Almanack Contributor John Warren

John Warren

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

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

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


Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Local Olympic Hero Jack Shea: Camels Relieve Fatigue

Behold, Jack Shea, local Olympic hero declares in this classic ad that Camel cigarettes “relieve fatigue.” Now we know how Shea became the first Olympian to win two gold medals in the same Olympics – a feat he accomplished during the 1932 games at Lake Placid. The ad is courtesy of www.weirdomatic.com (via Boing Boing).

According to wikipedia:

Shea chose not to defend his Olympic titles at the 1936 Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, at the request of a Lake Placid rabbi for it would be in poor taste to be so “over-zealous.”
One wonders what role the Nazi Olympics controversy had in the rabbi’s urgings.

Shea twice served as the Olympic Regional Development Authority chair. From 1958 to 1974, he was a town justice, and from 1974 until his retirement in 1983 he was the supervisor of North Elba.

His son, Jim Shea, Sr., was a 1964 Olympian in Nordic skiing and his grandson, Jim Shea, Jr. was a 2002 Olympic skeleton gold medalist.

Jack Shea carried the Olympic torch into Lake Placid in 2002 but was tragically killed in a head-on car crash with a drunk driver just before his grandson won the gold.


Thursday, August 2, 2007

Keene Valley Fire Dept’s Annual Field Day

By

The 2000 census lists the population of Keene Valley, NY at 1063. In summer the population nearly triples, and this influx of summer residents is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a curse because the village is largely dependent on the business generated by summer residents and taxes raised from these (generally) wealthy summer people to fund its necessary and more optional institutions.

Furthermore, pressure to buy land and build second homes on it has driven the cost of living here to levels that make it nearly impossible for young locals to stay at home, work, and raise families. It’s a blessing, because the money makes it possible for this village to thrive in many ways, providing retail opportunities, service, and government jobs that otherwise might not be available.


Essex County, located in the northern corner of the Adirondack Park, is huge, about 500 square miles larger than Rhode Island, but has amassed a population of only 38,000. This rural village in the heart of the Adirondack wilderness is a thriving and lively place and the home of the annual Keene Valley Fire Department Field Day. Volunteer fire departments in the US are facing something of a crisis. Volunteerism has declined while the performance standards for membership have risen. Members of volunteer fire departments, at least in New York, must constantly train to upgrade their skills and raise money to upgrade their equipment. But a village like Keene Valley would be in jeopardy if it weren’t for the existence of the KVFD and its ambulance/rescue squad. Almost all the housing in the village and on the surrounding hills is wood frame. The nearest hospital is thirteen miles away. Without the fire department and the ambulance squad, houses would burn and people would die.

Each year on the last Sunday in July the KVFD holds its annual field day. After years of running this annual event, the Fire Department has got it down to a science. The day begins with a demonstration of fire fighting and rescue equipment and techniques. Continues with a range of activities for young children, including face painting and Tim Dumas, a magician, offers a variety of raffles and Chinese auctions with small and large prizes donated by local businesses, and culminates with a widely known and justly appreciated barbecue chicken dinner, which each year sells around 600 meals, many eaten in the fire house meeting room, while others are taken home.

A local bluegrass band, Three Doug Night, plays bluegrass through the late afternoon and early evening. Several 50/50 drawings are held during the day with half the proceeds going to the fire company and half to each lucky winner. All is calculated to encourage people attending the event to gladly let loose of goodly amounts of cash in an easy and enjoyable way to provide needed support for the fire company. Big sellers each year are the KVFD t-shirts, collected and prized by local and summer people alike. Beer flows. Music abounds, Drinking laws are enforced. People come for the party and stay to spend. While the Keene Valley Fire District is tax supported and pays the major portion of the fixed costs of operating the fire company and ambulance squad, the fire department itself runs the field day. Proceeds from this event are often earmarked for purchasing a specific, needed piece of equipment or helping defray additional costs not covered by tax revenue. As such, the Field Day stands as the major annual fund raiser for the fire company.

Perhaps as interesting as the economic needs met by this annual party are its social implications. While it has narrowed in recent years, a social and economic gulf between local residents and summer visitors has long existed. Summer people come to stay in their cottages and purchase services, which they expect to be prompt and efficient. Local people offer these services, but the gulf cannot be denied. That is, except on field days. It’s as if the fire department serves as a leveling ground, providing a place where people can meet on neutral ground and, for a fairly brief time, interact on a more equal than usual basis. Captains of industry, construction workers, media moguls, corrections officers, retired military officers, retired town workers, slackers, entrepreneurs, you name it; they’re all here. Some may seem like out of place creatures checking out the “local scene,” but real affection and cordiality is also plainly in evidence. Relationships in this community run deep and old and have a long history. They are complex and convoluted, perhaps more the stuff of a novel than a blog entry. The American story of narrowing the gulf between classes and economic status is writ large in this gathering.

