Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Abandoned Trails in the Adirondacks

My first backpacking trip was on an abandoned trail.

It was around 1981 or so, and my uncle Evan Bergen of Grafton was keen to take his girlfriend and me on a two-day trip in late November to Cliff Mountain, one of the trail-less high peaks. And he wanted to do it on a trail that had been closed – a route that was originally called the East River Trail.

At the time, I hadn’t realized that my first attempt at backpacking would involve a wet snowstorm, a low of zero degrees, crossing bridge-less rivers on boulders glazed in ice or a snow-covered fallen log, bushwhacking skills and no actual view. Hey, what did I know of backpacking? Included in my external-frame backpack were a full box of raisins and a pair of binoculars – I had not yet realized how heavy a backpack gets after a half-day of walking. It was an Experience.

Traveling along part of that route several weeks ago – as reported here – got me thinking about that old trail. Why was it closed? Did anybody miss it?

So I called Tony Goodwin, executive director of the Adirondack Trail Improvement Society, to see what he knew about it.

Turns out the trail was once the primary southern route into the High Peaks. It followed an old road, made of logs, built to accommodate winter logging sleds. The road was built around the 1920s, about the time that the state acquired much of the land from the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (which once owned 40,000 acres and some of the state’s highest peaks).

When hiking became popular, this was the main hiking trail in. Later, the ghost town of Upper Works became the main southern route in via the Calamity Brook Trail, and the longer East River Trail fell into disuse. Goodwin says the trail was closed around 1980, not long before I hiked it.

“There were long stretches of sidehill bridging and corduroy,” he said. “And those were finally collapsing. The DEC didn’t feel there was any reason to restore those bridges or cut lengthy reroutes around them.”

I can certainly speak to the corduroy. On the second day of our hike to Cliff – we made it far as the height of land before the short day forced us to turn around – I was constantly slipping on the trail. Not because I was becoming hypothermic, as my uncle suspected, but because my rubber “Micky Mouse” Army surplus boots kept slipping over the snow-covered logs of the old roadbed.

My 1962 copy of the ADK’s Guide to Adirondack Trails: High Peak Region, describes this trail in the dry prose of the day. The trail at the time departed from Sanford Lake, closer to the Tahawus Mine, and not at the present-day parking lot near the old blast furnace. “The footing is quite treacherous, especially in wet weather, due to slanting, slippery corduroys,” the book even warns (a warning that, apparently, my uncle chose to ignore).

Reading about it today, I’m amazed to see that what took us a day and a half of walking was only eight miles (but there was those slippery rocks and logs, and Lynn did fall into a stream at one point, and then there were those damn raisins, which I didn’t even eat, and those binoculars, which I didn’t even use …).

It also got me wondering about other lost trails. Goodwin spoke of a few in the High Peaks, including some ski trails around Whiteface built for the 1932 Olympics, and a now-defunct route to Dix near the current trail from Route 73. There’s also the trail from Mt. Van Hoevenberg to South Meadow, now closed due to blowdown and a bridge that was washed away, but Goodwin says efforts may soon be underway to reopen it.

Elsewhere in the park there are other ghosts of trails. A 1930s-era map from the North Creek area shows dozens of miles of ski trails used by those who took the Ski Train up from Schenectady, now either part of Gore Mountain Ski Area or lost to roads or overgrowth (several routes still exist that follow the historic routes — one even goes by a 1930s shed for a rescue toboggan).

Further to the south, a route to the top of tiny Cathead Mountain near Northville was lost due to a dispute over private land access.

Do readers know of other abandoned trails? Should the state bring some of them back?

Illustration: USGS Map showing Cliff Mountain.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Adk Center for Writing Spolights ‘Local Connections’

The Adirondack Center for Writing at Paul Smith’s College has launched “The ACW Connection Series,” a monthly profile of a North Country writer whose career has been influenced in some way by ACW. The series began by featuring Kate Messner, author of three children’s novels (and five more on the way). Messner met an agent through an ACW workshop in Lake Placid, and got a helpful critique of her manuscript which was later published through North Country Books, and went on to win an ACW Literary Award. Messmer signed with an agent from the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, the same agency from which she’d received the critique in Lake Placid that got her rolling. This month’s featured writer is regular Almanack reader and occasional commenter Brian Mann, who offers his own story of making connections through ACW.

