Protect the Adirondacks has released a proposal calling for the creation of a new 39,000-acre Upper Hudson River Wilderness Area. This proposed new Wilderness Area would be centered on 22 miles of the Upper Hudson River that stretches from the Town of Newcomb to North River and would include over five miles of the Cedar River and four miles of the Indian River as well as dozens of other lakes and ponds.
The new Wilderness Area would be created from roughly 19,000 acres of former Finch Paper lands to be purchased by the State of New York from The Nature Conservancy and 20,000 acres of existing Forest Preserve lands in the Hudson Gorge Primitive Area (17,000 acres) and in the Blue Mountain and Vanderwhacker Wild Forest Areas (3,000 acres). » Continue Reading.
A State Supreme Court judge ruled today that Hudson River Rafting Company cannot operate until a final decision is made in a lawsuit filed against the company by the state attorney general’s office.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued Hudson River Rafting and its owner, Patrick Cunningham, a few weeks after one of its clients drowned in the Indian River. He accuses the company of running unsafe whitewater excursions, sometimes sending customers on trips without licensed guides or with no guides at all. Click here to read the account of one unhappy customer. » Continue Reading.
Tomorrow there will be a hearing in Hamilton County Supreme Court (convening in Fulton County, in Johnstown) as the New York State Attorney General’s Office seeks a formal court order requiring Hudson River Rafting Company to cease operations until a list of safety concerns can be addressed.
As one of the company’s guides remains jailed on a charge of criminally negligent homicide in the death of a customer who drowned last month, Hudson River Rafting Company and its owner Patrick Cunningham also face a Hamilton County District Attorney motion to reinstate two 2010 charges of reckless endangerment. The DA argues that Cunningham violated the terms of a dismissal agreement by sending passengers down the wilderness whitewater of the upper Hudson River this summer in unguided boats.
Following are verbatim excerpts from one affidavit, an account by Richard Belson, from Pennsylvania, who says Hudson River Rafting Company launched him and a friend in an unguided inflatable kayak even though they had no paddling experience. To read the full affidavit, click here. » Continue Reading.
A Kayaker’s Guide to Lake George, the Saratoga Region & Great Sacandaga Lake (Blackdome Press, 2012) is the latest effort by Albany writer Russell Dunn, a licensed guide and author of 10 books on the great outdoors of eastern New York and western New England. The guide includes detailed directions, information on launch sites, maps, GPS coordinates, photographs, safety and comfort tips, a wealth of historical and geological information, and directories of paddling outfitters, organizations and clubs.
The 352-page book features 58 paddling adventures in the southeastern Adirondacks, including Lake Desolation, the upper Hudson River, Lake George, Lake Luzerne, Great Sacandaga Lake and the Sacandaga River, the Champlain Canal and Glens Falls Feeder Canal, Kayaderosseras Creek, Round Lake, Saratoga Lake, and Ballston Lake. » Continue Reading.
The owner of the Hudson River Rafting Company said today he couldn’t comment on a fatal accident on the Indian River last week other than to assert that he did not know if the employee guiding the raft was intoxicated.
“We had no idea he was drunk,” Pat Cunningham said, “and I don’t know all that happened.”
State Police say the guide, Rory Fay of North Creek, was indeed intoxicated when he undertook the whitewater trip last Thursday morning. They arrested him on a charge of criminally negligent homicide, a class E felony. » Continue Reading.
The owner of a rafting company in the spotlight after a drowning last week is accused of violating a court agreement stemming from criminal charges lodged two years ago, according to court papers.
Patrick J. Cunningham, the owner of the Hudson River Rafting Company, was indicted in November 2010 on misdemeanor charges of reckless endangerment.
In one count, Cunningham was accused of sending two customers downriver in an inflatable kayak even though they lacked kayak and whitewater experience. Free-lance writer Mary Thill reported last year that the customers capsized in the second rapid and then hitched a ride in an overloaded raft, which also flipped. » Continue Reading.