In recent years the KVFD Field Day has become more contained and less wild. The hours have been shortened, beer sales curtailed, kids activities increased, bluegrass music added, and a community party has been established. Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the Keene Valley Fire Department. You should mark your calendar, too.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Adirondack Genealogy: Researching Local Family Roots

Despite exaggerated claims that genealogy is one of America’s favorite past times, researching family history has become popular enough to generate tens of millions of web pages devoted to the topic.

A Google search for “genealogy” yielded 35.6 million results

Sports” yielded 710 million results
Coins” yielded 82.3 million results
Stamps” yielded 73 million results
Adirondacks” yielded 2 million results
Adirondack” yielded 5.3 million results
Adirondack genealogy” yielded zero results

Here’s a quick review of free Adirondack genealogy sites that provide resources for the local family historian. If you have some locally important sites to add, just drop us a note at adkalmanack -AT- gmail -DOT- COM.

The Northern New York Library Network has made available (and searchable!) more than half a million pages from 25 area newspapers and counting. It’s one of the most important historical resources for the Adirondack region.

Microsoft’s Live Search Books, Google’s Book Search, the Library of Congress’s American Memory, and Cornell University’s Making of America sites, although nationally oriented, all have amazing collections of full text books and periodicals related to the Adirondacks. Search for your specific surname or location and you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find!

www.usgenweb.org is perhaps the largest and most important free site for American genealogy. Broken into states, and then counties, the site features user submitted wills, census transcriptions, vital records, and more. It’s a great place to start your online Adirondack genealogical journey. Here is a link to New York’s counties.

Of course don’t forget your local library as an offline starting point and general guide to your Adirondack family history. The two most important library sites in the Adirondacks are those of the Southern Adirondack Library System and the Northern New York Library Network. You can get inter-library loans of microfilm and other reference books, and each local library usually has nice local history collection.

When you need help getting a pipe fixed, you find a plumber. When you need help with history, go to a historian. Be sure to meet and explore the minds and collections held by your local historians and local historical society. Each county site has contact info for them – they can answer basic questions regarding local history and many have indexes and access to local records.

Lastly, before we get started on the local sites, you should become familiar with the best way to document your family history. The research is most fruitful when you can pass it on to someone else for their enjoyment – write it down and use footnotes. Cyndi’s List has a large collection of links to help you write engaging and accurate family history.

Here are the most significant links county by county. I’ve noted a few of the highlights, but you’ll need some serious time to delve into all the resources available on each site.

Warren County – Perhaps the best site in the Adirondacks. Tim Varney has compiled an impressive set of resources, frequently updated and growing all the time. One recent impressive addition is the transcription of H.P. Smith’s History of Warren County. The County Clerk’s office has also been digitizing and making available some of the records they hold.

Essex County – Fred Provoncha has taken over the Essex County pages. They offer some gems, including transcriptions of many of the county’s cemeteries.

St. Lawrence County – Norm Young and Russ Sprague maintain a site that includes a nice index of Cutter’s Genealogy of Northern New York from 1910.

Franklin County – Is up for adoption by someone with web skills who can maintain a site that already includes some great resources like an index to Those Were The Days-A History of Bangor, NY.

Clinton County – Check out the 1841 Gazetteer of Clinton County! Maintained by Marion McCreadie.

Hamilton County – Lisa Slaski is coordinator for this site which is one of the most useful of the bunch. Check out the biographies of local residents. Indian Lake Town Historian Bill Zullo also has a site with plenty of local historical resources.

Herkimer and Montgomery counties share a site maintained by Martha S. Magill and Lisa Slaski. A Look at what they recently added to the site will give you a sense of how much hard work they’ve been doing. Check out their transcribed “newsy tidbits from local newspapers” for a real historical and genealogical treat. Also, check out the Fulton Montgomery Photo Archives – it’s quite a collection.

Lewis County – Even though the site’s coordinator Sandy is not from New York, the web page contains some great photos and a killer Lowville Business directory from the mid-1800s.

Jefferson County – Maintained by Nancy Dixon, this site features regular monthly additions. Check out the Jefferson County Pioneers page for bios of early Jefferson County settlers.

Oneida County – Betty Carpenter-McCulloch has grown the site over the past several years to include a amazing collection of cemetery and census transcriptions, and a lot more. One of it’s best features is the collection of links to Native American family history.

Saratoga County – No doubt because of its coordination by Heritage Hunters of Saratoga County and it’s nearness to civilization more generally, this county site is an incredible resource. Check out the list of Saratoga County Databases. Also new to Saratoga is the Saratoga Public Library’s Saratoga Room History Databases which include information on 19th Century Architecture, historical data about notable fires in Saratoga Springs involving prominent buildings, large losses, or loss of life, the index to Dr. Walter S. McClellan’s Scrapbooks about the formation and operation of the Saratoga Spa from 1931 through 1954, a list of unique Saratoga nicknames of the mid 20th century, an index to Print Collection in The Saratoga Room, and more.