According to the Mann’s ACW profile, he “came to the Adirondacks after working as a public radio journalist in Alaska and Missouri. He founded the Adirondack news bureau for North Country Public Radio and has won three national Edward R. Murrow Awards. His work appears regularly on National Public Radio. His 2006 book, Welcome to the Homeland, was widely reviewed. Mann is Adirondack bureau chief for North Country Public Radio and has built a thriving business as a freelance writer and producer. He was a recent panelist at an ACW Journalism Conference at the Blue Mountain Center, which was a great success, where he spoke about nuts and bolts issues of multiple sales, quality control, contract arrangements, and deadline management. He also took part in a blogging panel discussion at the conference, as he actively maintains the blog titled The In Box.”

Those with an ACW “Connection” that they would like to share, about how the Adirondack Center for Writing has had an impact on their career, should contact ACW at 518-327-6278 or acwevents@gmail.com.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Biathlon

With the amount of local talent being sent to the Vancouver Olympics this weekend, I feel it is only fair to make sure my children get as much Olympic exposure as possible. Since Lake Placid has generously hosted the Olympics twice, it is no hardship for anyone entering the Park to get on their Olympic Spirit.

For those wishing to achieve a bit of instant gratification, on February 12-13 the Lake Placid Biathlon Club with the Saratoga, Syracuse, and Western NY Biathlon Clubs is hosting the North American Championship Cup 5 (NorAM) in cooperation with the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA).

According to Rick Costanza, President for the Lake Placid Biathlon Club, there will be about 50-75 competitors this weekend in a variety of events.

The NorAM’s will be a good introduction to the sport and observers are encouraged. Costanza advises observers to pull into the Bobsled Parking lot of the Olympic Sports Complex and it is just a short walk to the Mt. Van Hoevenberg Biathlon Range. Races will begin at 10:00 a.m. The 1st day (Feb 12) is a Sprint (10K) and a Pursuit format on the 13th.

“Most people like to watch the shooting. There is a nice sloping hill where people can observe the shooting range,” Costanza says. “One thing we drill into the kids is safety. Biathlon is challenging. The skiing is aggressive and then you have to switch gears to marksmanship. The shooting is more Zen. This sport is one of the best uses of firearms we have. It teaches kids a lot of good habits in a strict environment.”

For those that wish to observe the sport from the comfort of their own home, Lowell Bailey and Haley Johnson of Lake Placid and Tim Burke of Paul Smiths are part of the US Biathlon National Team and 2010 US Olympic Team. These local competitors are blogging and writing about their Olympic experiences. It is certainly an amazing opportunity for any young adult or child to realize that dreams can come true.

The Vancouver Olympic Biathlon roster will consist of the following: Men’s 7.5K Relay, the Women’s 6K Relay, Men’s 10K Sprint, Women’s 7.5K Sprint, Men’s 12.5K Pursuit, Women’s 10K Pursuit, Men’s 15K Mass Start, Women’s 12.5K Mass Start, Men’s 20K Individual, and the Women’s 15K Individual.

According to the Olympic Biathlon Organization, Biathlon is said to be of Greek origin meaning “two contests” combining the endurance of long distance skiing and control of sharp shooting.

It originated with hunters as a means of providing food during long skiing expeditions. Gradually the sport became an alternative means of military training for Scandinavian border patrol. The first competition took place in Norway around 1776. Since then it has become the modern day demonstration sport of cross-country skiing and precision target shooting.

A biathlon is divided into both standing and prone target shooting positions. Each participant must ski a specific distance, shoot from the shooting lanes and then continue skiing. Throughout all, the athlete is required to carry a rifle in a sling. Typically five targets are required during each stop. 100% accuracy is required. Either a time penalty or penalty loop is given for each target missed.

The Sprint is a timed event skied over three laps with the athlete shooting twice at any shooting lane, once prone and once standing for a total of 10 shots. In the Pursuit the starts are staggered and based on a previous race so the individual crossing the finish line first wins. The Relay consists four athletes skiing one leg of three laps with two shooting rounds. The Individual is another timed event usually skied over five laps with the athlete shooting four times with penalties given for each missed target.

