Posts Tagged ‘Travel-Tourism’

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Moose ‘n’ Bear Discuss The A-lists


Monday, April 20, 2009

Lake Placid Tour Boat Doris II Retired From Service

Management of the Lake Placid Marina has decided to suspend operation of the tour boat Doris II for the 2009 summer season. According to Dan Keefe, spokesman for New York’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, a Marine Unit inspector noticed “structural diminishment” to the hull during his annual visit last Thursday. The inspector advised officials at the Marina that no inspection to the vessel would take place until preliminary repairs were made. Lake Placid Marina Manager Brian Bliss characterized the damage to the 58-year old tourist attraction as chronic wear-and-tear. The structural work necessary to restore the hull to compliance was deemed prohibitively expensive. Lake Placid Marina owner Serge Lussi told the Adirondack Daily Enterprise that Doris II would not be restored to operation and that a search for a replacement has been launched. The 60-ft long craft, originally designed to carry 126 passengers, is presently stored on site. No decision has yet been made on sale or disposal of the craft.

Doris II was assembled in the spring of 1951 at George & Bliss boathouse (current site of Lake Placid Marina) on Lake Placid, from a kit of materials shipped from Bay City Boat Co. in Michigan. The purchase and construction were overseen by George & Bliss Manager Leslie Lewis and Captain Arthur Stevens, who skippered the original Doris on Lake Placid from 1903 until its retirement from service in 1950. Doris II was launched July 3, 1951 and toured her first paying customers along the 16-mile shoreline of the lake on July 12 (corrected from earlier version) of that year.

Until a replacement is found, the absence of Doris II raises the prospect of the first summer season since 1882 that Lake Placid will not float a large-capacity touring vessel. Last year The Lady of The Lake, another long-time icon of Lake Placid tourism, was removed from service. Tightened regulations following the capsizing of the Lake George tour boat Ethan Allen contributed to that retirement. A third Lake Placid tour boat of recent years, the Anna, remains on the lake under private ownership, according to Brian Bliss.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

‘Wild, Unsettled Country’ at the Adirondack Museum

The Adirondack Museum has announced a new exhibit, “A Wild, Unsettled Country: Early Reflections of the Adirondacks,” which will look at the early efforts to convey the Adirondacks visually to the wider world. The exhibit will open on May 22 — meaning that year-round Adirondack Park residents should be able to catch the exhibit for free the last week of May.

The first Europeans to see the Adirondack landscape of northern New York State came to explore, to document important military operations and fortifications, or to create maps and scientifically accurate images of the terrain, flora and fauna. These early illustrations filled practical needs rather than aesthetic ones.

The exhibition will showcase approximately forty paintings from the museum’s exceptional art collection, including works by Thomas Cole, John Frederick Kensett, William Havell, John Henry Dolph and James David Smillie.

Also featured are fifty of the engravings and lithographs of Adirondack landscape paintings that brought these images to a wider audience and provided many Americans with their first glimpse of the “howling wilds” that were the Adirondack Mountains.

While tourists were flocking to Saratoga Springs in the 1830s, few ventured north into the “lofty chain of granite” visible from Lake George. One guidebook described the mysterious forms as “a wild repulsive aspect.” Little was known of these yet-unnamed mountains.

In 1836, the New York State legislature authorized a survey of the state’s natural resources. Artist Charles Cromwell Ingham was asked to join geologists Ebenezer Emmons and William C. Redfield during one of the first exploratory surveys. During the trip, he painted the Great Adirondack Pass “on the spot.” The original painting will be shown in the exhibition.

The exhibit will also include photographs — stereo views and albumen prints — sold as tourist souvenirs and to armchair travelers. William James Stillman took the earliest photos in the exhibition, in 1859. These rare images are the first photographic landscape studies taken in the Adirondacks. Photos by Seneca Ray Stoddard will also be displayed.

Significant historic maps will illustrate the growth of knowledge about the Adirondack region. In 1818, it was still a mysterious “wild, barren tract . . . covered with almost impenetrable Bogs, Marshes & Ponds, and the uplands with Rocks and evergreens.” By 1870, the Adirondacks had become a tourist destination with clearly defined travel routes, hotels, beaches, and camps.

A Wild, Unsettled Country will be on exhibit in the Lynn H. Boillot Art Galleries. The space includes the Adirondack Museum Gallery Study Center — a resource for learning more about American art. In addition to a library of reference books, a touch-screen computer allows visitors to access images from the museum’s extensive fine art collection.

