A newly constructed 2.5-mile trail to the western end of the Jay Mountain Ridge is complete and available for public use the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced. The trail bypasses the steep and eroded sections of an existing herd path that had been the primary access to mountain’s summit.
“The new Jay Mountain trail is safer and easier to hike and will allow more people to hike to the summit and enjoy the views. It should also serve to attract more visitors to the nearby communities of Jay, Elizabethtown, Keene and Keene Valley,” DEC Regional Director Robert Stegemann said in a statement issued to the press. » Continue Reading.
As a parent I honor the art projects my children bring home from school. My kids take time to make special cards and spend hours sketching and drawing the world around them. Do I think they will become professional artists? I have no idea. My main goal is for them to be happy. The rest is up to them.
While I try to support any and all artistic endeavors, one annual event I encourage families to attend is the Northern Adirondack Artist At Work Studio Tour. » Continue Reading.
Actor James Tolkan will be in Au Sable Forks April 1 to help raise funds for two Au Sable organizations. Tolkan, a familiar character actor has been in over 70 films during his lengthy Hollywood career. With an extensive resume in TV and films, Tolkan’s Principal Strickland in the Back to The Future Trilogy is what sparked a film fundraiser for event organizer Cassidy Garrow.
Garrow says, “Flashback to the Past is my idea but I couldn’t have done it without help. I met James Tolkan at an outing. I approached him with my idea and he was very willing to help. I thought of the local organizations and know they can use the fundraising money.” Held at the Hollywood Theatre in AuSable Forks, six classic 1980s films will be shown in succession with a special guest appearance with actor James Tolkan held at 8:00 p.m. at the Jay Community Center.Tolkan will conduct a “meet and greet” with audience members and share his experiences during the making of the films. He will also answer questions from the audience.
Seating is limited but tickets can be reserved. One of the Hollywood Theatre’s two screens will be shows what Garrow terms “chick flicks” with Footloose, Dirty Dancing and Sixteen Candles while the second movie theatre screen will house the Back To The Future Trilogy. The first show starts at noon.
“The two events, the films and meeting James Tolkan are separate,” says Garrow. “Tickets are sold individually. People can just attend the evening event if they just wish to meet James Tolken or come watch the films. I wanted to keep options available so people could attend one event or both.”
Besides a fun “flashback films of the 80s” concept, the funds raised will benefit two special local charities, the AuSable Forks Fire Department Water Rescue Program and the Jay/Black Brook Annual Toy Drive.
“The annual toy drive collects funds to buy gifts for children during the holiday season for Essex and Clinton County areas including Black Brook, the town of AuSable and Jay,” says Garrow. “ I believe that last year this organization was able to help 30 families during the holidays.”
Garrow praises the Ausable Forks Fire Department Water Rescue Program’s diligence during emergency situations. Many people rely on the Au Sable Forks Fire Department during the year and countless people were assisted during Tropical Storm Irene.“The Fire Department lost some of their equipment while rescuing people trapped by water during Irene,” says Garrow. “ We hope that funds raised by this event will help replace that equipment. The Au Sable Fire Department will also use the funds for water rescue training.”
Garrow thanked others that are helping to make this event a success including The American Leagion Post 504, Admag Designs and The Hollywood Theatre. There will be raffles for three autographed copies of the Back to the Future DVD sets, signed by James Tolken. Tolken will also do an autograph session after the “meet and greet.”
Movies and times are listed as follows: April 1 noon – 9:00 p.m. Noon -Back to the Future and Footloose. 2;15 p.m. Back to the Future II and Dirty Dancing 4:30 p.m. Back to the Future III and 16 Candles Admission Prices:Adult $3/Child $2 (10 and under)
8:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Meet James Tolkan Admission Adult/$5, Child/$3 (10 and under)
Advanced admission tickets can be purchased by calling 518-643-2849 (cash, check, or money orders only).
The Special and Urgent Needs (SUN) Fund at the Adirondack Community Trust (ACT) is now offering grants of up to $2,500 to nonprofit organizations serving the needs of victims of Tropical Storm Irene.
Immediately following the disaster on August 28, generous and caring people from across the country began sending gifts and holding events to raise funds for people in the Adirondacks who suffered damages. Donations to the Keene Flood Recovery Fund and the Jay Irene Flood Relief Fund at ACT have already been transformed into more than 120 grants averaging $3,000 that went directly to people, businesses and nonprofits. The flow of donated funds to people in need continues, especially important as cold weather sets in. “The SUN Fund expands our ability to help and gives donors a way to contribute more broadly, across the entire Adirondack range of the storm,” said ACT Board Member Nancy Keet. “We hope nonprofits will apply for these funds right away, so we can turn donor contributions into grants that do the work they were meant to do.” The difference between the SUN Fund and the Keene and Jay funds at ACT is that the SUN Fund makes grants to charitable nonprofits and the Keene and Jay funds make grants to individuals. This grant offer from the SUN Fund includes nonprofits in Keene and Jay.
