Almanack Contributor Anthony F. Hall

Anthony F. Hall

Anthony F. Hall is the editor and publisher of the Lake George Mirror.

Anthony grew up in Warrensburg and after an education that included studying with beat poet Gregory Corso on an island in the Aegean, crewing a schooner in Hawaii, traveling through Greece and Turkey studying Byzantine art and archeology, and a stint at Lehman Brothers, he returned to the Adirondacks and took a job with legendary state senator Ron Stafford.

In 1998, Anthony and his wife Lisa acquired the Lake George Mirror, once part of a chain of weekly newspapers owned by his father Rob Hall.

Established in the 1880s, the Mirror is America’s oldest resort newspaper.



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


Friday, January 22, 2010

A Sense of Place: American Impressionists at The Hyde

Enter the Hyde Collection’s Charles R. Wood Gallery, where the stunning new exhibition, “An Enduring Legacy: American Impressionist Paintings from the Thomas Clark Collection,” is displayed, and among the first things you’ll notice is that the paintings are grouped roughly by geography, or according to the regions depicted by these early 20th century artists: the New England coast, Vermont, the Hudson Valley, California.

Far from being arbitrary or eccentric, that curatorial choice cleverly elucidates an intention shared by almost every artist represented in the show.

These American Impressionists, explains curator Erin Coe, “were deeply committed to making art that reflected the spirit of America and its distinctive scenery.”

Or, as Coe writes in the catalogue that accompanies the exhibition, “the landscape painters of the first third of the twentieth century were overtly nationalistic in their outlook, seeking to create a more authentic American variant of Impressionism…”

To realize that ambition, those artists were compelled to train their eyes on a particular region, if only because the American landscape is defined by its diversity and lack of uniformity. An American landscape is necessarily a local landscape.

“The works in the Clark Collection offer a comprehensive treatment of these regional schools of Impressionist activity in America,” says Coe.

For instance, the show includes three paintings by Arthur James Emery Powell (1864-1956) of the long-settled, deeply cultivated valleys of Dutchess County.

All three portray winter landscapes, for reasons at least partially explained by Coe in a lecture she delivered at The Hyde on January 17.

Winter landscapes, she said, are “the visual equivalent of a poem by Robert Frost,” that most self-consciously regional of American poets.

Approximately one quarter of the paintings collected by Thomas Clark are winter landscapes, Coe noted, in part because winter is the quintessential American season.

Perhaps it’s co-incidental that Dutchess county was a hotbed of anti-federalism in the 18th century, and that places like Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts have shown separatist tendencies at different times in our history. It’s no co-incidence, though, that the artists included in this exhibition chose to paint in places with strong regional identities. The landscapes these artists selected for their subject matter were chosen in part because they exemplified a region’s characteristic and recognizable qualities.

But of equal, if not greater importance, Coe said, those landscapes were the locations of artists’ colonies that flourished in the early part of the 20th century in places like Old Lyme, Connecticut; Cape Ann, Massachusetts; New Hope, Pennsylvania; and Woodstock, New York, as well as in Vermont and California.

The traditions of European and American painting were transmitted through those colonies and schools, producing the unique vision that is embodied in Clark’s collection.

“These artists were the students and sketching partners of the seminal figures in the development of Impressionism in America, such as William Merritt Chase, Willard L. Metcalf, John Henry Twachtman, and Robert Henri,” Coe said.

Thomas Clark, who lives in Saratoga County, has promised to donate this collection of paintings to The Hyde, and this exhibition is to some extent a celebration of that gift.

“An Enduring Legacy: American Impressionist Landscape Paintings from the Thomas Clark Collection,” will remain on view at The Hyde through March 18.

The Hyde Collection is located at 161 Warren Street in downtown Glens Falls. For more information, call The Hyde at 792-1761.

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

Illustration: Arthur James E. Powell, American (1864-1956), Mid-Winter, Dutchess County, ca. 1920s, oil on canvas, 25 x 30 in., Promised Gift of Thomas Clark. Courtesy of The Hyde Collection


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


Friday, January 8, 2010

Local Genius: Champlain Bridge Designer Ted Zoli

As a rule, bureaucracies and genius are incompatible. A notable exception will be found in the New York State Department of Transportation and the Vermont Transportation Agency, which recently released plans to replace an eighty year old bridge spanning Lake Champlain. Leading the team designing the new bridge is consultant Ted Zoli, a 2009 winner of a MacArthur fellowship, commonly known as the genius award.