The Gallery Study Center will include a media space as part of the special exhibit. The documentary film “Champlain: The Lake Between” will be shown continuously. The film, part of the Lake Champlain Voyages of Discovery project, has aired on Vermont Public Television in recent months.

A Wild, Unsettled Country is not just for adults. Family-friendly elements include Looking at Art With Children, a guide for parents as they investigate the arts with youngsters; the Grand Tour Guide, a colorful and engaging map that encourages exploration of the Adirondack sites shown in the paintings; and ten different Wild About! guidebooks that urge kids to be “wild” about maps, prints, history, and more.

Photo caption: View of Caldwell, Lake George, by William Tolman Carlton, 1844. Collection of the Adirondack Museum.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Update: The Point on Upper Saranac Lake

The apparent demise of Everlands will not affect the luxury resort the Point, a management official said today.

“Everlands is back-burnering itself” during the economic slump, confirmed David Garrett, president of Garrett Hotel Group, based in Vermont. The Garrett Group manages the Point, on Upper Saranac Lake, and owns Lake Placid Lodge, a separate Great Camp–style resort on the shore of Lake Placid.

Garrett said the Point will remain open to guests no matter what happens to Everlands, a start-up that planned to assemble a global collective of 45 exclusive properties in protected natural settings. Since it launched in 2007, Everlands acquired six lodgings, according to its Web site. The London Times reported it had attracted only 60 members out of a goal of 1,800, later lowered to 900. Memberships were to cost $1 million but were available to early birds for half that amount. Everlands has not returned calls seeking comment. The Point will continue to operate as a hotel, as it had in the past, not a fractional ownership.

The Garrett Group sold the Point in 2007 to “a group of founding members of Everlands, separate from the actual Everlands entity,” Garrett explained. He said the sale was carefully structured to “protect” the Point should the Everlands concept not prove viable.

The Point will be closed in April, as it always is, and will reopen in May.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Whiteface-Gore Offer Spring Skiing Deal

For the first time ever, Whiteface and Gore mountains are teaming up to offer the Ultimate Spring Season Pass, good for unlimited skiing and riding at either mountain through the rest of the 2008-09 season. The pass went on sale Sunday, March 22.

Adults (ages 23-69) can purchase the pass for $129; young adult passes (ages 13-22) are $99. The junior (7-12) rate is $69, and kids 6 and under ski and ride, as always, for free.

Whiteface and Gore mountains are holding the season pass rates for next season, 2009-10. All season passes go on sale Sunday for the greatest value. Adult full season passes are $690 if purchased by June 12. A payment plan is available payments due at time of purchase, July 24, and September 8. This is the best value if pass holders ski more that 9 times a season including holidays.

The popular Whiteface only non-holiday returns for $399 if purchased by June 12. This pass includes blackout dates of December 26, 2009-January 2, 2010, January 16-18, 2010, and February 13-20, 2010. The passes must be purchased by June 12 to receive as the pass won’t be available after that date. This is the best value if pass holders ski or ride more that six times at Whiteface only excluding holidays

Both mountains plan to stay open through April 12. Whiteface is hosting a Mini-Park Meltdown March 28, followed by a Retro Deck Party with live music by Ironwood. The Apple Butter Open moguls competition returns April 4, while pond skimming is April 11. Easter Sunday wraps up the festivities at Whiteface and Gore with the mountains hosting Easter services, brunch, egg hunts and more.

Senior (65-69), young adult and junior passes are available at both mountains. For the complete selection of pass offerings, visit www.goremountain.com and www.whiteface.com.


Monday, March 23, 2009

A New Ski Business Plan for Hickory

While negotiations continue over Big Tupper Ski Area, whose reopening hinges on a 625-lot residential development, a different group of investors is pursuing a condo-free strategy to resurrect Hickory Ski Center in Warrensburg.

“My initial interest in Hickory was in its history (founded by a WWII member of the 10th Mountain Division) and reputation as a challenging hill (notwithstanding its small size),” Bill Van Pelt IV said in an e-mail.

Van Pelt, a financial planner from Saratoga now living in Texas, is leading several shareholders and Hickory board members in trying to come up with a new business plan for the old-school mountain, which has 1,200 feet of vertical drop, 17 trails, two Poma lifts, a T-bar and a rope tow.

Operating private ski areas has proven a challenge in the Adirondacks, so the group is trying to come up with a viable game plan.

“Mad River Glen provides an example with which I am personally familiar,” Van Pelt wrote. “I made an early, conscious effort not to tackle the problem with real estate development as a component of the plan. That reflects my personal preference (I don’t like golf courses with houses on them either) and, coincidently, the culture of Hickory and its board.”

