Monday, December 1, 2008

John Sheehan Responds to Attacks by Todd Shimkus

If you missed last week’s debate at the economic development symposium on the Northern Forest region at the Rockefeller Institute in Albany, you can see it the way it happened on YouTube here. The discussion featured Adirondack Council Executive Director Brian L. Houseal; Todd Shimkus of the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce and Joe Short of the Northern Forest Center in New Hampshire.

The Northern Forest is a 70-million-acre swath of very big forests and very small towns ranging from Tug Hill, eastward through the Adirondack Park, northern Vermont, northern New Hampshire and to the coast of Maine. » Continue Reading.


Friday, November 28, 2008

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Friday, November 28, 2008

NYS Parks & Historic Sites Capital Plan Update

Here is the complete text of testimony given November 19th by NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation Commissioner Carol Ash at the New York State Assembly Public Hearing for the $132 million capital improvement spending plan for our parks and historic sites. A pdf of the Capital Plan presentation is located here. This page includes the initial announcement of the plan along with a Report to the Legislature and the Capital Projects List.

Thank you for inviting me here today to discuss our real success story of the past year — our capital initiative — “The Revitalization of New York State’s Parks and Historic Sites”.

I truly appreciate this opportunity to fully discuss our capital program, its economic significance, and the importance of our state parks in communities throughout the state.

The New York State Park system is made up of 178 parks and 35 historic sites encompassing 325,000 acres of lands and waters. The system is widely recognized as one of the best in the nation. Our parks and historic sites host more than 55 million visitors annually.

Our huge inventory of public recreational facilities includes 5,000 buildings, 29 golf courses, 53 swimming pools, 76 beaches, 27 marinas, 40 boat launching sites, 18 nature centers, 817 cabins, 8,355 campsites, more than 1,350 miles of trails, 106 dams, 640 bridges, hundreds of miles of roads, and dozens of historic structures listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

Niagara Falls State Park, established in 1885, is the oldest state park in the nation, and Washington’s Headquarters, established in 1850, is the first publicly-owned state historic site. The Bethpage Black was the first publicly-owned golf course to host the U.S. Open Golf Championship in 2002. The 109th United States Open Championship will return to this world-class facility in June of next year.

In traveling to more than 150 of our state parks and historic sites across the state, I have seen first-hand some of the significant challenges facing our parks. In many parts of the state, I was able to share these experiences with members of the Assembly and to those legislators who were able to join me on these park visits, I offer a special thank you.

As a result of a thorough assessment of our system, we identified a backlog of critical capital project needs approaching $650 million.

How did a $650 million capital backlog come to be? Over the fifteen year period from 1992 through 2007, the state park system grew. Twenty-six new parks and 70,000 acres were acquired, representing a 25 percent increase in the system. But over this same period, the state parks’ capital budget was cut by 50 percent, adjusting for inflation. Cutting the capital budget by 50 percent, while expanding the system by 26 new parks, led to a predictable outcome – we are now faced with the challenge of addressing a large backlog of health and safety and park rehabilitation needs.

Fortunately, this year Governor Paterson and the Legislature, with the support of Speaker Silver and Chairmen Englebright and Sweeney, responded to this challenge. The current year FY2008-09 state budget created a new State Parks Capital Initiative. This initiative, coupled with other funds OPRHP secured from federal, state, and private sources, enabled the agency to launch a program to revitalize the state park system totaling more than $100 million.

OPRHP’s $100 million capital investment is delivering tangible, on-the-ground benefits to the residents of New York State. Last week, I submitted a six-month update report to the Legislature on the status of State Park’s Capital Program. The agency has initiated more than 150 capital construction projects to remedy the health and safety issues and rehabilitate deteriorated facilities in State Parks and Historic Sites across the state—addressing health and safety concerns, and providing safe and affordable recreational and educational experiences for millions of New Yorkers.

