Posts Tagged ‘economics’

Friday, May 21, 2010

Hacker Builds Luxury Boat Factory to Meet Global Demand

The factory was humming, despite the fact that it was Sunday morning.

A busy factory would be an unusual sight almost anywhere in America today, but in the Adirondack Park, where unemployment exceeds 20% and manufacturing has all but disappeared, it’s a true rarity.

The fact that this plant manufactures a Lake George product that is shipped around the globe makes the factory not only a rarity, but unique.

Located in a former palette plant in Ticonderoga, the 32,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility produces Hacker boats, from start to finish.

“Our former facility, housed in several buildings, was not efficient enough. Our new facility makes it easier for us to build boats with the extraordinary craftsmanship that defines every Hacker,” said Lynn Wagemann, Hacker-Craft’s president and CEO.

According to Wagemann, the new plant has enabled Hacker-Craft to shift every aspect of production to one, central location.

Since opening the new plant in April, Hacker-Craft has hired 12 new employees and expects to hire more workers as orders for the luxury mahaogany boats increase. Hacker-Craft now provides comprehensive health insurance to all qualified employees, said George Badcock, a Hacker-Craft owner.

That kind of investment will enable Hacker-Craft to recruit and retain the employees it needs to become a global company, said Badcock. “Hacker-Craft had to expand its market beyond Lake George, the Adirondacks and even the US if it’s to be the success it deserves to be,” said Badcock, a Lake George summer resident who is also president of an international leasing company.

Among the boats nearing completion was a 26-ft runabout, which, according to Dan Gilman, Hacker’s vice-president for sales, is the first new runabout model to be designed and produced by the company since 1995. “This is on its way to France,” said Badcock, who explained that Hacker has entered into an agreement with a European investment group that will market the boats throughout Europe and Asia. “This group has access to new luxury markets, where the demand for a classic Hacker is only growing,” said Badcock.

Hacker now has similar arrangements with groups in the mid-west and in Canada, said Badcock.
Building a single runabout requires as many as 1,500 hours of labor before it’s completed, said Gilman. “This factory is organized according to the same principles used by John Hacker, Chris Smith and Gar Wood,” said Gilman. “The only difference is that we now have power tools.”
Every successive stage of production is visible through the length of the factory, from framing to planking and finishing.

“The boats are now built completely of mahogany; in the past, oak, spruce and ash were used, which worked less with the most advanced expoxies,” said Gilman. The Honduran mahogany, Gilman said, is also harvested from forests certified as sustainable. “That’s something we’re very proud of,” he said.

Some employees are specialists, others can do practically any job required to build a boat. “These are master boat builders,” said Gilman. “We’re apprenticing new employees with the experienced builders, trying to make certain that the craft is passed along.”

Approximately 16 boats were under construction at the factory last week. This number will rise to 25 this year; operating at full capacity, the factory can produce as many as 35 or 40 boats a year, said Badcock.

“Lynn Wagemann has put together a great crew; they take tremendous pride in their work,” said Badcock. According to Wagemann, Hacker Boat Company’s Silver Bay location is now used as a boat yard, for administration and as a show room for the company’s boats.
Hacker also has a facility for restoring and repairing boats in downtown Ticonderoga and storage facilities for 240 boats in Hague, Wagemann said.

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


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Phil Brown: The Moose River Plains Conspiracy

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is catching flak over its plan to close the roads in the Moose River Plains, and according to some conspiracy theorists, this is exactly what it wants.

The thinking goes like this: DEC must have known it would spark an outcry, so it must be hoping that the controversy will garner more money to keep the roads open.

However plausible this may be, it appears to be at odds with the other conspiracy theory to emerge since DEC announced its proposal last week. This one holds that DEC is using the state’s fiscal crisis as an excuse to shut the roads not just this year, but permanently—in deference to the wishes of environmental groups.

Both theories were raised in the public discussion that followed my posts last week (here and here) on the Adirondack Explorer website and on our publication’s Facebook page.

Of course, DEC says it’s closing the roads to save money—a necessity required this year by state budget cuts—but many people seem unwilling to take this explanation at face value.

