Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Federal Stimulus and The Rooftop Highway

The signing this week of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act–the federal economic stimulus package–has spurred a stampede of applicants for financial assistance from every state and every sector of the economy. The State of New York has posted a website spelling out how much of the overall $789 billion will come our way and roughly what types of projects will receive what share over the next two years. To wit: the $789 billion total is divided into $326 billion worth of tax cuts and $463 billion in direct spending. Of that $463 billion, $24.6 billion will come to New York State, and (for example) $1.1 billion of that will be distributed across the state for highway and bridge projects.

This cannot be good news for supporters of the Northern Tier Expressway (aka the Rooftop Highway), the proposed 175-mile four lane divided highway that would link I-81 in Watertown and I-87 in Champlain.

Endorsements from a diverse spectrum of politicians ranging from Richard Nixon to Hillary Clinton have kept this project limping along for nearly fifty years, an eternity for most public works concepts. Persisting doubts about the potential return on the estimated one billion dollar cost of the road have kept the roadway on the drawing board. Any hopes that the federal stimulus might rescue it from its bureaucratic limbo are now pretty well dashed.

While the final draft shows the roadway approaching the Adirondack Park no closer than two miles at its nearest point (near Ellenburg), the potential economic and environmental impacts would spread far inside the Blue Line. In 1999, The New York Times reported Neil Woodworth of the Adirondack Mountain Club supporting the road as a way to open up the western regions of the park to hikers, relieving the congestion in the high peaks. More recently, concerns raised over the impact of highways on wildlife migration patterns have conditioned the enthusiasm. In its conservation report issued last month, the Laurentian Chapter’s incoming vice-chair Peter O’Shea suggests it might be time to take the project off life-support before any federal stimulus money attaches to it.

One final, picky thought on the matter: Anyone who understands metaphor and knows the first thing about house construction can tell you that the nickname, Rooftop Highway is all wrong. Rooftops are exterior surfaces, existing above the space in question. Seen in this light, a Rooftop Highway already exists: Highway 401 just across our rigorously-guarded frontier in Canada. As for the proposed road above the Blue Line and below the border, perhaps renaming it the “Attic Crawl Space Highway” might help lower our expectations.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Research Grants Announced at Trudeau Institute


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Skate America Competition Announced For Lake Placid

U.S. Figure Skating has announced that Lake Placid will host 2009 Skate America. The international figure skating event is one of six stops on the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series. Competition will take place Nov. 12-15, 2009, at the 1980 Rink Herb Brooks Arena. The inaugural Skate America was held in 1979 in Lake Placid and this marks the sixth time the state of New York has hosted the event, and the fourth time it has been held in Lake Placid (1979, ’81, ‘82).

Skate America is an Olympic-style international figure skating event featuring three days of competition in ladies and men’s singles, pairs and ice dancing. The event attracts dozens of world-class figure skaters from all over the globe. Past champions include five-time World and nine-time U.S. champion Michelle Kwan, 2002 Olympic bronze medalist Timothy Goebel, 2002 Olympic pairs champions Jamie Sale and David Pelletier of Canada, 1992 Olympic champion Kristi Yamaguchi and 1984 Olympic champion Scott Hamilton.

Other stops on the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series each year include Skate Canada, the Cup of China, Trophée Eric Bompard (France), the Cup of Russia and the NHK Trophy (Japan). The Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final takes place each December and rotates among the countries that host the ISU Grand Prix Series events.

2008 Skate America was held at the Everett Events Center in Everett, Wash., where U.S. skaters won medals in all four disciplines and four of the 12 total medals. Johnny Weir, the 2008 World bronze medalist, won the men’s silver, while reigning U.S. champion Evan Lysacek took the men’s bronze. Reigning U.S. pairs champions Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker garnered the silver in pairs, and five-time U.S. champions Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto won ice dancing silver.

