Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Unsung Adirondack Heroes: Lydia Serrell

In thinking about Adirondack unsung heroes, singer-songwriter Peggy Lynn’s powerfully moving song Lydia about Lydia Smith (wife of Paul Smith) comes to mind. I write about another Lydia who related very strongly to that song, and who did so much for the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks (AFPA). Her name was Lydia Serrell. I worked with Lydia for 18 years, and can attest that she was an extraordinary Adirondacker in her own right, and instrumental to the success of the organization.

Lydia Serrell fell in love with the Adirondacks at an early age. The daughter of Hungarian immigrants and carriage makers working in Schenectady, she was “shipped out” after her mother’s death c. 1918 to live with her mother’s sister, her Aunt Anna and Uncle Chris Kohler, at their farm in Gravesville, Town of Ohio in the southwestern Adirondacks. Lydia’s great friend Linda Champagne writes: “Lydia attended a small north country school. Her uncle, a guide in the nearby Adirondack League Club (Uncle Chris), and his wife (Aunt Anna), who had been a cook at the club, created a comfortable life for the city girl. The modest home had only a spring for water. Entertainment meant skating on ponds and reading Zane Grey novels by kerosene lantern in the evenings. When her father remarried, and she returned to Schenectady, she continued a lifelong love of hiking, touring and reading the history of the Adirondacks.” » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Common Ground Alliance to Focus on Jobs

The Adirondack Common Ground Alliance will hold its fourth annual summer conference at the Sabattis Pavilion in Long Lake on Wednesday (July 14) in an effort to hammer out a strategy for building long-lasting, private-sector employment in the 103 towns and villages that comprise the Adirondack Park.

The Common Ground Alliance is a forum for public-private collaboration. State and local governments, nonprofit organizations, business owners, stakeholders, and residents of the Park participate as equals. The Alliance works to promote the common good of the communities, residents, and resources of the Adirondack Park, not to further specific organizational, institutional, or individual agendas. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Forever Wild Outside The Adirondack Park

I recently did a paddling trip in the northern Adirondacks that had been on my bucket list for a few years. I launched my canoe in Hatch Brook and traveled downstream to the Salmon River and down the Salmon to Chasm Falls.

It’s a delightful trip, largely wild, with interesting scenery, lots of birdlife, and a great swimming hole. Click here for a detailed description, directions, and more photos.

One unusual thing about this excursion is that it begins inside the Adirondack Park and ends outside of it. Of course, there is no sign on the river–either man-made or natural–to let you know when you leave the Park. The trip reminds us that wildness does not end at the Blue Line.

As a matter of fact, two state commissions on the Adirondacks (in 1971 and 1990) recommended extending the Park’s boundary northward to include the tract that I paddled through. But that didn’t happen. Consequently, when I crossed the Blue Line I simultaneously crossed the boundary between the Debar Mountain Wild Forest (part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve) and the Titusville State Forest (not part of the Forest Preserve).

Most people familiar with Adirondack history know that Article 14 of the state constitution prohibits cutting trees in the Forest Preserve. Logging, however, is allowed on State Forest lands.

Fewer people realize that some of the Forest Preserve lies outside the Park.

Article 14 declares that “the lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands.” And an 1885 law defined the Forest Preserve as “all the lands now owned or which may hereafter be acquired by the State of New York, within the counties of Clinton, excepting the towns of Altona and Dannemora, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, Saratoga, St. Lawrence, Warren, Washington, Greene, Ulster and Sullivan.” (The lands in the last three counties are in the Catskill Forest Preserve.)

Reading Article 14 and the 1885 law together, you might reasonably conclude that nearly all the state lands in eleven northern counties belong to the Adirondack Forest Preserve.

But you’d be wrong, according to Norman Van Valkenburgh, the author of The Forest Preserve of New York State in the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains.

Van Valkenburgh tells me that a constitutional amendment in 1931 permitted the state to acquire lands outside the Park in the Forest Preserve counties for reforestation. These lands can be managed for timber and wildlife habitat.

Yet the lands outside the Blue Line that the state owned prior to the amendment are part of the Forest Preserve. The Temporary Study Commission on the Future of the Adirondacks estimated in 1971 that there were 12,867 acres of Adirondack Forest Preserve outside the Park (not including lake and river beds).

Like the Preserve inside the Park, these lands must be kept forever wild and cannot be logged. Van Valkenburgh said this requirement leads to a legal anomaly when a piece of orphan Forest Preserve lies within a State Forest tract. Even if all of the surrounding land is logged, the Forest Preserve parcel must remain untouched.

If the Adirondack Park boundary were expanded, would the State Forest lands automatically become part of the Forest Preserve?

“That’s a good question,” Van Valkenburgh said. “I don’t know, but I think not.”

Van Valkenburgh noted that the State Forest lands were purchased with a specific purpose in mind and so may be exempt from Article 14’s forever-wild mandate.

This interpretation seems to jibe with the view of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century. In its 1990 report, the commission recommended not only extending the Blue Line, but also amending the constitution to prohibit “the continued management of existing reforestation areas” added to the Park.

