Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Norm Van Valkenburgh: Conservation Hero and Sleuth

I was watching a Sherlock Holmes mystery the other day titled The Second Stain. Holmes’ deductive reasoning solves the theft of a letter that, if placed into the wrong hands, would result in a diplomatic and military crisis. The bumbling Inspector LeStrade provides the critical clue when he asks Holmes to inspect a “mere trifle,” the blood-soaked carpet which lacked any corresponding stain on the floor immediately beneath. “There is nothing more important in solving crime than attention to mere trifles,” one can hear Holmes’aside to Watson.

So, I am thinking this weekend of a great fan of Sherlock Holmes, an author of mysteries in his own right, and one of the State’s most important conservationists and public servants, Norman J. Van Valkenburgh. Norm acquired for us all magnificent tracts, both large and smaller, of wilderness placed on the market in the Adirondacks and in his beloved Catskills during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Just as important, Norm has written numerous histories about the Forest Preserve and how its tracts of land came into public ownership. In many cases, he was directly responsible. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Phil Brown: Objections to Car-Camping

Earlier this year, the state Department of Environmental Conservation proposed reclassifying the main road in the Moose River Plains as an Intensive Use Area to permit roadside campsites to remain.

In doing so, DEC recognized that the proximity of many of the campsites to each other violated the rules governing primitive tent sites set forth in Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. Those rules require that primitive sites be at least a quarter-mile apart. Many of the sites in the Plains also have fireplaces and picnic tables, both of which are not allowed at primitive tent sites.

But the campsites in the Plains are just the tip of the iceberg. A new study [pdf] by the State College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) has found that there are 508 roadside campsites on Forest Preserve lands throughout the Park.

Under DEC regulations, a primitive tent site must be at least 150 feet from roads, trails, and water bodies unless DEC has designated the site (with a yellow disk) as an official campsite. The study found that at least 149 of the roadside campsites on the Forest Preserve lack a DEC disk. Presumably, most of these are illegal.

There are other problems as well. Some sites are denuded from overuse. Some are situated close to the road, the water, or other tent sites. They often lack screening. And many have amenities such as fireplaces and picnic tables that are not allowed at primitive tent sites.

Jim Connolly, deputy director of the Adirondack Park Agency, said at last week’s APA meeting that the agency faces some hard choices regarding roadside sites.

Some argue that roadside sites should be brought into compliance with the primitive-site guidelines — a policy that would require closing or moving sites or taking away amenities. Others argue that the State Land Master Plan should be amended to recognize roadside camping as its own activity, with its own set of regultions.

Closing roadside campsites would be controversial. Chad Dawson, the main author of the ESF study, said roadside camping has evolved into an Adirondack tradition—a free, more rustic alternative to DEC campgrounds. Some families return to the same sites year after year.

“People love their roadside camping,” Dawson told the APA board. Yet most people probably don’t know about the opportunities for road-side camping. “It’s one of those well-kept secrets of the Adirondacks,” Dawson said. “You get initiated into it, but you can’t find a brochure about it.”

Dawson said the great majority of roadside sites—459 out of 508—are located in Wild Forest Areas. They include 163 in the Moose River Plains region. Other Wild Forest sites can be found, among other places, on Floodwood Road, on the Powley-Piseco Road, and along the shores of North Lake and Horseshoe Lake.

The other forty-nine sites are in Wilderness, Canoe, and Primitive Areas, where motorized access is generally prohibited. These include eight sites along Coreys Road in the High Peaks Wilderness and thirteen sites along West River Road in the Silver Lake Wilderness.

Connolly said roadside camping evolved from the 1920s, when DEC began establishing formal campgrounds. Some people question the legality of the campgrounds. How do you square the crowds and noise at Fish Creek with the forever-wild mandate of the state constitution? Legal objections aside, the campgrounds are recognized by the State Land Master Plan. Roadside campsites are not.

The car-camping tradition may be well-established, but it often appears to flout the law. Should it be more tightly regulated?

Photo: A well-used roadside campsite. From the ESF report.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Keeseville’s Thomas W. Symons, Part I

In 1847, Thomas Symons operated a book bindery in the village of Keeseville, offering ledgers, journals, receipt books, and similar products. Rebinding of materials was much in demand in those days, a service that helped expand his clientele. While Thomas, Sr., was successful in building a business, his son, Thomas, Jr., would play an important role in building a nation.

Thomas William Symons, Jr., was a Keeseville native, born there in 1849. When he was a few years old, the family moved to Flint, Michigan, where several members remained for the rest of their lives. His younger twin brothers, John and Samuel, operated Symons Brothers & Company, the second largest wholesale firm in the state. They became two of Michigan’s most prominent men in social, political, and business circles.

Thomas chose a different route, completing school and applying to the US Military Academy at West Point. After acceptance, he proved to be no ordinary student, graduating at the top of the Class of 1874. He was promoted to Second Lieutenant, Corps of Engineers, and served at Willett’s Point, about 50 miles south of West Point. After two years, he was ready for some field work, and his timing couldn’t have been better.