Washington County – George A Jackson occasionally maintains a site. Unfortunately, Washington County is well behind the ball when it comes to putting their historic resources on line.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Working Families Party Makes North Country Endorsements

New York’s Working Families Party has been posting its endorsements throughout the state this past week. Here are the endorsements from the North Country Chapter which includes Jefferson, St. Lawrence, Franklin, Clinton, Essex and Hamilton counties.

To get involved with WFP in the Adirodack region contact Alex Rabb at 718-222-3796 or by e-mail at arabb AT votewfp DOT org

* City of Plattsburgh Council Member Ward 1
Timothy R. Carpenter

* City of Plattsburgh Council Member Ward 2
Mike Kelly

* City of Plattsburgh Council Member Ward 6
Chris Jackson

* County of Clinton County Legislator District 5
Keith Marvin Defayette

* County of Clinton County Legislator District 9
John William Gallagher

* County of Clinton Treasurer
Kimberly Kleist

* County of Jefferson County Legislator District 11
Doris C. McLallen

* County of Jefferson County Legislator District 3
Dean T. Morrow

* County of Jefferson County Legislator District 5
Cindy McNultry Ross

* County of St. Lawrence Sheriff
Gus Burns

* Town of Beekmantown Council Member
Sharron Garden

* Town of Beekmantown Highway Superintendent
Samuel R. Dyer

* Town of Chazy Council Member
Christopher W Latremore

* Town of Macomb Town Justice
Lafayette Young Jr.

* Town of Madrid Board Member
Bill Tyndall

* Town of Massena Council Member
John Martin Wicke

* Town of Morristown Board Member
Christopher B. T. Coffin

* Town of Plattsburgh Clerk
Amy Lynn Duquette

* Town of Plattsburgh Council Member
Tom Wood

* Town of Plattsburgh Supervisor
Bernard Charles Bassett

* Town of Plattsburgh Town Justice
Randa Buompensiero-Filion

* Town of Rutland Supervisor
Ronald H. Cole

* Town of Saranac Supervisor
Joe Gerardi


Monday, July 9, 2007

Adirondack Hacks

Randomly organized links to ideas for making life in the Adirondacks just a little bit easier – technology tools and tips, do-it-yourself projects, and anything else that offers a more interesting, more convenient, or healthier way of life in our region.

Make A Fishing Lure Necklace

Get A Bahco Clearing Axe

Make Shelves From An Old Futon

The 15 Coolest Firefox Tricks Ever

Five Things You Should Know When Buying Cigars

Adirondack Hacks is an occasional feature of Adirondack Almanack. Take a look at previous editions of Adirondack Hacks here.


Wednesday, July 4, 2007

ORDA: Lake Placid / Whiteface 2007-2008 Events

From ORDA’s recent press release:

The season will commence with World Cup luge. After a one-year absence, the world’s top sliders return to the two-time Winter Olympic village Nov. 15-18 at the Olympic Sports Complex. A brand new men’s luge start, to be constructed this summer at the track on Mt. Van Hoevenberg, will be employed for the first time in a major event. Under the banner of the International Luge Federation, races in men’s and women’s singles, doubles and the team event are on the Lake Placid slate.

One week later, Olympic gold medalist and skating legend Scott Hamilton will bring Smucker’s Stars on Ice back to the Olympic Center for the national debut of his 2007-08 tour. It will take place Saturday, Nov. 24, in the 1980 Rink Herb Brooks Arena.

The International Federation for Bobsleigh and Tobogganing has a World Cup bobsled and skeleton event on the Lake Placid course from Dec. 10-16. Men and women will compete in a total of five events down the mile-long, 20 turn chute of ice.

Athletes in these sports will continue to enjoy ORDA’s continuing efforts to protect the course from inclement weather as roofing will be added to more curves during the off-season.

In January, the scene changes to Whiteface and the Olympic Jumping Complex for three freestyle skiing events scheduled for Jan. 18-20. The International Ski Federation as well as the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association will conduct World Cup moguls on the Wilderness trail at Whiteface Jan. 18 and 20, while aerial skiing will occur on Jan. 19 at the jumping site in Lake Placid.

Whiteface skiers and riders will be counting down the days to the mountain’s 50th birthday celebration, officially on Jan. 28. But in reality, the party will last for weeks. It begins Jan. 25 and continues with theme weekends until March 8-9.

The Junior Luge World Championships will be contested back at Mt. Van Hoevenberg from Feb. 4-10 as the future stars of this exciting sport negotiate Lake Placid’s difficult track.

February also brings the annual Empire State Winter Games, where New Yorkers compete on the same 1980 Winter Olympic sites. Over 1,000 athletes will converge on the community Feb. 22-24.

March, in many years the best month of winter, maintains the pace with World Cup snowboarding at Whiteface March 1 and 3. The schedule brings snowboardcross to the Boreen trail on Saturday, while parallel giant slalom returns on Monday along Draper’s Drop.

The North American Series Alpine Skiing Finals will be held at Whiteface March 12-16, featuring up-and-coming skiers from the U.S., Canada and abroad.

The final major event is on tap March 22-23 when the 1980 Rink Herb Brooks Arena hosts the NCAA Men’s Div. III Ice Hockey Championships.

