The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced awards for “Clean Air Grants” to 13 New York communities, including three in the Adirondack region. The grants are hoped to assist counties, towns and villages in reducing open burning of leaves and other organic materials, educate residents about the dangers of open burning and assist with the purchasing of recycling and composting equipment.
“DEC is committed to reducing harmful air pollutants and the prevention of destructive wildfires,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in a prepared statement. “In addition to releasing harmful pollutants such as benzene, formaldehyde and lead, the open burning of residential organic waste such as leaves and branches, is the largest single cause of wildfires in the state.” A total of $60,000 was awarded for 13 projects statewide ranging from helping the Village of Windsor in Broome County better manage wood waste to partnering with the Dutchess County Town of Tivoli to conduct a home composting pilot project and help educate residents about safer alternatives to open burning. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides DEC with the funding for these grants.
DEC recently extended restrictions on the open burning of residential organic waste in all communities statewide, regardless of the community’s size in population.
The Clean Air Grant Program was designed to help local communities better manage residential organic waste materials and also build better community understanding of the dangers associated with open burning. Grants of up to $5,000 were awarded to the following local communities:
Town of Pinckney, Lewis County, to assist in the purchase of a commercial wood chipper to give area residents a safer option for disposing branches and other tree waste. The Town will partner with the Tug Hill Commission and Development Authority of the North County to educate residents about the availability of the chipping service, the dangers of open burning and how they can get wood chips and mulch from the program.
Town of Webb, Herkimer County, to assist in the purchase of a municipal leaf vacuum to help the community safely and efficiently remove and compost organic materials. In addition to the health and safety benefits of reducing of open burning, the Town also identifies the economic benefits of maintaining clean air and a healthy eco-system within the Adirondack Park.
Town of Boonville, Oneida County, to repair and refurbish a municipal leaf collection vacuum to reduce the possible loss of life and property that can often result from open burning and the added burden it puts on local volunteer fire companies.
In his poem The Adirondacks Ralph Waldo Emerson begins to describe an expedition into the Adirondack wilderness by noting that the travelers unburdened themselves from their day-to-day lives:
Happier as they Slipped off their pack of duties, leagues behind, At the first mounting of the giant stairs. No placard on these rocks warned to the polls, No door-bell heralded a visitor, No courier waits, no letter came or went, Nothing was ploughed, or reaped, or bought, or sold I can appreciate this imagery and the attraction of leaving it all behind for a holiday. But many of us reading the Almanack live in the Adirondacks and so our lifework, as I like to think of it, can’t be taken on and off like Emerson’s pack of duties. With that in mind and in light of what seems to be our national predilection with busyness, I’ve been giving some thought to what exactly is in Emerson’s pack?
First, I looked into what it means to be busy and I discovered that an interesting thing happened on the way to the 21st century. It seems that the word “busy” didn’t always signify the frenetic style of hyperactivity that many of us wear like a badge, the depleted yet slightly self-satisfied way we often announce “I am so busy!” These days we declare ourselves in this way as if we’ve accomplished something meaningful simply by darting between moments like hummingbirds, hovering without ceasing at one task before zipping on to the next. In contrast, “busy” used to refer to our earnest engagement in something enjoyable, yet somewhere along the way we began to veer wildly away from this sensibility towards a constant occupation with – what exactly?
At this point I’d hoped to open up Emerson’s pack to discover what all this busyness was all about, but it seems it’s a little bit like that drawer full of random things that don’t have any real relationship to each other or to me. The stuff doesn’t fit into any category yet inexplicably, I need what’s in there. And a “junk drawer” is born. Are we living lives analogous to junk drawers? This seems particularly offensive in a landscape whose pure earthly delight has been an inspiration for poets, philosophers, scientists, artists and novelists for generations.
I don’t know exactly when the common meaning of “busy” changed, or when our gaze shifted from the good life or the beautiful life to the busy life as a thing of virtue. I suspect it was right about the time we created the handy conjunction “busy-work” aptly defined as something that takes up time but isn’t actually productive, never mind earnest or meaningful (the whole notion of which brings Socrates to mind and his caution against the barrenness of a busy life).