That state officials always harbor ulterior motives seems to be embedded in the ideology among certain Adirondackers. Usually, they claim that DEC and the Adirondack Park Agency are in cahoots with environmental groups such as the Adirondack Council and Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) and act against local interests.

I won’t dispute that officials sometimes do have hidden motives, but the idea that DEC and the APA merely do the bidding of the greenies is manifestly false.

For one thing, the Adirondack Council, ADK, and other environmental groups have taken DEC and APA to court on numerous occasions when they disagreed with the decisions of officialdom.

For another thing, both DEC and the APA have shown a willingness to bend the rules to give local residents what they want.

Take Lows Lake. DEC went to the mat to keep Lows Lake open for floatplanes even though the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan had for years called for banning planes from the lake.

Take snowmobile trails. The State Land Master Plan says snowmobile trails must have the character of a footpath. Yet the DEC and APA approved guidelines that allow some snowmobile trails to be up to twelve feet wide, with most of the rocks removed to create a smooth surface.

Take fire towers. The State Land Master Plan calls for removing the towers from Hurricane and St. Regis mountains, but the APA board recently directed its staff to find a way to allow them to remain.

In short, DEC and the APA do not always take the side of the environmentalists. And they do try to appease local interests.

As a journalist, I’ve learned that you sometimes have to take what officials say with a grain of salt. So it can be a good thing when the public questions the motives of its government. But when people accuse the state of engaging in dark conspiracies whenever things don’t go their way, they poison the political atmosphere.

What is the evidence that DEC wants to permanently close all the roads in the Moose River Plains? Those who are making this claim should set forth their case. We’d all like to see it.

Photo by Phil Brown: the main road in the Moose River Plains.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Budget Crises Closes DEC Roads, Reduces Staff

Funding reductions to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) resulting from the state’s historic budget shortfall will limit the agency’s ability to maintain roads in the Adirondack Forest Preserve, delay construction of recreational facilities on easement lands, and prevent the hiring of Assistant Forest Rangers this season according to media materials distributed late last week.

“Due to the inability to maintain or patrol roads and nearby recreational facilities, a number of roads will remain temporarily closed to public motor vehicle access,” the DEC announced. “These roads have already been closed for mud season, as they are each year. While gates on these roads will remain closed and locked to prevent access by motor vehicles, the roads and surrounding lands will be open for authorized recreational use by the public.”

Each of the roads that will temporarily remain closed has parking available near the gate. The public is asked not to block the gates or the roads, as DEC may need to access the roads for routine maintenance and emergencies. Road maintenance tasks generally include gravel placement to maintain road surfaces, road grading, culvert replacement and removal of road hazards such as leaning or downed trees. Maintenance of campsites along and near these roads also requires a significant effort by DEC staff, including the removal of trash.

The following DEC roads will remain temporarily closed to all public motor vehicle access:

* Moose River Plains Road System (all roads) in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest, the Towns of Inlet, Arietta, Lake Pleasant and Indian Lake, Hamilton County;

* Lily Pond Road in the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Horicon, Warren County;

* Jabe Pond Road in the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Hague, Warren County;

* Gay Pond Road in the Hudson River Special Management Area (aka the Hudson River Recreation Area) of the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Warrensburg, Warren County;

* Buttermilk Road Extension in the Hudson River Special Management Area (aka the Hudson River Recreation Area) of the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Warrensburg, Warren County;

* Dacy Clearing Road in the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Fort Ann, Washington County.

The following DEC roads will remain temporarily closed to general public motor vehicle access, but may still be accessed by motor vehicle by people with disabilities holding CP3 permits:

* Scofield Flats Road, in the Hudson River Special Management Area (aka the Hudson River Recreation Area) of the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Lake Luzerne, Warren County; and

* Pikes Beach Access Road in the Hudson River Special Management Area (aka the Hudson River Recreation Area) of the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Lake Luzerne, Warren County.

As in the past, the Bear Slides Access Road will be closed to motor vehicle use by the general public but will remain open to people with disabilities holding CP3 permits.

In addition, ongoing parking lot, road, trail, and public facility projects in the following areas will be suspended pending funding becoming available:

* Black Brook Easement Lands in the Town of Black Brook, Clinton County;

* Kushaqua Easement Lands in the Towns of Brighton and Franklin, Franklin County; and

* Altamont Easement Lands in the Town of Tupper Lake, Franklin County.