Of the total $95 million State Parks Capital Initiative appropriation, $75.5 million was allocated to OPRHP. As charged by the Governor and the Legislature, we aggressively set out to efficiently spend these dollars. As of today –seven months later – OPRHP has spent or encumbered 96 percent of the $75.5 million.

Let me repeat, in just seven months through the fiscal year, we have spent or have under contract $72.5 million of the $75.5 million provided to the agency this year – and we have initiated bidding and contract awards for the remaining $3 million.

The agency is on track to encumber the entire $75.5 million by March 31, 2009, and the visiting public will see some noticeable improvements to our state parks during next year’s summer operating season. And, we are ready to begin construction on the next installment of new projects for the next fiscal year, spurring even more economic activity in communities throughout the state.

These capital investments will not only improve the parks and protect the state’s investments in irreplaceable public assets, but they also support the equivalent of 1,000 full-time private sector construction and engineering jobs which bolster the state’s economy in these very difficult times. Due to the nature of construction jobs, this equivalent reflects thousands of actual, on-site workers for various periods of time. The nature and scope of agency’s capital work also makes the projects ideal for small to medium-sized construction firms, businesses that will be most impacted by the economic downturn.

Here are some examples of revitalization projects made possible by this year’s State Parks Capital Initiative.

Four Mile Creek State Park Comfort Station Renovations.
At Four Mile Creek in Niagara County, we are providing park patrons with a new, updated comfort station. The new building features several “green” components including water saving fixtures and skylights, and is fully accessible.


Letchworth State Park.
Roads throughout Letchworth were repaired and repaved, and several public parking areas were resurfaced – addressing critical but long-deferred park infrastructure needs. Other projects initiated at the park this year include waterline improvements and construction of a new washhouse to serve campers. Camping at the park was booked to capacity for most of the summer. About an hour’s drive south of Rochester, Letchworth is a popular and significant tourist attraction in the Genesee region of the state, hosting about 750,000 visitors each year.

Saratoga Spa State Park.
The large Peerless Pool complex, including the fully accessible main pool, slide pool, and toddler pool, were rehabilitated. A new pool liner was installed to improve durability and eliminate water leakage. In addition, a number of the park’s roads, parking areas, bike paths, and walking trails were resurfaced. The spa park attracts 1.7 million visitors annually.

Allegany State Park Cabin Loop Restoration.
Last year, we showed you pictures of severely deteriorating cabins at this park. This past summer, we initiated phase one of the cabin loop restoration project that will rehabilitate deteriorated public rental cabins throughout the park, which has 424 campsites and 375 cabins spread throughout its 65,000 acres. Allegany is a top destination for campers, hikers, and nature lovers.

FDR State Park Bathhouse.
This bathhouse provided another of last year’s memorable “uglies”. Capital projects completed using this year’s funding include the rehabilitation of bathhouse and pool fencing. FDR State Park, located in Westchester County, draws 570,000 visitors annually. (Here we are viewing some of the ongoing work with members of the local Assembly delegation)

Green Lakes State Park Bathhouse Reconstruction.
Following a news conference attended by local Assembly members and Senators this summer, State Parks broke ground on a new $2.3 million bathhouse at the swimming beach in this popular park, located near Syracuse. The new bathhouse will incorporate green technologies, as well as current building code and accessibility standards, and will be open to the public for next summer. The park hosts 850,000 visitors annually.

Riverbank Traffic Circle.
This past summer, we celebrated the 15th anniversary of Riverbank state park community supporters and local state representatives. As part of our capital initiative, we are replacing the traffic circle roadway which provides the park’s main entrance for vehicles, including public buses. In addition to the traffic circle, the agency is in the process of letting contracts to rehabilitate failing roofs and HVAC systems, and has initiated other upgrades including rehabilitation of irrigation lines and the replacement of more than 100 trees donated by the 

Million Tree Project.
Brentwood State Park-Park Development.
Construction has begun at Brentwood State Park in Suffolk County, a major athletic complex that will provide greatly needed playing fields in this underserved area. This first phase of construction, which includes sixteen soccer fields and four baseball fields, is slated to open in the summer of 2009. The park will serve thousands of children in a community that has been very much in need of recreational facilities.

