The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) is accepting public comments on Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan conformance for proposed activities to the Lake Champlain Islands Management Complex Unit Management Plan (LCIMC-UMP). Public comment should address if the proposed activities conform to the guidelines and criteria of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (APSLMP). The APA will accept public comment until January 6, 2017.
The islands that comprise the LCIMC encompass approximately 1,133 acres of Forest Preserve lands on six of the seven state-owned islands in Lake Champlain – Valcour, Schuyler, Cole, Garden, Sheepshead, and Signal Buoy.
There are also approximately 28 acres of land that make up the three boat launch sites included in the LCIMC which are administered by the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Bureau of Fisheries: Peru Dock, Port Douglas and Willsboro Bay. » Continue Reading.
The cold Hardy Grape Variety Research nursery in Northern New York is getting a make-over.
With new funding from the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program that helped establish the nursery at the Cornell Willsboro Research Farm in Willsboro in 2005, old vines have been removed, the soil is being refreshed, and new varieties of grapes have been selected for planting in 2017.
The evaluation of new varieties has been named a priority by growers associated by the wine grape industry across New York state. » Continue Reading.
Five Adirondack communities have received $7.4 million in grants on top of $13.16 million in loans to complete clean water programs to treat their wastewater and provide pure drinking water to their residents from the state’s Water Infrastructure Improvement Act (WIIA).
Counting the $2.5 million in funding for Willsboro and Saranac Lake in last year’s budget, the WIIA has brought nearly $10 million to Adirondack communities since it was created in 2015. » Continue Reading.
As colorful nicknames go, Bloody Bill is tough to beat. It belongs to a number of bad guys, and one very good guy – Bloody Bill Higby, born in Willsboro 202 years ago.
After attending local schools and working on the family farm, he found employment in the iron and lumber business. Higby then enrolled in the Essex County Academy at Westport and went on to graduate from the University of Vermont. After studying law, he began practicing in Elizabethtown in 1847. Three years later, nearing the age of 40, he felt the call of the West amid dreams of striking it rich in California’s gold mines. » Continue Reading.
On the heels of the passage of Proposal 5 last November to sell 200 acres of Forest Preserve to NYCO Minerals, Inc., state agencies and NYCO are now going for broke in new permit applications for a massive expansion of NYCO’s two mines in the Town of Lewis. At the December 2013 meeting of the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) there was unanimous cheering among the APA Board and senior leadership over passage of Proposal 5. In those same weeks, NYCO began its applications to expand its two mines in Lewis.
NYCO is seeking major expansions of both mines. With its political fortunes at an all-time high, the time is right to permanently change the scale of its mining activities in the Champlain Valley. » Continue Reading.
Addressing the concerns of the opponents of the proposed federal constitution, who worried that members of Congress would not be sufficiently representative of the interests and opinions of their districts, the authors of ‘The Federalist Papers’ pointed out that a candidate without local connections would be unlikely to get elected.
They could not win the esteem of their neighbors without having already demonstrated merit and sound judgement. They will be acquainted with local issues, because in all probability they will have served in the state legislature, “where all local information and interests of the state are assembled,” or in some other local office. » Continue Reading.
This Saturday my family and six of my son’s friends will be celebrating his birthday by becoming part of the Underground Railroad. It won’t be the typical birthday party, but it is the one that my son wants to share with his friends. Presented by the Pok-O-MacCready Outdoor Education Center and the Underground Railroad Historical Association, the North County Underground Railroad Experience will be held rain, snow or shine at the Willsboro 1812 Homestead Museum on November 23 from 6-9 pm. This trip through local history is a mere $5 per person.
Participants will play the roles of escaped slaves while the Pok-O-MacCready staff plays the roles of bounty hunters, abolitionists and marshals. According to Brian DeGroat, Director of the Outdoor Education Center, the event is geared to children ages 10 and older due mainly to the serious issues regarding slavery and gearing the lecture to an older audience. » Continue Reading.
Legislation is pending in the State Legislature for “second passage” of a Constitutional Amendment to transfer 200 acres of Forest Preserve lands in the Jay Mountain Wilderness to NYCO Minerals, Inc. This legislation has strong support from North Country elected state representatives. The Governor supports it and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is taking an active role stalking for the bill.
There are two big problems with this effort. First, this land swap sets a terrible precedent for the “Forever Wild” Forest Preserve. Second, the bill is riddled with inaccuracies, outright falsehoods, and misstatements. » Continue Reading.
