Posts Tagged ‘Guest Essays’

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Jamie Savage: Have Kids Will Recreate

What follows is a guest essay by Jamie Savage, professor of forest technology at the SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry Ranger School at Wanakena, part of our series of essays from the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership (AFPEP).

Kids just want to have fun. They have fun when they feel safe and comfortable, when they’re well rested and well fed, and when they’re with family and friends in a stimulating environment. The key to getting kids involved with outdoor activities—and keeping them involved—is remembering and providing for these fun-damentals.

The following tips for successful adventures are based on my own experiences as a father, Outing Club advisor, and former summer camp counselor and those of several of my friends who regularly spend time outdoors with their kids.

Fun-damental #1: Kid-Centered Activities

My friends Caren and Brian allow their three children to take turns choosing their activities. They also encourage their kids to help plan each outing, offering maps, guidebooks, etc. as assistance. My friend Bill warns that what we adults consider a “good day’s outing” may not be appropriate for small children. Instead of hiking the Great Range in a day, consider something less ambitious—OK, a lot less ambitious—like a hike to the top of Roaring Brook Falls or up Mt. Jo. Start easy, he suggests, and let them grow into it; “They’ll soon grow up and you’ll be trying to keep up with them!”

My friend Celia, who regularly hikes, skis, camps, and paddles with her two children, adds, “Be willing to turn around—remember that these days are not about you.” Kathy, also a mother of two kids, could not agree more: “Take your time, and if your children are tired, take a break or cut short your day. Remember, this is not a race to a destination; it is all about what happens on the way.” Allow ample time for exploring and enjoying a waterfall, glacial erratic, or, if paddling, a clear, shallow bay where underwater flora and fauna can be observed.

Fun-damental #2: Safety and First Aid

As a parent, you want to keep your children safe and free from harm, but also give them some freedom to experience, explore, and learn from their surroundings. Accordingly, pick locations that are accessible and secure. Choose a trail that will allow you to let the kids run ahead a bit without fear of a cliff or dangerous stream crossing. Choose campsites that don’t present obvious dangers nearby, so that you feel comfortable letting your kids explore. The more kids feel free to do what they want, the more fun they will have.

My friends Bill and Sue do a lot of camping with their three children. Bill says that successful outings require some negotiation, particularly with his nine-year-old son. “If you want him to learn how to build a fire,” Bill says, “then you have to let him use the small hatchet. Yes, I know this is dangerous, but if you say ‘no’ to everything, you may as well not take him.”

Minor cuts and bruises are inevitable, especially on the knees and palms of our “four-wheel drive” kids, so I always bring a small first aid kit. I agree with my friend Kathy on some essentials: moleskin for blisters, small and large adhesive band-aids (including some big enough for knees and palms!), anti-bacterial cream like Neosporin, and sunblock. It’s also nice to have some wipes and/or a clean bottle of water in reserve for wound cleaning.

Fun-damental #3: Comfort

The more comfortable your kids are while they recreate, the more fun they are going to have, and the more positive their memories. Footwear is a critical piece of gear when it comes to staying comfortable in the outdoors. For many outdoor activities, I think it comes down to two kinds of shoes:

• Each year, Claire and I outfit our sons with a decent pair of hiking boots. They need to fit well, come up over the ankle, and be of decent quality. They will be outgrown before they wear out, so investing in the top of the line is not necessary.

• I also like our kids to have some type of water shoe, like a reef-walker type of pull-on. Flip-flops and open-toed sandals need not apply! I look for something that will protect toes and the bottoms of our kids’ feet. Water shoes are great for paddling, swimming in rivers and lakes, and just wearing around a grassy or sandy campsite. In general, try to choose footwear that is easy to put on and take off, and that dries out fairly quickly. And always bring extra socks! Once the kids’ feet are wet, it isn’t long before they start complaining that their feet are cold and/or sore.

Pesky insects can ruin anyone’s day, and they may even cause rashes, swelling, or other allergic reactions in younger children. If you’re out during the buggy season, or buggy time of day, encourage your kids to wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and hats. I try to use as little bug spray as possible. If it’s really necessary, I use repellents with low amounts of DEET (25% or less), and apply it sparingly to hats, necks, and other places where the kids can’t reach to fend off attackers. Bug nets fitted over wide-brimmed hats also work quite well, if your child will tolerate such headgear. If using accessories like child carriers, jog strollers, or bike trailers (I recommend combination stroller/bike trailer rigs), invest in models that have good bug netting. Don’t let a few bugs keep you and your kids inside!

