Monday, April 6, 2009

The 2009 Adirondack Almanack Bracket Champion is . . .


Stewart’s Shops triumphed over the Northville-Placid Trail to claim the inaugural Blue Line bracket title, proving beyond doubt that you do not necessarily need to be from the Adirondacks to be a champion of the Adirondacks. The winner will receive a suitably framable certificate replete with name, date and the colorful Adirondack Bracket logo, along with invaluable bragging rights for the next twelve months.

Reached for comment, Stewart’s marketing manager Tom Mailey said, “The Adirondacks are such an asset and we are thrilled and privileged to be a part of the experience. Our opponent, the Northville-Placid Trail, put up quite a battle. It could have gone either way, heads or tails, and when the dust and the coin had settled . . . we won and you can still hear the sounds of high fives throughout our shops.”

The last word goes to Karen, a staff member recently on duty in the Saranac Lake store, who divulged the champion’s secret weapon: “Its the customers. The customers are great.”


Monday, April 6, 2009

Essential Literature: The Adirondack Reader

For 45 years the cornerstone of any Adirondack library has been The Adirondack Reader, compiled and edited by Paul Jamieson. The anthology, published by Macmillan in 1964, collected pivotal and perceptive accounts of how people have experienced these woods since the arrival of Europeans 400 years ago.

Any true Adirondack geek already has a copy of the Reader, but now you need another. The Adirondack Mountain Club last month published a third edition that adds 30 entries written since the second edition came out in 1982.

Another reason to covet this update: pictures! A 32-page color insert of drawings, photographs, engravings and paintings spans Adirondack history, from William James Stillman and Winslow Homer to contemporary painters Laura von Rosk and Lynn Benevento. The original Reader had some black-and-white plates; the second edition had none.

It’s a hefty 544-page tome, but any book that attempts to get at the essence of the Adirondacks is going to be epic. Holdovers from earlier editions (six entries had to be cut to make room) include many “there I was” accounts, starting with Father Isaac Jogues’s 1642 description of having his fingernails bitten off by Mohawk captors (“our wounds — which for not being dressed, became putrid even to the extent of breeding worms”) and becoming the first white man to see the Adirondack interior — the first to live to tell anyway. Hard to top that kind of journey narrative, but almost every piece in the Reader commands attention. Entries weave back and forth between fiction, history, essay and poetry organized into ten subject categories Jamieson established nearly a half century ago.

Mixed in with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Francis Parkman, Robert Louis Stevenson, Theodore Dreiser and Verplanck Colvin are present-day writers Christopher Shaw, Christine Jerome, Sue Halpern, Bill McKibben, Elizabeth Folwell, Amy Godine and Philip Terrie, among others. Neal Burdick contributes an essay on the century-old silence still surrounding the question “Who Shot Orrando P. Dexter?,” a land baron hated by the locals in Santa Clara. Burdick also served as the book’s co-editor, assisting Jamieson, who died in 2006 at age 103.

“It’s still Paul’s book,” Burdick says. “I did the legwork. His name is more prominent on the cover at my request.” Jamieson approved each new writing, and many excerpts and articles were included on recommendations by other writers, Burdick adds. Burdick is editor of the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Adirondac magazine as well as a writer and poet in his own right.

More than any other book, this collection comes closest to defining the Adirondack sense of place we all feel but few can articulate. It’s as much a pleasure to read as an education, and Jamieson’s introductory sections feel prescient. He still seems very much the dean of Adirondack letters (a new edition of his classic Adirondack Canoe Waters: North Flow is also in the pipeline). Jamieson was an author, professor of English at St. Lawrence University, an advocate for Adirondack land preservation and canoe access, and an explorer of this region’s topography as well as literature.

The book is beautiful but alas blemished; sloppy proofreading has allowed typos to creep into the text, in both the older material and new additions. Further printings are planned, perhaps a paperback edition. We hope the copyediting will be brought up to the standards of the writers represented.

The Reader is $39.95 at book and outdoor supply stores, by calling 800-395-8080, or online at www.adk.org.


