Posts Tagged ‘Adirondacks’

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Commentary: Implementing a New APA Land Use Policy

APA officeMy last column in this APA series was a proposed new land use policy organized around a consensus-driven process with a development plan and ecological assessment as the primary inputs and a design that maximizes both ecological protection and the profitability of the project as the desired output.  I expected a number of less-than-receptive comments but instead I received a lot of good ones including some questions and challenges that I hope are at least partly answered this week.  » Continue Reading.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Lost Brook Dispatches: The Glade

Henderson's glenI have been experiencing potent daydreams over the last week.  Really they are little flashes of transference, brief moments where my conscious self is in a different place than I am.  It is less than an out of body experience – a concept which my reason will not allow – but it is much more than simply thinking about or remembering or longing to be somewhere.  Everyone has had similar experiences, when all of a sudden another place or time from memory, or even a fiction from imagination, floods into one’s head so strongly that the smell, sound and feel of it is palpable.

My daydream is no fiction: it is a small glade two thousand feet up and three miles in along the bushwhack route we take to Lost Brook Tract.  Some disturbance created it many decades past, a long enough span of time so that almost no trace of downed trees remains.  Since then the fortunes of wind and slope, of patterns of water running down the bedrock below the soil, have kept it from filling back in.  Surrounded by a ring of birch, spruce and balsam, it is perhaps fifty feet by thirty feet in extent, carpeted in ferns and boreal undergrowth. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Commentary: An Updated APA Land Use Policy Proposal

APA officeGet out your torches and pitchforks, kids.  Here comes a nice fat target to shoot at.  I’m going to propose an updated land use policy and permitting process for the Adirondack Park Agency.  I’m not going to go into a detailed explanation of it since I imagine that I will have ample opportunity to do that in response to the numerous comments I hope to receive.

Consider this a straw man that you can light on fire or eviscerate as desired.  I don’t suggest for a moment that I have the one best answer or anything remotely definitive.  But I aim to have something to talk about which I can defend on the basis laid out in the two previous commentaries in this series: common ground exists to a far greater extent than the usual rhetoric would have you believe and we waste time, effort and good will by playing politics when reasoned discussion and a rational process can get us to consensus far more often than not.  So be ready, because I’m going to come back at any and all objections with direct challenges.   » Continue Reading.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Commentary:
Compromise, Consensus and a New Land Use Paradigm for the APA

APA officeAs I began to think about my series on the Adirondack Park Agency, my discussions with people elicited a wide variety of comments.  My topic over the next two weeks, land use policy, generated some skepticism from people who have been around the proverbial block on this issue.  “If you want to be buried in angry commentary, write about zoning,” went one.  “Private land use is the third rail of Adirondack politics,” went another.  These sentiments are not news to anyone.

But there are other comments I have heard over the last month. Here’s one: “I’m not opposed to development; I’m opposed to pollution.  Development is development, pollution is pollution.”  That quote, from the Strengthening the APA Conference held at the end of September came from an environmental advocate some would consider strongly anti-development.   Then there’s this: “Policies that protect the most appealing and beautiful parts of the land we’re developing, like clustering, make sense to me.  I want strong land value.”  That one is from a developer and contractor in the park, said to me over coffee a few weeks ago.  Or how about these vicious salvos (paraphrased as I didn’t write down the exact words):  “We should always be doing that sort of thing” (conservation design) and “I never understood why the APA allows houses that big to be built; there should be a restriction on size.”  Those two are from a real estate developer and realtor I know. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Pizza Perfection in the Adirondacks

PizzaDeep in the heart of the Adirondacks lies a special spot.  Unassuming at first glance, possessing neither towering heights nor glittering finery, it nonetheless, like so many places in the park, harbors intimate secrets.  This is a place of near perfection, of pleasures nonpariel.  Elsewhere will you find it loftier, thicker; elsewhere will you find it more scenic.  But nowhere – I mean nowhere – will you find it better.

And it comes in only medium and large. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Commentary: Vote No on the NYCO Mining Amendment

National City Center ClevelandI’ve been following the debate over the proposed amendment to the New York State Constitution to allow NYCO Minerals, Inc. to conduct exploratory drilling on 200 acres of Forest Preserve in the Jay Mountain Wilderness.  The basic framework for this proposal is that whatever land NYCO disturbs by their drilling and mining must be exchanged for land of equal or greater value and acreage that NYCO donates to the Forest Preserve.

