If a proposal by the chairman of the Lake George Park Commission is adopted, Lake George camps will be exempt from pending Adirondack Park Agency (APA) regulations banning rooftop sun decks on boathouses.
At a heated public hearing on the Adirondack Park Agency’s proposed rules, held at the Lake George Town Hall on January 7, Lake George Park Commission chairman Bruce Young said the APA should authorize the Commission to continue regulating boathouses and docks on Lake George.
“I don’t see what the APA will do that is different from what the Lake George Park Commission does now,” said Young. “There should be provisions in the new regulations exempting the Lake George Park, and I would hope that the APA would honor our request.” Adirondack Park Agency chairman Curt Stiles will meet with Young to discuss his proposition, said Keith McKeever, a spokesman for the agency.
Speaking one day after the public hearing, McKeever said that APA staff members have already expressed interest in Young’s proposal.
“Chairman Young made a valid point that overlapping regulations can be confusing and redundant, and that can lead to inefficiency,” said McKeever. “Deferring to the Lake George Park Commission would provide the Adirondack Park Agency with an opportunity to adhere to Governor Paterson’s directive to save taxpayers’ money by sharing services and eliminating duplication.”
Mike White, the executive director of the Lake George Park Commission, said he was not informed of Young’s proposal in advance of the public hearing.
But, he said, the Commission has a history of assuming authority from other state agencies to regulate activities on Lake George.
“We’ve directly co-ordinated with other agencies in the rule-making process to avoid duplication, and we’ve been delegated authority by other agencies to issue permits for some regulated activities,” said White.
If the new rules are adopted, authority to regulate boathouses could easily be transferred back to the Lake George Park Commission through a Memorandum of Understanding, said Peter Bauer, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George and a member of the APA’s Technical Advisory List, which the agency consulted when drafting the proposed regulations.
Without that delegation of authority, any new boathouses constructed on Lake George would probably be shorter and smaller than most of those currently permitted by the Lake George Park Commission and local governments.
Under the proposed rule, boat houses will not be allowed to exceed 15 feet in height, can be no larger than 900 square feet and must have pitched roofs.
At the public hearing on January 7, the requirement that roofs be pitched drew the heaviest fire from Lake George residents, contractors and boathouse builders.
According to Jeff Provost, the owner of a firm specializing in the construction of docks and boat houses, “Boathouses with flat roofs are the most popular type of boathouses in this region; it’s what people want.”
The flat roofs are typically used as sun decks, which increases the homeowner’s access to the lakefront and the value of his property.
Because boat houses are exempt from APA rules prohibiting structures within waterfront setbacks, the agency was compelled to develop a definition of boathouses that limited their use to boat storage.
That led to the requirement that roofs be pitched, said Keith McKeever.
It’s also something of an aesthetic mandate, he said.
In 2002, when the Adirondack Park Agency last revised its boat house regulations, the Agency was accused of forcing home owners to build flat, unattractive structures when it contemplated limiting the height of boathouses to 16 feet.
The Agency rejected that provision and chose instead to allow for a wider variety of designs and styles.
According to an APA memo, though, the 2002 regulation was too vague to be easily implemented, and new rules were drafted.
My neighbor came to the door last week in a fit of outrage over a new DEC regulation that made it clear that leaving your gear in the backcountry was against the rules, except in certain cases. He read about it in the Adirondack Journal, a free Denton Publications paper that appears—whether we like it or not—in our mailboxes each week. “Best pack out your boat” was the title of the “Outdoor Tales” column by Denton Managing Editor John Gereau. Gereau is upset that he can no longer store his boat on state land. His interpretation of a previous DEC regulation (despite Gereau’s claims, we’re not talking about a “law” but an administrative regulation), which made it clear that storing “camping equipment” on state land was against the rules, conveniently did not apply to him and his gear. His boat, he apparently believes, is not gear.
I contacted DEC Region 5 spokesperson David Winchell, who sent me the wording of Part 190 of the State Land Use regulation, which after a public comment period was revised in May to make clear that no personal property should be left on state land: “No person shall erect, construct, install, maintain, store, discard or abandon any structure or any other property on State lands.” I’ve included the full reg below.