The ISU also recently announced that Lake Placid will host an event in the 2009 ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series. The event will be the second of seven in the series and take place Sept. 2-6, 2009.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Vermont Reports Maple Syrup Price Increase

According to a story in yesterday’s Burlington Free Press, Vermont maple producers are seeing a 16% increase in the price of syrup since last year. A poor sugaring season in Quebec, increased fuel, shipping and container costs and increased demand are cited as reasons for the increase.

In 2008, New York State surpassed Maine as the second largest maple syrup producer in the United States with 322,000 gallons. Vermont remained on top, yielding 500,000 gallons. By comparison, the province of Quebec produces over six million gallons per year.

The twelve counties which constitute the Adirondack Park account for nearly one third of New York’s maple syrup production, though most of the sugar bush lies outside the Blue Line.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dr. Trudeau and The Third Oldest Profession


Logging and tourism rate permanent exhibits at the Adirondack Museum. But the third-oldest industry in the Adirondacks goes on, uncelebrated, behind closed doors in the administrative offices.

Fundraising. It’s possible that more Adirondackers work in what is now vaguely termed “development” than in the woods. Yet we rarely admit that begging is a pillar of the regional economy.

An early master of the dignified grovel was Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau, a pioneer of bacteriology and tuberculosis treatment (phthisiology), and a founder of Saranac Lake itself. His autobiography, published in 1915, should be mandatory reading for every Adirondack fundraiser.

While sailing on Spitfire Lake circa 1882, Dr. Trudeau unintentionally made his first hit-up of a wealthy summer person: “We spoke of the wonderful, bracing character of the air and the beauty of the woods, the mountains and the lakes, and I expressed the wish that some of the poor invalids shut up in cities might have the opportunity for recovery which the climate offered and which had done so much for me. . . . He seemed much struck with the idea, and told me that if I carried out my plan I could call on him for five hundred dollars at any time. This was the first subscription I received.”

It became a pattern. By the end of the book, gifts to his Adirondack Sanitarium were in the $25,000 range (about half a million in today’s dollars). It’s almost a refrain as every chapter about a new friend ends, “And Mr. [name here] became a trustee of the Sanitarium, and served in this capacity until his death.”

Asking friends — and strangers — for money brings millions of dollars to the Adirondack Park each year and employs hundreds of people at museums, hospitals, children’s camps, environmental groups, arts and youth organizations, schools, you name it. We also beg our summer neighbors unprofessionally as volunteers for libraries, fire departments, ski areas, hospice. [A post-posting note: “Begging” was Trudeau’s word of choice; he used it with candor and humor. I intended no offense, though some readers who are philanthropy professionals tell me they prefer other terms for soliciting gifts.]

Why bring this up now?

~ Ambivalence about Wall Street bonuses. (Bonuses of CEOs with lakeside Adirondack camps have built wings for local hospitals and museums and employ nonprofit staffers; taxes on them keep snowmakers working at state-run ski areas.)

~ Layoffs at local nonprofits, including the Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks. (So far, the successor to Dr. Trudeau’s sanitarium and laboratory, Trudeau Institute, seems unscathed.)

~ Just the charm of Trudeau’s book. Old Adirondack books are comforting in uncertain times; they remind us how little the place changes over the years.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Presidents’ Day Profile: William Henry Harrison

William Henry Harrison, our abbreviated president. Number eleven. One of only four U.S. Presidents born in February.

Longest inaugural address (about 2 hrs); shortest presidency (34 days); also shortest one hundred-day plan. Battled Native Shawnees in the Wabash Valley to accumulate their land in Ohio and (rather cynically) Indiana.