In addition to these headline events, during the 2007-08 season, ORDA will present:

• Continental Cup women’s ski jumping Aug. 29-30

• International Skating Union Junior Grand Prix Skating Aug. 30-Sept. 2

• Flaming Leaves Festival Ski Jumping Oct. 6-7

• Masters 90 Meter Ski Jump Dec. 29

• NY Ski Educational Foundation 120 Meter Ski Jump Dec. 30

• U.S. National Bobsled Championships Dec. 30-Jan. 6

• ISI Figure Skating Competition Jan. 17-19

• Continental Cup Skeleton Races Jan. 22-28

• Lake Placid Loppet Citizens Cross Country Ski Race Feb. 9

• Harlem Globetrotters Feb. 19

• New York State High School Alpine Skiing Championships Feb. 26-27

• Masters Alpine Skiing Regional Championships March 6-9

• International Bobsled and Skeleton Drivers School March 16-29

• Adult National Figure Skating Championships April 8-13


Monday, July 2, 2007

Adirondack Summer Music Festivals

The Adirondack region is home to a variety of summer music festivals. Tomorrow, bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley will be playing at the Wild Center’s second annual WildFest – which also marks the opening of the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks‘ “Wings over the Adirondacks bird-themed experience.” Here are the details:

The free, day-long WildFest ‘07 celebration is scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. and conclude at 4:00 p.m. so visitors can get home in time for evening fireworks. The live music begins at 10:30 a.m. and the ceremony to open Wings over the Adirondacks at 11:00 a.m. There will be an entire tent on the campus dedicated to bird presentations. Visitors will be treated to a preview of the Wild Center’s planned Bird Skywalk and Skytowers, and tours of what is now the ‘greenest’ building in the Adirondacks. When the Skywalk is complete in 2008, it will showcase nearly 100 bird exhibits, and will take visitors up to the top of the tree canopy.

WildFest’s musical headliners include legendary musician Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys and the great live performer Martin Sexton. Other bands will feature music from the places Adirondack birds migrate to, including the Caribbean.

There will be a children’s tent featuring the Zucchini Brothers, a musical group lauded as “the Beatles of kid music,” and a Bird Tent where birding organizations will help visitors see the world of birds. The day will include free flight bird shows with live birds.

This year’s moe.down (the 8th annual) promises to be a quite a festival:

Nearly 20 acts, including Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, The Roots, Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood, Amos Lee and Meat Puppets have signed on for this year’s moe.down.

The August 31 to September 2 festival will be held at the Snow Ridge Ski area in Turin, N.Y., at the edge of the Adirondack Mountains. Festival founders moe. will perform a total of six sets throughout the weekend.

Other acts on the roster for the three-day shindig include Uncle Earl, Strangefolk, State Radio, Al and the Transamericans, Rolla, Ryan Montbleau, Lotus, Ra Ra Riot, Ha Ha the Moose, The Brakes, VietNam and Acoustic Forum.

A limited number of tickets are available at $95 until they run out or until August 12, after which tickets will be $110. Full details on the festival and tickets can be found at www.moe.org/moedown.

This is the eighth year for the event, which promises three days of music, camping and all around fun. Ski lifts will be open during the festival, and fans are encouraged to bring their mountain bikes.

Regular reader Ted Lehmann over at Bluegrass, Books, and Brainstorms has written to let us know that he’ll be attending, photographing, and reviewing the first annual Mountain Meltdown in Saranac Lake (which ended yesterday), the Fox Family Bluegrass Festival (August 9, 10, 11, & 12, 2007 in Old Forge) and the Upper Hudson Bluegrass Festival in North Creek (August 24-26).

If there are other festivals we should know about, drop us a note.


Monday, June 25, 2007

2007 NY Legislative Results: Adirondack Edition

John Sheehan, of The Adirondack Council sent a set of e-mails outlining bills in the final days of the the State Legislature’s 2007 session that will have an impact on the Adirondacks. We’ll reprint part of his e-mails here for your information:

Raquette Lake Water Supply: On Wednesday June 20, at about 9:30 pm, the Assembly granted final passage to a Constitutional Amendment to allow the hamlet of Raquette Lake to construct its drinking water supply system on the “Forever Wild” Forest Preserve. Construction (aside from trailside lean-tos and ranger cabins) is currently banned on the Forest Preserve. This bill would give permission only to Raquette Lake, and requires the Town of Long Lake, in which the hamlet is located, to swap a similar tract of land to the state to make up for the lost acreage. The bill passed both houses in 2006 and now will be on the November 2007 statewide ballot. It does not require the Governor’s signature. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Little, R-Queensbury, and Assem. Robert Sweeney, D-Lindenhurst, the Assembly EnCon chairman.

Route 56 Power Line Construction: The New York Power Authority is seeking permission from the public to construct a power supply line from Stark Falls Reservoir power dam in Colton, St. Lawrence County, to Tupper Lake, Franklin County, where power outages have been severe and frequent. NYPA has agreed to build the line along the side of Route 56, crossing an area of Forest Preserve, rather than detouring the line through an environmentally sensitive area containing endangered species, wetlands and an ancient white pine forest. In this case, the private lands around the Forest Preserve are wilder and in greater need of protection that the area of Forest Preserve adjacent to the state highway.

