Almanack Contributor Phil Brown

Phil Brown

Phil Brown is the former Editor of Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack.

Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing.

He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.

Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

APA Schedules Hearings On New State Lands

Essex ChainThe Adirondack Park Agency plans to hold eight hearings around the state to explain options for managing 21,200 acres of former Finch, Pruyn lands and up 24,200 acres of adjacent Forest Preserve. The agency also will gather input from the public on the management and use of the lands.

The APA board is expected to adopt one of the options—possibly with alterations—at its August or September meeting.

The state recently bought the 21,200 acres from the Nature Conservancy, which acquired some 161,000 acres from Finch, Pruyn & Company in 2007. The state intends to buy a total of 65,000 acres of former Finch lands over the next few years.

The APA has set forth seven options for classifying the lands so far acquired. All of them call for creation of a Hudson Gorge Wilderness Area. They differ mainly in the classification of the Essex Chain Lakes and in the degree of motorized access to the Essex Chain and the Hudson.

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Skiers Seek To Maintain Backcountry Glades On Lyon Mt.

Copy of phil2A band of Adirondack skiers is urging the state to allow them to maintain a glade for skiing on Lyon Mountain—a practice that has been done surreptitiously in the Forest Preserve, but something that authorities view as illegal.

Ron Konowitz, a spokesman for the Adirondack Powder Skier Association, contends that backcountry ski trails and glades do not harm the environment and should be permitted as facilitating a benign use of public lands.

The association is speaking up now because the state Department of Environmental Conservation is preparing a management plan for the 60,000-acre Chazy Highlands Complex, which includes Lyon Mountain. The state purchased Lyon Mountain from the Nature Conservancy in 2008. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Judge: Hudson River Rafting Company Can Resume Business

cunningham-300x246A state Supreme Court judge has ruled that Hudson River Rafting Company must post a $50,000 performance bond to stay in business and pay $12,000 in fines for violations of the law.

However, Justice Richard Giardino refused the state’s request to shut down the rafting company for good. He also dismissed the state’s claim that the company had engaged in false advertising by billing its rafting trips as safe. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Options For New State Lands: Wilderness

Essex ChainThe state’s acquisition of 22,500 acres of former Finch, Pruyn lands from the Adirondack Nature Conservancy raises important questions about how these lands will be used and managed. The Adirondack Park Agency has submitted seven management proposals that will be discussed at public hearings this summer. The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) board could vote on a final proposal as early as August.

Adirondack Almanack has prepared a series of four articles to explain these proposals. In each article, we look at one proposal or two related proposals. The text will be accompanied by the APA map or maps showing the classification of the lands under the proposal in question. The maps will be the starting point for the discussion.

In the first article, we look at two proposals for classifying most of the former Finch lands as Wilderness.

» Continue Reading.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Hearings On New State Lands to Begin June 12

Essex ChainThe Adirondack Park Agency will kick off on June 12 a series of public hearings on the use and management of 22,500 acres of new state land, including the Essex Chain Lakes and parts of the Hudson River.

After the hearings, the APA will decide how to classify the lands—a decision that will affect how people can recreate and how accessible the lands will be. The state recently bought the former Finch, Pruyn timberlands from the Nature Conservancy.
» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The New Canoe Trip On The Upper Hudson River

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJoe Martens may be the head of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, but he is no different from a lot of paddlers: he couldn’t wait to canoe a stretch of the upper Hudson River recently added to the Forest Preserve.

On Tuesday, Martens and Mike Carr, executive director of the Adirondack Nature Conservancy, led a flotilla of canoes on an all-day trip down the river, giving us a preview of an excursion that will soon be open to the public, perhaps in a few weeks. » Continue Reading.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Finch Lands Public Hearings Planned

Essex Chain and nearby ponds (Photo by Carl Heilman)The Adirondack Park Agency board voted Friday to schedule public hearings on seven options for classifying about 22,500 acres formerly owned by Finch, Pruyn & Company as well as up to 25,300 acres of adjacent Forest Preserve.

The APA has yet to determine the dates and locales, but the hearings likely will take place in June and July in several communities around the state, including hamlets inside the Park.

The agency could vote on a preferred option as early as its August meeting.

The pending classification of the former Finch lands already has sparked disagreement among the Park’s various factions. At stake is the degree of access to the Essex Chain Lakes, a string of connect pond in the interior, and to takeouts on the Hudson River.

» Continue Reading.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Climbing and Peregrine Falcons:
Upper Washbowl Reopens, Shelving Rock Routes Close

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARock climbers will have a few more routes to climb this weekend, according to Joe Racette, a biologist for the state Department of Environmental Conservation who monitors the nesting of peregrine falcons on cliffs.

Racette said the Upper Washbowl cliffs near Chapel Pond are now open to climbers. DEC closes Upper Washbowl and Lower Washbowl each spring at the start of the falcons’ breeding season. DEC has ascertained that that this year the falcons are nesting on Lower Washbowl. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

APA Lays Out Options For New State Lands

Wilderness mapThe staff of the Adirondack Park Agency has proposed seven options for the classification of 22,538 acres of former Finch, Pruyn & Company lands recently acquired by the state, all calling for the creation of a Hudson Gorge Wilderness.

