Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bill McKibben, Bat Expert Al Hicks in Newcomb Saturday

Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature, has been rallying support from around the world to call for a fair global climate treaty. Wildlife biologist Al Hicks trying to prevent the extinction of bats in the Northeast. McKibben (left) will be the keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the Adirondack Land Trust on Saturday, August 15, at the Newcomb Central School in Newcomb, NY. Hicks’s lecture, The End of Bats in the Northeast?, is one of three field trip/educational opportunities being offered before the meeting formally kicks off at 1:00. The event is free and open to the public. Participants are asked to register in advance.

McKibben is founder of 350.org, which according to the website, “is an international campaign dedicated to building a movement to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis–the solutions that justice demand.” Their stated mission is to”inspire the world to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis–to create a new sense of urgency and of possibility for our planet.” The number 350 refers to parts per million, and represents the level scientists have identified as the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere.

The meeting will also feature a conservation update from Michael Carr, delivering the latest news on historic land protection projects involving the former Finch, Pruyn & Company lands and the Follensby Pond tract—175,600 acres in all. Attendees will find out how sustainable forestry fits into part of the conservation plan.

At 11:00 a.m. in the Newcomb Central School Auditorium, state wildlife biologist Al Hicks will give an up-to-the-minute account of “white-nose syndrome,” a mysterious affliction causing bat populations in the Adirondacks and at least nine northeastern states to plummet. Hundreds of thousands of bats, including animals from well-established colonies in the Adirondacks, have already died. Hicks has been on the frontlines of this environmental crisis since the outbreak was first discovered in 2007.

Participants should plan to arrive around noon for the annual meeting, or before 11:00 a.m. to attend the special lecture. Bring a bag lunch or call ahead to reserve an $8 lunch from Newcomb Central School students raising money for their trip abroad.

To register for this event, reserve a bag lunch, or obtain more information, contact Erin Walkow at (518) 576 – 2082 x133 or ewalkow@tnc.org.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Newcomb VIC To Host Geology Festival Saturday

The history and culture of rocks in the Adirondack Mountains will be celebrated on Saturday, August 15 during the second annual geology festival, Rock Fest 2009, from 10am to 4pm at the Adirondack Park Agency Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) in Newcomb. The VIC staff has teamed up with the Adirondack Museum and SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry’s Adirondack Ecological Center to present lectures, field trips, exhibits, and children’s activities. Free and open to the public, Rock Fest was designed to be a day-long exploration to increase appreciation and understanding of regional geology.

Exhibits and lectures at Rock Fest will focus on the geological history of the Adirondack Mountains and man’s relationship with natural resources of the Adirondack Park. Mining history will be presented by Adirondack Museum educators.

Here are the Rock Fest 2009 lectures and field trips:

10am Lecture: Adirondacks- Geology in the Park, with William Kelly, State Geologist, NYS Geological Survey

10:30am Lecture: Rocks as Resource with Steve Potter, Division of Mineral Resources, NYS DEC

11:15am-12:30pm Field Trip: Rocks in Place, with William Kelly and Steve Potter

1:15pm-2:15pm Lecture: Out of the Earth: Mining History of the Adirondacks, with Christine Campeau, Adirondack Museum

2:15pm Field Trip: Of Mines and Men: The McIntyre and Tahawus Mines, with Paul B. Hai, SUNY-ESF’s Adirondack Ecological Center

Exhibitors (10am to 2pm) will include: The Adirondack Park Institute, the Adirondack Museum (making sandpaper with kids), Natural Stone Bridge and Caves, High Falls Gorge, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and New York State Geological Survey.

The Newcomb VIC is located 12 miles east of Long Lake on Route 28N. For more information about the VICs, log on to the centers’ Web site at www.adkvic.org.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

August APA Meeting: Wind Projects, Enforcement

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Thursday, August 13 and Friday August 14 at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook, NY. The August meeting will be webcast live. The Agency’s homepage has a link to view the webcast. Here is the meeting agenda form the APA:

The Full Agency will convene on Thursday morning at 9:00 for the Acting Executive Director’s monthly report and introduction of the Agency’s new Executive Director, Terry Martino.

At 9:15 a.m., the Regulatory Programs Committee will consider two residential wind turbine proposals, one in the Town of Essex, Essex County and one in the Town of Indian Lake, Hamilton County.