If just observing Biathlon isn’t enough, ORDA offers individuals the opportunity to become a biathlete at the Olympic Sports Complex with a freestyle skiing lesson and (under strict supervision) take a shot (I couldn’t let that pass) at the target range. This particular exercise is available most Saturdays and holiday weeks at a cost of $33.00.

photo used with permission from Marque Moffett.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Saranac Lake Winter Carnival: Art. Play. Love.

The members of the Adirondack Artists Guild at 52 Main Street, Saranac Lake, and other artists who submitted work for a carnival-themed exhibit invite everybody to an opening reception 5–7 p.m. Friday February 12.

In the meantime Saranac Lake Winter Carnival rolls on all week, with music and sporting events, and the ice palace is open to visitors; you can see a schedule here.

But Friday is when things really get going. After the art show, head across the street to the Harrietstown Hall for the 7:30 p.m. Rotary Club Variety Show (you’re advised to buy tickets in advance; it’s a popular event), a truly entertaining display of small town talent and humor. It will be a feat if the carnival court tops last year’s dance routine. Then you can re-cross Main Street to catch Jatoba and Hot Day at the Zoo at the Waterhole (Almanack music contributor Shamim Allen will have details on the music at 3 p.m. Thursday).

Saturday the 13th is the big day, with a pancake breakfast, rugby in the snow, chili lunch at the town hall, a Paul Smith’s College woodsmanship exhibition, the library book sale, a high-school band concert, etc. The highlight, as always, is the parade, at 1 p.m. It will be televised on local cable Channel 2 if you can’t make it downtown.

Carnival ends on Sunday, Valentine’s Day, with x-c ski races, volleyball, softball, a baroque concert, a kiddie parade, bloody Marys. Every year photographer Mark Kurtz compiles hundreds of photographs he has taken during the week into a closing-night slide show at the ice palace, and a crowd gathers to see if their faces get on the screen. This year the slide show will be at 7:30 p.m., followed by closing fireworks over the palace at 8 p.m. If you’d like a preview, selected photographs are online, here.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Protect the Adirondacks!: Name, Imperative or Annoying?

We had no comment when the newly merged Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks announced that they’d henceforth be known as Protect the Adirondacks! (Editor’s note: the exclamation point is part of the name, not a reflection of how we feel about the name. Maybe we should have put a period after it, I really don’t know.)

We figured—like Panic at the Disco, the band formerly known as Panic! at the Disco—they’d soon come to regret the alarmist and inconvenient punctuation. Whoever edits Protect the Adirondacks!’s (!) publications and Web site would weary of the excitable midsentence stop/ambiguous sentence-ender and raise a gentle protest at a board meeting. The inconsiderate, unnecessary mark would be quietly dropped and the group would get on with the serious work of protecting the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Adirondack Ski Videos: Avalanche Pass and More

The tour from Adirondak Loj to Avalanche Lake in the High Peaks Wilderness may be the best day trip for intermediate skiers in the Adirondacks. Both the scenery and skiing are superb.

The scenic highlight is Avalanche Lake, a sliver of frozen water walled in by the cliffs on Mount Colden and Avalanche Mountain. This iconic Adirondack landscape is stunning in any season, but skiing across the ice offers a perspective impossible to obtain in summer.

The skiing highlight is a half-mile downhill on the return from Avalanche Pass on one of the few trails in the High Peaks designed for skiing.

How hard is the descent? That’s a question asked by probably every skier contemplating the trip for the first time. Of course, the answer depends on conditions, but you can get some idea of what’s involved by watching a video I made this past weekend. I strapped a point-and-shoot camera to my chest before making the descent.

Note: I pretty much pointed my skis straight down the trail. Others may prefer to check their speed by making more turns or stemming their skis.

Mine isn’t the only YouTube video on Adirondack backcountry skiing. Cloudsplitter Mountain Guides has posted two lengthy clips, with music. One was taken on the Whale’s Tail and Wright Peak ski trails during the 2008 Adirondack Backcountry Ski Festival. The other is from the Angel Slides on Wright Peak. Their links follow.

Backcountry Ski Festival

Angel Slides

You also might be interested in another video I posted last week: a five-minute clip of my descent from McKenzie Pass on the Jackrabbit Trail. Again, I had the camera strapped to my chest.

