A list of post offices slated for permanent closure includes those at Keene Valley and Sabael (in Hamilton County). The list, titled “Post Office / Station/ Branch Suspensions” is dated February 28, 2011, but was released yesterday by the Postal Regulatory Commission (FRC) despite the desire of the U.S. Postal Service to keep the full list secret while they roll out the closures.
The Post Office in Sabael, located on Route 30, has been closed after it was destroyed by fire at the end of January. Despite a Postal Service announcement that it would be reopened, that is apparently no longer the case. The Sabael mail is currently being handled by the Indian Lake Post Office, where the approximately 80 Sabeal PO Box holders now get their mail over the counter.
The Keene Valley Post Office closed in November 2010 when the building lease agreement was up. Keene Valley residents have been driving the five miles to the Keene Post Office. The Keene Valley Post Office was established in 1865, before that Orson Phelps carried the mail to Keene for six months for free.
An informational hearing held by Postal Service representatives in Keene Valley February 1st drew about 100 people concerned about local postal service.
“I’m hopeful that, as we move forward, we can find a solution,” Keene town Supervisor Bill Ferebee said at the time, according to a report in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise (ADE). “At least before the summer hits, because we all know what kind of problems this is going to cause.”
“No decisions have been made at this point,” Margaret Pepe, manager of customer relations for the Albany district of the Postal Service said at the meeting. “We’re here to listen to your concerns and gather feedback and input. We are not making a decision here tonight.” Pepe did say that there was no funding available for a new building.
Among the options floated at the meeting was to cluster mailboxes in centralized areas throughout the hamlet or a privately operated facility under contract with the Postal Service such as a Contract Postal Unit or a Commercial Mail Receiving Agency.
The ADE reported at the time that the Postal Service representatives would submit the community feedback they garnered and a decision would be made with 60 days, followed by a 30-day appeal process.
The Post Offices in Plessis, Jefferson County, and Kenwood, Oneida County, are also on the list. The Churubusco Post Office in Clinton County is not on the list, despite rumors that it was about to be closed on the heels of the slosure of the local border crossing.
By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities I have been having a great winter skiing and snowshoeing around the Adirondacks so much so that when I received my Otter birthday party reminder at the Wild Center it took me a bit by surprise. It is already that time of year when The Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks (The Wild Center) closes for the month of April to rejuvenate and get ready for a busy summer season. That said, this weekend, March 25-27) will be the last opportunity until May 1st to see what the Wild Center has been up to this winter.
Now with the recent flurries of snow, mud season doesn’t seem to be approaching as fast as some may wish. Keep in mind that if you always wanted to attempt snowshoeing now is the time. The Wild Center offers free snowshoes with paid admission. So practice around the various trails and see how easy it is to go out an explore while the trails are still covered in snow. The added bonus for this weekend is the Otters’ birthday party celebration.
Interpretive Naturalist Kerri Ziemann says,”On Friday and Saturday we will have all our regular programming as well as one more chance for people to find the golden otter before the drawing on Sunday.”
For those not in the know, a tiny golden otter has been hiding in various places within the Wild Center for the past twelve weeks. Children and adults are welcome to search and use a list of clues to find the evasive creature. Once found, submit his/her name into a raffle for a chance to win a pack basket full of otter related goodies. Thankfully nothing that I saw relates to having to go home with a real otter though there is a huge plush toy right on top.
“For this weekend the otters’ birthday will be held on the 27th and we will have activities all day starting at 10:00 and ending around 3:30. There will be enrichment programs about otters and craft tables open for anyone to color an individual quilt square. We will then tie all the squares together to create a quilt,” continues Ziemann.
Additional events are face painting and storytelling sessions with author Hope Marston of “My Little book of River Otters” at noon and 1:00 p.m. Ollie the Otter, the Wild Center mascot, will also be around for picture taking. Currently the Wild Center as four otters: Squirt, Louie, Squeaker, and Remy. The raffle will be drawn at 1:30 p.m. with a celebration of cupcakes (for humans) and ice “cake” for the otters.
If that doesn’t fit into the schedule, the Adirondack Museum will hold two more Cabin Fever Sundays. Women and their role in early conservation is the March 27 topic where Museum Educator Jessica Rubin will highlight early female activism. On April 10, curator Laura Cotton will discuss artifacts from the museum’s collection that show chase Adirondack ingenuity. These events are at 1:30 p.m. in the auditorium and free to museum members or elementary-school-age children and younger. Otherwise it is $5 for nonmembers. Though to see the whole facility you will have to wait until its May 27th opening day.