Both applicants propose the installation of wind-powered turbines to generate electricity for their existing single family dwellings. The proposed tower in Essex is 65-feet tall with nine foot diameter turbine blades for a maximum overall height of 70 feet. The proposed tower in Indian Lake is 105-feet tall with 18 foot diameter turbine blades for a maximum overall height of 115 feet.

Key issues include visibility and compliance with the Agency’s Tall Structures and Towers Policy.

The committee meeting will conclude with a staff briefing on the original and revised plans for the Olympic regional Development Authority Conference Center in Lake Placid, Essex County.

At 11:30, the Legal Affairs Committee will receive an update on the Agency’s proposed legislation involving affordable housing incentives, permit reforms and community planning funds. Staff will also provide a status update on current regulatory revision.

At 1:00, the Park Policy and Planning Committee will consider a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and authorization for staff to conduct a public hearing for proposed map amendments to the Official Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan. Agency staff initiated this reclassification of private land in the Town of Fine, St. Lawrence County, which local officials raised during a Community Spotlight presentation to the Agency Board. The proposal would result in the reclassification of 64 acres of Resource Management to Low Intensity Use and help accommodate future growth needs related to the community medical facility.

At 1:30, the State Land Committee will hear a status report on the Bog River Complex/Lows Lake classification/reclassification public hearing process. The committee will also hear a first reading of the proposed draft inter-agency memorandum of understanding for travel corridor management plans. This MOU between the Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Conservation and the APA outlines an approach for developing, reviewing and implementing travel corridor unit management plans for the approximately 1,100 miles of state highway corridors in the Adirondack Park.

At 2:30, the full Agency will convene for the ongoing Community Spotlight Series. This month Town of Johnsburg Supervisor Sterling Goodspeed is the guest speaker for the Community Spotlight presentation. Supervisor Goodspeed will give an overview of his community and highlight important community issues facing this Warren County town.

At 3:30, the Enforcement Committee will come to order for administrative enforcement proceedings related to alleged permit violations resulting in non compliance from house size, septic system and shoreline cutting violations on a private property in the Town of Putnam, Washington County and an alleged unauthorized subdivision resulting in substandard lots in the Town of Mayfield, Fulton County.

On Friday morning at 9:00, the Park Ecology Committee will convene for a presentation from Dr. Otto Doering III on the Economic Impact of Invasive Species. Dr. Doering is a professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University and a member of the US Department of Interior’s Invasive Species Advisory Committee. He publishes in the areas of agricultural policy, resource conservation, water, energy/biofuels, and climate change and is a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

APA Soil Scientist and Forester Larry Phillips will then inform the Park ecology Committee on Federal efforts to track the spread of Emerald Ash Borer and Asian Longhorned Beetle. Mr. Phillips will demonstrate how to identify these species and highlight ongoing federal efforts to detect them inside the Adirondack Park.

At 10:30am the Economic Affairs Committee will continue focusing on small business development. Empire State Development Regional Director Peter Wohl along with Economic Development Program Administrator Doug Schelleng will give a presentation detailing current programs administered through Empire State Development.

Empire State Development and the Governor’s newly appointed Small Business Development Task Force are in the process of evaluating the needs of small businesses to determine what adjustments would best meet the economic development needs of the State.

The Full Agency will convene at 10:45 to take action as necessary and conclude the meeting with committee reports, public and member comment.

Meeting materials are available for download from the Agency’s website at: http://www.apa.state.ny.us/Mailing/0908/index.htm

The next Agency meeting is September 10-11, 2009 at the Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters.

October Agency Meeting: October 8-9, 2009, Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Public Hearing: Rezoning 2,000 Acres in Inlet, Hamilton County

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 7:30pm in the Inlet Town Hall to discuss the Town’s proposed amendments to the Official Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan Map and provide opportunity for the public to comment on these proposals. The town’s proposals could result in a net increase of more than 1,000 buildings according to the APA. The hearing will be preceded at 6:30pm with an informal information session.