While some may have thought they had a special right the rest of us didn’t have, what Gereau calls “a time-honored tradition to leave boats and canoes on the shore of backwoods ponds,” the regulation has been clarified for them. No, folks, you can’t just leave your stuff wherever you like—even if it is hard to carry it in and out and would be more convenient for you.
And why not? If we all followed Gereau’s rules, what might be called the “convenience interpretation,” what’s to keep me from getting my buddies to help me haul my 21 foot speedboat to some back country waterway that allowed motorized boats and just leave it there? Why couldn’t I just leave my boat at the state access point—state land after all—on any lake I please? That would sure save in docking fees and be a heck of a lot more convenient for me.
There’s another argument I’d like to head off as well. What I like to call the “poor old folks” argument. Here’s how Gereau states it: “I know of many older folks who would not have the ability to get out on the water if the boat had not been there for their use.” Not only does it wrongfully label old timers as invalids, it’s also wrong in fact. There are something in the neighborhood of 2,760 individual lakes and ponds larger than a half acre in the Adirondack Park—about four percent of the total area of the park (almost a quarter million acres)—claiming you can’t get to one of them is ridiculous.
And besides, if it’s that back country (ahem, wilderness) experience that those who make the “poor old folks” excuse are after, then they should also be ardent supporters of the quiet waters movement, the major goal of which is increased opportunities to experience the back country they seek.
Here’s the full text of the revised regulation:
The specific citation is 190.8(w)
w. No person shall erect, construct, install, maintain, store, discard or abandon any structure or any other property on State lands or subsequently use such structure or property on State lands, except if the structure or property is authorized by the department or is:
1. a geocache that is labeled with the owner’s name and address and installed in a manner that does not disturb the natural conditions of the site or injure a tree;
2. a camping structure or equipment that is placed and used legally pursuant to this Part;
3. a legally placed trap or appurtenance that is placed and used during trapping season;
4. a tree stand or hunting blind that does not injure a tree, is properly marked or tagged with the owner’s name and address or valid hunting or fishing license number, and is placed and used during big game season, migratory game bird season, or turkey season; or
5. a wildlife viewing blind or stand that is placed for a duration not to exceed thirty (30) days in one location per calendar year, does not injure a tree, and is properly marked or tagged with the owner’s name and address or valid hunting or fishing license number
Other new provisions of the regulation were added regarding the use of tree stands.
190.8(x) On State lands, no person shall erect, construct, occupy or maintain any structure that is affixed to a tree by nails, screws or other means that injure or damage the tree except as otherwise authorized by the department.
(y) No person shall erect, construct, maintain, occupy or use any tree stand that is used, operated, accessed or reached by methods or means which injure or damage a tree on State lands, and no person shall gain access to any structure in a tree on State lands by means that injure or damage the tree.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold public hearings on the APA’s proposed revisions to its boathouse regulations. Following APA meetings in August and September, 2008, the Agency voted of 8 to 3 to submit the proposed revisions for State Administrative Procedure Act (SAPA) authorization (in February of this year). Following authorization to proceed (which the agency received on October 8) the APA will be scheduling several public hearings (both in-park and outside the Blue Line) later this fall. Here is the complete notice from the APA: The APA Boathouse definition was implemented in Regulations adopted in 1979, and revised in 2002. The new 2009 definition proposes specific roof, height and footprint criteria to replace the 2002 “single story” limitation. The revision clarifies design components and continues to prohibit the use of boathouses for anything other than boat storage.
Other uses, if independently built, would be subject to the shoreline setback requirements of the APA Act. For example, other structures such as decks, guest cottages, and recreation rooms are prohibited on the shoreline if greater than 100 square feet in size. In the past, landowners attached these components as part of what would otherwise be a boat berthing structure, and argued these components were part of the “boathouse” because the previous definitions did not specifically exclude them.
The 2002 definition limits boathouses to a “single story.” However, the definition fails to prohibit large “attics,” and extensive rooftop decks, resulting in some very large non-jurisdictional shoreline structures. The lack of clarity requires architect’s plans and time-consuming staff evaluation.