The commission wanted to extend the Blue Line to the north to encompass all of the towns of Bellmont, Brandon, Dickinson, Peru, and Saranac; part of the town of Malone; and Crab Island in Lake Champlain. It argued that doing so would protect extensive forestlands and farmlands on the Park’s border.

Do you think extending the Park’s boundary is a good idea?

Photo of Salmon River by Phil Brown.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Floyd Bennett: A Local Aviation Legend

Among the rock-star personas of the Roaring Twenties were a number of aviators who captured the public’s imagination. Some were as popular and beloved as movie stars and famous athletes, and America followed their every move. It was a time of “firsts” in the world of aviation, led by names like Lindbergh, Byrd, and Post. Among their number was an unusually humble man, Floyd Bennett. He may have been the best of the lot.

A North Country native and legendary pilot, Bennett has been claimed at times by three different villages as their own. He was born in October 1890 at the southern tip of Lake George in Caldwell (which today is Lake George village). Most of his youth was spent living on the farm of his aunt and uncle in Warrensburg. He also worked for three years in Ticonderoga, where he made many friends. Throughout his life, Floyd maintained ties to all three villages.

In the early 1900s, cars and gasoline-powered engines represented the latest technology. Floyd’s strong interest led him to automobile school, after which he toiled as a mechanic in Ticonderoga for three years. When the United States entered World War I, Bennett, 27, enlisted in the Navy.

While becoming an aviation mechanic, Floyd discovered his aptitude for the pilot’s seat. He attended flight school in Pensacola, Florida, where one of his classmates was Richard E. Byrd, future legendary explorer. For several years, Bennett refined his flying skills, and in 1925, he was selected for duty in Greenland under Lieutenant Byrd.

Fraught with danger and the unknown, the mission sought to learn more about the vast unexplored area of the Arctic Circle. Bennett’s knowledge and hard work were critical to the success of the mission, and, as Byrd would later confirm, the pair almost certainly would have died but for Bennett’s bravery in a moment of crisis.

While flying over extremely rough territory, the plane’s oil gauge suddenly climbed. Had the pressure risen unchecked, an explosion was almost certain. Byrd looked at Bennett, seeking a course of action, and both then turned their attention to the terrain below.

Within seconds, reality set in—there was no possibility of landing. With that, Bennett climbed out onto the plane’s wing in frigid conditions and loosened the oil cap, relieving the pressure. He suffered frostbite in the process, but left no doubt in Byrd’s mind that, in selecting Bennett, he had made the right choice.

The two men became fast friends, and when the intrepid Byrd planned a historic flight to the North Pole, Bennett was asked to serve as both pilot and mechanic on the Josephine Ford. (Edsel Ford provided financial backing for the effort, and the plane was named after his daughter.) In 1926, Byrd and Bennett attained legendary status by completing the mission despite bad luck and perilous conditions. The flight rocketed them to superstardom.

Lauded as national heroes, they were suddenly in great demand, beginning with a tickertape parade in New York City. Byrd enjoyed the limelight, but also heaped praise on the unassuming Bennett, assuring all that the attempt would never have been made without his trusted partner. When Bennett visited Lake George, more than two thousand supporters gathered in the tiny village to welcome him. As part of the ceremony, letters of praise from Governor Smith and President Coolidge were read to the crowd.

Both men were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award for any member of the armed services, and rarely bestowed for non-military accomplishments. They were also honored with gold medals from the National Geographic Society. Despite all the attention and lavish praise, Bennett remained unchanged, to the surprise of no one.

The next challenge for the team of Bennett and Byrd was the first transatlantic flight from New York to Paris, a trip they prepared for eagerly. But in a training crash, both men were hurt. Bennett’s injuries were serious, and before the pair could recover and continue the pursuit of their goal, Charles Lindbergh accomplished the historic feat. Once healed, the duo completed the flight to Europe six weeks later.

Seeking new horizons to conquer, aviation’s most famous team planned an expedition to the South Pole. Tremendous preparation was required, including testing of innovative equipment. On March 13, 1928, a curious crowd gathered on the shores of Lake Champlain near Ticonderoga. Airplanes were still a novelty then, and two craft were seen circling overhead. Finally, one of them put down on the slushy, ice-covered lake surface, skiing to a halt.

Out came local hero Floyd Bennett, quickly engulfed by a crowd of friends and well-wishers. While in Staten Island preparing for the South Pole flight, he needed to test new skis for landing capabilities in the snow. What better place to do it than among friends? After performing several test landings on Lake Champlain, Bennett stayed overnight in Ticonderoga. Whether at the Elks Club, a restaurant, or a local hotel, he and his companions were invariably treated like royalty. Bennett repeatedly expressed his thanks and appreciation for such a warm welcome.

A month later, while making further preparations for the next adventure, Floyd became ill with what was believed to be a cold. When word arrived that help was urgently needed on a rescue mission, the response was predictable. Ignoring his own health, Bennett immediately went to the assistance of a German and Irish team that had crossed the Atlantic but crashed their craft, the Bremen, on Greenly Island north of Newfoundland, Canada.