Mad River Glen, in Waitsfield, Vermont, is proudly skier-owned and natural — no snowmaking. [Post-deadline correction: there is a modest system with two guns that supplments a fraction of the terrain.] Shareholders are trying to decide whether they should leave Hickory’s snow cover to nature or modernize with a snowmaking system and a chairlift.

Either way, Van Pelt told the Glens Falls Post-Star that the mountain will reopen next season after several years in limbo. He and other board members are receiving enthusiastic e-mails from former Hickory skiers and soliciting their suggestions via skihickory@mccltd.com.

The only other privately owned ski area still running in the Adirondack Park, Royal Mountain in Caroga Lake, hosts motocross races in summer to make ends meet. Big Tupper Ski Area, in Tupper Lake, has been closed for a decade; a consortium of Philadelphia-based investors proposes to make skiing the centerpiece of a vast high-end development and say the slope is otherwise not financially sustainable. Oak Mountain recently went into bankruptcy but was run this winter by the village of Speculator.

Map from New England Lost Ski Areas Project.


Monday, March 16, 2009

State Parks 2009 Reservation Numbers Up

More proof that camping remains an inexpensive vacation option came this late last week when the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation announced that advance camping reservations are currently up 6 percent, noting that State Parks are booking record numbers of vacations.

According to the state, there are already 45,300 advance reservations for campsite, cabins and cottages for the 2009 season, a level that is more than 2,650 ahead of the total at same time last year. Advance reservations at state parks campgrounds have been steadily increasing in recent years, with a record 137,000 bookings in 2008.

OPRHP oversees 67 campgrounds with more than 8,000 campsites, 800 cabins and 41 vacation rentals. Reservations are accepted for campsites and cabins, from one day to nine months in advance of the planned arrival date by calling toll free 1-800-456-CAMP or online, www.nysparks.com.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A New Blog and Book About Hulett’s Landing

Hulett’s Landing on the east side of Lake George is the subject of a new Adirondack blog, The Huletts Current, and a new book by George Kapusinski whose family operates Huletts-On-Lake-George. It turns out I’m connected by marriage to the Hulett family that established Hulett’s Landing. So I thought I’d offer a little history – one that ties eastern timber rattlesnakes with an early noted librarian and explorer (now that’s a combination!) and at the same time adds a new steamship to the history of Lake George. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Golden Arrow Retires 132 Tons of Carbon Dioxide

The Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort in Lake Placid, New York retired 132 tons of carbon dioxide for the month of December 2008. The Golden Arrow accomplished this by working jointly with the Adirondack Council and their Cool Park/ Healthy Planet Carbon Retirement Program. The program was created by the Adirondack Council to prevent thousands of tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted by power plants from Maine to Delaware.

The Golden Arrow committed to retire enough carbon credits to offset the total number of occupied room nights for the month of December. It has been estimated that the there are 100 lbs of carbon emitted per room night. The Golden Arrow had a goal to retire 100 tons of carbon credits through the program. A total of 2590 rooms were occupied at the resort for the month of December.

The resort through the program permanently retired 132 tons, which was almost one third more than their original goal. It was their objective to make guests and the public to understand that they can really help make a difference. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Whiteface’s Third Peak Lookout Mountain Opens Thurs

Lookout Mountain, Whiteface’s third peak, is set for its Grand Opening on Thursday, January 8, at 1 PM. [UPDATE: Due to the weather conditions at Whiteface this will take place 11 AM, Friday, January 9]. The new peak will include three new trails beginning with The Wilmington Trail. This run is a 2.5-mile long intermediate cruiser overlooking the Wilmington Wild Forest. Lookout Mountain’s other two trails are expert runs called Lookout Below and Hoyt’s High. Lookout Below is about 1/5 of a mile long. Hoyt’s High was named in honor of Whiteface veteran ski patroller Jim Hoyt, Sr. He has been employed at Whiteface for over 50 years. This trail has a long and consistent expert pitch over its 4,182-feet length. Both runs will be opened later this winter.

The official ribbon cutting ceremony at 1 PM will include ORDA Chairman Joe Martens, ORDA Board Members Ed Weibrecht and Serge Lussi as well as Wilmington Town Supervisor Randy Preston. Following the on-mountain grand opening activities, a special dedication to the Whiteface Region Visitors Bureau members will be made at 2 PM in the Lookout Café, located within the main base lodge. Complimentary hot chocolate will be served.

For up-to-date trail conditions and mountain activities, go to www.whiteface.com. For more information on the Olympic venues and events, and for web cams from five locations, visit www.whitefacelakeplacid.com.


