Posts Tagged ‘Lake George’

Saturday, November 6, 2010

New Local History: Empires in the Mountains

Meeting Russell Bellico, as I did briefly several years ago, you’d think you were in the presence of an old sea captain spending his retirement in the softer wind and spray of Lake George. You’d be surprised to know that he spent 35 years in the economics department at Westfield State College in Massachusetts.

You’d be glad to hear that Bellico spent his time away from Westfield at Lake George, where as a summer resident he invested himself in local history. He has spent over three decades photographing shipwrecks and historic sites on Lake George and Lake Champlain. He has served as a consultant on the National Park Service’s Champlain Valley Heritage Corridor, a trustee of the Lake George Battlefield Park Alliance, and a board member of Bateaux Below, the organization founded by the archaeological team (which included Bellico) that documented the 1758 radeau Land Tortoise which lies underwater at the southern end of Lake George.

Bellico is the author of a score or more articles and five books on the maritime and military history of Lake George and Lake Champlain. His first two projects were Chronicles of Lake George (1995) and Chronicles of Lake Champlain (1999). Both were aptly subtitled Journeys in War and Peace, as they were mostly drawn from primary sources by diaries, journals, and other early first hand accounts. His interest in boots on the ground history has no doubt contributed to some of Bellico’s most unique contributions to the region’s history – his careful looks at what remains. For example, Bellico weaves together histories of not just the events (through archaeology, primary sources, and first hand accounts) but of what remains of those events on the landscape. His third major effort, Sails and Steam in the Mountains: A Maritime and Military History of Lake George and Lake Champlain, earned a place as the go-to resource on the region’s maritime history.

Bellico’s latest effort, Empires in the Mountains: French and Indian War Campaigns and Forts in the Lake Champlain, Lake George, and Hudson River Corridor, is the fruit of three decades of the author’s work to understand the military and maritime importance of the region. His first volume to focus entirely on the campaigns and forts of the Great Warpath during the French & Indian War (1754-1763), Empires in the Mountains covers the epic battles of the war in the lake valleys, as well as the building of the fortresses and battleships in Northern New York’s wilderness.

And true to his authoritative and thorough style, Bellico explores this history with one eye toward what happened after those great events of 350 years ago. Bellico reviews the history of the abandonment, the excavations, and the exploitation of French and Indian War sites from Bloody Pond (which Bellico seems to suggest may in fact be correctly marked on Route 9 south of Lake George) and Fort Gage (bulldozed by a local developer avoiding APA oversight) to the more popular spots like Fort Ticonderoga, Fort Edward, Fort William Henry, and Fort George.

It’s that concluding epilogue, “Forts Revisited” that is perhaps the most valuable chapter of the book for local historians, and those interested in how we remember, and exploit, local history. For that chapter alone, this book belongs on the shelf of those interested in local history, regardless of your particular interest in the French and Indian War.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.


Friday, November 5, 2010

New Stream Studies Confirm Lake Groups’ Warnings

New studies by the U.S. Geological Survey confirm arguments that Lake George conservation organizations and agencies have made for years: development threatens the aquatic life of streams.

“We learned that there is no ‘safe zone,’ meaning that even minimal or early stages of development can negatively affect aquatic life in urban streams,” said Tom Cuffney, a USGS biologist.

“When the area of driveways, parking lots, streets and other impervious cover reaches 10 percent of a watershed area, many types of pollution-sensitive aquatic insects decline by as much as one third, compared to streams in undeveloped forested watersheds,” said Cuffney.

Native fish also decline in streams even at low levels of development, levels historically considered safe for stream life, the studies found.

“The studies validate the findings of our Lake George Stream Assessment Project, initiated three years ago by Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky, namely, that land uses impact the health of our streams,” said Peter Bauer, the executive director of the Fund for Lake George.

“We know from the sites we sampled that streams decline in water quality as they pass through areas that are more heavily developed,” said Bauer.

“These studies show that we need to be careful,” said Emily DeBolt of the Lake George Association, which operates a stream biology monitoring program for volunteers.