During the mission, Floyd developed a high fever but still tried to continue the rescue effort. His condition worsened, requiring hospitalization in Quebec City, where doctors found he was gravely ill with pneumonia. Richard Byrd and Floyd’s wife, Cora, who was also ill, flew north to be with him. Despite the best efforts of physicians, Bennett, just 38 years old, succumbed on April 25, 1928, barely a month after his uplifting visit to Ticonderoga.

Though Bennett died, the rescue mission he had begun proved successful. Across Canada, Germany, Ireland, and the United States, headlines mourned the loss of a hero who had given his life while trying to save others. Explorers, adventurers, and aviators praised Bennett as a man of grace, intelligence, bravery, and unfailing integrity.

Floyd Bennett was already considered a hero long before the rescue attempt. The selflessness he displayed further enhanced his image, and as the nation mourned, his greatness was honored with a heavily attended military funeral in Washington, followed by burial in Arlington National Cemetery. Among the pile of wreaths on his grave was one from President and Mrs. Coolidge.

After the loss of his partner and best friend, Richard Byrd’s craft for the ultimately successful flight to the South Pole was a tri-motor Ford renamed the Floyd Bennett. Both the man and the plane of the same name are an important part of American aviation history.

It was eventually calculated that the earlier flight to the North Pole may not have reached its destination, but the news did nothing to diminish Byrd and Bennett’s achievements. They received many honors for their spectacular adventures. On June 26, 1930, a dedication ceremony was held in Brooklyn for New York City’s first-ever municipal airport, Floyd Bennett Field. It was regarded at the time as America’s finest airfield.

Many historic flights originated or ended at Floyd Bennett Field, including trips by such notables as Howard Hughes, Jimmy Doolittle, Wiley Post, Douglas “Wrongway” Corrigan, and Amelia Earhart. It was also the busiest airfield in the United States during World War II, vital to the Allied victory. Floyd Bennett Field is now protected by the National Park Service as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.

The beloved Bennett was also honored in several other venues. In the 1940s, a Navy Destroyer, the USS Bennett, was named in honor of his legacy as a flight pioneer. In the village of Warrensburg, New York, a memorial bandstand was erected in Bennett’s honor. Sixteen miles southeast of Warrensburg, and a few miles from Glens Falls, is Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport.

In a speech made after the North Pole flight, Richard Byrd said, “I would rather have had Floyd Bennett with me than any man I know of.” High praise indeed between heroes and friends. And not bad for a regular guy from Lake George, Warrensburg, and Ticonderoga.

Top Photo: The Josephine Ford.

Middle Photo: Floyd Bennett, right, receives medal from President Coolidge. Richard Byrd is to the left of Coolidge.

Bottom Photo: Floyd Bennett Field, New York City’s first municipal airport.

Lawrence Gooley has authored eight books and several articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Adirondack Invasive Species Awareness Week Events

Adirondack Invasive Species Awareness Week is underway and groups around the region have stepped up to help spread the word about harmful invasive species.

Coincidentally, the New York State Invasive Species Council has just sent a report entitled A Regulatory System for Non-Native Species to Governor Patterson and the legislature for review. The new report by the NYS Invasive Species Council introduces a process for assessing level of threat, assessing socioeconomic value, and assigning each invasive species into a distinct category for appropriate action. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Council Releases Plan to Combat Invasive Species

The New York State Invasive Species Council has submitted its final report to Governor David Paterson and the State Legislature. The report, titled “A Regulatory System for Non-Native Species,” recommends giving the Council authority to develop regulations for a new process that will prevent the importation and/or release of non-native invasive species in New York’s waterways, forests and farmlands. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Adirondack Natives: Sweaty Days and Sweat Bees

The big news item this week is the heat. Hazy, hot and humid days envelop us in their muggy warmth, driving most of us indoors to sit by fans or luxuriate in the cool blasts from air conditioners. How fortunate we are to live where these options exist. Still, I needed fodder for today’s column, so I grabbed the camera and went stalking subject matter in the butterfly garden. I lucked out with a close encounter with a sweat bee.

Not much was moving in the garden – even the wildlife seemed to be seeking shelter from the heat. But one bright metallic green bee was busily foraging on a milkweed flower and I was able to capture her image.

Many nature photographers are drawn to metallic-colored insects: they are just so photogenic. And, as odd as it seems, there are a lot of them. Bees, flies, beetles – it seems that almost every major group of insects has at least one metallic representative.

My little find turned out to be Augochlora pura, one of the Halicids, or sweat bees. Sweat bees get their name from the fact that they are attracted to sweaty people – they crave the salt that is on our damp skin. But we should exhibit caution around them, for they also pack a powerful sting.

One theory for the existence of the metallic coloration is that it serves as a warning that these insects are dangerous, at least in the case of these bees. When the sun hits their bodies, they glitter and sparkle with greens, blues and coppers. For most insects, the metallic coloration is a result of structure. The hard exoskeleton is made of chitin, a colorless substance that gives the insect support, kind of like a corset. Cracks, fissures, scales or hairs on the chitin refract any light hitting it, bouncing it back in a spectrum of colors.

