (later Lake George’s oldest living resident). Originally the paper was published to serve the village of Lake George and had a temperance bent, a somewhat strange approach for a resort town.

Not long after founding the paper, Merrick gave it up for interest in a bowling alley, and it struggled until W.H. Tippetts came along. Tippets published the paper in order to promote Lake George as a summer resort. When he abandoned the Mirror in 1900 it was purchased by several local businessmen who turned it over to Edward Knight, editor of the Essex County News. The Knight family edited the paper into the 1960s.

A short history on the paper’s new website offers a glimpse of what the paper was like under the leadership of the Knight family:

While it chronicled the changes on Lake George – the rise and fall of the great resort hotels, the destruction of the mansions along Lake Shore Drive, and the proliferation of motels and tourist cabins – the Mirror itself changed little. For the families who returned each summer, the Mirror was the newspaper of record. It announced the arrivals and departures of their neighbors, publicized their activities, and performed all the offices of a country paper: heralding births, celebrating weddings, saying a few final words over the deceased in the editorial and obituary columns. The Mirror did not, however, neglect the year round residents – the homefolks. It championed projects that would enhance daily life in the villages and towns, such as the road over Tongue Mountain, the Million Dollar Beach and the expansion of Shepard Park. As long-time editor Art Knight recalled in 1970, “Many of the improvements we have advocated over the years have become realities and we like to think that perhaps in some small way we have been responsible for their ultimate adoption.”

Except on rare occasions, the Mirror had little interest in political controversy. It was, however, a fierce advocate for the protection of Lake George. During World War II, for instance, Art Knight editorialized: “There is one battle in which there can be no armistice …the battle of Lake George. The enemy are those thoughtless and selfish people who, with only their immediate profit in view, will take advantage of any laxity in our guards in order to save themselves a dollar.” Art Knight recognized that the lake’s shores would continue to be developed. But he also recognized that care would have to be taken if the development was to enhance and not detract from the lake’s beauty. “If we fail, then our detractions from the natural beauties… will earn for all of us the antipathy of future generations.”

Robert Hall took over the Lake George Mirror in the late 1950s. Hall had been a Washington and European correspondent for the Communist newspaper the Daily Worker and its Sunday edition editor. During a time when the FBI was conducting illegal operations against suspected leftist (including burglaries, opening mail, and illegal wiretaps) Hall grew tired of radical politics and moved his family to the Adirondacks where he eventually purchased the Warrensburg News, the Corinthian, the Indian Lake Bulletin and the Hamilton Country News. He established Adirondack Life magazine as a supplement to his his weekly papers in 1962.

In 1968, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller appointed Hall to the Temporary Commission to Study the Future of the Adirondacks, whose recommendations led to the establishment of the APA. Hall later sold the Mirror, and his other weeklies, to Denton Publications and took a job as editor of the New York State’s Conservationist magazine.

The Mirror went from owner to owner until Tony Hall, Robert Hall’s son who was raised in Warrensburg, bought the paper with his wife Lisa in 1998. Of course regular readers of the Adirondack Almanack will also recognize Tony’s name on our list of contributors.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

APA Schedules Hearings on Boathouse Regulations

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) has scheduled four public hearings to encourage comments on the agency’s proposed revisions to its Boathouse regulations. Designed to protect ecologically sensitive shorelines, boathouse regulations, were first adopted in 1979 and revised in 2002. This newest proposed revision limits the overall footprint of boathouses to 900 square feet and the height to fifteen feet. This criteria revises the previous “single story” limitation, which was being violated with large “attics” and rooftop decks, according to the APA, and clarifies that boathouses are for boat storage only.

The proposed revisions would continue prohibitions on using boat houses for anything but boats, building’s constructed for other uses will be required to meet with APA shoreline setbeck regulations. According to the APA public hearing announcement, “other structures such as decks, guest cottages, and recreation rooms are prohibited on the shoreline if greater than 100 square feet in size. Under prior regulations, landowners attached these components as part of what would otherwise be a boat berthing structure, and argued these components were part of the “boathouse” because the previous definitions did not specifically exclude them.”

Here are the further details from the APA:

The 2002 definition limited boathouses to a “single story.” However, the definition fails to prohibit large “attics,” and extensive rooftop decks, resulting in some very large non-jurisdictional shoreline structures. The lack of clarity requires architect’s plans and time-consuming staff evaluation.

