Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Curse of Adirondack Bank Robbers

The robber of a Tupper Lake bank (in a presumably fake beard and mustache, left) is still at large, six days after the heist. This is unusual in the Adirondacks. The general wisdom is that nobody has pulled off a bank robbery inside the Blue Line, at least in recent memory. Hold up a bank? Sure, quite a few have done that. But get away? That’s the trick.

There are only so many forest-lined roads in and out of any Adirondack town, and if the police are quick with roadblocks, the theory goes, it’s simple enough to sweat out the thief. In the 1970s, cops caught the robbers of a Willsboro bank waiting for the Essex ferry to Vermont.

Others, such as a husband and wife in St. Regis Falls, were picked up locally within hours, and a guy who took off on foot from Adirondack Bank in Lake Placid was met by police on the Saranac Lake end of the Jackrabbit Trail.

Jack Lawliss, retired commander of State Police Troop B, began his career as a Trooper in Tupper Lake in 1955. He worked on several bank cases inside the Blue Line, all solved. The Willsboro case stood out in his memory because the same bank was the victim of an unrelated robbery a week earlier, and those thieves were apprehended in Reber, five miles away. The institution had operated without incident for a century before then.

After Lawliss retired, a 1992 robbery of a Key Bank in Au Sable Forks ended in the arrest of Robert Jones, who had also held up a bank in Plattsburgh with his wife as getaway driver and their two kids in the back seat. To reduce his wife’s sentence, Jones later confessed to the kidnapping and murder of Kari Lynn Nixon, a 16-year-old Au Sable Forks girl who had been missing for seven years.

Admittedly, an exhaustive search of Adirondack police blotters and newspaper archives dating back to the creation of the park in 1892 is a daunting project that we have not undertaken, so if you know of any successful in-park bank robberies please tell us.

Meanwhile, bank hits seem to be a nationwide trend, and there have been three unsolved hold-ups recently in Canton, north of the Blue Line.

The manhunt continues around Tupper Lake. Roadblocks, dogs and a helicopter Friday afternoon failed to net the gunman, who is reported to have fled on foot in the direction of Saranac Lake. “Solitary robbers usually target a bank that is close to their place of residence, making a car unnecessary,” wrote George Bryjak, retired professor of sociology at the University of San Diego, in a scholarly look at bank robber demographics in Wednesday’s Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

Police agencies have not said how much money was taken. Following is the State Police’s complete press release:

On April 10, 2009, at 12:15 p.m., the New York State Police responded to an armed bank robbery at the Community Bank, located on Hosley Avenue in the town of Tupper Lake. The preliminary investigation has established that a suspect entered the bank and displayed a handgun. The suspect fled the bank with an undetermined amount of cash.

Suspect is described as a white male, tall with a thin build, last seen wearing a tan hooded jacket and blue jeans. Subject may have tried to disguise himself with a moustache and or goatee and wearing sunglasses.

State Police Aviation, Canine, Uniform and BCI personnel, Tupper Lake Police Department, Saranac Lake Police Department and New York State Forest Rangers remain on scene and are continuing interviews of witnesses and searching the area for evidence.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the New York State Police, Troop “B” Headquarters, Ray Brook at 518-897-2000.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Opinion: Taxation Without Representation in the 20th CD

On this Tax Deadline Day 2009, residents of New York’s 20th Congressional District are stuck in unrepresented limbo. Two weeks after the balloting in the special election to fill the house seat, both sides have doubled-down, adding lawyers and recount strategists to their campaign payrolls. The lawyers have been challenging absentee ballots right and left (mostly right). Of the votes cast at the polls on Election Day, Republican candidate James Tedisco held a 65 vote (.04%) edge over Democrat Scott Murphy. And that right there is about where the pavement ends. Here are a few signposts to look for on the rest of the journey:

Timing is Everything
Though the partisan challenges make too spongy a foundation for solid analysis of the numbers, in most counties Murphy seems to have increased his margins in the absentee count over the Election Day machine count. One possible explanation for this phantom trend may be in the timing of the votes: any number of absentee votes may have been cast before the last week and a half of the campaign when Tedisco surged on his efforts to associate Murphy with the AIG executive bonuses.

The Saratoga Stakes
Domestic absentee ballots—due last week—have been tabulated and reported in eight of the ten counties in the district. The other two counties, Saratoga and Washington (both containing Adirondack voting precincts) have withheld progress reports while the ballots are being tabulated, awaiting a full and final tally.

