Posts Tagged ‘Keene’

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tour of River Restoration on East Branch Ausable River

This Thursday, August 16 beginning at 1:30 PM there will be a public tour of the river restoration project now taking place along the East Branch of the Ausable River in Keene Valley.

The tour will be at Rivermede Farm. For more information, contact Dave Reckahn of the Essex County Soil and Water Conservation District, 518-962-8225, [email protected], Corrie Miller at the Ausable River Association, [email protected] or Dan Plumley at Adirondack Wild’s regional office in Keene, [email protected] » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

APA Meeting Thursday Focusing on Economic Development

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting at its Headquarters in Ray Brook, NY on Thursday, August 16, 2012. The meeting is one day only and will be webcast live, and will largely focus on economic development and planning.

The meeting with include a presentation from Local Government Review Board Executive Director Fred Monroe and Bradford Gentry from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies on their participation in a workshop on how conservation organizations can help rural communities in the areas of forestry, agriculture, tourism, energy, and environmental markets.

Additionally, Kate Fish and Bill Farber will provide a follow-up report on the Common Ground Alliance forum held July 18th in Long Lake and Dave Mason and Jim Herman, co-founders of the ADK Futures project, will provide an overview of the strategic visioning work they have completed in partnership with the Common Ground Alliance. The full schedule follows: » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Five Local Sites Nominated for Historic Registers

The New York State Board for Historic Preservation has recommended the addition of five Adirondack and North Country properties to the State and National Registers of Historic Places, including the nationally significant War of 1812 Cantonment in Plattsburgh, and Putnam Camp in St. Huberts.

Listing these properties on the State and National Registers can assist their owners in revitalizing the structures, making them eligible for various public preservation programs and services, such as matching state grants and state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 1, 2012

10th Adirondack Back Country Ski Fest This Weekend

Glen Plake is skiing into Keene Valley from Chamonix, France to join The Mountaineer’s 10th annual Adirondack Back Country Ski Festival on March 3rd and 4th.

The annual charity event supports the Adirondack Ski Touring Council and the New York Ski Educational Foundation and allows back country ski enthusiasts a chance to demo equipment take clinics and enjoy an evening with Glen Plake on Saturday night at the Keene Central School’s “Beaver Dome” in Keene Valley at 7:30 pm.

Plake will be here compliments of Julbo, the glacier and fashion sun glass company. Other sponsors who are supporting the event and providing raffle items for Saturday night include Back Country Ski magazine, Dynafit, Primaloft, Voile-USA, Marmot, Madshus, Garmont, Scarpa, Mammut, G3, and adkbcski.com. A ski tour and Intermediate and Advanced back country ski clinics are guided by Cloudsplitter Mountain Guides of Keene Valley.

The event’s sponsors will also be providing demos for on snow testing from 10 to 2:30 on Saturday. Plake will be on hand and there will be free telemark, skinning and avalanche beacon clinics. The demo event location will be announced on the 27th.

Call The Mountaineer at 518 576 2281 or visit www.mountaineer.com for details.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

ACT Taking New Applications for Flood Relief

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 [email protected] 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.

Image NASA/NOAA GOES project


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Project to Record Keene and Jay Memories of Irene

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 protected] or call (518) 956-3830. The public is invited. Walk-ins are welcome.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Phil Brown: Quantifying Irene

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. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Ausable River Restoration Walk and Talk

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.

For more information, contact the Ausable River Association.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Dave Gibson: River Management by Backhoe

“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.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Adirondack Rutabaga Festival, Fun Run Set

After being postponed due to storm damage in the Keene region, the Fourth Annual Great Adirondack Rutabaga Festival, sponsored by Adirondack Harvest, The Adirondack Farmers Market Cooperative, The Fallen Arch and the Town of Keene, has been rescheduled. It will be held at Marcy Field in the town of Keene from 9:00 AM until 1:00 PM on Sunday October 9th, 2011.

The festivities begin with a Rutabaga 5K Run across flat terrain at 9:00 AM. Runner registration begins at 8:00 AM. or register online at Active.com or the Adirondack Harvest website below. $15 fee includes t-shirt and refreshments. Awards given for top finishers in many age groups. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Adirondack History: Looking at Past Floods

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. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Naj Wikoff: Digging Out in Keene

What follows is a guest essay by Naj Wikoff, a member of the Keene Flood Recovery Fund steering committee.

“The hardest thing I had to do this week was let three employees go today,” said Rob Hastings, owner of Rivermede Farm in Keene Valley. He and I were standing amongst a crowd of over 200 residents attending a pig roast, block party and benefit for the Keene Flood Recovery Fund on Market Street in Keene Valley Friday, September 9.