My dear friend Craig, with whom I have been writing letters (yes, actual letters) for 19 years, wrote a while back that his delayed response was due to being caught up in “all those things Thoreau railed against.” He was busy, in the contemporary sense of the word. And it’s true that this affliction is at least as old as Thoreau who admonished that “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”
Ultimately, the question of what on earth we’re doing is a personal one and I won’t presume to root through your pack (and let’s agree to keep our hands out of each other’s junk drawers). The question and the intimate cadence of your response will flourish, as everything meaningful will, along a horizon of uninterrupted and unhurried contemplation. Fortunately for those of us committed to a beautiful and a thoughtful life here in the high-country, we aren’t subject to the inevitability of a too-short holiday that as Emerson describes, is fruitful, but must end;
One August evening had a cooler breath; Into each mind intruding duties crept; Under the cinders burned the fires of home; Nay, letters found us in our paradise: So in the gladness of the new event We struck our camp and left the happy hills.
(Oh and Craig, you owe me a lengthy letter. Get busy.)
It was less than two weeks after bartender Valene began her new job at Ashe’s Pub and Grill that she started to wonder what she’d gotten herself into. It was the end of her shift and she got right to the business of closing the bar. The doors were locked, the bar lights off, and everything stocked for opening in the morning. She took the day’s receipts through the dining room, past the pool table, into the office. As she began counting, there came a loud pounding at the back entrance to the bar, accompanied by a man’s voice shouting, “Open the bar!” Annoyed that some drunk had the audacity to expect that the bar would be opened for him, Valene got her husband on the phone for reassurance and went to the door. No one was there. Poking her head out the front door, she looked up and down the street, but no one was in sight. Dismissing the incident and turning to go back to her work, keeping her husband on the line in case the man came back, she could hear heavy footsteps and the sound of creaky floorboards coming from the area around the pool table. Banging sounds came from different areas of the bar; chairs in the dining room squeaked as though occupants were fidgeting in their seats. By now the young woman was truly frightened. Her husband, too, could hear the racket over the phone. Unable to come there himself, he sent Valene’s cousin to the bar to stay with her as she finished for the night while the noises continued around them. Not easily bullied by mere spirits, Valene has gotten used to the experiences and is still tending bar there. She makes it known to would-be spooks that she’s in charge!
Other employees have had similar experiences. Becky, another of the bartenders, says that securely placed pots and pans often crash to the floor. Footsteps are heard coming from deserted floors above. Cash disappears…then returns. A second-floor apartment is home to the apparition of a tall, older gentleman who wears a top hat and has an arm in a sling. A woman who lived in a second-floor apartment claims the man climbed into bed with her. When a visiting vendor arrived to set up a demonstration, she was in immediate need of a restroom. Since there was a line at the one-seater in the bar, the employee who lived in the upstairs apartment took the woman upstairs to use her bathroom. Curious, the vendor asked about the man she had seen standing in the upstairs window when she arrived. She described him as very tall, wearing a top hat and a sling.
Standing just beyond Warrensburg’s historic district in a neighborhood of mostly modest residences, Ashe’s Hotel looks much as it did when it was built over 150 years ago. Originally named the Agricultural Hotel due to its proximity to the old Warren County Fairgrounds, the name was changed to Ashe’s Hotel when Maurice Ashe acquired it from his father, Henry, in the 1930’s. The fairgrounds was also the site of Ashland Park Speedway from 1954 to 1961. Somehow, the bar at Ashe’s has managed to stay in continuous operation since the early 1860’s.
The current owner, John Abbale, has owned Ashe’s for the past 25 years and has gradually made many improvements. Colorful linen table cloths liven the dining room and whitewashed walls brighten the interior. The recently installed wide pine slab bar seats about 15 people, and several tables are available in the same room in close proximity to the bar. A semi-partitioned room off the bar offers table seating for another 26 patrons. Off that room is the pool table and area for musical entertainment and dancing. The central location for music setup makes it accessible to all three rooms. If you’re looking for entertainment beyond music and bar banter, a pool table, electronic darts and bowling, or pinball can be played here as well.
Though food service at Ashe’s has been known to come and go over the years, Ashe’s currently serves lunch and features dinner specials on Tuesday (clams) and Thursday (wings). Standard pub fare is served until 9 p.m. Located on Hudson Street in Warrensburg and surrounded by residential neighbors, the pub has outdoor seating, but, in an obvious effort to keep peace with the neighbors, discourages its use by not allowing drinks outside. Complicated drink specialties are not their priority, but the basics are there and the beer selection is varied and reasonable. Kim particularly enjoyed the Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat in a cinnamon-and-sugar-rimmed glass, though it’s just as good without the embellishment.