Symons was assigned to join the Wheeler Expedition under fellow West Point alum George Wheeler. The travels of explorers Lewis & Clark and Zeb Pike are better known, but the Wheeler Expedition is one of four that formed the nucleus of the US Geological Survey’s founding.

The engineers, Symons among them, not only explored, but recorded details of their findings. The land encompassing Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah was surveyed using triangulation, and more than 70 maps were created. Their studies on behalf of America’s government produced volumes on archaeology, astronomy, botany, geography, paleontology, and zoology. The possibilities of roads, railroads, agriculture, and settlement were addressed.

The experience Thomas gained during this work was invaluable. In 1878, he was promoted to First Lieutenant. In 1879, Symons was appointed Engineer Officer of the Department of the Columbia, and was promoted to captain in 1880. Similar to the work he had done under Wheeler, Thomas was now in charge of studying the area referred to as the “Inland Empire of the Pacific Northwest,” focusing on the upper Columbia River and its tributaries.

Much of the land was wilderness, and the job was not without danger. The American government was notorious for breaking treaties with Indians, and groups of surveyors in the region were driven off by angry natives who said they had never sold the rights to their land.

Symons was a surveyor, but he was also an officer of the military. Leading a company of the 21st Infantry from Portland, Oregon, in Washington, he faced off against 150 armed warriors. The situation was potentially disastrous, but Thomas listened to the concerns of the Indians, learning their histories and beliefs. Bloodshed was avoided as Symons skillfully negotiated a truce, allowing him to survey from the Snake River north to the Canadian border, unimpeded.

Much of the upper Columbia study was conducted in a small boat carrying Symons, two soldiers, and several Indians. His report provided details of the region’s geology and history, a review so thorough, it was published as a congressional document. Combined with his earlier surveys of Oregon, it made Symons the government’s number one man in the Northwest.

Whether or not his superiors agreed with him, Symons addressed the Indians’ issues in prominent magazine articles, sympathizing with their plight. Few knew the situation better than Thomas, and he freely expressed his opinions.

Besides exploring and mapping the Northwest, he chose locations for new army outposts, built roads, and carried out military duties. He also became a prominent citizen of Spokane, purchasing land from the Northern Pacific Railroad and erecting the Symons Building, a brick structure containing commercial outlets and housing units. (A third rendition of the Symons Block remains today an important historical building in downtown Spokane.)

Thomas’ proven abilities led to a number of important assignments. In 1882, he was placed on the Mississippi River Commission, taking charge of improvements on the waterway. In 1883, the Secretary of State asked Symons to lead the US side of the joint boundary commission redefining the border with Mexico. Surveying, checking and replacing border markers, and other work was conducted while averaging 30 miles per day on rough ground in intense heat. For his efforts, Thomas received formal thanks from the State Department.

He was then sent to Washington, D.C., where he worked for six years on city projects, principally the water supply, sewage system, and pavements. He also developed complete plans for a memorial bridge (honoring Lincoln and Grant) connecting Washington to Arlington, Virginia. (A modified version was built many years later.)

Symons’ next assignment took him back to familiar territory, the Northwest. Based in Portland, he was given charge of developing river and harbor facilities in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. He did primary engineering work on canals, including one in Seattle that remains a principal feature of the city, and planned the tideland areas for Ballard, Seattle, and Tacoma harbors. Seattle’s present railroad lines and manufacturing district were included in planning for the famed harbor facilities.

On the Pacific coast, Thomas’ work on the world-renowned jetty works at the mouth of the Columbia River was featured in Scientific American magazine. He also provided the War Department with surveys and estimates for harbor construction at Everett, Washington.

Next week: Even bigger and better things, including historic work in New York State.

Photo Top: Thomas Williams Symons, engineer.

Photo Bottom: Modern version of the Symons Block in Spokane, Washington.

Lawrence Gooley has authored eight books and several articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Paul Smiths VIC To Close October 10th

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) has announced that The Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) will end public programs during what the agency is calling “a transitional period pursuant to state budget mandates.”

The VIC will close to the public on October 10, 2010. For the time being, APA staff will continue to work at the main building but will no longer provide public interpretive programming or provide general information to visitors.

The outside trail system will remain open to the general public seven days a week. Rest room accommodations will be available Monday-Friday.

“During the transitional period, the Adirondack Park Agency will continue to explore alternatives for the potential reuse of the facility,” APA spokesman Keith McKeever said. The VIC will no longer be funded by the state after December 31, 2010.

In July, officials from the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) transfered ownership of the state-owned buildings and equipment at the Newcomb VIC to the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF). ESF will manage future Newcomb VIC programs, but current employees of the VIC fear layoff at the end of the year.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Franklin Co. Historical Hosts Antique Appraisal Event

Curious what your great-grand-mother’s shawl or old family Bible is worth? The Franklin County Historical and Museum Society will be holding an Antiques Appraisal fund-raising event on September 22, 2010, from 4:00-7:00pm at the Knights of Columbus Hall at 41 Elm St., Malone. Saranac Lake resident Ted Comstock, former curator at the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, will be providing verbal appraisals of antiques for the community. Members of the public are encouraged to bring objects from their attics and display cases to the K of C to obtain an independent appraisal of the value of their family heirlooms.