Any 501c3 nonprofit working to address the ongoing needs of people in the areas hit by the storm is encouraged to apply for funds. Applications from nonprofits that suffered damages to their facilities are also welcome. A grant application can be found on ACT’s website, generousact.org, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. ACT will respond to an application within three weeks.
“ACT has been able to get funds into the hands of those in need very quickly,” said Cali Brooks, ACT Executive Director. “Dedicated volunteers in Keene and Jay have bhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifeen reviewing individuals’ applications rapidly, so that ACT can move funds toward people without delay. Applications for SUN Fund grants to nonprofits will be reviewed with the same alacrity by the ACT Grants Committee.”
Giving to these flood relief funds continues. Many people are including flood recovery in their holiday and year-end giving plans. Visit generousact.org or call ACT’s office 518-523-9904 for information on how to give.
Burlington College students, under the direction of their instructor, Adirondack Almanack editor John Warren, will conduct Oral History interviews to record the Tropical Storm Irene stories of Jay and Keene residents on Saturday, December 3rd, at the Keene Community Center, (8 Church Street, in Keene), between 10 and 4 pm. The public is invited to share their stories; the resulting oral histories will be added to the collections of the Adirondack Museum. Participants can schedule a time on December 3, or walk-in anytime between 10 am and 4 pm. It will only be necessary to spend about 15-20 mins at the Community Center where participants will be asked a number of questions about their experiences with Irene and will be provided an opportunity to tell the stories they think are important to remember about the events of this past late-summer.
To schedule your participation contact John Warren via e-mail at email@example.com or call (518) 956-3830. The public is invited. Walk-ins are welcome.
How much rain fell during Tropical Storm Irene? Seems like an easy question, but it’s not.
The National Weather Service relies on volunteers to collect rainfall, and given the variance in rainfall and the finite number of volunteers, there are bound to be gaps in the data record.
For the current issue of the Adirondack Explorer, Nancy Bernstein created a rainfall map based on the Weather Service’s own maps. It shows that more than seven inches of rain fell in Keene, Jay, and Au Sable Forks. But how much more? The Explorer’s publisher, Tom Woodman, measured eleven inches at his home in Keene. The map indicates that six to seven inches fell in Keene Valley. But a worker at Johns Brook Lodge, a few miles away, collected thirteen inches in a bucket. Admittedly, a bucket might not be the most accurate rain gauge, but if we assume it provided an overestimate, we must also take into account that the bucket was not deployed for the entirety of the storm.
And there were no rain gauges on top of the High Peaks, where some of the heaviest rain might have fallen.
These uncertainties notwithstanding, we thought it would be interesting to calculate how much water Irene dumped in the Ausable River watershed, where most of the flooding occurred. The number we came up with (it appears in the new issue of the Explorer) was sixty-two billion gallons—enough to fill Stillwater Reservoir one and a half times.
For our calculation, we assumed that an average of seven inches of rain fell in the watershed. Given the data available, that seemed like a reasonable—and conservative—estimate.
• 27,000 gallons per acre x 7 = 189,000 gallons per acre.
• 189,000 gallons per acre x 327,680 acres = 61,931,520,000 gallons.
As mentioned, sixty-two billion gallons exceeds the capacity of the nine-mile-long Stillwater Reservoir. By way of another comparison, it’s estimated that Lake George, the biggest lake wholly within the Adirondack Park, contains 550 billion gallons of water.
Once all this water funneled down the valleys of the mountains into brooks and then rivers, it created enormous destruction. We’ve all seen the pictures of damaged houses, cratered highways, piles of trees, and fields of mud. Numbers provide another way for understanding the power of moving water unleashed by Irene.
At its peak, the Ausable’s flow rate was at least fifty thousand cubic feet per second, according to Andy Nash, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Burlington. Normally, its flow rate is three hundred to five hundred cubic feet per second. So during Irene, the river’s flow was more than a hundred times greater than normal.
Nash pointed out that the Mississippi River, as it passes St. Louis, has a flow rate of one hundred thousand cubic feet per second. During the peak of Irene, then, the Ausable was equivalent to half the Mississippi.
The latest Explorer includes thirteen pages devoted to Irene. The following stories are available online:
Carl Schwartz, US Fish and Wildlife Service and John Braico, NYS Trout Unlimited will lead a walk of the Ausable River on October 24 focused on rebuilding and repairing streams effected by flooding. Funds recently secured by the Ausable River Association (AsRA) for restoring tributaries damaged during Irene flooding are being considered for allocation.