The bar is open year-round, 7 days a week, but sometimes closes for Christmas. Their busiest days of the year are during Warrensburg’s World’s Largest Garage Sale weekend in early October, and Americade and Warrensburg Bike Week in June when the bar serves as social center for participants. Live music on Friday and karaoke on Saturday keep everyone entertained on the weekends. With reasonable drink prices, Happy Hour specials Monday through Friday from 4:30 to 7p.m., friendly bar staff in a neighborhood location, Ashe’s is a local pub and yet a regular spot for many out-of-towners. In a country-charm sort of way, the local patrons look forward to some diversity of conversation from strangers. Our inquiries about Ashe’s ghosts sparked interest and conversations, as well as dissent among the non-believers. If you’re looking to scare up some spirits this Hallows’ Eve, stop in on Saturday, October 29 for Ashe’s costume party and karaoke.
Kim and Pam Ladd’s book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks, is currently in the research stage. Together they visit pubs, bars and taverns with the goal of selecting the top 46 bars in the Adirondack Park. They regularly report their findings here at the Almanack and at their own blog, or follow them on Facebook, and ADK46barfly on Twitter.
How much rain fell during Tropical Storm Irene? Seems like an easy question, but it’s not.
The National Weather Service relies on volunteers to collect rainfall, and given the variance in rainfall and the finite number of volunteers, there are bound to be gaps in the data record.
For the current issue of the Adirondack Explorer, Nancy Bernstein created a rainfall map based on the Weather Service’s own maps. It shows that more than seven inches of rain fell in Keene, Jay, and Au Sable Forks. But how much more? The Explorer’s publisher, Tom Woodman, measured eleven inches at his home in Keene. » Continue Reading.
Researchers at the New York State Museum recently published a new study indicating that some wolves have migrated into New York state and other areas of the Northeast.
Museum curators Dr. Roland Kays and Dr. Robert Feranec used a new isotope test for the first time to determine whether eight wolves found in the Northeast over the last 27 years had been living in the wild or had escaped from captivity. This is an important question for species, such as wolves, that are not known to breed in New York state, but are occasionally discovered here. » Continue Reading.
Matt McNamara, Founder and Chairman of the Barkeater Trails Alliance (BETA), has some great ideas for easy places to mountain bike. McNamara recommends that young mountain bikers start with simple trails such as the Hardy Road trail system in Wilmington. He recommends this coniferous trail because for the most part the trail is smooth with no significant climbing.
“In the Adirondacks it may be difficult for people to know where to start to begin mountain biking with children,” says McNamara. “It is always about having fun and finding your comfort level.” » Continue Reading.
Halloween is a unique time for New York History sites around the state as many of them transform themselves into spooky places to learn a little history. Costumed historic interpreters, cemetery tours, and the haunted history of restless spirits and unexplained events are all on tap for this Halloween at Adirondack history locations.
What follows is a listing of some of the most interesting, scariest, and fun-filled that are occurring around Halloween night. Ticonderoga: Discover the unexplained past at Fort Ticonderoga’s Flashlight Nights, Friday and Saturday, October 28 and 29 from 7 pm until 9 pm. This family-fun fall program will uncover Fort Ticonderoga’s layers of history and haunted stories at night in the Fort, on the landscape and in the 6-acre corn maze. The nighttime tours of the Fort will be led by costumed historic interpreters and will allow guests to enter areas of the fort where unexplained events have occurred. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 years and under. To guarantee a ticket, reserve a space for this special program by calling (518) 585-2821. Gates open at 6:30 pm and tours begin at 7:00 pm. Tickets are also available at the door the evening of the event between 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm. Bring your own flashlights. Flashlights required.
Elizabethtown: Adirondack History Center Museum is offering a program about Paranormal Discoveries on Saturday, October 29 at 4:00pm. The program begins with a report from Champlain & Adirondack Paranormal Investigations on their findings of paranormal activities at the museum. Jim Thatcher, Lead Investigator from Champlain & Adirondack Paranormal Investigations (CHAPI), will talk about their night at the museum on July 1, 2011. He will discuss the CHAPI team, their set-up, equipment and findings. Following the paranormal report, there will be a tour of the upper floor of the museum where unexplained activities occurred. Cider and donuts will be served. Come in costume – you may win a prize. Admission for the program is $5 for adults and $2 for students. The museum is located at 7590 Court Street, Elizabethtown, NY. Please call the museum for reservations at (518) 873-6466.