This is a particular problem in towns that do not have their own zoning ordinances. Currently within the Park, local boathouse regulation runs the gamut from no regulation to some towns having limits on size, including square footage and height restrictions. Some town regulations are more restrictive than the present 2009 proposal.
The 2009 proposal retains the 2002 provisions that define “boathouse” to mean “a covered structure with direct access to a navigable body of water which (1) is used only for the storage of boats and associated equipment; (2) does not contain bathroom facilities, sanitary plumbing, or sanitary drains of any kind; (3) does not contain kitchen facilities of any kind; (4) does not contain a heating system of any kind; (5) does not contain beds or sleeping quarters of any kind”.
The proposal adds: “(6) has a footprint of 900 square feet or less measured at exterior walls, a height of fifteen feet or less, and a minimum roof pitch of four on twelve for all rigid roof surfaces. Height shall be measured from the surface of the floor serving the boat berths to the highest point of the structure.”
The change is prospective only; lawful existing boathouse structures may be repaired or replaced pursuant to Section 811 of the APA Act within the existing building envelop.
For those who wish to exceed the size parameters or expand a larger existing boathouse, a variance will be required. Standard shoreline cutting and wetland jurisdictional predicates still apply in all cases.
Shorelines are important. The dynamic ecosystems that edge Adirondack Park lakes, wetlands, rivers, and streams are critical to both terrestrial and aquatic species. Well-vegetated shorelines serve as buffer strips, protecting banks from erosion, safeguarding water quality, cooling streams, and providing some of the Park’s most productive wildlife habitat. Large structures and intensive use at the shoreline causes unnecessary erosion and adverse impacts to critical habitat and aesthetics and raises questions of fair treatment of neighboring shoreline properties.
The Statutes and Regulations that the Agency is charged to administer, strive to protect water quality and the scenic appeal of Adirondack shorelines by establishing structure setbacks, lot widths and cutting restrictions. However boathouses, docks and other structures less than 100 square feet are exempt from the shoreline setback requirements. The original Adirondack Park Agency Act also allows a higher density of residential development on shoreline lots. Continuing development and redevelopment on the water’s edge, including large dock and boathouse structures, continues to threaten water quality and increase the types of use detrimental to long term protection of the Park’s greatest asset.
Navigation through the Adirondack backcountry can be difficult. Out of the way rivers, streams, geologic features, ponds and even mountains are not always accessible by paths or readily described in books. The internet provides a number of valuable visual resources that help take some of the guesswork out of locating and navigating to a remote location. Some of the most helpful sites include ortho-imagery (aerial photographs digitally adjusted for topography, camera tilt and other details), latitude/longitude specifics, compass orientation and 3-D modules. Flash Earth displays the latitude and longitude in relation to an on-screen crosshair. These details can be input into a GPS to further narrow the margin of error. Several satellite aerial photograph choices with scaling allow an in-depth study of the earth’s features. A compass in the upper right of the screen provides accurate orientation as well as map rotation if desired.
Terra Server USA adds a topographic map to the mix, but narrows the aerial photo choices to one source. Latitude and longitude information is displayed and can be used to display a general location. The lack of a cross-hair or other relative on-screen marker makes it a bit more difficult to tell what section part on the map corresponds to the latitude/longitude.
Virtual Earth uses either a “road” view or an “aerial” view with several powerful features. Latitude, longitude and altitude correspond to the cursor’s location on the image and work in both the two and three dimensional modes. The 3-D module allows the user to truly study the area’s topography by using the zoom, tilt, rotate, pan and altitude functions. A special “Bird’s Eye” view overlays photographs (where available) of specific areas.
State Lands Interactive Mapper or SLIM is located on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s site. Map details are manipulated by about twenty different layer options that can either be added or removed from the map via the map contents pane. Layer choices include trails for mountain bikes, hiking, snowmobiles, horses and cross country skiing. Waterways, roads and areas accessible by persons with disabilities may also be selected. Several boundaries including state land boundaries help the back country explorer avoid private lands. Ortho-imagery or topographical maps may be chosen as well.