The Route 56 constitutional amendment passed the legislature last year, but had to be retracted due to errors in the first version. The Assembly’s approval late last night now represents first passage of a new amendment, so it must be passed again by a separately elected legislature before it can go on the ballot. The soonest that can happen is January 2009. Given the need to construct the line as soon as possible, environmental organizations have agreed not to try to prevent NYPA from building the power line without the benefit of official permission, explaining that the alternate route would cause needless ecological degradation to remote, pristine areas. A new power line right-of-way would only add to the threat of all-terrain vehicle trespass into those areas and adjacent Forest Preserve.The bill is sponsored by Senator Little and Assemblyman Sweeney.

Fire Fighting Costs: Also late night on June 20th, the Assembly granted final passage to a bill repealing the requirement that the 12 Adirondack Park counties and 3 Catskill Park counties repay the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation for the assistance of state forest rangers in fighting forest fires on state lands in the two wilderness parks. This arcane fee had so outraged local officials that DEC had been reluctant in recent years to even bill them. The fee was a thorn in the side of the late Sen. Ronald Stafford, who sponsored similar legislation to repeal it, but was stopped short by the Assembly’s objections. The bill is sponsored by Senator Little and Assem. Darrel Aubertine, D-Cape Vincent. The 12 Adirondack Forest Preserve counties are Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, Oneida, St. Lawrence, Saratoga, Warren and Washington. The three Catskill Forest Preserve counties are Greene, Sullivan and Ulster.

Environmental Protection Fund Expander: A bill sponsored by both Houses’ EnCon Chairmen, Sen. Carl Marcellino, R-Syosset, and Assemblyman Sweeney. It would increase the Environmental Protection Fund from its current level of $150 million per year to $300 million by FY2009-10. The EPF’s main capital projects funds are for landfill closure and recycling grants, parks and historic preservation and open space. This bill has passed the Assembly and is awaiting action in the Senate Rules Committee. Under this bill, the funds available for open space should increase from the current $50 million annually to about $100 million.

Lake Colby Horsepower Limit: This bill would limit the size of boat motors on Lake Colby, near Saranac Lake, to 10 HP. The lakeshore owners requested this for their own peace and to preserve a colony of nesting loons. It has passed the Senate and is awaiting action in the Assembly Rules Comte. It is sponsored by Sen. Little and Assem. Janet DuPrey, R-Plattsburgh.

NYS Invasive Species Council: A bill creating one has passed the Senate and awaits action in Assembly Rules. Sweeney/Marcellino.

Climate Change Task Force: A bill creating one is out of committee and awaiting action in each house; ready to pass when taken up. Marcellino/Sweeney.

Mileage and CO2: A bill would require carbon dioxide emissions information to be posted on the same sticker as mileage ratings for cars sold in New York State. Sweeney/Marcellino.

NCPR has a full report on what was left undone by our increasingly disfunctional legislature, including the Senates failure to confirm Spitzer’s choices to head the Adirondack Park Agency, the Olympic Regional Development Authority Board of Directors, and the Upstate Economic Development Corporation.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Center for Writing: Best Adirondack Books of 2006

Adirondack Center for Writing‘s 2nd Annual Adirondack Literary Awards were announced last week in Blue Mountain Lake. The honors were bestowed upon the best books published “in or about the Adirondacks” in 2006. There were 37 entries this year.

And the winners were:

Brian Mann’s Welcome to the Homeland: A Journey to the Rural Heart of America’s Conservative Revolution (Steerforth Press) won both the Best Nonfiction Book category and the People’s Choice Award, voted on by members of the Adirondack Center for Writing.

For the second year in a row, a trio of poets from the Saratoga region took the prize for Best Poetry Book was awarded for the second year in a row to Glacial Erratica: Three Poets on the Adirondacks, Part 2 (30-Acre Wood Publishing – apparently not available online) by Mary Sanders Shartle, Elaine Handley, and Marilyn McCabe.

Rick Henry’s book Lucy’s Eggs: Short Stories And a Novella (Syracuse University Press)won top prize in the fiction category.

Irene Uttendofsky won Best Children’s Book for Adirondack Mouse and the Perilous Journey (Spruce Gulch Press).

Lueza Thirkield Gelb from New York City received the Best Memoir Book award for her Schroon Lake (Pulpit Harbor Press).

Two books tied the Edited Collections category: Oswegatchie: A North Country River (North Country Books) and No Place I’d Rather Be: Wit and Wisdom from Adirondack Lean-to Journals (Adirondack Mountain Club).

Adirondack Waters: Spirit of the Mountains (North Country Books) by Mark Bowie won Best Photography Book.

Congratulations!