March 2011 marks the centennial celebration of International Women’s Day. Although women have long been dedicated and progressive history makers, their actions were slow to receive international attention. Adirondack Museum Educator Jessica Rubin will offer a presentation entitled “Women and the Conservation Movement” as part of the museum’s popular Cabin Fever Sunday series on Sunday, March 27, 2011. Rubin will discuss the role of women and female-centered organizations in the early conservation movement, excellent examples of historic female activism. Groups such as the National Federation of Women’s Clubs and individuals like journalist Kate Field and botanist Lucy Bishop Millington will be highlighted in the presentation to illustrate the unique ways women interacted with and advocated for the American wilderness at a time when most were confined to the “private sphere.”
Rubin will show that women were instrumental in the creation of state and federal conservation legislation and protections long before they had the right to vote. From the Adirondacks to California women were outspoken players in the national conservation crusade.
Held in the museum’s auditorium, the program will begin promptly at 1:30 p.m. Cabin Fever Sundays are offered at no charge to museum members or children of elementary school age and younger. The fee for non-members is $5.00. Refreshments will be served. For additional information, please call the Education Department at (518) 352-7311, ext. 128 or visit the museum’s website.
Jessica Rubin holds a B.A. in Politics from the University of California, Santa Cruz and will receive a M.A. in Public History from SUNY Albany in the spring of 2011. She joined the staff of the Adirondack Museum in 2008. She previously taught at the Conserve School, a college-preparatory school with an environmental and outdoor focus in northern Wisconsin. Her love for and interest in the environment was greatly influenced by four summers of work in Yosemite National Park.
Photo: Photo by female photographer Katherine Elizabeth McClellan, 1898. Collection of Adirondack Museum.
The New York State Snowmobile Association (NYSSA) will be holding the 4th Annual Adirondack Park Snowmobile Trail Conference at the Adirondack Hotel in Long Lake on Sunday, April 10th From 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM.
This year conference will focus on the several new Unit Management Plans (UMP) that have been approved and those in the works. Once approved by the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), plans for trail improvements can begin. Additional topics will be the status of Adirondack easements, Recreation Plans, and the new Trail Stewards program. » Continue Reading.
Although the eastern cougar (a.ka. puma, panther, catamount) has been on the endangered species list since 1973, its existence has long been questioned (especially here in the Adirondacks). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted a formal review of the available information and, in a report issued today, concludes the eastern cougar is extinct and recommends the subspecies be removed from the endangered species list.
New York State paid its last bounty on a mountain lion killed in Hamilton County in 1894; just over 150 state and county mountain lion bounties were paid between 1860 and 1894. Before he died in 1849, professional hunter Thomas Meacham is believed to have killed 77 mountain lions. Despite their being already nearly extinct, New York State established a mountain lion bounty in 1871 and over the next eleven years 46 mountain loin bounties were claimed. Adirondack mountain lion sightings reported to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation increased markedly in about 1980, jumping from 5 in the 1960s and 9 in the 1970s, to 44 in the 1980s. Some 90 sightings were reported in the 1990s. » Continue Reading.
(Warning: If your partner reads this, expectations for today may rise.) Ah, Valentine’s Day. Love is in the air. Chocolates, flowers, and special cards are a must. Maybe a family meal, or perhaps a romantic dinner for two. Jewelry? Diamonds? The sky’s the limit when it comes to making your sweetheart happy and showing true dedication. But it’s all pretty amateurish compared to real commitment. Which brings us to Fred Roderick and Agnes Austin.
Here’s the story as described in 1883 in a couple of newspapers. Without hard facts, I can’t account for all the details, but you gotta love the sense of purpose, focus, and ingenuity this couple used to achieve togetherness. At Sageville (now Lake Pleasant, a few miles southeast of Speculator), Fred Roderick, about 25 years old, had been jailed for stealing a pair of horses, which had since been returned. In those days, a convicted horse thief could expect to do time in prison. Next to murder, it was one of the most serious crimes—horses were a key component to survival in the North Country.
In rural Hamilton County, it was no simple task to organize a trial, so for several months the county jail served as Roderick’s home. It was lonely at times, but he wasn’t entirely without company. Every Sunday, the local Methodist pastor brought a dozen or so members of his congregation to the jail, where they sang songs and held a prayer meeting.
For a couple of years, young Agnes Austin was among the church goers who participated. Shortly after Roderick’s incarceration, parish members noticed that, instead of lending her voice to the choir at all times, she seemed to have taken a personal interest in Fred’s salvation.