Saranac Lake: Saturday, October 29 at 1:00pm, local storyteller Bob Seidenstein will lead a tour of Pine Ridge Cemetery in Saranac Lake. Pine Ridge Cemetery is a microcosm of the history of Saranac Lake from its earliest settlement, through the village’s busy years as a health resort, to the present day. The cemetery began as a burial place for the Moody family, Saranac Lake’s first settlers. It grew to encompass the old St. Bernard’s Cemetery and the Hebrew Memorial Cemetery, as well as the lots surrounding them. Many of Saranac Lake’s prominent doctors are buried here, along with Norwegian Seamen, guideboat builders, and architects. Admission for the tour is $10 per person to benefit Historic Saranac Lake and the Pine Ridge Cemetery Association, a volunteer organization which maintains the historic cemetery. The tour will meet at 1:00 at the vault on the cemetery grounds.
Saratoga: Halloween Party and Car Show at the Saratoga Automobile Museum, October 29, 10 am to 2 pm. Dress up the car, yourself, and the kids, or don’t dress up at all. Candy bags, goody bags and fun for the whole family. Awards for the Best Dressed Cars and children’s costumes. Vehicle registration of $15.00 includes admission passes for the driver plus one, including the Museum’s new Porsche Exhibit. The Saratoga Automobile Museum is located at 110 Avenue of the Pines, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. For more information contact Peter Perry at (518)-587-1935 ext. 17 or [email protected]
AccuWeather says the La Nina effect means the Midwest and much of the Northeast can expect a cold and snowy winter. Paul Pastelok, a meteorologist with the weather-forecasting service, predicts that arctic air blowing across the Great Lakes will generate above-normal lake-effect snowfalls. “Overall, precipitation is expected to be above normal throughout most of the Northeast from January into February,” according to AccuWeather. “With the exception of northern parts of New York and New England, temperatures are forecast to average near normal for the winter season.”
So if you put any stock in long-range forecasts, this could be a great winter for backcountry skiing.
Even if they don’t believe the weatherman, backcountry skiers have something to look forward to this winter: new terrain.
In August, Tropical Storm Irene created or lengthened more than a dozen slides in the High Peaks, many of which should provide exciting skiing for those with the requisite skills and gear.
A big caveat: slides can and do avalanche. In 2000, a skier died in an avalanche on a slide on Wright Peak. Avalanches have occurred elsewhere in the Adirondacks as well, usually triggered by skiers, snowshoers, or ice climbers. Slide skiers should carry a beacon, probe, and shovel and know how to use them. And they should know how to gauge avalanche potential.
So far, I have climbed only five of the new slides, those on Wright, Cascade, Saddleback, Little Colden, and Colden. Click here to read about them in the new issue of the Adirondack Explorer.
Two slides that are likely to get skied a lot are on Wright Peak and Lower Wolf Jaw.
The one on Wright scoured a streambed that can be followed to a steep headwall. The streambed also will facilitate access to the nearby Angel Slides, where the skier died in 2000. Skiers will be able to bag the Angel Slides and the new slide in one outing. The streambed is reached by a short bushwhack from Marcy Dam. The new slide is a mile long.
Bennies Brook Slide on Lower Wolf Jaw has long been a popular ski destination. In the past, skiers followed a path through the woods to reach the slide. Irene extended the slide all the way to the Southside Trail and Johns Brook. With the easier access and additional terrain, Bennies will be more popular than ever.
Irene also has affected some popular trails used by backcountry skiers. Most noteworthy is that floods caused by the storm washed away the bridge at Marcy Dam.Skiers who started at Adirondak Loj used the bridge en route to Mount Marcy or Avalanche Lake. Thanks to Irene, they will have to cross the frozen pond (now largely a mudflat) or approach the dam via the Marcy Dam Truck Trail instead of the trail from the Loj.
The bridge at the start of the Klondike Notch Trail also was washed away. Skiers can still reach the trail by skiing up the Marcy Dam Truck Trail and turning left onto the Mr. Van Trail.
The Adirondack Ski Touring Council reports that Irene did minimal damage to the Jackrabbit and other ski trails maintained by the council. Repairs are scheduled to be made this fall.