These are just a few highlights. All told, this year’s capital initiative funding enabled the agency to undertake capital improvements in more than 80 state parks and historic sites across New York State.

By any measure, the State Parks Revitalization Initiative is off to a solid start. However, contrasted against a capital backlog of $650 million, much more work remains to be done. As I outlined last year, the bulk of OPRHP’s capital needs fall into two categories:

Health and Safety Projects.
The state parks continue to face a number of health and safety issues. We have outdated drinking water systems that need to be replaced. We have aging sewage treatment systems that have exceeded their useful life; dams on the state’s “high hazard” list that do not meet modern dam safety standards, and bridges that have been flagged as potential hazards. We have failing electrical systems and landfills that, although inactive for many years, were never closed to DEC standards.

Rehabilitation of Existing Facilities.
This category is by far the largest, comprising approximately two-thirds of OPHRP’s total identified capital needs. It encompasses capital rehabilitation of existing infrastructure in the parks and historic sites – replacing facilities that have long exceeded their practical and operational effectiveness and are in various stages of disrepair, including roofs, heating and plumbing systems, visitor centers, bathrooms, campgrounds, shower buildings, picnic shelters, recreation fields, pools, swimming pools, bathhouses, nature centers, roads, parking areas, hiking trails, and maintenance centers.

Looking forward to next year, the agency hopes to continue momentum on revitalizing New York’s state parks and historic sites.

We understand that decisions about next year’s investment in our state parks need to be made in the context of the unprecedented fiscal picture facing New York State. Like all state agencies, we are reducing operating expenses and focusing on the agency’s core mission and priorities. Nonetheless, I believe that, even in this time of fiscal difficulty, continued funding for New York’s State Parks’ capital program is a smart financial investment. The State Parks Capital Program has and can continue to deliver:

Safe and Affordable Parks
Visitation at parks was very strong this summer and, given the challenging financial outlook facing millions of New Yorkers, we expect continued heavy public demand next year for our campgrounds, cabins, picnic and swimming areas, lakes and ocean beaches, and other recreational facilities.

Private Sector Jobs
Through this year’s capital program, OPRHP has entered into 150 contracts and more than 400 subcontracts with private, local construction and engineering firms. Given the nature of our projects, we are contracting with small and medium-size local contractors. And, I am pleased to report that over the past two years more than 13 percent of the agency’s capital construction spending has gone to minority- and women-owned businesses.

Tourism
Revitalized State Parks and Historic Sites directly support recreational tourism, which is one of New York’s largest industries. To grow our tourism industry, we need to make sure that these visitors have high-quality experiences, so that they will return in the future and tell others to do the same.

Economically Vibrant CommunitiesParks, open space, and recreational amenities are important community assets that directly contribute to the economic vitality of cities, towns, and rural areas – enticing businesses to locate and stay in New York.

Healthy Families
Parks provide a place for New Yorkers of all ages to and exercise and play. By investing is safe and attractive facilities, the initiative is part of a comprehensive state strategy to promote public health and wellness, particularly among children and underserved communities.
This year, OPRHP has proven our ability to quickly and efficiently put the State Parks Capital Initiative Funds to work – creating jobs and investing in tangible, lasting improvements to our public facilities. I hope that we are able to continue our momentum on this initiative, within the confines of what is affordable in the overall state budget.

In closing, I would like to thank you for your support of New York’s State Park System. As I have traveled the state over the past two years – from Long Island’s magnificent ocean beach parks, to our urban parks in New York City, to our hundreds of facilities across upstate New York – I have received universal support for the parks from our state’s elected officials. Supporting our parks is a sound investment in the future of our state, and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is committed to continuing to make wise use of this investment in the future.