Both Schwartz and Braico have worked extensively throughout New York to repair rivers and restore aquatic habitat. Schwartz works actively on river restoration projects and operates an excavator to build natural channels. The Ausable River Association and the Essex County Soil and Water Conservation District are inviting and encouraging Citizens, Town Council members, Town DPWs, County DPW, DOT, DEC, and NonGovernmental Organizations to attend.
Date: October 24, 10 AM; Meet at the mouth of John’s Brook at the Rt. 73 bridge in Keene Valley; 2 PM Meet at the Gazebo in Ausable Forks.
“It is unfortunate that dredging has proceeded without any guidance from river experts who could provide natural stream dimensions based on a rapid assessment of natural bankfull, pool depth and riffle spacing. Measurements that could be done in a few hours and eliminate years of lost habitat,” stated Carol Treadwell, Executive Director of the Ausable River Association (ARA).
Natural stream dimensions? Bankfull? Pool depth? Riffle spacing? What is this, a how-to manual? A certain amount of assembly required? Or a level of river awareness and fluency that any floodplain community had better strive for? It is understandable why the small streams and rivers in this heavily damaged region of the Adirondacks (twice this year) may be viewed as marauding aliens and enemies which require a serious “talking to” by backhoe. The human and community impacts of the flood are enormous and gut wrenching.
Yet, post World War Two we keep building in floodplains, whether we know we are or not. A favored textbook reads: “The average annual flood damage nationwide… has continued to increase… The use of flood-prone land continues to rise faster than the application of measures to reduce flood damages. This continues to be one of the foremost challenges to land planners – finding ways to control the use of flood-prone areas, and ways of requiring those who seek the advantages of use of floodable areas to assume a fair proportion of the financial risk involved in such use” (Water in Environmental Planning, by Thomas Dunne and Luna Leopold, 1978).
Carol’s quote was submitted for a news release issued this week by a coalition of concerned organizations and individuals who live in these communities, along with a letter to Governor Cuomo seeking an end to floodplain management by bulldozer, and a meeting to assess how best to respond to the altered nature of these waterways in ways that are mindful of people, property, stream health, aesthetics and tourism on which so many of these towns and Essex County depend.
Carol denotes an apparent lack of “river experts” and related oversight of the heavy earth moving equipment moving about our region’s streams during the Governor’s month-long emergency authorization. The Ausable River Association has spent years studying the Ausable. Similarly, the Boquet River Association on the Boquet. NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and Adirondack Park Agency know something about the behavior and morphology of rivers and floodplains. NYS DOT has environmental experts who know how to manage highway rights of way without taking a proverbial two by four to the environment. So, where are they? It was good to read that the Essex County Board of Supervisors is calling on these experts to help them assess and, if necessary, adjust the in-stream work as may be necessary. Governor Cuomo should have had his environmental experts in the field overseeing any stream work a month ago.
Yet, our state agency experts and field managers at DEC, APA, DOT still seem unable to respond in a coordinated, effective fashion, despite the fact that the Emergency Authorization issued by NYS DEC on that fateful Sunday, August 29 states: “This Authorization hereby allows emergency work to occur in navigable waters, streams and wetlands regulated under Environmental Conservation Law Article 15 and Article 24. The work hereby allowed must be immediately necessary to address an imminent threat to life, health, property, the general welfare and natural resources. All work carried out under this Authorization must be conducted in a minimally invasive manner, consistent with the goals of the restoration work. Non‐critical work is not allowed by this Authorization. All work must be undertaken in compliance with the conditions below.”
The emergency authorization and all conditions for working in the rivers is found at the DEC website. Based on what Dan Plumley of Adirondack Wild has observed, many of these conditions are being violated every day, but this assumes that the equipment operators understand the conditions, and that DEC is on-site to explain them, which it appears not to be.
There is probably a strong difference of opinion whether the work to date has been “minimally invasive” and necessary to address imminent threat. At the same time, the workers in the streams and their supervisors are doing all they can with the information and resources at hand. Which gets me back to Carol Treadwell’s quote: “natural stream dimensions based on a rapid assessment of natural bankfull, pool depth and riffle spacing. Measurements that could be done in a few hours and eliminate years of lost habitat.”
What is she talking about? I return to and quote from Dunne and Leopold’s Water in Environmental Planning (1978). Rivers construct their own floodplains, laterally migrate, and deposit lots of sediment in the process. Over a very long process of movement the river occupies each and every position on the flat valley floor, with the river moving laterally by erosion on one bank and deposition on the other. That is the meander that rivers want to achieve as their way of expending energy most efficiently. In fact, really straight stretches of river (absent human channelization) are rare “and seldom does one see a straight reach of length exceeding 10 channel widths.”