Usually found along wooded edges, A. pura is noted for its choice of nesting material. Most Halicids nest in the ground, but A. pura prefers soft, decaying wood for building her nest cells.

A typical day for A. pura goes something like this: morning arrives and it is time to forage for pollen. Pollen collecting continues until the afternoon, when the female bundles the pollen into a ball and places it in a nest cell. She lays her egg and caps the cell. During the night, she excavates another cell for tomorrow’s egg and awaits the dawn, when it is time to forage once more.

During the course of a summer, two or three generations of A. pura emerge into the world. Come fall, however, things change. Females that were lucky enough to mate crawl into wooden chambers in the base of decaying logs and there they wait for spring. The males die off. In the spring, the females lay their eggs, and the cycle begins again.

Augochlora pura is a solitary bee, and one of our important native pollinators. I’ve mentioned the plight of wild pollinators before, but it never hurts to repeat an important subject. As more and more land is converted from its natural wild state into monocultures of self-pollinating crops (corn, wheat, rice, soybeans), monocultures called lawns, or just plain pavement and buildings, our native bees find less and less food, and thus produce fewer and fewer young.

With the decline in honey bee populations, it is really in our own selfish best interest to do what we can to encourage native bee populations. Without them, the foods that we eat that are not self-pollinating (most fruits and vegetables) will no longer be available.

I encourage everyone to take the time to get to know some of our native bees, and to make the back yard a more bee-friendly place. This can be done by letting parts of our lawns “go wild,” eliminating local ordinances that require all lawns to be cut and managed to within an inch of their lives, and planting native vegetation before we plant non-natives. It doesn’t take much, but it can make a world of difference to our small flighted brethren.


Friday, July 9, 2010

This Week’s Adirondack Web Highlights


Friday, July 9, 2010

Lake George Conservancy Seeks to Protect Pinnacle

The Pinnacle, the prominent Bolton Landing ridgeline where a developer has proposed situating houses, may be preserved after all.

The Lake George Land Conservancy’s Board of Directors has voted to apply for a grant from New York State’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for funds to help acquire the ridgeline, said Nancy Williams, the Conservancy’s executive director.

Bolton’s Town Board approved a resolution endorsing the application at its July 6 meeting, said Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover.

“My personal feeeling is that protecting the Pinnacle is an admirable goal,” said Conover. “If there’s a willing seller, and it can be kept in a natural state, with hiking trails for the community, that would be a terrific thing.”

Last week, The Fund for Lake George and the Lake George Waterkeeper announced that law suits have been filed against the Town of Bolton for its approvals of a mile-long road to the Pinnacle’s summit.

“This is a clear case where rules and standards exist for a reason. Roads should not involve acres of clear cuts and traverse steep slopes. The extent of disturbance and excessive clearing involved in this proposal will scar the Pinnacle for generations,” said Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky.

According to Conover, the Town Board was also set to approve a resolution to retain Mike Muller, the town’s legal counsel, to defend Bolton’s Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning Board and Zoning Administrator from the suit.

But if the Pinnacle is protected and no road is built, the lawsuit would in all likelihood be dropped, said Peter Bauer, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George.

“If conditions on the ground change, obviously, that would have a huge effect on the suit,” said Bauer. “But we’d have to see the final result.”

Bauer said he could not comment on the proposal to protect the Pinnacle because he was unfamiliar with the Conservancy’s plans.

According to Nancy Williams, protecting the Pinnacle “is very much a local project; we’d like to see hiking trails connecting it to Cat and Thomas Mountains and into Bolton Landing itself, creating a significant trail system.”

But, Williams said, “it will take the community to protect the Pinnacle; we want to see how much support there is within the community.”

Williams said the Conservancy had made Pinnacle owner Ernie Oberrer aware of it’s interest, but had yet to hear from him.

Oberrer could not be reached for comment; reportedly, he has expressed an interest in building below the ridgeline if he could sell the Pinnacle’s summit for an unspecified sum. 


Not having discussed its plans with Oberrer, Williams said she had no idea how much money would have to be raised by the Conservancy and other local organizations to protect the Pinnacle.

Photo: The Pinnacle from Cat Mountain, courtesy Lake George Waterkeeper.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Friday, July 9, 2010

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (July 8)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to change. For complete Adirondack Park camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation conditions see the DEC’s webpage. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf].

Fire Danger: MODERATE

Be sure campfires are out by drowning them with water. Stir to make sure all embers, coals, and sticks are wet. Stir the remains, add more water, and stir again. If you do not have water, use dirt not duff. Do not bury coals as they can smolder and break out into fire later.

Weather
Friday: Showers and thunderstorms, high near 84.
Friday Night: Showers and thunderstorms, low around 65.
Saturday: Afternoon Showers and thunderstorms, high near 76.
Saturday Night: Showers and thunderstorms, low around 58.
Sunday: Mostly cloudy, afternoon showers and thunderstorms, high near 78.

