Almanack Contributor Tim Rowland

Tim Rowland is a humor columnist for Herald-Mail Media in Hagerstown, Md., and a New York Times bestselling author. His books include High Peaks; A History of Hiking the Adirondacks from Noah to Neoprene and Strange and Unusual Stories of New York City. He has climbed the 46 high peaks, is an avid bicyclist, and trout tremble with fear when they see his approaching shadow. He and his wife Beth are residents of Jay, N.Y.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Saranac Lake letter-writing group aims to end violence in Gaza

People concerned about Gaza gather at the Adirondack Center for Writing in Saranac Lake.

Each Monday of this year, in a writing studio in Saranac Lake, two dozen people or so have participated in an eclectic gathering that has elements of a ’60s war protest, the Algonquin Round Table, and an ice cream social. The goal is to end the violence in Gaza, not with anger, signs and chants, but with literature, fundraising and art. Along the way, new friendships are made and community ties strengthened. Most of all, those who have felt a visceral reaction to events in the Middle East now know they are not alone.

PS: Letters for Ceasefire has its seeds in protracted discussions between Tyler Barton, communication and programming manager for the Adirondack Center for Writing, and his wife Erin Dorney in long, cross-state drives to visit relatives over the holidays.

» Continue Reading.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Housing updates

man standing in wooded spot

Here are some progress reports on projects we’ve been following and other related housing updates:

Wilmington moves forward on workforce housing

The Town of Wilmington took an important step toward a small but significant workforce housing development on Nov. 28, closing on the land that will be known as the Wilmington Homestead Housing project

“This has been a long road. I cannot thank the Coarding and Walton family enough,” said Wilmington Supervisor Roy Holzer. “This family sold us the property below market value for the good of our community. I also have to send a sincere thank you to the entire town board that approved this purchase and exercised great patience with the process as we navigated the sale.”

Holzer’s term as supervisor is ending this year, but he said he’ll still be volunteering his time to work on affordable housing projects.

» Continue Reading.

Friday, November 3, 2023

Housing series recap: What we learned and what’s happening next

group of people in front of a brown house

This week marks the final installment of our Taking Stock of Housing series, with a look back at the high points and a bit of a look forward at what the Adirondack housing issue holds for the future.

Hopefully the park will do a better job of solving the problem over the next 30 years than it has over the past 30 — despite warning calls being voiced back then just as they are today. “…(A)ffordable housing for the middle class is a thing of the past,” wrote Assemblyman Neil Kelleher in a 1992 letter to The North Creek News Enterprise. “A moderately priced home simply can’t be built.”

Keller worried that an economy based on logging and tourism, or “chainsaws and chambermaids,” as he put it, would fail to support the basic necessities of life. Not everyone was so pessimistic. A Town of Jay comprehensive plan drawn up in 1997 felt confident housing construction was adequate to meet housing needs — barring some great upheaval that would send city dwellers scurrying to the wide open wilderness spaces. But what were the odds of that?

» Continue Reading.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

A one-man land bank

man in front of a brown building

I spent a recent weekday morning in a former Saranac Lake Cure cottage with contractor Shawn Duheme, who had a plan to convert decrepit old Adirondack homes into affordable housing. This pursuit led him to the tax auction, a Mecca for flippers, bottom feeders  and homebuyers looking for a bargain, usually with no idea what they’re getting themselves into.

Shawn’s idea was to act almost like a one-man land bank, fixing up old homes for sale and then using the profit to fund the next purchase. To keep the sale price affordable, he would “subsidize” the sale by curating a YouTube following more or less following his journey and highlighting the pitfalls that these old properties present.

“It didn’t work,” Shawn said. He got hundreds of subscribers, not the hundreds of thousands he needed to achieve critical mass. He was competing with dozens if not hundreds of other DIY programmers — and he was selling a message people didn’t want to hear: These fixer-upper projects are way over the heads and budgets of people without proper training and skill.

» Continue Reading.