Yet, the river does not construct a channel large enough to accommodate flood stages. The bankfull stage referred to by Carol “corresponds to the river discharge at which channel maintenance is most effective, that is the discharge at which moving sediment, forming or removing bars, forming or changing bends and meanders, and generally doing work that results in the average morphologic characteristics of (river) channels.”
The authors Dunne and Leopold continue: “It is human encroachment on the floodplains of rivers that accounts for the majority of flood damage. Because it is a natural attribute of rivers to produce flows that cannot be contained within the channel, the floodplain is indeed a part of the river during such events. It is therefore important that planners know something about these characteristic features, and thus possibly counteract to some degree the emphasis placed on flood-control protection works. More logical is flood damage prevention by the restriction of floodplain use.”
In short straight sections in between meanders, stream pools and riffles alternate in consistent ways due to the creation of gravel bars on the convex side of a meander. “The distance between successive bars averages five to seven channel widths.” The alteration of steep (over the riffles) and less steep water (over the pools) is characteristic of rivers, as is the fact that meanders are steeper than the average straight section. I think this is the “pool-riffle spacing” Carol is speaking of. She may be suggesting that in-stream work should seek to maintain this kind of pool-riffle spacing, and ensure that stream slopes are not severely altered.
The worst thing to do, according to Dunne and Leopold, is to severely shorten a river channel with consequent change in channel gradient. “An imposed change of river slope can cause an instability quite irreversible in any short period of time, and is the most difficult change to which a stream must adjust.” It appears this is exactly what heavy equipment operators did to Johns Brook, and may be doing to other stream sections.
The authors’ conclusions may be ones which Governor Cuomo, DOT, DEC, APA, and Essex County should pay particular attention to: “Among the potential costs or disadvantages accruing from channel modification are: 1. Channel instability or effects of channel readjustment to the imposed conditions; 2. Downstream effects especially increased bank erosion, bed degradation or aggradation; 3. Esthetic degradation, especially the change in stream biota and the visual alteration of riparian vegetation, and of stream banks and channel pattern or form.”
Photos: Johns Brook, Keene, before and after channel dredging and grading by state-funded heavy equipment, photos by Naj Wikoff.
Refrigerators can float. There are many things that can be learned from flooding, and that’s one tidbit that stuck with me from when my parents’ house took on about two feet of water more than a decade ago. When the water subsided enough to safely wade to their front door, I went there alone to assess the damage—but the door wouldn’t budge. Finally, it began to give an inch or two at a time. When I managed to squeeze in, I was more than a little surprised at what I found.
As the water had deepened in the kitchen, the refrigerator toppled and then somehow floated through the kitchen doorway into the house entrance, blocking me from getting in. The rest of the house was similarly wrecked—everything was sopping wet and coated with mud. If you’ve worked on flood recovery, hoping to save personal items, you know the issues. Mud everywhere, in every crease, fold, and indentation, no matter what the object. Books, photographs, artwork, all beyond salvage. Yesterday’s treasure, today’s garbage.
Those memories were revived by the recent flooding in upstate New York. Though business prevented me from helping with the cleanup, my partner, Jill, represented us by toiling in Keene and Keene Valley in Governor Cuomo’s “Labor for Your Neighbor” program.
It was both heartbreaking and incredible to see photographs of the regional damage and to hear people talk about it on TV. A frequent phrase heard was, “I’ve never seen anything like it,” which was no doubt true—but that doesn’t mean it has never happened before. Not having “seen it” is often merely a function of age.
Take roads flooding, cavernous washouts, and the destruction of cars, for instance (from rain events, and not from annual spring flooding related to snowmelt.) Shocking, for sure, but no less so to the folks at Jay in September 1938, when a Packard and a Buick were washed away. Rain had fallen for three days straight, causing landslides that blocked roads in Elizabethtown, Keene, Keene Valley, Lake Placid, Schroon Lake, Upper Jay, and Wilmington.
In December 1957, six inches of rain put 27 eastern New York counties on flood alert. Route 73 from Keene to Keene Valley and Route 9N from Underwood to Elizabethtown were both closed.
In July 1963, two days of unusually heavy rains, particularly on Giant Mountain, re-routed Roaring Brook, which more than lived up to its name. Route 73 suffered extreme damage and was closed from Underwood to Keene, just as tourist season was getting into full swing.
Several cars were buried in mud, and Beede Brook Bridge was washed out, leaving a 20-foot gap in the road. Culverts were plugged with silt, making Route 73 the only available path for trees and boulders that were washed downhill by the floodwaters. Some hikers tied their cars to trees to prevent them from being carried away.
