I have always believed that the initial step in addressing a deep and difficult issue – especially one that is controversial – is recognition: we must first understand that something matters; that it is real; that it affects people’s lives. Without recognition, without an embrace of the importance of an issue, we risk what will likely be at best a display of sturm und drang when we try to talk about it, signifying nothing but ego and personality. Yet despite the sometimes perfunctory dismalness of on-line comments, I am convinced by the experience of writing these columns that the issue of diversity in the park is headed for a substantive future, not just shouting and rhetoric. » Continue Reading.
Posts Tagged ‘wilderness’
Two weeks ago I posted my initial interview with noted travel writer and blogger Carol Cain. That column set a record for comments here at the Almanack. My own reaction to those comments taken as a whole is that they persuasively demonstrate the need for this conversation (fortunately the off-line discussions that have been spurred by this issue are leading to some productive initiatives… more on that in the future).
Subsequent to my first interview with Carol I asked her a series of of follow-up questions. I share her answers today. These questions were formulated previous to the posting of the first interview, thus not influenced by the tone and content of the comments. However her answers, written after the comments, speak powerfully for themselves.
The Adirondack backcountry contains a plethora of natural gems, such as ponds, lakes, mountains, bogs and beaver meadows. Although many are reachable by trail, the vast majority are islands of remoteness, surrounded by a sea of near-impenetrable forest, just waiting for a human bold enough to venture away from the marked trails to discover them. Few humans ever visit these gems, which undoubtedly suits both the gems themselves and the meager number of visitors just fine.
One of these gems is a small pond found in the southwest corner of the Five Ponds Wilderness. Sitz Pond is its name, and as attractive backcountry ponds go, it ranks up there with the best.
» Continue Reading.
I’ve been preoccupied with Adirondack vistas of late. Two recent copies of Adirondack Life had pictures with Burton’s Peak in them: one was a cover picture and the other placed in the 2014 Photo Contest (those of you who are savvy about my Lost Brook Dispatches and have followed the clues can see if you can identify it).
Like so many of us, I cherish beholding a corker Adirondack view perhaps more than any other experience in the park. There is something magical about the combination of grandeur and intimacy in wild Adirondack vistas, studded with lakes, ponds and streams and infused with a dark, raw primeval power impossible to capture in words. Quite frankly I have never experienced a stronger sense of wild harmony and beauty anywhere else I’ve been. » Continue Reading.
The decision is final: Marcy Dam will be torn down.
As reported last month on the Almanack, the state Department of Environmental Conservation plans to dismantle the dam, which was damaged in Tropical Storm Irene, over the next five years. At the time, though, the department was waiting to hear from the public on the proposal.
Recently, I submitted a freedom-of-information request to review the public comments. Given the popularity of the dam, I was surprised to learn that DEC heard from only two people—and both agreed that the dam should be removed.
One of the writers, Wallace Elton, suggested that a dam failure would damage the environment downstream and put people at risk. “The expense of rebuilding the dam to today’s safety standards cannot be justified with current funding limitations,” he wrote. “Beyond that, this is an opportunity to re-wild a key area in the heart of the Forest Preserve.”
Fifty years ago, the nation as a whole needed a diversion after the shocking assassination of President Kennedy, and all eyes were on the Beatles performing on the Ed Sullivan Show. President Johnson was hard at work persuading key congressmen to support the Civil Rights Act. The seedling that was to become the Vietnam War was growing. I knew little about any of this. I joined thousands my age trying to impersonate the Beatles with a mop on my head and a “plugged-in” broomstick.
And in Washington DC the final legislative compromises behind another civil right encompassed within the National Wilderness Preservation Act of 1964 were agreed to. The legislated right to an enduring, living wilderness for every American was nearing. The labors of the Wilderness Society’s Howard Zahniser reflected in 18 years of his advocacy and 66 drafts of the bill had nearly reached an end. On September 3, 1964 President Johnson signed the bill. Zahniser had died a few months earlier, just days after the bill’s final hearing. » Continue Reading.
