Here is a press release that just arrived from Governor Patterson’s Office. The projects include wireless, historic preservation, affordable housing, tourism, beautification, and more.
GOVERNOR PATERSON ANNOUNCES SMART GROWTH GRANTS FOR ADIRONDACK PARK COMMUNITIES
Projects Link Sustainable Development, Environmental Protection and Community Livability
Governor David A. Paterson and Commissioner of Environmental Conservation Pete Grannis today announced “smart growth grants” for Adirondack communities to help counties, towns, villages and their partner organizations develop plans that link sustainable development, environmental protection and community livability.
A total of $1 million will be awarded to 18 projects – ranging from one proposing a new life for the Indian Lake Theater to another designing a better wireless communication network across the Adirondack Park. The initiative, announced last July, proved so popular that the DEC received more than $3 million worth of proposals from around the Park. The grants relate to a mix of local, regional and park-wide projects.
“The Adirondack Park is a unique American treasure, a special place for residents and the millions who visit each year,” said Governor David A. Paterson. “The Park serves as a model for how to merge environmental sensitivity with the pressing needs of development and expansion. By providing local planning assistance, we hope to meet the challenge of developing sustainable communities while protecting natural resources.”
“This program is dedicated to the belief that sustainable development and environmental protection go hand-in-hand,” said Commissioner Grannis. “Safeguarding the assets of the forest preserve and fostering sustainable development and a good quality of life for residents throughout the Park is in everyone’s best interest. This initiative provides the local planning assistance needed to accomplish both. The overwhelming response demonstrates the program struck a chord with Adirondack Park communities.”
Smart growth is sensible, planned growth that balances the need for economic development with concerns about quality-of-life, such as preserving the natural and built environment. Smart growth is also becoming a useful tool to attract businesses that value community quality-of-life.
The 2007-08 Environmental Protection Fund included $2 million in grants to promote smart growth initiatives; $1 million was earmarked for the Adirondacks. Smart growth can be useful in addressing land-use issues facing rural communities – workforce housing, aging infrastructure, water quality, economic development, open space protection and village/hamlet revitalization.
The grant winners include 12 projects that address local issues, four that are regional in nature and two that are park-wide in impact.
The grants include:
– $106,971 to the Town of Saranac to develop the “Wireless Clearinghouse” project to create a comprehensive plan for identifying potential structures for telecommunications infrastructure to bolster wireless networks in the Park. The State University of New York at Plattsburgh and the Adirondack North Country Association will assist the Town;
– $100,000 to the Town of Tupper Lake to produce a “Community Development Priorities” plan. Part of the plan includes developing a “visual identity” for the Town and Village of Tupper Lake, and concept designs for streetscape and waterfront projects;
– $42,600 to the Town of Indian Lake to plan the re-opening of the Indian Lake Theater. The 250-seat, Main Street venue has been closed for more than a year. Local officials want to explore re-opening the facility as a year-round community stage and screen, offering films and musical and theatrical performances, and a public space for schools, libraries and other organizations for meetings, lectures and seminars;
– $100,000 to Essex County to create an “Essex County Destination Master Plan” that will focus on communities beyond Lake Placid. It will explore opportunities to take advantage of recreational and natural resources in an economically sustainable way in locales such as Moriah, North Elba, Schroon Lake, Ticonderoga and Wilmington;
– $50,000 to the Town of Wilmington to conduct feasibility studies for a community center, municipal offices, historical society building and a fly fishing museum; and
– $35,000 to the Town of Chester to make plans for retaining existing affordable housing and establishing new affordable housing opportunities for working families.
Senator Betty Little said: “Balancing stewardship of the environment with the economic, housing and infrastructure needs of our Adirondack villages, towns and counties is critically important. I am pleased to see this partnership between the State and our local governments. I want to thank Commissioner Grannis for spearheading this initiative and congratulate the recipients for their successful applications.”
Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward said: “I applaud Commissioner Grannis and the DEC for addressing the needs of the North Country. These grants as well as collaboration among State and local officials, business leaders and concerned citizens are a good step toward a balanced approach to our economic development while sustaining the character of the Adirondack region.”
Assemblywoman Janet Duprey said: “I am pleased DEC has recognized the unique issues facing municipalities within the Adirondack Park. I congratulate the local governments that have been awarded smart-growth funding and look forward to working with these communities as they complete these projects. The large number of competitors for the grants points out the struggles facing Adirondack Park municipalities, and I encourage Commissioner Grannis and DEC to continue this competitive grant program.”