The worst that stands out in my memory happened in 1979. A section of Route 73 below Chapel Pond was washed out by heavy rain, but that was minimal compared to what else happened. Parts of Elizabethtown, particularly Water Street, were devastated. Denton Publications and others near the river also suffered serious damage, but even with over $2.5 million in losses (equal to $7.5 million today) across Essex County, there was worse news.
A 200-foot stretch of Route 9N east of Elizabethtown was washed out, leaving a gap estimated at 25 feet deep. Before the site was blockaded, three vehicles had been swallowed up by the Boquet River. Five people died, and the few who escaped were nearly lost as well.
As happened with Irene, the mess was hard to fathom. Seventy homes were damaged, and 45 families were left temporarily homeless. Many of us also remember it as the flood that finally put the Land of Makebelieve out of commission for good.
The National Weather Bureau reported that Elizabethtown had received 2.75 inches of rain, certainly a lot, but seemingly not enough to cause such extensive flooding. The destruction, said the NWB, was spawned by 8 to 10 inches of rainfall in the nearby mountains.
About a week after the storm, the massive hole in Rt. 9N was filled in. Nothing was left but the terrible memories, which were rekindled by the recent effects of Tropical Storm Irene.
Photo: From the Plattsburgh Press-Republican, the damage to Route 9N in 1979.
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 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
Heroes are defined in many ways—strong, brave, quick to act, selfless—and for the most part, we expect those traits to be found among the ranks of mature, responsible adults. But in 1927, in a span of less than thirty days, the North Country played host to two acts of heroism. Added together, the age of this remarkable pair of courageous children comes to just 19.
One incident involved a pair of teenage boys from Jay, New York, who were the victims of an accident at about 10 o’clock one morning. As they rode together on a wagon loaded with firewood, drawn by a single horse, something spooked the animal.
The horse panicked, broke free of the wagon, and ran off. The boys and the load of wood were hurled violently to the ground. The left leg of 16-year-old Francis Chabbott was badly broken, while 15-year-old Asa Darrah’s right leg suffered the same fate. Darrah remained alert after the fall, but Chabbot was knocked unconscious.
The spill occurred about a mile and a half from the Chabbott farm, and Asa, in agonizing pain himself, feared his friend would die. No one was within sight or hearing distance of the accident scene, and rather than wait for help to arrive, Asa began crawling.
It’s hard to appreciate the grit, determination, and physical pain he must have endured, but young Darrah refused to quit. Three hours later—bruised, beaten, and exhausted—he reached the farmhouse and alerted the family. While Mr. Chabbott rushed to tend to his stricken son, a doctor was summoned from Ausable Forks to tend to both boys’ injuries. They survived, but suffered intensely, and for his efforts, Darrah was justly lauded as a hero.
The other incident occurred in the town of Martinsburg in Lewis County on the farm of Harold and Viola Hills. Viola was nearly nine months pregnant, about to deliver their third child. When mom went to town one day to shop for necessities, Katherine, 4, and Kenneth, 2, stayed with their father.
In order to still perform the day’s work, Harold took the children with him to the fields. It was a dicey proposition, attempting farm chores while watching his two young offspring. It wasn’t long before little Kenneth wandered off and found his way into nearby Whetstone Creek.
The water was still high from spring flooding, and as the two-year-old was drawn into the water, he cried out for help. The father was oblivious to what had happened, but his four-year-old daughter responded like a true hero.
With no regard for her own survival, and not knowing the depth or power of the stream, she entered the water and waded to where Kenneth was drowning. Katherine then plucked him from the water, but the footing on the riverbed was shaky at best, and the weight of her brother made it too dangerous to attempt walking back to shore.
Realizing her predicament, she held the baby above the water and screamed for help. This alerted Mr. Hills, who managed to reach the children before Katherine’s strength gave out. A catastrophe was avoided due to the quick thinking and bravery of a tiny child.
Though child heroes are uncommon, these two North Country youths performed their feats just 29 days apart. Asa Darrah’s story, with elements of grit, friendship, and character, was lauded in the press. And it’s a pretty safe bet that Harold Hills was properly chastised by Viola for his careless brand of child care.
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.
Following a spring of historic flooding and two minor earthquakes, the Adirondacks has been slammed by the remains of Hurricane Irene leaving behind a changed landscape, isolated communities, disastrous flooding and epic damage to local infrastructure, homes, businesses, roads, bridges, and trails.