Fun-damental #4: Plenty of Good Food

Caren and Brian say that a BIG part of their family’s outdoor adventures is the planning of the food. They plan food together, assigning fun names to their infamous dishes (like the “outhouse wrap”). They even have traditional “camp meals” that they incorporate into every trip, like a special breakfast oatmeal.

Gorp (a.k.a. trail mix) is popular with many kids. Kathy and Bill’s crew get to make up their own the night before a hike, ski, or paddle. It gets the kids excited about the next day, and ensures that certain ingredients aren’t left uneaten at the bottom of the bag. Some of their favorite contents include Cheerios, raisins, dried cranberries, peanuts, cashews, chocolate chips, and M & Ms (of course!). One of my tricks is to bring along a bag of Starbursts, or something similar. I “award” them at the completion of a certain section of trail, and/or at the top of the mountain. It’s a great motivator. I do a similar thing with my college students by offering “S.M.A.F.C.R.s” (smafkers): Sweet Morsels Awarded For Correct Responses!

Fun-damental #5: Stimulating Environment

The fifth and final tip is to give kids fun things to do and fun people to do them with. Try brewing up some hot chocolate along the ski trail, give the kids ‘walkie talkies’ to play with, bring binoculars, write/sing songs about your adventures, conduct scavenger hunts, or hold plant identification contests. Don’t just take your kids to the outdoors—engage them in it.

My kids seem to have an even better time on our adventures if they are with some of their friends, or even just with other kids. They tease, challenge, and teach each other…and they smile and laugh a lot. No friends available? Try a puppy! Caren says that their dog Lily “gets them out and she is a blast to hike with.”

Bottom line: the more time you spend outdoors, the more comfortable your kids will become, and the more fun they will have.

This guest essay was contributed by the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership, a coalition of Adirondack organizations building on the Leave No Trace philosophy. Their goal is to provide public education about the Forest Preserve and Conservation Easements with an emphasis on how to safely enjoy, share, and protect these unique lands. To learn more about AFPEP visit www.adirondackoutdoors.org.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Guest Essay: The Rooftop Highway, A Bad Idea

What follows is a guest essay by John Danis, a member of a new organization (YESeleven) which hopes to put an end the long-standing proposal to build the Northern Tier Expressway (aka I-98 or the Rooftop Highway), a 175-mile four lane divided highway that would link I-81 in Watertown and I-87 in Champlain. The Almanack asked Danis to provide readers with some insight as to why they oppose the highway.

Several months ago, a group of concerned citizens began discussions aimed at forming YESeleven, an organization intended to educate the public in Northern New York about the misguided attempts by bureaucrats and politicians in the region to construct a 172 mile, limited access, high-speed interstate highway, from Watertown to Plattsburgh.

For the past 3 years, proponents of this so-called, “Rooftop Highway”, have been quietly and methodically lining up political support across the region to try and force the hand of the state and federal governments to finance the estimated 4-billion, (their number!), or more dollar cost of constructing what we felt was a massively transformational, destructive and financially overreaching plan for the entire region.

The Rooftop Highway, or what proponents refer to as I-98, is an idea with a history going back fifty years or more, to the era of the construction of the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. Periodically over these fifty or more years the notion of connecting the Maine seacoast with the Great Lakes Basin has ebbed and surged. The “Rooftop” highway concept was to be part of this, “Can-Am” highway, particularly the part that would connect I-81 and I-87, across the northern tier of New York State. Adjacent highway development on both sides of the US-Canadian border, have dampened enthusiasm for this grand concept in many regions, with the notable exception of Northern New York.

In 2008, the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT), published a study, which had been three years in the making, called the “Northern Tier Expressway Corridor Study”. This study was an exhaustive and comprehensive view of the US Route 11 transportation corridor, the established and dominant corridor of economic activity across the region, (this study is available at our YESeleven website, yeseleven.org). The study looked at all aspects of life across the region and concluded that the vital Route 11 transportation corridor, with it’s myriad counties, towns, villages, businesses, farms and universities, as well as it’s environmental treasures, was best served by a plan that contemplated evolutionary and targeted upgrades and improvements to the existing corridor over twenty years. Moreover, it would be done at a tenth or less of the cost of what a new and competing economic development corridor could be built for. Further, the improvements would be made in the existing corridor, rather than destroying thousand of square miles of land, dividing the entire region, displacing hundreds of landowners, etc.