Adirondack Park Agency Chairman Curt Stiles said: “We were impressed by the innovative and comprehensive grant applications that were submitted by Adirondack municipalities. We extend our congratulations to the grantees and look forward to the successful implementation of their plans. This was a very competitive grant program and demonstrated a strong need for future support. Partnering with local governments and State agencies enables smart growth through synergy and shared values, and makes for stronger communities.”
Upstate Empire State Development Corporation Chairman Dan Gundersen said: “I look forward to seeing these projects enhance and shape the Adirondack communities in a way that invites economic development that is compatible with the Adirondack’s natural environment.”
Secretary of State Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez said: “The Adirondack smart-growth initiative represents a model for inter-agency and inter-governmental collaboration on some critical challenges and opportunities in the Adirondacks. With these grants, the State and the individual Adirondack communities have demonstrated an impressive commitment to economic and environmental sustainability in the region.”
Brian L. Houseal, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council, said: “It was a great pleasure to stand with Commissioner Grannis last summer as he announced in Lake George that half of the State’s smart growth grants would be awarded to communities and organizations in the Adirondack Park. Sound planning is a wise investment for municipalities, and it helps preserve open space, natural beauty, water quality, and wildlife habitat.”
Established in 1892, the Adirondack Park features world-class natural and cultural resources, including the Nation’s only constitutionally-protected wild forest lands. In contrast to America’s national parks in which no one resides, the Adirondack Park is home to 130,000 full-time residents and hundreds of businesses whose future depends on continued protection of the natural resources and a sustainable economy.
Many Adirondack communities lack the resources to comprehensively address the land-use challenges before them. The smart-growth grants program will provide communities with technical capabilities necessary to plan for the future.
This month marks the third anniversary of the Adirondack Adirondack and that means a look at the local blogosphere.
New Local Blogs of Note
This past year, once again, has been a banner year for local blogs. A look at our blogroll (at right, below) shows that a number of new blogs have joined the ranks. Here are a few that I think are the best new local blogs:
Corktown Capers – written by the chaplain of the Corinth Fire Department. You’ll remember that Corinth recently had a devastatingly destructive fire. Here is another post – God in Three Inches – worth reading and thinking about.
City Mouse / Country House – the ramblings of a musician, artist, craftsperson, modern homesteader and who knows what else, splitting his time between the Adirondacks and the big city. Check out I Have a Propane Problem, and Authentic Dreams for a taste of what it’s all about.
Adirondack Naturalist – NatureGirl says : “From sea slugs to sundews, redpolls to resin blisters, the world presents an endless array of “WOW” upon which we can feast our eyes, ears and mind.” Her blog has so far proven to be the proverbial dinner table. May we suggest My Favorite Marten and a helping of Hungry Deer?
Lake Placid Skater – a figure skater and speed skater living and training in Lake Placid writes this local blog that provides a little insight into what’s really happening on the Olympic rink – loaded with photos. Check out her report on the “load-in” for 2008 Empire State Games entitled Meeting Monica and find out what speed guarding is all about.
There has been a movement toward local business blogging. The best of the business blog bunch has been The Cottage Chat based in the The Cottage Cafe, the former Mirror Lake Inn boathouse turned pub-style restaurant in 1976. The Cottage Chat’s mix of event notices, Lake Placid gossip, and general community news is the best of what Adirondack business blogging can (and should) become. Another blog worthy of note this year is the infrequently updated but funny, irreverent, and mildly urbanesque cogblog from the women of Adworkshop / Inphorm.
Something we hope not to see anymore in local business blogs is the attempt to attract readers by using blog titles that mis-construe the true nature of the blog. Adirondack Vacation Guide, by Harbor Hill Inns and Cottages in Saranac Lake is a classic example. Some advice: be honest with your readers business bloggers, be upfront about your purpose, offer value. Take the good example of Christy’s Motel in Old Forge; their regular reports on snowmobiling conditions no doubt attract readers and customers – without the subterfuge.
Local Media Enters the Blogosphere (Sort Of)
The local papers have begun to get into the blogging game more seriously. Syracuse was named one of America’s Top Twenty Blogging Cities and I suspect that a large part of the reason is the Syracuse Post-Standard’s acceptance of the blog community. Unlike local media who – even though they’ve tried to enter the Adirondack blogsphere – have yet to cover the local blog scene in any even remotely appropriate way, the Post-Standard online includes an enormous list of blogs, and reports regularly on local blogs and blogging. Even the Adirondack Almanack graced their pages when we wrote about the Best Summer Adirondack Travel Blogging in September 2007.
The best local newpaper blogs (other media still hasn’t entered the fray) arrived this past year at the Albany Times Union. Their list of blogs is impressive, but so far offer little more than your average old media style commentary. Perhaps the best blog of the bunch is Birding by Rich Guthrie. Guthrie’s pursuit of his topic demonstrates the kind of potential local newspaper blogs have.