While even the most developed watersheds within the Lake George basin are not yet urbanized, protection of existing stream corridors should be a priority, said Bauer and DeBolt.

According to the USGS, the studies examined the effects of urbanization on algae, aquatic insects, fish, habitat and chemistry in urban streams in nine areas across the country.

“As a watershed becomes developed, the amount of pavement, sidewalks and other types of urban land cover increases. During storms, water is rapidly transported over these urban surfaces to streams. The rapid rise and fall of stream flow and changes in temperature can be detrimental to fish and aquatic insects. Stormwater from urban development can also contain fertilizers and insecticides used along roads and on lawns, parks and golf courses,” the USGS said.

The Lake George Park Commission is authorized by New York State law to protect stream corridors within the Lake George watershed, said Mike White, executive director of the Lake George Park Commission.

The Commission has drafted regulations that will limit construction and the cutting of trees and vegetation within 35 feet of a tributary of Lake George.

The regulations are currently under review by the Governor’s Office of Regulatory Reform. Once that office approves the draft, a series of public hearings will be held, said White.

“Stream buffers are the most efficient way to protect the water quality and ecology of streams, and regulations are the only effective way of preserving those buffers,” said Peter Bauer.

“Once a buffer is disturbed, it’s very difficult to restore it to its original function,” Bauer said.

Investing in stream corridor protection is also an investment in the water quality of Lake George, he said.

“One half of all the water entering Lake George comes from streams,” said Bauer. “The fate of Lake George is tied inextricably to the health of its streams.”

Photo: Lake George Stream Assessment monitors, 2008.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The National Adirondack Debate of 1932

It is fitting that the Lake George Land Conservancy has created a John Apperson Society of friends and donors. Through his work for a wilder Lake George and Forest Preserve throughout the Adirondacks in the first half of the 1900s, Apperson, the General Electric engineer, gave heart, body and soul to healing what he considered the ills of industrialized, over-engineered society – to the extent that Apperson acknowledged that Lake George was his wife, and the Lake’s islands were his children. » Continue Reading.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Lake George Land Conservancy Honors John Apperson

The Lake George Land Conservancy has elected to celebrate the memory of John Apperson by naming a society in his honor.

“The John Apperson Society recognizes Apperson’s significant contributions to the preservation of Lake George and honors those who have followed in his footsteps,” said Nancy Williams, the Conservancy’s executive director. » Continue Reading.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Remembering Huletts Landing on Lake George

Huletts Landing, the resort on the northeastern shore of Lake George, is a summer cottage colony, and some of the cottages are old enough to be of architectural and historic interest.

But however much is intact, even more is missing; destroyed by fire, the wrecking ball and changes in public taste and the economy.

From the 1920s through the 1940s, though, Huletts Landing “was one of the largest, most successful resorts on Lake George,” says Wyatt Firth. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Alan Wechsler: Climbing at Shelving Rock

About a decade ago, I was riding a speedboat across Lake George — heading north to the Narrows — when I looked over to the eastern shore. There, right above the land formerly known as the Knapp Estate, was a series of large cliffs below Shelving Rock Mountain.

“I wonder if there’s climbing there?” I thought.

Turns out there is. It took a few years, but several local climbers have recently put up a variety of routes on the cliffs. According to Jim Lawyer and Jeremy Haas, authors of Adirondack Rock, there are six different cliff areas known together as Shelving Rock. » Continue Reading.


Friday, October 15, 2010

DEC Drops Plan to End Lake George Garbage Collection

When campers return to the New York State-owned Lake George Islands next spring, the garbage barges will be there to remove trash from three transfer stations.

Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis has agreed to to raise camping fees by $3 per night to cover the costs of garbage collection, which the DEC had announced that it would suspend because of budget cuts.

The alternative to the proposed “Carry In – Carry Out” policy was submitted to DEC officials by state legislators, municipal officials and lake protection organizations at a meeting in Bolton Landing on September 17.

“The decision is based on discussions and feedback from local Lake George officials and organizations, area state legislators and campers,” said David Winchell, a regional spokesman for DEC.