Monday, January 5, 2009

Lake Placid: Another Victim of Ethan Allen Sinking

From Mark Wilson, who writes the newsletter for the Lake Placid Shore Owners’ Association (founded in 1893), comes news of the demise of the Lake Placid’s Lady of the Lake tour boat. She was on the same service as the Ethan Allen in the Thousands Islands until the 1950s and has suffered from regulations that grew from the tragedy at Lake George in October 2005. Here is Wilson’s full report:

The Lady of the Lake, longtime doyen of the Lake Placid tour boat fleet, has taken to the road. Since late summer the sleek septuagenarian has sat on her trailer at the edge of Route 86 in Ray Brook, looking westward.

Nostalgically, perhaps. Remembering Alexandria Bay and Hutchinson’s Boatworks where she was built in 1929, and where–until the 1950s–she shuttled among the Thousand Islands under the name Commander. According to General Hugh Rowan’s history of sightseeing boats on Lake Placid Lake Placid, Charles C. Grote brought her to Placid in 1958, re-christening her Lady of the Lake, competition for the Doris II, owned by George and Bliss Marina.

For nearly fifty years she served proudly, despite a docking accident which scuttled her in July 2006. According to current owner Michael Arico, statewide tour boat regulations enacted after the fatal capsizing of the Ethan Allen on Lake George in 2005 reduced the Lady’s passenger limit, effectively ending her career.

Arico attempted to sell her on eBay earlier this summer. By the end of August a buyer arrived with a custom-built trailer to tow her down to Eustis Lake, Florida. But the deal fell through at the last minute, ending any hopes the Lady may have harbored of a Florida retirement. And so she sits patiently, if somewhat forlornly, roadside, decked out in white (four months past Labor Day!).

If you have a special place in your heart for this once-proud-now-down-on-her-scuppers plier of Placid waters, and about 44 feet of dock space, call Michael Arico at (914) 456-2550.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

In AuSable Forks The Economic Crises Hits Home

I’ve been following the struggles of local business in the Essex County village of AuSable Forks. I asked Trudy Rosenblum who edits the Jay Community News to tell us about what’s been happening in her community. Here is what she sent:

AuSable Forks in the Township of Jay New York is feeling the first pangs of real hardship as the economic crisis arrives locally. Without warning Aubochon Hardware, conveniently located in the middle of the main street in Au Sable Forks, suddenly closed its doors. Now there are persistent rumors that the Grand Union in Au Sable Forks will also close along with several of the small businesses on the main street. People are very upset. They wonder what will become of this little town.

Au Sable Forks was once thriving with large sawmills, a foundry and an Iron Works company. There were plenty of jobs and numerous stores, hotels, restaurants and entertainment for the local population. Like any town, Au Sable Forks has seen its hard times, but the little town always managed to pull through, somehow adapting and changing, although it has never managed to recreate the beauty and attractiveness it had in the early 20th century.

Now the town is smaller and much poorer. There is a large population of elderly. Jobs are few and usually a long commute away. There is no industry, and no large employer. Visually it is no longer the charming quaint little village of the past that could attract tourists. Busloads of sightseers will not be stopping in the Forks even though we have the natural beauty that tourists want to see.

So Au Sable Forks has been of late a town hanging on. Up till the latest crisis at least its population could obtain locally the necessities for living, but with the closing of the big stores even that will be taken from the residents. It is especially difficult for a rural village in a cold climate to carry on in a poor economy. People already financially strapped must find a way to pay higher prices for everything because everything must be imported from cities farther away.

Home heating costs have gone through the roof. If you don’t have a car, there isn’t public transportation (although just this month a shuttle bus has been announced that will go to Lake Placid daily) so one has to rely on the good will of friends or they have to do without. Take away their ability to walk to the local store for food and other supplies and you have a recipe for disaster. The closest large grocery store is in Keeseville, Lake Placid or Plattsburgh, all a significant drive away, if you have transportation.

The impacts that the store closings may have could be pretty awful. As times get tougher and resources dwindle and become more expensive to obtain both in time and money, one would expect to see a rise in depression and a lowering of one’s frustration tolerance. Along with the lowering of frustration tolerance and the negative effects from the use of escape substances one could expect a rise in abusive behavior. At risk will be children, animals, women and the elderly. There is an old saying that like attracts like. Negativity will attract negativity causing a downward spiral.