On Lake Placid yesterday, efforts to contain recently discovered variable leaf milfoil moved forward on two fronts. As village officials prepared to close the village-owned launch on Victor Herbert Road—redirecting boat traffic to the NYSDEC launch next to the Lake Placid Marina—the Lake Placid Shore Owner’s Association released the first aerial photograph of the milfoil bed on Paradox Bay.
The photo, taken by the volunteer team of Lake Placid-based environmentalist and aviator Ed McNeil and Dr. Charles D. Canham, a forest ecologist with the Cary Institue of Ecosystem Studies, in Millbrook, was from a survey of the lake’s littoral regions in search of secondary establishments of the invasive weed. None were discovered. According to McNeil, the the favorable angle of the sun and the transparency of the lake water allowed them to survey to depths of about 12 feet. » Continue Reading.
On Lake Placid, the era of the big public tour boat is over. At least for the time being. According to Brian Bliss, Manager of the Lake Placid Marina, a fully covered, thirty-foot aluminum pontoon boat has been purchased to replace the sixty-foot, one hundred-passenger Doris II, which was retired from service on April 16th. The new boat will handle sixteen passengers. Bliss says there are no plans to find a larger or more distinctive vessel to accommodate the sightseeing trade. This is the second loss in as many years to Lake Placid’s once proud tour fleet. Lady of the Lake was removed from service before the start of last summer’s season. Lake Placid Marina sold the sleek vessel—built in 1929 by Hutchinson’s Boatworks of Alexandria Bay—to Brian Arico, former owner of Camp Minnowbrook on the lake.
Attempts to resell the boat for private use on nearby water were unsuccessful, and a prospective sale to an individual from Lake Eustis, Florida fell through at the last minute. Lady of the Lake spent the winter months alongside Route 86 in Ray Brook. Late last month she was finally sold to a private classic boat collector who transfered her to a flat bed trailer and hauled her away to Wisconsin.
The loss of Doris II and Lady of the Lake, along with the retirement to private ownership some years ago of the smaller Anna, ends a streak of large boat excursion service on Lake Placid dating back to 1882. Mattie (1882), Water Lily (1884), Ida (1886) and Nereid (1893) were all propelled by steam, as was the original Doris (1898) until her conversion to a gasoline engine in 1907. In March 1950, when Doris II was assembled on the shores of Lake Placid, she inherited the original 30″ by 36″ propeller from her namesake. Asked if Doris II might still have that same propeller, Brian Bliss said that logs and maintenance records were not retained over the years.
Photo of Nereid courtesy of Lake Placid Shore Owners’ Assn.
Management of the Lake Placid Marina has decided to suspend operation of the tour boat Doris II for the 2009 summer season. According to Dan Keefe, spokesman for New York’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, a Marine Unit inspector noticed “structural diminishment” to the hull during his annual visit last Thursday. The inspector advised officials at the Marina that no inspection to the vessel would take place until preliminary repairs were made. Lake Placid Marina Manager Brian Bliss characterized the damage to the 58-year old tourist attraction as chronic wear-and-tear. The structural work necessary to restore the hull to compliance was deemed prohibitively expensive. Lake Placid Marina owner Serge Lussi told the Adirondack Daily Enterprise that Doris II would not be restored to operation and that a search for a replacement has been launched. The 60-ft long craft, originally designed to carry 126 passengers, is presently stored on site. No decision has yet been made on sale or disposal of the craft.
Doris II was assembled in the spring of 1951 at George & Bliss boathouse (current site of Lake Placid Marina) on Lake Placid, from a kit of materials shipped from Bay City Boat Co. in Michigan. The purchase and construction were overseen by George & Bliss Manager Leslie Lewis and Captain Arthur Stevens, who skippered the original Doris on Lake Placid from 1903 until its retirement from service in 1950. Doris II was launched July 3, 1951 and toured her first paying customers along the 16-mile shoreline of the lake on July 12 (corrected from earlier version) of that year.