Soon Agnes gained special permission from the sheriff for weekday visits which, she assured him, would lead Roderick down the straight and narrow. But it seemed to work in the reverse. Agnes began showing up less often on Sundays and more frequently during the week. Imagine the whispers among her church brethren. Their pretty little friend was consorting with a criminal!
Or maybe her missionary efforts were sincere after all. Fred Roderick finally came forward and accepted religious salvation, owing it all, he said, to young Agnes. People being what they are, tongues wagged more frantically than ever about the supposed scandalous goings-on. Mr. Austin forbade (what was he thinking?) Agnes from making any further jail visits. Taking it one step further, he spoke to the sheriff, hoping to kill a tryst in the making.
It wasn’t long after that Agnes disappeared. With her supposed lover lingering hopelessly in jail, why would she run away? Well, as it turns out, she didn’t. Agnes and Fred had made plans. She was told to hide out at his father’s camp, where he would join her after his escape. (Country jails were often loosely kept, and escapes were common.)
After waiting more than a week, Agnes took matters into her own hands, which led to a sight that shocked the residents of Sageville. A constable rode into town, and behind him trailed Aggie Austin. The charge? That she was a horse thief. In broad daylight, she had taken not just any horse, but one of the very same horses Fred had stolen.
Because she was female, and because she made no effort to run when pursued, bail was set at $600—which Agnes immediately refused. To the puzzled bondsman and the sheriff, she explained: if Fred couldn’t be with her, then she would be with Fred. To that end, she left the camp, stole a horse, made sure she was caught, and now refused to be bailed out of jail.
It gets better. The next morning, Fred informed the sheriff that he wished to marry Miss Austin, and Agnes confirmed the same. Papa Austin most certainly would have objected, but Agnes was 19, of legal age to make her own choice. And that choice was Fred.
The judge was summoned, and the sheriff and his deputies stood witness to the joining. The district attorney weighed in as well, contributing what he could to the couple’s happiness.
Though they must be tried separately, he promised to “bring both cases before the same term of court, and thus allow the pair to make their bridal journey together to their future mountain home at Clinton Prison.”
Now THAT’s commitment.
Photo: Clinton Prison at Dannemora, notorious North Country honeymoon site.
Lawrence Gooley has authored nine books and many articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. He took over in 2010 and began expanding the company’s publishing services. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
When the weather hits the negative digits and my kids are stuck inside for any length of time we, like so many other people living here, look forward to opportunities for getting outside. Though with winter storms, weather warning and family time spent shoveling snow, it may be difficult to remember all the reason why we love the snow.
Festivals, carnivals and celebrations of winter are here to remind us why we choose to visit, live and be a part of the snow. Plus a little competition never hurt anyone. Lake George, Old Forge and Saranac Lake are embracing their winter spirit and inviting people to step outside and enjoy the Adirondack weather.
The Coronation of Carnival Royalty kicks off the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival on February 4th.In its 114 year, Saranac Lake’s Winter Carnival’s 2011 theme is Medieval Times. People have been donning their costumes and preparing their serfs (in our case our children) to decide which of the over 80 events to attend.
On Saturday, February 5, watch fireworks over Lake Flower and the lighting of the Ice Palace. From February 4-13, the town of Saranac Lake turns into a medieval fortress of family-friendly activities from a carnival for kids, ski races to treasure hunt. The downtown parade on the 12th doesn’t even finish the array of activities. Sunday brings on cross-country ski races and opportunities to play volleyball or softball in the snow.
McCauley Mountain in Old Forge has a weekend packed with winter activity that will remind us why we love the snow. Twelve-dollar lift tickets at the mountain and a parade to celebrate the 10th Mountain Division and other military branches are reason enough to brave the cold and cheer on the troops. Spend some family time ice-skating at the outdoor Joy Tract Road rink or just relax and watch while sipping hot chocolate by the bonfire.
On Saturday, February 5, the Kiwanis Club of the Central Adirondack will sponsor their 11th Winter Sports Challenge benefiting the Old Forge Community Youth and Activity Center. These snowshoe and cross-country ski activities are held at McCauley Mountain.
Lastly, Lake George celebrates 50 years of Winter Carnival with a month packed with activities. Some weekend events such as face painting and petting zoo are reoccurring while other activities like kite flying, dog sled races and hot air balloon rides are just on specific weekends.
However you choose to celebrate winter, there are so many opportunities to get outside, meet new people and enjoy the Adirondacks.