The Champlain Valley Film Society is going to spend its 10th anniversary this Saturday, April 27 with an Oscar-nominated film. After screening almost 170 films since its inception in 2003, The Film Society is thanking audience members with a free showing of Daniel Day-Lewis’s Oscar winning performance in Lincoln.
Founded by Larry Barns, Thurston Clarke, Bill James and David Reuther, the Champlain Valley Film Society has grown from an infrequent outdoor movie experience to a nonprofit, monthly art house cinema from fall to spring.
The four men found that the closest theatre experience was the Plattsburgh area, which wasn’t always showing films they wished to see. Burlington was too far so they joined forces to bring current, classic, foreign and independent films to the Champlain Valley. » Continue Reading.
Though we have spent most of our time getting out on the various Adirondack trails, my family needs to start working a different muscle group. Our legs are strong, but our arms are in need of a different workout. Though there is still plenty of snow around the Adirondacks, there are other activities that we are able to enjoy. One is getting into rock climbing shape at an indoor climbing wall.
The Crux, in Willsboro, offers the novice and expert a great place to burn off some steam while getting into climbing shape. Under the auspiciousness of Pok-O-MacCready Outdoor Education Center, The Crux is open from mid-October through mid-May. According to the Outdoor Education Center Director Brian DeGroat The Crux’s availability is tailored to accommodate everyone wanting to maintain or improve their skills without climbing outdoors. » Continue Reading.
The owners of 319 acres of farmland and woods in the Champlain Valley have taken steps to protect the property in perpetuity and open it to the public for hiking and cross-country skiing.
Dick and Leanna DeNeale donated a conservation easement on their property to Champlain Area Trails (CATS), a nonprofit organization that has created twenty-three miles of hiking trails in the Champlain Valley since 2009. » Continue Reading.
My family puts a lot of time into children’s Halloween costumes. It seems that my kids start planning the next year’s theme the moment they take off the previous year’s getup. They continue to use those costumes in an ever growing and more sophisticated dress-up bin. Though most scary Halloween events may not be for the very young, we look for opportunities that entertain a wide variety of ages where we can showcase the new costumes.
In the Champlain Valley, the Lakeside School at Black Kettle Farm in Essex has a wonderful treat planned. Award winning author and illustrator Steven Kellogg will be onsite from 10:30 am – 12:30 pm on October 20th. Adults and children alike will enjoy Kellogg’s storytelling as he draws on an oversized drawing pad, quickly sketching one of his stories through a series of vignettes. » Continue Reading.
Located in what we call an “Adirondack plaza”, but known as the Willsborough Business Center, Rick’s Restaurant and Pub is unique in more than its location. Our definition of an Adirondack plaza, and we have encountered several of these business centers in our travels in the Park, is a building that houses multiple businesses but not all are accessed directly from the curb.
The Willsborough Business Center is home to a pharmacy, a bowling alley, a hair salon, several engineering and technology businesses, a bakery and, of course, Rick’s Restaurant and Pub. Enter through the business entrance and it’s one of the doors on the right. There are no windows in the doors, so you may find yourself entering tentatively, hoping you’re in the right place. » Continue Reading.
Bounty hunters and escaped slaves may sound like a game for the Wii but this Friday, November 11 from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. you can get your children off the couch and into living history. For a fiver, Pok-O-MacCready Outdoor Education Center (OEC) in Willsboro’s is welcoming the public to experience what is would be like to be part of the Underground Railroad.
Though the Adirondacks has ties to the Underground Railroad, this particular experience, though historically accurate, is not placed true to the location. According to Stites McDaniel, Director of the Pok-O-MacCready Outdoor Education Center (OEC) to provide a more in-depth experience participants play the roles of slaves and attempt to avoid bounty hunters as they move from station to station.
“Bounty hunters wouldn’t have necessarily gone this far north,” says McDaniel. “It would have been more likely the common citizen turning in a runaway for the reward. We had to take a bit of creative license in order for the participants to get, what we felt, would be the entire experience from escape to freedom. There was still the danger throughout the Underground Railroad network as the slaves were shuttled north.”
Participants will play the roles of escaped slaves while staff and volunteers play the roles of bounty hunters, abolitionists and marshals. McDaniel encourages people to come with questions as the event always closes with a discussion. He asks that people take a moment to truly suspend belief and immerse themselves in the experience.