Until a replacement is found, the absence of Doris II raises the prospect of the first summer season since 1882 that Lake Placid will not float a large-capacity touring vessel. Last year The Lady of The Lake, another long-time icon of Lake Placid tourism, was removed from service. Tightened regulations following the capsizing of the Lake George tour boat Ethan Allen contributed to that retirement. A third Lake Placid tour boat of recent years, the Anna, remains on the lake under private ownership, according to Brian Bliss.
From Mark Wilson, who writes the newsletter for the Lake Placid Shore Owners’ Association (founded in 1893), comes news of the demise of the Lake Placid’s Lady of the Lake tour boat. She was on the same service as the Ethan Allen in the Thousands Islands until the 1950s and has suffered from regulations that grew from the tragedy at Lake George in October 2005. Here is Wilson’s full report:
The Lady of the Lake, longtime doyen of the Lake Placid tour boat fleet, has taken to the road. Since late summer the sleek septuagenarian has sat on her trailer at the edge of Route 86 in Ray Brook, looking westward.
Nostalgically, perhaps. Remembering Alexandria Bay and Hutchinson’s Boatworks where she was built in 1929, and where–until the 1950s–she shuttled among the Thousand Islands under the name Commander. According to General Hugh Rowan’s history of sightseeing boats on Lake Placid Lake Placid, Charles C. Grote brought her to Placid in 1958, re-christening her Lady of the Lake, competition for the Doris II, owned by George and Bliss Marina.
For nearly fifty years she served proudly, despite a docking accident which scuttled her in July 2006. According to current owner Michael Arico, statewide tour boat regulations enacted after the fatal capsizing of the Ethan Allen on Lake George in 2005 reduced the Lady’s passenger limit, effectively ending her career.
Arico attempted to sell her on eBay earlier this summer. By the end of August a buyer arrived with a custom-built trailer to tow her down to Eustis Lake, Florida. But the deal fell through at the last minute, ending any hopes the Lady may have harbored of a Florida retirement. And so she sits patiently, if somewhat forlornly, roadside, decked out in white (four months past Labor Day!).
If you have a special place in your heart for this once-proud-now-down-on-her-scuppers plier of Placid waters, and about 44 feet of dock space, call Michael Arico at (914) 456-2550.
With all the news about Michael Phelps medal wins at the Olympics, some Adirondack Almanack readers may have missed the two tragedies that occurred on Schroon Lake last week.
On Sunday night, two boats (both running without navigation lights) collided just before 11 p.m. A Boston Whaler operated by 17-year old Gerald Smith turned in front of a Hydrostream Vector (operated by Brett D. Bernhard, 20, of Horicon). Daniel Miller, 20, also of Horicon and a passenger on the Hydrostream, was hit in the head during the collision and knocked unconscious. He was taken by ambulance to Moses-Ludington Hospital in Ticonderoga and then transferred to Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington – he was in critical condition with a severe head injury.
Then on Tuesday night, Elizabeth A. Weiner, 81, of Cazenovia, drowned behind the Davis Motel, near where her family has a summer camp: “Investigators said Mrs. Weiner left her camp to go wading by herself in Schroon Lake. She was a seasonal resident of Schroon Lake, police said, and known to be a non-swimmer.”
Visitors and locals alike fall from shore, docks, and out of boats of all sorts. In the days of closer connection to lakes and waterways for drinking, washing, ice, work, transportation, and entertainment, drownings were far more common. “Many Drowned Sunday” reads one report from 1910 that gives accounts of “several accidental drownings” in Connecticut; three drowned in the Delaware River near Philadelphia; a man and woman in the Ohio River and another near Scranton; the bodies of Eddie Hammond and Harold Driscoll (both nine) discovered in the Varnick Canal in Oswego, NY; John Whalen and Francis Forti drowned in a creek near Albany. That same Sunday Frank Namo was drowned bathing in the Black River, and the Brooklynite superintendent of the Lake Placid Yacht Club, Oscar C. Nicholas, was also drowned while bathing. Swimming has taken the largest toll by far. I thought I’d take a closer look at drownings in Schroon Lake to get an indication of what the overall historic statistics may look like. In the twenty years between 1924 and 1944 – a time when the resort area was in its heyday – at least 14 people drowned, plus two more in nearby Gull Pond, and at least one in Trout Brook which runs into Schroon, a number of other drowned in the Schroon River.