The four proposals would reclassify lands into a less restrictive classification which could potentially result in increased development in the areas under consideration. Here is the description from the APA:

On June 22, 2009 the Adirondack Park Agency received a completed application from the Town of Inlet, Hamilton County to reclassify approximately 1,913 acres of land on the Official Park Map in four separate areas within the Town of Inlet. The Official Map is the document identified in Section 805 (2) (a) of the Adirondack Park Agency Act (Executive Law, Article 27), and is the primary component of the Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan, which guides land use planning and development of private land in the Park.

Area A involves 203.4+/- acres of land along Uncas Road, between the Pigeon Lake Wilderness on the north and the Fulton Chain Wild Forest on the south. The Town proposes to reclassify the area from Low Intensity to Moderate Intensity.

Area B involves 23.6 +/- acres of land along State Highway 28 which serves as the southwest boundary for this area. This area is adjacent to the hamlet of Inlet and positioned between County Highway 1 and Limekiln Road. The Town proposes to reclassify the area from Low Intensity to Moderate Intensity Use.

Area C involves 1,043.7 +/- acres located along Limekiln Road which intersects with NYS Route 28, to the north, and runs south to Limekiln Lake. The Town proposes to reclassify the area from Rural Use to Moderate Intensity Use.

Area D involves 642.6 +/- acres of land south of State Highway 28, which serves as the northern boundary. The area is bordered on the east by the Moose River Plains Wild Forest. The Town proposes to reclassify the area from Low Intensity Use to Moderate Intensity Use.

Detailed information and maps related to this proposal may be viewed at the Agency’s website at:
www.apa.state.ny.us/_assets/mapamendments/MA200804_DSEIS.pdf

When considering proposed map amendments the Agency must prepare a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS), hold a combined public hearing on both the proposed map amendment and the DSEIS, and incorporate all comments into a Final Supplemental Impact Environmental Statement (FSEIS). The FSEIS includes the hearing summary, public comments, and Agency staff written analysis, as finalized after the public hearing and comments are reviewed. The Agency then decides (a) whether to accept the FSEIS and (b) whether to approve the map amendment request, deny the request or approve an alternative. The Agency’s decision on a map amendment request is a legislative decision based upon the application, public comment, the DSEIS and FSEIS, and staff analysis. The public hearing is for informational purposes and is not conducted in an adversarial or quasi-judicial format.

In addition to the public hearing on August 12 at the Inlet Town Hall the Agency is accepting written comment on these proposals until September 4, 2009.

Written comments may be sent to: Matthew S. Kendall Adirondack Park Agency P.O. Box 99 Ray Brook, NY 12977


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Whiteface to Host 2010 U.S. Alpine Championships

Some of the greatest alpine skiers in the country will return to Whiteface March 20-23 as the former Olympic alpine venue hosts the 2010 U.S. Alpine Championships, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) and Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) have announced. The event will feature athletes fresh from the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver including two-time World Cup overall champion and double World Championships gold medalist Lindsey Vonn (Vail, Colo.) and 2006 Olympic gold medalist Ted Ligety (of Park City, Utah).

“They’ve done a lot of work on the hill the last couple years and I think they’re equipped to put on a great event. They had an awesome U.S. Champs the last time it was there with a huge turnout,” Lake Placid’s Andrew Weibrecht said in a recent press release. “People up there get excited. On a personal level, I am psyched to be able to compete at home. I think it has the potential to be a really great competition.”

The competition opens Saturday, March 20 with super G, followed by slalom on Sunday. Men’s giant slalom is set for Monday with the women’s giant slalom closing four days of intense competition on Tuesday, March 23. Men’s and women’s downhill will be held in coordination with a NorAm series race earlier in the season in order to best utilize an already prepared speed venue.

In addition to the top World Cup racers, the U.S Championships also feature the next generation of World Cup and Olympic athletes as the event also crowns junior champions. Numerous young racers have qualified for the U.S. Development Team following their performances at the U.S. Championships.

2010 U.S. Alpine Championships Schedule

Friday, March 19
Athlete Arrival

Saturday, March 20
Men’s & Women’s Super G
Opening Ceremonies

Sunday, March 21
Men’s & Women’s Slalom
Parent/Athlete Banquet

Monday, March 22
Men’s Giant Slalom

Tuesday, March 23
Women’s Giant Slalom

Photo: Lake Placid native Andrew Weibrecht competing at Whiteface during the 2008 NorAm Championships. Miracle Moments/Phil Renderer.