By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities We are traveling back home and the kids decide that a unified singing of “Are we there yet” will magically transport us to our destination. They then resort to singing it in the round. I’ve told them if they can just hold it together until we get to Long Lake we can sled down the old Sabattis Mountain Ski Area, named for the Abenaki Adirondack guide, Mitchell Sabattis.
We arrive at twilight and scramble over each other to put on snow pants, gloves and hats. It is a well-choreographed dance and I am grateful for our van’s tinted windows. We are initiating the new Flexible Flyer saucers and the first two people on the slopes get the honor. The town of Long Lake re-graded the old rope-tow ski area and built up a berm around the bottom of the sledding hill to keep any sliders from ending up near the road. Though there some tire inner tubes available, we use our own sleds. The walk to the top is a bit steep but both children manage to do it without complaint. My daughter finds the perfect sledding technique. She crosses her legs on the saucer and shoots down the slope. She hits the bowl like a top, propels off the bottom onto the side and hugs the lip of the bowl as she spins the whole way down.
My husband and I scramble up the ridge yelling out strategies if she pops over the other side. Each child’s subsequent trip further carves a path into the bowl’s rim creating a mini luge-like run. The ski hill’s lights are still there and illuminate the old run as night approaches. The slick conditions just adds to the excitement. We are finally exhausted and ready for the next stanza of “Are we there yet?”
The sledding hill is just part of the Geiger Arena in Long Lake. Free ice-skating and skates are also available at the nearby rink. Rink hours are Mondays from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.; Thursdays from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.; Fridays from 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. then 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.,;Saturdays from 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. then 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.; Sundays from 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. then 6:00 p.m. 9:00 p.m. The rink is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
At the Route 30/28N junction (by Hoss’s General Store) continue on 30S for 0.1-mile. The Arena is on the left, on the corner of South Hill Road and Deerland Road, across from the Post Office. Call 518-624-3031 and ask ice attendant Caleb Davis any additional questions.
By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities™ We are never in that big of a hurry that we can’t take a moment and spend some time on a trail or path. Sometimes the biggest hurdle for family time is to realize that the small moments are just as important. Every outing doesn’t have to be a huge event.
Sometimes the small walks lead to the most beautiful locations. We are beyond the need to plot our destinations based on bathroom breaks, snack or nap times. I hope we never outgrow the need to stretch our legs.
One quick family-friendly outing is Buttermilk Falls in Long Lake, N.Y. This walk is about 100 yards off of North Point Road. Park the car and it is a short meander in following the wide pathway. In winter, after the first few steps the path turns into a labyrinth of freshly made footprints. The main path leads to the falls. Even in winter the water is being churned over the rocks and looking very much the color for which it is named, “buttermilk.”
This can be a very popular place in summer or winter. It is a lucky day when you have the place to yourself. Boot prints in the freshly fallen snow mark a variety of paths from the base of the falls to the wider river above. Please be careful. The edge of the riverbed is under snow and may look like land but can actually be the water running underneath, making it dangerous for all.
We gingerly step toward the edge, but backtrack quickly when we see the river spouting through a small hole at our feet. We follow the footprints that lead to the head of the falls. Picnic tables are cleared off so we sit for a bit and enjoy the granola bars I pull from my pocket. The Raquette River flows before us and we hear the rush of the falls below.
Though one of the smallest falls, Buttermilk Falls is a beautiful area with pathways fanning out to surround the area. It is a relaxing place where children and adults can sit for a few moments or spend hours just exploring the area. We finish our time with a snowball fight, using the massive roots of fallen trees as cover.
From Long Lake take Route 30/28 south for three miles. Turn right onto North Point Rd (there is a sign for Buttermilk Falls.) Follow North Point Road for two miles, the entrance and parking to the falls will be on your right.
Long Lake native and artist Matt Burnett is bringing one element of his art back to his hometown with fellow artist Scott Fuller. Each has enjoy their own personal artistic successes within their favored medium but continue to stretch personal boundaries with the use of nature’s elements to mold snow and ice with light to create a temporary outdoor art exhibit.
“We like to find a way to represent the flow of nature. I like to do something that will stir up the pot and make people think about what is natural and what is artificial,” say Burnett. “The exhibit will be in two to three locations around Long Lake. It is nice to be able to bring something back to my hometown. They are supportive of new ideas in this small community.” Burnett and Fuller have collaborated in the past with using winter elements as with the Community Spiral in Saranac Lake in 2008, a large-scale public ice sculpture. This outdoor ice sculpture involved ice bricks and hundreds of lighted tea candles.