A woman drowned on a rafting trip in the Adirondacks yesterday morning, and State Police say her guide was intoxicated.
Rory F. Fay of North Creek, a guide for Hudson River Rafting Company, faces a charge of criminally negligent homicide, a felony, according to state troopers.
Fay was guiding two clients from Columbus, Ohio—Richard J. Clar, 53, and Tamara F. Blake, also 53—on a trip down the Indian and Hudson rivers. Before they made it to the Hudson, Blake and Fay were ejected from the raft, police say. Clar stayed in the raft and steered it to shore. » Continue Reading.
One month ago, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that New York State will acquire 69,000 acres of the former Finch Pruyn and other Nature Conservancy lands throughout the Adirondacks over the next five years, including such long-sought after tracts as the Essex Chain Lakes, Boreas Ponds, and OK Slip Falls.
The land acquisition is the largest single addition to the Adirondack Forest Preserve in more than a century, opens some lands that have been closed to the public for more than 150 years, and provide new opportunities for remote communities like Newcomb. Adirondack Almanack contributors have been considering what the new state lands means to our communities, wildlife, economies, and more, in a series of stories about the new lands you may have missed. » Continue Reading.
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent commitment to acquire 69,000 acres of the former Finch Pruyn lands for the publicly-owned NYS Forest Preserve over the next several years completes a 161,000-acre conservation project of national and global importance.
Conservation of the paper company’s lands was a topic fifty years ago this summer when Paul Schaefer had an interesting conversation with then Finch Pruyn Company President Lyman Beeman. Both were members of the Joint Legislative Committee on Natural Resources then studying Adirondack forests. » Continue Reading.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has announced that New York State has acquired 69,000 acres of the former Finch Pruyn and other Nature Conservancy lands throughout the Adirondacks. A statement by the Governor’s office called the acquisition “the largest single addition to the Adirondack State Forest Preserve in more than a century.”
Cuomo pointed to additional recreational opportunities, and the increased revenue from tourism as the reasons behind the purchase. Some of the lands have been closed to the public for more than 150 years.
A “Notice!” was placed in the June 22, 1949 issue of the North Creek News by the Water District Superintendent Kenneth Davis and Supervisor Charles Kenwell informing local residence about the drought situation facing them over 60 years ago. » Continue Reading.
A June 14 decision by the federal Surface Transportation Board’s (STB) Director of Proceedings awarding common carrier status to the Saratoga and North Creek Railway (SNCR), owned by Iowa Pacific Holdings, for freight operations on the 30-mile Tahawus industrial rail spur was appealed June 25 to the full Board by Charles C. Morrison, Project Coordinator for the Adirondack Committee, Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club and Samuel H. Sage, President and Senior Scientist of the Atlantic States Legal Foundation (ASLF). » Continue Reading.
Rivers policy and history, stewardship of our Forest Preserve, and positive interactions with young people from Albany came together on Arbor Days, April 27-28, north of Lake Luzerne. Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve was pleased to play a role. First, let’s review some history.
The role of Paul Schaefer’s Adirondack Hudson River Association: Many years ago, the utility giant Niagara Mohawk power company owned land along the upper Hudson River in Luzerne, Warrensburg and North Creek. One of their goals was to create large hydroelectric dams at Hadley-Luzerne, and the shoreline was considered flowage, where water levels would fluctuate up and down 50 feet or more during power generation, and reservoir filling. Other mega-dams on the Upper Hudson were being planned by the Army Corps of Engineers, which would flood the river as far north as Newcomb. » Continue Reading.
Public wild lands protected by law in New York State can fall under the public jurisdiction of a variety of state agencies. Some of them are part of the system of state parks administered by the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP). In northern Saratoga County and across the Hudson River in Warren County lie more than 4,000 acres of beautiful and protected public wild land, part of the Moreau Lake State Park. Much of this land was acquired by the nonprofit Open Space Institute from Niagara Mohawk, and then sold to the public in 1998.