Of the 6726 absentee ballots returned throughout the district, Saratoga County accounts for 1842 (twenty-seven percent). Capitol Confidential blog reports 714 (thirty-nine percent) of Saratoga’s absentee ballots have been challenged and must await a court ruling on their validity before being counted. The importance of every other skirmish in the recount hinges on the resolution of these challenges and the count of these votes. On Election Day, Tedisco won the machine count in Saratoga County with over fifty-four percent of the vote. If he manages to increase that margin in the absentee count (defying Murphy’s possible edge in early votes) then he may win the race without resorting to other stratagems. If not, go to plan B . . .

Pray for Reinforcement
On Monday, Tedisco petitioned to prolong the period for the return of military ballots to the district. Bear in mind this would not extend the postmark deadline for military voters—that was and remains March 30th. Apart from signaling a dim faith in the Pentagon’s capacity to fight two wars and deliver mail in a timely manner all at once, there seems to be little advantage in this maneuver other than the buying of time. Which brings us to the final signpost.

When in Doubt, Stall
Tedisco has pretty much put his career on the line in this race. It has already cost him his minority leadership position in the New York Assembly. If he loses here, he will be increasingly vulnerable to a challenge in his Assembly district should he stand for reelection. Fundraising for his next race will be tough enough without having to deal with the enormous debt this race will dump on him (which he will have to deal with even if he prevails). In short, Tedisco has nothing to lose by playing this recount out as long as possible, raising as much GOP money as he can while the national spotlight remains on him. Even if it means letting the residents of New York’s 20th Congressional District go a few more weeks or months without representation in Washington.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Welcome to the Adverondacks

At milepost 105 north of exit fourteen on the New Jersey Turnpike there is a word on a billboard that caught our attention last week. Actually it isn’t even a word—more like a head-on collision of syllables—set in a familiar blue font, against a milk chocolate background. The billboard itself was practically buried in the visual chaos of overpasses, smokestacks, tank farms, power lines, and inbound commercial jets that identifies that region of the Garden State, but just conspicuous enough for a carload of homing Adirondackers.

The word on the billboard, “SNACKORONDACKS” (full context “Go Camping in the SNACKORONDACKS”) is a recent installment of an advertising campaign for Snickers candy bars. The gist of the campaign is to fuse/graft/smash together unrelated words or phrases into something suitable for a linguistic freak show. The result: grotesque, fascinating, and as thoroughly targeted as musk bait in a wire snare. Use of the name Adirondack for a national advertising campaign (a blog comment from someone in the Pacific Northwest suggested it would be easier for her to go camping in the “SNACKCADES”) seems somewhat haphazard until you consider that Candy Baron Forrest Mars, Jr., son of the man credited with introducing malt nougat to the candy bar, keeps a family place near Ticonderoga. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Route 28 Project Includes Large Clear-Cuttings

The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks is calling upon the heads of the Public Service Commission (PSC), Departments of Transportation (DOT) and Environmental Conservation (DEC), New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), and Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to adopt “the highest standards for protecting the wild forest character of the Adirondack Park when reconstructing electric power lines and highways.”

Through a freedom of information request, the group received documents about an incomplete application now being reviewed at the APA for highway and power line reconstruction and realignment which would in their words “effectively clear-cut forests along 7.4 miles of scenic State Route 28 in the southwestern Adirondacks.” The route extends from Forestport to the South Branch of the Moose River in the Adirondack Park. Sections of this route involve the “forever wild” public Forest Preserve.

The application calls for a new “tree management area” that would mean the removal of all trees for 37.5 feet on either side of new utility poles, throughout the length of the highway project. The poles, which are now along the road, would be moved 16 feet from the highway edge, this area declared a “clear zone,” and the poles themselves increased in height from 40 feet to 57 feet.

David Gibson, Association Executive Director said that he was “astonished to find that the Route 28 project as currently proposed calls for clear cutting a swath of 53 feet from the highway shoulder for placement of super-sized power poles and electric lines,” adding that “clear-cutting trees in such a manner would drastically impact the Park’s scenic character, and violate numerous laws, policies and plans. The public will not stand for this kind of bad stewardship by our State agencies.”

“We contend that the Park’s history, State law, our State Constitution and, frankly, common sense, require all State agencies to take every precaution in design standards for Route 28 and for other combined highway-power line realignments throughout the Park. Our highways are the public’s window on the Adirondack Park and vital to positive public perceptions of the Park. The wild forest and rural character of the Park’s highways must be conserved,” Gibson said, calling the move an effort to “water-down” environmental guidelines by eliminating NYSERDA funding to establish a standard for the Adirondack Park for projects like the one proposed along Route 28.

Since the 1924 passage of the Adirondack Sign Law, the state has attempted to secure the scenic character of views along roadways inside the Blue Line. Scenic and historic highways programs have been developed over the years by state and local governments to exploit roadside opportunities, sometimes through significant investment.