You can find a number shorter clips, usually less than a minute, by searching for “Adirondack ski” on YouTube.

Incidentally, I took several short clips during my ski to Avalanche Lake. I plan to stitch them together in a video montage. If and when I do, I’ll let you know.

For more articles on skiing and other outdoor adventure, visit the Adirondack Explorer website.

Photo by Phil Brown: Looking toward Avalanche Pass from Marcy Dam.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Cross-Country: The 28th Annual Lake Placid Loppet

This past Saturday cross-country skiers enjoyed the 28th Annual Lake Placid Loppet at the Olympic Sports Complex Cross-Country Ski Center. Novice and expert skiers alike skied the same track as the 1980 Olympic athletes.

So what is a loppet? Basically, it refers to a long-distance cross country ski race in which participants mass-start and skate various marathon distances. Like most marathons, a lot of food is consumed during the event, and a party, banquet and awards ceremony is held after the races. The term “loppet” originated in Scandinavia, where cross country races are an important part of the culture. For example, approximately 15,000 people participate in the Mora Vasaloppet in Sweden and nearly 2 million Swedes watch it on television. The sport originated as a mode of transportation and became a national pastime. » Continue Reading.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Lake George: Jefferson, Madison, and Prince Taylor

Lake George resident and regular Almanack reader Enid Mastrianni has offered for Black History Month this enlightening piece on a trip by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Jefferson’s enslaved servant James Hemings, to Lake George and their reactions to Prince Taylor, a free black man living just south of Ticonderoga:

Many a booster of the Adirondacks has cited the famous Thomas Jefferson quote, “Lake George is without comparison, the most beautiful water I ever saw; formed by a contour of mountains into a basin… finely interspersed with islands, its water limpid as crystal, and the mountain sides covered with rich groves… down to the water-edge: here and there precipices of rock to checker the scene and save it from monotony.” » Continue Reading.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

APA to Meet This Week:Keene Cell Tower, Luzerne Milfoil, Wilmington Hotel, DOT Signage

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will meet on Thursday February 11 and Friday February 12, 2010 at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook. The APA board will be considering a 129-foot cell tower proposed for Keene Valley, the use the herbicide Triclopyr to control Eurasian milfoil in Lake Luzerne, the Whiteface Overlook hotel project in Wilmington, and a presentation by NYS DOT Region 2 Director Michael Shamma on Adirondack Park Signage. There will be informational presentations, though no action, on the Jay Mountain Wilderness Area and the Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area Unit Management Plans, and also on the economic benefits of mountain biking.

The two-day meeting will be webcast live on the Agency’s website at http://www.apa.state.ny.us. Materials for the meeting can be found at http://www.apa.state.ny.us/Mailing/2010/02/index.htm.

Here is the text of the agency’s meeting announcement:

The Full Agency will convene on Thursday morning at 9:00 for the Executive Director’s report. This month Terry Martino will highlight 2009 agency activities and accomplishments.

At 10:00 a.m., the Regulatory Programs Committee will consider a Verizon Wireless application for construction of a telecommunication tower. The tower would be located behind the Neighborhood House on the east side of NYS Route 73 (Main Street, Keene Valley), in the Town of Keene, Essex County. The proposed 129 foot tower would be designed as a simulated white pine tree.

The committee meeting will also deliberate an application submitted by the Town of Lake Luzerne to use the herbicide Triclopyr (Renovate® OTF) to control Eurasian watermilfoil in Lake Luzerne. The town proposes to apply 1560 pounds of the granular formulation of Renovate to an 11 acre area of Lake Luzerne known as the “South End.” The town wants to manage moderate to dense beds of milfoil growth in order to improve the ecological, recreational, and aesthetic values of Lake Luzerne.

The committee will also consider the Whiteface Overlook proposal in the Town of Wilmington, Essex County. This project involves conversion of a pre-existing resort hotel structure into 3 new structures each containing four, 3-bedroom dwelling units. The project site is located adjacent to NYS Route 86 across the highway from Whiteface Mountain.

At 1:00, the State Land Committee will hear a statewide fire tower study presentation from DEC staff. The committee will also receive informational presentations on the proposed Jay Mountain Wilderness Area Unit Management Plan and the Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area Unit Management Plan. All presentations are informational and the committee will take no action on these matters this month.