The event, which raised over $21,000, was further buoyed by the news that Route 73, the hamlet’s vital artery to the Northway that had been closed since Irene’s 11 plus inches of rain washed away major sections, would open on Monday. Just seven days earlier Governor Cuomo, countering DOT estimates that the roadway might be opened by Columbus Day but possibly not till December, stated that unless it was opened within 10 days, “Wheels will roll or heads will roll,” a statement followed by his suspension DOT and DEC restrictions on construction, such as requirements of going out to bid for contracts. Since then in a near 24-hour cycle DOT trucks have poured in with load after load of boulders, gravel and other road foundation materials.

The closure of 73 as well as 9N north to Upper Jay, and DEC media and web announcements that all trails in the eastern High Peaks were off limits to hikers, brought visitor traffic in Keene Valley to a dead stop and caused dozens of cancellations of room reservations during Labor Day weekend, the second busiest holiday of the year for local stores. Thanks to a massive volunteer effort that put hundreds of people at McDonough’s Valley Hardware and elsewhere scraping off mud, pumping out basements, cleaning shelves and merchandise, most stores, B&Bs and restaurants had managed to reopen, but what was missing was the people.

“Road Closed” said the sign to Keene Valley. “Don’t even think of going there” was the message. The hamlet of Keene was hardly better off as it was the center on incoming politicians and state officials, the media, National Guard, DOT trucks and Labor for Your Neighbor volunteers so that what visitors made it through the gauntlet scurried west to the relatively untouched Village of Lake Placid, though a fleet of water ski boats sank during the storm and River Road and Snowslip Farms were certainly torn up.

No question the attention by Governor Cuomo, who visited the hamlets on two successive weekends, and the outpouring of volunteers, the National Guard and DOT transformed the hamlets along with Upper Jay, Jay and Ausable Forks bringing them back from what appeared to be war zones to a somewhat sense of normality, though deep scars and uncertain futures remained.

Knowing this outcome likely to occur, a grass roots effort was launched while the rains were still falling and fields flooding to create the Keene Flood Recovery Fund with perhaps a greater sense of urgency than the media’s scramble to film the unfolding disaster. Jim Herman and Dave Mason, the soon to become president and vice president of the Keene Community Trust, lead the effort. Working in partnership with the Adirondack Community Trust (ACT) a small team was assembled. The goal was simple; raise as much money as fast as possible and begin giving it out in grants to local residents and business to help cover critical needs not met by FEMA, other government sources, insurance or sweat equity.

The process was not unlike the building of the Continental railroad wherein the trains followed the rails as they were built. The public relations and fund raising effort was launched simultaneously with the recruiting of five people to serve on the allocations committee while application and funding guidelines were being written, the Keene Valley Trust board reorganized, agreements with ACT negotiated, and web and Facebook sites created.

The Nature Conservancy provided the forum for committees to form, meet, and stayed energized with hot coffee available morning till night. Critical was the early blessing and support by Keene supervisor Bill Ferebee, agreement by the Keene Community Trust to take on a project of such scope, the talent pool assembled, and the full support of the Adirondack Community Trust, aided in no small measure that their president Vinny McClelland and donor recognitions officer Melissa Eissinger were residents of Keene. Another was the sheer mass of community development knowledge stored in the brain of Henrietta Jordan, who could draft funding guidelines the way some can cast a dry fly into an eddy on their first try.

As of this writing about $100,000 has been raised and the first wave of grants has already been approved, but the amount needed to raise is far, far higher if they are to reduce layoffs like those already done by Hastings. While to the casual observer the hamlets might not look so bad, the damage done has been severe. Over a dozen families are not able to move back to their homes and are in need of temporary housing, just two businesses lost over $200,000 in inventory, the Keene Firehouse has to be relocated and rebuilt, the public skating rink replaced, the Keene Library, which also houses the Food Pantry, needs an aggressive abatement program to keep mold from settling in, and one third of Rivermede Farm’s sugaring lines have to be replaced along with all their storage tanks and two greenhouses. The first 12 applicants’ losses, which does not include many of the previously listed, have totaled over $2.5 million, this before FEMA and insurance are factored it.

Meanwhile a recently constituted Keene Business Committee (aka chamber of commerce) is attempting to stop plummeting income and lure back visitors. Led by Rooster Cob Inn owner, masseuse and rustic furniture salesperson Marie McMahon, they have taken on the DOT, DEC and later the State Police to change their signs that announce the closing of High Peaks trails, detour visitors to Placid via Plattsburgh and other actions that discouraged traffic to local businesses. Plans are underway to host events over Columbus Day and a conference for high school and college geology professors to showcase the wide array of major environmental changes that include the largest landslide in recorded state history, 22 new slides in the high peaks, and the rerouting of streams and waterfalls creating what can be best described as moonscapes in some locales.