Thank you. I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Lake Placid: US Junior Figure Skating Championships Returns

The U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships will take place Dec. 8-13 at the historic Lake Placid Olympic Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y. More than 300 figure skaters from across the country are expected to compete at the four-day event, which is being hosted for the second time since 2003 by the Skating Club of Lake Placid and the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA).

Qualifying rounds begin Wednesday, Dec. 10 at the Herb Brooks Arena with the intermediate men’s event. The intermediate ladies short program will kick off the championship events Friday, Dec. 12 at the Herb Brooks Arena. Competition concludes Saturday, Dec. 13 with the intermediate men’s competition in the Herb Brooks Arena and the juvenile boys’ competition at the Jack Shea Arena.

The annual event crowns the U.S. champion in ladies, men’s, pairs and ice dancing in the first two levels of the U.S. Figure Skating competitive structure: juvenile and intermediate. The remaining three levels – novice, junior and senior – will compete Jan. 18-25, 2009, at the 2009 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Cleveland, Ohio.

Skaters qualified for the U.S. Junior Championships by finishing in the top four at one of nine regional championships held throughout the country this fall. Past champions of the event include two-time World bronze medalist and two-time U.S. champion Evan Lysacek and 2008 U.S. silver medalist ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

An updated event schedule can be found on the Skating Club of Lake Placid’s web site, http://www.lakeplacidskating.com/newsite.

Lake Placid and ORDA have also hosted the U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships (five times), the annual Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships and the first event in the 2007 ISU Junior Prix of Figure Skating Series.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New Adirondack Photo Archive

Google and LIFE Magazine have teamed up to present the magazines photo archive online. Strangely, a search for Adirondack turned up next to nothing; a search for Adirondacks turns up a few more, including this shot of Albert Einstein on his sailboat at Saranac Lake 1936.  Additional search for specific places turned up a number of interesting photos like these from the Trudeau Sanatorium and these photos of the Governors Conference held at Lake George in 1954, 

The search problems and so far small number of local images aside, the archive does include iconic images taken by famous photographers like Margaret Bourke-White, Gordon Parks, and Dorothea Lange. The project is similar to “The Commons” launched by Flickr which now includes photos from the Library of Congress. LIFE has said that as many as 97 percent of the photographs have never been seen by the public before.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Whiteface and Gore Mountains Will Open Friday, Nov 28

Snow guns having been making snow around the clock since November 17, and combined with natural snow, Whiteface will have 11 trails and two lifts ready for the post-Thanksgiving Day crowd when it opens for its 51st season on Friday, November 28, at 8:30 AM. The Cloudsplitter gondola and Mixing Bowl lift will service 47 acres, or four miles, of trails for all levels of skiers and riders. The Whiteface children’s programs will be operating out of the new Kids Kampus lodge, with the children being shuttled to the main lodge for their skiing and riding activities.

Whiteface boasts the East’s greatest vertical drop, and was recently named to the Top Five Resorts in the East in SKI Magazine’s Reader Resort Survey 2008. The mountain also received kudos for Challenge and Family Programs (No. 6) and Terrain/Variety (No. 10). Whiteface/Lake Placid also earned the distinction of being #1 in the nation for Off-Hill Activities for the 16th straight year.

Opening day lift tickets are $55 for adults (20-64 years old), $45 for teens (13-19) and seniors (64-69), and $32 for juniors (7-12). As always, children six and under and seniors 70 and over ski and ride for free any day of the season. These prices will be in effect until mid-December. Operating hours are from 8:30 AM – 4 PM.

Gore Mountain, Whiteface’s sister mountain located in North Creek, is also opening for the season on Friday. Gore was recently ranked seventh in the Top 10 Best of the East Reader’s Choice Awards by Skiing. For more information and current conditions at Gore, visit

www.goremountain.com.