At 3:00, the Park Ecology Committee will be provided an overview from Dr. Michale Glennon of the Wildlife Conservation Society Adirondack Communities and Conservation Program on Exurban development. Agency staff will also demonstrate GIS tools used when reviewing permit applications which include activities that could potentially result in impacts to open space resources.

At 4:00, the Full Agency will convene to take action as necessary and conclude the Thursday session with committee reports, public and member comment.

On Friday, February 12 at 9:00 a.m., the Economic Affairs committee will come to order for a presentation from Tim Tierney, Executive Director of Kingdom Trails Association of East Burke, Vermont. Mr. Tierney will provide a unique perspective on economic development opportunities related to mountain biking. The Kingdom Trails Association manages an extensive multi-use trail system for summer and winter recreation which generates economy benefits for the East Burke area of Vermont.

The February meeting will conclude at 10:00 with a presentation from NYS DOT Region 2 Director Michael Shamma on Adirondack Park Signage.

Meeting materials are available for download from the Agency’s website at:

http://www.apa.state.ny.us/Mailing/2010/02/index.htm

The next agency meeting is March 11-12, 2010 at the Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters.

April Agency Meeting: April 15-16 2010 at the Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Lake Placid to Celebrate 1980 Games With Events

If you can’t make to the Olympic Games in Vancouver, Lake Placid will be hosting a 30th anniversary celebration of the 1980 XIII Olympic Winter Games February 12th to 28th. The event will feature a competition in which families will go head to head in alpine skiing/snowboarding, biathlon target shooting, bobsled, curling, hockey skills, and speedskating. The inaugural Gold Medal Games Family Edition will also feature a torch run, opening ceremonies, and medals and awards. Sporting events will be held in the same venues that were used during the 1980 winter games when the U.S. hockey team stunned the world winning by beating the Soviet Union and Eric Heiden won five Olympic speedskating gold medals.

“That was an incredible moment in history, not only for Lake Placid, but for the entire country,” noted Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) president/CEO Ted Blazer. “Those Games will forever be remembered for overcoming the impossible, whether, it’s a small Upstate New York village hosting the world’s largest sporting event, or the U.S. hockey team defeating the heavily favored former-Soviet Union on their way to gold. And who can forget what Eric accomplished in speedskating or what Phil Mahre did in the alpine events. Moments and memories like these only come around once in a lifetime.”

Here is more from the press release announcing the events:

The 1980 torch will be re-lit on Saturday, Feb. 13. On Sunday, Feb. 14, visitors can embrace the greatest moment in American sports history with an opportunity to watch Disney’s “Miracle” in the 1980 Olympic arena, the same arena where the U.S. Olympic hockey team stunned the former-Soviet Union before beating Finland on their way to the gold medal. The movie, starring Kurt Russell as the legendary U.S. team coach Herb Brooks, begins at 8:30 p.m., preceded by the debut of “Small Town, Big Dreams,” at 7 p.m. Other Olympic themed movies will be shown throughout the two-week celebration in the Olympic Museum.

Additional activities will include a viewing of the NHL’s Stanley Cup, also in the Olympic Museum, Sunday, Feb. 14, toboggan races, fireworks and family style celebrations on Mirror Lake.

For more information on the 30th Anniversary of the Lake Placid Olympic Winter Games, visit www.whitefacelakeplacid.com/family.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

APA Has Approved 188 Telecomm Permits

If there was any doubt about where the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) stands on cell towers, the following press release, presented here in it’s entirety, should clear it up:

On January 29, 2010 the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) hosted a meeting on telecommunication projects which was attended by Senator Betty Little, Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, Franklin County officials, Local Government Review Board Executive Director, Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T representatives. Agency staff were in attendance and provided an overview of the Agency’s Towers Policy and the 31 telecommunication projects approved in 2009 resulting in a total of 116 telecommunication structures in the Adirondack Park through a total of 188 permits. The meeting focused on ways to refine the permitting process, reduce cost, extend coverage and promote coordination between the cellular carriers.

During the meeting participants expressed strong support for continued improvement in overall cellular coverage throughout the Adirondack Park to benefit local residents, businesses and tourists. There was discussion about the need for the agency to consider fewer taller towers to promote co-location. Officials emphasized co-location potential is minimized when permitted towers just peek above the tree line. Discussion also focused on considering different conditions where not readily discernible and sometimes visible could build more flexibility into the agency’s review process.