There are many people in the Township of Jay working hard to prevent this downward spiral. The churches are very active providing food banks, inexpensive clothing, short-term shelter and even money. The politicians are hard at work trying to prevent the stores from closing and offering new programs to revitalize the appearance of the town. The residents are trying very hard to patronize local businesses and hire local workers. And to lighten the mood Au Sable Forks now has a renovated movie theater and in Jay there is a new performing arts theater in full operation presenting plays, concerts, story telling, dance classes, movement instruction and painting and sculpture classes.

It is hoped that with all these people working so hard the dire predictions of gloom and doom can be aborted and the positive cooperative spirit can attract more of the same. What is really needed, however, is a long-term fix. People need local good jobs. There needs to be some sort of industry; relying on tourism just isn’t cutting it.

We need our political processes, on the local, county and state levels to succeed in attracting an industry to the area; something that will create new jobs and revitalize the local economy. In the current economic climate, however, this may be only a dream. The alternative is bleak. One only has to drive down through New Russia, for example, and see the foundations of the buildings that once housed a thriving little population. The forest has closed over and reclaimed that area. Is this to be the fate of Au Sable Forks?



Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Adirondack Hotel Wins DEC Environment Award

An Adirondack hotel that has gone all out to go green and educate guests, a Capital Region college that has taken big steps to reduce its ecological footprint, and a Hudson Valley school district effort to protect the water supply, reduce waste and run an organic garden are among the winners of the 2008 Environmental Excellence Awards announced today by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis.

The fifth annual New York State Environmental Excellence Awards ceremony took place in Albany today to acknowledge the winners and their projects. There were more than 40 applicants, with submissions coming from industry, local governments, advocacy groups, educational institutions, and the hospitality sector. A committee of 20 representatives from the public and private sectors selected the winning submissions.

“The projects selected are outstanding examples of how we can solve environmental challenges by using innovative and environmentally sustainable practices or creative partnerships.” Grannis said. “By recognizing New York’s environmental and conservation leaders, we hope to inspire stewardship so that others can make significant positive impacts and protect New York’s natural resources.”

Summaries of this year’s winners are below:

Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, Lake Placid, Essex County

Energy efficiency. Water conservation. Recycling. Green grounds. Environmental education. The Golden Arrow Resort has instituted green programs on a variety of fronts to reduce the environmental impact not only of the hotel, but also of the traveler. It features a “green roof” – a rooftop expanse of native plants that provides wildlife habitat, reduces water runoff and helps keep the inn warm in the winter and cool in the summer. A limestone beach reduces the impacts of acid rain. In-room recycling, insulated windows, energy-efficient lighting and low-flow plumbing fixtures are also part of the mix. The hotel offers incentives for guests that travel by foot, ski, bike or hybrid car. The Golden Arrow also assists others in the hospitality industry find ways to reduce their carbon footprint.

Brewster School District, Putnam County

Through its multi-faceted “Environmental Education/Sustainable Practices Project,” the Brewster Central School District has demonstrated leadership in protecting the environment and in promoting environmental education. This project includes significant capital improvements and managerial processes to save energy and to protect the region’s water supply by preventing excessive plant growth, loss of oxygen and fish kills in the receiving waters. The project also includes educational activities that have developed students’ awareness of environmental issues and have empowered them with opportunities to participate in meaningful, innovative, hands-on activities that have measurable environmental impacts. Accomplishments have already included a 50 percent district-wide reduction in solid waste production, a student-run organic garden, and a technologically advanced wastewater treatment facility built in 2007. Improvements have resulted in more than 17 percent in annual energy savings, 1,724,388 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions prevented, and 250,000 cubic feet each of paper and plastic waste diverted from landfills.

Union College, Schenectady County

Union College has instituted the U-Sustain initiative – an innovative, campus-wide program that involves faculty, staff, students and administrators with the goals of reducing the ecological footprint of the college, increasing environmental awareness on campus and in the community, and making the college more sustainable. Accomplishments thus far include the renovation of student apartments to be an eco-friendly house, energy reduction strategies, dining options that include student volunteers working with dining services to provide fresh, local and organic meals, initiatives to offset energy consumption, and increased recycling/waste reduction opportunities.

Chemung County Soil and Water Conservation District and Southern Tier Central Regional Planning and Development Board, Chemung County

These public agencies worked together to develop an innovative guide, “Stream Processes: A Guide to Living in Harmony with Streams,” that describes how streams work and why functioning floodplains are integral parts of the stream system. The guide contains dramatic photographs that help promote the need for sound management practices. The lessons learned can be applied to stream channels, floodplains, stream corridors, and watershed activities that do not trigger regulatory actions. The guide has already begun having a positive effect on decisions made by Chemung County landowners and local highway departments and its reach is expanding as a result of more than 30,000 guides being distributed to a variety of audiences throughout New York State.