The Department says it will provide “reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities upon request for access to programs on state lands where roads are closed.” For instance, people with disabilities holding a DEC Motorized Access Permit for Persons with Disabilities (CP3 permit) will be allowed to access recreational programs by motor vehicles on two of the roads that will otherwise be closed to the public. Those with disabilities who wish to access recreational programs in the Warrensburg/ Lake George area should contact Tad Norton in the Department’s Warrensburg Office at (518) 623-1209, and those with disabilities who wish to access recreational programs in the Northville/Raquette Lake area should contact Rick Fenton in the Department’s Northville office at (518) 863-4545.

Questions regarding the temporary road closures, should be directed to the regional DEC Division of Lands and Forests at (518) 897-1276 or the Region 5 DEC Office.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Lake George Scenery is a Draw, Even in Winter

Nobody comes to Lake George in winter. That’s the conventional wisdom, apparently confirmed by the experience of resorts like The Sagamore, which now closes its doors in November.

But according to a study released by the Warren County Tourism Department in April, people are interested in visiting Lake George and Bolton Landing in the off-season; they even recommend it as a destination to others.

Of the 577 people who completed a Warren County Tourism Department on-line survey, more than a third visited the Lake George region between December and March, said Kate Johnson, Warren County’s director of tourism.

“Almost 90% of the people who visited us at that time of the year rated their experience as either ‘Very Good’ or ‘Excellent,’” said Johnson. “I’m still gratified by how many people are pleased with their visits to Lake George and will recommend it to others.”

Johnson said 100% of the people surveyed would recommend Lake George to their friends and family.

“It doesn’t matter what the season, people like Lake George,” said Johnson

And they like the same things about Lake George in season and out, Johnson said.

46% of the winter visitors said Lake George’s scenic beauty was a major draw and 22% engaged in outdoor activities.

Summer visitors expressed similar preferences, although an even higher percentage said they came to Lake George for its range of outdoor activities, from golfing and horseback riding to boating and swimming, said Johnson,

According to the survey, the majority of winter visitors stayed two to three nights in Warren County. More than 86% visited Lake George during their stay and roughly 40% visited Bolton Landing. Only 25% visited North Creek, the site of Gore Mountain and assumed by many to be Warren County’s single winter destination.

“This report gives us the kind of feedback we need,” said Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover, who serves on Warren County’s Tourism Committee. “By promoting our natural resources year-round, we’re doing the right thing.”

Conover added, “The report also reminds us that it’s our lake’s scenic beauty that draws visitors. We have to maintain our tourism infrastructure, such as our beaches and parks.”

Photo: Lake George Mirror

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


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tupper Lake to Hold Business Resource Expo

The Tupper Lake Revitalization Committee, a partnership of municipal officials, business owners, residents, and community groups dedicated to advancing the community’s economic goals, has been meeting regularly over the past months. The group has identified business retention and development as key priorities for 2010. As a first step, the Revitalization Committee will be sponsoring a Business Resource Expo at the Wild Center at 7:00 pm on Thursday, May 6.

The purpose of the gathering is to provide information about business assistance resources in the region to existing businesses and to individuals who may be considering starting a business. Regional economic development agencies, such as the Adirondack Economic Development Corporation, the Small Business Development Center, and the Franklin County IDA, along with the Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce and representatives from local government, will discuss their programs and the help they can provide to current and potential businesses. Information will also be available on Tupper Lake’s microenterprise and Junction Main Street grant programs and other local programs that can benefit established and prospective businesses.

The event is free and all are welcome to attend. The evening will open with each business assistance agency providing a brief summary of their programs, followed by time in the Great Hall for individuals to consult directly with the agencies and ask specific questions.

Light refreshments will be served. In order to plan for numbers, the organizers would appreciate a call to the Town office if you are planning to attend. If you have any questions, or to RSVP, please contact Sandie Strader at the Town of Tupper Lake Office at 359-3981 or Mary Casagrain at the Village of Tupper Lake Office at 359-3341.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Commentary: Surprising Adirondack Economy Numbers

On Sunday an interesting op-ed by John Sheehan appeared in The Times-Union in which the Adirondack Council Director of Communications argues that the Adirondack Park “is one of the most robust rural areas in the Northeastern United States.”