For many Adirondack trees and shrubs, this past growing season was exceptional, as is evident by the quantity of fruits and seeds which our woody plants have produced. While many of these reproductive vessels have already matured and fallen to the ground, a few like the nuts of the beech have only recently finished ripening and are being shaken loose from their twigs by the winds that occur around the opening of deer season.
Beech is one of the most common components in stands of mature hardwoods across northern New York, especially in our wilderness regions. While the buds and bark of this stately looking tree are avoided by nearly all forms of wildlife, the small, 3-sided nuts that it yields in October are among the most nutritious wild edibles produced in our forests. » Continue Reading.
Few villages in New York State can lay claim to as rich a heritage as Rouses Point, and like the oft-used real-estate axiom says, there are three primary reasons—location, location, location. As New York’s northernmost and easternmost village, Rouses Point can be found at the north end of Lake Champlain. Bordering on Canada to the north and Vermont to the east, for decades it was a shipping and transportation crossroads, serving both water and rail traffic.
Until Interstate 87 was completed in the late 1960s, adding a major customs facility at Champlain, Rouses Point was one of the busiest border crossings in the state. That made for an incredible mix of good, bad, famous, and dangerous folks passing through the village every day. A book could be written on that subject alone, but in deference to space limitations, here’s a smattering of the interesting visitors to pass through a village whose population has stood at around 2,000 for more than a century.
In 1893, thirteen rail cars filled with British soldiers and their horses passed north into Canada, returning after appearing at the Chicago World’s Fair. It was the largest British presence in the village since thousands of defeated foot soldiers from the Battle of Plattsburgh (September 11, 1814) fled north in retreat.
In 1904, two circuses crossed at Rouses Point into Canada. For locals, this was a frequent and enjoyable event. Dealing with customs regulations was time-consuming, which meant the circus animals had to be walked, fed, and tended to, allowing curious visitors to view lions, tigers, elephants, and other critters … sort of a free show.
Besides Rouses Point’s proud legacy as a stop on the Underground Railroad, helping escaped slaves to freedom in Canada, there were also instances of white slavery in the opposite direction, bringing young girls into the states to work as prostitutes.
Noted financier J. P. Morgan, Jr., son of one of the wealthiest individuals in American history, reportedly traveled through the village in his plush, private rail car following the end of World War I. Destination: Ottawa, to pay Canada for armaments used by the US during the war. He was said to have been accompanied by $50 million in gold (worth $630 million in 2011). It was nothing unusual for Morgan, who handled hundreds of millions of dollars in such payments each year for the governments of France and England as well.
New York City’s legendary vanishing judge, Joseph Force Crater, was reportedly seen in Rouses Point in 1930. Though his acquaintances believed he had been murdered, authorities were dispatched to the border village to conduct a search (unsuccessful, of course).
At about the same time, recently retired World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Gene Tunney passed through Rouses Point after touring through southern Quebec.
Following a state visit to Washington, the King of Siam traveled north through the village in 1931. Five years later, Anna Hauptmann spent time in Rouses Point after being denied entry into Canada, even though she was accompanied by her lawyer. Anna was well known as the widow of Bruno Hauptmann, who was executed five months earlier after being found guilty of kidnapping and murdering the Lindbergh baby, a deed that became known as the “Crime of the Century.”
In 1940, prior to America’s entry into World War II, millions of dollars worth of armed and battle-ready planes, built on Long Island, streamed north through Rouses Point to assist Canada’s war effort.
Considering the level of traffic that once passed through the village on road and rail, the village is much quieter today. In the 1920s, for example, more than a million people crossed the Rouses Point border in a single year. On one busy weekend, 9,000 cars went through customs, and in 1925, officers reported that six and a half miles of boxcars passed south from Canada daily.
Of course, those statistics occurred during Prohibition, which saw increased traffic due to smuggling. The high number of border crossings reduced the chances of being caught. Since thousands were arrested, it’s certain that a much larger number of booze smugglers escaped detection. (Flo Ziegfeld was among those caught by local customs officials.)
Rouses Point has also been visited by several US Presidents, among them James Monroe, William McKinley, Harry Truman, Franklin Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower.
The most famous of foreign visitors to the village were British royalty. In 1919, the Prince of Wales toured Canada and accepted an invitation to visit President Woodrow Wilson at the White House. Wilson was bedridden with illness at the time, so a “bemedalled staff of admirals and generals” was dispatched to greet the Prince when he first stepped onto American soil at Rouses Point.