There was encouragement for cellular carriers to coordinate planning efforts and submit joint applications. Industry representatives indicated they must abide by FCC regulations which limit the extent they can collaborate when planning their networks. Carriers said they do not submit joint applications or design their overall network based on the possibility of co-location but can design individual towers to accommodate future co-locations. They also stated system development is driven by customer base and while co-location is advantageous it is not currently a major part of their business model or revenue sources.

The carriers did acknowledge they realized significant benefits from information provided by agency staff and local officials in reference to the availability of tall structures located throughout the park. Carrier representatives proposed the agency itself consider slightly taller towers to accommodate co-location.

Tower height was also discussed by local government officials regarding differences in coverage areas for the Verizon Paul Smith’s College site. During the initial proposal, Verizon s propagation analysis for a 90 foot tower projected a coverage range of approximately 1.5 to 2 miles and analysis further indicated little change in range for the approved 65 foot tower. However, with the site built and operational, the public is experiencing coverage within approximately a three mile radius of the campus. Verizon officials indicated that a higher customer user volume could occasionally cause a decrease in the coverage area which was noted by local town officials. Agency staff presented a Verizon Wireless coverage map of NYS Route 30 which identified the potential need for three additional towers between Paul Smith s and Duane to ensure coverage along the corridor. It was also noted that topography and specific locations are two important factors in terms of serving population centers and travel corridors.

The meeting included dialogue on possible approval process refinements. Agency staff suggested pre-application meetings earlier in the process to avoid extra costs associated with visual analysis and site engineering details. Staff also suggested carriers utilize the agency’s tall structure GIS database to help design networks. In addition, an interesting approach to siting multiple towers on sites where taller towers would not be appropriate was suggested. There was discussion about the potential to amend the co-location General Permit to review the proposal for a new tower on an existing site as a horizontal co-location. This could result in significant time and cost savings.

The discussion addressed how telecommunications services provide a safety network for visitors, residents and businesses. It was acknowledged that additional tower development throughout the park will build services that result in decreased gaps in coverage. Chairman Stiles stated that the agency’s administration of the Towers Policy has matured and the agency will consider the various recommendations shared. How do we refine the process to serve the public good? he asked.

APA APPROVED 31 CELLULAR PROJECTS IN 2009

Staff provided an overview detailing the continued improvement in cellular coverage inside the park. In 2009, the APA approved 31 permits/amendments for cellular projects. This included 14 new towers, 14 co-location projects, 1 replacement and 2 replacement/co-location permits. Presently there are 11 cellular tower applications under review. To date the agency has issued 188 telecommunication permits resulting in the construction of 116 structures.

2009 Cellular Permit Activity By Cellular Carrier

8 Verizon Wireless Permits:

5 New Towers
2 Co-locations
1 Replacement

18 T-Mobile Permits:

6 New Towers
11 Co-locations
1 Replacement & Co-location

1 AT&T Permit:

1 Co-location

Additionally, park-wide coverage was reviewed in relation to the following eleven applications that are pending approval:

11 Cellular Applications Pending Approval:

1 in Town of Dresden (behind Hulett’s Landing fire station)
1 in Town of Keene (near Neighborhood House)
1 in Town of Fine (NYS Route 3)
1 in Town of Minerva (NYS Route 28 & Morse Memorial Hwy)
1 in Town of Chesterfield (Virginia Drive)
1 in Town of Clifton (NYS Route 3, Cranberry Lake)
1 in Town of Chester (NYS Route 9, Word of Life)
1 in Town of Wilmington (NY Route 86)
1 in Town of Queensbury (West Mountain Road)
1 in Town of Duane (Co. Rt. 26, fire department)
1 in Town of Westport (Boyle Road)

Coverage along travel corridors and communities continues to improve as cellular companies build approved projects.

Staff also noted policy implementation through the permit process has withstood legal challenges which ensures approved projects move forward in a timely fashion for telecommunication carriers. The Agency’s Towers Policy, revised in February of 2002, discourages mountaintop towers and promotes the co-location of facilities on existing structures. The policy is intended to protect the Adirondack Park’s aesthetic and open space resources by describing how telecommunication tower sites achieve substantial invisibility. The natural scenic character of the Adirondack Park is the foundation of the quality of life and economy of the region, long recognized as a uniquely special and valuable State and National treasure.