The Saratogian’s managing editor Barabara Lombardo entered the local blogosphere with Fresh Ink – not much happening there though. The Glens Falls Post Star’s effort (blog list) seems like some kind of weird joke, unless you’re a sports fan. The archives are nearly impossible to navigate.
Our suggestion for local media outlets? Take a lesson from the Syracuse Post Standard and get involved in your local blog world and abandoned attempts to merely capitalize on it. That’s just not what the blogosphere is about – it’s about a variety of voices engaging the local media world. There’s nothing wrong with making money from your efforts, but provide your audience with value first.
Those interested in the local blogospere should check out our comparison of local news stories reported on blogs and local mainstream media which appeared to show that local blogs are competing head-to-head for internet eyeballs.
There is also now a list of mentions of Adirondack Almanack in the local media, for those who are interested.
On a related note – although in the past year the New York Times opened its historic archives to readers, local newspapers have yet to figure out that people want to be able to access their stories for more than a week or two even though, as we recently pointed out, there is obviously a great desire to access old copies of local papers.
Quite a milestone over at the Northern New York Library Network’s historical newspaper site. According to Alex Jacobs at the Watertown Daily Times, they just added their millionth scanned page of local newspapers from the past.
Just three years after its founding, the Northern New York Historical Newspapers Web site now has 1,004,000 pages available from 28 newspapers in seven counties.
The millionth page was among 84,000 pages added from the former Potsdam Courier-Freeman, published from 1861 to 1989. Its addition was supported by the Friends of the Potsdam Public Museum, which helped finance the microfilming of issues from 1946 to the mid-1980s.
This part should interest local media who still charge for access to their own digital archives (attn: Albany Times Union and Glens Falls Post Star – even the New York Times has begun opening theirs).
Since the Potsdam publication was added, more than 24,000 searches have been conducted on the online Courier-Freeman archive, said Thomas J. Blauvelt, library network systems administrator.
At the NNLN’s page you can look at scanned copies of the originals and search their index – ads and all. They are going to add the Tupper Lake Free Press and the Massena Observer next.
Search for full or last names of people you know, famous people you’re interested in, places, industries, ideas.
Instead of viewing the pages in the built-in online viewer, download all the pages for a single search term into their own folder and view them later in your pdf program (like the free Adobe Acrobat).
And don’t forget our own Great Adirondack History Searches from 2005.
And also Adirondack Genealogy: Researching Local Roots from 2007.
It’s February and that means a post on some aspect of African American history in the Adirondacks.
Here is last year’s popular list of stories.
I recently discovered that one of the Almanack‘s posts, The Ku Klux Klan in the Adirondacks, had been used for the companion website of the new PBS documentary film Banished: American Ethnic Cleansings. As a result of the attention, I thought I’d dig a little deeper on the issue of racial cleansing and the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.
In no particular order, Adirondack Almanack’s list of Seven Human Made Wonders of the Adirondacks. Our list of the Seven Natural Wonders can be found here. Feel free to add your comments and suggestions.
Although Lake George’s Prospect Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway deserves honorable mention, the Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway deserves a spot on our list of wonders. Considered a test case for both the New Deal Works Progress Administration and the constitutional protection of the Forest Preserve, construction began in 1929 (after passage of the necessary amendment) and eventually cost 1.2 million dollars. The completed road, an eight-mile climb (at 8 percent average grade) from the crossroads in
Although the earliest archeological evidence of Indian settlement dates to 8,000 B.C. (and Native Americans were planting crops there as early as 1,000 B.C.), the first fort built there by Europeans was
Some day the
North Country Public Radio
Founded at St. Lawrence University and now celebrating their 40th year, today’s North Country Public Radio is a network of stations broadcast from 30 fm transmitters and translators from the Canadian frontier to Western Vermont and south into
Workers building the historic
Each year more and more of the region’s theme parks fade into oblivion. Those that have been lost include Old McDonald’s Farm (Lake Placid), The Land of Make Believe (Upper Jay),
Lake Placid Sports Complex
From the early competitions at the Lake Placid Club to the modern Olympic Training Facility, the sports complexes in and around
What do you think?
Fire away – let us know which
Remember – two lists – one for the human-made wonders, one for natural wonders.
Gaslight Village opened in 1959 and was run by Charley Wood. Charley already owned a number of investments including Holiday House on the shores of Lake George, and Storytown, U.S.A., an amusement park with a Mother Goose rhymes theme (later expanded with Ghost Town, a western boot-hill theme, and Jungle Land, an animal park) which he opened in 1954. He later went on to build the Tiki Resort (now a Howard Johnson’s), a short lived wax museum, Sun Castle resort, and more. » Continue Reading.