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Dangers of Americade

This past week marked the 25th Anniversary of Americade, one of Lake George’s premier tourist events. The motorcycle rally, billed as the world’s largest for touring bikes, brings bikers of all stripes to pack Lake George streets and bars. It also brings locals from nearby towns into the village on what, for some, is one of the only trips they’ll make there all year.

There’s an excellent article on Americade and its founder Bill Dutcher by Associated Press sports writer John Kekis. It gives a nice history of the rally’s founding, touches on the boon in trike riders (that’s good for Chestertown’s Adirondack Ural) and the event’s economic impact. It also, makes some pretty crazy claims about how safe the event is.

Here are some highlights:

Upward of 60,000 motorcycle enthusiasts – most on two wheels, but many now on three – will ride into town this week and transform this village of fewer than 1,000 full-time residents into a motorcycle heaven.

The rally, which once filled the economic void between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, is now the mainstay of the whole year. Past estimates of Americade’s economic impact have been pegged at anywhere from $20 million to $40 million, though Dutcher hopes to get a more accurate figure this year from research to be conducted by the Technical Assistance Center at Plattsburgh State University.

“It is our largest single week economically,” longtime Lake George Mayor Robert M. Blais said. “It takes up every road and byway. People have come to accept it.”

Indeed we have. In fact they are still rolling by our house 20 minutes north of the village right now, days after the rally officially ended.

Blais was in office when Dutcher originally came to the village board with his idea. The moment remains etched in his mind.

“I thought it was a great idea,” Blais said. “I understood fully it was the touring folks that would be coming, but when I brought it to the attention of the village board, they were apprehensive. They didn’t want another Sturgis. They were concerned it was going to be loud, troublesome, boisterous.”

It wasn’t. Americade is about as peaceful as a motorcycle rally can be. And it certainly is no Sturgis, the massive South Dakota rally where 11 of the 300,000 people who showed up at the ride’s 50th anniversary in 1990 died. Dutcher said he is aware of only one death among the hundreds of thousands of bikers who have registered for Americade over the years.

That’s stretching the truth to say the least. Any local you ask will tell you about the riders killed every year at Americade time. They may not all have been officially registered for the rally – which costs anywhere from $57 to $95 per rider, depending on the package – but many visitors to Americade have been killed coming and going, and in tooling around locally in the days before and after the event.

But while the Americade website offers no safety advice or links, it does take pains to remind a certain class of riders that:

Americade… [is] a convention of riders and passengers who enjoy riding tourers, sport-tourers and cruising motorcycles.

Americade is a gathering of friendly, fun-loving folks, for whom motorcycling is a social hobby, but not some form of rebellion. It’s NOT the place for shows of speed, hostile attitudes, or illegally loud motorcycles. Americade supports the AMA position that “Loud Pipes Risk Rights.”

Nowhere does it remind riders that, unfortunately, riding a motorcycle is dangerous in our car-centered, self-absorbed world. It’s one of the most important issues facing bikers (as well as pedestrians, joggers, and bicyclists) today. It’s probably safe to say that every bike club in America has a memorial to one of their riders killed by a car or truck.

New York has the highest number of pedestrian and cyclist deaths and injuries in the U.S. What’s more, pedestrian and cyclist deaths make up a majority of traffic deaths in the state.

Just this past week a car-bike collision hit close to home when we learned the news that Alan Gregory, author of Alan Gregory’s Conservation News was hit by an 85-year old driver while bicycling near is home. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and is in long term hospital care.

Although Alan’s home is in Conyngham, Pennsylvania, until he was run-down in the street by a car, he was a regular writer on topics Adirondack and a staunch and intelligent defender of the Adirondack wilderness. His concern for the Adirondack environment is the kind of concern that has helped make Lake George such a great place to have a touring rally. The natural beauty of the Adirondacks is, in fact, one of Americade’s main features.

The promoters of Americade need to be reminded that it isn’t the rebellious who are the danger at Americade. The danger is that Americaders, and others, have to share our common roadways with highway hogs.

Americade’s promoters and participants have the perfect opportunity to engage us in serious ideas about sharing the roadway with people using other forms of transportation – bikes, cars, trains, buses, and feet.

Denying that there is a danger to Americaders, is not the first step.


Saturday, June 2, 2007

Adirondack Events: Watershed Ecology Lecture Series

The Lake George Land Conservancy and the Lake George Association a presenting a series of lectures on natural features of the Lake George watershed this spring and summer. The series of speakers will address the ecology and natural history plants and animals found around Lake George.

The events are free and open to the public. they will be held on Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. at either the Lake George Association or the Lake George Land Conservancy; light refreshments will be provided.

June 14, “Bats in your Backyard,” Al Hicks, NYSDEC Mammal Specialist, 7 p.m. at LGA office.

June 28, “Lake George Fish: Natural History and Ecology,” Emily Zollweg, NYSDEC Senior Aquatic Biologist, 7 p.m. at LGLC office.

July 12: “Zebra Mussels in Lake George,” John Wimbush, Darrin Fresh Water Institute researcher, 7 p.m. at LGA office.