Please remember as you read this commentary that I have repeatedly and consistently positioned myself as an advocate for finding common ground and seeking consensus around the most controversial issues in the park.  There are plenty of people who are wary of this approach because they fear that efforts to find “balance” or “compromise” will lead to the abandonment of principles that should never be compromised.   That skepticism is unfortunate: negotiations to achieve consensus around common interests, when done correctly, are never about compromise of principles.  Rather they are about avoiding black and white thinking, absolutist rhetoric and the disingenuous politics that so easily proceeds from strident declamations of rightness (for an object lesson, see the tragic rhetoric over this issue).      » Continue Reading.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Lost Brook Dispatches: To My Father

Near DadThis month is my father’s birthday.  We lost him to cancer sixteen years ago; he would have been 96.

I’ve been thinking about my father lately as my interest in Adirondack history has grown in its personal impact.  The palpable feel of the history in the park, the physical sense of it, is the result of a sensibility I owe my parents, especially my father.   His life and values tied me directly to a different time, to a different world that is always echoed in the wilderness, in places that connect all of us to a sense of the primitive and to bygone lives.

Ray Nelson lived part of his youth as a frontier man, literally, in the north woods of Wisconsin.  There he lumbered, built cabins and farmed on a homestead that had been carved out of the wilds.  There was no electricity on this farm, only kerosene.  Power was human and animal muscle, no engines.  Dad was proud into his late years that he still knew how to bridle a horse.  I was born many years after this era but it is moving to me how much I feel such a continuum to it and on through my own life, most of it channeled through the abiding permanence of the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Visit to the Great Range

IMG_6635This July during our Adirondack residency I took some time away from Lost Brook Tract to accompany my brother-in-law Dan and his nine year old son Jonah on Jonah’s first hard-core backpacking trip, a two-day traverse of the Great Range followed by the McIntyre Range the next day.  I was filled with anticipation for the two-fold effect awaiting Jonah: the immediate joy and the lasting legacy.  At nine I would have passed out with excitement from such an adventure, from being on the grand and imposing rock of that range.  But then, as veteran hikers know, the hard work and toil attendant to scaling such rugged ups and downs, the persistence of the pack weight sinking into you, the slow, sustained rhythm that sees you steadily progress through high Adirondack forest, these things work deeply into your body, into your muscle memory and your larger psyche where they embed themselves and cure there, strengthening your experience to a level that leaves you changed forever.  To imagine these effects working on my young nephew brought me immense pleasure. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Lost Brook Dispatches: Merlin Ridge

Jill.  Gorgeous.The beginning of the trail to the summit of Burton’s Peak climbs steeply up through dense tree cover to the crest of a forested ridge where a short jog to the side gives the first lovely view.  From there it follows the ridge line more gradually upward, skirting mossy rock shelves before the final steep pitch to the top of the headwall.  Along the east-facing slope of this ridge the forest of spruce, balsam and birch is more open, hinting at a view of the valley far below and the distant profile of the Giant and Jay ranges.

This ridge walk, lovely as it is, was not an especially noteworthy part of our beautiful trail, at least not until now.  Now it has a name, Merlin Ridge, and a story to go with it. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Adirondackers: My Experience of Local Residents

If you walk that way for 463 miles you'll come to a road... I think....My series on the McIntyre Mines and the Deserted Village is not yet complete but Amy and I have just returned from nearly a month in the Adirondacks and there are a number of topics about which I urgently wish to write, none more so than today’s Dispatch.  So the conclusion of that series will have to wait.

Those of you readers who are particularly stalwart – that is, those of you who actually read my nonsense regularly – know that I can occasionally allow a little sarcasm to color my writings or that I can choose to be a provocateur.  Just be be sure no one misses my point this week, let me assure you the following is entirely sincere.  I’m not kidding or meaning to be cute. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Commentary: ARTA Rail Trail, Economic No-Brainer

Elroy Sparta TrailHere’s a classic Adirondack contradiction of the kind that drives me crazy.