Of the fourteen, two were women (both servants), the rest were all males, including two boys. The vast majority were under the age of 30. Two, in different incidents, were men on their honeymoons (both were staying at Moon Hill Camp). Two were employed by the Little Club and two by Scaroon Manor. Three were laborers. Five of the fourteen were locals.
What follows is a look at all the drowning deaths I could locate in local papers for Schroon Lake between about 1875 and 1950:
On September 15, 1884, 80-year old Hiram Jenks, described in a local paper as “the best known fisherman and guide in Essex county,” was found drowned in Schroon Lake near the Grove Point House. He had left home on a fishing expedition the night before.
A 1906 newspaper article “A nurse had a cramp while bathing and sank,” described the death of a Miss White, who drowned while swimming with her employers children in Schroon Lake.
In October of 1908 alcohol appeared to be a factor in the drowning of Frank DuBois, employed building a road nearby. According to a local newspaper report DuBois had, “left his boarding place to go to the village for supplies. He left the village to return and the next day the empty boat was found together with his coat and a bottle nearly filled with alcohol.” His body was found nearly a month later on a sandy beach about a mile and a half south of Schroon Lake Village.
William Brandies, a waiter at the Leland house was drowned in Schroon Lake in July 1920. Brandies had gone out in a canoe and not returned; the empty boat and his body were recovered later. He was about 35 years old and had lost two brothers in World War One.
In July of 1924, Esmond Smith of Adirondack (on the east side of Schroon Lake) and David Middleton loaded a quantity of tile and brick into a flat bottom boat with a small motor. They set out in rough waters to a cottage a few miles distant from Adirondack but were soon swamped. Middleton, 70, swam to shore, but Smith, 40, apparently could not swim and drowned.
In July of 1928, two employees of Scaroon Manor were drowned when one, Erma Treppow, 22, of Brooklyn, slipped off a submerged ledge into deep water. She could not swim so Edward Maggiogino of Long Island jumped in to save her. Treppow panicked and grabbed her would-be rescuer, dragging them both under while two other women watched helplessly from shore.
In September of 1929, Edwin Buchman, a wealthy Troy manufacturer and a summer resident of Schroon Lake, was believed to have had a heart attack or stroke and to have fallen into Schroon Lake near the former O’Neill property which he owned. He had planned to take a swim before breakfast but never returned. His body was found in shallow water.
In October of 1929, Fred McKee of Pottersville, Elmer Liberty of Olmsteadville, and Angus Montayne of Schenectady were transported a 50-gallon drum of gasoline in their motorboat from Charles Bogle’s boathouse to Isola Bella Island on Schroon Lake. The lake was rough and when the motor stalled the barrel rolled forward and capsized the boat throwing all three men into the water. McKee and Montayne, who could not swim, attempted to hold onto the barrel. They soon disappeared as Elmer Liberty watched; he survived by clinging to the overturned boat. Forty men, under the supervision of John Flannigan, began dragging the lake for the bodies. They were recovered the same day.
In June 1933, Brooklyn newlyweds Louis and Elsie Gerber left their honeymoon digs at Moon Hill Camp on Schroon Lake in a canoe with Mrs. Robert Epstein of the Bronx. They got about 150 feet from shore when the canoe capsized. A man driving by saw the three clinging to the sides of the canoe, stopped his car, and rowed out to them in a rowboat. According to the Ticonderoga Sentinel, Louis Gerber told the man that he alright and to take the women ashore first – when the men returned Louis was gone. “A searching party was quickly organized,” the Sentinel reported, “but it was not until evening that the body was recovered. The body was taken to Brooklyn by the broken-hearted bride whose honeymoon was so tragically ended.”
Just one month later, in July of 1933, Paulding Foote Sellers, recent graduate of Hamilton College and captain of the college’s football team (and nephew of Admiral David Foote Sellers, died after diving into Schroon Lake – “he sank without a struggle.” It was surmised by the local coroner that he “had a weak heart.”