“Clearly, the DEC got the message. The message from around the lake was the same, whether campers or environmental groups or local or state government officials, everybody asked that the state deal with this problem not by weakening a successful program, but rather by increasing fees. The camping public is supportive of higher fees to maintain a level of service that will protect both the lake and the treasured Lake George island camping experience. Many families have been using these islands for generations” said Peter Bauer, Executive Director of the FUND for Lake George.

The $3 surcharge, which will raise the cost of a camping permit to $28 for New York State residents, will generate at least $90,000 in new revenues, enough to cover the costs of garbage collection, said State Senator Betty Little.

“The goal is to keep these sites clean, to ensure garbage doesn’t end up in the water and to prevent surrounding municipal trash systems from being overwhelmed,” said Little.

According to David Winchell, the surcharge will be collected by Reserve America, which administers public campsite reservation systems.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Lake George Watershed Coalition’s Water Quality Forum

The Lake George Watershed Coalition will hold it’s 6th Annual Forum on Water Quality & Resource Conservation on Tuesday, October 5th at the Fort William Henry Conference Center. Speakers at the event will include Lake George Mayor Bob Blais, Lake George Waterkeepers Chris Navitsky and Kathy Bozony, Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Laurel Gailor and more. A panel discussion will focus on the West Brook watershed project. Registration begins at 8:15, and the cost to attend, including lunch, is $25. Click here for a registration form.

Here’s the full agenda:

Welcome Address – Department of State/Mayor Blais

The State of your Lake: Influence of Land-use on Stream Chemistry within the Lake George Watershed DFWI – Mark Swinton PhD & Charles Boylen PhD

Stream Assessment Report Results Chris Navitsky, P.E., LG Waterkeeper

Observations on the Impact of Fireworks Displays on Water Quality Emily Debolt, LGA

Documented Observations of Increased Algal Blooms in Lake George Kathy Bozony, LG Waterkeeper

Invasives in the Watershed Laurel Gailor, Cornell Cooperative Extension

Watershed Headwaters & Their Importance to Water Quality Rebecca Schneider PhD, Cornell Cooperative Extension

Presentation of Stewardship Awards Mayor Blais

Prudent Measures for Turf Management – Property Management in Critical Watershed Areas Frank Ross PhD, Cornell Cooperative Extension

Project Reviews:

* Town Highway Department Stormwater Improvement Project
* Eurasian Watermilfoil Management Program
* The Floating Classroom
* Lake Steward Program
* Shepard Park – Native Plantings Demonstration Project
* Upland Protection Activities
* Do It Yourself – Water Quality Guide

Panel Discussion: The West Brook Watershed Stormwater Improvement & Conservation Initiative – Update

Roundtable Discussion: Watershed Management – Challenges & Success in our Watershed & Others Across the State.

Photo: Lake George, courtesy the Lake George Watershed Coalition.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Lake George, Lake Tahoe Scientists Address Common Threats

Lake George and Lake Tahoe have more in common with one another than expensive second homes and classic wooden boats.

“Both are known for gorgeous scenery, excellent water quality and high biodiversity. Both are very important economically as well as ecologically,” said Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer, the director of RPI’s Darrin Fresh Water Institute. » Continue Reading.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Fee Hikes to Pay for LG Island Trash Collection

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation appears willing to give way on its plan to discontinue the collection of campers’ garbage from the islands of Lake George.

After meeting on September 17 in Bolton Landing with state legislators, county supervisors, the Lake George Park Commission and the heads of lake protection organizations, DEC staff agreed to seek an increase in camping fees large enough to cover the costs of collecting garbage from three locations and transporting it to Glen Island.

State Senator Betty Little and Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, who proposed the alternative to the state’s planned “Carry in/Carry Out” policy at the meeting in Bolton, said they would sponsor an item in next year’s state budget designating the new revenues as fees for removing garbage from the Lake George islands.

The agreement, however, must win the endorsement of DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis.
According to Doug Bernhard, DEC”s general manager of Forest Parks, approximately $50,000 would need to be raised every year to maintain the policy of picking up garbage and recycleables from three locations in the Lake George Narrows, Glen Island and Long Island campsite groups.