Monday, August 10, 2009

A New French and Indian War Guide Book

A new guidebook to 19 French and Indian War historic sites invites travelers travel to destinations in New York and Pennsylvania. The Great Lakes Seaway Trail has published Waterways of War: The Struggle for Empire 1754-1763, A Traveler’s Guide to the French & Indian War Forts and Battlefields along America’s Byways in New York and Pennsylvania.ports. It’s one of the best general guides to the French and Indian War I’ve seen and covers the fortified houses, American and French forts, Lake George shipwrecks, and other battlefields and historic sites from the period. » Continue Reading.


Monday, August 10, 2009

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Adirondack Center for Writing Announces Summer Series

The Adirondack Center for Writing (ACW) has announced its annual Summer Program Series events which will showcase acclaimed authors and performers from around the Adirondacks and Vermont in a variety of venues throughout the North Country during the month of August. Programs and presenters are listed below.

Tom Lewis
Curator’s Tour of Lives of The Hudson Exhibition (from a North Country Perspective) and A Reading from The Hudson: A History
Friday, August 14, 7pm at the Tang Teaching Museum, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs.

Tom Lewis, professor of English at Skidmore College, celebrates publication of his fifth book, The Hudson: A History. Among his previous books are Divided Highways: The Interstate Highway System and the Transformation of American Life and Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio, both of which became award-winning documentaries. Lewis also co-curated with Ian Berry, Malloy Curator of the Tang, Lives of the Hudson, at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College. The interdisciplinary exhibition celebrating the river’s significance to American art, architecture, history, and culture celebrates the observance of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s 1609 voyage of discovery up the river bearing his name. The exhibition remains on view July 18, 2009 through March 14, 2010. Lewis will give a curator’s tour from a “North Country” perspective, including logging tales and history of the acclaimed photographer Seneca Ray Stoddard, followed by excerpts from his most recent book.

Joe Bruchac

Family Friendly Reading & Performance Including Native American Music, History, and A Reading from March Toward the Thunder
Tuesday, August 18, 7pm
Hancock House in Ticonderoga
Moses Circle, Ticonderoga, NY

Joe Bruchac, with his wife, Carol, is founder and co-director of The Greenfield Review Press. He has edited a number of highly praised anthologies of contemporary poetry, including Songs from this Earth on Turtle’s Back and Breaking Silence (winner of an American Book Award). His poems, articles and stories have appeared in over 500 publications, from American Poetry Review to National Geographic. He has authored more than 120 books for adults and children and his honors include a Rockefeller Humanities fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Writing Fellowship for Poetry, the Hope S. Dean Award for Notable Achievement in Children’s Literature and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas. Although his American Indian heritage is only one part of an ethnic background, those Native roots are the ones by which he has been most nourished. He, his younger sister Margaret, and his two grown sons, James and Jesse, continue to work extensively in projects involving the understanding and preservation of the natural world, Abenaki culture, Abenaki language and traditional Native skills. They also perform traditional and contemporary Abenaki music together. He often works with his son James teaching wilderness survival and outdoor awareness at the Ndakinna Education Center, their 90-acre family nature preserve.

Paige Ackerson-Kiely & M. Dylan Raskin

Poetry & Memoir Reading
Thursday, August 20, 7pm
The Amos & Julia Ward Theatre
Route 9N, On the Village Green, Jay, NY

Paige Ackerson-Kiely is the author of In No One’s Land, judged by DA Powell as winner of the 2006 Sawtooth Poetry Prize. She has also received awards and fellowships from Poets & Writers, Vermont Community Foundation, The Willowell Foundation and The Jentel Artist Residency program, among others. Her second book of poems, The Misery Trail, is forthcoming from Ahsahta Press, and she has a novel, Place No Object Here, nearing completion. Paige lives with her family in rural Vermont, where she works at a Wine Store and edits the poetry magazine A Handsome Journal.

M. Dylan Raskin, called a strikingly original and unforgettable narrative voice by the Library Journal, is author of two memoirs, the celebrated Little New York Bastard and Bandanas And October Supplies. Equal parts road story, elegy, and hallucinatory bildungsroman, Bandanas and October Supplies is a bittersweet love story that is like no other book ever written about death, life, and the complex devotion between a mother and a son. The 31-year old author, said to dissect his generation with cool precision, is from Queens, NY.