Parry Lee Shivers, 25, an African American maid, was drowned in Schroon Lake in August of 1937. Shivers was in a boat with another African American maid, 18-year-old Carrie William who later told a newspaper what had happened: “She spoke to Miss Shivers as they were returning to the shore, and there was no response. She turned and was amazed to discover that her friend was not in the boat. Hastily scanning the water in the vicinity of the boat, she saw Miss Shivers swimming about sixty feet away. According to her story, she called to her, but gained no response. A few seconds later Miss Shivers sank beneath the surface and failed to reappear.”
In 1926, a thirteen-year-old George Plumley of Minerva fell from a dock and drowned. In 1938, an eight-year old Schenectady boy, Robert Crossman, was drowned near his parent’s camp opposite Moon Hill Camp. His eleven-year-old sister found his body; he had been last seen just a few minutes before on the camp dock but failed to show for lunch.
In June of 1940 Louis Kankewitz, 30, of New York City was drowned when the canoe he was paddling alone capsized near Eagle Point. He and his new bride were staying at Moon Hill Camp – it took a week to find his body.
Another Brooklynite drowned in July of 1944. Melvin Leon, 16, had jumped into the water at the Leland Hotel’s beach to save George Solow, 17 (also of Brooklyn). The boys were employed at the Little Club, They had been fooling around in a row boat when Solow jumped into the water with the oars; when he lost the oars and couldn’t get back into the boat, Leon jumped in to help him. A third young man in the boat tried in vain to paddle the boat against the wind with his hands. Another boater eventually rescued Solow, but it was too late for Leon.
Almost one year to the day, another young man employed by the Little Club drowned while trying to retrieve an errant boat. Schroon Lake native Glenn Cramer, 16, went out towards Keppler’s Point when his own rowboat overturned; he could not swim. A passerby yelled to him to hold onto the overturned boat but Cramer panicked and was gone by the time his would-be rescuer arrived.
Although they were popular in the Adirondacks in the 1890s and early 1900s, according to the G. W. Blunt White Library at Mystic Seaport, Connecticut, no one is really sure who founded the Electric Launch Company (“Elco”):
Electric motors that could be used for marine application had been invented by William Woodnut Griscom of Philadelphia in 1879, and in 1880 he started the Electric Dynamic Company. In 1892 Griscom’s electrical company went bankrupt, and Electric Dynamic Company was bought by Isaac Leopold Rice who founded Electric Storage Battery Company (“Exide”). Rice had become interested in Electric Launch Company; they had been buying his storage batteries. He also was interested in Holland Torpedo Boat Company. He purchased the latter and merged it, along with Elco, into the Electric Boat Company in 1899. In 1900, Elco, which had previously acted as middleman by farming out the hull contracts and installing Griscom’s motors and Rice’s batteries, built its own boat-building facility at Bayonne, NJ.
Join Charles Houghton, former president of the Electric Launch Company will present a program entitled “Batteries Included: The History, Present, and Future of Electric Boating” at the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake that will be presented this Monday, July 14, 2008 in the Auditorium at 7:30 p.m.
The company provided 55 electric launches for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago to ferry sightseers over the fair’s canals and lagoons. Elco shifted to gasoline engines by 1910 and had a long life building military and some of the first widely produced pleasure boats. During World War One, the company built 550 sub chasers for the British navy. In 1921 they introduced the popular and (reasonably) affordable 26-foot Cruisette, a gas engine cabin cruiser. During World War Two Elco developed the the PT Boat, an 80-foot torpedo boat with a Packard aircraft engine.
At the end of the war, the company merged with Electric Boat of Groton, CT to form the nucleus of General Dynamics. By 1949, General Dynamics’ CEO thought he could make more money by building military craft and Elco’s workers were fired, the shipyard in Bayonne, New Jersey and all its equipment was sold.
The company was re-incorporated in 1987 but didn’t shift into electric boats again until 1996 the year Monday’s speaker, Charles Houghton, became company president. Under his direction the company began building electric motor boats and electric drives for boats and sailboats.