For more information on the Olympic venues and events, and for web cams from five locations, log on to www.whitefacelakeplacid.com.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

13th Annual Adirondack International Mountainfest

The 13th Annual Adirondack International Mountainfest is scheduled for January 16-18, 2008 in Keene Valley. Local guides Chuck Boyd, Emilie Drinkwater, Jeremy Haas, Carl Heilman, Matt Horner, Don Mellor, Jim Pitarresi and Jesse Williams will be returning to offer clinics on snowshoeing, mountaineering, avalanche awareness and ice climbing (pre-register soon). Guest athletes include Conrad Anker (a key member of the search team which located the remains of George Mallory on Mount Everest), LP Ménard (who with fellow Quebecer Max Turgeon climbed a new route up Denali’s 8,000 foot South Face in just 58 hours in 2006), Janet Bergman (who has climbed in Peru, Argentina, Canada, China, Nepal, South Africa and around the US) and longtime climber and guide Jim Shimberg (who has guided throughout North America and the world, including trips to Iceland, Peru, Bulgaria, The Czech Republic, China, Scotland, Thailand and Canada. Jim has climbed in Alaska since 1987, with 7 expeditions to Denali, Mt Hunter, Mt Huntington, and more).

According to the folks at the Mountaineer, who hosts the event:

Telluride Mountainfilm, one of the premier film festivals in the country, opens the Mountainfest on Friday night with a custom compilation of the best films from Mountainfilm’s 9-year history on tour, with a focus on ice climbing and mountaineering videos. This will be preceded by a short slide show by Olaf Sööt and Don Mellor about Alpine Americas, their new book of fantastic photographs and essays about “an odyssey along the crest of two continents.” Both authors will be available to sign books offered for sale before and after the Mountainfilm on Tour presentation. Friday evening’s festivities begin at 8pm at Keene Central School and entry is $12 at the door.

Jennifer Lowe-Anker and Conrad Anker will hold a special presentation about the life of the late Alex Lowe on Saturday evening at Keene Central School. Jenni’s new book Forget Me Not tells a complex and candid story of how three people’s lives became intertwined to a degree that none could have foreseen; Jenni and Conrad will tell the story through a slideshow and readings. Forget Me Not will be available for purchase before and after the presentation, and Jenni and Conrad will be signing books afterward. The evening’s presentation will be preceded by raffles and tomfoolery as well as a short award-winning film by Sam Lowe on the Antarctic. The show begins at 7:30pm at Keene Central School and entry is $10 at the door.

On Sunday evening Janet Bergman will present a slideshow of her often-humorous efforts to satiate the climbing obsession. Janet is a New Hampshire climber and world-class Mountain Hardwear athlete who has climbed in Argentina, India, Nepal, Peru and throughout New England. This show begins at 7:30pm and will be held at the KVFD fire hall on Market Street, just down the street from Keene Central School in Keene Valley. Entry is $10 at the door.

For more information visit the Mountainfest 2009 web page.


Monday, November 24, 2008

5 Questions: Ecology Minister Katharine Preston

I asked Katharine Preston of Essex five questions about her Ecology Ministry. Katharine came to the North Country almost four years ago from the Boston area but she has been coming to her family’s camp in the High Peaks for almost 60 years. You can reach her at katharine.preston@gmail.com.

AA: What is an “ecology ministry”?

KP: An Ecology Ministry is a lay ecumenical ministry of creation awareness and care with particular concern for the social justice ramifications of climate change. I am particularly influenced by reputable science, a more inclusive understanding of God’s love for all of creation (not just humans) and the compassion for justice modeled by Jesus. I seek to help others sort through the prophetic and pastoral implications of this.

AA: What is your background?

KP: I received a Master of Divinity degree in May, 2000 from Andover Newton Theological School, in Newton, MA, where I studied and explored the integration of ecological concepts with theology, ethics, biblical studies and pastoral counseling. I also hold a Master of Forest Science from Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and spent 20 years working for government, non-profits and academia in the environmental field.

AA: What denomination is your ministry?

KP: I like to think of it as non-denominational, as we are all in this together and such divisions seem superfluous to me, given the peril of the planet.

AA: What does your ministry look like (congregation, building)?

No congregation or building. The ministry is my work: guest preaching, workshops and writing.