Monday, April 6, 2009

APA Reforms Moving Through Legislature

The New York State Senate introduced three measures, advanced by the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), which the APA argues will “benefit the Park, its residents and improve overall APA efficiency.” The three bills hope to address the issue of affordable housing, to establish regular funding for local planning efforts, streamline the project review process, and expand flexibility for transferring development rights.

Regular APA critic Fred Monroe, executive director of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, is first out of the box to question the affordable housing plan. The bill would encourage community housing projects within a three-mile radius of APA-designated hamlets (shown in the map above).

In an interview with the Plattsburgh Press Republican Monroe says that that 31 of the 92 towns in the Adirondacks do not have APA-designated hamlets. A look at the map shows he’s exaggerating a bit, as only about a dozen of those towns have any real acreage inside the park and several of those are some of the park’s most remote.

Monroe wants the new law’s hamlet designation to include those areas locally considered hamlet, not just APA-designated hamlets, which are downtowns and population centers where local zoning holds sway. Monroe is the Supervisor of the Town of Chester and Chair of the Warren County Board of Supervisors; Chester and Warren County have some of the highest numbers of APA designated hamlets of all the park’s municipalities. About 3/4 of the Town of Chester would fall into the new designation, enabling development for affordable housing purposes almost anywhere in town.

Here is a description of the three bills from an APA press release (I have pdf briefing documents for anyone interested – drop me a note):

Bill S.3367 would increase affordable housing opportunities within the Adirondack Park on land best suited to sustain a higher density of development. The lack of adequate affordable housing is a problem that must be solved to retain year-round families and ensure community sustainability.

Bill S.3366 would establish a Local Government Planning Grant Program administered by the APA. This would result in steady funding for local government planning initiatives. Grant funding would be sustained through civil penalties, settlement agreements and application fees collected by the APA.

Bill S.3361 would modify the Agency’s project review process to improve Agency efficiencies and reduce unnecessary burden and expense to applicants. This bill would also result in expanded flexibility for transferring development rights. Transferring development potential from more restrictive APA land use areas into less restrictive areas can balance protection of the Park’s unique natural resources with the growing demand for increased development opportunities on land capable of sustaining higher density development.

Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn), chairman of the finance committee, introduced the affordable housing bill, which proposes a four-to-one density bonus for community housing built for seniors, low income and workforce population.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Exhibition of Contemporary Adirondack Masters

D. Wigmore Fine Art, in Manhattan, has assembled a show of landscapes by three artists known for Adirondack work as well as one who has come lately to North Country painting.

“Adirondack Art Today,” on exhibit until May 6 at 730 Fifth Avenue, between 56th and 57th Streets, can provide summer residents and estranged Adirondackers with a scenery fix. The artists have deeply observed their subject, and the work is gorgeous, depicting the Adirondack Park in its more-picturesque seasons.

Gallery president Deedee Wigmore said she selected the painters Paul Matthews, Thomas Paquette and Don Wynn and the photographer Nathan Farb because they are “artists who I felt really represent the Adirondacks and who have each had more than one museum show.” Jay resident Nathan Farb is known for the painterly detail of his large-format photographs, and his work has been collected by the Museum of Modern Art and the Corcoran Gallery. Don Wynn was the first living artist to have a solo exhibition at the Adirondack Museum; the Metropolitan Museum of Art has one of his paintings. Paul Matthews, a summer resident of Keene, has made a decades-long study of Adirondack light and cloudscapes. Thomas Paquette had been artist-in-residence at several national parks before he began painting the Adirondacks in 2006.

The Adirondack Park’s varied terrain is broadly represented, from the Oswegatchie River to Mount Marcy to Lake George. Wigmore organized the show to complement an exhibition of modern rustic furniture that will fill the gallery later this month; “Rustic Tomorrow” paired six well-known modern and post-modern architects with six Adirondack rustic-furniture makers. The Adirondack Museum, in Blue Mountain Lake, conceived the project, which is on exhibit at Munson Williams Proctor Institute, in Utica, until April 19.

The six innovative, woodsy furniture pieces will then move to D. Wigmore Fine Art, where they will be auctioned May 6. Deedee Wigmore says she expects many of the architects, designers, craftsmen and artists to attend the auction party.