Last year, DEC issued 6,680 permits for 387 campsites on 44 islands, said Gary West of DEC’s Warrensburg office. By raising the fee for a daily camping permit by as much as $5, Senator Little said, enough funds would be raised to pay for garbage collection. “It will be understood that it is an increase in fees to keep the lake beautiful,” said Little.

If the fee hike is approved, the cost of a permit could rise to $30 for New York State residents and $35 for non-residents. “These campers have expensive boats; they won’t object to a few extra dollars for a permit, and it’s still an incredible deal,” said Bill Van Ness, a Warren County supervisor and a Lake George Park Commission marine patrol officer.

“There’s broad support from business owners, environmentalists and local governments for this fee hike,” said Peter Bauer, the excutive director of the Fund for Lake George.

The decision to abandon the policy of collecting garbage and to rely instead upon campers to carry their garbage with them when they leave was made after the DEC’s budget for non-personnel expenses was cut by 40%, said Bernhard.

“Asking campers to take their garbage to the recycling centers was a highly successful program, winning 90% compliance, but we no longer have the resources to support it,” said Bernhard, who added that other popular campground programs, such as nature education activities, had also been abolished.

Opposition to the plan to terminate garbage collection services, however, surfaced almost as soon as it was announced. The Towns of Bolton, Hague and Lake George, as well as the Warren County Board of Supervisors, adopted resolutions opposing the plan. “The end result will be garbage in the roadway and in the lake,” said Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover, who organized the meeting. “If we fail the lake, we fail ourselves.”

Members of the Lake George Park Commission also opposed the plan, said chairman Bruce Young, who argued that discontinuing the collection service would diminish the experience of camping on the islands, thus costing the state in revenues and harming the local economy. “This is the goose that lays the golden egg,” said Young. “The Lake George Island campsites generate $700,000 a year in revenues to DEC. I hate to see you shortchange this asset in order to take care of others.”

While a carry in/carry out policy is used at other island campsites in the Adirondack Forest Preserve, Young and others argued that it could not be successfully applied to Lake George. “Not picking it up is not an option, it won’t work,” said Young. “Lake George island campers are not backpackers.”

The Lake George Association’s executive director, Walt Lender, said, “While we agree the campers should be responsible for their own garbage, we know that island camping is not wilderness camping; these boats are floating Winnebagos.”

“Their coolers, their children, their barbecues, they boat it in as though they were going to a land-based campsite,” said Ron Conover. According to DEC officials, 231 tons of garbage was removed from the islands last year.

The Lake George Island Campers Association supports the recommendation, with some reservations, said Cindy Baxter, a New Hampshire resident who helped establish the advocacy group. “We would prefer to see all the funds generated by the Lake George islands be returned to Lake George for the care and maintenance of the campsites. But if that’s not possible, a fee increase is a price we’re willing to bear if that’s what it takes to protect Lake George,” said Baxter.

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Friday, September 17, 2010

Paulist Fathers Ponder Future of LG Lands

The Paulist Fathers, the Roman Catholic order founded by the 19th century American transcendentalist Isaac Hecker, celebrated its 140th summer on Lake George in 2008.

More than 200 people boarded the Lac du St. Sacrement for a cruise that took them past St. Mary’s on the Lake, the 76 acre retreat on the east side with thousands of feet of undisturbed shoreline, and down the lake to the Harbor Islands, where the Paulists erected a chapel in 1903.

Now, two years later, the leaders of the order are debating how best to preserve those properties; if, that is, they can be preserved.

On Tuesday, September 14, the order’s new president and its officers met in New York to discuss a proposal that would allow St. Mary’s on the Lake to be used as a campus for local colleges’ environmental studies programs during the school year.

In December, a meeting will be held in Washington to discuss other possibilities, such as selling conservation easements to ensure the properties will remain undeveloped, or permitting weddings to be held at St. Mary’s and even at Harbor Islands.

“The Paulists have not decided what to do, but they have to do something,” said Michael Stafford, a Lake George attorney who serves as the order’s local counsel.
The Paulists’ new president, Father Michael McGarry, took office in May with a mandate to improve the order’s financial condition, said Father Ken McGuire, the director of St. Mary’s.