Wet Weather
Due to storms and heavy rains expected this weekend blowdown, muddy trails, and high water may be found on backcountry trails, and may impede travel in some locations. Hikers are advised to wear appropriate footwear and to stay on the trail – hike through muddy areas and puddles to avoid widening the trails or creating “herd paths” around those areas. The rains may raise the water levels of many streams – particularly during and immediately following storm events – low water crossings may not be accessible.

Biting Insects
It is “Bug Season” in the Adirondacks so Black Flies, Mosquitos, Deer Flies and/or Midges will be present. To minimize the nuisance wear light colored clothing, pack a head net and use an insect repellent.

Firewood Ban
Due to the possibilty of spreading invasive species that could devastate northern New York forests (such as Emerald Ash Borer, Hemlock Wooly Adeljid and Asian Longhorn Beetle), DEC prohibits moving untreated firewood more than 50 miles from its source. Forest Rangers have begun ticketing violators of this firewood ban. More details and frequently asked questions at the DEC website.

General Backcountry Conditions

Wilderness conditions can change suddenly. Hikers and campers should check up-to-date forecasts before entering the backcountry as conditions at higher elevations will likely be more severe. All users should bring flashlight, first aid kit, map and compass, extra food, plenty of water and clothing. Be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods and always inform others of your itinerary.

Bear-Resistant Canisters: The use of bear-resistant canisters is required for overnight users in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness between April 1 and November 30. All food, toiletries and garbage must be stored in bear resistant canisters; DEC encourages the use of bear-resistant canisters throughout the Adirondacks.

Local Conditions

Lake Champlain: This weeks hot and humid weather has produced a number of potentially toxic algae blooms in Lake Champlain. Noticeably affected areas include Westport and Port Henry, but there may be other blooms as well. Take the following precautions: Avoid all contact (do not swim, bathe, or drink the water, or use it in cooking or washing) and do not allow pets in algae-contaminated water.

Raquette River: The boat Launch on state Route 3 outside Tupper Lake has reopened, although the floating docks are not expected to be installed until mid-July. The canoe and kayak launch area is not yet open but paddlers can launch at the ramp until that area reopens as well.

Moose River Plains Wild Forest: The main Moose River Plains Road (Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road) is open. DEC, the Town of Inlet, and the Town of Indian Lake have partnered to make repairs to roads and campsites along the road. Gates to side roads, including Rock Dam Road, Indian Lake Road, and Otter Brook Road, remain shut and the roads closed to motor vehicle traffic at this time.

Lake George Wild Forest / Hudson River Recreation Area: Funding reductions have required that several gates and roads remain closed to motor vehicle traffic. These include Dacy Clearing Road, Lily Pond Road, Jabe Pond Road, Gay Pond Road, Buttermilk Road Extension and Scofield Flats Road.

Lake George Wild Forest: Equestrians should be aware that there is significant blowdown on horse trails. While hikers may be able to get through the trails, it may be impossible or at least much harder for horses to get through. Lack of resources, resulting from the state’s budget shortfall, preclude DEC from clearing trails of blowdown at this time.

St. Regis Canoe Area: The carry between Long Pond and Nellie Pond has been flooded by beavers about half way between the ponds. A short paddle will be required.

St. Regis Canoe Area: DEC and Student Conservation Association crews will be working throughout the summer to move 8 campsites, close 23 campsites and create 21 new campsites. An online map of the St. Regis Canoe Area depicts the campsites that are being moved, closed or created. Please help protect this work by respecting closure signs. Work will occur during the week, and only on one or two campsites at a time.

Whitney Wilderness / Lake Lila: Beaver activity has caused the flooding of the Stony Pond Road approximately one mile from the trailhead. Please use caution if you choose to cross this area.

Chimney Mountain / Eagle Cave: DEC is investigating the presence of white-nose syndrome in bats in Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain. Until further notice Eagle Cave is closed to all public access.

Opalescent River Bridges Washed Out: The Opalescent River Bridge on the East River Trail is out. The cable bridge over the Opalescent River on the Hanging Spear Falls trail has also been washed out. The crossing will be impassable during high water.

High Peaks/Big Slide Ladder: The ladder up the final pitch of Big Slide has been removed.

Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail: Much of the blowdown on the Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail between the Calkins Brook lean-tos and Shattuck Clearing has been removed. The trail is open for hikers but remains impassable to horses and wagons. DEC crews continue to work to open the trail.

Calamity Dam Lean-to: Calamity Lean-to #1, the lean-to closest to the old Calamity Dam in the Flowed Lands, has been dismantled and removed.

Mt. Adams Fire Tower: The cab of the Mt. Adams Fire Tower was heavily damaged by windstorms. The fire tower is closed to public access until DEC can make repairs to the structure.

Upper Works – Preston Ponds Washouts: Two foot bridges on the trail between Upper Works and Preston Pond were washed out by an ice jam. One bridge was located 1/3 mile northwest of the new lean-to on Henderson Lake. The second bridge was located several tenths of a mile further northwest. The streams can be crossed by rock hopping. Crossings may be difficult during periods of high water.