For a thousand years we have had a perceived face-off in the Adirondacks (sometimes perception is reality, sometimes not, right?), one which plays out every day on the pages of the Almanack – and everywhere else there is an outlet for opinion.  In the green corner we have the the preservationists and environmentalists who want more wilderness, more protection for the ecology of the park and less development.  In the blue corner we have many local residents, businesses and government leaders who want to see healthier communities.  They see the restrictive policies of DEC, the APA and the preservationist agenda as a big problem and they see the balance between preservation and the welfare of the residents of the park as out of whack.  They love the wilderness too but they would like fewer restrictions on development, a green light for the ACR and a wider variety of recreational uses for the Forest Preserve.  Okay.  Whichever of the myriad of associated positions and disputes may be rhetoric and whichever may be real, everyone knows this story. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Do The Adirondacks Have Enough Wilderness?

Quinns-Cliff-300x294Dear readers:  due to a death in the family I was unable to work on this week’s missive.  In lieu of that I am editing and reposting part of a Dispatch from many months ago that is especially germane right now as debate over classification of the Finch Pruyn purchase rages on these pages.  I think it is important to once again make a point about Wilderness from a larger perspective.

Given the nature of the discussion over the Finch lands I need to make a prefatory comment.  I have ranged all over the Adirondacks and I reject the notion expressed by some that Wild Forest  = Wilderness.  While I will admit that solitude can often be as easily or even more easily found in under-used Wild Forest Areas than in over-used Wilderness areas, I do not find the two classifications equal either functionally or aesthetically (for one thing, solitude can be more easily wrecked during a visit to Wild Forest).   The two classification certainly are not equal conceptually – that’s why they exist – and even knowing that as one walks in the woods is valuable.  There are many places in the Unites States that one can have a woods experience roughly equivalent to a visit to Adirondack Wild Forest. There a far fewer places one can go that are as wild and well-protected as Wilderness. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Proposal for the High Peaks Wilderness

Marcy Dam 1Last week I set the table for a discussion on how better to manage and protect the High Peaks Wilderness, the centerpiece of the Adirondack Park.  My Dispatch offered no specifics; instead I asked readers for comments and ideas.  I got many good ones.  I paid attention to all of them and was influenced or informed by several.  Now it’s time to show my cards.

Allow me to preface my remarks by saying that while I think everyone who loves the park has a stake in the fate of the High Peaks area, I claim no definitive knowledge of what kinds of changes would be best.  We need to listen to experts in forestry, ecology, land use and the like and follow their lead. That said, I know the High Peaks better than most so I’m not merely being a provocateur here.  Additionally, I have a personal stake in this discussion that is shared by very few: a certain private parcel near and dear to my heart lies within this Wilderness.  » Continue Reading.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Improving The High Peaks Wilderness

Great Range from the First BrotherThis week I am getting my mountain fix in the Pacific Northwest, where Amy and I are attending a school in wilderness woodcraft.  That circumstance will make this week’s Dispatch mercifully short.  It will have to serve as a prelude to a more substantial missive I have been working on for a few weeks, one  which will offer suggestions – some of them certain to provoke disagreement – for improving the wilderness experience in the High Peaks, better protecting the Forest Preserve in general and sensitive high mountain terrain in particular.

Regular readers know that I am a proponent of expanding the State’s wilderness holdings.  I have written a number of Dispatches on this topic, so will not repeat my justification for this position here.  But equal to that desire is the desire to see existing wilderness holdings become wilder and healthier over time.  It should be said right at the forefront that the people of the State of New York have done extremely well with that.  Tony Goodwin, commenting to me this week on a number of topics that will be part of my coming Dispatch, gave me a useful and important perspective on this when he described the conditions when he first climbed Mount Marcy, in 1957: » Continue Reading.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Lost Brook Dispatches:
Is the Adirondack Futures Project Anti-Environment?

The title of this Dispatch has the question.  My answer?  Unequivocally no.  In fact from my point of view it is and ought to be the opposite.  As I write this we have just celebrated Earth Day.  What in the name of Gaylord Nelson is going on here?

One week ago I wrote a Dispatch supporting the Adirondack Futures Project.  Two days later, out came Peter Bauer’s column taking the project and its founders, Dave Mason and Jim Herman, to task for “taking cheap shots at environmentalists” and “ridicule of a single faction” in an article about the project for Adirondack Life. » Continue Reading.



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