AA: What are most pressing issues facing faith based communities with regards to ecology?

The same as the rest of the human community and the planet: climate change. For the record – this is intimately tied up with the economic crisis. The two “ecos” are interrelated. An integrated response, such as a “Green New Deal” will be the most successful on all fronts.

The warnings from scientists and environmentalists seem to have had little effect toward transforming the consciousness of humans as to the changes needed. As communities of faith, we bring an indispensable and strong moral authority to the table. Although there are differences in theology and worship, all major religions agree on certain moral tenants such as the sacredness of the earth and concern for the less fortunate. We need to work together to help.

There is a lot to be done, and not much time before the planet as we know it is radically changed. In the north country, there are things we will be very sad to see go, like snow cover for half the winter or maples trees. But for others, it is already a matter of life or death.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Survival of the North Country Economy Forum

The survival of the North Country’s economy — both in New York and New England — is the topic of the Rockefeller Institute of Government Public Policy Forum on Nov. 24 at the Institute, located at 411 State Street. The event begins at 10:30 a.m. and ends at noon.

New York’s six-million-acre Adirondack Park is part of a 70-million-acre contiguous forest running from the coast of Maine to the Tug Hill Plateau, just west of the Adirondack Park. The rural communities Northern Forest share a common heritage and common economic challenges in the years ahead.

Rob Riley, president of the Northern Forest Center in Concord, NH, will deliver a presentation on the center’s recent report: Strategy and Recommendations for Economic Resurgence in the Northern Forest. The report includes recommendations to create economic and community development strategies across the region to reinvigorate the rural economies of the Northern Forest.

The panel discussing the report includes: Brian L. Houseal, executive director of the Adirondack Council; Joe Short, from the Sustainable Economies Initiative at the Northern Forest Center; and Todd L. Shimkus, president and CEO of the Adirondack Regional Chambers of Commerce.

Susan Arbetter, host of WMHT-TV’s weekly New York Now, will be guest moderator.

To read the Northern Forest Center’s report, visit: http://www.northernforest.org/economic-strategy.shtml


Friday, November 21, 2008

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Thursday, November 20, 2008

America’s Cup Bobsled and Skeleton Begins Today

Athletes from around the world are at the Olympic Sports Complex in Lake Placid preparing for the America’s Cup Bobsled and Skeleton competition which begins Thursday. America’s Cup features men’s and women’s skeleton, as well as 2-man, 4-man and women’s bobsled. Many of these athletes are up-and-comers looking to gain sliding experience with their sights set on making their respective Olympic teams for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games to be held in Vancouver.

Schedule for America’s Cup competition in Lake Placid:

Thursday, November 20

Women’s Bobsled and 2-Man Bobsled Race #1 @1 PM

Friday, November 21

Men’s & Women’s Skeleton Race #1 @9 AM

Women’s Bobsled and 2-Man Bobsled Race #2 @1 PM

Saturday, November 22

Men’s & Women’s Skeleton Race #2 @9 AM

4-Man Bobsled Race #1 @1:30 PM

Sunday, November 23

4-Man Bobsled Race #2 @9 AM


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Adirondack Climate Conference Final Thoughts

Well it’s over for today, but it’s clear that it’s not over forever. I think it’s fair to say that there was a collective sense that the Adirondack region is a unique place to lay out a framework to achieve local, national, and international changes in attitudes, policies, and our cultural and natural economies. One of the conference leaders (Howard Fish) put it succinctly when he said that residents of natural places like the Adirondacks play a critical role in ensuring both the survival of the world’s natural places and sustainable urban and suburban environments – the world looks to us to lead the way to, as the Adirondack region has for more then a century, coexistence between the natural and the human made world.

