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, October 22, 2010

Remembering Huletts Landing on Lake George

Huletts Landing, the resort on the northeastern shore of Lake George, is a summer cottage colony, and some of the cottages are old enough to be of architectural and historic interest.

But however much is intact, even more is missing; destroyed by fire, the wrecking ball and changes in public taste and the economy.

From the 1920s through the 1940s, though, Huletts Landing “was one of the largest, most successful resorts on Lake George,” says Wyatt Firth. » Continue Reading.


Friday, October 15, 2010

DEC Drops Plan to End Lake George Garbage Collection

When campers return to the New York State-owned Lake George Islands next spring, the garbage barges will be there to remove trash from three transfer stations.

Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis has agreed to to raise camping fees by $3 per night to cover the costs of garbage collection, which the DEC had announced that it would suspend because of budget cuts.

The alternative to the proposed “Carry In – Carry Out” policy was submitted to DEC officials by state legislators, municipal officials and lake protection organizations at a meeting in Bolton Landing on September 17.

“The decision is based on discussions and feedback from local Lake George officials and organizations, area state legislators and campers,” said David Winchell, a regional spokesman for DEC.

“Clearly, the DEC got the message. The message from around the lake was the same, whether campers or environmental groups or local or state government officials, everybody asked that the state deal with this problem not by weakening a successful program, but rather by increasing fees. The camping public is supportive of higher fees to maintain a level of service that will protect both the lake and the treasured Lake George island camping experience. Many families have been using these islands for generations” said Peter Bauer, Executive Director of the FUND for Lake George.

The $3 surcharge, which will raise the cost of a camping permit to $28 for New York State residents, will generate at least $90,000 in new revenues, enough to cover the costs of garbage collection, said State Senator Betty Little.

“The goal is to keep these sites clean, to ensure garbage doesn’t end up in the water and to prevent surrounding municipal trash systems from being overwhelmed,” said Little.

According to David Winchell, the surcharge will be collected by Reserve America, which administers public campsite reservation systems.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Preserving Arto Monaco’s Theme Park Legacy

While the child-sized buildings at Land of Make Believe may be deteriorating, the legacy of Arto Monaco, the visionary who created the theme park in 1954, will be preserved.

According to Laura Rice, a curator at the Adirondack Museum, hundreds of items documenting Monaco’s career as a toymaker and theme park designer and developer are in the process of being acquired by the Adirondack Museum.

To be housed in the Museum’s Collections Storage and Study Center, where the material will be catalogued and made accessible to scholars, the Monaco collection will ultimately be seen by the public, said Rice.

“We will definitely display items, but no exhibition has been scheduled,” she said adding that the collection consists of “a little bit of everything, from art work to the toys he created to souvenirs and the uniforms employees wore at Land of Make Believe.”

Born in Ausable Forks in 1913, Monaco designed not only the Land of Make Believe but Santa’s Workshop and Charley Wood’s Story Town and Gaslight Village.

A $50,000 grant from the Charles R. Wood Foundation helped the Arto Monaco Historical Society acquire the collection from Monaco’s family, said Anne Mackinnon, a founder of the society.

The Arto Monaco Historical Society, which was created after Monaco’s death in 2003 to preserve his legacy, arranged for the transfer of the collection to the Adirondack Museum, according to Mackinnon. “Arto had been talking to people at the Adirondack Museum before he died; he had identified it as wonderful repository for his legacy,” Mackinnon said.

According to Laura Rice, roadside attractions like the Land of Make Believe, Stanta’s Workshop and Story Town, “are now recognized as integral to the development of the Adirondack Park as a resort area in the 1950s.”

Rice added, “Museums are often a generation behind in recognizing the significance of a piece of popular culture; we now have enough distance to have a proper perspective.”

The Arto Monaco Historical Society also acquired the site of Land of Make Believe in Upper Jay and hopes to transform it into a park, said Mackinnon. While many of the buildings are beyond repair, the society hopes to preserve the park’s castle in some form, she said.

“The castle is not only iconic; castles played an enormous role in Arto’s imagination,” Mackinnon said. “One of the last sketches he made before he died was of one more castle.”

Photo: The Land of Makebelieve in 2006 before volunteers began work on the abandoned theme park.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Lake George, Lake Tahoe Scientists Address Common Threats

Lake George and Lake Tahoe have more in common with one another than expensive second homes and classic wooden boats.

“Both are known for gorgeous scenery, excellent water quality and high biodiversity. Both are very important economically as well as ecologically,” said Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer, the director of RPI’s Darrin Fresh Water Institute. » Continue Reading.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Fee Hikes to Pay for LG Island Trash Collection

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation appears willing to give way on its plan to discontinue the collection of campers’ garbage from the islands of Lake George.

After meeting on September 17 in Bolton Landing with state legislators, county supervisors, the Lake George Park Commission and the heads of lake protection organizations, DEC staff agreed to seek an increase in camping fees large enough to cover the costs of collecting garbage from three locations and transporting it to Glen Island.

State Senator Betty Little and Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, who proposed the alternative to the state’s planned “Carry in/Carry Out” policy at the meeting in Bolton, said they would sponsor an item in next year’s state budget designating the new revenues as fees for removing garbage from the Lake George islands.