Unlike for-profit ventures which seek to purchase valuables for resale, this appraisal event is independent and for the benefit of the community. Attendees are encouraged to stay to hear Ted Comstock’s fascinating explanations of the objects and their history as it relates to the area. Ted graciously donated his time and expertise in September 2009 for a similar event, which drew a capacity crowd.

The cost to have your antiques appraised is $5 per object or 3 for $12 (limit 3 objects, please). All proceeds go to support the work of the Society. Please call the museum at: 518-483-2750 for more details or for directions to the Knights of Columbus building.

Please omit coins, stamps and jewelry.

The House of History museum is housed in an 1864 Italianate style building, most recently the home of the F. Roy and Elizabeth Crooks Kirk family. A museum since 1973, the House of History is home to the headquarters of the Franklin County Historical & Museum Society and its historic collections pertaining to the history of Franklin County. The recently renovated carriage house behind the museum is the beautiful Schryer Center for Historical & Genealogical Research, which opened in 2006. The Schryer Center contains archival materials and a library of family history information and is open to the public. FCHMS is supported by its members and donors and the generous support of Franklin County.

The House of History is open for tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-4pm through December 31, 2010; admission is $5/adults, $3/seniors, $2/children, and free for members. The Schryer Center for Historical & Genealogical Reseach is open for research Tuesday-Friday from 1-4pm through October 8, 2010 and Wednesday-Friday from 1-4pm October 13-May 1, weather permitting. The fee to use the research library is $10/day and free to members.

Information about Franklin County History, the collections of the museum and links to interesting historical information can be found at the Historical Society’s website.

Contact the Historical Society with questions at 518-483-2750 or via e-mail at fchms@franklinhistory.org.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Andean Shaman to Speak Locally

An Andean shaman who has addressed audiences on multiple continents will appear at Paul Smith’s College on Thursday, September 23th. Don Alverto Taxo will discuss a 500-year-old prophecy in which the eagle – the industrialized north – and the condor – the people of South America – will fly in harmony. That time, he urges, is now.

Taxo, a native of Ecuador who has been honored as a master wisdom teacher, or iachak, by the Shamanic Council of South America, has been speaking for 15 years on topics as diverse as globalization and the application of ancient Andean practices to Western medicine. In addition to his lectures at schools, universities, conferences and elsewhere, he has published three English-language books.

He says he shares ancient wisdom practices with people who seek happiness, balance and fulfillment to feel the sacredness of each moment and every place.

Taxo’s talk, “The Wisdom of the Condor,” will be held at 7 p.m. in the Adirondack Room of the Joan Weill Adirondack Library. It is free and open to the public.

His appearance has been coordinated by TRIO-Student Support Services; the School of Science, Liberal Arts, and Business; and the Office of Student Activities.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

ANCA Meeting to Consider Arts and Culture

Visionary small business owners, community leaders, and regional arts and cultural non-profits will share how their work is building communities and local economies at the Adirondack North Country Association’s 55th annual meeting Sept. 23, 2010, at Great Camp Sagamore.

Locally as well as nationally, the arts mean business. The Adirondack North Country’s arts and culture nonprofits make up a $21 million industry – one that supports 506 full-time equivalent jobs and generates $2.4 million in local and state government revenue, according to a survey done by Americans for the Arts. Nonprofit arts and culture organizations leverage a remarkable $8.1 million in additional spending by arts and culture audiences — spending that pumps vital revenue into local restaurants, hotels, retail stores, and other businesses in the region.

And this does not include the impact of for-profit craft and art businesses. In the 14-county Adirondack North Country region, the for-profit small business crafts industry generates an estimated additional $8 million in revenues every year, according to ANCA’s Artisan Program Coordinator Nadia Korths.

The panelists represent a variety of interests and come from all corners of the region: Mary Ann Evans, owner, Mare’s Wares, Ogdensburg; Lynn Mishalanie, creator of Utica Monday Nite; Alice Recore, president and CEO of Mountain Lake PBS, Plattsburgh Jesse Cottrell, Associate Director of Salem Art Works, and others will speak to making the arts an economic powerhouse.

ANCA’s upcoming book, “Experiencing Traditions, Foods and Cultures in the 14-County Adirondack North Country” will be highlighted as well. In conjunction with this exciting new project, ANCA asks participants to post photos, videos, statistics, and anecdotal stories describing how your business or organization harnesses the economic engine of culture, arts or history in your community. E-mail content to nkorths@adirondack.org.