Rob Cohen & Mary Kathryn Jablonski
Fiction & Poetry Reading
Thursday, August 27, 7pm
Saratoga Arts Center
320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY

Rob Cohen, author of the recently released Amateur Barbarians, is also the author of three previous novels, Inspired Sleep, The Here and Now, and The Organ Builder, and a collection of short stories, The Varieties of Romantic Experience. His awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Pushcart Prize, and a Lila Wallace Writers’ Award. His short fiction and essays have appeared in Harper’s, the Atlantic, Paris Review, Ploughshares, The New York Times Magazine, Slate, and other magazines. Cohen has taught fiction writing at the Iowa Writers Workshop, the University of Houston, Harvard University, and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. He currently teaches at Middlebury College.

Mary Kathryn Jablonski is a visual artist/poet who has served as a gallerist at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY since 2002 and is programs consultant to the Adirondack Center for Writing. Her poems have appeared in the Beloit Poetry Journal, The Healing Muse, and Chronogram Magazine, among others. She is the author of the chapbook To the Husband I Have Not Yet Met, and is completing final edits on her first book-length collection of poems. Her poetry was also recently published in Germany by painter/publisher Christoph Ruckhäberle, as it related to a collection of his portraits, in a book coordinating with a January 2009 Berlin exhibition of his work.

Eithne McGuinnes

In A One Woman Performance of Typhoid Mary
Monday, August 31, 7pm
Bluseed Studio
24 Cedar Street, Saranac Lake, NY

Eithne McGuinnes is an Irish writer and actor. Her plays include: Miss Delicious, workshopped at Abbey Theatre, Dublin 2007; Tin Cans, commissioned by Dublin City Council, 2006; Limbo, Dublin Fringe Festival, 2000 and 2001; A Glorious Day, public reading, Abbey Theatre, 2000; and Typhoid Mary, Dublin Fringe Festival, 1997, broadcast on RTE Radio, 1998 and revived in 2004. Published short stories: Feather Bed (Scéalta), Anthology of Irish Women Writers, Telegram Books, 2006. The Boat Train, Something Sensational to Read on the Train, Lemon Soap Press, 2005. Her favorite acting roles include: Mary Mallon, Typhoid Mary, 2004 and 1997; Sr.Clementine, The Magdalene Sisters (Golden Lion 2002), Gracie Tracy, Glenroe (RTE Television). Recent theatre: Meg, The Hostage, Wonderland, Dublin, 2009; Olive, Dirty Dusting, Tivoli Theatre, Dublin; and Earth Mother, Menopause the Musical, 2008. Recent TV: The Roaring Twenties, No Laughing Matter, 2008. Other theatre includes: The House of Bernarda Alba, 2002 and The Marriage of Figaro, 1997, at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin. Cell, best production, Dublin Theatre Festival 1999 and Dublin Trilogy, Passion Machine – best new play, DTF 1998.

About Typhoid Mary – In 1907, Mary Mallon, an Irish immigrant, who had, ‘worked her way up from nothing’, to cook for New York’s finest, was seized from her place of work by the NY Board of Health. Accused of being the carrier of typhoid fever, Mary was imprisoned without a trial on an island in the middle of the East River. Totally isolated, a mere ten minute ferry ride from her former home in the Bronx, Mary became a scapegoat; sacrificed to quell the rising public fear that a typhoid epidemic could spread beyond the poor. She became a pawn in the larger ambitions of George Soper; health official who was desperate to identify the first human typhoid carrier in North America. Was Mary maligned? Could she, as the authorities insisted, have carried typhoid, if she herself had never been ill with the disease? Here is the captivating story of a brave Irish peasant who fought tooth and nail for her freedom and took on the very powerful state of New York.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Commentary: North Creek News Enterprise’s New Editor

Ever since early July, folks in and around North Creek have been wondering what’s going on with their local paper. The News Enterprise, which has been publishing since 1924, but in recent years has been taken over by local weekly-media moguls Denton Publications, seems to have dropped the ball a bit. Take the headline for July 18th – “Minerva Day parade set to go.” OK, except that Minerva Day happened July 5th – two weeks earlier.