According to Burnett the Long Lake project has been over a year in the planning. Already many hours have gone into the concept of E-lumination from the molded geometric snow forms to testing equipment for the projected images. Now the two artists, with the help of volunteers will take the next three days on site to install the outdoor exhibit to create glowing multicolored orbs that will surprise and delight travelers and locals alike.
“I like to create something that appeals to anyone,” says Burnett. “Not everyone is going to ever see the same thing when looking at art. Art can sometimes be viewed as exclusive. I want to work on different levels and the challenge is to be able to relate to as many people as possible.”
Matt Burnett has garnered accolades for his paintings, multimedia studies and environmental events. He is also the co-director of the Graphic and Multimedia Design program at SUNY Canton where he teaches studio art, photography and design.
Scott Fuller continues to work in public installations and new media. Along with other awards, Fuller’s piece with Asherah Cinnamon, Reaching for Courage: Gateway to China was a finalist for the 2008 Bejjing Olympic Sculpture contest. Fuller is an Assistant Professor of Fine Art at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine.
“There will be a game involved. We are tying in elements of history to the region of Long Lake,” says Burnett. “ We are projecting images, some between 70-100 years old, that we hope will be special to the people of the Long Lake and to people that are just passing through. There will be a puzzle for people to try to name all the people and places that are to be projected for the week the project is up.”
Burnett and Fuller will be doing a similar outdoor installation at St. Lawrence University in Canton in February. The sculpture will be seen at the center quad and focus more on the environmental issues of St. Lawrence Univerisity instead of the regional history. Burdett will also conduct a lecture on public and environmental art.
For more information regarding Matt Burdett and Scott Fuller’s art, check out their respective websites. E-lumination is slated to be working this weekend, weather permitting, in time for Long Lake Winter Carnival.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Thursday, January 13 at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook, NY. The January meeting is one day only. Topics will include a variance for a sign at a new car dealership in Warrensburg, a shoreline structure setback and cutting variances for a proposed marina in Moriah, an enforcement action against an alleged wetland subdivision and substandard-sized lot subdivision in Wells, a presentation on Keene broadband project, military airspace and military aircraft use over the Adirondack Park, and the Department of Environmental Conservation’s draft policy for issuing Temporary Revocable Permits for State Lands and Conservation Easements.
The meeting will be webcast live online (choose Webcasting from the contents list). Meeting materials are available for download from the Agency’s website. The full agenda follows: The Full Agency will convene on Thursday morning at 9:00 for Executive Director Terry Martino’s report where she will discuss current activities.
At 9:15 a.m., the Regulatory Programs Committee will consider two variance projects; a request for a variance from the Q-3 sign standards for placement of new car dealership sign in the Town of Warrensburg, Warren County and shoreline structure setback and shoreline cutting variance variances for a proposed marina in the Town of Moriah, Essex County.
At 10:30, the Enforcement Committee will convene for an enforcement case involving alleged wetland subdivision and substandard-sized lot subdivision violations on private property in the Town of Wells, Hamilton County.
At 11:00, the Economic Affairs Committee will hear a presentation on the Town of Keene’s town-wide broadband project. Dave Mason and Jim Herman, project co-directors, will explain the project history, how it unfolded and detail project accomplishments.
At 1:00, the Park Policy and Planning Committee will be briefed on Military Airspace and Military Aircraft use over the Adirondack Park. Lt. Col. Fred Tomasselli, NY Air National Guard’s Airspace Manager at Fort Drum, will overview military airspace use. Commander Charles Dorsey, NY Air National Guard 174th Fighter Wing Vice-Commander at Fort Hancock, will detail the expected deployment of the MQ-9 Reaper aircraft for military training exercises over the Adirondack Park.
At 2:15, the State Land Committee will be updated by, Forest Preserve Management Bureau Chief Peter Frank, on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s draft policy for issuing Temporary Revocable Permits for State Lands and Conservation Easements. The draft policy proposes four types of revocable permits: Expedited, Routine, Non-Routine and Research.
At 3:00, the Park Ecology Committee will convene for a presentation from the Agency’s, Natural Resource Analysis Supervisor Daniel Spada, on his recent trip to China. The focus of the trip was the ongoing China Protected Areas Leadership Alliance Project. Mr. Spada will overview this project and describe his experiences with the various National Nature Reserve managers he visited with in Yunnan Province, China.
At 3:45, the Full Agency will convene will assemble to take action as necessary and conclude with committee reports, public and member comment.