According to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, state agencies are required to plan for these Travel Corridors to “achieve and maintain a park-like atmosphere… that complements the total Adirondack environment. Attention to the Park’s unique atmosphere is essential.” The DOT’s Guidelines for the Adirondack Park, which were approved in 2008 after disastrous roadside cutting along Routes 3 and 56, states: “The Adirondack Park is a special state treasure and our work with in its boundaries must be conducted with great care.”

The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks is calling for meetings to review standards for power line and road reconstruction that preserve the scenic character of the Park’s highways as potential “greenway” corridors.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Faster, Easter Bunny, Run, Run

Spinning egg by Marquil


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Wildlife Conservation Society Adk Program Event

The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Adirondack Program will be hosting a public gathering in Saranac Lake highlighting recent work. The event will take place Sunday, April 19, 2009 from 4pm to 6pm at the Saranac Laboratory’s John Black Room in Saranac Lake. Program director Zoë Smith will give a brief presentation beginning at 4:30 pm about the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and how the Adirondack Program bridges scientific research and community outreach to achieve wildlife conservation. Afterward, guests will have the opportunity to ask the WCS’s staff experts about Adirondack wildlife and conservation. The event is free and open to the public; refreshments will be served.

The Saranac Laboratory is located at 89 Church Street, just around the corner from the Hotel Saranac in downtown Saranac Lake, New York. For more information call (518) 891-8872 or e-mail (accp@wcs.org).

Based in Saranac Lake, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Adirondack Program works to promote healthy human communities and wildlife conservation through a cooperative, information based approach to research, community involvement and outreach. The Wildlife Conservation Society works to save wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. WCS is currently running more than 500 wildlife conservation projects in 60 countries worldwide that work together to change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony.


Friday, April 10, 2009

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Friday, April 10, 2009

Adirondack Weekly Blogging Round-Up


Thursday, April 9, 2009

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Leave No Child Inside Program at Adk Wild Center

The recipient of the 2008 Audubon Medal, Richard Louv identified a phenomenon many suspected existed but couldn’t quite put their finger on: nature-deficit disorder. Louv is a journalist and author of the New York Times bestseller Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, is coming to the Adirondacks on Saturday, May 2nd to discuss the future relationship between nature and children. Since its initial publication, Last Child in the Woods has created a national conversation about the disconnection between children and nature, and his message has galvanized an international movement. Now, three years later, we have reached a tipping point, with the book inspiring Leave No Child Inside initiatives throughout the country.

According to Last Child in the Woods two out of ten of America’s children are clinically obese — four times the percentage of childhood obesity reported in the late 1960s. Children today spend less time playing outdoors than any previous generation. They are missing the opportunity to experience ‘free play’ outside in an unstructured environment that allows for exploration and expansion of their horizons through the use of their imaginations. In Sweden, Australia, Canada and the United States, studies of children in schoolyards with both green areas and manufactured play areas found that children engaged in more creative forms of play in the green areas.

Nature not only benefits children and ensures their participation and stewardship of nature as they grow into adults, nature helps entire families. Louv proposes, “Nature is an antidote. Stress reduction, greater physical health, a deeper sense of spirit, more creativity, a sense of play, even a safer life — these are the rewards that await a family when it invites more nature into children’s lives.”

In addition to Louv speaking about nature deficit disorder, more than twenty-five organizations from throughout the region will be present at the Wild Center to offer information, resources and inspiration for families. Through increasing confidence and knowledge in the outdoors, families can learn how easy it is to become reconnected with nature. Activities scheduled throughout the day on the 31-acre Tupper Lake campus will range from fly fishing and nature scavenger hunts to building a fort or just laying back and watching the clouds as they pass in the sky above.

Louv will also officially open The Pines nature play area at the Wild Center. The Pines is a new type of play area designed entirely with nature in mind. Kids are encouraged to explore the play area on their own terms and in their own time. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

NY Master Forest Owner Program Announced

Cornell Cooperative Extension is looking for small-forest owners to volunteer to meet and work with their neighbors through the New York Master Forest Owner (MFO) Volunteer Program. The MFO program is entering its 19th year and a new volunteer training is scheduled May 13-17 at SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry, Adirondack Ecological Center in Newcomb. Volunteers who complete the four-day workshop will join the corps of 175 certified volunteers across the state [pdf of current volunteers].

Participants can commute daily, or accommodations are available at the AEC. A $50 registration fee (upon acceptance into the program) helps defray lodging, publications, food, and equipment costs. The workshop combines classroom and outdoor field experiences on a wide variety of subjects, including tree identification, finding boundaries, forest ecology, wildlife and sawtimber management, water quality best management practices, communication techniques, timber harvesting, and invasive species identification and management.