The 2009 proposal retains the 2002 provisions that define “boathouse” to mean “a covered structure with direct access to a navigable body of water which (1) is used only for the storage of boats and associated equipment; (2) does not contain bathroom facilities, sanitary plumbing, or sanitary drains of any kind; (3) does not contain kitchen facilities of any kind; (4) does not contain a heating system of any kind; (5) does not contain beds or sleeping quarters of any kind”.

The proposal adds: “(6) has a footprint of 900 square feet or less measured at exterior walls, a height of fifteen feet or less, and a minimum roof pitch of four on twelve for all rigid roof surfaces. Height shall be measured from the surface of the floor serving the boat berths to the highest point of the structure.”

The change is prospective only; lawful existing boathouse structures may be repaired or replaced pursuant to Section 811 of the APA Act within the existing building envelope. For those who wish to exceed the size parameters or expand a larger existing boathouse, a variance will be required. Standard shoreline cutting and wetland jurisdictional predicates still apply in all cases.

Shorelines are important to the Adirondack Park’s communities and environment. The dynamic ecosystems that edge Adirondack Park lakes, wetlands, rivers, and streams are critical to both terrestrial and aquatic species. Well-vegetated shorelines serve as buffer strips, protecting banks from erosion, safeguarding water quality, cooling streams, and providing some of the Park’s most productive wildlife habitat.

Large structures and intensive use at the shoreline causes unnecessary erosion and adverse impacts to critical habitat and aesthetics and raises questions of fair treatment of neighboring shoreline properties.

The Statutes and Regulations that the Agency is charged to administer strive to protect water quality and the scenic appeal of Adirondack shorelines by establishing structure setbacks, lot widths and cutting restrictions. However boathouses, docks and other structures less than 100 square feet are exempt from the shoreline setback requirements.

The four hearings are scheduled for the following dates and locations:

January 5, 2010, 6:00 p.m.
Adirondack Park Agency
Ray Brook, New York
This hearing will be webcast at the APA website.

January 6, 2010, 6:00 p.m.
Town of Webb Park Ave. Building
183 Park Ave.
Old Forge, New York

January 7, 2010, 11:00 a.m.
Department of Environmental Conservation
625 Broadway, Room 129B
Albany, New York

January 7, 2010, 6:00 p.m.
Lake George Town Hall
Lake George, New York

Written comments will be accepted until January, 17, 2009 and should be submitted to:

John S. Banta, Counsel
NYS Adirondack Park Agency
P.O. Box 99
Ray Brook, New York 12977
Fax (518) 891-3938


Friday, December 11, 2009

Lake George Sewage: DEC Demands Upgrades Costing Millions

New York State has officially closed its investigation of the July 5 sewer break that spilled thousands of gallons of sewage into Lake George and closed Shepard Park Beach to swimmers for the remainder of the summer.

But according to a consent order drafted by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, Lake George Village must agree to complete millions of dollars worth of improvements to the Village’s wastewater collection system if it is to avoid $10,000 in fines and other enforcement actions.

The Village’s Board of Trustees has not yet authorized Mayor Bob Blais to sign the consent order, said Darlene Gunther, the Village’s Clerk-Treasurer.

“The board is awaiting notification that the Village has received a grant that will help pay for the improvements, said Gunther.

“Once we receive the grant, we’ll sign it and then go ahead and do everything that is required of us,” said Mayor Blais.

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has placed Lake George Village’s wastewater collection system on a list of municipal projects eligible for immediate federal funding, said Blais.

The Village should hear within a matter of days whether it has been awarded the grant, said Gunther.

Lake George Village has also submitted an application for funds that would allow the Village to install equipment at the Wastewater Treatment Plant that would remove nitrogen from effluent, said Blais.

Even if it signs the consent order, Lake George Village will still be required to pay $5000 in fines, but Village officials hope that sum can be reduced through negotiations, said David Harrington, the Village’s Superintendent of Public Works.

In return for agreeing to improve the system, state officials will agree to forego additional enforcement actions against the Village for violating, however inadvertently, state laws prohibiting the discharge of sewage into Lake George, the consent order states.

Among other things, the DEC requires Lake George Village to repair the broken pipe that caused the sewage spill and undertake remedial actions at the pump station in Shepard Park.

According to Harrington, those actions were completed within days of the break.

Crews from Lake George Village’s Department of Public Works and the construction firm TKC completed repairs to the pump station in Shepard Park and a new section of pipe where the break occurred was installed. Village crews also installed additional alarms within the building, said Blais.

The consent order also requires Lake George Village to draft an Asset Management Plan for the wastewater system, which, according to the consent order, must include: “an inventory of all wastewater collection system assets; an evaluation of conditions; a description of necessary repairs or replacements; the schedule for repairs; costs of repairs.”