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Taking Stock of Housing: Is help on the way?

housing graphic

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s ambitious, statewide housing agenda might have gone down to legislative defeat, but her administration is plugging away with incremental solutions that don’t get the ink of a massive state initiative, but still show some promise.

For the Adirondacks, one of the more intriguing prospects is the Affordable Homeownership Opportunity Program, which will provide $150 million in housing-development subsidies over the next five years.

According to its mission statement, “The funding will take advantage of advances in technology to control construction costs, reduce the cost of ownership, and meet New York’s climate goals through new construction of single-family homes and townhomes, or the new construction or adaptive reuse of multi- family coops or condo projects.”

This is the vehicle being used by the Housing Assistance Program of Essex County (HAPEC) to build a four-home development in Keene, and if it comes to fruition it will become just the second project in the state to take advantage of this funding pool.

What’s compelling about this program is its ability to fund very small projects (four homes is the minimum, said HAPEC Executive Director, Megan Murphy).

» Continue Reading.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

How much salt?

road salt truck

An interesting nugget gleaned from the state’s recently released Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force report is the role that rock salt plays in the state economy.

“New York State ranks third in rock salt production, providing approximately 16% (~7.7 million tons) of the total national output,” the report states. “Today, rock salt is New York State’s third leading valued mineral product, behind crushed stone and cement respectively, contributing approximately $560 million to the state’s economy annually.”

Which is to say that for every green lobbyist in Albany on the salt issue, there is likely to be someone on the other side of the ball.

» Continue Reading.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Repairs planned for Indian Lake dam

indian lake dam

The Hudson River-Black River Regulating District has announced repairs to an aging stone dam that holds back the massive waters of Indian Lake, an impoundment that spans more than 4,000 acres.

The Explorer’s Gwendolyn Craig reports the cost is $11 million, with repairs to the leaking, “high hazard” dam to begin in October and take about two years to complete.

A high-hazard dam is one in which, according to the state, “failure may result in widespread or serious damage to home(s); damage to main highways, industrial or commercial buildings, railroads, and/or important utilities, including water supply, sewage treatment, fuel, power, cable or telephone infrastructure; or substantial environmental damage; such that the loss of human life or widespread substantial economic loss is likely.”

» Continue Reading.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Worldwide water stresses


Another week, another episode of Adirondack flooding, this time on the Adirondack Coast, where  flooding caused by heavy rains closed Route 22 in Westport, as well as several roads in Moriah and Schroon. The flood also overwhelmed a wastewater system in Port Henry.

But worldwide the situation is very different. According to the World Resources Institute, 25 countries with a quarter of the world’s population are facing perilous water shortages.

The institute says these nations “face extremely high water stress each year, regularly using up almost their entire available water supply. And at least 50% of the world’s population — around 4 billion people — live under highly water-stressed conditions for at least one month of the year.”

The water stress is driven by both surging demand and less reliable supply. Since 1960 demand for water has doubled around the world, while climate change and poor water-management policies, including a failure to invest in infrastructure or adopt sound management policies.

» Continue Reading.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Wetlands protection

bloomingdale bog

In the protection of its wetlands, the Adirondack Park goes the extra mile, taking a hard look at any sort of activity involving bogs, marshes and swamps of one acre or more in size, or of any size if it happens to be located adjacent to a body of water in which there is a “free interchange of water at the surface.”

Jackie Bowen, director of conservation for the Adirondack Council, said these regulations became all the more critical in May, when the Supreme Court took a swipe at the Clean Water Act, ruling that it did not protect wetlands that were not obviously connected to permanent standing or flowing waters.

Speaking to an online gathering sponsored by Talking Rivers, an organization that promotes river health through science, art and storytelling, Bowen said the “weaker protections open (wetlands) up to fragmentation and water quality risks.”

» Continue Reading.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Destination: Valcour Island

valcour island

The Explorer’s Mike Lynch and Jak Krouse were on the water in June, paddling to the 970-acre Valcour Island on Lake Champlain, south of Plattsburgh.