The February Agency is scheduled for February 10-11, 2011
March Agency Meeting: March 17-18 at the Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters.
The Nature Conservancy has announced what it calls “a historic land agreement with New York State that supports timber industry jobs, boosts the State’s recreation and tourism economy and, at the same time, preserves 89,000 forested acres concentrated in the geographic heart of the Adirondacks.” The agreement transfers a conservation easement of commercial working forest in the Adirondacks once owned by Finch, Pruyn to New York State.
New York State paid $30 million for the conservation easement, which includes specific recreation rights to the land, with money allocated for this purpose in last year’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). Twenty seven local towns where the properties lie have all approved the purchase which secures new public access to lands and waterways, including permanent snowmobile trails. The easement opens key access to the approaches to the Santanoni Range, Allen Mountain and the Hanging Spear Falls. » Continue Reading.
What follows is the Novemeber and December Forest Ranger Activity Report for DEC Region 5, which includes most of the Adirondack region. These reports are issued periodically by the DEC and printed here at the Almanack in their entirety. They are organized by county, and date. You can read previous Forest Ranger Reports here.
These incident reports are a stern reminder that wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Hikers and campers should check up-to-date forecasts before entering the backcountry and always carry a flashlight, first aid kit, map and compass, extra food, plenty of water and clothing. Be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods and always inform others of your itinerary.
The Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, New York has again achieved accreditation from the American Association of Museums (AAM), the highest national recognition for a museum. Accreditation signifies excellence to the museum community, to governments, funders, outside agencies, and to the museum-going public.
For almost forty years the Accreditation Program has served as the field’s primary vehicle for quality assurance, self-regulation, and public accountability, and earns national recognition for a museum for its commitment to excellence in all that it does: governance, collections stewardship, public programs, financial stability, high professional standards, and continued institutional improvement. Developed and sustained by museum professionals, the Accreditation Program reflects, reinforces, and promotes best practices, institutional ethics, and the highest standards of museum operations.
The Adirondack Museum first received AAM accreditation in 1973, and was reaccredited in 1985 and 1998.
“We are very honored that the Adirondack Museum continues to be recognized for meeting the highest standards of museum practice,” said Interim Director Michael Lombardi. “The accreditation validates the ongoing work of our staff and points the way towards continued success in the future.”
Of the nation’s estimated 17,500 museums, 775 are currently accredited. The Adirondack Museum joins the Albany Institute of History and Art, The Strong Museum, The Long Island Museum of American Art, History, and Carriages as well as eight other history museums accredited in New York State.
“Accreditation assures the people of the Adirondacks that their museum is among the finest in the nation,” said Ford W. Bell, president of AAM. “As a result, the citizens can take considerable pride in their institution, for its commitment to excellence and for the value it brings to the community as a whole.”
Accreditation is a rigorous process that examines all aspects of a museum’s operations. To earn accreditation, a museum first must conduct a year of self-study, then undergo a site visit by a team of peer reviewers. AAM’s Accreditation Commission, an independent and autonomous body of museum professionals, review and evaluate the self-study and visiting committee report to determine whether a museum should receive accreditation. While the time to complete the process varies by museum, it generally takes three years.
The Adirondack Museum will open for its 54th season on May 27, 2011. The museum will introduce two new exhibits – “The Adirondack World of A.F. Tait” and “Night Vision: The Wildlife Photography of Hobart V. Roberts” as well as offer a full schedule of programs, special events, and activities for families.
The American Association of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. With more than 15,000 individual, 3,000 institutional, and 300 corporate members, AAM is dedicated to ensuring that museums remain a vital part of the American landscape, connecting people with the greatest achievements of the human experience, past, present and future. For more information, visit www.aam-us.org.
Last week I had the opportunity to interview Olavi Hirvonen and his wife Ann, who own and operate the Lapland Lake Nordic Vacation Center in Benson, near Northville. Olavi competed in the 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Olympic Games as a member of the U.S. Nordic Ski Team., and in 1978 he founded Lapland Lake, which he and Ann have built into one of the East’s foremost cross country ski centers.
Jeff: What events led to you being selected for the U.S. Olympic Nordic Ski Team in 1960? Olavi: Well, it’s a long story… I was born in Montreal and was brought to Finland when I was eight months old. I was raised there by my grandmother and learned to ski as a youngster. I came to this country in 1949 after serving in the Finnish Army. After being here a couple years and married for a few months, I received greetings from the U.S. Army with special orders to go to Alaska as an instructor in the Arctic Indoctrination School. In the wintertime I taught skiing, snowshoeing, and Arctic survival, and in the summer it was mountain climbing, rock climbing, glacier travel.