“We run this program with high school and lower middle school students,” says McDaniel. “We have had children as young as seven and are able to cater to the age of the participant. We do not over glamorize. We want families with younger children to feel included.”
This community event is a partnership with the 1812 Homestead, where the event takes place. According to McDaniel the “escaped slaves” will move to each station where there will be an historic discovery during the re-enactment. When a group is participating in a learning station they are off limits to the bounty hunters. As the group moves from station to station they are then running from bounty hunters or may be fortunate to find an abolitionist.
McDaniel says, “We try to incorporate as much historical reference as possible. People may meet a traveling abolitionist named Lucretia Mott. There will also be someone acting as a member of local Keese family. The whole re-enactment is about two hours. Within that timeframe participants will be doing their own learning. We do end with a debriefing. We don’t end the activity without a discussion.”
Pok-O-MacCready Outdoor Education Center (OEC) in Willsboro, a not-for-profit organization comprised of 300 acres, focuses on an outdoor educational experience. The waterfront facilities provide opportunities for canoeing, kayaking and fishing while the property utilizes onsite skiing, mountain biking and nature trails. Catering primarily to school and youth groups, the Pok-O-MacCready OEC continues to add community events to their roster based on their popular school events.
Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recent released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates), the first book of a four-book series of Adirondack Family Activities.
Ice sports bring us out on frozen lakes for the sheer pleasure of being there. But through the years, folks have traveled our “winterized” lakes and rivers for a number of more practical reasons such as visiting friends and relatives, or hauling food, hay, coal, firewood, furniture, logs, milk and just about everything else imaginable.
In the late 19th to the early 20th century, the term “bridge” was commonly used to refer to the ice which allowed for these crossings. Note the following report from the Plattsburgh Sentinel, 2 March 1923: “The ice bridge between Willsboro and Burlington is quite extensively used, many visiting the city for both profit and pleasure.” Throughout the 1800s, horse-drawn sleds and stagecoaches carried paying passengers on regularly scheduled trips back and forth across Lake Champlain between New York and Vermont. As recently as 2010, when the worn Crown Point bridge had to be destroyed, folks again took advantage of the ice to commute across Lake Champlain to their jobs.
Milda Burns of North River said her father told her that from 1890 until 1930, he bridged the Hudson River by “brushing” it. This meant laying tree branches and twigs across a shallow part of the river to damn up the ice flowing downstream. In this way, ice built up to a depth sufficient to make a road strong enough to support horses and wagons crossing to the other side.
Ice crossings were also carried out for military reasons. By the 1600s, Indians, French Canadians and the English traversed Lake Champlain, most often to do battle with one another. One of the more famous crossings was that of Rogers’ Rangers, a British scouting force, which in the 1750s, retreated from the French by snowshoeing some thirty miles down the length of Lake George.
In 1870, Thomas H. Peacock accompanied his father on a trip from Saranac Lake to Tupper Lake to bring supplies to several lumber camps. As the road would have been long and hilly, they cut the distance in half by traveling over the frozen Saranac Lakes, pulling a sled full of 25 to 30 bushels of potatoes, two or three quarters of beef, a large load of horse hay and eagerly anticipated mail. The trip took eighteen hours.
Loggers also followed frozen lake routes to shorten trips and bring logs out onto the ice where they were dumped and left waiting until spring. When the ice thawed, the timber was floated downriver to the sawmills.
An extraordinary variety of “freight” has been moved across the ice. Some folks still live year-round on road-inaccessible lakeshores or islands. In the winter, they must pull their groceries home using skis, snowshoes or snowmobiles.
Contractors and caretakers take advantage of the frozen lakes to move equipment and materials to road-inaccessible construction and camp sites. There was even an occasion in the early 1920s when rock-loaded sleds were pulled across Lake George by skaters holding sails, the stone used to rebuild the eroded shoreline of Dome Island. To reach remote ice fishing locations, sportsmen cross ice with snowmobiles, ATVs or trucks.
In earlier days the term “freight” included any number of things, not the least of which were houses! That moving buildings across the ice was not so unusual is demonstrated by a real estate advertisement found in the Essex County Republican of 10 September 1915 offering a 141′ long building which “could be moved over the ice to any point on the lake for trifling expense.”
Sometimes overlooked, ice serving as a bridge, has had a major influence on the North Country’s transportation history.
Caperton Tissot is the author of Adirondack Ice, a Cultural and Natural History, published by Snowy Owl Press.
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