Artwork: Dark Tree, Light Tree by Thomas Paquette, gouache on paper. Courtesy of D. Wigmore Fine Art. More artworks can be seen at dwigmore.com


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Conservation Easements And The Adirondack Forest

I received this week from John Sheehan, Director of Communications for The Adirondack Council, the following interesting history and analysis of the recent Nature Conservancy sale and what it means to the history of logging in the backcountry. I’m reprinting it here in its entirety for the information of Adirondack Almanack readers:

When the ATP Group, a private investment company that handles pension funds for the Danish government, made its first major investment in the United States Monday, its purchase of 92,000 acres of commercial forestlands from The Nature Conservancy brought to an end the era of the industrial ownership of the Adirondack Park’s vast, private backcountry. » Continue Reading.


Friday, April 3, 2009

Adirondack Bracket: The Big Dance


Yowza, Yowza. The stage is set for the final showdown of the 2009 Adirondack Bracket. And we could not have scripted a better narrative for the ultimate contest within the Blue Line. Monday’s championship will pit Stewart’s Shops against the Northville/Placid Trail. In a tournament determined by coin toss what could be more appropriate than a climactic face-off between paragons of the Adirondack Park’s two principal (and often opposing) faces.

Headquartered in Saratoga Springs, Stewart’s shops have spread across the park since the company’s early years in the 1940s. Today, the shops have become a major social and commercial focus for more than twenty Adirondack communities: their bulletin boards and picnic and cafe tables a wellspring of local information, gossip, lore, and right-of-center opinion. Stewart’s employees own one third of the privately-held company. But the pride of Stewart’s Shops is their award-winning fresh and local dairy products: gathered from 50 farms around its Greenfield plant, bottled the same day and available to customers within 48 hours. As well, the company’s many inventive ice cream flavors remain popular year after year, despite the ill-advised discontinuance of lemon meringue in 2002. Finally, as an economic engine, the gas pumps at Stewart’s provide a critical link in the Adirondacks’ carbon-based tourism.

The famed Northville-Placid Trail is a ten day, 120+ through-hike into the Adirondack’s wild soul. Starting in Northville, where the Sacandaga River flows into Great Sacandaga Lake, the trail winds through the towns of Northampton, Benson, Wells, Lake Pleasant, Arietta, Indian Lake, Long Lake, Newcomb, Harrietstown and North Elba. The scenery traces a path upward, northward and backward in time, shedding layers of culture from village to hamlet to the hermit haunts of Noah John Rondeau. It offers neither the crowds nor the high-altitude thrills of the 46 High Peaks, but the rewards for the bold and the fit are a feast of the finest land and waterscapes the Adirondacks offer.

Will the Northville-Placid Trail leave Stewart’s Shops blistered and exhausted, hitchhiking home? Or will Stewart’s simply walk all over the NPT? Come back Monday at 3:00 to find out.


Friday, April 3, 2009

ADK: Plan To Cap State Tax Payments Officially Dead

The Adirondack Mountain Club has just announced the final death of Governor Paterson’s plan to cap tax payments on state owned land. The state will now continue to pay its fair share of local taxes on Forest Preserve lands in Adirondacks and Catskills and on other state-owned forest and park lands statewide.

Since 1886, in recognition of the impact of large state land holdings on local tax rolls, New York has voluntarily paid local property and school taxes on Forest Preserve lands. Over the years, the Legislature has extended the payments to other areas with large tracts of state forest or park land. In 2007-08, New York paid more than $170 million in local taxes on more than 4 million acres.

Under the Executive Budget, those payments would have been frozen at 2008-09 levels, which would have caused double-digit property tax increases in some rural communities and severely undermined local support for open-space protection programs statewide. Local governments have the right to veto most state land deals financed through the Environmental Protection Fund. The proposed payment freeze was stricken in a budget deal last week, but it was not officially dead until the state Senate passed the relevant bill late Thursday.