“Our goal is to help the community come out stronger,” said Herman. “One benefit of all these landslides, rerouting of streams, and other environmental changes is that there are many new features for hikers, geologists and environmentalists to see and experience. We are trying to get the word out that now is the best time to come see them while they are fresh. We have some new vistas of Giant that didn’t exist before and old streambeds that have been hidden for centuries are now revealed. New growth will cover them up. The time to see them is now.”

Another benefit was the Governor discovering that Keene Valley had no cell phone coverage. “Where can I get cell service?” Cuomo asked Ron Konowitz, a local volunteer fireman and on-the-ground coordinator of volunteers. Konowitz told the governor not only that he would have to travel three miles down the road and stand in the middle of Marcy Field to pick up a signal, but in fact there was a cell tower in place, had been for four months, though had yet to be turned on by Verizon, a consequence that had hampered communication amongst all the various state agencies, volunteers, rescue workers, civic leaders, the media and one governor and the outside word. The piercing brown eyes of the wheels-will-roll governor swiveled and locked on the “Frankenpine” hidden amongst the tall White Pines behind the Neighborhood House. Two days later a frantic Verizon worker stuck his head in the Birch Store asking if anyone could help him locate their cell tower. Pam Gothner did and the next day the hamlet had cell service.

The Keene Flood Recovery Fund can be reached at www.keenerecoveryfund.org

Photo: Keene Valley flooding during Tropical Storm Irene; Volunteers at work.

Naj Wikoff, a member of the Keene Flood Recovery Fund steering committee, is local artist, columnist for the Lake Placid News, president of Creative Healing Connections, which organizes healing retreats for women living with cancer, women veterans, and other special audiences, and arts coordinator for Connecting Youth and Communities of Lake Placid and Wilmington (CYC).


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tom Woodman: My Hometown is Hurting

What follows is a special report by Tom Woodman, publisher of Adirondack Explorer, who resides in Keene.

I live in the Town of Keene just outside the hamlet and so I had an idea of how damaging Irene was. Starting with our rain gauge, which measured 11 inches of rainfall from the storm and including seeing the shower of pine branches brought down on our house by the winds, it was clear we were in the middle of something bad.

But it wasn’t until I grabbed a camera and started surveying the area on Tuesday morning that I understood what we had experienced.



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.

I headed east on Route 73, which has been closed to traffic, to see what damage I could reach and how bad it is. In Keene Valley, shops had piles of merchandise outside for drying and cleaning. Before I got to the road-closing near the Ausable Club, I parked near the entrance to and headed out on foot to explorer St. Huberts, a small community tucked on the banks of the East Branch. It’s badly hurt. A bridge that carried the one road over the river is collapsed into the waters. Upstream the river has cut under a house, leaving an addition and part of a garage hanging in air. The roadway is buried in mud a foot or more deep and trees and utility poles lean at sharp angles.

From the west, Route 73 is closed at the entrance to the Ausable Club. Parking there, I again set out on foot. Within sight of that entrance are two washouts at least four feet deep and chewed most of the way across the two-lane highway. One has Roaring Brook tumbling through it, the river having changed its course during the flood so that it now flows where the highway is supposed to be.

Several other washouts eat into the highway between the Ausable Club and the overlook for Roaring Brook Falls. A couple cut deeply into at least half the width of the road. Others are slides at the edge of the highway. Guard rails dangle over these, the ground that had held them, resting fifty feet or more below them in the river’s valley.

I’m not qualified to estimate how long it will be before this road, the major entry to the High Peaks Region from the south, will reopen. But it seems months away at best.

Carol Breen, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, assured us this afternoon that despite the heavy damage Route 73 will reopen before winter. That’s good news for Keene Valley, Lake Placid, and the Whiteface Mountain Ski Area. Breen said DOT expects to reopen Route 9N, which connects Keene and Upper Jay, in a few days.

For news on the storm’s damage to the backcountry, check out these posts on the Outtakes blog on the Adirondack Explorer website (the most recent is listed first):

Bad news for the backcountry

After Irene, where can you hike?

DEC closes High Peaks trails

Marcy Dam bridge washed away

Photo of damaged Keene coffee shop by Tom Woodman.

Tom Woodman is the publisher of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Keene Property Values Slide with Land

For more than a month, millions of tons of earth and millions of dollars in property value have been inching down a Keene Valley mountainside. As 82 acres of trees and homes continue to break loose, a state geologist says other Adirondack slopes could fail.

The slow-moving landslide on the side of Little Porter Mountain is unnerving residents in the town of Keene, which includes the hamlets of Keene and Keene Valley. The year-round population of 1,000 is nearly doubled in summer by wealthy seasonal residents, many who live upslope for the lofty views of the High Peaks.