Next year marks the 100th anniversary of one of the most terrible Adirondack years on record. Forest fires ravaged the region in 1908 and led to a widespread system of fire detection. The recent California fires point up the danger Adirondackers face as global warming tends the region to increasing episodes of drought such as that that occurred this fall and contributed to the historically low levels at the Hinckley Reservoir.
According to the APA:
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, fires raged out of control in the many of New York State’s vast wooded areas. The years 1903 and 1908 were particularly disastrous, and because of public outcry for protection from the devastation, the state began a rigorous fire and prevention and control program, including the building of fire towers. » Continue Reading.
In Part One of Adirondack Snowmobile History, we traced the emergence of snow machines in the early 1900s, in Part Two we looked at the development of the personal sled that is so familiar today. Part Three followed the explosion of makes and models and the spread of snowmobiling throughout the Adirondack region with races, clubs, and dealers taking advantage of the boon in snowmobile sales that occurred from 1965 to 1970. Part Four covered the emerging conflicts over snowmobiles in the Adirondack Region, a topic we’ll conclude this series with today.
As the the 1970s began, new snowmobile clubs and riders argued for more trails and Adirondack locals increased their investment in the industry. The New York Times, noted in an piece tilted “Snowmobiles in the Adirondacks” in 1972:
An economic boom is putt-putting into the remote fringes of the Adirondack Forest Preserve these days on the rubber tracks and diminutive skis of the snowmobile. Some restaurants, banks, gasoline stations, and grocery stores, long accustomed to depressingly quiet winters in this snowfast region, now are doing a volume of business that reminds them of days in July and August. Each weekend, some 11,000 snowmobilists fan out from . . . downstate areas for a day or two of picnicking and racing on the lakes and mountains.
The local residents of such villages as Speculator are happy to see the winter weekenders trundling along the highways with their snowmobiles cradled on trailers behind their cars. “Most winters we used not to make expenses,” said Howard Romaine, a restaurant proprietor here. “But with these snowmobile people coming in, the millennium has arrived.”
As snowmobilers talked about the economic impacts of their sport in the Adirondacks, the number of snowmobile being sold every year boomed to unprecedented levels. In the early 1970s there just over a hundred snowmobile makers. The most profitable were the big three – Bombardier / Ski Doo, Polaris, and Artic Cat – but motorcycle and outboard motor companies also branched out to take advantage of the increasing popularity in the sport.
From 1970 to 1973 more than 2 million sleds were sold but the popularity of the sport was at its peak. Never again would sled sales equal those golden years. The recession of 1973 and a declining economy throughout the 1970s helped slow outdoor sports sales at a time when other opportunities to ride – namely ATVs – were beginning to emerge.
Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, a new environmental awareness made it less desirable among many to run the trails on a noisy motor powered machine. Noise was a major factor in the first attempts to seriously regulate snowmobiles. The reason was explained by snowmobile historian Leonard Reich:
Snowmobiles were noisy for technical, economic, and social reasons. Technically, it was difficult to quiet their two-stroke engines without compromising power output. Baffled mufflers that worked well on four-stroke engines disrupted the two-stroke’s exhaust flow and robbed it of power. To be effective a muffler had to contain substantial quantities of sound-absorbing materials, which made it large, bulky, and expensive. Even if the exhaust could be quieted, the engine’s air intake created noise, and the entire drive system of clutches, gearing or chains, and track added even more. Shrouds and other enclosures helped, but they too added weight, bulk, and expense.
Even though noisy snowmobiles could have an adverse impact on riders’ hearing, many wanted loud machines. An article in Snow-Mobile Times commented, “For some snowmobilers, noise is a large part of the fun of the sport. The sound of that loud motor means power, speed, the thrill of being in control of a revved-up machine.” Snowmobile dealers knew their market. As one commented, “If it’s noisy and goes like hell, it will sell.”
By 1972, a number of state legislatures had acted to curb snowmobile noise, setting decibel limits for a full-throttle machine heard from 50 feet. When the maker of the Johnson Skee-Horse and Evinrude Skeeter committed itself to achieving 73 decibels within six years, the ISIA [International Snowmobile Industry Association, formed in 1965 by Bombardier] grudgingly went along, and several states wrote that limit into their legislation. It was not long, however, before the industry “recognized that it had spoken too quickly and had to backtrack when subsequent engineering and marketing analyses led most industry members to conclude that they could not produce a marketable machine meeting this noise standard.” What that statement meant, of course, was that the added expense and reduced “vroom” would significantly cut into sales.