While the tax freeze has been widely viewed as an Adirondack and Catskill issue, the fact is that half of the state tax payments in 2007-08 went to communities outside the 16 Adirondack and Catskill counties. For example, the state pays full property taxes on Harriman State Park, Sterling Forest and Allegany State Park, and pays school taxes for the site of Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Westchester County. In 2007-08, the state made $33 million in local tax payments in Rockland County, $19 million in Suffolk County, $11.9 million in Orange County, $4.8 million in Cattaraugus County, $3.2 million in Putnam County, $3.1 million in Chenango County, $1.8 million in Dutchess County and $1.2 million in Allegany County. The tax freeze would also have hampered efforts to protect New York City’s Catskill/Delaware watershed, which provides drinking water to 9 million New Yorkers.


Friday, April 3, 2009

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Friday, April 3, 2009

Adirondack Blogging Round-Up


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Homegrown Adirondack Paddle Porn

Spring = snowmelt = big rivers = paddle porn. Snowmobilers had their spread in February; now whitewater gets equal time.

Most of these linked videos were made by Lake Placid-based Split Rock Video, which travels widely for fast water and film. This ultimate crash and burn highlight reel features the North Country’s own Black and Moose Rivers alongside the Zambezi and Gauley.

Here is some “classic old school” river running.

A bad swim on the Oswegatchie River.”

An even worse day on the Oswegatchie ends with a broken back.

The conquered-but-still-insane Split Rock Falls on the Boquet River.

Creekin’ on Johns Brook, in Keene, might not look quite as hard, but what the camera doesn’t show is that small streams like these offer few exits.

And lastly, another montage for the rafters: “2007 Hudson River Highlights.”

If you want to know when flows are at optimum levels, gauge data and timing of dam releases in the Hudson and Black River watersheds can be found at the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District Web site.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Adirondack Bracket Final Four (part 2)


The second pairing of the 2009 Adirondack Almanack Bracket is set, pitting two popular Adirondack institutions against each other. Warrensburg’s “World’s Largest Garage Sale” advanced by vanquishing white nose syndrome. It will meet Stewart’s Shops, victor over Canadian drivers.

From its humble origins 30 years ago this fall, the World’s Largest Garage Sale is the youngest competitor to reach the Final Four. Still, it boasts some impressive stats, including its draw of 500 to 700 vendors and countless customers annually. Sue Marthins, WLGS coordinator for the Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce, touts the community-wide bazaar’s credentials as a paragon of Adirondack culture with particular emphasis on the event’s economic importance. “People come from literally all over the country,” she said, pointing out that many shoppers will spend a day bargain-hunting and the balance of the colorful October 3-4 weekend exploring deeper into the Adirondack Park. Enthusing about the range of activities and cuisine available to Garage Sale visitors, Marthins was not above engaging in a little trash talk: “Stewart’s just cannot compete with our variety.”

With 22 locations within the park, and countless outlets just beyond the Blue Line, Stewart’s Shops is relying on its full-court coverage and will bring a high-octane, high-energy game to the contest. Marketing manager Tom Mailey guaranteed that Stewart’s would break “lightning fast with a couple cups of coffee,” and display a passing game “sweet as a make-your-own-sundae.” In sum he predicted Stewart’s would lick their opponent, adding a personal message to the World’s Largest Garage Sale: “Bring it on.”


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Update: The Point on Upper Saranac Lake

The apparent demise of Everlands will not affect the luxury resort the Point, a management official said today.

“Everlands is back-burnering itself” during the economic slump, confirmed David Garrett, president of Garrett Hotel Group, based in Vermont. The Garrett Group manages the Point, on Upper Saranac Lake, and owns Lake Placid Lodge, a separate Great Camp–style resort on the shore of Lake Placid.

Garrett said the Point will remain open to guests no matter what happens to Everlands, a start-up that planned to assemble a global collective of 45 exclusive properties in protected natural settings. Since it launched in 2007, Everlands acquired six lodgings, according to its Web site. The London Times reported it had attracted only 60 members out of a goal of 1,800, later lowered to 900. Memberships were to cost $1 million but were available to early birds for half that amount. Everlands has not returned calls seeking comment. The Point will continue to operate as a hotel, as it had in the past, not a fractional ownership.