The island with its historic lighthouse and scenic cliffs has 29 first-come, first-served campsites, and plenty of interesting diversions. It was here in 1776 the Benedict Arnold (before the “unpleasantness”) savers the day for the colonists by delaying a British advance down the lake.

» Continue Reading.

Friday, August 18, 2023

The potential, promise of condos

woman and two girls, one of which is holding a chicken

Might condos, Adirondack style, be at least a partial solution for the region’s housing crisis?

The Northern Forest Center posed that question during an online brainstorming session last week that included Adirondackers with first-hand experience with condos.

Adam Bailey, Adirondack program manager for the center, said the envisioned affordable housing condos are not the sprawling luxury developments associated with resort towns. Instead, condos can be fashioned a handful at a time out of older, sometimes historic properties, or be built at scale.

They are cheaper to build and maintain  and the costs are amortized.” That’s according to Adam Feldman, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Northern Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties.

But there are pitfalls.

» Continue Reading.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Restoring river banks

Volunteers of the Ausable River Association planted dogwoods and willows along the East Branch of Ausable River in Jay in May. Photo by Mike Lynch

Work has begun in Upper Jay on a project that will help restore the East Branch of the Ausable River to its natural state.

The Ausable River Association (AsRA) has identified 13 sites in the town of Jay where the river, distended by industry over the last century and a half — is in poor ecological health, making it more prone to flooding and ice jams, and less friendly to aquatic life.

The current site, upstream of the Route 9N bridge, is the second of the sites to be remediated. It will narrow the river channel, speeding the flow and making it less conducive to the creation of great slabs of ice that can cause considerable damage and flooding downstream.

» Continue Reading.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Speculator gets serious about water quality

High water levels in Lake Pleasant following the Halloween storm flooding in 2019. Explorer file photo by Mike Lynch

The village of Speculator, whose three lakes are its life blood, has passed septic-inspection regulations for properties that are being transferred.

Mayor Jeannette Barrett said the village has watched inspection programs in larger jurisdictions such as Lake George and Queensbury, and is taking “measured steps” to follow along.

“We’ve been very concerned about our lakes,” she said. “If we don’t have our lakes our communities will basically die.”
The regulations apply to Lake Pleasant, Whitaker Lake and Lewey Lake.

» Continue Reading.

Monday, August 7, 2023

Taking Stock of Housing: A complicated relationship with STRs

STRs graphic

After talking with multiple people representing multiple sides of the short-term rental issue, it starts to become apparent that at least part of the problem is the phrase “short-term rental” itself.

While it can’t be said that no two STRs are alike, from a legal standpoint, “short-term-rental” is an inconveniently broad net that includes the elderly widow who is renting out a room of her home to quiet guests in order to pay the taxes, to what are basically small hotels run by LLCs filled with boisterous vacationers intent on partying. And everything in between.

Local STR ordinances try to differentiate between “good” STRs and “bad” STRs, discouraging them on one hand while not doing too much to damage their admitted economic benefits on the other.

» Continue Reading.

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Rethinking 100 year storms


The Winooski River in Vermont seldom makes national headlines, and when it does it’s usually ungood. The Great Vermont Flood of 1927 wiped out more than 1,200 bridges and killed 84 people, including Lt. Gov. Hollister Jackson, who drowned trying to cross high water in his automobile.

An ice jam in 1992 and Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 were other significant events for the Winooski (the name is a derivation of an Indigenous word for “onion,” reflective of the wild ramps or leeks that grew on its banks) a 90-mile tributary emptying into Lake Champlain near Burlington.

Recently, a single storm dumped two month’s worth of rain on parts of New England, turning Montpelier into a lake, but fortunately leaving all of the state’s politicians upright. In the Adirondacks, communities including Newcomb, Long Lake and Saranac were hit particularly hard, with road closures, flooded highways and crumpled pavement.

» Continue Reading.

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