In a formal statement upon taking office, Father McGarry said, “We will no doubt have to make some painful choices about curtailing ministries in some areas. The most important thing is that the Paulist mission will not become diluted.”

According to Father McGuire, the tenuous state of the order’s finances should come as no surprise.

“We’ve always been a small community,” said McGuire. “At our largest, we had 276 priests; that was in 1976, when Time magazine said we were more influential than the Jesuits, which had 43,000 priests.”

No more than 127 priests now belong to the order, and of those 127, 53 of them are over the age of 70, said McGuire.

Some of them require care for medical conditions, which increases the order’s annual expenses, said McGuire, a spry, fit 80 year-old himself.

Those ranks have not been replenished by younger priests who will manage the order’s operations , such as the Paulist Press, the nation’s foremost publisher of theological works, or The Catholic World, its magazine.

Recruiting new priests is another priority of his administration, Father McGarry said in his inaugural statement.

“On a theoretical level, it is incomprehensible why men in their 20s, 30s and 40s are not entering the Paulist seminary because our mission is so exciting, so challenging and so fulfilling,” he said. “However, you look at the reality and realize the need to address the practical challenges to men entering the seminary,” McGarry said.

Every Paulist priest but one (who died in 1865) has spent at least part of every summer on Lake George, said Father McGuire, who is completing his 48th summer at the lake.

In the past, priests and seminarians tended to come for an entire summer; these days, they come, for the most part, only in August, when forty to fifty people might be in residence.

The days are unstructured; the priests are given three meals a day and encouraged to occupy their time as they see fit.

Some swim, boat and rock on the porch with a book, as anyone would while vacationing on Lake George. Others retreat to the Harbor Islands for privacy and contemplation.

“We have one priest who brings more books with him than clothes,” said McGuire.
Idyllic as it sounds, a vacation on Lake George is not always an easy sell, said McGuire.

“We think of Lake George as a million dollar vacation,” said McGuire. “But some of these modern kids need the cities where it’s daylight 24 hours a day; some can’t swim. A month in the country? My God, you’d think the sky had fallen in!”

Rather than allowing St Mary’s on the Lake to remain vacant in June and July, the Paulists host retreats for priests, nuns and lay people on topics as diverse as religion and quantum physics; peacemaking in the middle east; and dance as a form of meditation.

This past summer, McGuire himself, a cultural anthropologist who spent most of his career teaching at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, led a retreat entitled “Spiritual Discovery through Movies.”

Tuition fees range from $200 to $450 per person, depending upon the length of the retreat, and participants stay on the campus.

The oldest building on the grounds dates to 1875. In addition to a chapel, boat house and cottage, the facilities include two large two-story buildings, the Student House and the Priest House, which contain bedrooms, common rooms and kitchens. The Priest House was designed by Isaac Hecker himself and built with materials of his choice.

According to Father McGuire, he was especially partial to the wood of chestnuts, the tree that once flourished on the shores of Lake George.

Hecker’s bedroom is preserved in a condition very similar to, if not the same as, the state in which it was left after he spent his last summer on the lake, in 1888.

Even if underused, the buildings require maintenance and improvements, and some may need to be replaced, said McGuire.

Asked if the Paulists would ever sell the property, McGuire said, “Over several dead bodies, including my own!”

But, he acknowledged, at least one member of the Paulists’ previous administration had advocated selling the property to raise funds for the order.

“We would only sell it if we were to go bankrupt, and that’s a very, very remote possibility,” said McGuire.

Programs and activities that would make selling the property unnecessary, such as using it for an environmental education center or for weddings, must be scrutinized by attorneys to make certain they don’t compromise St. Mary’s status as a not-for-profit organization, McGuire said.

“We’re meeting with committed, serious members of the Lake George community to weigh these and other options,” said McGuire. “We need to think about what we want to accomplish here during the next hundred years.”