There have also been frequent complaints from North Creek locals about the Enterprise’s failure to cover upcoming events, including last week’s Race The Train. Serious coverage of issues like the Gore Interconnect, the summer closing of Gore Mountain, the large development planned for Little Gore, and the proposed Adirondack Wind project, have all but disappeared from the paper’s pages.

This week, Denton’s Managing Editor John Gereau finally announced that the paper’s problem has been the loss of it’s only recently appointed editor, Jon Alexander, who took over the position of Assistant News Director at Saranac Lake’s WNBZ.

Alexander’s replacement? Twenty-two-year-old Lindsay Yandon, fresh from college and a job at Shoreline Restaurant in Lake George. Yandon, who grew up in Newcomb but now lives in Lake George, is expected to “play a crucial role in building the product while helping deliver the community news of importance” according to Gereau.

That’s a tall order for someone with almost no experience covering the Adirondack region. Someone who lives 20 minutes away.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

‘Mapping the Adirondacks’ at the Adirondack Museum

Adirondack Museum Librarian Jerry Pepper will present an illustrated presentation entitled “When Men and Mountain Meet: Mapping the Adirondacks” at the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake on Monday, August 10, 2009. Part of the museum’s Monday Evening Lecture series, the presentation will be held in the Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. There is no charge for museum members. Admission is $5.00 for non-members.

A contested terrain amid warring nations, a frontier rich in timber and minerals, a recreational and artistic paradise and a pioneering wilderness preserve, the Adirondack Mountains are an intensively mapped region. Using rare and rarely seen maps, drawn from the over 1400 historical maps and atlases in the Adirondack Museum’s collection, “When Men and Mountains Meet: Mapping the Adirondacks” will chart the currents of Adirondack history, as reflected through the region’s maps.

The Adirondack Museum introduced a new exhibit in 2009, “A ‘Wild, Unsettled Country’: Early Reflections of the Adirondacks,” that showcases paintings, maps, prints, and photographs illustrating the untamed Adirondack wilderness discovered by early cartographers, artists, and photographers. The exhibition will be on display through mid-October, 2010.

Jerry Pepper has been Director of the Library at the Adirondack Museum since 1982, he holds Master degrees in both American History and Library Science.

Photo: “A New and Accurate Map of the Present War in North America,” Universal Magazine, 1757. Collection of the Adirondack Museum.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Adirondack Garden: A Good Word for Weeds

I know that most gardening columns are filled with advice on how to get rid of weeds. But I want to put in a good word for them. I’m looking at one really huge one right now just outside my kitchen window: the Box Elder tree (Acer negundo) that is wildlife Grand Central Station all year long, right here in the middle of Saratoga Springs. Of course, that could be because of the seed and suet feeders we hang from its boughs, and the discarded Christmas trees we cluster around the trunk in the winter, and the birdbaths we keep filled in every season –- including a heated one providing liquid water through 25-below-zero nights. But I’ve also read that — even without our additions — the Box Elder tree is ranked among those with the highest value to wildlife.

That ranking is probably because of its seeds that, unlike those of other members of the maple genus, hang onto the boughs until well into the winter, providing food for squirrels and birds when most other seeds are gone. Another positive attribute is its ability to spring up from seedling to tree in a hurry, or as some might say, “grow like a weed.” That’s what our neighbor (who actually owns the ground this Box Elder grows from) said about this tree when he wanted to cut it down. “Just look at the mess it makes — bugs in the summer, seeds all over the place, leaves plugging up the gutters.” Well, we begged and pleaded and pointed out how its boughs provide privacy for his tenants, and he relented. Sort of. He cut down about half of it, but what do you know, it grew right back to its original height (and more!) in just about a year. Ha!

Here’s the thing: if you love the birds and butterflies and want to have them around, you just have to learn to love bugs and weeds. Some people think I’m kind of a nut about that. Two years ago, I led a wildflower walk in downtown Saratoga’s Congress Park, a park more known for its Olmsted-designed formal gardens than for anything allowed to grow wild. But (oh happy fault!) there are geologic faults that run right through Congress Park, creating the springs that Saratoga is famous for, as well as steep banks and marshy spots where the mowers just can’t mow. And there’s where the wildflowers grow, dozens and dozens of beauties most often overlooked: Birds-eye Speedwell, Canada Anemone, Willow Herbs Northern and Hairy, Buttercups, Forget-me-nots, Cuckoo Flowers, Cattails . . . I could go on and on.