Connection to the Adirondacks: None direct (he died 51 years before the park was created). However, his nickname, Old Tippecanoe, sounds Adirondack-y and was also the name of early 20th C. Indian River guide & hunter Tippecanoe Knapp.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Public Comments Needed on LG Stream Buffer Regs

The Lake George Park Commission has finally released its draft stream buffer regulations [pdf] for the Lake George watershed. These regulations are the most important environmental action the Park Commission has taken in years and are important to the water quality of Lake George – over half of the water in the lake comes from local streams. The FUND for Lake George and Lake George Waterkeeper are asking folks to submit comments (deadline March 15th) to ensure that the Park Commission does not weaken these new rules. They have also published a special report Clear Choice: The Need for Stream Buffers in the Lake George Watershed [pdf] to help educate and inform the public about this issue. There is a Public Hearing Scheduled for February 24th at 11:00 AM at the Holiday Inn in Lake George.

The Albany Times Union recently published an op-ed by FUND Executive Director Peter Bauer on the need for the Park Commission to finalize new stream buffer rules.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

2009 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Ends

The Saranac Lake 2009 Winter Carnival has ended. After the initial theme, “Hearts Afire,” confused locals–was it about tattoo art? 1970s soft rock record covers?–and failed to attract underwriting from leading antacid manufacturers, the carnival committee settled on the theme, “Pirates of the Adirondacks.” Appropriate in a region where self-image often involves lawlessness, affinity for alcohol, and (in the case of real estate developers) plunder.

If the economy doesn’t turn around soon, expect to see many of the parade day costumes reused come Halloween.


Friday, February 13, 2009

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Friday, February 13, 2009

Public Meetings on Lows Lake Controversy

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) have scheduled two informational meetings for the public on proposed revisions to the draft management plan for the Bog River Flow Complex. At each meeting, there will be a brief presentation on the amendment followed by an opportunity for public comment.

The meetings are slated for Wednesday, February 18th: » Continue Reading.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Adirondack Museum Seeks Textile Artisans

The Adirondack Museum is looking for talented fiber or fabric artisans and crafters to show and sell their wares at the Adirondack Fabric and Fiber Arts Festival planned for September 12, 2009. Spinning, weaving, knitting, and quilting will take center stage for the celebration of traditional and contemporary fiber arts. The day will include demonstrations, displays, presentations, a knit-in, and much more, as well as a juried marketplace of
fiber related products for sale.

Artisans and crafters from the across the Adirondack North Country are invited to apply for a space in the marketplace. The following are eligible for consideration by the committee: high quality handspun yarns, fine needlework, embellished and multi-media art pieces, fiber tools and accessories, knitted, knotted, woven, quilted felted or other unique handcrafted items.

All work displayed and sold at the Fabric and Fiber Arts Festival must be based on traditional techniques or patterns and/or inspired by the Adirondacks.

For full information or to receive an application please contact Jessica Rubin at the Adirondack Museum, Box 99, Blue Mountain Lake, N.Y. 12812, (518) 352-7311, ext. 115, jrubin@adkmuseum.org or Micaela Hall, (518)
352-7311, ext. 128, mhall@adkmuseum.org.

All submissions must include photographs and should be received by the Adirondack Museum no later than May 1, 2009.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Two Adirondack Sites Make ‘Seven to Save’ List

The Preservation League of New York State announced it’s Seven to Save for 2009. As part of New York State’s Quadricentennial celebration, the Preservation League will use its endangered properties program, Seven to Save, to support and enhance the year-long commemoration of the voyages of Henry Hudson, Robert Fulton and Samuel de Champlain. In 2009, all Seven to Save designees are located in the Hudson and Champlain Valleys – in Clinton, Columbia (2), Dutchess, Essex, New York and Rensselaer Counties.

Two are located in the Adirondacks:

Gunboat Spitfire
Lake Champlain, Essex and Clinton Counties (1776)

Threat: Natural, including non-native aquatic species, and vandalism. This vessel was part of the American fleet which held the British at bay for a year and contributed to the American victory at Saratoga in 1777. The Spitfire is not only the most significant underwater archeological site on the bottom of Lake Champlain, it illustrates the interconnected history of the Hudson and Champlain Valleys.