Aslan Environmental and City of Kingston Wastewater Treatment Plant, Ulster County

The City of Kingston partnered the Aslan Group to develop a new and innovative system – the first of its kind in the world – for managing wastewater treatment plant residuals in an economical and environmentally sound manner. Waste “biogas” is captured from the plant’s digesters and utilized as the only required fuel to turn 10 wet-tons-per-day of municipal wastewater sludge into one ton-per-day of an EPA-recognized pelletized usable “biosolid.” The biosolid is distributed free of charge for use as a lawn fertilizer or furnace fuel, which costs less than the previous practice of landfill disposal. Also, methane gas is efficiently utilized within the process as a fuel and since very little methane is flared, oxides of nitrogen and other pollutant emissions have been reduced.

New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee, Albany County

The committee’s Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) – Farming New York Cleaner and Greener program serves as a national model of how a voluntary, incentive-based approach to agricultural management can successfully protect and enhance soil and water resources, while preserving the economic viability of a diverse agricultural community. AEM assists farmers in making practical, cost-effective decisions that result in the sustainable use of New York’s natural resources. Recently the program has expanded efforts to assist vineyards. Currently 52 growers have completed a new self-assessment workbook, which has resulted in the development of 16 action plans that implemented an average of nine improved farming practices at each location. While AEM supports voluntary environmental stewardship, it is also a vehicle by which changes in environmental regulations have been effectively implemented at over 600 Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Plans have been successfully developed for all 147 large CAFOs and 92 percent of the state’s 472 medium sized CAFOs. More than 10,000 New York farm families participate and receive information, education and technical assistance so that farmers are able to operate cleaner and greener while competing in today’s global market.


Friday, December 5, 2008

‘I Have 18,000 acres in the Adirondacks;I’ll fly some of these cats up there in my private jet’

“I have 18,000 acres in the Adirondacks,” she said. “I’ll fly some of these cats up there in my private jet.”  That was the quote that lead me to an interesting post over at the Huffington Post by Laurence Leamer. At first I though the quote was about people – you know, like “hey, look at those hep cats – let’s fly them up to the Adirondacks on my private jet.” I was wrong – the cats were not hipsters, they were cats, feline.

The whole post is worth a read because it discusses the outrageous beliefs the wealthiest among us often have or condone. It’s not that they are the only ones – I hear the same kinds of idiocy from some of my neighbors – but it’s startling how public it is in the circles of the supposedly educated and cultured rich. » Continue Reading.


Friday, November 28, 2008

NYS Parks & Historic Sites Capital Plan Update

Here is the complete text of testimony given November 19th by NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation Commissioner Carol Ash at the New York State Assembly Public Hearing for the $132 million capital improvement spending plan for our parks and historic sites. A pdf of the Capital Plan presentation is located here. This page includes the initial announcement of the plan along with a Report to the Legislature and the Capital Projects List.

Thank you for inviting me here today to discuss our real success story of the past year — our capital initiative — “The Revitalization of New York State’s Parks and Historic Sites”.

I truly appreciate this opportunity to fully discuss our capital program, its economic significance, and the importance of our state parks in communities throughout the state.

The New York State Park system is made up of 178 parks and 35 historic sites encompassing 325,000 acres of lands and waters. The system is widely recognized as one of the best in the nation. Our parks and historic sites host more than 55 million visitors annually.

Our huge inventory of public recreational facilities includes 5,000 buildings, 29 golf courses, 53 swimming pools, 76 beaches, 27 marinas, 40 boat launching sites, 18 nature centers, 817 cabins, 8,355 campsites, more than 1,350 miles of trails, 106 dams, 640 bridges, hundreds of miles of roads, and dozens of historic structures listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

Niagara Falls State Park, established in 1885, is the oldest state park in the nation, and Washington’s Headquarters, established in 1850, is the first publicly-owned state historic site. The Bethpage Black was the first publicly-owned golf course to host the U.S. Open Golf Championship in 2002. The 109th United States Open Championship will return to this world-class facility in June of next year.

In traveling to more than 150 of our state parks and historic sites across the state, I have seen first-hand some of the significant challenges facing our parks. In many parts of the state, I was able to share these experiences with members of the Assembly and to those legislators who were able to join me on these park visits, I offer a special thank you.

As a result of a thorough assessment of our system, we identified a backlog of critical capital project needs approaching $650 million.