And I was going on and on, extolling at length the virtues of one particular plant that spreads through the grass, Ground Ivy. I had read in a wonderful book by Hannah Holmes (Suburban Safari: A year on the lawn) that patches of this lovely little flower, as pretty as any orchid (click on photo above), are sought out by crows in molting, when their new feathers are poking through skin and causing them pain. Apparently, this Mint-Family plant has both analgesic and antiseptic qualities that soothe their pain and prevent infection, and the crows will roll around in it. Now, I found that pretty fascinating and was sharing my enthusiasm for Ground Ivy when I was interrupted by “Ugh! That’s Creeping Charlie! [Another name for Ground Ivy] I can’t get rid of it in my lawn! That’s a weed!”

Well, yes. It is. But such a nice one. I don’t think she thought I was nice when I responded to her revulsion: “Why would you want to get rid of it? Get rid of the grass instead.” Because, you see, that really is my ideal. Why would anyone prefer plain old grass to deliciously herby Ground Ivy (what a pungent, minty scent it emits when mowed)? Or to Speedwells of every kind, dainty little striped blooms in shades of blue from royal to mist? Or to Violets, white or purple or yellow? Or to Strawberries, Buttercups, Daisies, Clover. . . good lord, even Dandelions! All carpet the ground no taller than ankle-high, so they don’t need frequent mowing. All grow without needing to poison the soil with pesticides or chemical fertilizers. All thrive without being watered. All provide food for butterflies, caterpillars, ants, worms, birds, and bees. All are as pretty as pretty can be. And every single last one of them is a weed.

Let’s hear it for weeds!


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Adirondack Arts Center to Sponsor LGBT Event

The Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts–The Arts Center in Blue Mountain Lake is hosting Out in the Adirondacks at Great Camp Sagamore, August 21st – 23rd. According to the Arts Center this will be the first event of its kind–a destination weekend in the beautiful Adirondack Mountains for the “out” population and their supporters that celebrates the diversity of the human experience.

The weekend includes a concert by singer/songwriter Catie Curtis, a one-man comedic show by actor/comedian Steve Hayes, an old-fashioned square dance, open mic, and more. The family-friendly lodging, food, and entertainment package will cost $249. According to their website, the Arts Center is revitalizing its mission established over forty-two years. The Center was the first community arts center in the Adirondack Park.


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Black Tupelo: Ancient Resident of the North Woods

Black Tupelo. That name evokes images of the Deep South, where Black Tupelo trees share gator-infested swamps with Bald Cypress and Loblolly Pine. So what the heck are they doing up here on the edge of the Adirondacks, sharing the Hudson River banks with White Birch and Swamp White Oak? That’s not the first question I asked myself upon finding this tree about 15 years ago. My first question was: “What the heck is this?” In all my years of wandering the woods and paddling the waterways of both Michigan and northern New York, I had never come across a tree quite like it. But here it was — glossy green in summer, radiant red by early fall – and whole bunches of them were growing in a marshy area of the Hudson near Glens Falls. Its Latin name (I later learned) is Nyssa sylvatica, which means “water nymph of the woods.” I can’t imagine a more appropriate name, for, in my desire to know this tree, it became like some kind of spirit beckoning me ever deeper into the woods. I trace my present fascination with all that grows to my first encounters with that beautiful tree.

I became a bit obsessed by the subject, asking several so-called naturalists what they might know about Black Tupelo. Not much, it seemed, for time and time again I was told that it did not grow around here. The ones I had found, they said, must have escaped from cultivation. So imagine my excitement (maybe ten years ago) when I saw a notice that the Adirondack Mountain Club was hosting a lecture by a forestry Ph.D. student named Neil Pederson and the topic was Black Tupelos. Pederson did acknowledge that tupelos typically would not be found this far north or this far inland. But then he explained that the low-lying nature of the Hudson River/Champlain Valley allowed for the penetration of moist, warm air, creating a nearly uniform climate farther inland than would normally be expected. And he showed us numerous weather-pattern and plant-distribution maps to prove it. Hah! Told you so!