In 1971 efforts to increase the miles of trails as a hedge to the rampant trespassing and misuse of cross-country ski trails began in earnest. By 1973 more than 40,000 miles of snowmobile trails had been built in North America. By the end of the 1970s the number had more than doubled. In 1980, an ad-hoc DEC survey of snowmobile trails in the Adirondacks estimated that there were about 850 miles of snowmobile trails in the region. When the DEC announced it 2006 Snowmobile Plan for the Adirondacks it noted that there were about 850 miles of snowmobile trails in Wild Forest and Primitive Areas alone and another 1,172 miles of funded snowmobile trails in the park as a whole not including perhaps more than a thousand additional miles maintained through lease agreements with private landowners by towns (particularly Webb and Inlet) and local clubs. The entire 2006 Snowmobile Report can be found here.
While the number of snowmobile trails in the Adirondacks has increased dramatically since the sled boom of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the number of sleds sold each year continues to slump.
According to Leonard Reich:
For the 1968 model year, an unpleasant statistic, called “carryover,” crept into the industry’s production and sales figures. That year, 170,000 machines were produced but only 165,000 sold to consumers. The remaining 5,000 awaited the following year in dealers’ hands. The next year carryover increased to 35,000, then shot up to 100,000 in 1971 on a sales volume of just under 500,000.
In 1971, snowmobile sales for the first time failed to increase substantially over the previous season, thus exacerbating the carryover problem. Whereas 1968’s 165,000 sales had become 1969’s 250,000 and 1970’s 460,000, sales fell short of 500,000 in 1971. In an industry accustomed to rapid growth, many producers soon faced bankruptcy, and the shakeout began. Sales remained in the 400,000-500,000 range through 1974, while carryover increased from 125,000 in 1972 to 315,000 in 1973, and to 500,000 in 1974, a colossal drag on the industry.
By 1997, sales had reached 260,000 sleds and have continued to drop ever since. With the advent of ATVs (which evolved in the 1960s and spread in the 1970s and 1980s) and the reduction of annual snow cover due to global warming, the snowmobile may be on its way to becoming a relic of the past.
In Part One of Adirondack Snowmobile History, we traced the emergence of snow machines in the early 1900s. In Part Two we looked at the development of the personal sled that is so familiar today. Part Three followed the explosion of makes and models and the spread of snowmobiling throughout the Adirondack region with races, clubs, and dealers taking advantage of the boon in snowmobile sales that occurred from 1965 to 1970.
From the beginning some snowmobile riders and some folks concerned about the impacts of snowmobiles on the rural and wilderness environments began to debate the new outdoor sport. With 200,000 snowmobiles already traveling American lakes, fields, and trails in the 1966-1967 season and many more apparently on the way, government and environmental advocates began to address the possible impacts and attempt to responsibly manage them.
Snowmobile historian Leonard Reich noted that:
During the mid-1960s, snowmobile enthusiasts began to organize clubs whose activities were oriented toward safety, social events, and group activities such as festivals (“snodeos”), clearing, marking, and grooming trails, and trail rides (“snofaris” and “sno-mo-cades”) that could include as many as fifty sleds. One observer of a large nighttime ride recalled that “from a distance, their bobbing head-lights resembled a religious procession,” and in a way it was. Some clubs shipped their snowmobiles to distant sites, then flew or bussed members there for group touring.
In 1970, New York State began requiring riders to register their sleds with the Parks and Recreation Department’s Division of Marine and Recreational Vehicles. Registration forms could be had a local dealers, county clerks, Sheriff’s offices, and regional offices of the Department of Conservation. Registration cost just $5, although some sled riders complained at the cost despite the fact that events organized by local clubs often cost as much as $1 to $2 per sled. The 1970 regulations also required young riders to take a Young Snowmobile Operator’s safety course before riding alone.
Beginning in 1971, a number of governments across the United States and Canada began investigating the boom in snowmobiles in order to asses and mitigate their impacts. In 1971 Congressional testimony, Sno Goer magazine publisher Susie Scholwin voiced the freedom snowmobilers felt on their new machines:
Before snowmobiles, in northern Wisconsin] winters were something just “to be lived through.” Nice winter days on weekends brought the sleds, skis, toboggans, and general fun-in-the-snow. Nights were long and lonely. As were the weekends as a whole. Ice fishing on the lake was good, but the best spot was over a mile away. . . .
The winter of 1964 and early 1965 took on a different tone than those before [with our family’s purchase of a snowmobile]. Mom and dad loved it–the kids loved it. Winter was not the gloomy thing it had been–but each day was an adventure of its own. It was much easier to get “over to the other side of the lake” fishing. . . .