Duck Hole: The bridge across the dam has been removed due to its deteriorating condition. A low water crossing (ford) has been marked below the dam near the lean-to site. This crossing will not be possible during periods of high water.

Northville-Placid Trail: Beaver activity has blocked a section between Plumley Point and Shattuck Clearing. Hikers can use a well used, but unmarked, 1/4 mile reroute around the flooded portion of the trail.

——————–
Forecast provided by the National Weather Service; warnings and announcements drawn from NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and other sources.

The new DEC Trails Supporter Patch is now available for $5 at all outlets where sporting licenses are sold, on-line and via telephone at 1-866-933-2257. Patch proceeds will help maintain and enhance non-motorized trails throughout New York State.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Guest Commentary: APA and Economic Development

Steve Erman, the Adirondack Park Agency’s Special Assistant for Economic Affairs, has offered the following perspective on the APA and its role in regional economic development. It’s presented here for your information in its entirety:

Economic Development in the Adirondack Park – – The Appropriate Role for the Adirondack Park Agency by Stephen M. Erman

Over the past few weeks, there has been speculation and opinion offered by citizens and elected officials about an expanded economic development role for the Adirondack Park Agency. Before moving too far down this path, we should consider the strengths and limitations of the Park Agency and other State and local government organizations and regional not-for-profits with roles to play in economic improvement. The Park and its communities require and deserve effective economic development and other programs to support the creation and expansion of businesses that can thrive in this very special place. There must be a stronger focus on encouraging entrepreneurs, planning, and the ongoing protection of regional character and environmental quality.

Since 1982, I have served on the Adirondack Park Agency’s senior staff as Special Assistant for Economic Affairs. I administered a well defined economic program in an agency with core functions of land use planning and the regulation of development. Before coming to the Adirondacks, I was a consultant in Washington, D.C. and learned the
importance of building organizational capacity to create and implement workable economic development strategies. My experiences have given me a unique perspective on what is necessary for a stronger economic development agenda in the Adirondack Park.

The Agency’s economic development policy states in part, that “The Agency will support the creation and retention of jobs within the region in ways that are consistent with its statutory responsibilities with the understanding that economic improvement and stability are vital parts of a collective effort to protect and enhance quality-of-life within the Park.” Within this context, the Agency supports the efforts of State and local economic developers in a manner which does not conflict with APA permitting and other statutory requirements. We correctly recognize that the Agency cannot identify and recruit specific business ventures because of inherent statutory conflicts of interest when projects need to obtain Agency permits.

My work at the Agency has involved substantial outreach to economic developers to explain how land use is regulated in the Park. Assistance has also been given to entrepreneurs seeking to adapt their project proposals to the physical limitations of their sites before applying for development permits. This pre-application guidance has been helpful in speeding up the permit process. My work as an ombudsman has helped reassure entrepreneurs that businesses are welcome in the Park and that, with proper attention to planning details, permits are predictably issued. I have also provided objective analyses of the economic and fiscal impacts of projects to the Agency staff and Board.

Implementation of an economic program at the Agency which does not conflict with its regulatory responsibilities is challenging but the effort has been important. Over time, there has been improved recognition of the relationship of our region’s special environment to the economic viability of Adirondack Park communities and the economic security of Park residents. There is also increased awareness that the Park is a place where businesses can be established and expanded, often with the help of Agency staff.

The Agency has a workable approach for permitting “shovel ready” business parks so our region can provide the same incentive typically available beyond the Blue Line. Eight business parks have been permitted to date and two of these (Chesterfield and Moriah) are “shovel ready” so businesses require no further Agency permits.

The Agency has also expedited development permits when this was critical for jobs and business retention, as was the case with a new plant for Old Adirondack, Inc. in the Town of Willsboro. And, of great importance, the Agency has helped strengthen the capacity of a range of not-for-profit organizations which are now able to work together on regional economic development planning.

I am convinced that there can be steady improvement in the economic vitality of the Adirondack Park but it will require better definitions of responsibility and increased coordination between State agencies, local governments and involved not-for-profits. We need to reduce competition and conflict. We must recognize and respect the distinct
roles that are necessary in building a more diverse and robust economy without denigrating the environmental resource which has clearly given us a competitive advantage over many other regions of the United States.

Initially, three things are critically needed: First, the funding and empowerment of local governments and not-for-profit economic development organizations to conduct well focused and realistic economic planning; Second, increased focus by the NYS Department of Economic Development, the State’s lead development agency, on adapting its programs to better serve the needs of New York’s very rural places, including the Adirondack Park; and, Third, the extensive use of the “Adirondack brand” to both market products made in the region and to advance destination tourism.

The Adirondack Park Agency has planning resources, including a sophisticated geographic information system, which can be very helpful in supporting regional economic development initiatives. And, with additional staff, the Agency can more effectively assist communities throughout the Park in comprehensive planning necessary to encourage
economic development.

