Almanack Contributor Gwendolyn Craig

Gwendolyn Craig

Gwen is the environmental policy reporter for Adirondack Explorer.


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

The buzz around AMR hiker permits

AMR lotLast Monday after this newsletter went out, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Ausable Club announced a new pilot reservation system at the Adirondack Mountain Reserve. The reserve, for those who may not know, is a gateway to nearly a dozen High Peaks and some very popular hikes like Indian Head and Rainbow Falls. It is also private property, accessible to the public through a foot traffic easement. The original press release left many questions, including whether or not this reservation system included a fee, or if it was free. The answer–it’s free to make a reservation.

It was also confusing because the state has called it a pilot parking reservation system, but it’s not. It is a full-on reservation system. You cannot be dropped off and walk in without a reservation. You cannot bike to the AMR and walk in without a reservation. The only way you are allowed to be on the AMR property without this permit is if you have a Greyhound or Trailways bus ticket from within 24 hours of your arrival to Keene Valley.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Court hears tree-cutting lawsuit

court screenshotOne of the stories I wrote for this past issue of Adirondack Explorer was about a “forever wild” case before the state Court of Appeals brought by Protect the Adirondacks against the state Department of Environmental Conservation. In case you missed it, last week the court heard oral arguments from both sides, which I wrote about here.

If you click on that link above, too, we embedded the YouTube clip of the hearing so you can watch it for yourself. No matter what side you might take, it is interesting to watch the judges ask so many good questions. This whole case can get very abstract when you’re looking at the question of what is a constitutionally protected tree. But I thought the judges also got to some very specific questions about constitutional amendments and work that has been impacted thus far from this litigation.

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Monday, March 22, 2021

Remembering an Adirondack archaeologist

David Starbuck reached into the center console of his car and pulled out a polished stone. He dropped it in my hands. After I admired it for a moment he happily told me it was dinosaur poop.

He had pulled that prank on so many students. Some of them would drop the “polished turd” and yell “ew,” the archaeologist told me. In case I was about to do the same, he assured me that there was no harm in holding it now. He slipped it back into a labeled sandwich baggy.

A few months later, he would put the most beautiful blue, 18th century glass cufflinks in my hands, freshly dug from the site of an officer’s hut. It was one of his most exciting finds before he died at the end of last year.

Whenever you met Starbuck, something amazing was always going to happen.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

After months of delay, DEC releases High Peaks advisory group report

Friday was a humdinger.

In the morning, we published a story about how the state Department of Environmental Conservation had delayed a report by an advisory group tasked with brainstorming strategies for managing an increase in visitors to the High Peaks.

It was time to write this story. At first the report was possibly going to be sent to the DEC in October. Understandably, the pandemic has slowed things down. But time and again we were hearing from advisory group members that the report would be released any day now. Days turned into weeks, turned into a couple of months. So on Wednesday last week, I asked DEC when we could expect the report to be released, and I got back “soon.”

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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

A different kind of lobby day

lobby day 2020It’s hard to believe it’s already March 2021. One year ago I was getting my feet wet at the state Capitol, setting up shop at a table in the Legislative Correspondent’s Association offices on the third floor. Gov. Andrew Cuomo was beginning to hold more “Red Rooms,” meaning press conferences, about the coronavirus.

As of mid-March, I had stopped going to the Capitol. Since then, as with so many other folks, I have made home my workshop. While I am lucky to be able to conduct my job over email, the phone, Zoom and a few distanced in-person visits, I noticed just how different things are when advocacy groups posted on Twitter about the Adirondack Park lobbying day last week. 

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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Proposed campground for Hinckley and more from this month’s APA meeting

hinckley day use areaIn case you missed last week’s Adirondack Park Agency meeting, here are a few highlights.

The APA is collecting public comments on the Hinckley Day Use Area unit management plan proposed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Specifically, the APA will look at how this plan meshes with the Adirondack State Park Master Plan. DEC is proposing a revamp of the area, including new multi-use trails, additional camping opportunities and a pavilion at Price’s Point. Click here for more info, including how to comment.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

What’s in the state budget for the Adirondacks?

Satellite view of the Adirondacks with blue line superimposed courtesy Adirondack WildFollowing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State presentations, last week we learned about his 2022 proposed budget. Cuomo was largely asking the federal government to give the state more money, citing the coronavirus pandemic. New York is currently almost $15 billion in the hole.

But after Cuomo talked, some budget documents were released with a better idea of what next year could look like.

I’ll be delving into those in a bit more detail, but overall, we found that Cuomo plans to keep intact the $300 million Environmental Protection Fund, an important source of money for Adirondacks projects. The state Department of Environmental Conservation could be getting some new staff members, but it looks like they will be focused on implementing the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. Some funding was renewed for Essex County to address overuse in the High Peaks, and $250,000 was renewed for the Adirondack Diversity Initiative.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Following NYS’s budget priorities

CuomoLast week was a whirlwind of Gov. Andrew Cuomo press conferences. He gave not one, but four State of the State addresses.