This may not be a surprising contention coming from the head of a green group. But Sheehan noted that “a survey published last year by local officials — the Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Project — reinforces this. Their own data shows that the economy and quality of life are better inside the Adirondack Park than in any other rural area of the state…”

“What the report did find was that the average household income in the Adirondacks had risen 28 percent faster than the rate of inflation between 1980 and 2000. That means increased buying power that far outpaced inflation and far outpaced other rural areas of the state.”

Sheehan does try to address the elephant in the room.

“Still, most Adirondackers (33 percent) work for local and state government. That includes towns, villages, counties, school districts and state agencies. While such jobs don’t lead to riches, they do have their perks. The jobs rarely go away. Towns and counties don’t stop providing services, regardless of economic conditions.”

As someone with backgrounds in both math and language, I find ‘most’ a strange adjective to describe ‘one-third’, but Sheehan’s contention that these public sector jobs ‘rarely go away’ seems more than a bit out of touch in the midst of this state budget crisis. Perhaps he missed headlines of the governor proposing to shut down three of the Park’s major prisons as well as slashing aid to education, to health care and to counties and municipalities.

Still, when you visit other rural areas of New York and New England, areas which lack the outdoor tourism revenue Adirondack residents and businesses depend on, it’s hard to argue with Sheehan’s contention that the “being a park is helping, not harming, the Adirondacks.”

A NCPR blog post has some hard numbers about the Park as compared to other non-metropolitan areas of the state. Some of the conclusions may surprise readers.

Among the observations:

-The North Country is very diverse.

-The North Country’s least-urban counties may have a higher standard of living, based on select indicators, when compared to the more urbanized areas [of the state].

-Poverty is no higher in the North Country than elsewhere in non-metropolitan New York State.

-With the exception of Lewis County, the North Country does not have particularly high civilian employment in agriculture and/or manufacturing. The North Country’s level of dependence on these industries is similar to the level elsewhere in rural New York.

I’ve said before that for all the complaining about the Adirondack Park Agency’s existence (not necessarily its sometimes opaque and unaccountable workings, which can deserve scorn), the fact remains that a pristine natural environment is the single biggest economic advantage the Park has. Threaten that and you lose the outdoor tourism revenue so central to the region’s economy.


Monday, March 29, 2010

NYS Comptroller Reports on Economic Benefits of Open Space Conservation

NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released a report late last week that argues for the economic benefits of open space conservation [pdf]. According to John Sheehan of the Adirondack Council, “this is the first attempt ever by the state’s top elected financial officer to quantify the value of undeveloped forests and open farm lands.”

The report comes at a time when the Legislature is negotiating the 2010-11 state budget, including the Environmental Protection Fund and its Open Space Account. This year’s budget contains $212 million for the EPF and $59 million for open space protection — land acquisition and conservation easements (purchase of development and recreational rights on private lands).

The Senate has proposed a $222-million EPF for the fiscal year that begins April 1, with little detail yet available on specific categories. The Assembly yesterday proposed an EPF of $168 million, with $44.3 million for land. The Governor — whose proposal came out first, back January, had proposed a $143-million EPF, with zero for land.

“Open space can provide a variety of public benefits, including storm water drainage and water management,” DiNapoli said. “Open spaces also provide a more direct economic benefit through tourism, agriculture and the forestry industry. All these benefits should be a factor in land use decisions from Montauk to Massena.” Here is an excerpt from Dinapoli’s press release on the report:

Agriculture is among New York’s largest and most vital industries, encompassing 25 percent of the state’s land and generating more than $4.5 billion for the state’s economy each year. In 2007, the income generated directly by farms, combined with income generated by agricultural support industries and by industries that process agricultural products, totaled $31.2 billion.

The study noted that open space contributes to the state’s economy by providing opportunities for outdoor recreational activities. DiNapoli also noted that open space often requires fewer municipal services than lands in other use and tend to generate more in municipal tax revenue.