How did a $650 million capital backlog come to be? Over the fifteen year period from 1992 through 2007, the state park system grew. Twenty-six new parks and 70,000 acres were acquired, representing a 25 percent increase in the system. But over this same period, the state parks’ capital budget was cut by 50 percent, adjusting for inflation. Cutting the capital budget by 50 percent, while expanding the system by 26 new parks, led to a predictable outcome – we are now faced with the challenge of addressing a large backlog of health and safety and park rehabilitation needs.

Fortunately, this year Governor Paterson and the Legislature, with the support of Speaker Silver and Chairmen Englebright and Sweeney, responded to this challenge. The current year FY2008-09 state budget created a new State Parks Capital Initiative. This initiative, coupled with other funds OPRHP secured from federal, state, and private sources, enabled the agency to launch a program to revitalize the state park system totaling more than $100 million.

OPRHP’s $100 million capital investment is delivering tangible, on-the-ground benefits to the residents of New York State. Last week, I submitted a six-month update report to the Legislature on the status of State Park’s Capital Program. The agency has initiated more than 150 capital construction projects to remedy the health and safety issues and rehabilitate deteriorated facilities in State Parks and Historic Sites across the state—addressing health and safety concerns, and providing safe and affordable recreational and educational experiences for millions of New Yorkers.

Of the total $95 million State Parks Capital Initiative appropriation, $75.5 million was allocated to OPRHP. As charged by the Governor and the Legislature, we aggressively set out to efficiently spend these dollars. As of today –seven months later – OPRHP has spent or encumbered 96 percent of the $75.5 million.

Let me repeat, in just seven months through the fiscal year, we have spent or have under contract $72.5 million of the $75.5 million provided to the agency this year – and we have initiated bidding and contract awards for the remaining $3 million.

The agency is on track to encumber the entire $75.5 million by March 31, 2009, and the visiting public will see some noticeable improvements to our state parks during next year’s summer operating season. And, we are ready to begin construction on the next installment of new projects for the next fiscal year, spurring even more economic activity in communities throughout the state.

These capital investments will not only improve the parks and protect the state’s investments in irreplaceable public assets, but they also support the equivalent of 1,000 full-time private sector construction and engineering jobs which bolster the state’s economy in these very difficult times. Due to the nature of construction jobs, this equivalent reflects thousands of actual, on-site workers for various periods of time. The nature and scope of agency’s capital work also makes the projects ideal for small to medium-sized construction firms, businesses that will be most impacted by the economic downturn.

Here are some examples of revitalization projects made possible by this year’s State Parks Capital Initiative.

Four Mile Creek State Park Comfort Station Renovations.
At Four Mile Creek in Niagara County, we are providing park patrons with a new, updated comfort station. The new building features several “green” components including water saving fixtures and skylights, and is fully accessible.


Letchworth State Park.
Roads throughout Letchworth were repaired and repaved, and several public parking areas were resurfaced – addressing critical but long-deferred park infrastructure needs. Other projects initiated at the park this year include waterline improvements and construction of a new washhouse to serve campers. Camping at the park was booked to capacity for most of the summer. About an hour’s drive south of Rochester, Letchworth is a popular and significant tourist attraction in the Genesee region of the state, hosting about 750,000 visitors each year.

Saratoga Spa State Park.
The large Peerless Pool complex, including the fully accessible main pool, slide pool, and toddler pool, were rehabilitated. A new pool liner was installed to improve durability and eliminate water leakage. In addition, a number of the park’s roads, parking areas, bike paths, and walking trails were resurfaced. The spa park attracts 1.7 million visitors annually.

Allegany State Park Cabin Loop Restoration.
Last year, we showed you pictures of severely deteriorating cabins at this park. This past summer, we initiated phase one of the cabin loop restoration project that will rehabilitate deteriorated public rental cabins throughout the park, which has 424 campsites and 375 cabins spread throughout its 65,000 acres. Allegany is a top destination for campers, hikers, and nature lovers.

FDR State Park Bathhouse.
This bathhouse provided another of last year’s memorable “uglies”. Capital projects completed using this year’s funding include the rehabilitation of bathhouse and pool fencing. FDR State Park, located in Westchester County, draws 570,000 visitors annually. (Here we are viewing some of the ongoing work with members of the local Assembly delegation)

Green Lakes State Park Bathhouse Reconstruction.
Following a news conference attended by local Assembly members and Senators this summer, State Parks broke ground on a new $2.3 million bathhouse at the swimming beach in this popular park, located near Syracuse. The new bathhouse will incorporate green technologies, as well as current building code and accessibility standards, and will be open to the public for next summer. The park hosts 850,000 visitors annually.