There were races held, but they were something minor. . . . The important thing . . . was that more and more of the neighbors in the area were buying these fantastic little machines and, lo and behold–winter was turning into FUN! The little snowmobile had become a funmobile–one that made winter something to look forward to! Everyone in the area looked forward to weekends, with their picnics, trail-riding, exploring, scavenger hunts, and social gatherings. . . . Many in their fifties and sixties, who were not enthused about the muscular sport of skiing, found that the snowmobile was the answer to their dreams.
For their part of the debate, the dozens of snowmobile clubs in the Adirondack region began exercising their muscle. For example, the President of the Keeseville Trail Riders wrote to local papers in 1972 to remind riders that a $1.15 billion bond issue coming before voters in November would include $44 million for land acquisition in the Adirondacks, but he “doubts very much if any of this money would be used to acquire land for snowmobile trails.” In opposing the bond issue, the Trail Riders noted that their $5 registration fee was being used to build boating services in the Adirondacks.
Take your neighbor or friend or the fellow down the street who owns a boat, the fee to register it for three years is $3.00 and the state has built parking lots and boat launching ramps.
The economic argument was also put forward early:
Take a minute to think how much money this sport has brought to the North Country. We have Boonville over in the western part of the state where thousands come to view races on weekends. Then closer to our community we have our friendly neighbors, Schroon Lake, where the Chamber of Commerce is in the process of putting out our their winter brochure.
So you see everyone stands to gain either enjoyment, money or employment from this sport.
True or not (and their was some question about the actual impact of snowmobilers on the Adirondack economy, even in the boom years), the economic arguments of the clubs and their supporters found important allies in the local press and among the property rights and anti-government crowd. We’ll explore those conflicts in Part Five.
In Parts One and Two we traced the emergence of snow vehicles from their earlier cousins, the automobile, the tractor, and motorcycle, and the development of the smaller more versatile nowmobiles popular today. That development led to some forty snowmobile manufacturers in the late 1960s and, eventually, an explosion in interest.
To help build a customer base, sled makers began traveling to winter events and showing their machines. Beginning in January of 1964, snowmobilers in Lake Placid organized one of the first annual “power sled meets.” The event was followed by Artic Cat’s first snowmobile derby in February 1964 in Eagle River, Wisconsin. The company invited all known snowmobile makers, and held dozens of races in front of a couple thousand attendees.
Snowmobile historian Leonard Reich noted:
Drag races, obstacle courses, and hill climbs provided thrills, and a “marathon” event of 22 miles demonstrated the reliability of the machines over long distances and difficult terrain. Soon, race derbies organized by towns, manufacturers, and distributors were taking place all over the winter landscape. Like its automotive precursors, the snowmobile industry used racing and other organized events to generate excitement, attract attention, and demonstrate the capability and reliability of its product. As the early automakers had said, “Race on Sunday, Sell on Monday.”
The first International Diamond Trophy Snowmobile Championship held on Mirror Lake in Lake Placid in January 1967 was one of the first major snowmobile meets at a time when, as the Essex County Republican, reported: “At least three major power sled meets are scheduled for the Adirondack Park area, and a dozen or so lesser meets, although no sanctioning unit has yet organized the sport, and there is no official record keeping or planning.” Nonetheless, the Mirror Lake meet offered $1,000 in cash prizes and included a hill climb and downhill slalom. By the 1969-1970 season major races around the country could see purses as high as $25,000.
Other area meets in 1966-1967 included the Eastern New York Races at Lake George (about 125 registered sleds and a new Schaefer Cup trophy race), and another at Boonville where the New York State Snowmobile Championship was held (more than 100 sleds and the emblematic Adirondack Cup). Lesser races were held at Malone, Tupper Lake, Speculator, Schroon Lake, Chazy Lake, and Old Forge.
For the 1966-1967 season 100,000 copies of Johnson Motors’ “Fun Guide to Snowmobiling” were distributed to various dealers around the country which included facts about the sport and sources for trail information. By the end of the 1966-67 season there were about 200,000 snowmobiles in America and even the first magazine devoted to the new sport – Sno Goer, was published by an advocate for snowmobiling on public lands named Susie Scholwin. According to industry sources, the snowmobile industry rose from $3 million in sales in 1965 to $30 million in 1967.
With the boon in snowmobilers, came a local boon in snowmobile clubs. The Central Adirondack Association was organized before the 1966-67 season. By 1973, the Essex County Association of Snowmobile Clubs (ECASCO) included nine clubs from the county’s twelve towns: the “Keeseville Trail Riders,” “Bouquet Valley Snow-Drifters” of Essex Willsboro, “Crown Point RR&R Snowmobile Club,” “Lake Placid Snowmobile Club,” “Moriah Snowmobile Club,” Schroon-North Hudson Snowmobilie Club,” the “Adirondack Snowmobile Club” of Ticonderoga, “Mt. Valley Snogoers,” the Wesport area “Bessboro Ski-ters” and the “Lewis-E’Town Snow Machine Club.” Even “North Country Squares,” a dance group, was getting into the action by organizing weekly races at the Clinton County Fairgrounds in Plattsburgh.