Here a few of the more important priorities that will likely be included in the draft Adirondack Climate Action Plan:

Education / Outreach / Clearinghouse of Technical Information
Improving Building Codes to Reflect Carbon Concerns
Incentivising / Creative Financing of Efficiency Retrofits
Advancing (Appropriate Scale) Local Energy Production for Local Consumption
Adopting Smart Growth Standards Across the Park
Promoting Alternative Energy Usage
Facilitating Local Green Business and Local Green Branding
Implementing Climate Change Research, Assessment, and Monitoring
Promoting Management of Our Adirondack Carbon Sink
Building Resiliency to Climate Change Through Local Planning / Action

Those were the ideas that seem to rise to the top. There were a lot more that will be incorporated into the draft action plan.

The three top priorities and three ways we’re moving forward:

Retrofitting Residences
Energy $mart Initiative will Approach 26 Communities Over the next year.

Clearing House / Education

There will be a new web site that hopes to be comprehensive on this issue in this region: WWW.ADKCAP.ORG

Leadership
Thirteen volunteers will form a steering committee to keep us on track and moving forward with the writing of the draft Adirondack Climate Action Plan.

Two final points:

The Seattle Climate Action Plan took two years to put together, so our task is going to be long but promises to be ecologically and economically rewarding for all Adirondack residents. We are looking at having a good draft document within a year.

An important point I think we’ve come away with is the notion that the Adirondack Forest, regardless of the value we ascribed to it before, now seems even more valuable as a carbon sink and nationally important precedent. Thankfully, it looks like local residents will lead the way to our climate future, whatever that may be, and that in itself is the most significant outcome of our little meeting here in Tupper Lake.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bringing In Our Climate Change Friends

One of the interesting things to come out of this morning’s presentations was the idea that we need to involve all residents. In particular for municipalities that means fire, ambulance, police, and highway departments. After all, they, along with the local library and town hall, are often one of the single biggest energy users in many small towns. I’m afraid that aside from planning departments and some local government types, these folks have been absent from our discussions over the last day and half – that’s a testament to the need for better local education.

One of the things that really struck me came from Rhett Lamb, the Planning Director of the City of Keene, NH when he said “historic preservation people are our best friend.” It makes perfect sense. The carbon footprint of an old building must be better then starting from scratch, even with the cost of efficiency retrofits. The last thing we want to do is tear down old buildings and send them to the landfill, when we could reuse them and refit them with new technologies.

Check out the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s blog post “Combining Sustainability with Historic Conservation: the English Experience.” Here is quite a sentence:

Decades of neglect and little investment leads to slum clearance and wholesale redevelopment, while whole life costing tied to embodied carbon modeling has been using carbon calculations (15-20 years) assigned by bankers and investors that are likely less than the true value of our material culture. In terms of ecological sustainability, models suggest that melting ice caps will cause a breach of the Thames and catastrophic flooding of London.

Now that’s something historic preservationists need to be concerned with. The National Trust has been evaluating their properties with regards to climate for a number of years. Here’s more:

In England, they are specifically identifying impacts to their properties from warmer temperatures, drought, coastal erosion, storms, flash floods and heavy rainfall. At Stourhead in Wiltshire, for example, a very wet summer followed by a crisp, frosty winter led to a “soup of green algae” in their bucolic lake. It should be noted though that it wasn’t climate change alone that caused this algal bloom. The nitrogen run-off from synthetic fertilizers used in the region combined with the unusual rainfall have presented the perfect conditions for the algae growth – a sort of one/two whammy from human impact. One of the most arresting images, was the slide of historic cottages dropping off the side of cliffs in Cornwall as coastal erosion overwhelms the coastline. Again and again, Sarah showed devastation at their properties which may have been caused by increased rainfall but was often exacerbated by irresponsible land use.

The National Trust is taking direct action to mitigate these impacts, wherever it is reasonably possible. These efforts include:

1. Reduce emissions of greenhouse gases: Changing to low energy lightbulbs including the ubiquitous CFLs. But they’ve gone one step further by working directly with light bulb manufacturers to develop new low energy bulbs for their historic fixtures.

2. Improve energy efficiency of their buildings: Here, because of their massive landholdings, they are actually able to use their own sheep to produce thermafleece for insulation, for example.