Fort Montgomery
Rouse’s Point, Clinton County (1844-1872)

Threat: Deterioration, need for stabilization. Situated on the border between the United States and Canada, Island Point is where Lake Champlain enters the Richelieu River. It was first fortified in 1818 as the Northern Gateway linking the St. Lawrence and Hudson Rivers. Fort Montgomery was built in the mid-19th century and seen as a crucial fortification by Civil War strategists. This site symbolizes the shared history of these two nations.

The Preservation League will provide targeted support for these seven threatened historic resources throughout 2009, and will work with local groups to protect them. The complete list can be found here.

“We are looking forward to providing strategic attention, extra effort, and new tools to secure the future of these endangered resources for generations to come,” said Erin Tobin, the Preservation League’s eastern regional director for technical and grant programs. “We are delighted to report that through the community involvement and preservation strategies we have created together with local advocates, many significant properties have been saved.”

The Preservation League of New York State, founded in 1974, is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the protection of New York’s diverse and rich heritage of historic buildings, districts and landscapes. From its headquarters in Albany, it provides the unified voice for historic preservation. By leading a statewide movement and sharing information and expertise, the Preservation League of New York State promotes historic preservation as a tool to revitalize the Empire State’s neighborhoods and communities.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Volunteer: This Weekend’s Great Backyard Bird Count

Bird and nature fans throughout North America are invited to join tens of thousands of bird watchers for the 12th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), February 13-16, 2009. A joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, this free event is an opportunity for families, students, and people of all ages to discover the wonders of nature in backyards, schoolyards, and local parks, and, at the same time, make an important contribution to conservation.

Volunteers take part by counting birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the event and reporting their sightings online at www.birdcount.org. The data help researchers understand bird population trends across the continent, information that is critical for effective conservation. In 2008, participants submitted more than 85,000 checklists, a new record.

Participants submit thousands of digital images for the GBBC photo contest each year. Last year’s winners have been chosen and are now posted on the web site. Participants are also invited to upload the bird videos to YouTube tagged “GBBC.” Some of them will also be featured on the GBBC web site. All participants will be entered in a drawing to win dozens of birding items, including stuffed birds, clocks, books, feeders, and more.

Businesses, schools, nature clubs, Scout troops, and other community organizations interested in the GBBC can contact the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at (800) 843-2473 (outside the U.S., call (607) 254-2473), or Audubon at citizenscience@audubon.org or (215) 355-9588, Ext 16.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Short History of Lows Lake on The Bog River

Lows Lake (about 3,100 acres) is located in St. Lawrence and Hamilton counties, part of the St. Lawrence Drainage basin (Raquette Sub-Basin). It’s a ponded water on the Bog River Flow, one of 21 over a square mile in size held back by dams in the St. Lawrence Basin. The largest dammed lake in the basin is Cranberry Lake (just north of Lows Lake), which has regulated the flow of the Oswegatchie River since 1867.

The northeast shore of Lows Lake is privately held, but the rest (except a few small parcels) is mostly surrounded by Forest Preserve. Sabattis Scout Reservation owns a portion of the lake, three islands, and a Boy Scout camp on the north side. The western end of Lows Lake lies deep within the proposed Bob Marshall Wilderness.
» Continue Reading.


Monday, February 9, 2009

Opinion: State Needs to Pay Its Fair Share

There is a crisis brewing in the Adirondacks, one that shows David Paterson to be what many of our neighbors feared he would be – another downstate politician with little concern for the people of the Adirondacks. Paterson’s budget plans would not only slash local opportunities for an education (Tupper Lake, teachers, college), health care services, and other important programs (STAR tax rebate), it will also force some Adirondackers to lose their homes, and will make protection of the Adirondacks exceedingly difficult.

One of the most dangerous parts of Paterson’s proposal is to cap the amount the state pays for property tax on land it owns (that’s a map at left) – an outrageous affront to all New Yorkers who are burdened with high property taxes and high unemployment that make home ownership a year 2000 phenomenon. » Continue Reading.