The classification of the properties, formerly owned by Finch Pruyn & Company, was endorsed by the Adirondack Park Agency on December 13, 2013 as the preferred alternative.
The plan will allow recreation access to the newly acquired lands for people of all abilities for a wide variety of uses including hiking, paddling, cross country skiing, hunting, fishing, mountain biking, horse riding and snowmobiling. » Continue Reading.
Over the last couple of weeks I have noticed a substantial increase in reader comments on various posts claiming that environmentalists who are uncompromising about preserving or restoring pristine wilderness are absolutists, because there is no such thing in the Adirondacks.
The idea of pristine wilderness, they say, is an elitist fantasy. The real-world approach, they suggest, is some common sense pragmatism. When we don’t take that approach, residents suffer, recreationalists suffer, the economy suffers – in short, people suffer. » Continue Reading.
When Tropical Storm Irene damaged Marcy Dam, draining most of the pond behind it, hikers debated passionately whether the dam should be rebuilt to restore an iconic vista enjoyed by tens of thousands of visitors over the years.
It looks like it won’t be.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation recently decided to dismantle the wooden dam in stages over the next five years.
DEC spokesman David Winchell said the cost of rebuilding the dam to modern standards would have been too costly and may have conflicted with the management principles for the High Peaks Wilderness Area. Those principles seek to minimize the presence of man-made structures. » Continue Reading.
After four nights at Lost Brook Tract with Amy, two adult sons and our irrepressible dog Henderson, I’m raring to go for another year of Almanacking, though my contributions will be a little less frequent as I bear down with more purpose on the book I’m undertaking.
This stay at Lost Brook Tract was the best ever. The weather conditions and quality of light were the most beautiful I’ve ever experienced in the Adirondacks, to which the photo can attest. It was truly luminous. There was less snow than in past years but no less winter. The temperatures ranged from a positively balmy 35 degrees on the first afternoon to properly Adirondack zero-and-below readings the last two days. For New Year’s Eve I served a bottle of Prosecco we’d carried in. It was frozen. That’s cold. I can report that thawing Prosecco by positioning it next to a flaming birch log flattens it into tepid watery juice faster than any other method I know. Oh well, we had hot chocolate too. And the salmon pasta was “spiced” with a little rye, which thanks to its higher alcohol content resolutely maintained its golden liquidity to the bitter end. » Continue Reading.
Thank you readers! The results of my little poll exceeded my expectations. I received nearly 150 responses, a great number.
Let me remind you that this poll was intended to be neither scientific nor comprehensive. It was designed by me to see if the results would highlight what I think is a hidden issue concerning the future of the Adirondack Park. It did that for sure, but it also provided other insights.
Here is how the issues fell out, ranked by weighted average:
I might have abandoned the idea of reaching South Pond had I not caught a glimpse of it through the trees, right at that critical moment of decision. There it was, right there at the foot of the mountain, a snowy white expanse about a quarter mile away, a remote and lonely retreat with a siren call I could not refuse. Not when I was this close.
I became resolved to continue forward—even though it had taken a full two hours just to come this short distance, and Lexie and I still had the trip back over the mountain to face, too. We had taken our time dealing with the thickets of tangled spruce and the isolated deadfalls that had been dogging us all the way up and over the mountain, one after the other. There had not been much clear walking. Ironically, near the bottom of the mountain we began to encounter a new obstacle: small but steep ledges that again forced us to adjust our course and find yet another way around. Not once since we had started up the mountain had we been able to simply proceed in a straight line. » Continue Reading.
For three days, the Adirondack Park Agency deliberated on a set of classifications for Forest Preserve in Newcomb, Minerva and Indian Lake that were never in doubt. The decisions were the Governor’s. APA took its direction from him, as it did with the Adirondack Club and Resort two years ago.
APA staff labored mightily over the past week to put those State Land decisions, and the maps into a format that their members might understand. The convoluted resolution was adopted unanimously but requires changes in inconvenient regulations and policies before the classifications are finalized. That is the price this Governor exacts from his state agencies in order to settle a controversial policy matter for these magnificent new parts of the Adirondack Forest Preserve. » Continue Reading.