Open space helps control storm water runoff, preserves surface water quality and stream flows, and aids in the infiltration of surface water to replenish aquifers. When lands are converted to other uses, the natural benefits provided by open space often must be replaced through the construction of water treatment facilities and infrastructure to control storm water, all paid for through local tax revenue. A series of studies have found the preservation of open space to be a more economical way to address storm water requirements.

DiNapoli’s report recommends that New York State consider:

* Allowing municipalities to establish community preservation funds
* Evaluating the adequacy of protections for lands providing benefits for municipalities
* Improving state-level planning for open space to address long-term funding needs
* Improving the administration of funds for open space programs
* Encouraging private land conservation

Map: 2009 APA Land Use Map


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Commentary: National Grid Gouges Adirondackers

What would happen if a pizzeria tacked on a $50 delivery charge to a $15 pizza? It would go out of business faster than you can snap your fingers. That’s because pizzerias are subject to competition. National Grid power company can get away with such outrageous billing practices because it has no competition in the energy delivery business.

While New York state has legalized competition in the energy supply market, National Grid remains the monopoly energy deliverer in the areas it serves, which includes much of the Adirondacks.

You can buy energy from another provider but it’s still delivered via National Grid power lines, and the British-based conglomerate milks this distinction for all it’s worth.

National Grid’s bill includes two major charges: supply cost and delivery cost. The supply costs (the part the ordinary consumer can control) are typically reasonable. The delivery costs (the part the consumer can’t control) are invariably outrageous.

Last December, I used $41.14 worth of electricity, but they charged me $84.76 to deliver it.

Last September, I used a mere $9.45 worth of electricity. My reward for such energy efficiency was a whopping $33.08 delivery charge.

In what world is the delivery charge for a product three and a half times more than the actual value of the product?

National Grid is nominally regulated by the state’s Public Service Commission– though gouging like this makes you wonder how much regulation is actually going on.

National Grid has claimed that sky-high delivery charges are designed to ‘stabilize’ rates. Yet even in February, invariably my highest energy usage month, delivery charges were still higher than supply charges.

These dubious billing practices have no doubt padded the conglomerate’s bottom line: National Grid made profits of $1.43 Billion in its most recent fiscal year.

But gouging New Yorkers’ wallets was not enough to prevent the company from outsourcing jobs from central New York.

A Syracuse Post-Standard article noted that:

National Grid’s electric prices consistently rank among the handful of highest-priced major utilities in the country. In 2008, the company’s residential rates were 37 percent above the national average and its commercial rates were more than 60 percent higher, according to the latest statistics available from the U.S. Department of Energy.

This was primarily because of the expense National Grid incurred when it bought Niagara Mohawk. Once that expense was paid off, New Yorkers were told, rates would go down.

Wrong!

The company now wants to raise rates another 20 percent… that’s delivery rates, where the real gouging occurs. This would generate the monopoly another $390 million a year. Would this go to infrastructure upgrades? Improved service?

According to the Post Standard: Tom King, president of National Grid in the United States, said the company needs to make higher profits in order to attract money from shareholders and lenders to invest in the Upstate electric grid. Shareholders earned a 5 percent return on their Upstate electric investment last year, down from 10 percent in 2005.

Quite clearly, New Yorkers were duped.

In the mid-1990s, officials in the city of Glens Falls pushed for the creation of a municipal power company, like the one run successfully by the similarly-sized town of Massena. Nearby localities like Queensbury and Lake George could also have hooked up to the system.

Not surprisingly, the then-Niagara Mohawk saw this a threat to their lucrative business and waged a massively expensive and somewhat deceptive PR campaign which succeeded in defeating the project in a referendum.

I suspect Glens Falls residents regret the vote each time they open up their National Grid bill.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Champlain Bridge Business Assistance Center Established

The Albany regional Small Business Development Center (SBDC), an affiliate of the University at Albany’s School of Business, is establishing the Champlain Bridge Business Assistance Center, an “emergency outreach office” to assist small businesses that have been adversely affected by the closing and demolition of the Champlain Bridge. The Center opened Feb. 18, at 3259 Broad Street in Port Henry.

The Champlain Bridge Business Assistance Center will help interested business owners plan how to transition and maintain the viability of their businesses during construction of the new bridge. The SBDC, along with strategic partners, will offer assistance to dislocated workers who cannot afford the long commute around Lake Champlain to jobs in Vermont and may be interested in starting a business. The Albany SBDC is collaborating with the North Country SBDC located at SUNY Plattsburgh to provide staff for the counseling and outreach efforts.