The daylong meeting costs $22 to attend, which includes lunch and stunning scenic views in a historic retreat, designed and constructed by William West Durant in 1897. For more information about ANCA and to register for the meeting at Great Camp Sagamore, visit ANCA’s website at www.adirondack.org.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

A New Book on Lake Pleasant and Speculator

A new book, Lake Pleasant and Speculator in the Adirondacks, by local authors Beverly Hoffman and Annie Weaver has been released by Arcadia Publishing. The numerous lakes and the forests of the southern Adirondacks provided an abundance of game, fish, and lumber for early settlers to the Lake Pleasant / Speculator area in the 1800s. Sportsmen from the city first came to Lake Pleasant and Speculator for invigorating camping trips and eventually brought the whole family to enjoy the wilderness. Two- and three-story hotels were built to accommodate the vacationing families. Individual cottages and rustic camps were built around Lake Pleasant, Sacandaga Lake, and Echo Lake, followed by children’s and church camps and state campgrounds, which swelled the seasonal population. Boxing and winter sports helped to make Speculator and Lake Pleasant a tourist haven.

Anne A. Weaver has been the Town of Lake Pleasant historian since 2005. She writes a weekly column, “Way Things Were,” for the Hamilton County Express. Beverly Hoffman has been the Village of Speculator historian since 2002. She is a descendant of many early area settlers and has lived in Speculator all of her life. Both authors helped to found the Historical Society of Lake Pleasant and Speculator, which provides artifacts for the town hall’s historical museum.

Over 200 vintage photographs are included in this most recent addition to the publishers pictorial history series of the Adirondack region. Other titles include Piseco Lake and Arietta, Indian Lake, Raquette Lake, Adirondack Hotels and Inns, Along the Adirondack Trail and more.

The book is available at the Historical Society of Lake Pleasant and Speculator, area bookstores and online retailers.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Great Adirondack Quilt Show

The Second Annual Great Adirondack Quilt Show will be held at the Adirondack Museum, Blue Mountain Lake, New York on Saturday, September 25, 2010. Nearly fifty contemporary quilts will be displayed in the museum’s Roads and Rails building from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. The show is part of the Adirondack Fabric and Fiber Arts Festival and is included in the price of general museum admission.

All of the quilts and wall hangings in the show were made after 1970; the natural beauty of the Adirondack region has inspired the design of each. This is truly an Adirondack quilt show. Communities from Piseco to Dickinson Center, Diamond Point to Watertown, N.Y., and many towns in between are represented.

The show will include quilts made from published designs (three from one book alone), original compositions, those that are quilted by hand and others by machine, a few tied comforters, and wall hangings constructed using modern layered fabric techniques.

There are a profusion of appliquéd animals – bear and moose predominating! Visitors should look for the “red work” embroidered piece, the round quilt, and the wall hanging made from forty-two rhomboid-shaped “mini” quilts.

Some of the makers featured are truly “quilt artists” with resumes listing the prestigious shows that they have done, and others are Grandmas who have lovingly fashioned special quilts for their grandchildren.

In addition, there will be a mini-exhibit of the textile production of five generations of the Flachbarth family of Chestertown, N.Y. From an 1877 sampler made in Czechoslovakia by Julia Michler Flachbarth to a contemporary quilt representing Yankee Stadium, the exhibit is a fascinating tour of textile history as interpreted by a single family.

Museum curator Hallie E. Bond has organized the Great Adirondack Quilt Show. Bond also curated the exhibit “Common Threads: 150 Years of Adirondack Quilts and Comforters” which will be on display at the Adirondack Museum through October 2011.

The Adirondack Museum tells stories of the people – past and present — who have lived, worked, and played in the unique place that is the Adirondack Park. History is in our nature. The museum is supported in part by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency. For information about all that the museum has to offer, call (518) 352-7311, or visit www.adirondackmuseum.org.

Photo: “Late Summer” by Joanna Monroe is one of the entries in the 2010 Great Adirondack Quilt Show.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Adirondack Development: A Naturalist’s View

You know, we aren’t half lucky, those of us who live in the Adirondacks. I drove home this weekend to visit my folks, and even though they don’t live that far away, and I do go home a few times each year, I still find it stunning to see all the development that has taken place during my lifetime, especially in the last ten years. Fields that were pastures, land that was once forested, all now converted to housing developments, strip malls, car dealerships, storage units.

I read an article recently about the houses that are going up on the mountainsides up around Keene and Keene Valley, and how the creation of these homes, with their driveways and parking areas, altered the watershed(s) enough that streams at the base of the mountain(s) are no longer filling.

This in turn has a direct impact on the invertebrate life that lives in those streams, invertebrates that not only feed the next level in the food chain (fish, amphibians, larger invertebrates), but invertebrates that also clean the water by filtering out particulate matter. The impacts of a single house go beyond its immediate footprint on that mountainside.

When a house/airport/mall/road, is built, the patch of land it covers is “removed” from the surrounding landscape. Anyone who gardens knows that the vitality of the soil is the key to a good garden. It is also the key to a healthy ecosystem. When we cover the ground with impermeable surfaces, it cannot be good for the life that was once there. If water can no longer penetrate that patch of ground, then the life that once lived there either dies or moves away.