Among other things, the MacArthur Foundation cited Zoli’s sensitivity to the context in which his “elegant and enduring” bridges are built, and Zoli clearly appreciates the natural, historical and social context of the bridge at Crown Point. » Continue Reading.


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.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Commentary: Ron Stafford, Adirondack Conservationist

Two weeks before Ron Stafford died on June 24, 2005, the North Country’s longtime state Senator was honored by the Adirondack Council on its 30th anniversary.

I thought of Stafford when Adirondack Almanack editor John Warren decided to solicit nominations for a list of influential Adirondack leaders.

While some might argue that Stafford’s importance lies in the number of prison jobs he created in the North Country, or in the millions in state funds he brought back to the district, I would argue that he deserves to be remembered as an Adirondack conservationist.

Though conventional wisdom might say otherwise, the Adirondack Council’s award to Stafford was richly deserved. » Continue Reading.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas 1969: The View from Warrensburg

By the end of 1969, more than forty thousand American soldiers had been killed in the war in Vietnam. Despite Richard Nixon’s pledge in 1968 that his election would bring “peace with honor,” and after a year of peace talks in Paris, it was clear that the killing would continue. That’s the background of this editorial that my father, Rob Hall, wrote and published in his Warrensburg-Lake George News in December, 1969. On this Christmas, with wars underway in Iraq and Afghanistan, I thought it might find resonance with Adirondack Almanack readers.

Our dream went like this:

It was my first full day in heaven and the day-room orderly told me that the Archangel Michael wanted to see me. I found him behind a golden desk in his office. “The Chief suggested that in view of your long career as a newspaperman you might like to publish a little weekly newspaper for us up here,” he said.

“I suppose it would occupy my time for me,” I said. “What shall we name it? The Heavenly Tidings, perhaps?”

He said any name would do and I remarked that I’d need a staff of two or three. I named several newspapermen I had known who had recently passed over the Great Divide. “Nope,” said the Archangel, looking over the big book on his desk, “they’re not registered HERE.”

“Well,” I said, “could you spare me an angel?”

“I should think so,” said Michael, “but will yours be a good news newspaper or a bad news newspaper?”

“Is there any bad news up here?” I asked.

“Only the tidings of wickedness from down below,” he said, “but we like to keep informed.”

In that case, I said, the Heavenly Tidings would be a mixture of both. “But what about my angel?”

“I can let you have Gabriella,” Michael said. “She’s a sister to Gabriel but as much the opposite as any sibling you’ve ever known. Gabriel is the one with the trumpet which he will blow on Doomsday. But Gabriella is so constituted that she is incapable of bringing anything but good news. If it’s bad news, forget it. She absolutely won’t handle it.”

“How odd,” I commented, and noticed that Michael seemed disposed to continue the conversation. He leaned back in his golden chair and adjusted his wings to the apertures in the backrest.

“It was a long time ago that we first became aware of Gabriella’s hang-up,” he said. “It was about this time of year and we had word from the Chief to keep an eye on the road from Galilee to Bethlehem. I gave Gabriella the assignment and thought no more of it until I came into the observation post and found her in tears.”

“I can’t do it. I can’t do it,” she sobbed. And when I asked her what was the matter, she said:

“Why that poor woman down there, riding that little donkey. And the kind old man with her. They are on their way to Bethlehem to pay their taxes. Not only are their taxes out of this world, there’s no inn that will give them a bed. I just can’t make out my report. Every time I try to write, the tears get in my eyes and I can’t see to write.”

“I told her that it was her duty to report the bad along with the good, but it didn’t seem to matter. She just kept crying like her heart would break.”

I peeked through the observation window and I said, “Look, Gabriella, they’ve got a place in that inn.”

“Yes, but look at the accommodations,” she said. “Just a pile of straw in the barn.”

“Now Gabriella,” I said. “People who love each other can be happy under the most adverse circumstances.”

“But she’s going to have a baby,” said Gabriella. “And there’s not even a midwife around to help. Oh, this is terrible.”

I really couldn’t figure out any way to comfort Gabriella, but I noticed a beautiful bright star moving toward Bethlehem.

“Take a look at the star, Gabriella,” I said. “That surely means something.”

“How beautiful,” said Gabriella, and she smiled through her tears. “And look, it’s stopped right over the barn where those poor people are staying.”

The intercom bell rang for me and I knew it was the Chief.

“It’s come,” the Chief said. “I have a Son. Send down an angel and some heavenly hosts, the ones with the most beautiful voices. This is not an occasion to be minimized.”