Jeff: Alaska must have been an incredible place in the 1950s.
Olavi: I liked Alaska, yes. Good fishing and good hunting, and lots of lingonberries in the woods! [lingonberries are a Scandinavian food staple].
Jeff: Your service in the Army led to you being selected for the U.S. Olympic Ski Team?
Olavi: After the Army I had a ski lodge in Vermont that I was leasing. I had an invitation to go to the U.S. Olympic training camp in Colorado, but we were adding on to the ski lodge in ’59 and early ’60, and I couldn’t take the time to go because of all the work that I needed to do at home. So I trained by myself, until a week before the tryouts, and then I went out to meet up with the team in Winter Park, Colorado, which is at 10,000 feet. I had headaches night and day and didn’t do very well at all. On the fifth day, at a race in Aspen before the tryouts, I came in 26th and I thought I’ll never make it. The day after that we drove up to Steamboat Springs, and I went out to check the course for the first race of the tryouts. All of a sudden I felt like somebody turned the power switch on, like my old self. I came in second in the tryouts.
Olavi: Well, there’s more to the story. Because I hadn’t been trained by the Olympic coaches I was something of a black sheep. I didn’t get to race my best distance, the 30K, which was the first race. I found out the night before the race, and I was very disappointed. Instead I raced in the 15K and the 50K.
Jeff: Which event did you do better in?
Olavi: Well, the 50K, but I had never skied 50K in my life. I didn’t medal, but I ended up being the second US finisher, after breaking my ski. I had to ski on a single ski for more than a mile. I got a ski from a spectator and finished the race. That happened in the first 10K.
Jeff: That’s an incredible story, how did that happen?
Olavi: I stepped out of the track to make way for a Finnish competitor and that’s when I broke my ski. That was Veikko Hakulinen, and he won the silver medal. We became good friends after the Olympics. In the 40K team relay, he came from 20 seconds behind in the last leg to win the gold medal by just one meter. [Veikko Hakulinen was the only athlete at the Squaw Valley games to win three medals. The third medal was in the 15K].
Jeff: And what led you to eventually found Lapland Lake?
Olavi: We were living in Vermont in the 1960s and 1970s, and I had seen Trapp Family Lodge, the first cross country ski center in the United States. My late son worked there as an instructor in the 1970s, and it had been in my mind since the Olympics to one day start something like that.
In 1977 I had built two houses, one that we were living in and one that I was still finishing, and they were both for sale. I thought one of them might sell, but they both did, and so in the spring of 1978 we were homeless and we headed out. My plan was to head into upstate New York, but farther north than here. Driving north on Route 30, I saw the sign for Benson and I thought “I have to make that left.” It was like a magnet, I had not planned to come here. Eventually we found this place. It had cabins, lots of land and a lake, and it was for sale.
When we finally made the deal to buy the property, the lady who sold the property to us, the former owner, wanted to take us out to dinner. On the way to the restaurant she asked me what sports my late son had been involved in [Olavi lost his son Esa in an accident in 1977]. I said biathlon and cross-country skiing, and she said her nephew was on the U.S. biathlon team. So I asked her what’s his name, and she said John Hall. Well, I could hardly believe it because John Hall had been my son’s good buddy in college. That connection must have been the magnet that pulled me here.
Jeff: What were the early years like? Did you operate Lapland Lake as both a touring center and a vacation resort right from the start?
Olavi: Originally, this place was a farm. The lodge was a barn, for cows. In the 1930s, the owner put up some summer cottages but they weren’t winterized. We closed on the property August 3, 1978 and we had the first ski race December 15. There wasn’t much time to work on the trails that first year. We had to jack up all the cottages and put in foundations. I got a backhoe and I dug all of the water lines underground. We worked round the clock to get the place ready.
Jeff: Last year was a really tough year for snow. How did you do?
Ann: We average 117 days of skiing and over 11 feet of snow per year. Last year was our lowest snow year ever (80 inches), but we had over 100 days of skiing. We worked the snow and we were lucky with what we got.
Jeff: How much snow do you need to open?
Olavi: Well it depends on what type of snow. The best is a wet snow, and then cold after that. We can ski with just 2 inches on the lake trail. But six inches of wet snow lets us open just about everything.
Jeff: What’s involved in the trail grooming?