Damage from the remnants of Hurricane Irene is widespread across the Eastern Adirondacks from Moriah, which suffered extensive damage during the spring flooding that had still not been repaired, to the entire Keene Valley and into the Lake Placid region. Trails in the Eastern High Peaks, Giant Mountain and Dix Mountain wilderness areas have been closed through the Labor Day weekend. The bridge over Marcy Dam has been washed away and the Duck Hole Dam breached. Every town in Essex County suffered damage officials say, but Upper Jay, Jay, AuSable Forks, and all hamlets in the town of Keene have been devastated by flooding of the AuSable, which rose to a record 12 feet over flood stage. Essex County Highway Department Tony Lavigne told the Press Republican that “the flooding is way worse than this past spring and much more widespread.” Mountain Health Center in Keene suffered heavy damage and has been closed. In Upper Jay, the historic remains of Arto Monaco’s Land of Make Believe are gone. Flood waters also raged through Lake George Village and closed dozens of roads in Warren, Washington, and Saratoga counties. [Lake George Photos via Lake George Mirror].
Tom Woodman, who reported on the situation in Keene for the Almanack, wrote that “The hamlet of Keene is an astonishing and deeply saddening sight. The fire station has been torn in half by rampaging waters of a tributary of the East Branch of the Ausable. Buildings that house the dreams of merchants and restaurateurs, who have brought new life to Keene, are battered, blanketed in mud, and perched on craters scoured out by the flood waters.” North Country Public Radio‘s Martha Foley posted photos of the devastation in Keene.
Route 73 has been washed out and undermined in several places, closing the main artery into the High Peaks and Lake Placid from the east. Carol Breen, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation told Woodman that Route 73 should reopen before winter. Route 9N between Keene and Upper Jay is expected to be reopened in a few days.
Although criticized at the time by many for being premature and unnecessary, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation warned recreationists to stay out of the backcountry and closed its campgrounds and other facilities across the Adirondacks on Saturday. That closure was fortuitous, as damage in some areas has stranded campers and has closed the Giant, Dix, and Eastern High Peaks wilderness areas. More than a dozen DEC campgrounds and day-use areas remain closed. These closures are expected to continue through the upcoming Labor Day weekend.
The historic dam at Duck Hole has been washed away, closing off only recently acquired access by canoe or guideboat into the High Peaks via Henderson Lake and Preston Ponds. Phil Brown has posted DEC photos of Duck Hole draining.
DEC District Forester Kris Alberga, who was among the first to see the widespread destruction in the backcountry during a flyover of the High Peaks Monday afternoon, reported that the bridge over Marcy Dam has been washed away and the dam is leaking seriously. “There are numerous washouts on the Marcy Dam Truck Trail,” Alberga said in a e-mail forwarded to the Almanack, “Marcy Brook between Marcy Dam and Avalanche Camps jumped its banks, carved a new channel and wiped out much of the trail. The Van Hovenberg trail above Marcy Dam is eroded 1-3 ft deep in many places. The handrails on the suspension bridge on the Calamity Pond trail are gone and the trail is not passable.” Phil Brown reported today that the level of Marcy Dam pond has dropped, revealing mud flats. The trails along Lake Colden are reported to be underwater and the trail to Avalanche Pass made impassable.
The bridge on the Adirondack Loj Road south of South Meadows Road has been washed out, cutting off the Loj and stranding some 31 visitors and Adirondack Mountain Club staff there. The access to the Garden Trailhead at Interbrook Road is no longer passable beyond the bridge over Johns Brook.
Phil Brown traveled to Marcy Dam Monday afternoon and snapped a photo of a new slide on Wright Peak, near Angel Slide. Other new slides reported include those on Mount Colden (including at the Trap Dike), Basin, Haystack, Upper and Lower Wolfjaw, in the Dixes, and on Giant Mountain.
Although reports have not been received from the Santanoni and Seward ranges, it appears that the Western and South-Central Adirondacks have not been seriously impacted. Backcountry users in those and other areas of the Adirondack Park should, however, expect blowdown and eroded trails, washed-out bridges and new landslides.
At a press conference held in front of the destroyed Keene Volunteer Fire Department, NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that DEC and the Adirondack Park Agency will suspend special permitting requirements to aid in a speedy rebuild.
Photo: Duck Hole Pond is draining after the dam went out. Photo courtesy NYS DEC.
The Town of Wilmington has announced that the region will host the Wilmington/Whiteface 100k on June 19, 2011. Wilmington will serve as one of three qualifier series race host venues for the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race, the best known and most prestigious mountain bike race in North America.
The event’s schedule coincides with the annual Wilmington Bike Fest, which includes the Whiteface Uphill Bike Race, which will be held on Saturday, June 18. Wilmington/Whiteface 100k participants are invited to “Warm UP” by riding in the mountain bike division that is being introduced this year; a five mile race to the top of the Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway. “The event is a perfect fit for the destination, as it supports the Whiteface Region‘s brand as a biking destination, and will increase visitor activity during the typically slower shoulder season,” said James McKenna, President of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism/Lake Placid CVB. “This is another event that resulted from the cooperative partnerships that were cemented in order to successfully host the Empire State Winter Games. Kudos to the staff at the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) who facilitated the connection with the event organizers that ultimately brought this event to Wilmington.”