The size of the new Wilderness Area—which would require the reclassification of lands already in the Forest Preserve—would range from 18,829 acres to 45,347 acres, depending on the option.

Under six of the proposals, the Wilderness Area would extend from just south of Newcomb through the Hudson Gorge to just north of the hamlet of North River. Under the other proposal, part of the river corridor would instead be classified a Canoe Area.

Because motorized use is forbidden in Wilderness Areas, local governments often oppose such a classification in favor of Wild Forest, which is less restrictive.  However, Fred Monroe, executive director of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, thinks local officials can accept the creation of a Hudson Gorge Wilderness. The battle, he said, is likely to be waged over the classification of the nearby Essex Chain of Lakes and the degree of motorized access to both the Essex Chain and the Hudson. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 6, 2013

Easement Climbs: Silver Lake Mountain Pioneers

IMG_0758-001Over the past two decades, the state has purchased conservation easements on some 750,000 acres in the Adirondack Park. These timberlands are protected from development, and many of them are open to the public for recreation.

In theory, at least. In reality, most visitors to the Adirondacks seldom, if ever, set foot on easement lands. Partly, that’s because they don’t know where they can go or what they can do. The cliffs on Silver Lake Mountain are an exception.

The state purchased easements on the cliffs as part of a massive deal with International Paper in 2004 that preserved some 260,000 acres. Now owned by Lyme Timber, the cliffs were opened to the public—i.e., rock climbers—in 2009. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Profile: New Adirondack Council Leader Willie Janeway

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn his first day on the new job, Willie Janeway said he has no big changes in mind at the Adirondack Council—at least, not right away.

Janeway, who is forty-nine, resigned this year as a regional director for the state Department of Environmental Conservation to become executive director of the council.

“I get to be an ambassador for the Adirondack Park. What a great thing to sell—the Adirondacks,” Janeway said Wednesday in an interview with the Adirondack Explorer and Adirondack Daily Enterprise. » Continue Reading.


Friday, April 26, 2013

AG Puts Spotlight On Cunningham’s Raft Business

cunningham-300x246The owner of Hudson River Rafting Company knew a guide had a drinking problem, but he continued to let him take clients on whitewater trips, one of which resulted in the death of a client who fell out of a raft and drowned last year, according to sworn statements.

The guide—Rory Fay of North Creek—later admitted he was intoxicated at the time of the accident. He pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide, driving while intoxicated, and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

In a statement to state police, Fay said Pat Cunningham, who owns the company, and one of his assistants, Mark Lebrecque, knew he drank heavily. At the time, Fay was living in a guides’ house owned by Cunningham. » Continue Reading.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Judge Says Rafting Company Violated Law

cunningham-300x246The state attorney general’s office has won the bulk of its lawsuit against Hudson River Rafting Company and its owner, Patrick Cunningham.

State Supreme Court Justice Richard Giardino ruled on March 29 in favor of the state on three of four causes of action, finding that Hudson River Rafting violated the law by repeatedly sending customers on whitewater-rafting trips with unlicensed guides and transporting them in buses with unlicensed drivers.

The judge has yet to determine any penalties, but he continued an order forbidding Hudson River Rafting from running whitewater-rafting trips. The whitewater season began a few weeks ago. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ex-DEC Official Disagrees With Essex Chain Plan

Essex Chain and nearby ponds (Photo by Carl Heilman)A former top official in the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) says the department’s proposal for managing the Essex Chain of Lakes will jeopardize the region’s natural resources.

In the May/June issue of the Adirondack Explorer, Christopher Amato calls for classifying the Essex Chain as a Canoe Area, a designation that would prohibit the public use of motorboats, floatplanes, and motor vehicles. DEC has proposed classifying the area as Wild Forest, which would permit motorized access.

Amato’s proposal is closer in spirit to proposals by the Adirondack Council and Protect the Adirondacks to classify all or most of the tract as Wilderness. Motorized use is also prohibited in Wilderness Areas. But Amato, who served as DEC’s assistant commissioner for natural resources from 2007 to 2011, contends that the Canoe designation is a better fit.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

State Buys OK Slip Falls, Hudson Riverfront

Blue LedgeGovernor Andrew Cuomo announced today that the state has purchased two jewels of the former Finch, Pruyn lands—OK Slip Falls and Blue Ledges—as well as a takeout on the Hudson River that will open up a twelve-mile canoe trip from Newcomb.

In all, the state bought 9,300 acres from the Nature Conservancy for $6.3 million. The land is split among six parcels, four in the Adirondack Park, two lying just outside it.

One parcel coveted by paddlers is a 940-acre tract at the confluence of the Hudson and Indian rivers. With this acquisition, the public will be able to put in Harris Lake at the town beach in Newcomb and then paddle south on the Hudson, taking out at the confluence.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation expects that paddlers will have access to the newly acquired river corridor in late May or early June. » Continue Reading.