Services offered will include assessment of impact, identification of NYS Champlain Bridge Relief Programs, application assistance for these programs, market research, cost analysis/financial management, identifying sources of capital and business growth strategies.

The bridge, which crossed Lake Champlain between Crown Point, NY and Chimney Point, VT, was demolished in December, cutting off a vital connection. Construction of a new bridge is expected to be complete in late summer 2011.

The SBDC program is funded through the Small Business Administration, New York State, and the State University of New York.


Sunday, January 31, 2010

IRS Volunteers Offer Free Tax Return Preparation Program

The Internal Revenue Service’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) offers free tax help to families and individuals whose household income is below $50,000. Trained community volunteers can help with determining your eligibility for special credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. In addition to free tax return preparation assistance, the program also offers free electronic filing (e-filing).

Those who take part in the e-filing program will receive their refunds in half the time it would take through traditional paper filing.

For more information or to make an appointment contact Warren County Head Start at 793-3624.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Governor’s Budget Targets Aid to Adirondack Municipalities (Updated)

The state budget presented by Governor Paterson on Tuesday would cut 5% from New York’s Aid and Incentives for Municipalities (AIM) program to Adirondack towns and villages. Since 2005, money from AIM has been used by local governments across the state for a range of purposes including programs to consolidate government services.

Municipalities lying either wholly or partially within the Adirondack Park stand to lose a combined $123,371. Tupper Lake tops the list of communities hardest hit by cuts to AIM with combined revenue losses to village and town of $9,341.

The Town of Newcomb—where the APA’s Visitor Interpretive Center is at risk, along with snowmobile trail links that depend on transfer of former Finch Pruyn land to the state—would suffer an excision of $9,149 in AIM revenues.

Communities that have recently moved to consolidate services are also among the hardest hit by the proposed AIM cuts: Harrietstown/Saranac Lake would lose $5,826; Moriah/Port Henry, $4,033; and North Elba/Lake Placid, $3,039. Long Lake completes the list of towns with the most to lose with a potential cut of $5,451. UPDATE: The town and village of Dannemora combined stand to lose $6,530 as well.

The Almanack compiled the following full list of AIM cuts to Adirondack localities (click to enlarge):


Thursday, December 31, 2009

The 2009 Adirondack Year in Cartoons (Part 1)

After eight years of wars, terror warnings, environmental destruction, corporate and political corruption, and general cultural excess ending in a systematic collapse of the country’s financial system, 2009 opened on more than a few notes of remorse, albeit with unmistakable chords of optimism and hope for new beginnings and a new president. His list was long. (click the cartoons for larger images.)


The first order of business for the Obama administration was to continue flooding the wrecked economy with massive stimulus programs courtesy of generations yet unborn.
Some of the stimulus money eventually trickled to the north country via Albany.

Politically, it was a year of cascading dominoes, initiated in Washington and winding up inside the blue line. After Hillary Clinton upgraded her senate seat for first class in the State Department, Governor Paterson chose Kirsten Gillibrand from the 20th congressional district as New York’s junior senator. That move set off a battle for the once-reliable GOP house seat in a race between a conservative Democrat from Glens Falls, New York’s Assembly Minority Leader (visiting from a neighboring district), and a third party candidate. On April Fools’ Day—the morning after the election—the narrowest of margins for Democrat Scott Murphy triggered a recount battle that carried through Tax Day, past Passover, beyond Easter to the end of April when Republican James Tedisco finally conceded.

By the time Murphy took the oath of office, much of the stimulus pork was gone, replaced by swine flu.

Following the special election in the 20th, A similar chain reaction was prompted in NY’s 23rd CD after moderate Republican Congressman John McHugh was promoted to Army Secretary.

GOP leaders, eager to avoid a repeat of mistakes which led to defeat in the 20th, opted against importing a high-profile male candidate from a neighboring district, in favor of a home-grown moderate female candidate. Conservatives in the party (and Glenn Beck) had other plans, ultimately replacing Republican Dede Scozzafava with a high-profile male candidate from a neighboring district. With predictable results.

