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, 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.”
» Continue Reading.


Friday, October 30, 2009

PBS Stations Picking Up Locally-Made Documentary

The locally-made documentary about the French and Indian War, “Forgotten War: The Struggle for North America,” has been selected for broadcast by more than two hundred public broadcasting stations.

The documentary, which was produced by Plattsburgh’s Mountain Lakes PBS in conjunction with commemorations of the 250th anniversary of the French and Indian Wars, will be seen in three of the biggest markets in the country: New York, Boston and San Francisco, said Janet Kennedy, the executive director of Lakes to Locks Passage, which underwrote the documentary.

Stations in Los Angeles and Philadelphia are considering broadcasts, said Kennedy.

“Mountain Lakes PBS is the smallest public television station in the country, so having one of its productions broadcast nationally is a remarkable achievement,” said Peter Repas, executive director of the Association of Public Broadcasting Stations of New York.

According to Colin Powers, Mountain Lakes PBS’s director of production and programming, for too many Americans, the French and Indian war is still the forgotten war, despite the fact that the 250th anniversary of the pre-Independence War conflict inspired countless new books and films.

Not only do relatively few Americans understand the role the conflict played in shaping the history of the North American continent, the significance of Lake George and Lake Champlain in determining the conflict’s outcome is often lost sight of, Powers said.

To remedy that defect, Powers and a team of producers, directors and writers spent more than two years creating “Forgotten War: The Struggle for North America,” an hour long documentary that will be seen on public broadcasting stations throughout the United States and Canada.

“We wanted to bring the war back to this corridor,” Powers said at the documentary’s premiere, which was held at Fort Ticonderoga. “An epic struggle for the fate of North America was played out right here in our own backyards. For five years—from 1755 to 1760—the battles raged at Lake George, Crown Point, Fort Ticonderoga, and Quebec as France, Britain and the native peoples of North America fought to decide who would control the crucial highway of rivers and lakes between New York and the city of Montreal.”

The film makers succeeded in restoring the primacy of northern New York to the historical narrative, said David Starbuck, the archaeologist who has conducted excavations at Fort George and Fort William Henry.

“They did a great job of putting this area front and center,” said Starbuck, who served as one of the film’s consultants.

According to Powers, the film makers hoped to restore a perspective that many historians felt had been distorted by the PBS documentary “The War that made America,” which was filmed near Pittsburgh.

Much of “Forgotten War” was filmed in and around Fort Ticonderoga, using the 2000 re-enactors who show up every year as extras.

“They’re re-enactors, not actors, so we frequently had to re-stage scenes,” said Damian Panetta, the documentary’s producer and director.

Panetta and associate producer Karin O‘Connell elicited the advice not only of scholars but of the descendants of those who participated in the conflict.

“I was very cognizant of trying to tell a balanced story so I spoke to British, French, French Canadian, British Canadian, Scottish, American, Iroquios, Abenaki, and Mohican peoples,” said O’Connell.

The result, said Colin Powers, is a documentary that gives proper weight to Native Americans and the American colonists.

The French and Indian War is a forgotten war not merely because it has been overshadowed by the War of Independence, but also because it contains so many forgotten stories, said Powers.

According to Powers, ‘Forgotten War’ will be a rich resource long after it has been shown on television.

In addition to the full-length documentary, the producers have created videos that will be available at historic sites, a website with
downloadable content, and educational curriculum that meet state curriculum standards.

“This was a project that took more than two years to complete,” said Alice Recore, the president and CEO of Mountain Lakes PBS. “I hope viewers will feel that it was well worth the time and the effort.”

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


Friday, October 23, 2009

Scope of Lake George Mercury Study Expanded

The discovery of elevated levels of mercury in the spiders and songbirds of Dome Island has led the Nature Conservancy of Eastern New York and the Dome Island Committee, the organizations responsible for the island’s preservation, to test for mercury contamination on Crown Island and protected shorelines.

That will help the groups determine how pervasive mercury and its toxic form, methylmercury, is in Lake George, said Henry Caldwell, the chairman of the Dome Island Committee.

Researchers from the BioDiversity Institute of Gorham, Maine, which conducted the original studies of Dome Island’s birds and spiders, returned to Bolton Landing earlier this week to begin the broadened study.

“No one expected to find mercury pollution at these levels on Lake George,” said Caldwell. “Working with the Nature Conservancy of Eastern New York, which is the island’s owner, we decided to take the next step and look beyond Dome Island.”’

In July, the Dome Island Committee received a draft of a study by the BioDiversity Institute of Gorham, Maine, that found that “mercury concentrations in spiders from Dome Island represent some of the highest recorded in the Northeast.”

That study followed one conducted in 2006, which concluded that “mercury levels in songbirds sampled on Dome Island rank among the highest in New York and across the region.”

The island’s spiders, which the birds feed upon, may be the source of the elevated mercury levels found in birds, the scientists surmised.

From Crown Island and a site on the mainland, researchers will collect spiders of the type sampled on Dome Island and subject them to mercury tests, said David Buck, an aquatic biologist with the BioDiversity Institute.

The researchers will also test crayfish, Buck said.

“Crayfish reflect mercury in their immediate surroundings and provide a useful yardstick for comparing mercury levels throughout a specific watershed,” said Buck.

Results of the studies should be available by next spring, Buck said.

“I’d be surprised if we found that mercury contamination was limited to Dome Island,” said Buck.

Additional studies will permit scientists to assess the environmental impacts of mercury pollution on Lake George, said Buck.

The Dome Island and Lake George studies will become part of more comprehensive studies of air pollution and its impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity in the northeast, said Mark King of the Eastern New York Nature Conservancy.

“Our focus should be making people aware of how widespread mercury contamination is,” said King. “We have an opportunity here to show how mercury moves through the ecosystem; Dome Island and Lake George are pieces in the big picture.”

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


Friday, October 16, 2009

Origins of the Adirondack Park Agency: A Footnote

New York’s history of preserving wild, open spaces in the Adirondack Park while, at the same time, sustaining (or at least suffering) its small communities has become known as “an experiment,” a misleading term at best.

Now comes “The Great Experiment in Conservation; Voices from the Adirondack Park,” a collection of essays meant to extract transferable lessons from the Park’s history of mixing public and private uses. » Continue Reading.