July 26: “Rattlesnakes at Lake George: What You Need to Know but Were Afraid to Ask,” Bill Brown, associate professor emeritus of Biology at Skidmore College, 7 p.m. at LGLC office.

Aug. 9: “Mushrooms of the Adirondacks,” Nancy Scarzello, 7 pm at LGA office.

Aug. 23: “Exploring Pond Life: Turtles, Frogs and Pollywogs,” Emily DeBolt, LGA education and outreach coordinator, 7 p.m. at LGLC office.

For more information contact LGA’s Emily DeBolt 518-668-3558 or LGLC’s Sarah Hoffman at 518-644-9673.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Adirondack Hacks

Randomly organized links to ideas for making life in the Adirondacks just a little bit easier – technology tools and tips, do-it-yourself projects, and anything else that offers a more interesting, more convenient, or healthier way of life in our region.

Do It Yourself Mosquito Trap

How to Make a Folded-Paper CD Case

What’s Your Spare Change Really Worth?

Create Your Own Internet Radio Station

Make Your Own Biodiesel

Adirondack Hacks is an occasional feature of Adirondack Almanack. Take a look at previous editions of Adirondack Hacks here.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Unique Fingerprints Of Adirondack Wildlife

An interesting press release from the Wildlife Conservation Society on fisher fingerprints and other unique patterns in Adirondack mammal tracks.

A new study in the May issue of the Journal of Wildlife Management reports that scientists from the New York State Museum, Wildlife Conservation Society and other groups have teamed up with the New York State Department of Criminal Justice to developed a new technique that uses fingerprints to track the fisher – an elusive member of the weasel family, and the only carnivore species known to have unique fingerprints.

Fingerprints left behind at special tracking-boxes allow field biologists to identify which individual fisher had come in for the bait and, therefore, count the exact number of animals using an area. Scientists teamed with fingerprint experts at the New York State Department of Criminal Justice (DCJS) to develop this method, which is far simpler and less expensive compared to alternatives such as DNA fingerprinting.

Fisher prints differ from human fingerprints because they are made up of patterns of dots rather than ridges, so standard criminology software did not work. “We tried submitting fisher prints to the state’s fingerprint database but it didn’t pair up the prints well,” says Richard Higgins, retired chief of the DCJS Bureau of Criminal Identification. “But looking at them side-by-side it was obvious when you had a match.”

The fisher, an eight-pound member of the weasel family, is the only carnivore known to have fingerprints, which are also known from primates and koalas. Other species may also have unique patterns in their tracks that would help in counting their numbers in the wild.

“The few porcupine and opossum tracks we got had incredible patterns and will probably turn out to be unique with more study.” says Dr. Roland Kays, curator of mammals at the State Museum, who co-authored the Journal article, along with Higgins and others.

“Identifying individuals allows us to actually count how many animals are in different areas, which is essential information for monitoring their conservation status,” says Justina Ray, director of Wildlife Conservation Society Canada. “My hope is that we can apply this kind of inexpensive, sure-fire technology to help conserve a wide range of species, especially those that are threatened with extinction.”

Scientists surveyed fishers from 2000-2002 as part of a carnivore survey across 54 sites in the Adirondack region of Northern New York. Fishers were the second most commonly detected carnivore species, behind coyotes.

“Our study suggests fisher populations are healthy throughout most of Northern New York,” said Ray. “Fisher populations are rising in most of the Northeastern United States, showing that wildlife can reclaim their turf if forests are allowed to recover.”

Fishers were nearly driven to extinction in the state by deforestation and over-trapping before receiving protection in the 1930s. This led to a slow recovery, and limited trapping was permitted again in the 1970s. Their recent population boom appears to have begun in the 1990s.

Fishers spread south out of the Adirondacks and Vermont and into the Hudson Valley. They are also spreading westward, with today’s leading edge around Syracuse. Fishers were first recorded in the suburbs of Albany and Boston in the last six years.

The other co-authors of the Journal study are Mike Tymeson and Richard Higgins, DCJS; Carl J. Herzog, state Department of Environmental Conservation in Albany; Dr. Matthew E. Gompper, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences at the University of Missouri in Columbia, MO and Dr. William J. Zielinski United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Redwood Sciences Laboratory in Arcata, CA.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

New Warren County League of Women Voters

Tonight a group of interested locals will officially kick-off the “new” Warren County League of Women Voters. The meeting will be an opportunity to define the local chapter’s interests and consider which of the many LWV programs to pursue first. Matt Funicello, a founding member of Adirondack Progressives, was instrumental in the getting the local LWV ball rolling again. Here’s is what they are all about according to their website:

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, has fought since 1920 to improve our systems of government and impact public policies through citizen education and advocacy. The League’s enduring vitality and resonance comes from its unique decentralized structure. The League is a grassroots organization, working at the national, state and local levels.

There are Leagues in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Hong Kong, in addition to the hundreds of local Leagues nationwide. The League of Women Voters of the United States and the League of Women Voters Education Fund operate at the national level with grassroots support from state and local Leagues.