The objectives of protecting the natural character of the Adirondack Park and significantly improving its economy are not mutually exclusive and the Adirondack Park Agency shares an interest in both. In my view, however, the Agency should not be the single organization –the “one stop shop” –selected to plan and promote the economic future of the Park because of inherent conflicts with its regulatory mandate. The Agency can best affect the economic future of the Park and its diverse communities as a ready and able technical resource and by being knowledgeable about the full implications of Agency decisions.

Additional planning capacity and closer coordination with State and local government will allow the Agency to serve a significant role in supporting other organizations which can lead regional economic development efforts in the future.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Olympic Bobsled Track Added to Historic Register

Lake Placid’s 1932 and 1980 Olympic bobsled track will officially become a part of the National Register of Historic Places during a plaque unveiling ceremony on Monday, July 12. The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. on the deck of the Lamy Lodge.

The original one-and-a-half mile long track (photo taken during construction at left) at Mt. Van Hoevenberg was completed in Dec. 1930, in time for the 1932 Olympic Winter Games, and since that time has played a significant role in the sport of bobsled’s history. It was during those games that Olympic two-man racing was introduced as well as the push start.

In 1934, the International Bobsled Federation (FIBT) established a one-mile standard for all tracks. To accommodate the change, the top one-half mile was shut down above the Whiteface curve and the number of curves was reduced from 26 to 16, making the upper portion of the run unusable.

The 1,537-meter long course has also hosted five world championship races (1949, 1969, 1973, 1978, 1983) and one more Olympic event, in 1980. The 1949 Worlds also marked the first time a track outside of Europe had hosted that event.

Today, the track no longer hosts international competitions, but it remains in use. Summer bobsled rides are held on the course, where visitors can enjoy half-mile rides, reaching speeds in excess of 50-miles-per-hour, with professional drivers steering their sleds.

Guest speakers during the National Registry ceremony include New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) president/CEO Ted Blazer; representatives from Town of North Elba, the Village of Lake Placid, New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and 1932 and 1980 Lake Placid Olympic Museum member Phil Wolff, who was also instrumental in the track’s efforts to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Admission to the ceremony is free after 2 p.m. A guided tour with Guy Stephenson, licensed NYS guide, Wilmington Historical Society member, and retired Olympic Sports Complex staff member responsible for the restoration work on the 1932 portion of the track, will also begin at 2 p.m. Tour participants will be bussed to the 1980 start to begin the one-hour walk up the 1932 piece of the track. Light hiking attire is suggested.

Also from 2-4 p.m., in celebration of the national historic registry, half-mile long wheeled bobsled rides on the 1932 and 1980 Olympic track will be available for $55 per person. Bobsled rides have been a continuous part of the track’s operations since it first opened, Christmas 1930.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Adirondack Outdoor Hazards: Poison Ivy

Lately I’ve been enjoying a close, personal relationship with a plant we all know by reputation if not from direct experience. It is the plant version of the skunk – the name alone conjures reactions that may or may not be deserved. It is reviled and feared. And yet, it fills a vital link in the ecosystems around us. Today, I give you poison ivy, Toxicodenron radicans.

Even if they’ve never seen it, children can describe poison ivy: it has three red leaves! As we all know, reputations, while usually founded on some morsel of truth, often become wildly exaggerated and the truth left behind in the dust. So, let’s start off on the right foot with a correct description of this plant.

First, its leaves are composed of three leaflets. A leaflet can look like a full-fledged leaf to the untrained eye. The key is that a leaf has a stem (petiole) that attaches directly to the twig of the tree/shrub/plant. Think of your fingers. Together they make up a hand, but you wouldn’t call each finger a hand, would you?

When these leaflets first emerge, they might have a reddish tinge to them, and in the fall they can turn red, too. But to claim that year-round they are red would be misleading. Look for green, for this is the dominant color. You also want to look for teeth (jagged edges). And bilateral symmetry. Bilateral what? Bilateral symmetry means that if you were to hold a poison ivy leaf (with its three leaflets all intact) in front of you, with the center leaflet pointing upwards, you could fold it right in half, down the middle of that middle leaflet, so that the left leaflet lies right on top of the right leaflet, and it would match up almost perfectly. The left side is a mirror image of the right side.

Poison ivy is a native plant. It likes wooded understories, but also does well in rocky, disturbed areas. This is not a plant that seems to be too choosy about where it puts down roots. Sometimes it grows as a dense ground cover. Other times it grows as a vine, using hairy rootlets to attach itself a tree or fence post. Where it becomes established, it can be difficult to eradicate.

In the spring, PI blossoms right along with other early bloomers. Its flowers are white, grow in clusters, and are probably missed by most passersby since they are neither large nor showy. As summer progresses, the flowers that were successfully fertilized become white berries, which are an important food source, especially in winter, for lots of wildlife, namely birds.

And here is where the men are separated from the boys. Or the wildlife from the humans. Y’see, most wildlife, be they birds or mammals, are immune to the effects of urushiol, the oil that is the cause of all the problems we associate with this plant.