When it comes to major issues that impact the future of the Adirondacks this year has been one of the most event-filled in decades. From the ongoing Adirondack Club and Resort debate and the orbiting cluster of questions related to private land use to the continuing economic wins for the North Country, the recent constitutional amendments and the classification of the Finch Pruyn lands, this has been a pivotal time.
My reading of recent events is that most of the news is good news for the park. It seems to me that stakeholders in the Adirondacks are responding to the challenges we face with concrete initiatives that are making a difference but also with a sense of intelligence: people are thinking a lot about matters in the park and there seems to be a higher level of general understanding of these challenges than in years past. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park Agency voted unanimously today to approve a staff recommendation to create a 23,494-acre Hudson Gorge Wilderness Area and a 9,940-acre Essex Chain Primitive Area on lands once owned by the Finch, Pruyn paper company.
The vote climaxed a year of work that included public hearings, which elicited thousands of comments, and negotiations between state officials and various stakeholders.
Underscoring the importance of the decision was that Basil Seggos, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s deputy secretary for the environment, drove up from Albany to attend the APA’s meeting.
Wilderness is the most restrictive and most protective of the Adirondack Park Agency’s seven classifications for Forest Preserve lands, so perhaps it’s no surprise that environmental groups pushed for a Wilderness designation for the Essex Chain Lakes.
The APA staff instead recommended a Primitive classification. Ordinarily, this might be seen as a slight downgrade in protection, but in this case an argument can be made that natural resources are actually better protected under the Primitive classification. » Continue Reading.
Environmentalists wanted the Essex Chain Lakes region classified as Wilderness. Local government leaders wanted it classified as Wild Forest. And the state Department of Environmental Conservation proposed classifying it as Wild Forest with special regulations.
Yet the staff of the Adirondack Park Agency rejected all three options in favor of a Primitive designation. The APA board is scheduled to discuss and vote on the staff’s recommendation this week.
Why did the staff opt for Primitive? The answers—or some answers—can be found in the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement that the board has been asked to adopt.
This Thanksgiving unfolded for me in traditional and typical fashion, promising that the standard playbook would be executed all the way through: take the family to my in-laws, help cook a massive meal for twenty, monitor my Mother for too much wine or too much stimulation (Mom is 92 and can overload either way), overeat, get teary looking at my wife and drive seventy miles home while fighting indigestion and narcolepsy.
By early afternoon all was going to form. How could I possibly have known that an earth-shaking revelation was about to completely overwhelm me? How could I be prepared for the sheer jubilation, the exaltation this imminent moment was going to bring, this profound thunderclap completely sweeping away all the usual familial mediocrity?
But then it happened. The setting was innocent enough: I was in the snowy yard with my brother-in-law Dan, exercising Henderson with a stick, talking about our favorite mutual subject, the Adirondacks. Amy and I were planning to be at Lost Brook Tract just after Christmas and Dan, who had considered coming along and doing some skiing was telling me that his winter visit would have to wait until the following year. “We’re all coming next winter, he said. We’ll come up to your land for a couple days but we’ll get a place for a week. Shay’s a little worried about snowshoeing up there.”
There it was. » Continue Reading.
After months of negotiations and deliberation, the Adirondack Park Agency staff has come up with a proposal to designate the Essex Chain Lakes a Primitive Area, a classification that would preclude the use of motorboats.
In addition, the APA staff recommends establishing a 23,774-acre Hudson Gorge Wilderness Area, which would encompass about fifteen miles of the upper Hudson River.
The APA developed the proposal in collaboration with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The APA board is scheduled to vote on it next week. The final plan will require the approval of Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Joe Martens, the head of DEC, described the proposal as an attempt to satisfy all stakeholders, including environmental activists and local officials.
“What it reflects to me is a universal desire to provide a high degree of protection to the Essex Chain itself—the lakes and ponds—and the potential for diverse recreational opportunities and to connect the towns around the tract,” Martens said. “I think the plan does this very well.”