Showcasing some of the best places to ride in America, the Leadville Qualifying Series races will be held in America’s great mountains with races in the Adirondacks, Sierra Nevadas and the Rockies. The other two qualifiers will be held in North Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada Mountains on July 10 and Crested Butte, Colorado on July 31. Each qualifying race will provide 100 qualifying spots to the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race. The spots will be allocated partially on the basis of age-group performance and partly by lottery among finishers.
The Adirondack qualifier will traverse 100 kilometers of backcountry trails in the Towns of Wilmington and Jay and finish on Whiteface Mountain.
Since 1983, the Leadville Trail 100 MTB Race has been the pinnacle of the mountain biking world. Currently 103 miles in length and 11,500 feet of climbing, the ultra-distance event is a single- and double-track-style mountain bike race on one of the world’s most challenging courses. The weekend event is produced by Life Time Fitness and challenges both amateur and professional mountain bikers to steep climbs and descents, with elevation topping out at more than 12,500 feet. More information on the Leadville Qualifier Series can be found online.
Jeremy Davis is founder of the New England Lost Ski Areas Project (NELSAP) and author of two books on that subject. Last week I had the opportunity to talk with Davis about NELSAP, his books and lost ski areas of the Adirondacks.
Jeff: So, just what is a “lost” ski area?
Jeremy: It’s a ski area that once offered lift-served, organized skiing, but is now abandoned and closed for good. For NELSAP’s purposes it had to have a lift – it could be a simple rope tow or multiple chairlifts, but it had to have a lift. The size of the area or number of lifts isn’t important.
Jeff: And what is NELSAP?
Jeremy: NELSAP is the New England Lost Ski Areas Project, which I founded in 1998 in order to document and preserve the history of ski areas in New York, New England and elsewhere that are no longer in operation. Jeff: What was the inspiration behind your founding of NELSAP?
Jeremy: As a kid, not long after I had first learned to ski, we took a family trip to North Conway, New Hampshire. On the way up I saw this mountain called Mount Whittier that had closed down about five or six years earlier, and it made me wonder what had happened. At the time it was still pretty visible, but now it’s almost completely grown in. A short while later, on another family trip to Jackson, New Hampshire, we saw another lost area from the top of Black Mountain, called Tyrol. Seeing those two abandoned areas sparked my curiosity and made me want to learn more about them, but there weren’t any resources back then. After that, whenever we took family ski trips, if we saw an old area on a road map that we knew wasn’t open, I’d drag my parents there to check it out. They were really supportive about that and found it fun. Gradually I collected more and more information – postcards, brochures and trail maps, old ski books. Then, while I was in college, I decided to put what I had on the web. That was October of 1998. Gradually, more and more people began to see it and they would send me more information. The thing that really catapulted the website was a Boston Globe article in December of 2000 on the front page of the New England section of the Sunday paper. By 7am I had more hits than I had gotten in a year. The traffic shut down the site and overloaded my email. The AP picked up the Globe story and it ran in what seemed like every New England newspaper over the next few weeks. The project just mushroomed from there. What we have up on the site now is just a fraction of all the information that we’ve collected over the years. It’s a lifetime of work.
Jeff: You’ve got nearly 700 lost ski areas listed on the website now, 19 of them are lost Adirondack ski areas.
Jeremy: Right, in fact those 19 areas are just the start. I think the real number is probably between 50 and 60 areas within the Adirondacks. We’re always looking for more information. If we can get to the owners, or the people who ran the ski school or managed the areas, that kind of primary source information is invaluable.
Jeff: Are there any lost Adirondack areas that you’re particularly interested in, areas that you’re looking for more information on?
Jeremy: Paleface, near Jay, is one. Paleface was run like a dude ranch, an all-inclusive resort with lodging, a bar and restaurant, indoor pool, and skiing. There was a double chair, a T-bar, and a dozen trails with 750 feet of vertical. It operated from 1961 until the early 1980s, and had been re-named Bassett Mountain near the end. Mount Whitney, also near Whiteface, is another one we’d like to gather more information about. And there are lots of other Adirondack areas that we have to research.
Jeff: What factors led to these ski area closures? Were there any factors that were particular to the Adirondacks?
Jeremy: Well, you have the same factors that caused ski areas all over the Northeast to close down: insurance and snowmaking costs, the gasoline shortages in the ‘70s, bad snow years, competition and changing skier preferences. But there are some interesting cases in the Adirondacks: Harvey Mountain is a good example.