Snowmobile dealers were spreading throughout the region by 1970 when the Essex County Republican newspaper saw fit to publish a special snowmobiling section. In Peru, auto dealer Truman Davis sold Ski Doos based at the Stanley-Lincoln-Mercury dealership in Plattsburgh. Also in Plattsburgh, Jim Manley’s Welding and Repairs sold Skiroule; in Jarvis Falls, Jarvis Auto Parts sold Polaris; Ray’s Mobile Service in Keeseville usually sold chainsaws, but now also sold Allouette sleds; in Elizabethtown Dick Burpee’s Outdoor Power Equipment sold Artic Cat, Elizabethtown Builders sold Sno Jet and Artic Cat, and Norton Insurance Agency advertised snowmobile insurance.
Along with the spread of snowmobiles in the late 1960s there also emerged the first rumblings of those concerned that the noise, new trails, and detrimental effects to the environment were something to be concerned about. But as we’ll see in Part Four, just as it appeared that snowmobiles would conquer the Adirondack environment the bottom fell out.
Read the entire series here.
In Part One of Adirondack Snowmobile History, we looked at the emergence of the “motor sleigh” in the early 1900s with experimental models that included half-tracks, airplane props, and converted Model A Fords. As snow machines became more widely known and began being used by government agencies, utilities and lumber companies, local experimenters began building their own variations. The 64 snow mobiles (by then already being called by that generic name) registered in New York State in 1935 were all large vehicles that held several passengers.
Joseph-Armand Bombardier, who had been experimenting with rear engine designs since he was teenager, came forward in 1935 with the B7, a seven passenger enclosed snow vehicle. It’s sucess was short-lived. When snow removal on roads became widespread in the late 1940s, Bombardier turned primarily to more general overland tracked vehicles. But while Bombardier and others were focused on making bigger snow machines, others had also been making independent progress on smaller, more versatile, auto sleighs using increasingly available small motors on more traditional (though now steerable) sleigh and bobsled runners.
In 1920, Lewis Newton, the owner of a Hudson Falls bicycle shop, announced that he had “perfected and auto-sleigh which attains nearly fifty miles per hour and can be operated with absolute safety.” Newton mounted two Thompson motors on a specially constructed bobsleigh and rigged a motorcycle wheel with a skid chain; the crank was kick-started. Some of the several he made may still be hiding out in Warren or Washington county barns.
In the late 1920s, Wisconsin outboard-motor dealer Carl Eliason hand-built about forty smaller snow machines (his patent is shown below). It was these that were copied by agricultural machinery manufacturer Polaris Industries’ when they developed the “Pol-Cat,” which was introduced in 1954. The Pol-Cat was followed closely by Bombadier’s “Ski-Doo,” which went on sale in 1959. Then when Edgar Hetteen (founder and president of Polaris Industries) had a falling out with his partners in 1960 he left to create the Polar Manufacturing Company which produced the “Artic Cat” in 1961. Although thirteen American patents were issued between 1927 and 1962, and by 1970 there were several dozen snowmobile companies, the still relatively small snowmobile market was dominated by these three companies: Polaris, Bombardier / Ski Doo, and Artic Cat.
Leonard Reich, who has written on early snowmobile history in the journal Technology and Culture, noted that what happened next depended largely on the role of motor boat dealers:
Northern marine outlets were an obvious place to sell snowmobiles, and many early dealers came from the ranks of boating businesses looking for a line to carry them through the fall and winter. In fact, outboard- motorboating served as a model for the developing snowmobile industry. The first outboard motor was manufactured in 1911 by Ole Evinrude, and the industry progressed slowly until after the Second World War. Outboards were usually installed on rowboats or on hulls originally designed for inboard power, which limited their capabilities and constrained the market. With the introduction of inexpensive fiberglass boat construction and light planing hull designs during the 1950s, at a time of national prosperity, rapid population growth, and television marketing, outboard-motorboating became extremely popular and dramatically changed summertime recreation patterns on lakes and rivers. Now, a mechanical whine split the summer’s natural sounds, transforming in its wake the search for relaxation to a powered pursuit of recreation. Many snowmobile dealers and buyers had their first introduction to motorized recreation through motorboating, and snowmobile salesmen often used the analogy in making the sale. Snowmobile purchasers were more than twice as likely as the general population to own motorboats.