At the Newcomb VIC we have a recorded dramatization of the congressional meeting at which the 14th Amendment, the Forever Wild Clause, was created. It plays in the background in one of the exhibits, and staff sitting at the front desk can hear those parts in which the actors are making loud, emphatic points. Certain phrases stick out, like the gentleman describing how logging has led to erosion, where the water, now unimpeded by vegetation, “sweeps down the mountain, carrying away the soil…ruining our rivers and destroying our commerce!” For those who don’t know, one of the driving forces for creating the Adirondacks Park, and the enclosed Forest Preserve, was to protect it as a watershed. Okay, it was to protect the water source for the folks downstate, but still, the point is that even then they knew about the importance of the watershed.

In my line of work I often hear people grouse about the restrictions that are put on development within the Blue Line. But one only needs to drive beyond this invisible boundary to see just why such restrictions are important. Every year more and more open space is converted to developed land. New homes are built faster than people can occupy them. Roads are built, shunting ever more rainwater and snowmelt (with their attendant pollutants) into streams at accelerated rates.

I know that I lean towards the green side of philosophy, but I like to think it is because I try to look at the bigger picture and keep an eye towards the future. We are but one species living on this planet, and as far as we know, it is the only habitable planet in the neighborhood. How selfish it is of us in the here and now to create/destroy things for our own wants and desires without taking into consideration the impact it will have on those whose time has not yet come. Just because we are of “greater intelligence” than those invertebrates filtering the streams, ponds and rivers, does that make us more important? Truthfully, I think those invertebrates are contributing a whole lot more to the betterment of the planet than we are.

But I know I am not above my fellow humans, for I also drive a car (although I drive the most energy efficient vehicle I can), I live in a development (although I have filled my yard with native plantings, and I do not treat my land with chemicals so I can have the perfect lawn), and I own way too much “stuff.” I do try, however, to make decisions that have the least impact possible on the land around me. Would I like a bigger house? Yes, but I don’t need a bigger house. And I think that is what it often comes down to: need vs. want. Just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should.

I know that living in the Adirondack Park can be a hassle. It is often a long drive to the grocery store, or to get new pipes for the ruptured pipe under the kitchen sink. And it can be well over an hour to the nearest hospital in an emergency (I used to be an EMT, and believe me, an hour plus in the back of an ambulance can seem like a lifetime). With unemployment in my future, finding a replacement job will be well nigh impossible. But, despite these drawbacks, I know that the Adirondack Park is a very special place and not one I would change to accommodate a few whims. I moved here knowing the limitations. If I wanted conveniences, I would live somewhere else.

As a naturalist, I hope that the integrity of the Park and the Forest Preserve, lasts in perpetuity. An intact ecosystem is important, and even though we see ourselves as pretty advanced here at the beginning of the 21st century, I’d be willing to bet that in a couple hundred years (or less) we will have discovered even more about how important it is. With all our advanced knowledge, we do not hold all the answers yet. By keeping this bit northern forest intact, we may find that we’ve done the planet a greater service than we ever could have dreamed.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet At Depot Theatre

Adirondack Almanack is pleased to offer this guest post by Fred Balzac of Jay, NY:

Until about midway through the play, William Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, has all the trappings of a comedy: two feuding families; two young lovers who meet and marry in secret; their hot-blooded, sword-wielding cousins and buffoonish elders whose rivalry is sure to be o’erthrown by the fecund love between two representatives of the next generation of fair Verona.

But then wily old Will throws a curve into the proceedings: during a swordfight between the best duelists among the Montagues and Capulets, the lovestruck Romeo intervenes, enabling Tybalt to fatally wound Romeo’s sharp-tongued cousin, Mercutio, who musters enough breath to utter the curse, “A plague on both your houses,” before succumbing. Dazed and confused, Romeo picks up his cousin’s sword and, before he realizes what he is doing, manages to run it through his new in-law Tybalt, killing him. » Continue Reading.


Friday, September 17, 2010

This Week’s Adirondack Web Highlights

On Friday afternoons Adirondack Almanack compiles for our readers a collection of the week’s top weblinks. You can find all our weekly web round-ups here.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Paulist Fathers Ponder Future of LG Lands

The Paulist Fathers, the Roman Catholic order founded by the 19th century American transcendentalist Isaac Hecker, celebrated its 140th summer on Lake George in 2008.

More than 200 people boarded the Lac du St. Sacrement for a cruise that took them past St. Mary’s on the Lake, the 76 acre retreat on the east side with thousands of feet of undisturbed shoreline, and down the lake to the Harbor Islands, where the Paulists erected a chapel in 1903.

Now, two years later, the leaders of the order are debating how best to preserve those properties; if, that is, they can be preserved.

On Tuesday, September 14, the order’s new president and its officers met in New York to discuss a proposal that would allow St. Mary’s on the Lake to be used as a campus for local colleges’ environmental studies programs during the school year.