The goal of the program is to provide private forest owners with the information and encouragement necessary to manage their forests to enhance ownership satisfaction. MFOs do not perform management activities nor give professional advice. Rather, they meet with forest owners to listen to their concerns and questions, and offer advice as to sources of assistance based on their training and personal experience.

If you are interested in obtaining an information packet and application form, send your name and address to:

CCE Warren County
377 Schroon River Road
Warrensburg, NY 12885
518-623-3291 or email: warren@cornell.edu


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

An Adirondacker in T’bilisi

Saranac Lake has an inside man in the former Soviet republic of Georgia at a time when the country’s conflict with Russia remains intense and political opposition is taking to the streets in a bid to oust president Mikheil Saakashvili.

Jacob Resneck, who worked three years here as a reporter for WNBZ, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, NCPR, the Press-Republican, Adirondack Life and the Adirondack Explorer, departed in February to hitch-hike and couch-surf his way across Europe and Asia, gaining entree into local culture with gifts of Adirondack maple candy.

His route has taken him into Ukraine, Armenia, Abkhazia, Transinistria and Nagorno-Karabakh. “Admittedly, I’ve developed somewhat of a penchant for quasi-independent nation states,” the native northern Californian and erstwhile Adirondacker writes on his blog, jacobresneck.com.

With local journalism students acting as interpreters, Resneck is reporting in Georgia for Free Speech Radio News. The informal dispatches on his blog are available to all of us and give insight into life in some complicated places.

Resneck plans to move on in May to Turkey and then India, where we trust that his talent for friendship and train-hopping will serve him well. We’ll follow his writing with interest.

Safe travels, Tintin.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

‘Wild, Unsettled Country’ at the Adirondack Museum

The Adirondack Museum has announced a new exhibit, “A Wild, Unsettled Country: Early Reflections of the Adirondacks,” which will look at the early efforts to convey the Adirondacks visually to the wider world. The exhibit will open on May 22 — meaning that year-round Adirondack Park residents should be able to catch the exhibit for free the last week of May.

The first Europeans to see the Adirondack landscape of northern New York State came to explore, to document important military operations and fortifications, or to create maps and scientifically accurate images of the terrain, flora and fauna. These early illustrations filled practical needs rather than aesthetic ones.

The exhibition will showcase approximately forty paintings from the museum’s exceptional art collection, including works by Thomas Cole, John Frederick Kensett, William Havell, John Henry Dolph and James David Smillie.

Also featured are fifty of the engravings and lithographs of Adirondack landscape paintings that brought these images to a wider audience and provided many Americans with their first glimpse of the “howling wilds” that were the Adirondack Mountains.

While tourists were flocking to Saratoga Springs in the 1830s, few ventured north into the “lofty chain of granite” visible from Lake George. One guidebook described the mysterious forms as “a wild repulsive aspect.” Little was known of these yet-unnamed mountains.

In 1836, the New York State legislature authorized a survey of the state’s natural resources. Artist Charles Cromwell Ingham was asked to join geologists Ebenezer Emmons and William C. Redfield during one of the first exploratory surveys. During the trip, he painted the Great Adirondack Pass “on the spot.” The original painting will be shown in the exhibition.

The exhibit will also include photographs — stereo views and albumen prints — sold as tourist souvenirs and to armchair travelers. William James Stillman took the earliest photos in the exhibition, in 1859. These rare images are the first photographic landscape studies taken in the Adirondacks. Photos by Seneca Ray Stoddard will also be displayed.

Significant historic maps will illustrate the growth of knowledge about the Adirondack region. In 1818, it was still a mysterious “wild, barren tract . . . covered with almost impenetrable Bogs, Marshes & Ponds, and the uplands with Rocks and evergreens.” By 1870, the Adirondacks had become a tourist destination with clearly defined travel routes, hotels, beaches, and camps.

A Wild, Unsettled Country will be on exhibit in the Lynn H. Boillot Art Galleries. The space includes the Adirondack Museum Gallery Study Center — a resource for learning more about American art. In addition to a library of reference books, a touch-screen computer allows visitors to access images from the museum’s extensive fine art collection.

The Gallery Study Center will include a media space as part of the special exhibit. The documentary film “Champlain: The Lake Between” will be shown continuously. The film, part of the Lake Champlain Voyages of Discovery project, has aired on Vermont Public Television in recent months.

A Wild, Unsettled Country is not just for adults. Family-friendly elements include Looking at Art With Children, a guide for parents as they investigate the arts with youngsters; the Grand Tour Guide, a colorful and engaging map that encourages exploration of the Adirondack sites shown in the paintings; and ten different Wild About! guidebooks that urge kids to be “wild” about maps, prints, history, and more.

Photo caption: View of Caldwell, Lake George, by William Tolman Carlton, 1844. Collection of the Adirondack Museum.


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.



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