The DOT study was rejected out of hand by Rooftop Highway proponents and their political allies. Their rejection of the plan seemed to be based on the belief that the Route 11 upgrades were not good enough, that the region was owed and deserving of a full interstate highway, with four interstate connector spurs criss-crossing the St. Lawrence Valley.

YESeleven’s view is that their position is essentially creating, at phenomenal cost, what amounts to a 172 mile bypass of every economic center in the region. The development of an adjacent economic corridor can only serve to create winners and losers as interstate highways have done in so many other regions. The best argument that the Rooftoppers have put forth is that if we build it, surely, they will come. All other claims about job creation have been poorly documented, if at all.

One of our positions is that every time that this discussion has come up over the past fifty-plus years, it has sapped energy, focus and financial resources away from more immediate and essential maintenance and improvement needs to our existing highway infrastructure and economic activity.

In short, the Rooftop highway plan is an overreaching, pie-in-the-sky distraction and we need to set it aside, once and for all, and move on.

You can visit the YESeleven website to learn more about our positions on highway infrastructure needs and solutions in the Northern New York Region.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Guest Essay: Why Croghan Dam Should Be Saved

What follows is a guest essay by Mike Petroni, a member of the Croghan Dam Restoration Initiative. Concern over the stability of the 93-year-old dam (on the Beaver River in Lewis County) has led DEC to lower the water level of the impoundment by removing stop logs to reduce water pressure on the dam structure. The DEC is planning to remove the remaining logs from the two-section dam in the coming week and eventually breach the concrete structure. The Almanack asked Mike Petroni to provide some background on why local leaders, historic preservationists, and renewable energy advocates hope to keep DEC from breaching the dam.

Straddling the western edge of the Blue Line, Croghan, New York, known for its exceptional bologna, is home to one of New York’s last remaining water powered saw-mills. Over the past few years, the Croghan Island Mill has been the center of a dramatic debate. The question: how will New York manage its aging small dam infrastructure? » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Tahawus Blast Furnace Ruins

If you ever climbed Mount Marcy from Lake Colden, you probably drove up the narrow road from Newcomb to the Upper Works trailhead, past an odd but massive stone structure near the southern entrance to the High Peaks. You might have wondered about this relic from the American industrial revolution, how it worked, and when it was built.

In a few months, the Open Space Institute (OSI), which bought the site from NL Industries in 2003, will install illustrated interpretive panels explaining the fascinating history of this important Adirondack site. I’ve been working on the team preparing these panels, and I’ve learned far more about 19th-century iron smelting than I ever thought was possible. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Guest Essay: Lessons from the 2010 Census

What follows is a guest essay by Ken Strike, Professor Emeritus at Cornell University and member of the board of Protect the Adirondacks. Ken and Lorraine Duvall produced a demographic study of the Adirondacks following 2009’s Adirondack Park Regional Assessment (APRAP) report. The Almanack asked Ken, who lives in Thendara on the Moose River, to provide his perspective on the 2010 Census.

What does the 2010 census tell us about ourselves? The Adirondack population is basically flat with growth in some places and losses in others, and our population is aging. For some it has been easy to conclude that these demographics are the result of a poor economy and that this poor economy results from public ownership of land and the Park’s regulatory environment. However, a more careful reading of the 2010 census data tea leaves does not support these views. Rather, they suggest that we are much like other rural areas – in fact we’re better off than many. Our population dynamics also track the dynamics of the U.S. and NYS white population. No great surprise that. And they suggest that the Park is an asset, not a liability. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Guest Essay: Migratory Birds On Parade

What follows is a guest essay by Nancy Castillo, who along with Lois Geshiwlm owns the Wild Birds Unlimited shop in Saratoga Springs. The Almanack asked Nancy to tells us what migrating birds she is seeing in her yard at this time of year.

The parade has begun – don’t miss the show! A parade of birds, that is. And you don’t have to go far to view it – the show is great right in your own yard!