Four half-million-dollar houses at the top of the slide have been affected—pried wholly from their foundations or partially destabilized—and at least one vacation home appears to be in its path below. The value of the land in motion is expected to be reduced from about $3 million to zero, while sales of similar properties are thrown into limbo. Supervisor Bill Ferebee said the town has begun to seek emergency state reimbursement to help make up anticipated losses in property tax.

Andrew Kozlowski, associate state geologist with the New York State Museum, says the slide is the largest in state history. It’s nothing like the quick tumble of trees and thin humus familiar on high Adirondack terrain. This one started as a subtle shift below 2,000 feet on a 25–35 degree slope. It was triggered by the melting of deep snowpack compounded by more than a foot of rain in April and May. The slide does not seem to pose a risk to human life, but it is reactivated when new rains slip into soil cracks that are growing wider every day. Because it’s logistically difficult to drill borings in shifting soils to measure their depth, Kozlowski can’t estimate when the mass will stop moving; he says it could be months or years.

A dirt road runs parallel to the top of the landslide. Keene residents are questioning whether mountainside building is responsible for altering drainage patterns. “Does the development help? Probably not. Was it the actual cause? Probably not,” Kozlowski said.

There were pre-existing conditions, he explained. He detected on the site signs of a landslide hundreds or thousands of years ago. At the end of the last ice age, Keene Valley was submerged by a glacial lake, and deep sand on the hillsides is evidence of 12,000-year-old beaches.

LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) imagery collected by aerial survey can provide high-resolution digital images and help identify shifty soils, he said. Eight New York counties have collected LiDAR data but none in northern New York, which has the state’s steepest topography. Keene Supervisor Ferebee said aerial images could be useful to all towns in Essex County, and he is exploring how the county might cover the $150,000 cost.

Residents are also concerned about the future of homes on other Keene mountainsides. “There is danger of this happening elsewhere,” Kozlowski told a group of two dozen citizens who gathered at the community’s K–12 school earlier this month. “Will it happen on this scale? We don’t know.”

Real Estate and Rain

Annual rainfall in the Lake Champlain watershed is three inches greater on average than it was during the mid 20th century, when the first houses were built on the side of Little Porter Mountain, according to United States Historical Climatology Network data. A range of climate models predict the Champlain Basin could receive 4 to 6 inches more precipitation a year by the end of this century, with heavy storms becoming more frequent, according to a 2010 report by The Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack and Vermont chapters.

The Little Porter slide has suddenly become an unforeseen example of something other Adirondack mountain communities must consider in a potentially wetter future.

“Throughout the Adirondacks there is going to be a lot more concern about this now,” said Martha Lee Owen, who owns vacant land on the failed slope. She is a real-estate broker whose father, Adrian Edmonds, lived at the base of Little Porter and pioneered homebuilding on Keene’s mountainsides. “He’d be just heartbroken,” she said. “It’s just terrible that it’s affected so many homeowners.”

Owen said it never occurred to her to recommend that potential buyers hire a geologist to evaluate slope stability, but she will recommend it now. She would also like to see LiDAR data collected for Essex County. “Of course it’s a huge concern to me in terms of selling properties, not just my own but selling any properties,” she said. “So far buyers aren’t asking a lot of questions, although everyone is just sort of shocked by this. You have to get used to it before you take it all in.”

Jane Bickford, a Saranac Lake resident who has a summer home beneath and — she hopes — outside the projected path of the slide, said the mountain-climbing mecca of Keene Valley is more than an investment to people who own property there. “The piece that’s important is, Can we keep living there?” she said. “The financials are pretty terrible but Keene Valley represents to people a touchstone. It’s where my kids grew up and where they are bringing their own kids up. This is where children’s values are developed. To the people who go to Keene Valley it’s not just a house. It’s a place where families get together and where bonding happens.”

Photograph courtesy of Curt Stager.

Link to video of the landslide site.


Monday, April 11, 2011

A Search for the ‘Missingest Man in New York’

After NYS Supreme Court Justice Joseph Crater went missing in New York City in 1930, the search led to Plattsburgh and then to the Meridian Hotel, a few feet across the border from Champlain.

Nothing concrete was found in New York’s northeastern corner, but a few days later, Crater was sighted at Fourth Lake in the Old Forge area. He was also “positively” identified as one of two men seen at a Raquette Lake hunting lodge in late August. Two detectives followed that trail, while others were summoned to confirm a sighting at the Ausable Club near Keene Valley.

As if that wasn’t enough, it was announced that Crater had spent a couple of days at Hulett’s Landing on the eastern shore of Lake George, and then at Brant Lake. Police and detectives pursued every lead, while headlines told the story from New York to Texas to Seattle. » Continue Reading.



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