Still, for a region at the receiving end of impending federal and state budget cuts, the warmth of the national media spotlight was a memory to cherish.

Check back at 10:00 AM today for the second half of the 2009 Adirondack year in cartoons.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Consumerism: In Praise of Used Winter Gear

If anyone wants to understand my friend Jim Close’s point of view on how long something should last, all they have to see is the inside of his car.

When he sold his old Honda and bought a Prism, he pulled the greasy leather cover off the old steering wheel to reuse. It took hours to de-thread the old cover, and hours more to fasten it, using the same thread, to the steering wheel of his new car. But the thread broke partway through, so he had to use other things to attach it.

“You know,” I told him. “A new cover only costs about $10.”

“Why should I get a new one? This one works fine.”

“But look at it. You’ve got thread, black electrical tape and what’s that white stuff?”

“Dental floss.”

I shook my head. “If I was a girl going out with you, and I saw that steering wheel, there wouldn’t be a second date.”

“That’s not the worst of it,” Jim said.

“Why? What’s worse?”

“It’s used dental floss.”

The reason I bring this up is I was afraid Jim wouldn’t be skiing in the Adirondacks this year. His 30-year-old wooden L.L. Bean skis were just about too worn to be used, and a binding had broken last year. Jim lives in Saratoga County, and we usually go out on three or four backcountry ski adventures in the Adirondacks each winter – Siamese Ponds, Pharaoh Lake, the High Peaks, Hoffman Notch, the Jackrabbit Trail.

I kept encouraging him to buy new gear, but he wouldn’t have it. Usually the only time he buys new equipment is when he’s forced to.

Like the time he brought what he thought was a 20-degree sleeping bag for a late-winter backpacking trip in the Smokey Mountains. The borrowed bag, which he had never tried out before the trip, turned out to be only a nylon cover. He shivered for two nights before finding a store.

Or the time he went backpacking on the Appalachian Trail with boots (a gift from a girlfriend) that he knew were a half-size too small. He suffered in those devices of torture for several days before reaching a supply store and surrendering his credit card.

But those skis have clearly seen their last snowplow. Even Jim admitted it. And he had a new idea.

“I can bring them back to L.L. Bean and exchange them,” he said.

It was true. L.L. Bean, like many outdoor stores, provided a lifetime warranty for all its products. Just bring it back at any time and say you’re not satisfied, and they’ll give you an even exchange or your money back.

“So what are you going to tell them?” I asked. “That after 30 years, you weren’t satisfied?”

“Well … yeah.”

“After skiing on them hundreds of times, applying pine tar and layers of wax with a blowtorch, bashing them against rocks, replacing the bindings several times, they weren’t good enough?

“Uh huh.”

It’s not that I was amazed at his audacity. I just couldn’t believe he’d want to get rid of something he’d spent so much time on. And I said as much.

“What am I supposed to do with them?” he asked. “Put them over my fireplace?”

“Something like that.”

“I’ll think about it.”

A few days ago I got a call from Jim. Turns out he had decided not to return the skis after all.

“Oh,” I said. “You decided to buy new ones? Or used ones?”

“No,” he said. “A guy I ride the bus with to work says he owns about 30 pairs. He said he’d give me one.”

So it looks like we’ll be skiing together in the Adirondacks after all. Assuming his boots hold up – they’re not in very good shape either.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

NYS State Police: Your Local Private Security Firm

A strange thing happened after a windstorm a couple of weeks ago. I saw a New York State Police car show up at my neighbor’s camp. The trooper got out, and carried into the nearby woods the fairly large top of a tree that had fallen in front of the building. It took him four or five trips to get all the branches into the woods. When he was done, he climbed back into his car and drove away.

So what was the State Trooper doing clearing my neighbor’s yard of blowdown? Turns out, my neighbor is one of many part-time residents in the region who get New York State Police protection for seasonal camps as a part of the State Police’s Posted Property Program. A program, that “has been around longer than anyone currently with our agency can remember,” according to a State Police spokesperson. Homes so designated are posted with the sign you see here.

“As a service to the public, we post and inspect summer homes, summer camps and similar buildings that are unoccupied from October 1 to May 1,” I was told in an e-mail, “this merely entails occasional checks of the property when a trooper is on patrol in the area of the property.”