At its November meeting, the Lake George Village Board of Trustees appropriated $5000 to retain C.T. Male Associates to draft the Asset Management Plan.

According to Blais, C.T. Male associates helped develop the application for the grant that is now pending.

“We were asked by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s staff to establish our priorities, and our priority is to slip line every sewer line where there’s a problem with infiltration of water,” said Blais.

“DEC’s priorities, as we understand them, are the priorities we’ve established,” Blais added.

Walt Lender, the Lake George Association’s executive director, said that he had not yet seen DEC’s order of consent and could not comment on its terms.

Peter Bauer, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George, praised the DEC for requiring Lake George Village to complete an Asset Management Plan.

“This is the first step in the prevention of future sewage spills; we need to know where the flaws in the system are, and this will help identify the improvements that must be made if we’re to address the chronically high coliform counts in waters near the Village,” said Bauer.

Dave Harrington estimated the costs of improvements to the wastewater system to be $3.2 million.

DEC’s consent order requires those improvements to be completed by September, 2011.

Photo: Shepard Park in June, before the spill that closed the beach. Lake George Mirror photo.

For more news from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror. http://lakegeorgemirror.com


Friday, November 20, 2009

Lake George Steamboats Resuming Service to Bolton Landing

The Lake George Steamboat Company suspended service to Bolton Landing in 2006, citing the poor condition of the town pier as its reason for discontinuing a tradition that began in the nineteenth century. Next summer, though, after a three year hiatus, the steamboats will return.

At its monthly meeting in November, the Bolton Town Board voted unanimously to accept a bid of $929,292 from The Dock Doctors of Ferrisburg, Vermont to restore the pier and to appropriate funds for the work, which is expected to be completed in July.

The Board agreed to borrow up to $650,000 from the town’s share of the proceeds from last summer’s sale of the Sagamore grant to help fund the project. “People have wanted the service back ever since it stopped,” said Bolton Supervisor Kathy Simmes. “It’s one of our town’s amenities”

Awaiting the arrival of the Lake George Steamboat Company’s Mohican had become a favorite rite of summers in Bolton Landing. As the boat’s captain blew her whistle, she was greeted to with shouts and waves from the nearby beach as well as by passengers hurrying to the pier to board.

“I was sorry to have to end service,” said Bill Dow, the president of the Lake George Steamboat Company. “As late as the 1970s and 80s, we’d have as many as 100 people waiting at the dock. In recent years, those numbers have dwindled, but we hope they can be revived.”

The new pier will not only accommodate the Mohican; the 190 ft Lac du St Sacrement will also be able to pick up passengers in Bolton Landing.

“That’s a huge advantage for the Sagamore,” said Kevin Rosa, the resort’s director of marketing and sales. “We have groups that charter the Lac du St Sacrement but those groups have had to meet the boat in Lake George Village. A shorter trip to the Bolton Pier will help immensely. “

Shoreline Cruises’ Horicon and Adirondac have also been invited to make use of the pier, as has the Sagamore’s Morgan, Simmes said.

The Town contracted with an engineering firm, Schoder River Associates, to design the reconstructed pier. According to councilman Jason Saris, the design calls for the removal of the pier’s timbers above the waterline. “Rather than replacing the wood, the pier will feature pre-cast concrete with a stone-like face that will match the sea wall,” said Saris. “It will be aesthetically pleasing and much more durable.”

Timber pilings that were attached to the face of the pier will be replaced by concrete-filled steel pilings implanted in bedrock, Saris said. “When the face of the pier deteriorated, there was nothing left to secure the pilings,” Saris said.
The LA group, a planning and design firm, has proposed a renovation of the pier’s surface, said Saris.

The plan includes removing the existing gazebo and replacing it with other seating areas, said Saris. Plans also call for doubling the capacity of the town’s public docks, allowing space for as many as sixteen boats to tie up at any one time.
“This is very significant,” said Saris. “We really wanted to increase dock space in town so people will be able to come by water to our restaurants and shops.”
Plans call for reserving at least two slips for boaters picking up or dropping off passengers, said Saris.

For more news from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror, or visit http://lakegeorgemirror.com.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Short Adirondack Hike For Short Days

November is one of those in-between months, sort of like mud or black-fly season, where your outdoor activities are sort of limited. There’s no snow yet (not anymore, not like the old days anyway), it’s too cold to paddle unless you’re a die-hard and without any leaves the woods certainly don’t look terribly appealing. Not to mention the fact that it gets dark only a few hours past noon.