Jeff: What happened there?
Jeremy: Harvey Mountain was a classic, family-owned ski area on Barton Mines Road in North River, just a few miles up the road from state-run Gore. It had a T-bar, 400 feet of vertical, and operated from 1962 to 1977. It was a great alternative to Gore. But they weren’t allowed to have a sign advertising the mountain on Route 28 at the bottom of Barton Mines Road. They got around that by paying somebody to park a truck with a sign for Harvey Mountain each day at the turnoff for Gore, but eventually regulation and competition from Gore caused the ski area to shut down.
Jeff: It seems like there’s a good number of lost Adirondack ski areas that have been re-born: Hickory outside of Warrensburg, Oak Mountain near Speculator, Big Tupper. Is that unusual?
Jeremy: It is pretty unusual for a lost area to re-open, and there’s a unique, interesting story behind each one of those. Besides those three that you mentioned, several towns have their own rope tows that are still open: Indian Lake, Long Lake, Chestertown, Newcomb, Schroon Lake. A lot of people don’t realize those areas exist and are completely free. There’s also Mount Pisgah in Saranac Lake, which is municipally operated and very affordable. You’ve also got places like Willard, West Mountain, Titus Mountain (near Malone) and McCauley Mountain (Old Forge) that still have that local, more intimate feel. So we’re really lucky in the Adirondacks to have these smaller areas that can introduce people to the sport and be an affordable alternative to the big areas. Hopefully the number of ski areas has stabilized, and short of some economic catastrophe, we won’t lose any more.
Jeff: Will there be a Lost Ski Areas of the Adirondacks book, similar to the books you’ve authored for the White Mountains and Southern Vermont regions?
Jeremy: Eventually there will be. I don’t know what region we’ll do next, but the series will probably continue with a new book every two years or so until we’ve covered all of New York and New England. That will be eight books in total, so that’s a lot of work.
Readers who may have information to share with NELSAP are encouraged to visit NELSAP’s website or contact Jeremy Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reader input has been a critical part of NELSAP’s success over the years.
Photos: Top: Spring skiing at Harvey Mountain (courtesy Ann Butler and NELSAP). Middle: Paleface Mountain (courtesy NELSAP). Bottom: Davis at Gilbert’s Hill outside Woodstock, VT, site of the first lift-served skiing in the United States (courtesy Jeremy Davis).
Jeff Farbaniec is an avid telemark skier and a 46er who writes The Saratoga Skier & Hiker, a blog of his primarily Adirondack outdoor adventures.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting this Thursday, October 14, 2010 at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook, NY. The October meeting is one day only.
Among the issues to be addressed will be water quality and shoreline protection measures, a change in the reclassification proposals related to fire towers on St. Regis and Hurricane Mountains, the Watson’s East Triangle Wild Forest Unit Management Plan, the expansion of Cold Spring Granite Company’s mine in Jay, a new 510 campsite campground in Fort Ann, and Barton Wind Partners will request a second renewal for wind monitoring masts located on Pete Gay Mountain near North Creek. » Continue Reading.
The High Peaks communities are developing a regional strategy for community revitalization, sustainable economic development, enhanced public access and promotion of the High Peaks waterfronts as an important resource for recreation and tourism.
A workshop will be held on Tuesday, September 28th at 6:30 PM at the Town of Wilmington Town Hall at 7 Community Center Circle. The goal of this workshop will be to present the vision, goals and key projects and initiatives for community and regional revitalization identified by the High Peaks communities in the Revitalization Strategy. Participants will be asked for their input on the goals and priority projects. The revitalization strategy includes the following communities:
* The Town of Keene including the hamlets of Keene Valley and Keene; * The Town of Jay including the hamlets of Upper Jay, Jay and the Essex County portion of Ausable Forks; * The Town of Wilmington; and * The Town of North Elba and the Village of Lake Placid.
The strategy lays out a vision and set of goals to create a prosperous shared future for the High Peaks region including:
* Revitalization of hamlets and downtowns * Developing a plan for cycling facilities and safe biking routes * Creating more access to the Ausable River for locals and tourists * Protection of the Ausable River and other water bodies * Enhanced tourism amenities and marketing * Investigating sources of alternative energy including hydro-electricity * Developing a plan for trail head improvements and creating new local trails and pedestrian connections * Protecting cultural and historic resources
The project is funded by a grant from the NYS Department of State through the Environmental Protection Fund and financial support from the participating communities.
For more information contact Melissa McManus, Project Coordinator (518) 297-6753.
The Adirondack Almanack's contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The Almanack is the online news journal of Adirondack Explorer. Both are nonprofits supported by contributors, readers, and advertisers, and devoted to exploring, protecting, and unifying the Adirondack Park.
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