The agreement, however, must win the endorsement of DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis.
According to Doug Bernhard, DEC”s general manager of Forest Parks, approximately $50,000 would need to be raised every year to maintain the policy of picking up garbage and recycleables from three locations in the Lake George Narrows, Glen Island and Long Island campsite groups.

Last year, DEC issued 6,680 permits for 387 campsites on 44 islands, said Gary West of DEC’s Warrensburg office. By raising the fee for a daily camping permit by as much as $5, Senator Little said, enough funds would be raised to pay for garbage collection. “It will be understood that it is an increase in fees to keep the lake beautiful,” said Little.

If the fee hike is approved, the cost of a permit could rise to $30 for New York State residents and $35 for non-residents. “These campers have expensive boats; they won’t object to a few extra dollars for a permit, and it’s still an incredible deal,” said Bill Van Ness, a Warren County supervisor and a Lake George Park Commission marine patrol officer.

“There’s broad support from business owners, environmentalists and local governments for this fee hike,” said Peter Bauer, the excutive director of the Fund for Lake George.

The decision to abandon the policy of collecting garbage and to rely instead upon campers to carry their garbage with them when they leave was made after the DEC’s budget for non-personnel expenses was cut by 40%, said Bernhard.

“Asking campers to take their garbage to the recycling centers was a highly successful program, winning 90% compliance, but we no longer have the resources to support it,” said Bernhard, who added that other popular campground programs, such as nature education activities, had also been abolished.

Opposition to the plan to terminate garbage collection services, however, surfaced almost as soon as it was announced. The Towns of Bolton, Hague and Lake George, as well as the Warren County Board of Supervisors, adopted resolutions opposing the plan. “The end result will be garbage in the roadway and in the lake,” said Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover, who organized the meeting. “If we fail the lake, we fail ourselves.”

Members of the Lake George Park Commission also opposed the plan, said chairman Bruce Young, who argued that discontinuing the collection service would diminish the experience of camping on the islands, thus costing the state in revenues and harming the local economy. “This is the goose that lays the golden egg,” said Young. “The Lake George Island campsites generate $700,000 a year in revenues to DEC. I hate to see you shortchange this asset in order to take care of others.”

While a carry in/carry out policy is used at other island campsites in the Adirondack Forest Preserve, Young and others argued that it could not be successfully applied to Lake George. “Not picking it up is not an option, it won’t work,” said Young. “Lake George island campers are not backpackers.”

The Lake George Association’s executive director, Walt Lender, said, “While we agree the campers should be responsible for their own garbage, we know that island camping is not wilderness camping; these boats are floating Winnebagos.”

“Their coolers, their children, their barbecues, they boat it in as though they were going to a land-based campsite,” said Ron Conover. According to DEC officials, 231 tons of garbage was removed from the islands last year.

The Lake George Island Campers Association supports the recommendation, with some reservations, said Cindy Baxter, a New Hampshire resident who helped establish the advocacy group. “We would prefer to see all the funds generated by the Lake George islands be returned to Lake George for the care and maintenance of the campsites. But if that’s not possible, a fee increase is a price we’re willing to bear if that’s what it takes to protect Lake George,” said Baxter.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Friday, September 17, 2010

Paulist Fathers Ponder Future of LG Lands

The Paulist Fathers, the Roman Catholic order founded by the 19th century American transcendentalist Isaac Hecker, celebrated its 140th summer on Lake George in 2008.

More than 200 people boarded the Lac du St. Sacrement for a cruise that took them past St. Mary’s on the Lake, the 76 acre retreat on the east side with thousands of feet of undisturbed shoreline, and down the lake to the Harbor Islands, where the Paulists erected a chapel in 1903.

Now, two years later, the leaders of the order are debating how best to preserve those properties; if, that is, they can be preserved.

On Tuesday, September 14, the order’s new president and its officers met in New York to discuss a proposal that would allow St. Mary’s on the Lake to be used as a campus for local colleges’ environmental studies programs during the school year.

In December, a meeting will be held in Washington to discuss other possibilities, such as selling conservation easements to ensure the properties will remain undeveloped, or permitting weddings to be held at St. Mary’s and even at Harbor Islands.

“The Paulists have not decided what to do, but they have to do something,” said Michael Stafford, a Lake George attorney who serves as the order’s local counsel.
The Paulists’ new president, Father Michael McGarry, took office in May with a mandate to improve the order’s financial condition, said Father Ken McGuire, the director of St. Mary’s.

In a formal statement upon taking office, Father McGarry said, “We will no doubt have to make some painful choices about curtailing ministries in some areas. The most important thing is that the Paulist mission will not become diluted.”

According to Father McGuire, the tenuous state of the order’s finances should come as no surprise.

“We’ve always been a small community,” said McGuire. “At our largest, we had 276 priests; that was in 1976, when Time magazine said we were more influential than the Jesuits, which had 43,000 priests.”

No more than 127 priests now belong to the order, and of those 127, 53 of them are over the age of 70, said McGuire.

Some of them require care for medical conditions, which increases the order’s annual expenses, said McGuire, a spry, fit 80 year-old himself.

Those ranks have not been replenished by younger priests who will manage the order’s operations , such as the Paulist Press, the nation’s foremost publisher of theological works, or The Catholic World, its magazine.

Recruiting new priests is another priority of his administration, Father McGarry said in his inaugural statement.