Olavi: At this time of year before the snow comes there’s clearing limbs and trees that have come down, and clearing drainage pipes. In the summer we mow the trails. It’s continuous maintenance. In the winter we groom every day. I’ve got a new 2010 Prinoth Husky Snowcat groomer, I think it’s our fourth snowcat groomer, plus a couple snowmobiles.
Jeff: Do you do all the grooming yourself?
Olavi: Yes, I still do. I have a young man who just started who I hope I can get to groom with the snowmobile, so at least I’ll have a backup if I get sick or hurt. It depends how good he is.
Jeff: How has the grooming evolved?
Olavi: When we first started I just had a snowmobile and track sled. We used mattress springs to break up the snow if it got hard or there was freezing rain. The trails were narrow, and groomed with tracks for classic skiing. Then people started skating, and I complained that people were destroying my tracks. So I widened the trails, bought our first snowcat, and started grooming for both skating and classic. Jeff: Has anyone taken you up on your “Groomer’s Challenge?”
Ann [explaining to Olavi, who apparently hasn’t seen this on the website]: That’s online. We checked with the Cross Country Ski Association, and we don’t think there’s anyone who has more hours of grooming experience than Olavi in North America. One gentleman said he had been grooming as many years, but he was from downstate where the seasons are short. So in terms of total number of days grooming, we haven’t heard of anyone who’s got the depth of experience that Olavi has. It’s been on the website for three years now.
Jeff: The grooming and the design of the trail network seem to have given Lapland Lake the reputation of being a skier’s ski center.
Olavi: From the start I had the idea of making the trails all one-way loops, other than some connecting trails. We have a limited amount of acreage, and I wanted to get as many kilometers of trail as possible and take advantage of the natural terrain. We also get lots of beginners. We have a great ski school and we do a lot of lessons.
Jeff: Olavi, do you still ski?
Olavi: I don’t ski much anymore. I work days, and usually when I do ski it’s in the evening with lights on the Lake Trail or the easier trails with a headlamp. But I find my balance is nothing like what it used to be. I’ll be 80 on December 26. You know your limitations.
Jeff: A number of cross country ski areas have installed snowmaking: Trapp, Mountain Top, and others. Is that something you’d consider here?
Olavi: No, I think it’s too much of an expense to be worth it for us, it wouldn’t pay. So far we’ve been very lucky with our natural snowfall.
Jeff: Where do your customers come from?
Olavi: We get day skiers from the Capital District, Johnstown and Amsterdam, even Kingston and New Paltz. Overnight guests from Long Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio. We get lots of Canadians and Europeans. About 65% of our skiers are experienced skiers. We get racers early in the season, but later they travel to races. We also have a great volunteer Ski Patrol.
Ann: On weekends we’ll have 300 to 400 skiers. We hit 1,000 once, but it was just too many: people were elbow-to-elbow in the ski shop.
Jeff: How does this winter look?
Ann: Our reservations and our season passes are up. People seem to feel more comfortable spending money.
Jeff: Do you think a ski center can exist on its own as a viable business, or does it need to be paired with an inn or lodging business to be successful?
Olavi: I think it works best with lodging. It gives you something to fall back on, something for the summertime. And lodging in the winter without the skiing doesn’t do very well either. You have to have that combination.
Jeff: One thing that has always stood out is your website and the way you communicate with skiers.
Olavi: That’s Ann. When we met she was a PR person at Ellis Hospital. She doesn’t want to miss a ski report, and quite often she’ll update it more than once during the day. I’ll give her a report while I’m grooming. We try our best to be honest, but sometimes you still get it wrong.
Ann: At the time, I thought I was taking a big gamble spending money on the website, but it’s really paid off.
Jeff: How do you two share the work: the ski trails, the retail shop, the cottages and the restaurant?
Olavi: Ann is really the manager, and I do most of the outside work, the trails. In the winter, after the trail grooming, I come in and work in the ski shop selling skis and doing repairs. Ann gives me a to-do list.
Ann: Olavi may say I am the manager, but he’s really the heart and soul of the operation. He puts so much of himself into the trails and the grooming… Olavi says “I groom it the way I want to ski it.”
Jeff: Thanks very much Ann and Olavi for your time, and congratulations on your continued success with Lapland Lake. Olavi, congratulations on your upcoming birthday, and your Olympic anniversary. Kudos!
Photo of Olavi and Ann courtesy the Finland Center Foundation.
Jeff Farbaniec is an avid telemark skier and a 46er who writes The Saratoga Skier & Hiker, a blog of his primarily Adirondack outdoor adventures.
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