Photos of Harbor Islands and St Mary’s on the Lake, Lake George Mirror

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Monday, September 13, 2010

APA Meeting: Lake George YMCA, Developments

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting, Thursday, September 16 and Friday Sept 17, 2010 at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook, NY. On Thursday agency members and staff will participate in a field trip lead by Mr. Sean Ross, Director of Forestry Operations for Lyme Timber Company. Mr. Ross will discuss forest management and certification programs. On Friday the board will consider a setback variance requested by the YMCA for its Camp Chingachgook on Lake George, Blue Line Development Group’s 49 unit subdivision proposal in the Village of Tupper Lake, a subdivision proposal for land in the Village of Lake Pleasant, a proposed amendment to the Northville Boat Launch Unit Management Plan, and more.

The Full Agency will convene on Friday morning at 9:00 for Executive Director Terry Martino’s report.

At 9:30 a.m., the Regulatory Programs Committee will consider a shoreline structure setback variance requested by the YMCA for its Camp Chingachgook facility located on Lake George. The variance involves the replacement of a pre-existing one-story structure. The new structure will be used for camp operation purposes and to improve access to Lake George for participants in the Y-Knot Accessible Sailing Program. The project site is located in the Town of Fort Ann, Washington County.

The committee will consider Blue Line Development Group’s subdivision proposal for land in the Village of Tupper Lake, Franklin County. The project involves the subdivision of a 56±-acre parcel, involving class “1” wetlands and includes the construction of 13 townhouses with 49 total units. A dock would extend into Raquette Pond to accommodate 50 boats. The committee will also review a subdivision proposal for land in the Village of Lake Pleasant, Hamilton County owned by Agency Commissioner Frank Mezzano and consider accepting proposed General Permit Applications for installing new or replacement telecommunication towers at previously approved agency sites and change in use for existing commercial, public/semi-public or industrial buildings.

At 1:00 p.m., the State Land Committee will hear a presentation from Dr. Chad Dawson discussing roadside camping in the Adirondack Park. The committee will consider Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan compliance for a proposed amendment to the Northville Boat Launch Unit Management Plan. This unit is located in the Town of Northampton, Fulton County. The committee will then hear a first reading on reclassification proposals related to fire towers on St. Regis and Hurricane Mountains. The Board will take no action on the fire tower proposals this month.

At 2:30, the Park Policy and Planning Committee will consider approving a map amendment proposal for private lands located in the Town of Westport, Essex County. The proposal is for re-classifying approximately 25 acres of land from Resource Management to Hamlet.

At 4:00, the Full Agency will assemble to take action as necessary and conclude with committee reports, public and member comment.

Meeting materials are available for download from the Agency’s website.

The next Agency meeting is October 14-15 at the Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters.

November Agency Meeting: November 18-19 at the Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Lake George Asian Clam Invasion Appears Localized

The colony of Asian clams discovered in Lake George last week appears to be confined to an area between English Brook and Pine Point in the Village of Lake George.

“As far as we can tell, the population is contained within a relatively small area,” said Peter Bauer, executive director of The Fund for Lake George. “More research will follow this week and next to verify this. We’ll also survey other areas that appear to be suitable habitat for the species. But if we’re lucky and maybe this is an isolated infestation that we caught early, then eradication of this invasive species is a strong possibility.” » Continue Reading.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Commentary: Uplands Need More Protection

Politicians often complain that the Adirondack Park is over-regulated, but a case can be made that in some respects the Park is under-regulated.

All it takes is one house on a mountaintop or ridge to spoil a wild vista, and yet the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), which was created to safeguard the region’s natural resources, has no regulations aimed at protecting the uplands from unsightly development.

The uplands are clearly at risk. Given that most of the Park’s private waterfront has been developed, people with money are turning to the next best thing: a big home on a hill with a commanding view.

An article by George Earl in the September/October issue of the Adirondack Explorer reveals that dozens of conspicuous homes—visible from roads and trails—have been built in the uplands of Keene over the past few decades. And that’s just one town. The same kind of development is occurring in other parts of the Park, most notably around Lake George.

The APA does have tools to protect uplands when it has jurisdiction over a project. For example, it can require that a house be screened by trees or situated to minimize its visual impact.