The policy also recognizes the importance for telecommunications and other technologies to support the needs of local residents, the visiting public and the Park’s economic sector. The policy includes guidance for telecommunication companies to ensure successful implementation of projects.

Guidance includes: avoiding locating facilities on mountaintops and ridge lines; concealing any structure by careful siting, using a topographic or vegetative foreground or backdrop; minimizing structure height and bulk; using color to blend with surroundings; and using existing buildings to locate facilities whenever possible.

The mission of the Adirondack Park Agency is to protect the public and private resources of the Adirondack Park through the exercise of the powers and duties of the Agency as provided by law. With its headquarters located in Ray Brook, the Agency also operates two Visitor Interpretive Centers, in Newcomb and Paul Smiths. For more information, call the APA at (518) 891-4050 or visit www.apa.state.ny.us.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Great Backyard Bird Count – Coming Soon to a Feeder Near You

One of the great family-friendly activities of the winter will soon be upon us: the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), which this year runs from Friday, 12 February, to Monday, 15 February. The brain child of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, this four-day long bird watching event is one of the easiest citizen science projects out there. Anyone, regardless of age or birding ability, can participate.

Citizen science programs have a long history at the Lab of Ornithology. Back in the mid-‘90s, I signed on to do my part for their wood thrush and golden-winged warbler projects. Those projects were quite involved, requiring participants to get aerial photographs of their research areas, determine acreage of irregularly shaped plots, measure the distance to the nearest water and roads…and this was all before setting out to look for signs of the actual birds.

The GBBC, on the other hand, is very easy and user-friendly. All you have to do is look for birds in your backyard. You can do this for as little as fifteen minutes, or for as long as your interest holds. You can do it for one day of the weekend, or record observations for all four days. You can watch for birds at each of your bird feeding stations (do you have more than one?), or you can choose to observe the visitors to just one tree or shrub. As for me, I will probably spend some time watching each of my stations (I have two, with a total of about twelve feeders), as well as the feeders at work.

Maybe you are unsure about participating because you don’t know a black-capped chickadee from a black-backed woodpecker. Not to worry. You can go on-line to www.birsource.org/gbbc/ and check out their simple bird ID pages. You can also print out a checklist for the most common birds in your region, which will help narrow down your options. For example, it is highly unlikely that a flock of northern parulas will be buzzing through any Adirondack backyard in February, so you won’t have to worry about telling one warbler from another.

One of the important aspects of your observations is recording the numbers of each species you see. This can be tricky, so the Lab has put together a really simple rule to help you out. Let’s say you decide to record the birds you see between 10:00 and 10:30 AM. You see two goldfinches at 10:01. At 10:15 you see twelve. At 10:17 there are 32. By 10:30 they have all flown away. How many goldfinches do you record? Thirty-two. In other words, to eliminate the possibility of counting the same bird(s) more than once, you only report the greatest number you saw at any one time.

Counting large numbers of birds can be a bit of a challenge. Some birders are very good at estimating how many are in a flock; others are not. I read an article once that said that it is easy for humans to eyeball numbers in pairs, threes, and fours. Fives get a bit harder, and anything above five is nearly impossible. So, if you can fix in your mind what five birds look like, then you can guesstimate how many of those fives you see in the flock as it shuffles and flits about. Good luck.

You will want to keep track of your sightings on a piece of paper, and when you are ready, simply go to your computer and pull up the GBBC website (see link above). Open the tab labeled “Submit Your Checklist” and follow the easy directions for reporting your observations. Afterwards, you can “Explore the Results” to see what birds other people found. Are you wondering where all the pine siskins are this year? Here’s a good way to find out. The genuinely curious can check out the results from past years as well.

The website is chock full of all sorts of interesting bird information. There is a whole series of activities just for kids, and there’s even a page dedicated to educators. For those who enjoy looking at really great bird photographs, there’s a gallery of photos taken by past GBBC participants. My favorite is a really funny photo of a very soggy orange-crowned warbler caught in the act of taking a bath.