In Part One of Adirondack Snowmobile History, we traced the emergence of snow machines in the early 1900s. In Part Two we looked at the development of the personal sled that is so familiar today. Part Three followed the explosion of makes and models and the spread of snowmobiling throughout the Adirondack region with races, clubs, and dealers taking advantage of the boon in snowmobile sales that occurred from 1965 to 1970.
From the beginning some snowmobile riders and some folks concerned about the impacts of snowmobiles on the rural and wilderness environments began to debate the new outdoor sport. With 200,000 snowmobiles already traveling American lakes, fields, and trails in the 1966-1967 season and many more apparently on the way, government and environmental advocates began to address the possible impacts and attempt to responsibly manage them.
Snowmobile historian Leonard Reich noted that:
During the mid-1960s, snowmobile enthusiasts began to organize clubs whose activities were oriented toward safety, social events, and group activities such as festivals (“snodeos”), clearing, marking, and grooming trails, and trail rides (“snofaris” and “sno-mo-cades”) that could include as many as fifty sleds. One observer of a large nighttime ride recalled that “from a distance, their bobbing head-lights resembled a religious procession,” and in a way it was. Some clubs shipped their snowmobiles to distant sites, then flew or bussed members there for group touring.
In 1970, New York State began requiring riders to register their sleds with the Parks and Recreation Department’s Division of Marine and Recreational Vehicles. Registration forms could be had a local dealers, county clerks, Sheriff’s offices, and regional offices of the Department of Conservation. Registration cost just $5, although some sled riders complained at the cost despite the fact that events organized by local clubs often cost as much as $1 to $2 per sled. The 1970 regulations also required young riders to take a Young Snowmobile Operator’s safety course before riding alone.
Beginning in 1971, a number of governments across the United States and Canada began investigating the boom in snowmobiles in order to asses and mitigate their impacts. In 1971 Congressional testimony, Sno Goer magazine publisher Susie Scholwin voiced the freedom snowmobilers felt on their new machines:
Before snowmobiles, in northern Wisconsin] winters were something just “to be lived through.” Nice winter days on weekends brought the sleds, skis, toboggans, and general fun-in-the-snow. Nights were long and lonely. As were the weekends as a whole. Ice fishing on the lake was good, but the best spot was over a mile away. . . .
The winter of 1964 and early 1965 took on a different tone than those before [with our family’s purchase of a snowmobile]. Mom and dad loved it–the kids loved it. Winter was not the gloomy thing it had been–but each day was an adventure of its own. It was much easier to get “over to the other side of the lake” fishing. . . .
There were races held, but they were something minor. . . . The important thing . . . was that more and more of the neighbors in the area were buying these fantastic little machines and, lo and behold–winter was turning into FUN! The little snowmobile had become a funmobile–one that made winter something to look forward to! Everyone in the area looked forward to weekends, with their picnics, trail-riding, exploring, scavenger hunts, and social gatherings. . . . Many in their fifties and sixties, who were not enthused about the muscular sport of skiing, found that the snowmobile was the answer to their dreams.
For their part of the debate, the dozens of snowmobile clubs in the Adirondack region began exercising their muscle. For example, the President of the Keeseville Trail Riders wrote to local papers in 1972 to remind riders that a $1.15 billion bond issue coming before voters in November would include $44 million for land acquisition in the Adirondacks, but he “doubts very much if any of this money would be used to acquire land for snowmobile trails.” In opposing the bond issue, the Trail Riders noted that their $5 registration fee was being used to build boating services in the Adirondacks.
Take your neighbor or friend or the fellow down the street who owns a boat, the fee to register it for three years is $3.00 and the state has built parking lots and boat launching ramps.
The economic argument was also put forward early:
Take a minute to think how much money this sport has brought to the North Country. We have Boonville over in the western part of the state where thousands come to view races on weekends. Then closer to our community we have our friendly neighbors, Schroon Lake, where the Chamber of Commerce is in the process of putting out our their winter brochure.
So you see everyone stands to gain either enjoyment, money or employment from this sport.
True or not (and their was some question about the actual impact of snowmobilers on the Adirondack economy, even in the boom years), the economic arguments of the clubs and their supporters found important allies in the local press and among the property rights and anti-government crowd. We’ll explore those conflicts in Part Five.
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