Friday, December 23, 2005

Need Something Worth Saying?

We’re on record regarding the inadequacy of our region’s media, but today just seems weird. First we have Rick Brockway, the Oneonta Star’s Outdoors Columnist, who gave us a strangely rambling an incoherent rant on, well, we guess it’s something along the lines of build more roads into the Adirondacks to protect them.

Here’s a gem of nonsense:

The Adirondack back-country was put out of reach for the majority of the people. The APA closed the wilderness lakes and ponds to aircraft. Float planes were prohibited from landing, thus making the only access into those areas by foot. I still backpack into that great land, but so many others can’t.

Today, the old growth forests are rotting away and falling down, and most of the lakes are dead or dying from acid rain.

There is no push to reclaim these areas, primarily because so few people use the land and water. Their faint voices are never heard.

Out of reach of most people? Maybe this outdoor columnist hasn’t been paying attention. Otherwise he might recall one recent controversy in the region – the overwhelming numbers of large hiking and camping parties, some arriving by Canadian buses, that led to restrictions on group size in the back-country. Forget about his amazing assertion that “the old growth forests are rotting away and falling down” – ah… yeah… where is that exactly?

Then there is a classic from none other than George Farwell, chairman and education program director of the Iroquois Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club in Utica. It seems that he is concerned, forget about the whole lot of more important issues on the Adirondack table, that people using the backcountry are relying on rescue services far too frequently. Hey we might even agree, but for this:

These “incidents” (not really accidents, as “accident” infers circumstances beyond one’s control), have become more commonplace.

Ahhh… they have? By what standard Mr. Farewell? A simple search of local newspapers reveals that Adirondack history is loaded with search and rescue operations, when the Adirondacks was a more remote place it was a lot easier to get lost or hurt. There were a lot more people in the region in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today there are a lot more search and rescue organizations, it’s highly doubtful there are more people getting into trouble in the woods. They’re just more widely reported.

When a coasting (sledding) accident happened in Keeseville one Thursday night in 1902 “Wilfred Graves, aged twenty-three years was almost instantly killed, and his sister Miss Rachel Graves, and Miss Edith Bulley were crushed so that it is feared they cannot recover. Among the others hurt were: Harry Miles, broken leg; John King, arm broken; George La Duke, arm dislocated.” It was no wonder the newspaper carried the headline “Frightful Coasting Accident.” Getting the seriously injured to a hospital in a timely manner in 1902 was all but impossible – not so today from even the most remote areas.

Travel over the ice in the days of fewer bridges meant for more accidents. Albert Rand with his wife and three children were crossing Lake George on the ice in February 1860 when their horse and sleigh “suddenly went through a crack in the ice” just a short distance from the shore. They cried out in vain for help as Rand struggled to drag himself onto good ice and then saved his wife and one of his children – the other two were drowned.

J. M. Riford, a merchant from Moriah in Essex County loaded his wife and their two children into their sleigh and set out to visit his father across Lake Champlain in Warren, Vermont on January 11, 1884.The family had a good team of horses and was expected to make the trip over in one day – they never arrived and were never heard from again. “Their friends fear that they are at the bottom of Lake Champlain or frozen to death
under the snow in the Green Mountains,” the New York Times reported.

These are just a couple of stories that indicate the kind of dangers people faced in the region, that they simply don’t face anymore. A little bit of research would easily dispel the myth that somehow the Adirondack region is a more dangerous place today. A short visit to the remaining (and recently reborn) stands of Old Growth would put an end to the notion that our forests are “rotting away.” We’re not saying the Adirondacks are not dangerous, they are, always have been. A little research, that’s all we ask from our local media, a little research, a little investigation.

The bottom line these days seems to be, if your beat is supposed to be the Adirondacks, if you can’t find a ship run-aground, and you can’t be bothered with the real issues like backhandedly opening the region to ATVs, or running your town like an old boys club, then just make something up – rotting ancient forest, silly people in the woods, whatever you like.

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John Warren

John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for almost 50 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded the geolocation services company Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John remains active in traditional media. His Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on the stations of North Country Public Radio and on 93.3 / 102.1 The Mix. Since 2008, John has been a media specialist on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute.

John is also a professional researcher and historian with a M.A. in Public History. He edits The New York History Blog and is the author of two books of regional history. As a Grant Consultant for the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, he has reviewed hundreds of historic roadside marker grant applications from around New York State for historical accuracy.




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