In December, a meeting will be held in Washington to discuss other possibilities, such as selling conservation easements to ensure the properties will remain undeveloped, or permitting weddings to be held at St. Mary’s and even at Harbor Islands.

“The Paulists have not decided what to do, but they have to do something,” said Michael Stafford, a Lake George attorney who serves as the order’s local counsel.
The Paulists’ new president, Father Michael McGarry, took office in May with a mandate to improve the order’s financial condition, said Father Ken McGuire, the director of St. Mary’s.

In a formal statement upon taking office, Father McGarry said, “We will no doubt have to make some painful choices about curtailing ministries in some areas. The most important thing is that the Paulist mission will not become diluted.”

According to Father McGuire, the tenuous state of the order’s finances should come as no surprise.

“We’ve always been a small community,” said McGuire. “At our largest, we had 276 priests; that was in 1976, when Time magazine said we were more influential than the Jesuits, which had 43,000 priests.”

No more than 127 priests now belong to the order, and of those 127, 53 of them are over the age of 70, said McGuire.

Some of them require care for medical conditions, which increases the order’s annual expenses, said McGuire, a spry, fit 80 year-old himself.

Those ranks have not been replenished by younger priests who will manage the order’s operations , such as the Paulist Press, the nation’s foremost publisher of theological works, or The Catholic World, its magazine.

Recruiting new priests is another priority of his administration, Father McGarry said in his inaugural statement.

“On a theoretical level, it is incomprehensible why men in their 20s, 30s and 40s are not entering the Paulist seminary because our mission is so exciting, so challenging and so fulfilling,” he said. “However, you look at the reality and realize the need to address the practical challenges to men entering the seminary,” McGarry said.

Every Paulist priest but one (who died in 1865) has spent at least part of every summer on Lake George, said Father McGuire, who is completing his 48th summer at the lake.

In the past, priests and seminarians tended to come for an entire summer; these days, they come, for the most part, only in August, when forty to fifty people might be in residence.

The days are unstructured; the priests are given three meals a day and encouraged to occupy their time as they see fit.

Some swim, boat and rock on the porch with a book, as anyone would while vacationing on Lake George. Others retreat to the Harbor Islands for privacy and contemplation.

“We have one priest who brings more books with him than clothes,” said McGuire.
Idyllic as it sounds, a vacation on Lake George is not always an easy sell, said McGuire.

“We think of Lake George as a million dollar vacation,” said McGuire. “But some of these modern kids need the cities where it’s daylight 24 hours a day; some can’t swim. A month in the country? My God, you’d think the sky had fallen in!”

Rather than allowing St Mary’s on the Lake to remain vacant in June and July, the Paulists host retreats for priests, nuns and lay people on topics as diverse as religion and quantum physics; peacemaking in the middle east; and dance as a form of meditation.

This past summer, McGuire himself, a cultural anthropologist who spent most of his career teaching at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, led a retreat entitled “Spiritual Discovery through Movies.”

Tuition fees range from $200 to $450 per person, depending upon the length of the retreat, and participants stay on the campus.

The oldest building on the grounds dates to 1875. In addition to a chapel, boat house and cottage, the facilities include two large two-story buildings, the Student House and the Priest House, which contain bedrooms, common rooms and kitchens. The Priest House was designed by Isaac Hecker himself and built with materials of his choice.

According to Father McGuire, he was especially partial to the wood of chestnuts, the tree that once flourished on the shores of Lake George.

Hecker’s bedroom is preserved in a condition very similar to, if not the same as, the state in which it was left after he spent his last summer on the lake, in 1888.

Even if underused, the buildings require maintenance and improvements, and some may need to be replaced, said McGuire.

Asked if the Paulists would ever sell the property, McGuire said, “Over several dead bodies, including my own!”

But, he acknowledged, at least one member of the Paulists’ previous administration had advocated selling the property to raise funds for the order.

“We would only sell it if we were to go bankrupt, and that’s a very, very remote possibility,” said McGuire.

Programs and activities that would make selling the property unnecessary, such as using it for an environmental education center or for weddings, must be scrutinized by attorneys to make certain they don’t compromise St. Mary’s status as a not-for-profit organization, McGuire said.

“We’re meeting with committed, serious members of the Lake George community to weigh these and other options,” said McGuire. “We need to think about what we want to accomplish here during the next hundred years.”

Photos of Harbor Islands and St Mary’s on the Lake, Lake George Mirror

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Friday, September 17, 2010

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories

Each Friday morning Adirondack Almanack compiles for our readers the previous week’s top stories. You can find all our weekly news round-ups here.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (Sept. 16)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to change.

Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Conditions Report on Friday mornings on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1) and on the stations of North Country Public Radio.

The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional Forest Ranger incident reports which form a stern reminder that wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Hikers and campers should be aware of the latest weather conditions and carry adequate gear and supplies.