The Garrett Group sold the Point in 2007 to “a group of founding members of Everlands, separate from the actual Everlands entity,” Garrett explained. He said the sale was carefully structured to “protect” the Point should the Everlands concept not prove viable.

The Point will be closed in April, as it always is, and will reopen in May.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

20th Congressional District Results Inside the Blue Line

UPDATED @ 1:00 PM
In the cliffhanger race for New York’s 20th congressional district seat, sixty-five votes separate Leader Scott Murphy from James Tedisco, with between six and ten thousand absentee votes yet to be counted. In the northern block of the district, inside the Adirondack Park boundary, conventionally regarded as reliable conservative turf, order was somewhat upended by yesterday’s vote. In Essex, Warren and Washington counties, Scott Murphy took 51.5% of machine votes cast in towns inside the Blue Line.

Murphy found strongest support up north where he won Keene and North Elba by 69% and 60% respectively, and the town of Dresden on the east shore of Lake George where he took over 55%. Jim Tedisco’s best showing in this region came in the towns of Schroon and North Hudson where he garnered 59% of votes cast, and Stony Creek where 57% favored the Republican/Conservative. Turnout across Essex County was 26.5% of registered and active voters.

Saratoga County was the only Adirondack County in the district for which town-by-town results were not available.

* All votes for the town of Fort Ann, which straddles the park boundary, were included in our count.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

NY 20th CD Special Election: April Fool’s Day Surprise


Candidates for New York’s 20th congressional district battled to a draw last night, extending the month-long special election campaign by two weeks at the very least. With 100 percent of the voting precincts reporting from the tripod district that covers portions of ten counties, Democrat Scott Murphy led Republican James Tedisco by 65 votes, out of a total of more than 154,000 votes cast by machine. The results do not include write-in votes or paper and absentee ballots. Absentee ballots will be counted on April 7, with ballots received by overseas military personnel to be counted April 13. The bottom line of this election, as viewed on this April Fool’s Day: Expect a recount that is longer and more expensive than the original campaign.


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

America’s Cup Returns to The Olympic Sports Complex

The Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) and the United States Bobsled and Skeleton Federation will be hosting the FIBT 2009 Lake Placid America’s Cup Bobsled and Skeleton competition at the Olympic Sports Complex April 2 – April 5. Nineteen nations will be competing in this international competition, with 154 athletes competing within the four disciplines.

Lake Placid is the final stop on the America’s Cup Circuit. This race allows competitors to earn points and experience that are necessary for a world ranking that determines starting positions and seeding at FIBT World Cup, Intercontinental and World Championship levels.

Competition starts Wednesday, April 1 with two-man bobsled and women’s bobsled Race 1 beginning at 1 pm. Men’s and women’s skeleton Race 1 will be held Thursday at 9 am, with two-man bobsled and women’s bobsled Race 2 starting at 1 pm. The men’s and women’s skeleton Race 2 will be held Friday at 9 am with the four-man bobsled race following the skeleton race. The final event held on Saturday, April 4 is four-man bobsled Race 2 beginning the first runs at 9 am.

U.S. drivers take the top two spots in two-man bobsled with Mike Kohn leading the way with 689 points and teammate John Napier in second with 644 points. Australian Chris Spring is third with 500 points.

Napier tops the four-man field with 752 points. Poland’s David Kupczyk sits in second place with 549 points, followed by Milan Jagnesak of Slovakia with 448 points.

Canadian Amanda Stepenko leads the way for the women, currently first with 658 points. American Bree Schaaf is second with 630 points, and Elfje Willemsen of Belaruse is third with 420 points.

France’s Gregory Saint-Genies slides into first place with 720 points for men’s skeleton. John Daly of the U.S. is second with 510 points while teammate Kyle Tress sits in third with 363 points.

Tionette Stoddard of New Zealand is at the top of the leader board in women’s skeleton with 928 points. Japan’s Nozomi Komuro has 873 in second place and American Anne O’Shea is third with 780 points.

Entrance to the Olympic Sports Complex is $7 for adults and $5 for student/senior.



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