Our advice for a hike during these dreary, pre-winter days? Keep it short.

A good outing for those in the Lake George area, or living in the Capital Region, is Sleeping Beauty. This 2,162-foot-high treeless peak is less than two miles from the parking lot (assuming you’re brave enough to drive the one-lane, 1.5-mile road to Dacy Clearing from Shelving Rock Road — but I’ve done it several times in a sedan and never had a problem). And though it gains steeply toward the end it’s a climb any hiker should be able to tackle.

To reach the trailhead, 149 east of Route 9 in Queensbury, and make a left on Buttermilk Falls Road. Follow that road for a good 10 to 15 minutes until you enter the Shelving Rock woods. You’ll see a huge parking lot on the right, and at the end of that will be the road to Dacy Clearing (or park here and walk the road if you like). Don’t make the right onto Hogback Road.

Trail signs point the way to Sleeping Beauty, which at first follows an old, rugged dirt road. Eventually, the trail leaves the road and climbs steeply past rock cliffs to the summit, which provides a sterling view over most of Lake George.

If you left early enough you’ll have time to explore some of the many trails in this area. Bumps Pond, just north of Sleeping Beauty, makes a nice loop, and Fishbrook Pond further north will make the loop even longer. There’s a nice leanto at Fishbrook to have lunch and a number of other loop options if the short days still haven’t caught up to you.

While the trails are well-signed, an ADK Eastern Region trail map will go a long way to helping you choose your destinations. Remember to pack a flashlight and warm clothes, and enjoy.

Photo: Lake George from Sleeping Beauty.


Friday, November 13, 2009

State Investigators Probing Lake George Officials

The New York State Comptrollers Office is investigating potentially illegal actions by Town of Lake George officials, a spokesman for the Comptroller’s office said. “An investigation is underway but we cannot comment on its scope or how it was initiated,” said Mark Johnson, a spokesman for Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. Lake George supervisor Lou Tessier said he had no knowledge of any investigation nor any idea why such an investigation would be undertaken.

Auditors from the Comptroller’s Division of Local Government and School Accountability have begun an examination of the town’s books, Tessier said, but stated that a performance audit is a routine matter. A similar audit was made of Lake George Village’s records earlier this fall.

Investigators from the Office of the Comptroller’s Division of Investigations, based in New York City, traveled to Lake George in mid-October to conduct interviews, the Lake George Mirror has learned. Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky and Fort William Henry Corporation president Robert Flacke were among those interviewed.

Navitsky said he was asked whether he knew of any instances of favoritism in the granting of variances or permits by the town’s Zoning or Planning Boards.

Flacke said he was asked about issues that emerged during his unsuccessful campaign for Town Supervisor two years ago. “We discussed issues such as whether developers are given gravel free from the town’s gravel pit and whether town employees work on private roads and driveways,” said Flacke.

Rita Dorman, a former Town Clerk who was later elected to the Town Board, said she was contacted by investigators but has not spoken with them. “I haven’t had any association with the town government in recent years; I have no information to give,” she said.

Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan, to whose office any criminal actions might be referred, said she has had no formal contact with the Comptroller’s office about the Lake George investigation.

Some residents have surmised that the investigation was begun after the Office of the Comptroller received complaints from one or more current or former town employees.

According to the Office of the Comptroller, the public is encouraged to report allegations of fraud, corruption or abuse of taxpayer dollars to a hotline staffed by investigators from the Investigations Unit of the Legal Services.

After conducting a preliminary investigation, the Office may proceed with a full investigation and refer its findings to a prosecutor or, if no evidence of wrong-doing is found, close the case.

Individuals who make complaints are granted anonymity, the Office says.

Photo: Lake George Supervisor Lou Tessier

For more news from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror or visit http://www.lakegeorgemirror.com


Friday, November 6, 2009

Lake Groups: Dead Zone Should be Lake George Wake-Up Call

A dead zone that re-appeared in Lake George’s south basin for the 23rd consecutive year this past summer is proof, if proof were required, of the need for greener land use practices, lake protection organizations argue.

The zone is an area depleted of oxygen and devoid of life that extends from Lake George Village to Tea Island, said Peter Bauer, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George.

“It forms in the south basin rather than in the northern basins, not because land use practices are better in Bolton or Hague, but because more tributaries flow into that basin,” said Bauer. “It’s truly the canary in the mine-shaft, a warning of future water quality trends if we don’t improve our land-use practices.”
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