Among the early snowmobile dealers in the Adirondacks were George Moore Truck and Equipment Corp., in Keeseville whose first advertisement in 1965 claimed that their Ski-Doos “provide entertainment for all ages as it bounces over snow drifts, climbing and descending hills with ease. It has also proved its worth as a traveler on ice for fishermen and into the dense forests for hunters.” By the 1967-68 season they had secured the statewide distribution and were advertising for new dealers to join the ranks. “Snowmobiles, fast moving, profitable,” their advertisement read, “the snowmobile boom is underway… here is the opportunity to get in on this money-making fun market…to sell the nation’s hottest recreation machine.” Artic Cat, whose nearest sales room was Rochester, had to wait until 1970 before it would see an Adirondack shop.
In Part Three we’ll investigate the explosion in the snowmobile market in the Adirondacks, the organization of the area’s first clubs and races and their impact on the marketing and wider distribution of modern snowmobile.
The snowmobile (or more generally, motorized snow travel) owes it existence to early developments in the motorized tractor, automobile, and motorcycle industries. In 1907, the year the future father of the modern snowmobile Joseph-Armand Bombardier was born, a “high speed motor sleigh” was featured in Popular Mechanics magazine. It had the body of touring car on skis but was propelled by a spiked wheel. “The motor sleigh is making slow progress,” the article’s author noted, “but will some day become a very popular form of sport.”
By 1912, a plethora of motorized sleigh prototypes appeared in the magazines pages. They included a half track, and a converted motorcycle. Among the most popular were those that used a large propeller for propulsion. Although dangerous and useful only on wide trails or open ground, the areo-sleighs avoided many of the problems spiked wheels and skis had with deep or wet snow. (As a side note, Adgate Schemerhorn of Ausable Chasm was rescued by an areo-sleigh after spending nearly two weeks in a snow-covered Idaho wilderness in 1943).
Ray Muscott of Michigan was issued a Canadian patent for his motor sleigh – “traineau automobile” in 1915 and the following year received the first American patent for an early snow vehicle design that included a tread belt and steerable skis mounted on a stock truck chassis.
Several others produced copies of a similar design, but the first snow vehicles that were produced in any numbers were Model A Fords converted by New Hampshire garage owner and auto dealer Virgil White. He started selling his “snow mobiles” to the general public in 1923 and sold some 25,000 before his factory burned in 1928. Although the new snowmobiles were used primarily for business – by mail carriers, doctors, logging and utility companies, farmers – as early as 1926 there was a race on a frozen Wisconsin lake attesting to the fun they could be put to. One of the first owners of a snow mobile in the Adirondack region was W.J. Dickinson, who was giving rides to his Willsboro neighbors as early as February, 1925.
In the 40 years from the birth of motor-sleighs until the advent of modern snowmobiles around 1960, snow vehicle design generally stuck to the large unwieldy halftrack type, and there were few of them. While there were more than 64,000 automobiles registered in New York in 1935, there were just 64 snow mobiles. Presumably several of these found homes in the Adirondacks – the New York State Conservation Department had some in the 1940s – but they were generally ignored by the local press. One notable exception was in 1932 when a snowmobile owned by the Gould Paper Company was sent in a blinding snowstorm to retrieve a lumberjack who had fallen from his sleigh while trying to get a runaway team of horses under control. Edward Hines, 65, was caught under the runners of the log filled sled and seriously wounded about 28 miles into the backcountry from McKeever. It took three hours to reach the lumber camp and another three to bring Hines into McKeever – unfortunately, he didn’t survive.
Another snowmobile milestone was met in 1938 when Olympic bobsledder J. Hubert Stevens, of the Whiteface Mountain Memorial Commission announced that he was “experimenting with a snowmobile with which to negotiate the mountain in winter.” According to press reports of the time, Stevens hoped to use the homemade snowmobile to carry sightseers and skiers to the top of the Whiteface Mountain Memorial Highway during the winter. The Ticonderoga Sentinel described the vehicle:
The machine is minus wheels in front, large skis with eight inch blades being used instead. A tractor device gives it impetus… Stevens said that the machine will do 10 miles per hour in the accent and 35 miles coming down.
In January, after a few attempts to break the trail which made it up two of the eight miles to the top, Stevens abandoned the attempt and return to his workshop to make repairs. Figuring that the rear track was not wide enough he added eight inches to each side and headed back to the mountain three weeks later. This time, with local policeman Lester Beane onboard (the cab could hold eight) the made the top.
In Part Two we’ll explore the development of the snowmobile we know today and the role played by the burgeoning motorboat industry in bringing it to market.
Read the entire series here.
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.
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.
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.
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.