The next time I saw a trooper make a stop at the cabin across the way (he was checking the door handle), I asked why he cleared that downed treetop. He told me he had cleared the debris because he didn’t want the house to appear unoccupied. He also told me that he stops every time he patrols the area – I’ve seen him show up every few days, and no doubt have missed a few of his visits.

According to the State Police spokesperson, the agency does not post buildings located in villages that have an organized police departments, buildings that are not secure, or summer motels, hotels or other commercial property. Presumably they are required to protect their own property by using a local security firm.

I suspect the State Police keep the program pretty hush-hush. After all, it wouldn’t take too many folks taking advantage of their free home security program to keep police too busy for speed traps or safety belt road blocks.

According to the State Police, property owners who want their tax supported local security services between October and May should send a letter to their local Troop Commander and include the following information:

—the exact location of the property

—the owner’s name, winter address and a phone number where they can be contacted in an emergency, and

—if there is a caretaker, their name, address and phone number(s)

Oh . . . and don’t forget to call the security folks in town and let them know you’ve found someone better—someone who actually keeps the yard clear, and carries a gun.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Commentary: Monetizing the Forest Preserve

Ever since 1894, when delegates to a New York State Constitutional Convention voted to keep the Adirondack Forest Preserve “forever wild,” conservationists have come up with any number of arguments in defense of wilderness. Some have been utilitarian, some populist, some historical, some spiritual. Those arguments have always been necessary, because the opponents of maintaining the Forest Preserve as lands forever wild have been many, and at times powerful.

In fact, one of the few valid reasons to oppose another constitutional convention is the political fragility of the state constitution’s Article XIV, the clause that prohibits the destruction of the Forest Preserve. The more astute politicians among the conservationists have always understood that it is the better part of prudence to avoid endorsing a single defense of wilderness, thereby retaining the support of proponents of all other possible arguments.

In part because of that catholic perspective, the Adirondack Park has been able to support “a multiplicity of visions,” as Dr. Ross Whaley, the co-editor of “The Great Experiment in Conservation: Voices from the Adirondack Park,” puts it. But new arguments in defense of wilderness can only buttress the cause, and here’s one that’s beginning to emerge: forests offset greenhouse gas emissions and thus play a valuable role in slowing climate change.

In a 2008 issue of BioScience, the journal of the American Society of Biological Sciences, researchers quantified the amount of carbon that Midwestern forests keep out of the atmosphere. They concluded that the forests could offset the greenhouse gas emissions of almost two thirds of nearby populations. While deciduous forests are very good at storing carbon, boreal forests are even better, says John Sheehan of the Adirondack Council, and, he adds, the Adirondack Park contains approximately 800,000 acres of those boreal forests. That’s reason enough for New Yorkers to support the preservation of even more land, if not by New York State, than by conservancies and land trusts.

But if the Adirondack Park has value as carbon storage, we asked Sheehan, could a price be attached to that value? Could the Adirondack Park, for instance, be awarded pollution credits that could be sold for the economic benefit of its residents? Here’s Sheehan’s response: “We are working with a few people right now to see what value could be placed on the global ecological benefits of lands on which we know the trees will continue to grow for centuries to come, that is to say, in the Forest Preserve and in wilderness lands on which New York State holds easements.”

As to whether the Adirondack Park could be awarded credits for storing carbon that would otherwise be sent into the atmosphere, Sheehan said, that’s conceivable. “We think we can seek and win federal credit for those Adirondack communities as part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or in a carbon trading program adopted by Congress.”

While our thought was that any funds derived from the sale of credits should somehow be apportioned among local governments to offset property taxes or to create jobs, Sheehan said, “We think the state should direct the money it receives into the Environmental Protection Fund, and the communities could use the money for planning or for grants to residents and businesses for energy conservation.” But however the funds were used, local governments might now have some financial incentive to support (or at least not oppose too loudly) the preservation of the Adirondacks.

Of greater importance, understanding the role that the Adirondack Park plays in slowing climate change can only deepen our appreciation of these woods – and of those who fought to make and keep them forever wild.

For more news and commentary from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror http://www.lakegeorgemirror.com