DO NOT FEED BEARS: Recently a forest ranger shot and killed a bear that was harassing campers at the Eight Lake State Campground near Inlet. Wildlife biologists believe the yearling had been fed by campers and grown not to fear people. This is the first bear killed so far this year by the Department of Environmental Conservation; eight problem bears were killed in the Adirondacks last summer.

Fire Danger: LOW

Central Adirondacks Weather
Friday: Cloudy, then gradually becoming mostly sunny; high near 60.
Friday Night: Partly cloudy; low around 36.
Saturday: Mostly sunny; high near 68.
Saturday Night: Chance of showers; cloudy, low around 47.
Sunday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 59.

The National Weather Service provides a weather forecast for elevations above 3000 feet and spot forecasts for the summits of a handful of the highest peaks in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties. [LINK]

SPORTSMEN LICENSES NOW ON SALE

The 2010-2011 hunting, trapping and freshwater fishing sporting license year will begin on October 1, 2010 and all sporting licenses are now available for purchase. Find out how to purchase a sporting license on the DEC website. Information about the 2010 Hunting Seasons is also available online [pdf]. All first-time hunters, bowhunters and trappers are required to take and pass one or more education courses. Visit the DEC website to get more information on the Sportsman Education Program and find an upcoming course near you.

GENERAL ADIRONDACK CONDITIONS

Wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Hikers and campers should check up-to-date forecasts before entering the backcountry as conditions at higher elevations will likely be more severe. All users should bring flashlight, first aid kit, map and compass, extra food, plenty of water and clothing. Be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods and always inform others of your itinerary.

Firewood Ban
Due to the possibility of spreading invasive species that could devastate northern New York forests (such as Emerald Ash Borer, Hemlock Wooly Adeljid and Asian Longhorn Beetle), DEC prohibits moving untreated firewood more than 50 miles from its source. Forest Rangers have begun ticketing violators of this firewood ban. More details and frequently asked questions at the DEC website.

Bear-Resistant Canisters
The use of bear-resistant canisters is required for overnight users in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness between April 1 and November 30. All food, toiletries and garbage must be stored in bear resistant canisters; the use of bear-resistant canisters is encouraged throughout the Adirondacks.

Low Impact Campfires
Reduce the impact on natural areas by utilizing lightweight stoves, fire pans, mound fires or other low impact campfire techniques. Use only dead or small downed wood that can be broken by hand and keep fires small. Leave hatchets, axes and saws at home. Never leave a fire unattended, don’t burn garbage, and restore the appearance of your fire site; do not move fire rings. Campfires are prohibited in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness [LINK].

ADIRONDACK LOCAL BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS

** indicates new or revised items.

** Indian Lake: The Great Adirondack Moose festival will take place in Indian Lake this weekend, September 18-19. The event offers guided hikes, scenic driving tours, fly-fishing and fly tying demos, a car show, and open houses.

** Lake Champlain Tributaries: The Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Management Cooperative (Cooperative) will be applying lampricide to portions of five tributaries to Lake Champlain during the month of September. Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be treating the Salmon River, Little Ausable River, Ausable River, and Putnam Creek in New York, and Lewis Creek in Vermont. Treatments are scheduled to begin in New York on September 14th and finish in Vermont by the end of the month. These treatments are part of the Cooperative’s long-term sea lamprey control program for Lake Champlain. Temporary water use advisories will be in effect for each of the five treated rivers to minimize human exposure to affected waters. Each state’s Department of Health recommends that the treated river and lake water not be used for drinking, swimming, fishing, irrigation, or livestock watering while the advisories are in effect.

West Lake Boat Launch (Fulton County): The boat launch was impacted by August rains and floods. DEC staff have made repairs to the roadway, parking lot and ramps, however, be aware that the waters off the boat launch are more shallow than before.

Poke-O-Moonshine Fire Tower: The firetower on Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain is now closed for the season

Blue Mountain Wild Forest: Forest Ranger Greg George has retired after 33 years of service. If you had contacted Ranger George in the past for camping permits, backcountry conditions or for any other purpose, you should now contact Forest Ranger Bruce Lomnitzer at 518-648-5246. For matters regarding Tirrell Pond contact Forest Ranger Jay Scott at 315-354-4611.

Blue Mountain Wild Forest: The Blue Mountain Fire Tower is open to the public including the cab. The fire tower was restored a few years ago. The DEC intern present during August to greet the public and educate them about fire towers and the forest preserve is no longer available however.

Raquette River Boat Launch: Rehabilitation of the Raquette River Boat Launch on state Route 3 outside Tupper Lake, also known as “The Crusher”, is complete. DEC expended approximately $190,00 from 2009 EPF Parks Capital Fund to upgrade the parking lots, install a new concrete boat ramp and floating dock, construct a separate launch area for canoes and kayaks and the improve the site so it is accessible for people with mobility disabilities. Paddlers are encouraged to use the canoe and kayak launch and retrieval area which is located just 50 feet upstream of the boat launch ramp.