The League of Women Voters is strictly nonpartisan; it neither supports nor opposes candidates for office at any level of government. At the same time, the League is wholeheartedly political and works to influence policy through advocacy. It is the original grassroots citizen network, directed by the consensus of its members nationwide. The 900 state and local Leagues – comprising a vast grassroots lobby corps that can be mobilized when necessary.

Over time, the League’s legislative priorities change to reflect the needs of society and critical issues of concern. The organization remains true to its basic purpose: to make democracy work for all citizens. The League of Women Voters makes a difference in the lives of citizens because of the energy and passion of thousands of members committed to our principles.

The revived League of Women Voters first meeting will be at 7pm, at Rock Hill Bakehouse Cafe in Glens Falls.


Friday, May 18, 2007

In The Adirondacks, Newspapers Are The Deciders

The Glens Falls Post Star recently came under fire from Brian over at MoFYC for their removal of anonymous reader comments to letters to the editor on the web. According to the PS website:

The Post-Star has decided to remove all commenting on letters to the editor at this time. Our letter writers are held to a standard that requires them to sign their letters. The commenting feature online does not require the respondent to be identified. We don’t feel that is fair. If anyone would like to respond to a letter, they must be held to the same standard as the letter writer and be identified. They can do this by writing their own letter to the editor through the Web site or responding directly to the editor.

Brian notes that:

1) editors already approve comments before they appear
2) the paper has it’s own anonymous “Don Coyote” feature
3) the paper encourages anonymous comments in it’s “It’s Debatable” feature

Meanwhile, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise in Tupper Lake has turned on one of its opinion cartoonists – Adirondack local Mark Wilson, a.k.a, Marquil – after THE PAPER ran his cartoon critical of the recent New York State Police standoff that ended in the death of one of the troopers (above left). The cartoon elicited a pile of letters to the editor from people who apparently didn’t agree with the OPINION. The paper’s response, as noted in the Daily Cartoonist, was a gem:

In hindsight, we think it was the wrong decision, and we apologize to all those who were hurt by it. At the time, we felt a certain obligation to publish this opinion despite our aversion to it, but we feel no such obligation now. A syndicated cartoon — even one by a local cartoonist — is not the same as a letter to the editor written by someone whose sole motive is to be heard. It’s a service we pay for, drawn by a cartoonist who draws them for a living. As a customer, a newspaper has no obligation to publish a cartoon that will damage its relationship with its readers.

There’s still a fine line between finding something disagreeable and finding it unacceptable. Looking back, we think this cartoon crossed that line.

What really gets under the skin about this one is that the paper’s editors actually had the guts to say:

We normally find Mr. Wilson’s cartoons insightful, and we respect the intelligence of his opinions whether we agree with him or not.

Really? Then why fire him over one comment you disagreed with?

We’ve defended the ancient right to write anonymously a number of times in our stint here at the Almanack. We’re proud to be part of a long history of anonymous writings from people like George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin whose Poor Richard’s Almanack this blog derives it’s name from.

Like Franklin, Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain) wrote using various names to protect his job and make political commentary. Lewis Carrol and Bill O’Reilly have both used false names for their work. The respected British weekly The Economist prints articles without by-lines. The American Federalist Papers, without which the American Constitution may not have been ratified (at least in a timely manner), were written anonymously. Voltaire never publicly admitted to having written Candide; he used the name Monsieur le docteur Ralph. Besides, Voltaire was a pen name itself for Francois Marie Arouet, the man behind the defense of civil liberties and opposition to censorship that helped form part of the enlightened movement that led to the American Revolution.

Some women, like Mary Ann Evans (a.k.a.George Eliot) and Charlotte Bronte (a.k.a. Currer Bell) published under false names to assure that their work would be accepted by male publishers. The science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein’s earliest stories were set in a single future he created; he then used false names for stories set in other times and places.

Fear from retribution over unpopular views expressed at work, in the press, and in the polling booth is one of the most important underlying principles of our liberal democracy.

Luckily, the old media patriarchs we have suffered under for so long now are quickly finding themselves more and more irrelevant in our new media world, slowly pushed aside by the increasing relevance of blogs and citizen journalism.

We welcome the change.

While we’re at it. Check out the new home of our friend Matt at Matt’s Totally Biased Commentary. Here’s what Matt says about his new spot on the web:

All of the staff here at MTBC are truly biased and opinionated. To paraphrase Amy Goodman, we are “advocacy editorialists”. Rather than hide any of this from you, we are awfully proud of it (just ask any of our friends). We believe in democracy, open and civil discourse, Ralph Nader, third party politics and less consumerism. Beware that there will be occasional bursts of intellignet thought mixed with angry knee-jerk repsonses to the insanely misguided actions of all kinds of people … mostly Democrats, Republicans and journalists. There will be much railing against the lapdog media, the ruling class felons who call themselves our “leaders” and the thieves and welfare cheats who comprise corporate America. Be careful not to get blood on your shoes. Banging your head against these brick walls can get pretty messy!

Sound familiar?