I started to ask where, but the star gave me the answer. “Gabriella,” I said, “there’s great, good news, tidings of real joy. Get down to that barn right away, and I’ll send you some help. Are you in good voice?”

“You can bet I am,” said Gabriella, and she laughed joyfully, because she had got the message.

“On your way,” I said and patted her on the back. And with that Gabriella opened her wings and swooped down.

She was the first one there, and I tuned in to hear her song.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill to men.”

Gabriella was happy when she returned to headquarters. “A beautiful baby lying in a manger,” she said. “Oh the good news that I’ll be reporting from now on.”

“And,” said Michael, “that has been her assignment ever since.”

I told Michael I understood, and that Gabriella would be assistant editor in charge of good news. I said I’d try to handle the bad news myself.

“And speaking of bad news,” I said to Michael, “what’s going on with Vietnam?”

“One of these days, that will be a proper assignment for Gabriella,” Michael said, “but not, repeat not, in this week’s issue.”

For news and commentary from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror. Visit the paper online at http://lakegeorgemirror.com


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, December 4, 2009

Commentary: Monetizing the Forest Preserve

Ever since 1894, when delegates to a New York State Constitutional Convention voted to keep the Adirondack Forest Preserve “forever wild,” conservationists have come up with any number of arguments in defense of wilderness. Some have been utilitarian, some populist, some historical, some spiritual. Those arguments have always been necessary, because the opponents of maintaining the Forest Preserve as lands forever wild have been many, and at times powerful.

In fact, one of the few valid reasons to oppose another constitutional convention is the political fragility of the state constitution’s Article XIV, the clause that prohibits the destruction of the Forest Preserve. The more astute politicians among the conservationists have always understood that it is the better part of prudence to avoid endorsing a single defense of wilderness, thereby retaining the support of proponents of all other possible arguments.

In part because of that catholic perspective, the Adirondack Park has been able to support “a multiplicity of visions,” as Dr. Ross Whaley, the co-editor of “The Great Experiment in Conservation: Voices from the Adirondack Park,” puts it. But new arguments in defense of wilderness can only buttress the cause, and here’s one that’s beginning to emerge: forests offset greenhouse gas emissions and thus play a valuable role in slowing climate change.

In a 2008 issue of BioScience, the journal of the American Society of Biological Sciences, researchers quantified the amount of carbon that Midwestern forests keep out of the atmosphere. They concluded that the forests could offset the greenhouse gas emissions of almost two thirds of nearby populations. While deciduous forests are very good at storing carbon, boreal forests are even better, says John Sheehan of the Adirondack Council, and, he adds, the Adirondack Park contains approximately 800,000 acres of those boreal forests. That’s reason enough for New Yorkers to support the preservation of even more land, if not by New York State, than by conservancies and land trusts.

But if the Adirondack Park has value as carbon storage, we asked Sheehan, could a price be attached to that value? Could the Adirondack Park, for instance, be awarded pollution credits that could be sold for the economic benefit of its residents? Here’s Sheehan’s response: “We are working with a few people right now to see what value could be placed on the global ecological benefits of lands on which we know the trees will continue to grow for centuries to come, that is to say, in the Forest Preserve and in wilderness lands on which New York State holds easements.”

As to whether the Adirondack Park could be awarded credits for storing carbon that would otherwise be sent into the atmosphere, Sheehan said, that’s conceivable. “We think we can seek and win federal credit for those Adirondack communities as part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or in a carbon trading program adopted by Congress.”

While our thought was that any funds derived from the sale of credits should somehow be apportioned among local governments to offset property taxes or to create jobs, Sheehan said, “We think the state should direct the money it receives into the Environmental Protection Fund, and the communities could use the money for planning or for grants to residents and businesses for energy conservation.” But however the funds were used, local governments might now have some financial incentive to support (or at least not oppose too loudly) the preservation of the Adirondacks.

Of greater importance, understanding the role that the Adirondack Park plays in slowing climate change can only deepen our appreciation of these woods – and of those who fought to make and keep them forever wild.

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


Friday, November 27, 2009

Bolton Welcomes Return of Famed Sculptor’s Gift

The Town of Bolton, where David Smith lived and worked for more than three decades, now has an even greater share in the legacy of that artist, commonly acknowledged as the greatest American sculptor of the 20th century.

Earlier this fall, Candida Smith, the artist’s daughter, presented a work welded by Smith in 1946 to the Bolton Free Library, saying her father would have appreciated this re-affirmation of his many and deep connections to the community.