Some of these birds will stop and stay for the summer, choosing to raise a brood or two in our yards. Others will continue the parade, perhaps all the way to the far reaches of the boreal forest of Canada.

My parade began in mid-March with the arrival of the real harbinger of spring, the Red-winged Blackbird. He serves as an avian grand marshal with a rousing “konk-ler-eeee!” and a suit of black adorned with red and yellow epaulets. The parade he leads will last for weeks, providing us a show of color and sound from migrating birds.

In my yard, the Song Sparrow followed the blackbird in mid-March, scratching for food in the open patches of my still snow-covered yard. A few weeks later, another native sparrow arrived, the Fox Sparrow. They had an easier time foraging for food with their back-scratch technique as the remaining snow had significantly retreated. The Fox Sparrow is one of those migrants in the long-distance parade – they typically don’t breed in New York and the majority breeds in the boreal forest.

Yet another native sparrow, the Chipping Sparrow, arrived in the 2nd week of April. With his smart little rusty cap, he’s the first migrant that will spend the season in my yard, raising 1-2 broods before heading back to the southern states to spend his winter.

A raspy “fee-bee” song alerted me that the Eastern Phoebe was back. This little flycatcher also drops out of the parade to nest in the area. Last year one nested under the eaves of a neighbor’s garage, a favorite location for their mud-mortared nest.

Another native sparrow also marks his arrival by song. “Oh, sweet Canada, Canada, Canada” tells me the White-throated Sparrows are here. They’ll forage on the ground beneath the feeders amongst the Dark-eyed Juncos before heading to higher elevations to breed.

A month of the migratory parade has gone by, yet there are many birds yet to arrive. In anticipation, I have filled my hummingbird feeder in case an early migrant passes through. Male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds will arrive first, and often the first hummingbird seen for the season is still just passing through. Hummingbird season for us is a “Mother’s Day to Labor Day” affair, though there are always some early and late hummers that push those limits.

So what else can we expect in the second half of the parade? In May, I look forward to the return of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak. I love to take note of the pattern of red on the males’ breasts as each is unique in size and shape. It’s a good way to get an idea of how many different individuals are visiting your yard.

Shortly after, Baltimore Orioles will return. If you put a feeder out immediately after you see your first oriole of the season, you might be able to attract them down from the treetops to a feeder offering orange halves, grape jelly, mealworms, or nectar. Your chances are best early – after the tent caterpillars emerge, the chances of luring orioles to a feeder decline significantly, though you never know!

In mid-May, we’ll also welcome back the Gray Catbird. Listen for their cat-like little “mew, mew” calls coming from bushes and trees. They may even stop by your feeders if you’re serving a birdseed blend or suet that has fruit in it.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers will return in May as well, drilling their sap wells in trees like Mountain Ash. The sap attracts insects that the sapsucker will feast upon, but watch for other creatures like butterflies and even hummingbirds check out the sap and the insects trapped in it.

The migratory bird parade marching through our backyard brings a welcome blast of color and sound following a long, drab winter. And the best part is that the parade comes to you – all you need to do is open your eyes and ears and heart to enjoy it!

Photos: Above, Rose-breasted Grosbeak; middle, Purple Finch; below Ruby-throated Hummingbird.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wetlands: Vernal Pools And Their Inhabitants

What follows is a guest essay from Stacy McNulty Associate Director and Research Associate at SUNY ESF’s Adirondack Ecological Center in Newcomb. Following last week’s story on the destruction of wetlands by ATVs at the 2011 SNIRT rally, the Almanack asked Stacy to provide some background on vernal pools, small intermittent wetlands that are important sources of Adirondack biodiversity.

On a proverbially dark and stormy night in mid-April I climb the hill, flashlight sweeping the ground for obstacles. The first warm, spring rain has been falling and snow piles lie here and there. Faintly I hear a quacking sound up ahead, signaling my target – but what I seek is not a duck, but a frog. Scores of wood frogs swim and call from the pool, their eyes shining in the beam of my light. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Lake George Asian Clam Eradication Efforts

An aggressive plan has been released to attempt an eradication effort of the newest aquatic invasive species to Lake George – the Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea). An ad hoc coalition of environmental groups, scientists, and public agencies developed the Plan to Eradicate the Infestation of Invasive Species Asian Clam in Lake George, which details efforts starting after ice-out next month to try and rid the lake of the Asian clam. This plan, organized by the Lake George Asian Clam Rapid Response Task Force, details the scope of the problem in Lake George, long-term threats from this invasive, options for treatment, and details a plan that will try and eradicate this clam in the lake. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Guest Essay: Adirondack Lessons From Aruba