3. Reduce carbon footprint: They are evaluating their fuel sources, changing to more efficient boilers (often developed by German companies) and avoiding the use of electricity from non-renewable resources.

4. Generate energy on site: They have begun using thermal and photovoltaics at many of their sites including directly on the roofs of some of the Grade 2 listed buildings. And on support buildings of lesser importance at some of their sites, they have begun installing the PV slates.

5. Reduce embodied energy: In an effort that Sarah calls “slow conservation” (which she compared to the “slow” food movement) they are looking to building new construction in ways more sympathetic to the environment.

In order to adapt to these climate induced changes, the National Trust is looking at short, medium and long term adaptations such as installing larger gutters, going back to traditional practices (these were often done for good reason) and most importantly, managing properties better with cyclical maintenance programs.

There is a lot more. Check it out before you give Adirondack Architectural Heritage a call.

More this afternoon.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Adirondack Greeenhouse Gas Inventory Results

I’m back at the Wild Center climate conference today. One of the highlights of this morning was hearing from the 80-year-old town supervisor of the Town of Franklin on that tiny town’s climate program. Another was a presentation from the City of Keene, New Hampshire about a climate program they established in 1999 that is really bearing tremendous fruit in financial savings, and raised awareness of the public and local officials.

The highlight of the morning was one of the shortest presentations on the results of a year’s worth of research (supported by the Wild Center and the Association to Protect the Adirondacks Energy $mart Park Initiative) to establish a baseline of just what exactly our region’s greenhouse gas emissions are. I will post a link to the full draft asap.

Compared to the rest of the United States, we look pretty good, but there is some question about whether or not our actual impacts are reflected in the study. We know what we’re doing here for instance, but what about the impacts of goods and service that originate outside the blue line but are consumed here?

Here is what the study found with regard to where our biggest emissions are coming from:

38% Transportation – this category well outpaces the national average of 28%. Obviously, our geographic situation makes this one of our more difficult areas. Denser development, focused public transportation programs, and walkable, skiable, and bikeable hamlets could all help in this area, as would converting municipal fleets to biodiesel and hybrid / electric.

29% Residential – we are much higher than the national average (17%) mainly because of the high use of bulk fuels, very dirty and inefficient electric heating, and old housing stock. This makes us a perfect candidate for weatherization programs, which, due to our cold climate would improve the payback.

21% Industrial – a large portion of this comes from one plant, the International Paper plant in Ticonderoga. we are below the national average in this category (29%) for obvious reasons. It should be noted again, that this does not reflect industrial operations carried on outside the Blue Line that are consumed here.

Our per capita greenhouse gas emissions are, as expected, high for the rest of the world, but lower than the national average:

US 23.6 metric tons per year
ADK 17.5
Germany 12.3
UK 11.1
France 8.7
China 3.9
India 1.8

Another interesting fact is that it’s believed that about 25% of our emissions are sequestered in the great carbon sink that the Adirondack forest provides. One commenter went so far as to say that the Adirondacks “should be receiving carbon offsets.”

More to come.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Study on Climate Impacts on Adirondacks Released

Here is a press release from the Wild Center on the report on Adirondack climate change impacts which was first posted here at the Almanack earlier today. I’ve been live blogging the Wild Center’s climate conference today and will continue tomorrow – you can read all the posts here (start from the bottom).

From the Wild Center: An advance edition of a sixty-two page report detailing potentially radical shifts in the ecology and economy of the Adirondack region was released today as part of a climate change conference held at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. The document was produced by the Wildlife Conservation Society, and authored by Jerry Jenkins, with support from The Wild Center and The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

The report analyzed data from the Adirondacks and looked at projected changes based on a range of peer-reviewed climate change models. The report states that even if fossil fuel use were immediately reduced, the upstate New York region would still experience a warming of about six degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. The report details a recent rise in temperatures in the Adirondacks. Highlights of the report include: » Continue Reading.