At that same lecture I learned that Pederson had taken core samples of Black Tupelos growing in Lincoln Mountain State Forest in Greenfield, N.Y., just south of Corinth. That’s right next door, almost, to my home in Saratoga Springs. Here in a state-protected unspoiled swamp, about 30 specimens had grown to a very old age. How old? Well, Pederson’s samples indicated that at least one of these ancient trees was 554 years old. Five Hundred and Fifty-four years! According to his calculations, that tree first sprouted in 1448. That’s 44 years before Columbus set sail. I guess those trees had not escaped from cultivation.

For years I tried to find a way to visit those trees. I obtained a topographical map of the area, but was warned that the swamp was almost impenetrable and of course there were no trails or markers and I was sure to get lost. Then just last winter I met a man who not only knew all about those trees, he also lived on the edge of the swamp where they grow, and knew how to get to them. Vince Walsh is a nature educator, a New York State licensed guide, and owner of Kawing Crow Awareness Center in Greenfield, his property abutting that Lincoln Mountain State Forest. Vince claims that these tupelo trees have been sampled again in the years since Pederson’s findings, and this time the samples indicate some trees are more than 800 years old. Just imagine! If what Vince told me is true, then these trees began their lives at the time the Crusades were going on across the Atlantic. But even at “only” 554 years, that tree would be the oldest one in all of New York State.

Vince took me to see those trees this past March, while ice still covered the frozen muck and we could make our way without sinking up to our knees. It’s hard to describe what I felt gazing up the huge trunks to the gnarled twisted branches high overhead. I’ve actually seen taller and bigger trees (these tupelos are around 70 feet high, maybe 36 inches across at shoulder height), but these trees exuded a presence. We just sat in silence among them for a long, long while. What had they witnessed over the span of 800 years? And how had they escaped the logger’s ax? Vince told me these trees hollow out from the top as they age, making such ancient trees as these unsuitable for ships’ masts or building lumber. By the time Europeans would have discovered them, they already would have been at least 300 years old.

Unfortunately, what age or loggers didn’t bring down, the beavers may. Back in that Greenfield swamp, we found one ancient tree that beavers had girdled – certain death in just a short time for that one. And along the Hudson River at Moreau, in one swampy spot where dozens grow, every single one has the bark gnawed off all the way around, to a height of about three feet. It’s really a mystery to me why the beavers do this. They haven’t toppled a single one to get at the treetop branches. Is the heartwood too hard for even a beaver’s teeth? Or are they deliberately killing these trees so that trees they prefer will take their place? I know that beavers are very smart and capable of strategizing. Are they actually capable of such deliberate dendrocide?

So it could be the days are numbered for “my” Black Tupelos, the ones along the Hudson I visit in every season, as if in pilgrimage to my totem tree. A few here and there remain undamaged, so I’ve asked the naturalists at Moreau Lake State Park to devise some way to protect them. What a loss it would be to not find that vivid glossy green in summer, that radiant red in the fall! These trees start to redden many weeks earlier than others, starting as early as now. Often, only half of its leaves turn color at a time, so that red and green leaves may populate the same branches at the same time. Male and female flowers occur on separate trees, and only the female trees bear the blue-black fruits that are craved by many kinds of birds, especially woodpeckers and thrushes. The fruits should be ripe by late September, early October, when the trees are as fully ablaze as the one in the photo above. I urge you to find a way to see these trees. As we now know, they’ve thrived around here for a very, very long time. But maybe not forever.


Friday, August 7, 2009

A Day in the Life of the Adirondack Park

In the August 2008 issue of Adirondack Life, photographers from all around the park assembled a beautiful feature called “A Day in the Park.” It included pictures taken on a single, hot August Saturday.

Here are 18 shots that didn’t make the magazine, mostly because the other photographers took better pictures, but also because I didn’t have the sense to know the camera was set on low-res, which works for a computer screen but not a glossy page.

In honor of Wells Olde Home Days and Carnival, which take place this weekend, and in honor of August Saturdays, and with apologies to the residents of lower Route 30, who were not well represented in Adirondack Life because of my goof, this link to a Flickr set contains photographs taken from Long Lake to Mayfield on that day.


Friday, August 7, 2009

Weekly Adirondack Blogging Round-Up