Moose River Plains Wild Forest: Rock Dam Road and the campsites along it have reopened. The main Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road), the Otter Brook Road up to the Otter Brook Bridge will also be open this weekend. Gates to other side roads, including Indian Lake Road, Otter Brook Truck Trail, and Otter Brook Road, remain shut and the roads closed to motor vehicle traffic at this time.

** Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road: DEC Contractors have completed constructing a bridge over the Bradley Brook. Work has now begun to remove the culvert from Sumner Stream on the main Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road) and replace it with a bridge. All locations within the Moose River Plains remain accessible, however locations east of the Sumner Stream crossing – including the Otter Brook Road – must be accessed from the Cedar River entrance, while locations west of the Sumner Stream crossing must be accessed from the Limekiln Lake entrance. The work should take no more than a week to complete. See the map for locations of the Bradley Brook and Sumner Stream crossings.

Shaker Mountain Wild Forest: The lean-to on the south shore of Chase Lake has been removed, and a new one is under construction on the lake’s north shore. A new trail spur leading off the old trail and approaching the new lean-to from the west has been marked. The site of the old lean-to is now a designated tent site.

Lake George Wild Forest / Hudson River Recreation Area: Funding reductions have required that several gates and roads remain closed to motor vehicle traffic. These include Dacy Clearing Road, Lily Pond Road, Jabe Pond Road, Gay Pond Road, Buttermilk Road Extension and Scofield Flats Road.

Lake George Wild Forest: Equestrians should be aware that there is significant blowdown on horse trails. While hikers may be able to get through the trails, it may be impossible or at least much harder for horses to get through. Lack of resources, resulting from the state’s budget shortfall, preclude DEC from clearing trails of blowdown at this time.

St. Regis Canoe Area: The carry between Long Pond and Nellie Pond has been flooded by beavers about half way between the ponds. A short paddle will be required. Also, DEC and Student Conservation Association crews have been working throughout the summer to move 8 campsites, close 23 campsites and create 21 new campsites [online map]. Please respect closure signs. Work is occuring during the week, and only on one or two campsites at a time.

Whitney Wilderness / Lake Lila: Beaver activity has caused the flooding of the Stony Pond Road approximately one mile from the trailhead. Use caution if you choose to cross this area.

Chimney Mountain / Eagle Cave: DEC is investigating the presence of white-nose syndrome in bats in Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain. Until further notice Eagle Cave is closed to all public access.

Opalescent River Bridges Washed Out: The Opalescent River Bridge on the East River / Hanging Spears Falls trail has been washed out. The crossing will be impassable during high water.

High Peaks/Big Slide Ladder: The ladder up the final pitch of Big Slide has been removed.

Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail: Much of the blowdown on the Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail between the Calkins Brook lean-tos and Shattuck Clearing has been removed. The trail is open for hikers but remains impassable to horses and wagons. DEC crews continue to work to open the trail.

Calamity Dam Lean-to: Calamity Lean-to #1, the lean-to closest to the old Calamity Dam in the Flowed Lands, has been dismantled and removed.

Mt. Adams Fire Tower: The cab of the Mt. Adams Fire Tower was heavily damaged by windstorms. The fire tower is closed to public access until DEC can make repairs to the structure.

Upper Works – Preston Ponds Washouts: Two foot bridges on the trail between Upper Works and Preston Pond were washed out by an ice jam. One bridge was located 1/3 mile northwest of the new lean-to on Henderson Lake. The second bridge was located several tenths of a mile further northwest. The streams can be crossed by rock hopping. Crossings may be difficult during periods of high water.

Duck Hole: The bridge across the dam has been removed due to its deteriorating condition. A low water crossing (ford) has been marked below the dam near the lean-to site. This crossing will not be possible during periods of high water.

Northville-Placid Trail: Beaver activity has blocked a section between Plumley Point and Shattuck Clearing. Hikers can use a well used, but unmarked, 1/4 mile reroute around the flooded portion of the trail.

West Canada Lakes Wilderness / N-P Trail: The bridge over Mud Creek, on the Northville-Placid Trail northeast of Mud Lake, has been washed out.

Wilcox Lake Wild Forest: Flooding is also affecting the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest, particularly the Pine Orchard Trail and Murphy Lake Trail. Bridges at Mill Creek, approximately 3 miles from the trailhead on Dorr Road has no decking, only stringers, the bridges over Mill Brook, north of Pine Orchard, is not decked, and the Dayton Creek bridge is out on the trail from Brownell Camp (at the end of Hope Falls Road) to Wilcox Lake.

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Forecast provided by the National Weather Service; warnings and announcements drawn from NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and other sources. Detailed Adirondack Park camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation and trail conditions can be found at DEC’s webpages. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf].

The new DEC Trails Supporter Patch is now available for $5 at all outlets where sporting licenses are sold, on-line and via telephone at 1-866-933-2257. Patch proceeds will help maintain and enhance non-motorized trails throughout New York State.