Moreau Lake State Park tripled in size at that time, and is now the largest state park in the region. The six million-acre Adirondack Park north of Moreau Lake, of course, has a completely different legislative history and legal context. It is not part of the OPRHP system of state parks. This past week, I joined an enthusiastic group of state park officials, staff, park friends, volunteers and concerned citizens at Moreau Lake State Park. The occasion was an Earth Day ribbon cutting at the park’s new nature center, led by NYS Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. Moreau Lake State Park’s director, his educational staff and the volunteers of Friends of Moreau Lake were given appropriate credit for this new space and added capacity to work with school groups, some of the 400,000 annual visitors to this park. The facility “showcases State Parks’ commitment to environmental education…shared by experienced and passionate outdoor educators,” said the Chair of the Saratoga-Capital District State Park Commission Heather Mabee.
This was visible progress. I once worked as a part-time naturalist and recreation staffer at Moreau Lake and Saratoga Spa State Parks, so it was gratifying to see the greatly improved educational facilities, interpretive exhibits, and dedicated staff that did not exist in the mid-1980s. On the other hand, even in those days I experienced a strong connection to the Adirondack Mountains and the solitude and beauty of the wilderness each time I went to Moreau for a program or a hike. The forests at Moreau do, in fact, act as a transition between the Appalachian oak-pine forests and the northern mixed hardwood forests of the Adirondacks, while the elevation gains to the park’s ridge trails resemble those on many Adirondack hikes.
I was invited to the ribbon cutting for a different reason. Four years ago, Saratoga County Water Authority’s water intake and pipeline from the Hudson River were constructed through a section of Moreau Lake State Park, in violation, we felt, of our State Constitution’s “forever wild” clause that protects the Forest Preserve as defined in State law. Saratoga County is one of 16 counties in the state that fall within the legal definition of Forest Preserve. The vast majority of Forest Preserve lies within the boundaries of the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, but some falls outside these boundaries in the named counties.
Moreau Lake State Park was no legal exception, and it certainly has public wild lands characteristic of the Forest Preserve, so we challenged OPRHP’s allowance of the county water line’s construction through parts of this park. As readers know, the State Constitution’s Article 14 states that lands constituting the forest preserve “shall be forever kept as wild forest lands,” and “shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private…” The Saratoga County Water Authority, a public corporation, had, in our view, unconstitutionally taken parts of Forest Preserve at Moreau Lake State Park.
Ultimately, the water line was constructed. Although the coalition did not go to court on these grounds, we came to a legally binding agreement with OPRHP that commited $300,000 of public funds to build educational facilities, like the park’s nature center; other funds to add to the park’s wild land acreage; and a commitment to manage large segments of the park as if it were Forest Preserve – although OPRHP is reluctant to name it what I think it truly is. A professional management plan is in place at Moreau, most of the wild land is managed appropriately as Park preserve land, and there is a visible educational and passive recreational emphasis at the park. There are well-advertised hikes, an educational staff is in place, and an active friends group helps the small staff serve the public, including area schools and youth groups.
In short, I am glad we reached the agreement we did. On the other hand, vigilance is still called for. All state agencies responsible for New York’s “wild forest land” should understand and embrace those responsibilities, and resist any kind of taking and exploitation of our wilderness for commercial or expedient ends. After all, our wilderness is a big part of what distinguishes New York State; and our “forever wild” Constitution is the envy of every other state, and every other country on earth.
Photos: Hemlock grove; springtime on the trails; nature center at Moreau Lake State Park.
Glenn L. Pearsall’s Echoes in these Mountains, is subtitled “Historic Sites and Stories Disappearing in Johnsburg, an Adirondack Community,” but thanks to Pearsall, a tireless advocate for local history, those historic sites and stories are being remembered.
The geography of Johnsburg, the largest township in New York State, is central to Echoes in these Mountains. The book is arranged in chapters highlighting various historic sites, all with handy maps to help locate them on the landscape. That approach – locating historical stories around town on the landscape – is part of what drives Pearsall’s personal exploration of his town’s history, and what led to the answer to an interesting historical question. » Continue Reading.
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