On November 10, 1919, Edward, Prince of Wales, arrived at the train station. Awaiting him were Secretary of State Lansing, Major General John Biddle of the US Army, Rear Admiral Albert T. Niblick of the US Navy, and Major General Charleston of the British army.
The band of Plattsburgh’s 63rd US Infantry was on hand to play the British and American national anthems. A group of young ladies held an unusual canopy (the flags of both countries sewn together) while Prince Edward strolled beneath it, shaking the hand of each girl.
Augmented by a contingent of several hundred from Plattsburgh, the throng, estimated at around 2,000, offered a gracious welcome to the future king, whose friendly, pleasant demeanor endeared him to the crowd.
(Years later, Edward made his lasting mark on royal history. After ruling as king for less than a year, he famously chose to abdicate the throne in order to marry a commoner, Wallis Simpson.)
Another royal visit to Rouses Point twenty years later lacked the details of Edward’s sojourn, though it was considered a great honor for the private rail car of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to pass through any village.
In 1939, Rouses Point was featured in articles from coast to coast as the place where “the first reigning monarchs ever to visit the United States and Canada” departed from American soil.
Security for the trip was at the highest level ever seen in the North Country. D&H Railroad Police, FBI agents, NYS Police Troop B officers, and the entire 26th Infantry from Plattsburgh handled an important assignment: “… practically every station, crossing, culvert, underpass, and overpass will be patrolled for hours before the royal train passes through this section.”
Separately, a massive crew was charged with ensuring against any equipment failures: “… every inch of the roadbed from Troy to the Canadian boundary at Rouses Point will be patrolled by section men and other railroad employees just ahead of the train to make certain there are no broken rails or obstructions on the track.”
The royal tour of Canada received worldwide media coverage, but the US excursion, described as “a private diplomatic mission” related to impending hostilities in Europe, was more low-key. Small crowds gathered at northern New York rail stations to watch the royal train pass by on the trip’s farewell leg.
Traveling north along Lake Champlain’s shores, the train bearing the King and Queen reached the Rouses Point station at 5 a.m. on Monday, June 12, their last stop in America. A number of Canadian Mounties, having stayed overnight at Rouses Point’s Holland Hotel, assumed security duties at the border crossing. Within about fifteen minutes, the royal couple was on their way to Halifax, where they would sail back to England.
Interesting visitors are just a small part of the village’s story, which spans many and diverse subjects: the discovery of the Lake by Samuel de Champlain; various conflicts, including the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Lower Canada Rebellion, and the Fenian struggle during the Civil War; the stories of Fort Blunder and Fort Montgomery; a lengthy border dispute with England; smuggling of just about every commodity imaginable; the wild times of rum-running during Prohibition; and more.
Rouses Point is one of New York State’s historical treasures.
Photo Top: Edward, Prince of Wales, 1919.
Photo Middle: Gene Tunney headline.
Photo Bottom: Headlines touted the royals’ departure point from the United States.
Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
As Brian Mann recently reported on North Country Public Radio, Adirondack Park Agency (APA) commissioners recently toured the Adirondack Club and Resort (ACR) site. In addition, parties to the hearing have less than a week to make any final reply to the closing statements or legal briefs. In November, Adirondack Club and Resort’s public hearing record will close, and be delivered to APA. This winter, the commissioners will have to render a decision on the application based on that record, and only upon that record. Eight years of pre-hearing review and debate will reach some kind of conclusion. For those unfamiliar, ACR is a resort proposal comprised of 719 dwellings in 14 separate areas proposed to sprawl across 6200 acres a few miles southeast of Tupper Lake Village, on the slopes of Mount Morris above Tupper Lake and Lake Simond, and just west of Follensby Pond. The subdivisions are proposed for 4800 acres of lands classified by the APA as Resource Management (the most protective land use area under the APA) and 1200 acres of lands classified as Moderate Intensity Use, with a few hundred acres classified as Low Intensity Use. This is the largest second home development proposal to come to the APA since the mid-1970s.
In future posts, I may focus more on the ACR hearing record, but for now I write about several personal impressions, as well as myths about the hearing and the APA law.