In case you missed it, green energy topped his third address, and we wrote an overview about his first address. One thing of note: Cuomo did not mention renewing the call for a $3 billion environmental bond act. It seems unlikely, based on the fact that New York is about $15 billion in the hole.

But we did hear some legislators reference it last week, so it could come back. Assemblyman Steve Englebright, who chairs the state Assembly’s environmental conservation committee, had suggested the bond act would be revived. He brought it up during a committee vote on changing the state constitution’s bill of rights to include the right to clean air, water and a healthful environment. I wrote about that, too, if you missed it.

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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Adirondack Report: State of the State and other updates

This week, I listened in on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s four State of the State presentations (click here for article about Monday’s address). Next week, we’ll get Cuomo’s budget presentation for 2022. That doesn’t get passed until April, but it will be interesting to see how the state fills this $15 billion hole.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve had a few stories posted online for you. In case you missed them, one was about a new connector trail between the Town of Newcomb’s beautiful High Peaks Overlook park and Goodnow Mountain. The trail isn’t 100% finished, but the hope is it will be next year. Read more about that here.

There’s more news, too, about the Town of Lake Luzerne’s request for a map amendment to the Adirondack Park Agency. Through the public comments that I filed a Freedom of Information Law request for, we found some preliminary information about a homeowner looking to develop his property in the area. We also found a number of neighbors against the map amendment, but a few local business owners in favor. Read more on that here.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Chad Dawson resigns from the APA

Last week’s Adirondack Park Agency meeting was a humdinger.

Board members, state Department of Environmental Conservation staff and APA staff all discussed two major projects that have led to plenty of passionate public comment. Those included visions for the Debar Mountain Complex and some changes to the Essex Chain Lakes area.

About three hours into this meeting, with the above-mentioned projects taking up the majority of the time, board member Chad Dawson announced his resignation. Dawson (pictured here) has been a wilderness advocate on the board, whose membership leans toward local government and economic development.

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Monday, December 7, 2020

On late-season toxic algal blooms

Recently, I wrote a follow-up to my colleague Ry Rivard’s coverage of harmful algal blooms. Lake George has had a few late blooms this fall.

This topic holds a special place in my journalist heart. When I worked in Auburn, Owasco Lake, which is the drinking water source for a large part of Cayuga County, had harmful algal blooms (more accurately called cyanobacteria) near the City of Auburn’s drinking water intake pipe. Nearly every day in the summer and fall I was writing a story about whether the water was safe to drink and safe to swim in, not just for people, but for pets, too. I wrote about dogs that had died from ingesting the scum. Some cyanobacteria blooms have liver and neurotoxins that are fast-acting and kill pets, waterfowl and other animals.

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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Revolutionary War remains on Lake George

digMy first newspaper job was at The Citizen in Auburn, New York. We got a tip one day that said someone had dug up human bones in their backyard, along with the address. My editor asked if I could go check it out.

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Saturday, November 7, 2020

Adirondack Report: Good news for Lake George; historic mansion for sale in Newcomb

milfoil matsLast week we had a couple of Lake George-area stories, in case you missed them.

One was about Dog Beach, a public area next to the state’s Million Dollar Beach at the southern end of the lake. If you’ve walked by there lately, you may have noticed the construction equipment. Dog Beach is getting turned into a stormwater filtration project. Some of it will go back to open, public space, but it will be smaller than before. The goal is to filter out nutrients, bacteria and sediment.

We also saw some benthic mats, once used to control Eurasian watermilfoil, removed from the lake. David Wick, director of the Lake George Park Commission, said this was the way the commission used to treat dense beds of milfoil, but these mats are now just trash sitting on the lake bottom. Divers helped remove them last month.

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Saturday, September 5, 2020

High Peaks hiking can be rough, but rewarding

Hello from my apartment, where I am enjoying sitting after 17 miles of hiking on Sunday. I’m looking at my boots caked in mud. They’re airing out on my porch.

Just before 7 a.m., my boyfriend and I arrived in Keene to hike two more High Peaks, Dial and Nippletop.

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Thursday, August 6, 2020

Bond Act becomes another casualty of pandemic

In case you missed it, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week that he would not be putting the $3 billion Restore Mother Nature Bond Act on the November ballot this year.

Cuomo said he was postponing it, due to the state’s dire finances. Though the bond act passed the state Legislature this year, a provision in the state budget said if finances were poor, the state budget director has the authority to pull the bond act from a public vote. That move, however, effectively kills the bond act.

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