Urushiol can be dreadful stuff if you are allergic to it, and most of us have some level of sensitivity. All parts of the plant (the leaves, stem, flowers, fruit, bark, roots) contain this oil. Sometimes just brushing against the plant is enough contact to cause distress, while other times one needs to really crush it to get a reaction. I don’t recommend the latter.

I always prided myself on not being sensitive to PI, but I also kept in mind that this could be simply because I know what the plant looks like and have done well to avoid contact. Until recently.

Some of my readers may recall that about three weeks ago I was down at the Ice Meadows and simply had to try and photograph the flowering partridge berries. They were, of course, nestled down below a robust growth of PI. Throwing caution to the wind, I lay down on the very narrow herdpath and snapped away with the camera. I never got a good shot of the flowers, but about a week later the itching began.

At first I thought it was a bug bite – I’d been gardening and the ants have been known to crawl up my pant legs and nip away. A few days later, the “bite” had turned into three or four bites, and they really were beginning to itch. Then the area was the size of a quarter. By the time it became palm-sized, I was beginning to think “um, these aren’t ant bites…I think I have poison ivy.”

Sure enough, the local medical staff confirmed that I had a healthy rash going on my leg. Calamine lotion wasn’t helping much, so I invested in an industrial strength version, and started taking Prednisone and Benedryl. Another week has passed and I think the worst is over, although random individual blisters are appearing in other locations.

Here are some PI facts:

• Urushiol is water resistant. In other words, it doesn’t just rinse away. Soap and water, these are important. Wash well as soon as you come into contact. Get that stuff off as fast as you can.

• Once you have removed the oil, it cannot spread.

• The blisters, when they form, are filled with your own body’s fluids – not more urushiol. If
they burst or ooze, the liquid is not going to spread the rash.

• If the rash seems to be spreading, there are a couple rational explanations. One, you are getting more of the oil on you from a source (like your pants, or boots, or the dog, or the furniture you sat on while wearing your contaminated clothes). Two, the newer eruptions are occurring on parts of your skin that are either less sensitive or received a smaller dose of the oil and simply took longer to react.

• The oil can linger for years. I read on one website that people got reactions from contaminated artifacts that had been in a museum for over a hundred years.

When I teach people to go out and enjoy the outdoors, one of the things that I cover right up front is “know your local hazards.” This may seem like common sense, but as a society we have become so disassociated from the outdoors that we often need these reminders. The “wild” can be dangerous, but if you know what to look for, it is no more dangerous than your basement. Hazards can be cliffs, raging waters, nests of bees. They can also be the weather, plants and animals. Learn to identify what’s in your neighborhood, and you won’t have to worry so much about unplanned encounters.

That said, wild clematis and box elder are often confused with poison ivy. These are harmless native plants that grow around much of the Adirondack Park. Knowing how to tell them apart from PI is useful. If in doubt, however, treat the unknown as unfriendly and don’t risk unnecessary contact. Better safe than sorry, eh?


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A New 46er Challange: Failing to Reach the Top

Many years ago, after two attempts (and subsequent failures) to climb Dix Mountain via the southwest slide, I turned to my friend and said, “I’ve got an idea. Let’s come up with a new type of 46er challenge.”

The 46ers, of course, are those hikers who climb all 46 of the High Peaks in the Adirondacks more than 4,000 feet high. There’s more than 6,000 officially in this club, plus hundreds more who have done them all in winter.

So my new idea? To fail on every peak more than 4,000 feet high. To qualify for this challenge, you have to try to climb every peak and not get to the top for one reason or another. These must be organic reasons — blisters, encroaching night, exhaustion, getting lost, an ailing partner. You can’t just up and turn around — you’ve got to plan to climb the peak, but fail.

Thus far I’ve climbed every 46 peak, but I’ve only failed to climb a handful. That means I’ve got a lot more failing to go, so if there’s any weak-kneed or blister-prone hikers who think they can’t make it to the top of a High Peak, let me know and I’d love to join you for an attempt.

But the real reason I’m writing today is my other idea for a High Peak challenge — The Black Fly 46. To qualify for this covered prize, you’ve got to climb every High Peak during black fly season, mid-May to early July.

Now, my standards are more than what the calendar can provide. After all, if it’s early June — the heart of black fly season — but temperatures are low so they’re not biting, that doesn’t count. To qualify for a Black Fly 46, you’ve got to come back with at least four bug bites for each peak climbed. That means if you’re ascending four peaks in one day and you want credit, you need at least 16 bites. My idea, my rules.

I think this challenge will help bring people to the mountains at a time that many hikers tend to stay away, and perhaps ease the crowds on busy weekends in summer and fall. After all, why bother climbing a peak if you’re not going to get enough bites to qualify?

Anyway, that’s my idea. If anyone wants to vie for the award, show me a picture of your bites on various summits and I’ll send you the prize (a bottle of Calamine Lotion).

Watch for an upcoming post for my next idea for a hiking challenge: the Frostbite 46. Winners of this prize may be bedridden for a while, but think how good the certificate will look on your hospital wall.



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