Impression 1: All of us involved in this hearing had the privilege of appearing before a truly competent, unbiased, helpful law judge in control of the proceedings, Daniel O’Connell of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s Office of Hearings and Mediation Services. For newcomers to a full-blown adjudicatory hearing, Judge O’Connell regularly coached and talked parties not represented by lawyers through our frequently awkward efforts to cross-examine witnesses. Sometimes, he suggested how we could reword our questions to avoid objection. He was assiduous about maintaining the record and exhibits, reasonable about the hearing schedule, insisted upon decorum at all times, patiently listened to all motions and explained his rulings. Most significantly, he gave all parties an equally liberal opportunity to present evidence, admitting into evidence many items that opposing lawyers argued should not be in his effort to assure the APA commissioners with as full a record as possible.
Impression 2: My colleague Dan Plumley and I have watched the APA closely since 1987, and observed past agency staff developing a hearing record. Therefore, we were regularly surprised – and occasionally shocked – by the premature lengths agency hearing staff went in this hearing to argue that various draft conditions on a permit would mitigate demonstrated or potential adverse impacts of the ACR. One day early in the hearing, the agency hearing staff member seemed less interested in what a witness had to say about actual or potential visual impacts of the subdivisions, and more interested in how draft staff conditions had already addressed the problems. How could this staff person know to propose a solid mitigation measure if he wasn’t completely listening to the witness? Wasn’t developing the hearing record more important than presenting draft conditions to a permit so early in the proceeding before the evidence was presented? Isn’t the agency by law and regulation supposed to avoid and minimize impacts before it simply accepts them and attempts to mitigate the damage? I know that the hearing staff are not offering any recommendation to the commissioners as to whether or not to issue a permit, a permit with conditions, or a denial. I also realize that some of the proposed conditions may constitute effective mitigation. However, hearing staff appeared overly eager to condition a defective application and bend to the project sponsor’s aspirations during the proceeding, and even in their closing brief.
Myth 1: APA balances environmental with economic issues. Some media and project proponents portray the 1973 APA Land Use Plan as a balance between resource protection and economic benefits. It wasn’t, and it isn’t. The law’s section 809 states that the agency, in rendering a determination, must find that a given project “would not have an undue adverse impact upon the natural, scenic, aesthetic, ecological, wildlife, historic, recreational or open space resources of the park, or upon the ability of the public to provide supporting facilities and services made necessary by the project, taking into account the commercial, industrial, residential, recreational or other benefits that might be derived from the project.”
There is a vast difference between taking potential benefits into account, and a legal obligation to balance two very different missions. APA’s is an environmental mission, not a balancing act. The courts have ruled this way for decades. In fact, in Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks v. Town Board of Tupper Lake (3d Dept., 2009), the appellate court wrote that in contrast with the State Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQRA, “the APA…is not charged with such a balancing of goals and concerns but, rather, is required to ensure that certain projects ‘would not have an undue adverse impact”, etc. “Clearly by placing environmental concerns above all others, the APA’s mandate is more protective of the environment than that embodied within SEQRA.”
Myth 2: The decision by the APA in late 2006 to deem Mr. Foxman’s application complete somehow legitimizes all of the application’s data and information. The applicant argued this all the time during and long before the hearing. It is wrong. The application is a statement about goals, desires, and aspirations. It is an allegation, nothing more or less. The hearing is intended to subject those assertions and allegations to expert scrutiny and the rules of evidence. Those rules say that an applicant must present experts whose testimony is competent, material and relevant. The project sponsor had better come up with experts who can competently and materially defend the allegations in the application, or he or she fails to meet their burden of proof, which leads me to my 3rd myth.
Myth 3: Since Mr. Foxman’s application was deemed complete, and because his hearing lawyer was schooled in the law (he actually was the APA Executive Director at one time), the burden of proof is on other parties to show how the application may fail to meet the statutory and regulatory requirements of the APA. Wrong. The burden of proof is squarely on the applicant. “The burden shall be on the project sponsor to present testimony concerning the matters alleged in the application (emphasis mine)” (Section 580 of APA Regulations). Mr. Ulasewicz tried to switch that burden many times during the hearing, often attempting unsuccessfully to intimidate witnesses about their knowledge of APA law and regulation. “Has so and so expert read the Act?” he would ask. “If he had, he would know that residential development is an allowed use of Resource Management,”etc. Adirondack Wild’s expert, who was a conservation biologist, pointed out that he was not retained to debate whether the Act allows development, but to present evidence about how and where the location, scope and intensity of that development could impact sensitive natural resources.