Riverbank Traffic Circle.
This past summer, we celebrated the 15th anniversary of Riverbank state park community supporters and local state representatives. As part of our capital initiative, we are replacing the traffic circle roadway which provides the park’s main entrance for vehicles, including public buses. In addition to the traffic circle, the agency is in the process of letting contracts to rehabilitate failing roofs and HVAC systems, and has initiated other upgrades including rehabilitation of irrigation lines and the replacement of more than 100 trees donated by the 

Million Tree Project.
Brentwood State Park-Park Development.
Construction has begun at Brentwood State Park in Suffolk County, a major athletic complex that will provide greatly needed playing fields in this underserved area. This first phase of construction, which includes sixteen soccer fields and four baseball fields, is slated to open in the summer of 2009. The park will serve thousands of children in a community that has been very much in need of recreational facilities.

These are just a few highlights. All told, this year’s capital initiative funding enabled the agency to undertake capital improvements in more than 80 state parks and historic sites across New York State.

By any measure, the State Parks Revitalization Initiative is off to a solid start. However, contrasted against a capital backlog of $650 million, much more work remains to be done. As I outlined last year, the bulk of OPRHP’s capital needs fall into two categories:

Health and Safety Projects.
The state parks continue to face a number of health and safety issues. We have outdated drinking water systems that need to be replaced. We have aging sewage treatment systems that have exceeded their useful life; dams on the state’s “high hazard” list that do not meet modern dam safety standards, and bridges that have been flagged as potential hazards. We have failing electrical systems and landfills that, although inactive for many years, were never closed to DEC standards.

Rehabilitation of Existing Facilities.
This category is by far the largest, comprising approximately two-thirds of OPHRP’s total identified capital needs. It encompasses capital rehabilitation of existing infrastructure in the parks and historic sites – replacing facilities that have long exceeded their practical and operational effectiveness and are in various stages of disrepair, including roofs, heating and plumbing systems, visitor centers, bathrooms, campgrounds, shower buildings, picnic shelters, recreation fields, pools, swimming pools, bathhouses, nature centers, roads, parking areas, hiking trails, and maintenance centers.

Looking forward to next year, the agency hopes to continue momentum on revitalizing New York’s state parks and historic sites.

We understand that decisions about next year’s investment in our state parks need to be made in the context of the unprecedented fiscal picture facing New York State. Like all state agencies, we are reducing operating expenses and focusing on the agency’s core mission and priorities. Nonetheless, I believe that, even in this time of fiscal difficulty, continued funding for New York’s State Parks’ capital program is a smart financial investment. The State Parks Capital Program has and can continue to deliver:

Safe and Affordable Parks
Visitation at parks was very strong this summer and, given the challenging financial outlook facing millions of New Yorkers, we expect continued heavy public demand next year for our campgrounds, cabins, picnic and swimming areas, lakes and ocean beaches, and other recreational facilities.

Private Sector Jobs
Through this year’s capital program, OPRHP has entered into 150 contracts and more than 400 subcontracts with private, local construction and engineering firms. Given the nature of our projects, we are contracting with small and medium-size local contractors. And, I am pleased to report that over the past two years more than 13 percent of the agency’s capital construction spending has gone to minority- and women-owned businesses.

Tourism
Revitalized State Parks and Historic Sites directly support recreational tourism, which is one of New York’s largest industries. To grow our tourism industry, we need to make sure that these visitors have high-quality experiences, so that they will return in the future and tell others to do the same.

Economically Vibrant CommunitiesParks, open space, and recreational amenities are important community assets that directly contribute to the economic vitality of cities, towns, and rural areas – enticing businesses to locate and stay in New York.

Healthy Families
Parks provide a place for New Yorkers of all ages to and exercise and play. By investing is safe and attractive facilities, the initiative is part of a comprehensive state strategy to promote public health and wellness, particularly among children and underserved communities.
This year, OPRHP has proven our ability to quickly and efficiently put the State Parks Capital Initiative Funds to work – creating jobs and investing in tangible, lasting improvements to our public facilities. I hope that we are able to continue our momentum on this initiative, within the confines of what is affordable in the overall state budget.

In closing, I would like to thank you for your support of New York’s State Park System. As I have traveled the state over the past two years – from Long Island’s magnificent ocean beach parks, to our urban parks in New York City, to our hundreds of facilities across upstate New York – I have received universal support for the parks from our state’s elected officials. Supporting our parks is a sound investment in the future of our state, and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is committed to continuing to make wise use of this investment in the future.

Thank you. I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.


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