This year marks the thirteenth anniversary of the GBBC. If you haven’t participated in the past, I hope you will take up the challenge and participate this year. Not only is it a great way to spend time with your family and feathered friends, but it also helps provide a snapshot of where the birds are across North America, a practice that has turned up some interesting trends in population shifts and declines.

And if being a good Samaritan isn’t enough of an incentive to get you to participate, check out the list of prizes the Lab is giving away. There are plush birds that chirp when you squeeze them, assorted feeders (you can never have too many), a bird camera (takes photos for you while you stay toasty warm inside), field guides, and much, much more. So, dust off your field guide, set a comfortable chair by the window, have your beverage-of-choice close at hand, and get ready to count.


Friday, February 5, 2010

This Week’s Adirondack Web Highlights


Friday, February 5, 2010

When Tourists Stay Home, Local Governments Suffer

Last year, for the first time in decades, sales tax revenues in the Lake George region declined in every one of the year’s four quarters. Revenues dropped by as much as 15% over the summer. That’s not only an indication that resorts, restaurants and shops saw less trade in their busiest season than in years past; the drop in revenues left local governments scrambling to fill gaps in their budgets.

According to Warren County Treasurer Frank O’Keefe, 1.5% of the 7% sales tax collected by New York State in the county is distributed to local towns.

And, as O’Keefe explains, “The sales tax is apportioned on the basis of a town’s share of the collective value of the property in the county.”

Lake George, Bolton and Hague represent approximately a third of the value of all property in Warren County, and the lion’s share of sales tax revenues are returned to those towns and to Queensbury, where more than 32% of the assessed value of the county is located.

At the start of 2009, Warren County expected to receive approximately $45 million in sales tax revenues; instead, it received only $42 million, a drop of more than 8%, O’Keefe said.

Newly-elected Town Supervisors in Lake George and Bolton now find themselves with less revenues, and less flexibility, than their predecessors had.

The Town of Bolton received $3.2 million, approximately $333,000 less than it had received the previous year.

“That could have been devastating,” said Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover, who said he had carefully observed the previous administration’s budget making process before he himself took office in January.

“Whenever there’s a drop in sales tax revenues, there’s additional pressure on property taxes,” he said.

While the town’s tax rate did rise by 2.5%, that increase was much less than one that hit residents of Lake George, where municipal taxes rose by 26%.

“The members of the Bolton Town Board were very careful, knowing that sales tax revenues would be impacted by the recession. They knew this was no time for wishful thinking,” said Conover. “The Board went over every expenditure. The result was a good budget that allows the town to operate without reducing existing levels of service.”

Warren County estimates that Bolton’s share of sales tax revenues will rise in 2010, but Conover says the town will continue to follow a prudent course.

“Sales tax revenues may rebound, although not to the historically high levels of the past; but if the economy picks up, it will take some pressure off the property-owners’ taxes,” he said.

Although Bolton will watch its expenses, it will continue to maintain and improve its infrastructure of parks, beaches and public docks, said Conover.

“These are assets that we need for economic development and tourism,” Conover said.

In Lake George, according to Supervisor Frank McCoy, sales tax revenues dropped by 12%, leaving the town with $300,000 less than it had anticipated, said McCoy,

The market for recycled paper and plastic also crashed, costing the town another $100,000 in revenues, said McCoy.

But those losses in revenue were not wholly responsible for the 26% increase in property taxes, McCoy said.

For the past several years, the town had drawn from its reserves rather than raising taxes; by mid-2009, those reserves were all but exhausted.

“From 2004 to 2009, we chipped away at the reserves,” McCoy acknowledged. “Instead of using the reserves, we should have increased taxes incrementally, by 3% a year.”

The increase in property taxes will enable the town to rebuild its reserves, McCoy said.

“We’re on the road to recovery,” said McCoy. “We’ll watch the pennies, we’ll review finances monthly and meet with department heads every quarter to make certain we’re on track, just as any business would.”

No reductions in the town work force are planned, said McCoy.

Any new positions would be part-time posts, he said.

“Last August, when the sales tax revenues dropped, we went into an austerity mode,” said McCoy. “We’re still in an austerity mode.”

For more news from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror

Photo: Newly-elected Bolton Supervisor takes the oath of office with his family at his side.


Friday, February 5, 2010

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories