Saturday, September 12, 2009

Adirondack Sawyers: Our Longhorn Beetle

A couple years ago I went out with a local biologist to listen for whippoorwills as part of a census that was being conducted in the Adirondacks. We were assigned some back roads around Bolton, and we had to drive them after sunset. Several times we would stop, get out of the vehicle, and listen for the tell-tale “whip-poor-will” call.

One of our stops found us surrounded by trees in the middle of nowhere (a real backwoods road). It was dark, and it could’ve been creepy, in that way that only dark, strange woods can be at night. As we stood there listening to the silence, we started to hear a strange sound. It’s hard to describe, but overall it could be likened to a quiet, slow sawing sound – like that of a bowsaw being drawn through wood on short strokes. Fortunately, both of us were prepared, for we both have degrees in forest biology. If we hadn’t, this sound might’ve freaked us out. But thanks to our education and a love of the woods, we were pretty confident that what we heard was the chewing sound of a sawyer beetle.

Sawyer beetles are also known as longhorn beetles, and the most common one in the northeastern United States is the whitespotted sawyer (Monochamus scutellatus). This native beetle, recognized by its very long antennae (longer on males than females) and the white spot “between its shoulder blades” (technically at the top of the elytra, or wing covers), makes its living by chewing the bark on the underside of twigs of the balsam fir, assorted spruces, and white pine. This behavior results in flagging: dead twigs, readily noticeable by their reddish color. To some, this damage is merely cosmetic. In fact, many foresters only consider the insect to be a secondary pest, for it often will turn up in trees that are already dead or dying.

The adult female looks for ideal sites for egg-laying: crevices in the bark of weak or recently killed (or cut) trees. After hatching, the larvae start chewing their way into the tree. The youngest instars hang out beneath the bark, while the older ones make their way into the wood, tunnelling towards the heart of the tree. As pupation approaches, the larva turns a 180 and heads back towards the surface. The opening to the world beyond is blocked up with a plug made of wood chips, behind which the larvae pupates. As an adult it emerges from its woody tomb and goes in search of a mate, the cycle beginning once again.

If you want to avoid sawyer beetles on your property, you need to manage the dead and dying timber. Additionally, if you have cut logs lying around, remove the bark and set them in the sun. This will make them less appealing to females looking for egg-laying sites.

The whitespotted sawyer should not be confused with the Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis), an invasive that is making its way northward, leaving a trail of dead trees in its wake. So far, this beetle has not gotten into the Adirondacks, but that could be only a matter of time. If you find longhorned beetles around your property, learn to identify them; there are only a handful of species in our area and being able to ID them could help save our forests from unwelcome invaders.

By the way, we never did hear any whippoorwills.


Friday, September 11, 2009

APA Protects Lows Lake Wilderness Canoe Route

The APA voted this week to classify Lows Lake as Wilderness. You can read more of the Almanack‘s coverage of Lows Lake here, and the Adirondack Daily Enterprise‘s report here, but the following is a press release issued today by the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK):

The Adirondack Park Agency’s landmark decision today to classify Lows Lake as Wilderness will provide added protection to two important wilderness canoe routes. » Continue Reading.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Weekly Adirondack Blogging Round-Up


Friday, September 11, 2009

2009 Paddle for the Cure Announced For September 26

Mountainman Outdoor Supply Company has announce its sponsorship of the 2009 Paddle for the Cure, a leisurely 6-mile paddle on the Moose River beginning at Mountainman Outdoor Supply Company, on Rt. 28 in Old Forge on Saturday, September 26. All proceeds for Paddle for the Cure will support the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund. The Paddle for the Cure will begin at 11:00 am Saturday morning. The day-long event will last until 6:00 pm. More information and pre-registration forms are available at www.PaddleForCure.net.

According to the event announcement, the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund supports both new and established researchers investigating the causes, prevention and treatment of breast cancer. This research will include—but not be limited to—studies of the genetic, molecular, cellular and environmental factors involved in the development and progression of breast cancer; application of the knowledge thus gained to educate medical professionals and increase public awareness for the prevention, detection and treatment of breast cancer; and studies of the outcomes of breast cancer detection and treatment on the patient, their families and society.


Friday, September 11, 2009

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Adirondack Music Scene:Kris Delmhorst, Backwoods PondFest, Fiddle Jamboree and Radio Show Anniversary

This weekend I have two “won’t miss” shows. First, is Kris Delmhorst at BluSeed, she has a gorgeous voice and just glows on stage. Second, is the 2nd anniversary of the Ten Dollar Radio Show, which has introduced me to many new artists and reminded me about some of the greatest songs in music history.

Friday and Saturday at the Twin Ponds Campground, 208 Fuller Road in Peru, the Backwoods Pondfest is happening. It begins Friday at 3 pm continues beyond 1 am. On Saturday it starts at noon and continues well past 1 am again. So many good bands—South Catherine Street Jug Band, Ryan Montbleau Band and Lucid among them—its a rock fest with lots of freestyle dancing to be had. They have a very very good website which I encourage you to check out. $60 will get you into both days of the festival, $40 just for Saturday.

Saturday at BluSeed Studios in Saranac Lake Kris Delmhorst is giving a concert. She is out supporting her most recent CD, Shotgun Singer. My first listen to her beautiful voice was on the Red Bird CD ( incidentally I first heard it on The Ten Dollar Radio Show) and then live at BluSeed. The show starts at 7:30 pm. $14/12 for members.

Saturday and Sunday in Athol at the Veterans Memorial Field the 13th Annual Fiddlers Jamboree is going on. It’s a rain or shine even—bring your lawn chairs, shades or galoshes depending. On Saturday there’s a $7 cover but Sunday is free. Here are some of the great musicians you’ll be treated to on Saturday: The Silver Family at 12 noon, Don’t Quit Your Day Job at 1 pm, Sara Milonovich and Greg Anderson at 6 pm and Cedar Ridge at 8 pm. Sunday is Jamboree Gospel Day—starts at 1 pm with Tom Vissler, The Hartley Family at 3 pm and ends with the Jim Davis Band at 7 pm.

Here is a great way to cap off your weekend: Sunday is the second anniversary of the Ten Dollar Radio Show and I will be tuned in to Rock 105 at 6 pm while I’m making dinner. I have to admit it’s been awhile since I’ve caught it at the designated time—not because I don’t love the music. It’s just that I, like most people in the Adirondacks, don’t like being inside when the weather is beautiful. Later in the week, I’ll post an article based on an interview done with one of the founders of the show, Ned P. Rauch. Until then I’d like to remind everyone that we can always tune into the podcast to keep up with all of the great music Pete Crowley and friends like Kelly Hofschneider and Brandy Hobson keep playing each week.

Photo: Kris Delmhorst


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Forever Wired: Some Thoughts On Adirondack Wired Work

Having taken some time to digest everything that happened at Clarkson University’s Forever Wired conference this week, I thought I’d try to wrap up the experience (coverage by Almanack contributor Mary Thill and me here) with some thoughts about what’s happening, where we’re heading, and where we should be headed. It seems to me that several strands are developing around the issue of a wired workforce in the Adirondacks.

The first is the technological build-out of broadband in the Adirondack region. Mary covered what we know is happening and has happened here, but there is still a lot to be learned. The big providers hold their plans close to the vest, but as Mary noted recent developments by CBN Connect, a nonprofit affiliated with SUNY Plattsburgh, and the Development Authority of the North Country (DANC) have gotten us off to a good start, and there are hopes for a small piece of the $7.2 billion federal stimulus funds for broadband to extend coverage into the park. There is still, however, the looming question of how much of the park has broadband now. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Congresswoman Kirstin Gillibrand, and Clarkson President Tony Collins have all said that 70 percent of the park lacks broadband, but without public data (and real baseline for what should really be called broadband), we just don’t know. The bottom line is that on the technology build-out front, we’re moving forward, albeit hopefully. Clarkson president Tony Collins said the next step is a retreat September 22 at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake for an infrastructure working panel, an offshoot of the Forever Wired gathering.

A second big piece coming into play was highlighted at the Forever Wired conference. Much of the energy there is being put into convincing seasonal residents to move themselves and their jobs to the Adirondacks and work from home. Proponents of this plan point to the recent study by the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages that indicated declining school enrollments and an aging park population. The general sense is that bringing new residents into the park will improve both situations and that selling the Adirondack wired lifestyle will help turn around our sluggish local economies. A plus side to the wired-permanent-residents approach is that it could lower the number of individuals with mailing addresses outside the park, those who currently own about half of the total residential property value and that may increase local property values and grow local property tax revenue. It’s felt that more full-time residents will also mean more jobs, but it might also mean fewer jobs for our current crop of young residents as new full-timers with technology skills take jobs. There is also the affordable housing squeeze, and then of course, more development sprawl caused by wiring the backcountry and lakeshores.

The final piece I want to mention has been generally left out of the equation—employing current local residents in existing wired work opportunities. If we’re going to have a plan for wired work, it would be helpful to know how many workers in the park might be eligible to move toward telecommuting. Human resources departments, bookkeeping and accounting, marketing, secretarial, media, political boards and committees, and no doubt other positions could possibly be moved to the home office. A representative of IBM reported that home-based employees save the company $100 million a year in real estate costs alone. Increased productivity (believe it or not), reduced costs of childcare, time and money saved on commuting (one of the park’s largest uses of energy) are all benefits of moving Adirondack workers toward wired work from home. Could recent job cuts in Warren County for instance, have been avoided if twenty or thirty percent of the county’s workforce worked from home? Twenty or thirty percent of energy costs? Building costs? Snowplowing? The list goes on. Could the folks who recently lost jobs at the county’s cooperative extension office have kept them if they closed down the office and everyone worked from home? The bottom line here is we don’t know, and the focus on technology build-out, future call center workers, and converted full time residents is leaving out the direct and fairly immediate savings current residents might reap from transitioning existing jobs to wired work now.

Some folks at the Forever Wired conference, folks like Elmer Gates — a Blue Mountain Lake native, engineer-turned-CEO-turned banker and a force in starting the Adirondack North Country Initiative for Wired Work—understand that getting broadband infrastructure here is just one step. Gates told the Almanack that people need training for technical support or call-center jobs. He was also quick to point to support offered by Clarkson University’s Shipley Center for Leadership and Entrepreneurship, where existing start-ups and small businesses can learn to succeed in the new business environment through free consultations.

Gates says he got behind the Wired Work Initiative because he “just got tired of everybody having given up” on finding good jobs in the Adirondacks. “That’s a defeatist attitude and we are going to change it,” he said, adding that he’s not satisfied with the track record of regional economic development agencies and plans to keep the Wired Workforce Initiative a private, volunteer effort.

I like the sound of that. Adirondackers need training for new wired jobs that can keep young people employed in sustainable, environmentally sound ways. But employers (public and private) need training too. They need to learn the benefits of wired work to their bottom line and to their workers’ (and taxpayers) wallets.

Local residents need a to path to the wired work future—who will lead the way?


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Canoe Rights Advocates Go On the Offensive

The Sierra Club—the same people who thought they had re-established canoe rights once and for all in New York State with a lawsuit-baiting paddle down the South Branch of the Moose River in 1991—wants to make sure that private landowners and state officials recognize what that trip accomplished.

In a letter sent last month, the Sierra Club’s Adirondack Committee asked the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to enforce public navigation laws by making an Adirondack landowner remove cables and signs strung across Shingle Shanty Brook.

“This is a clear-cut case where those laws have been violated by Brandreth [Park Association] for many years,” an August 27 letter to DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis states. “DEC should order the Brandreths to remove the cable and intimidating signs from the State’s right-of-way where they have long been a threat to paddlers and a hindrance to navigation.”

Four canoeists and a kayaker affiliated with the Sierra Club were sued for trespass nearly two decades ago when they attempted to paddle the Moose River through the Adirondack League Club near Old Forge. The test case worked its way through the courts for seven years before it affirmed the right of recreational paddlers in New York not only to float through private land via rivers but to use the banks to portage around obstacles (for background see this Almanack article, or this brochure on the history and status of navigation rights).

The Moose River ruling said streams that are “navigable in fact” are open for public passage. There’s room for disagreement about the definition of “navigable in fact” on rivers such as the Beaver between Lake Lila and Stillwater Reservoir, which is really only passable for about a week after ice-out.

Other waterways, such as the East Branch of the St. Regis River and Shingle Shanty, seem to meet navigability criteria, yet landowners continue to post them. Paddlers could use the disputed section of Shingle Shanty on a traverse from Lake Lila to Little Tupper Lake with a short carry around a dam at Mud Pond. Here’s a recent account of that trip by Adirondack Explorer editor Phil Brown.

A June 2008 article in the DEC magazine The Conservationist by agency attorney Kenneth Hamm states, “[A]ttempts by landowners to interfere with the public’s right to freely navigate violates the State’s trust interest in the waterway. Either the State or the public can sue if a landowner tries to interfere with the public’s right to navigate on navigable waterways.” In the late 1980s DEC was still arresting paddlers for trying to access rivers involving private land. Its enforcement policy shifted, to uphold paddler rights, in 1991.

Nobody has sued a landowner yet. Charles Morrison, a retired DEC official who co-signed the Sierra Club letter as the group’s public navigation rights coordinator, has been focused on codifying riparian-rights case law and common law in statute. A bill has an Assembly sponsor but has been stymied in the dysfunctional state Senate. If the legislature and the DEC don’t take up the issue, we might see a paddler as plaintiff rather than defendant in the next navigation rights lawsuit.

Here is the Sierra Club letter to DEC:

Dear Commissioner Grannis:
 
We are writing to request that DEC take action to remove the blockage of the State-owned public right-of-way on Mud Pond and a segment of Shingle Shanty Brook between the outlet of Mud Pond and the downstream Forest Preserve boundary. This blockage, where these navigable waterway segments flow on private land adjacent to the William C. Whitney Wilderness, is maintained by the Brandreth Park Association. It consists of a cable strung across Shingle Shanty Brook by Brandreth at the downstream Forest Preserve boundary and a number of posting signs, all erected by Brandreth. (For general location, see sketch map of the Mud Pond-Shingle Shanty Brook through-segment and vicinity, Attachment 1.)
 
This blockage forces paddlers to use a very rough one-mile carry trail through the Forest Preserve instead of this easy waterway route.
 
As discussed and documented in the attached“Illegal Blockage of Shingle Shanty Brook and Mud Pond in the Whitney Wilderness Vicinity,” these impediments to public navigation violate both State public nuisance law and the public’s right under State law to freely navigate on navigable waterways. They are infringements on the navigational easement that the State holds in trust for the public. This also is a critical link between Little Tupper Lake and Lake Lila in the heart of the proposed 500,000-acre Great Oswegatchie Canoe Wilderness (GOCW), whose creation has been advocated by the Sierra Club and other conservation organizations. (See map in enclosed GOWC brochure showing this larger area, Attachment 2.) The GOWC includes Lows Lake and the Bog River, the Five Ponds Wilderness Area and the Pigeon Lake Wilderness Area, all of which are accessible from the Whitney Wilderness by paddlers.   

We actually are asking DEC to do several things. First, with regard to the case at hand, enforce existing State public nuisance and public navigation rights law in accordance with the 1991 DEC enforcement guidance memorandum on this subject. This is a clear-cut case where those laws have been violated by Brandreth for many years in the name of their deeded recreation rights.  DEC should order the Brandreth to remove the cable and intimidating signs from the State’s right-of-way where they have long been a threat to paddlers and a hindrance to navigation.
 
Second, DEC should ensure that Brandreth’s surrogate, Potter Properties LLC, amends its 2007 deed concerning its illegal claim to navigation rights on the waterway segments at issue, to reflect the State’s ownership of these rights. This is discussed below.

Third, we ask DEC staff to honor the several commitments made during the Sierra Club’s December, 2007 meeting with them, which were to:

—revise, update and reissue the 1991 DEC enforcement memorandum for public navigation rights as soon as possible.
 
—remove the text on navigation rights in the black bordered box on page 3 of the DEC Whitney Wilderness brochure. This text erroneously states that a court decision is needed to find that a waterway is navigable in order for it to be truly navigable-in-fact, which is incorrect.
 
—help to educate the public about their lawful rights and obligations by issuing a statewide flyer or brochure that combines and expands on  the information that is in Kenneth Hamm’s article and the John Humbach-Charles Morrison article, both of which are described below. The flyer would be widely disseminated through all DEC Regional Offices and via DEC’s website.   

Fourth, DEC needs to let paddlers know, in DEC’s brochure for the Whitney Wilderness, that the vital Mud Pond-Mud Pond Outlet-lower Shingle Shanty Brook link is open to the public for navigational purposes, for through travel.
 
It is particularly important to follow through with these committed actions in view of the delay in getting a bill (A.701) passed in both houses of the Legislature to codify the public right of navigation in a single statute and give DEC specific authority to issue regulations, including a list of navigable waterways that would be subject to amendment based on field investigations. We appreciate DEC’s collaboration in drafting this legislation.
 
Please let us know if we can provide any other information to aid DEC’s pursuit of this enforcement case, or if we can help with any of the agenda items to which DEC committed itself in 2007. Thank you for your attention to the abuse of the public’s rights on Mud Pond and Shingle Shanty Brook.
 
Sincerely,
 
Roger Gray, Co-Chairman, Adirondack Committee
John Nemjo, Co-Chairman, Adirondack Committee
Charles C. Morrison, Adirondack Committee, Public Navigation Rights Project Coordinator

Encl. Main attachment and eleven (11) numbered attachments

cc: Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General
     Judith Enck, Deputy Secretary for Environment, Executive Chamber
     Stuart Gruskin, Executive Deputy Commissioner, DEC
     Allison Crocker, General Counsel, DEC
     Michael Lenane, Deputy Commissioner, DEC
     Christopher Amato, Assistant Commissioner, Natural Resources, DEC
     James Tierney, Assistant Commissioner, Water and Watersheds, DEC
     Robert Davies, Director, Division of Lands and Forests
     Kenneth Hamm, Associate Attorney, DEC Office of General Counsel
     Christian Ballantyne, Director, Legislative Affairs, DEC
     Elizabeth Lowe, DEC Region 5 Director
     Christopher LaCombe, Regional Attorney, DEC Region 5
     Brian Huyck, Enforcement Coordinator, DEC Region 5
     Katherine Kennedy, Director, Environmental Protection, Depart. of Law
     Lisa Burianek, Environmental Protection, Department of Law
     Curtis Stiles, Chairman, Adirondack Park Agency
     Terry Martino, Executive Director, Adirondack Park Agency

Photograph of the East Branch of the St. Regis River


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Phantom of the Adirondacks

“You have to get your camera and get a picture of this really cool bug!” exclaimed my coworker breathlessly. So I grabbed the camera and went outside. The insect in question, as soon as I had it in my sights, promptly took off and vanished. After much skulking around, I was finally able to capture its image. “I think it’s some kind of cranefly,” I said, based on the long skinny legs and the overall body shape. But, not being an entomologist, I wasn’t about to stake my reputation on it, so I sent the image off to BugGuide.net for confirmation.

Gosh, I love it when I’m right. It turns out this beautiful insect is a Phantom Cranefly (Bittacomorpha clavipes). It gets its name from its cryptic coloration. I know what you’re thinking: black and white is hardly cryptic. Why, the insect stands out like a sore thumb. AH, but when the insect flies into the shade, the body seems to vanish, phantom-like, with only the white bars remaining visible. This explains why I had so much difficulty tracking it every time it took off.

It turns out, however, that this delicate insect has an even more interesting bit of physiology than its coloration. The part of the legs that we might liken to ankles is specially modified. Up close, these sections are swollen and concave in shape. When the insect flies, it spreads its legs out and the wind catches the “ankles”, pushing the insect along like a little kite.

The Phantom Cranefly begins its life when the female lays her eggs, singly or in small clusters, along the edge of water. Soon the larvae emerge and begin a life of scavenging organic matter in the shallow water. The strange larva is easy to recognize by its “tail,” which is, in fact, the larva’s breathing tube. Just like a snorkle, this apparatus is lifted to the water’s surface, emerges long enough for the insect to inhale, and then down it goes again to continue scavenging. When the larva is ready to pupate, it crawls out of the water and digs into moist soil. There, beneath the ground, it goes through The Change and becomes an adult. The adults exist for one purpose only: to breed and pass on their genes. As such, they do not eat (or if they do, it is very little and no scientist has discovered what it is).

It’s really a rather uneventful life, so perhaps the boredom is broken up by the flashy colors and nifty body ornamentation. At the very least, these insects are attractive to insect enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts alike. So keep your eyes peeled, and if you see a small wispy black and white kite drift by, take another look. It might just be the Phantom of the Adirondacks.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

90-Miler Canoe Race Begins Friday

The second weekend in September is quiet. Mornings are cool, still and misty. Soft maples put out the red flag, making a fall statement as other trees pretend summer isn’t over. But a swim is not yet out of the question, and the biting bugs have given way to the singing bugs. Good canoeing weather.

On a northeasterly diagonal across the Adirondack Park, this weekend belongs to the Adirondack Canoe Classic, better known as the 90-Miler. From the day the ice goes out, every other race is practice for this one, a three-day tour of lakes and rivers, and a test of endurance as well as marriages.

The 27-year-old event attracts serious athletes and boatsmen, but it has remained fun for duffers and people who don’t have the latest gear, though I learned from experience—one year of paddling and several more-arduous years of pit-crewing and volunteering—not to skimp on the boat: buy or rent one designed to move fast over flatwater.

The 90-miler is a traveling carnival, and the 500 or so racers are only part of the troupe. Support teams and volunteers double the ranks. If you’re driving through you can track the race’s progress by where cars are parked along the roads between Old Forge and Saranac Lake as family and friends stop to cheer boats on or to hand paddlers food and drink on the carries.

My favorite place both to paddle and to watch is at the bridge where Browns Tract meets Raquette Lake, just off Route 28 at the hamlet of Raquette Lake. Racers have to go single file on the winding little stream and under the bridge in the midst of Day 1, Friday, the longest day. Most of Saturday they will be out of sight on Long Lake and the Raquette River, though the early morning view from the Long Lake Route 30 bridge of 250 colorful guideboats, canoes and kayaks moving north in bunches is a once-a-year spectacle. On Sunday they do the Saranacs and finish at Lake Flower in Saranac Lake village.

This is the 27th year of the Canoe Classic and the 25th that the Department of Environmental Conservation has helped stage it. Terry Healy, a DEC employee who died in 1993, had an “enthusiasm, sense of fun and commitment to the 90-Miler” that’s remembered every year through presentation of a Terry Healy Award to a participant, support team, volunteer or staff member who exemplifies the spirit of the event.

The 90-Miler on Long Lake, 2008, by photographer Mark Kurtz of Saranac Lake


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Adirondack Harvest Celebration Events

Adirondack Harvest, the community-based farm and food development and promotion program, is welcoming the fall harvest season with a week-long Adirondack Harvest celebration. the events offer opportunities to meet farmers, visit farms, taste products from local farmers, chefs, and markets. Here is the complete list of events from Adirondack Harvest:

Farm Tours on Saturday, September 12:

Black Watch Farm. 9:00am to 4:00pm. 56 Elk Inn Rd., Port Henry. 546-3035. Come visit this 1860’s civil war era farm located on 60 acres. Primarily a horse farm offering riding lessons Black Watch features Connemara ponies originally from Ireland. Their vegetables garden is laden with pumpkins, gourds & cornstalks. Delicious homemade jam for sale as well. A walk through this farm will bring you many photographic opportunities.

Adirondack Heritage Hogs. 10:00am to 12:00pm. 26 Clark Lane, Lewis. Adirondack Heritage Hogs currently has 20 pigs of varying ages, sex and breed including a litter of 5 that will be two weeks old at the time of the tour. They also have some pigs on pasture, and some in the woods as well as free range turkeys, laying hens and meat chickens. In addition they are nearing completion on a custom butcher facility and operate a sawmill on the premises.

DaCy Meadow Farm. 10:00am to 2:00pm. 7103 Rte 9N, Westport. 962-2350. The Johnston family at DaCy Meadow Farm raises British heritage livestock, sells natural pork and beef, and has an agricultural themed art gallery. They also host special events, business meetings, educational groups, and serve farm to table meals.

Uihlein Maple Research Station. Tour at 1:00pm sharp until about 2:30pm. 157 Bear Cub Lane, Lake Placid. 523-9337. The core of the Cornell Sugar Maple Program, the Uihlein Field station’s sugar bush of 4000 taps is used to demonstrate the merits of new technology and proper forest stewardship to visiting maple producers and landowners.

Ben Wever Farm. 2:00pm to 4:00pm. 444 Mountain View Drive, Willsboro. 963-7447. Heart and Harvest of the Adirondacks. Working with previous owner and “senior agricultural consultant emeritus” Ben Wever, the Gillilland family has given new life to an old family farm creating a diversified operation specializing in grassfed beef, pork, chicken, and turkeys. They also sell eggs and honey and have a picturesque farmscape scattered with beautiful horses.

Crooked Brook Farm & Studios. 4:00pm to 8:00pm. 2364 Sayre Rd., Wadhams. 962-4386. Come experience the famous Mongolian barbeque! Bring your own veggies and meat to throw on an original hand-forged grill. View oil paintings and monumental sculpture by Edward Cornell.

Adirondack History Center Museum on September 12 & 13: Daily 10:00am to 5:00pm. Court Street, Elizabethtown. 873-6466. During a year filled with celebratory events, the 2009 Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Commission has inaugurated the state’s first Heritage Weekend on September 12 and 13. Visitors are welcomed free, or at a reduced rate, to many museums, historical societies, and heritage areas in the Champlain Valley, the Hudson River Valley, and New York City. The Adirondack History Center Museum in Elizabethtown is offering free admission on Sunday, September 13 for Heritage Weekend and in celebration of Harvest Festival week sponsored by Adirondack Harvest and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Essex County. For further information on Heritage Weekend sites, visit the New York Heritage Weekend website www.heritageweekend.org.

Cornell E.V. Baker Research Farm Tour on Tuesday, September 15: 10:00am to 12:00pm. 38 Farrell Road, Willsboro. 963-7492. The Cornell University E.V. Baker Research Farm serves to connect Cornell University faculty with important agricultural issues facing northern NY farmers including best management practices for perennial forages, tillage and soil health interactions, wine grape variety evaluations, small grain variety trials and season extension using high tunnels and other studies.

“A Taste of Essex County History” on Saturday, September 19: Crown Point State Historic Site and Campground, Crown Point, NY. Part of a day-long celebration of the Crown Point Lake Champlain Quadricentennial event re-dedicating the Crown Point Monument & Rodin Sculpture. Adirondack Harvest will have an agricultural history display on site as well as a market devoted to serving local foods and offering farm fresh items for sale from Adirondack Harvest members.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Two Small Steps in Adirondack Wired Work Infrastructure

This summer two Adirondackers embarked on pioneering ventures in park connectivity and shared their stories today at a Forever Wired panel on infrastructure development.

In Paul Smiths, Mark Dzwonczyk’s family spends six weeks of every summer at his wife’s family’s camp on the St. Regis Lakes. As president and COO of a Web conference call company, Dzwonczyk has had to return to work in California while his family stayed here. A few years ago he decided to figure out how to work from the Adirondacks so he could stay too. Verizon customer service told him they’d send somebody out to hook up DSL, but the local linemen knew better: the phone cable runs two miles under the water so it’d be daunting and prohibitively expensive to set up all the relays needed to connect the camp that way.

Dzwonczyk tried a satellite connection. Dinner guests due at 6 started showing up at 4:30 with their laptops, he says, and boats would float offshore at night as neighbors tried to tap into the signal.

Finally Dzwonczyk decided to establish a wireless network for 25 of the 50 or so seasonal camps on the St. Regis Lakes. The businesspeople were the ones most enthusiastic about it, he says, thinking they could stay in touch with work, but it turns out that they use only about 5 percent of the bandwidth. Families—especially those with teenage kids—are by far the biggest users.

“The good news is I was here seven weeks this summer, still running my company in Silicon Valley,” Dzwonczyk says. He paid to establish the wireless network “as sort of a friends and family” gesture (each participating camp plays a flat rate usage fee), he says, but he is looking into expanding it as a business venture.

Stephen Svoboda, executive director of the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts in Blue Mountain Lake says the facility opened a business center July 4 to provide Internet access as well as office conveniences such as printing, copying and teleconferencing. Residents of Blue Mountain Lake come in to check e-mail and to shop online, Svoboda says, and hotel guests and other visitors will come in for an hour or two to catch up on work while their families are canoeing “or doing something fun.” [UPDATE: Clarkson University is applying for stimulus funding to host eight to ten similar centers with partners around the Adirondacks. The ALCA business center is something of a pilot project.]

Svoboda recently took the arts center job after working as a playwright and theater arts professor at the University of Miami. He was concerned that a move to the north woods might limit his writing work. He has found that through the Internet he is able to stay active in the larger theater world. “I just finished having a show in Soeul, South Korea, and I never left the Adirondacks to do that show . . . while working in Blue Mountain and living in Tupper Lake,” Svoboda says.

There was a lot of interest in an exchange at the end of the panel, during a question and answer session. David Malone, a corporate sales manager from Verizon, was asked to quantify just how much of the Adirondack Park the company covers. After explaining that Verizon has been putting a lot of attention and investment into erecting 13 cell towers on I-87 (at $550,000 per), and after being asked the question again, he owned that he has no statistics on how much of the Adirondacks Verizon covers. There will be “more buildout” soon in the Malone and Plattsburgh regions, he says, and in Paul Smiths and Keene.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Adirondack Family Activities: The Red Dot Trail

School has started and it is a year beginning with “I know.” My children know they need to make their beds, they know they need to brush their teeth and they know we are going go for a walk after school. Someday I’ll just toss it out that we’re having dirt for dinner just to see if they are listening. They may not really know where we are going but I know they’ll enjoy it just the same.

Running, walking or just enjoying the view, the Red Dot Trail near Paul Smith’s College is an easy walk for anyone. Even if one doesn’t wish to venture around the whole loop there are beautiful bridges that cross over canals connecting Church, Little Osgood and Osgood ponds. The trails are wide enough to let my kids navigate by themselves, giving me a few random moments of solitude. We are fortunate to see a few paddlers maneuvering through the canals. My children are compelled to offer advice concerning low branches and buried rocks.

There are many herd paths leading on and off the marked trail. There is even a section that intersects the Jack Rabbit Trail. We remind the kids to wait at the junction. They are out of sight before the exclamation point has been placed at the end of the sentence. They seem to be practicing the boomerang approach. The kids create a wide berth in a frenzied run and then quickly shoot back to us. I know with each passing year the return time is longer and longer.

The kids follow the shallow canal from Osgood Pond to Little Osgood and are soon back to report on a bridge ahead. We decide to continue straight and come to a second bridge that crosses another canal this time connecting Church Pond to Little Osgood. We veer to the north and continue following the red painted slash marks that “dot” the trees. It is a beautiful loop. There is just one tricky part that slopes to the shore as we detour toward the Osgood Pond lean-to. We stay for only a moment but the kids are anxious to get on their way. They are scrambling up the sandy hill and searching for the next lean-to. We follow the steep esker and warn the children to stay away from the unstable edge. They run all the way back just to us to merely say, “I know.”

The Red Dot Trail can be accessed from the Osgood Pond Waterway on White Pine Road. From the Route 30/86 junction in Paul Smiths continue onto Route 86. Drive about .5 mile and turn left onto White Pines Road off Route 86. The parking entrance and beach is .25 on the left. The trail is an easy 2.5 round-trip that begins at the boat launch area.

For additional activities bring a bathing suit to take a quick dip into Osgood Pond, bring a lunch and enjoy it at one of the four lean-tos or just wade in and look for fish and other wildlife.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Forever Wired: Small Adirondack Business 101

Here at the Forever Wired Conference at Clarkson University there are a lot of folks in suits and sporting bluetooth. Aside from some of the workers building what Clarkson President Tony Collins called “our stimulus project”—a new student center—there are few beards, and fewer bluejeans than an Adirondacker would normally like to encounter. Is it a mark of a changing local economy?

I just got out of a session with about 60 attendees entitled “My Adirondack Business 101” led by Marc Compeau, Director of Innovation & Entrepreneurship programs here at the university. Compeau’s presentation is designed to be given over four weeks but he covered the basics in about 45 minutes.

Compeau noted that even though the Adirondack region has limited access to the Internet, limited marketing channels, and mostly seasonal brick and mortar businesses, the Big Three of building a sustainable business are still important: building market share, maintaining growth / sustainability, and accessing capital.

Compeau stressed the importance of laying out a plan, marketing (even if you don’t have the Internet at home, your customer does), good people management (through building a workplace culture) and managing change.

I think the big lesson at the session was that just because we are not as wired as the rest of the state (or country, or developing world!) doesn’t mean that we should forget about the wired audience. According to Compeau, 78 percent of homes in the Untied States have a PC and 79 percent of adults use the internet.

www.helpmysmallbusinesstoday.com is Clarkson’s portal for local business people to get free help from the university to help sustainably grow their enterprises.

I’ll post again later today.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Forever Wired: Conference Kickoff

Blogging live from the Forever Wired Conference at Clarkson University, where a strong turnout of 250 telecommuters, mobile workers, educators and advocates for the region’s economy and technology have gathered to figure out how to use the Internet to develop North Country businesses.

State comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli kicked the conference off with a keynote address on the In-State Private Equity Investment Program. His message in brief: the state is acting as venture capitalist, investing in innovative businesses and new technologies.

DiNapoli says the goals of the program are to diversify the state pension fund portfolio and provide returns to the one million people who depend on it; the parallel objectives are to encourage economic growth in New York and create jobs. He credited state investments with creating 2,700 jobs in the state since the program began in 2007, and he says returns have been strong. So far the fund has invested $1 billion, financing 27 companies with an average return of 30 percent. DiNapoli called it a “small success story” in an otherwise stressed state economy and budget. Seventeen investment managers decide which companies to entrust with the pension fund’s money, and about $500 million is available for investment right now.

In the North Country, the the Common Retirement Fund (CRF) invested $2.5 million in ZeroPoint Clean Tech, based in Potsdam, a renewable energy company providing biomass-to-energy and water treatment technologies; $22.5 billion in Navilyst Medical’s acquisition of Boston Scientific Corporation’s catheter manufacturing business, much of it based in Glens Falls; and $6.9 million in Climax Manufacturing Company, of Lowville, manufacturers of folding cartons and recycled paperboards.

Most of the investments around the state similarly went to larger businesses that employ a lot of people, but DiNapoli says the fund is open to entrepreneurial ideas and that he realizes that the economy has made it tough lately for start-ups to access private capital.

“If you are prepared to make a commitment to New York and can make a compelling case for our investment, we’ll make a commitment to you and your business,” the comptroller said. “My message is a simple one: as an investor I am betting on New York.”

John Warren is attending a session on “What are the basic business concepts that will lead to my success” and says he’ll file some thoughts later this afternoon.