The Adirondack Almanack is pleased to offer this guest essay by Trudy Rosenblum, founder and editor of the Jay Community News. The Jay News is a free e-mail news service whose purpose is to bring folks around Jay closer together and to quickly spread local news and information. In addition to the email service there is also a Jay Community Services Directory that lists local products or services offered by the community. Trudy recently took a trip to the Caribbean island nation of Aruba, and brought back the following lessons for the Adirondacks.

We had a lovely vacation in the warmth and sunshine of Aruba. I feel compelled, however, to offer something about the conditions of that tourist spot that was once the gem of the Caribbean. Aruba can be a lesson to us here in the Adirondacks.

Like Aruba, the Adirondack Park is also a tourist area and like Aruba, much of our area receives its revenue from tourism. If we ruin it, not only will people not come and we will lose our jobs and revenue, but, and this is just as important, the land and animals will suffer and something beautiful will cease to exist on this planet.

There are still very beautiful places in Aruba; clean beaches with white sand and lots of beautiful corral; blue-green water and wonderful sunsets. But sadly, much of the coastline is trashed. Locals there say it is Venezuela’s garbage taken by the currents to Aruba. They also blame ships dumping waste and tourists who don’t care, as well as locals. At present there is so much trash it seems unlikely it can be cleaned up.

Tourists want to recreate. They will hike, ride bicycles, motor cycles, ATV’s, jeeps and ride horses. If one doesn’t designate areas for these things to be done, the tourists will go anywhere they please destroying delicate eco systems along the way. These things should not be forbidden, just managed, maintained and policed.

We found Wendy’s, KFC, McDonald’s, Domino’s Pizza everywhere; and we were hard pressed to find local crafts as the kiosks sold the same things one can find in any market south of Florida.

We in the Adirondack Park could be like this. Thank God for those who went before us and had insight as to how to preserve the park as well as attract tourists. Thank you to every person who reaches down to pick up someone’s trash, even when no one is looking. Thanks to the DEC, APA and others who designate activity-specific areas, stock fish, care for our waters, limit development, maintain and police our precious park to keep it attractive and thriving. Thank you to those who kept the fast food chains at bay and to the many local craft people who provide unique keepsakes for visitors to buy. Thanks to the planners who understand that there is room for recreating with motorized vehicles as well as for primitive areas where no motors are permitted. People in our area have understood that if we provide areas for recreation and maintain and police them we can both attract revenue and preserve the park.

Thank you to all the quaint little shops where things cost a little more but where the culture of rural America thrives in such an attractive manner.

Thank God oil or natural gas has not been discovered in our area, and thank you to those who said no to the big corporations who do not care about fitting in to the environment. It is tempting in this terribly difficult economic period to lose sight of the long term effects of neglect of our park. I deeply hope preservation for its own sake and for the sake of attracting tourist revenue will not be sacrificed to the short-term gains such economic times tempt.

As Prince Charles has said, we will probably survive for some time if we destroy the wilderness, but the lives of our children will be a misery. This is as true in the Adirondacks as it is in Aruba.


Monday, February 14, 2011

A Land Purchase Guest Essay:Paradox, Irony and Hypocrisy in Adirondack Politics

What follows is a guest essay from Minerva carpenter Duane Ricketson, an original appointee to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Region 5 Open Space Advisory Committee in 1990 and one of the longest serving state appointees. He’s an Adirondack native whose family arrived in the region in the 1790s and who enjoys fishing, hunting, hiking and camping. Ricketson supported and worked with local leaders on the Region 5 Open Space Advisory Committee to get local governments and Adirondackers enfranchised in the process of open space protection, especially the local government veto, which he now sees as being usurped by the Local Government Review Board.

On the surface, the recent drive by Adirondack politicians and local media to stop the State from purchasing the former Finch-Pruyn lands from the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy is simply a continuation of the storied battle between Adirondackers and the State of New York over buying land in the Adirondack Park. This time it opens a brand new chapter, however, because the actions of local governments are now being called into question by The Local Government Review Board. » Continue Reading.