To go one step further, even an impartial observer – and I readily admit to not being one – would have noticed how poorly Mr. Foxman’s team met its burden of proof about the alleged tremendous economic benefits of the ACR, its alleged vast sales and tax potential, and its alleged immaterial burdens on the community. ACR’s so-called expert witnesses in these arenas often were unfamiliar with the application, or where the data in it came from, or could not disclose material and relevant sources to back up their arguments. I may return to the hearing record in future posts.
Photos: Above, outlook from summit of Mt. Morris, Cranberry Pond and Lake Simond in distance; Below, scene from the hearing in Ray Brook, Judge O’Connell at center.
What follows is a guest essay from the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership (AFPEP).
Late autumn can be a great time to recreate in the Adirondacks. Leaves have fallen from the trees providing more scenic views, there are a lot fewer people on the trails and waters and there are no insects! However, variable weather and trail conditions and shorter days require that you be prepared to deal with a variety of circumstances. Days may be sunny, with temperatures above freezing or you may experience rain, freezing rain, sleet, or snow and temperatures well below freezing. Sometimes you can experience all of these weather conditions on the same day or even within a short period of time, particularly if you are hiking into higher elevations.
Darkness comes early and the temperatures drop quickly. Trails will likely have ice in the morning but may be muddy in afternoon. Water temperatures are cold and ice begins forming on the shores of ponds and in the backwaters of rivers.
Mountain tops and high elevations will have snow and ice, and snowstorms may blanket all of the Adirondacks at any time. Hypothermia is a real danger at this time.
Many people in the Adirondacks stay inside at this time. Either waiting for the enough snow so they can ski, snowshoe or snowmobile, or waiting for spring. However, if you are properly prepared you can still enjoy the outdoors.
Whether you are hunting, hiking, camping, paddling or boating, be prepared for the wide variety of conditions you may encounter:
* Check the weather forecast and trail conditions during the days before and just before setting off into the woods (www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7865.html);
* Wear good quality waterproof hiking shoes or boots, with cold weather hiking socks;
* Wear layers of synthetic, fleece or wool (not cotton) clothing;
* Pack and/or wear water proof outer wear and fleece or wool hat and gloves or mittens;
* Pack additional synthetic, fleece or wool clothing & socks – take off and put on layers of clothing to regulate body heat;
* Carry plenty of water (2 liters/person), high energy foods and any needed medications;
* Carry crampons, snowshoes, and/or skis and use when appropriate;
* Carry a flashlight or headlamp and fresh extra batteries;
* Pack an ensolite pad and bivy sack or space blanket; and
* If you are on the water, wear an approved personal flotation device (PFD) – it is required by law for anyone on a boat less than 21 feet in length between November 1 and May 1
As always on any backcountry trip:
* Know your physical abilities and the terrain you will be hiking and plan your trips accordingly;
* Carry and use a map and compass, even if you have a GPS;
* Let someone know where you will be going and when you expect to return; and
* Contact DEC Forest Rangers at 518/891-0235 to report lost or injured hikers
It is also important to remember to be prepared to turn back if conditions worsen, to prevent hiking in the dark or if someone in your group is weary, cold, sick, injured or otherwise distressed. The mountain or the water will always be there to come back to another day.
Proper preparedness and good judgment will ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable trip, even during this fickle and unpredictable season.
This guest essay was contributed by the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership, a coalition of Adirondack organizations building on the Leave No Trace philosophy. Their goal is to provide public education about the Forest Preserve and Conservation Easements with an emphasis on how to safely enjoy, share, and protect these unique lands. To learn more about AFPEP visit www.adirondackoutdoors.org.
The 23rd annual Black Velvet Art Party will take place on Saturday, November 5th, 2011, 8 pm to midnight at Roaring Brook Ranch in Lake George. The event is a celebration of black velvet art. Artists donate new, original works of art for the party’s silent auction. This funky formal features awards for original black velvet art and attire, live music, dancing, games, and more. All proceeds from the event support the Lake George Courthouse Gallery exhibition series. This year’s theme is “BLING!”
Call for artists: One of the special features of the event is the silent auction of “black velvet art” – created and donated by local artists, as well as past exhibiting artists of the Courthouse Gallery. The idea of “black velvet art” is wide open to artistic interpretation, and there are always surprises. For more info email [email protected], or call 518-668-2616. The Lake George Arts Project was established in 1977 to offer comprehensive programs in the arts. Its mission is to provide exposure and income opportunities to professional and emerging artists, and to provide quality arts programming for the residents and visitors of the Lake George region.
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