“On a theoretical level, it is incomprehensible why men in their 20s, 30s and 40s are not entering the Paulist seminary because our mission is so exciting, so challenging and so fulfilling,” he said. “However, you look at the reality and realize the need to address the practical challenges to men entering the seminary,” McGarry said.

Every Paulist priest but one (who died in 1865) has spent at least part of every summer on Lake George, said Father McGuire, who is completing his 48th summer at the lake.

In the past, priests and seminarians tended to come for an entire summer; these days, they come, for the most part, only in August, when forty to fifty people might be in residence.

The days are unstructured; the priests are given three meals a day and encouraged to occupy their time as they see fit.

Some swim, boat and rock on the porch with a book, as anyone would while vacationing on Lake George. Others retreat to the Harbor Islands for privacy and contemplation.

“We have one priest who brings more books with him than clothes,” said McGuire.
Idyllic as it sounds, a vacation on Lake George is not always an easy sell, said McGuire.

“We think of Lake George as a million dollar vacation,” said McGuire. “But some of these modern kids need the cities where it’s daylight 24 hours a day; some can’t swim. A month in the country? My God, you’d think the sky had fallen in!”

Rather than allowing St Mary’s on the Lake to remain vacant in June and July, the Paulists host retreats for priests, nuns and lay people on topics as diverse as religion and quantum physics; peacemaking in the middle east; and dance as a form of meditation.

This past summer, McGuire himself, a cultural anthropologist who spent most of his career teaching at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, led a retreat entitled “Spiritual Discovery through Movies.”

Tuition fees range from $200 to $450 per person, depending upon the length of the retreat, and participants stay on the campus.

The oldest building on the grounds dates to 1875. In addition to a chapel, boat house and cottage, the facilities include two large two-story buildings, the Student House and the Priest House, which contain bedrooms, common rooms and kitchens. The Priest House was designed by Isaac Hecker himself and built with materials of his choice.

According to Father McGuire, he was especially partial to the wood of chestnuts, the tree that once flourished on the shores of Lake George.

Hecker’s bedroom is preserved in a condition very similar to, if not the same as, the state in which it was left after he spent his last summer on the lake, in 1888.

Even if underused, the buildings require maintenance and improvements, and some may need to be replaced, said McGuire.

Asked if the Paulists would ever sell the property, McGuire said, “Over several dead bodies, including my own!”

But, he acknowledged, at least one member of the Paulists’ previous administration had advocated selling the property to raise funds for the order.

“We would only sell it if we were to go bankrupt, and that’s a very, very remote possibility,” said McGuire.

Programs and activities that would make selling the property unnecessary, such as using it for an environmental education center or for weddings, must be scrutinized by attorneys to make certain they don’t compromise St. Mary’s status as a not-for-profit organization, McGuire said.

“We’re meeting with committed, serious members of the Lake George community to weigh these and other options,” said McGuire. “We need to think about what we want to accomplish here during the next hundred years.”

Photos of Harbor Islands and St Mary’s on the Lake, Lake George Mirror

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Friday, September 10, 2010

Placid: Chris Noth Presents ‘What I Meant to Tell You’

To live the life of a poet, says the actor Chris Noth, “is the ultimate political act, one of incredible bravery.”

At the very least, it’s an act of resistance or dissent, and one of last great dissenters, Peter Kane Dufault, will join Noth at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts on September 23 for a conversation, a poetry reading and a screening of a new film about Dufault, What I Meant to Tell You: An American Poet’s ‘State of the Union’.

Noth, best known for his roles in Law and Order, Sex and the City and The Good Wife, is the film’s associate producer.

In the 1970s, he was a student at the Barlow School, a small, progressive boarding school in the Hudson Valley, where Peter Dufault was a teacher.

Dufault was the best teacher he ever had, said Noth, who later attended Marlborough College and the Yale School of Drama.

“He opened up a way of life to me, a life of the imagination; he showed us through his example how that life can be developed and explored through poetry,” said Noth.

What I Meant to Tell You: An American Poet’s ‘State of the Union’ was directed by Ethan Dufault, the poet’s son, and is based on Dufault’s conversations with his father.

The title of the film, What I Meant to Tell You refers not only to what a poet might tell his country, were it willing to listen to poets, but what a father might tell his son.

“The title suggests what it is we wish we had said and heard from the people we love,” said Dufault, whose parents separated when he was a child.

But according to Michael Thomas, the film’s producer, What I meant to Tell You transcends the merely personal.

“Peter Dufault is a World War II veteran, a boxer, a musician, an environmentalist and a political activist as well as a poet. You can chart our history through his life,” said Thomas.

For Peter Dufault, poetry is the constant in his life.

“Everything else is secondary to poetry; poetry is the touchstone for every move I make,” he said.

“I concluded early in life that time was of the essence; it’s a non-recouperable commodity; every job I took was something that gave me time to squeeze out whatever poetry was in me,” Dufault said. “To be a poet means to live my own life.”

“His embattled status as a poet and a political activist is part of his strength,” says Ethan Dufault.

But, he said, his father’s “contentiousness” has hurt him professionally.

“He’s refused to play the game, but his life has not been an easy one,” said Ethan Dufault.

(Or, as Peter Dufault himself says, “I ain’t venerated, I’m resented. In England, I’m considered a great American poet. The English like my politics.”)

In 1968, Dufault ran for Congress on an anti-war platform; shortly thereafter, he began teaching at Barlow, where he taught a course in American history.

“It was unlike any other history course they were likely to take,” recalls Dufault. “It was a matter of life and death for these kids, who were either going to be drafted or find some dodge to avoid the draft. How did this nation get to the point where we were incinerating villages in Southeast Asia? That’s what I wanted them to understand.”

Politics has never been far from the center of Dufault’s life, nor for that matter, from his poetry, which makes him a rarity among American poets.

“What’s bothered me most about the majority of American poets is that they are less and less engaged; while the United States, this great millenial experiment, is crumbling at the joints, they’re undisturbed,” said Dufault. “They seem to be suffering from an attention deficit disorder.”

Dufault was first exposed to left-wing politics as an undergraduate at Harvard, when a classmate took him to a meeting of the campus chapter of the John Reed Club, then dominated by party-line communists.

Not one to adopt any party’s line, Dufault never returned. Nevertheless, in the 1950s, he found himself blacklisted from New York newspapers. He headed north, becoming editor of the Catskill Daily Mail. He then found his way into teaching.

“For me, he was a sage,” said Chris Noth. “He was always interested in what you had to say. When you showed him a poem or an essay, you always went away with a kernel of something to work with. He didn’t treat us as school boys to be talked at.”

But Dufault’s “vivacity, his capacity for enjoying life, whether it was through a soccer game, chess or a conversation,” was also a lesson in living in the world, said Noth.

“Chris Noth has done more for this film than I could have asked,” said Ethan Dufault.

In addition to helping win attention for the film, Noth also played a role, albeit an indirect one, in its inception, said Dufault.

“My father and I are both birders, and we happened to run into one another on a bird walk,” said Dufault. “He mentioned that Chris Noth had approached him about making a film about Robert Frost, but some how that fell through. So I suggested that I make a film about him.”

Of the film, Peter Dufault says, “Film is not my medium; I don’t have any personal, aesthetic or political stake in it. When Ethan first asked me to look at the footage, I was astonished by how good it was. The piece of film that I saw was of a person reciting a poem; it didn’t register as me, it was just some agreeable old fart speaking poetry; it sounded good. It was a collaboration of film and poetry which I’d never seen before. I agreed to sign on but to back off; I’ve remained outside of it by choice. Ethan has his own agenda.”

The Lake Placid Center for the Arts is located at 17 Algonquin Drive in Lake Placid. The program, which is co-sponsored by the Lake Placid Institute, starts at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $10 per adult and $2 per student. People under 18 will be admitted at no cost.

The film makers are especially interested in attracting young people to the event, hence the low prices for tickets, said Michael Thomas.

“Peter Dufault is an 87 year old volcano,” said Thomas. “The kids are open to his message. They get it. We’ve held Question and Answer periods wherever we’ve screened the film, and the questions have been fantastic.”

Chris Noth will screen the film at NYU, Columbia, Yale, Middlebury and other schools.

“I talk to a lot of kids, and I’m chagrined when they say they want to study business or communications; those years of high school and college should be the time of intellectual awakening. My hope is that this film about Peter Dufault will have the same effect on them that he had on me,” said Noth.

“Today, poetry is an endangered species,” Noth said. “Peter made you feel that poetry was a noble and worthwhile endeavor, and I still feel that.”

For more information about the event , contact the Lake Placid Center for the Arts at 518-523-1312.

Photos: Noth and Dufault in New York courtesy of Lake Placid Center for the Arts; Ethan and Peter Dufault courtesy of Ethan Dufault.

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Friday, September 3, 2010

Lake George Asian Clam Invasion Appears Localized

The colony of Asian clams discovered in Lake George last week appears to be confined to an area between English Brook and Pine Point in the Village of Lake George.

“As far as we can tell, the population is contained within a relatively small area,” said Peter Bauer, executive director of The Fund for Lake George. “More research will follow this week and next to verify this. We’ll also survey other areas that appear to be suitable habitat for the species. But if we’re lucky and maybe this is an isolated infestation that we caught early, then eradication of this invasive species is a strong possibility.” » Continue Reading.


Friday, August 27, 2010

A Lake George Comeback For A Once Famed Sailboat

Led by Lake George’s John Kelly and Reuben Smith of Hall’s Boat Corp., the Mystic Seaport maritime museum in Mystic, Connecticut, is documenting a once-famous class of sail boat that has slipped into obscurity.

The boats, Sound Interclubs, were sailed on Lake George from the 1930s through the 1950s, when the Lake George Club replaced its racing fleet with Stars and Rainbows.

Two of the surviving sail boats have been acquired by John Kelly, the Assembly Point resident whose 1936 Lake George Gar Wood was restored by Reuben Smith and the crew at Hall’s earlier this year. Hall’s is now restoring Kelly’s Sound Interclubs.

Of Kelly’s two boats, one was in relatively good condition, but even that one had been disfigured by the force of the 42 foot mast and the weight of the lead keel, said Smith. So before he could begin the work of restoring the boats, he needed an accurate set of plans.

Smith said he called Mystic Seaport in search of plans, photos and any additional information that might be in the museum’s extensive archives, and while dozens of classic photos had been taken of the boats racing in Long Island Sound in the 1920s and 30s, no plans survived.

That inquiry led Mystic Seaport’s staff to start researching the Sound Interclub, said Luisa Watrous, the museum’s Intellectual Property Manager.

“Mystic Seaport is delighted that Reuben Smith and John Kelly are doing this work, because the museum maintains a representative collection of American sailboats, and there’s too little information about the Sound Interclubs,” said Watrous. “The Museum doesn’t have a boat of this type in the collection, and the restoration at Hall’s offers us an opportunity to clarify and update the photographic and vessel records.”

In the absence of the designer’s original plans (believed to have been lost in a fire), Smith is drafting a new set of plans as he restores Kelly’s first Sound Interclub; his plans, notes and photos of the restoration will guide the restoration of the other four Sound Interclubs.

Mystic Seaport will be one of the beneficiaries of Smith’s work, says Luisa Watrous,

Watrous, however, is not merely collecting the information gathered by Smith and Kelly; she’s heavily involved in co-ordinating research on the boats, enlisting the aid of people like Rik Alexanderson, whose grandfather, E.F. Alexanderson, was among those who brought one-design racing to Lake George.

Alexanderson is conducting oral interviews about the boats’ history on Lake George, said Watrous. Others, like David Warren, have contributed photos of the boats being sailed on Lake George. “I tend to feel that stories preserve themselves; they’re waiting to be told and will be told when the time is right,” said Watrous. The oral histories and photos are not only valuable additions to Mystic Seaport’s archives, but can assist Reuben Smith and John Kelly in their work, he said.

For Watrous, researching the Sound Interclubs is not merely a professional obligation; it’s a way for her to rediscover her links to the lake. “I have personal ties to the lake through my family, and I even sailed on Sound Interclubs in the 1970s,” he said. “After the Lake George Club switched to racing Stars and Rainbows, two Sound Interclubs were sold to Canoe Island Lodge, where I worked as a college student in the 1970s.”

John Kelly says he hopes to take his first sail in his Sound Interclub sometime this fall. “I became interested in the boats when I was researching the history of my Gar Wood, which was owned by a Lake George summer resident, Dan Winchester. A member of his family showed me an album that included some photos of a sailboat I’d never seen before. I showed them to Reuben, who immediately identified them as Sound Interclubs,” he said.

Designed by Charles Mower in 1926, the boats were famous in the 1930s as the fastest boats in the Westchester and Connecticut waters of Long Island Sound. “The whole idea behind one-design racing is that it’s a test of skills; it has nothing to do with who has the most money or the best technology,” said Reuben Smith.

By 1935, however, the boats began to feel dated to the Long Island skippers, many of whom were America’s Cup yachtsmen, and they replaced the boats with International One Designs, said Michael Kelly. Once the boats were no longer used for racing in Long Island Sound, they were brought to Lake George.

Reuben Smith says he knows of at least three other Sound Interclubs: one on Lake George, another in Texas and one on City Island in New York. He hopes they’ll be brought to Hall’s or to another Lake George boat shop and restored.

As does John Kelly. At the very least, he’ll get some competition. What’s the fun of owning a fast sail boat if there’s no one to compete with?

Photos: Above, Sound Interclubs racing on Lake George from the files of Lake George Mirror. Below, Sound Interclubs racing off Long Island. Photo by Morris Rosenfeld, courtesy of Mystic Seaport.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

A Rebirth for Lake George Dinner Theatre?

The Lake George Dinner Theatre began more than forty years ago as a producer of light, summer stock. Over the years, it has presented entertaining but predictable fare to an increasingly aging audience, usually delivered to the door in motor coaches.

Three years ago, actor and director Terry Rabine purchased the business, fully aware that while he could ill-afford to lose the tour bus trade, the Lake George Dinner Theatre required new energy, more sophisticated shows and new audiences if it was to survive.

This year’s production, Our Son’s Wedding, may well mark the re-birth of the Lake George Dinner Theatre.

A comedy that’s nearly flawless in its construction and execution, Our Son’s Wedding is what every Dinner Theatre production is supposed to be: well-crafted, fast-paced entertainment after a perfectly fine dinner.

Our Son’s Wedding, however, also features one of the best casts ever seen in Lake George.

And the play itself, while respecting and mining all the conventions of a two-act comedy, is a far more thoughtful piece than any heretofore presented on the Dinner Theatre’s stage.

Whether you find the ostensible subject matter – the pending marriage of two gay men – objectionable or a welcome and belated nod by a local, mainstream entertainment venue toward 21st century realities, will probably depend upon your politics.

But the theme of the play, and the issues that the playwright, Donna DiMatteo, obviously wants to explore, are far more universal and timeless than contemporary attitudes toward homosexuality.

Even the class, social and ethnic fault lines that still demarcate American society, and which are also exploited for comic effect, are ultimately less important to DiMatteo than family bonds, especially the love parents naturally feel for their children.

Mary, played by Marina Re, and Angelo, played by Paul D’Amato, travel from the Bronx to Boston to attend their son’s wedding. They’re staying at the Ritz-Carleton, which is meant to stand in for all posh hotels and where Angelo is painfully uncomfortable until he can divert himself with the bathroom’s plumbing, his particular field of expertise.

Mary’s experience and observations have widened her horizons far further than her husband’s; she’s noticed enough strange things among her own family and neighbors to know that ‘normal’ is a relative term.

Nevertheless, even she describes their trip as a visit “to a foreign country, where we don’t even speak the friggin’ language.”

That foreign country is not simply a hotel in Boston; it’s every world they’re unfamiliar with, including that of their son’s.

Marina Re and Paul D’Amato are pleasures to watch. One indication of the skills of Marina Re, who created the role of Mary at Gloucester Stage Company, is the fact that she is never upstaged by D’Amato.

There’s a reason why D’Amato is still famous for his supporting role in Slap Shot, the 1977 Paul Newman movie that’s still shown on every high school hockey team’s away-game bus trips. He has a big personality, one that can command a screen and a stage and certainly a room the size of the Dinner Theatre at the Holiday Inn.

But when required, D’Amato can limit the force of his character’s own outsized personality; it’s a calibration of voice, gesture and even posture. When we learn that the bullish Angelo is no less reflective than Mary, it comes not as a surprise but as a delayed recognition.

Mick Bleyer plays Michael as someone who is charming but vulnerable; his vulnerability
and the wish to protect him unite not only Mary and Angelo, but Mary and Angelo and the steady David, played by Eric Rasmussen.

Our Son’s Wedding will be performed every evening Wednesday through Saturday until October 14.

Anyone who’s become a supporter of the Adirondack Theatre Festival, the Lake George Theater Lab and Wrightstage in recent years owes the Lake George Dinner Theater another chance. With that kind of support, Rabine could take the Dinner Theatre in any number of unpredictable directions.

Photo: Paul D’Amato and Marina Re, courtesy of Lake George Dinner Theatre

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http://www.lakegeorgemirror.com


Friday, August 13, 2010

LG: Preserve Renamed in Honor of Conservationist

The Pilot Knob Ridge Preserve, which was protected by the Lake George Land Conservancy in large part through the efforts of the late Lynn Schumann, was re-dedicated in honor of the conservancy’s former director on August 9.

“We’re here as an act of living love,” said Mark Johnson, a founding trustee of the Lake George Land Conservancy who served as a master of ceremonies. According to Johnson, the re-dedication of the Pilot Knob Ridge Preserve was an act of love for both a particular place and a particular person, whose names will be permanently linked.

“A preserve is as close to perpetuity as anything we can know of,” said Johnson.

The Reverend Bruce Tamlyn, the Silver Bay chaplain who officiated at the wedding of Lynn and Kurt Schumann, said in his invocation, “the beauty of this place will be forever joined with the beauty of Lynn.”

Lynn Schumann, who died in March at the age of 46, served as the Lake George Land Conservancy’s executive director from 1999 to 2006.

She resigned the post to become the Land Trust Alliance’s northeast director, where she helped guide the work of 650 land trusts throughout New York and New England. Prior to joining the Conservancy, Schumann was the Wilton Wildlife Preserve’s first director. She was a graduate of Emma Willard and St. Lawrence University.

During Schumann’s tenure as the Lake George Land Conservancy’s executive director, membership increased from 250 to 1,171. At the time of her departure, the organization had protected nearly 5,000 acres of land and 11,000 feet of shoreline.

According to Sarah Hoffmann, the Conservancy’s communications co-ordinator, Schumann regarded the preservation of Pilot Knob Ridge as her greatest achievement on Lake George.

Before being acquired by the Conservancy, Pilot Knob Ridge was the site of a house and road visible from the lake, the west shore, Assembly Point and Kattskill Bay. “It was a gross insult upon the landscape,” said Lionel Barthold, one of the speakers at the dedication ceremony.

Pilot Knob Ridge was the first parcel acquired by the Conservancy that was already developed. The visibility of the cleared portions of the property from the lake, and the danger that it would be developed further, helped persuade donors that acquiring this piece was critical for protecting the character of the eastern shore, Schumann said in 2000, when the 223 acre parcel was purchased.

“Protecting Pilot Knob Ridge set a precedent; it showed that we could un-do an offense upon the landscape,” Barthold said at the dedication ceremony.

Once the property was owned by the Lake George Land Conservancy, the house on the ridge was removed. At a farewell party in 2006, Schumann said the razing of the house was a highlight of her career.

“The organization made a significant decision to remove the house situated prominently on the hillside,” she said. “It was a sunny spring morning when the wrecking crew began the process of demolishing the house. I peered out over the ridge and saw some 40 boats anchored along the shoreline cheering as the house came down.”

While Schumann loved the waters of Lake George and was dedicated to protecting water quality, she was especially passionate about protecting wooded uplands like Pilot Knob Ridge, said Kurt Schumann.

“These breath-taking views, the wild life, these are the things Lynn fought to protect,” said Schumann. “We have all lost a conservation champion.”

Among other speakers at the ceremony were Chris Navitsky and Susan Darrin. Rick Bolton and Tim Wechgelaer performed some of Lynn’s favorite songs, and Lake George Land Conservancy chairman John Macionis raised a cup of champagne in Schumann’s honor, officially declaring the slope and summit the Lynn LaMontagne Schumann Preserve at Pilot Knob Ridge.

“She’s smiling, humbled and grateful,” said Kurt Schumann.

Photo of Pilot Knob Ridge Preserve by Carl Heilman, courtesy of Lake George Land Conservancy

Photo of Lynn Schumann from Lake George Mirror files

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Friday, August 6, 2010

Garbage Collection on Lake George Islands to End

New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation will stop collecting garbage and recycleables from the state-owned islands on Lake George, a DEC spokesman said.

Starting in 2011, the DEC will maintain a “carry in – carry out” policy, said David Winchell.

“This is the system that is used in the rest of the forest preserve,” he said.

The decision to discontinue garbage collection was made to save money, said Winchell: “Due to funding reductions to the Department of Environmental Conservation from the state’s historic budget shortfall, all DEC programs are seeking ways to reduce operating costs while still providing the basic services.”

According to Winchell, the island campsites are more expensive to operate than other camp grounds, and garbage collection increases those costs.

“The DEC recognizes that this is somewhat of an inconvenience for some campers, however, the costs for operating the campgrounds must be reduced to avoid other steps that campers are less receptive to, such as raising rates or reducing the number of campsites,” said Winchell.

Erich Neuffer, a Bolton Landing deli owner who operates the Glen Island commissary as a concession, said his contract with the state requires the DEC to collect garbage and recyclables from the store.

But his contract expires at the end of 2010 and he said he had no definite plans to renew it.

New York State began collecting garbage from the islands in 1955, a service that provided summer employment to hundreds of local youths.

“People told us we were the hardest working state employees they had ever seen, said Kam Hoopes, who worked on the barges in the 1970s

A petition has been circulated among the island campers calling upon the state to maintain the service

Approximately 700 signatures have been collected at the Glen Island store and sent to DEC, said Marie Marallo of Rutland, Vermont.

“This decision will be devastating to Lake George and the beautiful land and water,” said Marallo.

Marallo said she fears people will ignore the “carry in- carry out” policy and leave their garbage on the islands, or throw it into the lake.

“I was told that people have made the comments that they will just bring burlap bags, put the trash in them, weight them and then throw these into the lake,” said Marallo.

Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky said he would urge the DEC to reconsider adopting the new policy.

“The new policy is not lake-friendly,” he said. “It will lead to a lot of rubbish problems.”

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Friday, July 30, 2010

State Bans Phosphorus Fertilizers

Two years from now, the use of phosphorus-heavy fertilizers will be prohibited not only in the Town and Village of Lake George, but throughout the Adirondack Park and, in fact, the entire state.

Governor David A.Paterson has approved a measure that prohibits homeowners and landscape contractors from applying fertilizer containing phosphorus on any lawns within the state.

The Town and the Village of Lake George adopted regulations limiting the use of fertilizers with phosphorus earlier this summer.

The only exceptions to the state law will be for property owners who are installing a new lawn, or if a soil test shows a phosphorus deficiency. Retailers can still sell phosphorus fertilizer for consumers who fall into those categories, provided signs about the dangers of phosphorus are posted.

The new law, which takes effect January 1, 2012, also prohibits the application of any fertilizer whatsoever within 20 feet of a water body. Fertilizers can be used within ten feet of water if a vegetative buffer has been established along a shore.

“We think this is a great step forward,” said an official with New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

Phosphorus has been shown to contribute to the spread of aquatic weeds and the growth of algae, robbing water of oxygen that fish need to survive and limiting the recreational use of lakes and ponds.

“In time, we’ll see a marked difference in plant growth in Lake George once the full effect of the phosphorus ban is achieved,” said Walt Lender, executive director of the Lake George Association.

According to Lender, the bill also bans phosphorus in dishwashing detergent.

“This will keep additional phosphorus out of septic systems and municipal wastewater treatment systems,” Lender said.

“We’re very pleased Governor Paterson signed the bill into law,” said Lender. “It’s a huge step in the right direction, not least because it has generated a lot of discussion about the effects of phosphorus on water quality.”

New York State Senator Betty Little said she voted in favor of the bill after it was amended to allow retailers more time to rid their shelves of phosphorus fertilizers.

She also noted that the New York State Farm Bureau had withdrawn its objections to the bill.

According to Peter Bauer, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George, the ban on phosphorus-based fertilizers should be followed by a ban on the use of all fertilizers.

A fertlizer ban would reduce pollution by another nutrient, nitrogen, which can be just as harmful to water quality, Bauer said.

“Phosphorus free fertilizers are like low tar and nicotine cigarettes – they’re just as dangerous as the originals,” said Bauer. “We don’t need any of these products for healthy lawns.”

Illustration courtesy the Lake Champlain Basin Program’s Lawn to Lake initiative.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Hague’s Rick Bolton: A Life in Music

“As a young man, I was chasing a dream. As I got older, I realized the ultimate gig was a mile down the road, playing with and for my friends and then going home to my wife and kids. That’s really making it.”

That’s local legend Rick Bolton’s idea of a successful career in music, and by that definition, he’s made it.

From playing in garage bands on northern Lake George, where he traveled to gigs by boat because he was too young to drive, to touring out west, only to return home and help launch a thriving music scene in Saratoga, Rick Bolton has led a life in music and found the music that reflects his life.

“I grew up in Hague,” he recounts. “When summer hit, we got some culture, but not not enough to hurt us. I buried myself in my room in winters and learned to play guitar. I listened to the Beatles and the Stones, and I worked backward toward the music’s roots. I got lucky. I was exposed to old time guitar players, banjo players and fiddlers, here and in northeastern Vermont where I went to college. That’s the music that makes sense to me.”

Those traditions have found their way into the music he’s been playing for the last forty years, with bands like the T-Bones, northern Lake George’s favorite dance band, Rick Bolton and the Dwyer Sisters (which includes his wife Sharon and her sister Molly) and Big Medicine, which will perform in Lake George Village’s Shepard Park on July 28.

“I’m a tavern singer, I make no bones about that, but I love playing town concert series,” said Bolton. “You have a chance to mix it up with towns people and tourists; they’re better venues than taverns for playing original tunes and trying different takes on cover material. They’re always a lot of fun.”

Bolton characterizes Big Medicine, which consists of Jeff and Becky Walton, Tim Wechgelaer, Arlin Greene, Mike Lomaestro and Bolton on guitar, as “classic Americana; we cover a lot of bases – swing, rhythm and blues, rock, folk.”

Musicians younger than Bolton and from such unlikely places as Brooklyn and Somerville have re-discovered the acoustic roots music that Bolton has been playing for most of his life. In fact, they’re popular draws at the concert series in Shepard Park.

Rather than disparaging the young bands’ grasp of the traditions or resenting their intrusion upon fields he’s tilled for decades, Bolton welcomes their enthusiasm.

“It’s awesome, they’re bringing they’re own influences to bear on the music, just as we did, and they’re taking the music back to the garage, where it started,” says Bolton.

Although Bolton still has his day job with Warren County, he’s performing nearly every night with one band or another.

“We had 27 or 28 gigs scheduled for July, and June was just as busy,” he said. Bolton has lived in Saratoga for the past twenty years. In the last six years, he says, “the music scene has just taken off.”

“Sooner or later, a place just gets touched,” he says. “It happened to Austin, Texas, it happened to San Francisco. I can envision the same thing happening to Saratoga. Within blocks, you can hear jazz, acoustic folk, blues or rock. There are a lot of influences, conducive to vibrant original music. There’s a definitive Saratoga style, and there’s an audience for it.”

A sampling of that Saratoga style can be heard soon on “Saratoga Pie,” a compilation of Saratoga bands that Bolton has helped produce as a benefit for the Saratoga Center for the Family.

“There’s a lot of money for the arts in Saratoga, but often places that serve people don’t get the attention they need. There are battered women and abused children in every town in the Adirondack Park, but people never talk about that,” he says, explaining the purpose of the album. “They need our help.”

As Bolton describes it, Saratoga’s music scene is not that different from Hague, where, he says, everyone knew everyone else’s business, but everyone looked out for one another.

That’s probably why Bolton’s happier there than if he had stayed out west. He may be “only in it for the beer,” as the title of a recent CD puts it, but he’s made a full, rich life out of it.

Photo: Rick Bolton (left) with Big Medicine.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

A Lake George Clinic for Hudson Headwaters?

Lake George Town officials want the Hudson Headwaters Health Network to establish a clinic in their community, and have initiated discussions with the Network to determine its feasibility, Supervisor Frank McCoy has announced.

A clinic could be housed in a new building constructed for Lake George’s Emergency Medical Services squad, McCoy said at the Town’s monthly board meeting on Monday.
“Land is so expensive in Lake George that it makes sense to buy property for two entities,” said McCoy.

According to town councilwoman Fran Heinrich, Hudson Headwaters’ Tripp Shannon informed the town that a sufficient number of patients from Lake George visit the Network’s other clinics to justify a thorough investigation of the proposal.

Dr. John Rugge, the president and CEO of Hudson Headwaters Health Network, said the Network staff’s meetings with McCoy and Heinrich had been productive. “We’re committed to working with the Town to meet the long term health care needs of Lake George,” said Rugge.

The expense of establishing a new clinic is among the issues that need to be addressed, said Rugge. Typically, municipalities provide a building, equipment and maintenance of a clinic, which Hudson Headwaters then staffs with medical personnel.

The not-for-profit network currently operates health centers in Bolton Landing, Chestertown, Glens Falls, Indian Lake, Moreau, Moriah, North Creek, Queensbury, Schroon Lake, Ticonderoga and Warrensburg.

Other issues to be discussed include the functions of a Lake George clinic within the network as a whole and the development of a program that could be adapted to Lake George’s fluctuating population, Rugge said. “The population is like an accordion,” said Rugge. “It expands ten-fold in the summer. We would have to address that.”

As a federally-certified community health care centers, a Lake George clinic could be eligible for funding under the 2010 federal Health Care Reform act, though it may be at least four years before that money becomes available, Rugge said.

Despite those obstacles, Rugge said, “it’s a pleasure working with such a far-sighted administration. Whenever a community wants to work with Hudson Headwaters Health Network, magic can happen; obstacles can be overcome.”

A new facility for Lake George’s rescue squad, while urgently needed, will also take time to fund and construct, said Bruce Kilburn, the president of the Lake George Emergency Squad.
Founded in 1960, the rescue squad celebrated its 50th anniversary in February with a gala at the Georgian, intended to kick-off a fund raising campaign for the new building.

“We’ve outgrown our building on Gage Road,” said Kilburn. “Training, meetings, every day activities are getting more difficult to co-ordinate.”

With the loss of volunteers and increasing reliance on professional Emergency responders, who are frequently assigned over-night shifts, separate facilities for men and women are needed, Kilburn said.

“Without separate facilities, we could face sexual harassment suits,” said Kilburn. “That’s a big concern to us.”

Town officials anticipate assistance from Lake George Village taxpayers in the fund drive for new EMS headquarters, said McCoy. “We expect Lake George Village to step up to the plate,” said McCoy. “The Town funded fifty percent of the new firehouse.”

A number of locations for the new facility are under consideration, but none have been made public.

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