“My father’s real inspiration was the support and love of Bolton Landing,” she said, noting that Smith frequently used the welding skills that forged brilliant works of art to repair a neighbor’s plow.

Smith’s affection for Bolton Landing and its people was reciprocated, Smith said.

“When he was accused of being a communist, a neighbor came to his defense by stating ‘if David Smith is a communist, there should be more of them,’” she recalled.

“It was a warm community,” Smith said. “When my sister Becca and I arrived here every summer, we knew we were loved, that we had a place here. We only have one home: Bolton Landing.”

While Bolton Landing provided Smith with a network of extended neighbors, the hills above Bolton Landing where he lived held perhaps an even stronger, denser community, said town historian Ted Caldwell, who introduced Candida Smith.

“These wonderful neighbors were his community, a community nestled under the ridge of hills to the west, hills David Smith lovingly called Tick Ridge,” said Caldwell.

That community was the seedbed for the work Smith donated to the library: a 14 pound, welded iron key inscribed “Mayor of Tick Ridge.”

Smith made the piece to honor a local man coming home from World War II, Philbert Ainsworth, said Dida Smith.

According to Caldwell, the Ainsworths were neighbors of Smith’s and the other families on Tick Ridge.

“If David Smith wanted a cup of sugar or a scythe or a little gossip, he could cross Edgecomb Pond Road to visit John and Mary Neuman. He could go north to Valley Woods Road to visit Charlie Goggi or the small farms of Howard and Rachel Smith or Albert Belden. He could stop at the intersection Edgecomb Pond Road and Finkle Road to see Bernard and Bea Ainsworth or he could stop at the top of Slaughterhouse Hill to visit Ray Swinton,” Caldwell said.

It was a neighborhood that consisted of people who felt, and said, “If I wanted people to know my business, I’d live in town,” noted Smith.

In 1946, Dida Smith said, David Smith sculpted the large key to be presented to Ainsworth at a coming home party that included most of the neighborhood.

“It was as though he was being presented with a key to the city, although in this case the city was Tick Ridge,” said Smith.

The party was held at the Hollywood, a local bar and restaurant that was situated on the site where Frederick’s restaurant now stands, said Smith.

According to Megan Baker, the Bolton Free Library’s director, a ribbon was made by Dorothy Dehner, Smith’s first wife, so that the key could be hung from Ainsworth’s neck.

“The stories I’ve heard relate that the key was so heavy Ainsworth fell over,” said Baker.

Dida Smith later acquired the work and decided to donate it to the library earlier this summer.

“This is where we learned to read, as many of you did,” said Smith. “This library has meant a great deal to my family over the years.”

Presenting the key to Bolton Landing, Smith said, “It’s a bit eccentric, but so are we.”

Members of the Bolton Free Library’s board of trustees accepted the work on behalf of the Bolton Community.

“This will forever be a part of the Bolton Free Library,” said Hal Heusner, the chairman of the library’s board.

The work will be displayed on a wood pedestal by Bolton furniture maker Tom Brady and on a base by Mike Zuba, near a collection of art books donated in Smith’s memory by friends of the artist after his death in 1965.

The presentation of the key was made before an audience of roughly one hundred friends, neighbors and town residents, many of them relatives of Smith’s neighbors on Tick Ridge.

The presentation ceremony and the reception that followed was called ‘Coming Home,’ explained Megan Baker.

“We’re commemorating the fact that David Smith made this piece in Bolton and it’s returning to the town. But we also wanted to commemorate the piece itself and the reason why it was made by David Smith – to welcome home a fellow Boltonian,” said Baker.

“We also wanted an opportunity to thank Candida Smith for her extraordinary generosity; the entire community came together to help us do that,” said Baker.

“Many people played a vital role in making this event possible,” said Baker.”Kate Van Dyck created the posters and invitations; Cheryl and Buzz Lamb have donated wine and the following restaurants have donated food: Blue Water Manor, Villa Napoli, the Algonquin, Lakeside Lodge, Ryefield and Cate’s. We’re thank everyone for their support.”

The key and the story of its origins, said Ted Caldwell, “is more than a story about a simple piece of art; it’s a story about Bolton, about neighbors and about David Smith’s love of Bolton.”

That, he said, is what makes the donation of the key to the library such a singular gift to the town.

But the key will soon be recognized with a place in the cannon of David Smith’s work, said Peter Stevens, the executive director of the David Smith estate.

According to Stevens, the key will be included in the next edition of the artist’s catalogue raisonne.

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


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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