The problem is that the APA often lacks jurisdiction. The agency does have the authority to review projects above the 2,500-foot contour, but this is essentially meaningless. APA spokesman Keith McKeever could not think of a single house built above that elevation, not even in Keene (“The Home of the High Peaks”). Near Lake George, Black Mountain is the only summit that exceeds 2,500 feet, and it lies within the state-owned Forest Preserve. In short, all the development around Lake George and the rest of the Park takes place below the 2,500-foot contour.

The APA also has jurisdiction when a house is built on property classified as Resource Management—the strictest of the agency’s six zoning categories for private land. Much of the Park’s uplands fall within this classification, but many stick-out homes are built on less-regulated lands where the APA does not automatically have jurisdiction.

Finally, the APA lacks jurisdiction even in Resource Management lands (as well as other lands) if a home is built in a subdivision approved before the agency’s creation.

Most of the Park’s towns lack zoning rules or the expertise to deal with upland development. So it’s up to the APA to address the problem. It will be difficult politically and technically. Even the definition of “upland” is tricky in a region where the elevation ranges from 95 feet at Lake Champlain to 5,344 feet at the top of Mount Marcy.

If nothing is done, however, we’ll continue to see a degradation of the Park’s wild character. It’s said that you can’t eat the scenery, but this isn’t true. Natural beauty is an economic asset that has been drawing tourists to the region for well over a century. For this reason, too, the uplands should be protected.

Photo by George Earl: Upland home in Keene.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Friday, August 27, 2010

A Lake George Comeback For A Once Famed Sailboat

Led by Lake George’s John Kelly and Reuben Smith of Hall’s Boat Corp., the Mystic Seaport maritime museum in Mystic, Connecticut, is documenting a once-famous class of sail boat that has slipped into obscurity.

The boats, Sound Interclubs, were sailed on Lake George from the 1930s through the 1950s, when the Lake George Club replaced its racing fleet with Stars and Rainbows.

Two of the surviving sail boats have been acquired by John Kelly, the Assembly Point resident whose 1936 Lake George Gar Wood was restored by Reuben Smith and the crew at Hall’s earlier this year. Hall’s is now restoring Kelly’s Sound Interclubs.

Of Kelly’s two boats, one was in relatively good condition, but even that one had been disfigured by the force of the 42 foot mast and the weight of the lead keel, said Smith. So before he could begin the work of restoring the boats, he needed an accurate set of plans.

Smith said he called Mystic Seaport in search of plans, photos and any additional information that might be in the museum’s extensive archives, and while dozens of classic photos had been taken of the boats racing in Long Island Sound in the 1920s and 30s, no plans survived.

That inquiry led Mystic Seaport’s staff to start researching the Sound Interclub, said Luisa Watrous, the museum’s Intellectual Property Manager.

“Mystic Seaport is delighted that Reuben Smith and John Kelly are doing this work, because the museum maintains a representative collection of American sailboats, and there’s too little information about the Sound Interclubs,” said Watrous. “The Museum doesn’t have a boat of this type in the collection, and the restoration at Hall’s offers us an opportunity to clarify and update the photographic and vessel records.”

In the absence of the designer’s original plans (believed to have been lost in a fire), Smith is drafting a new set of plans as he restores Kelly’s first Sound Interclub; his plans, notes and photos of the restoration will guide the restoration of the other four Sound Interclubs.

Mystic Seaport will be one of the beneficiaries of Smith’s work, says Luisa Watrous,

Watrous, however, is not merely collecting the information gathered by Smith and Kelly; she’s heavily involved in co-ordinating research on the boats, enlisting the aid of people like Rik Alexanderson, whose grandfather, E.F. Alexanderson, was among those who brought one-design racing to Lake George.

Alexanderson is conducting oral interviews about the boats’ history on Lake George, said Watrous. Others, like David Warren, have contributed photos of the boats being sailed on Lake George. “I tend to feel that stories preserve themselves; they’re waiting to be told and will be told when the time is right,” said Watrous. The oral histories and photos are not only valuable additions to Mystic Seaport’s archives, but can assist Reuben Smith and John Kelly in their work, he said.

For Watrous, researching the Sound Interclubs is not merely a professional obligation; it’s a way for her to rediscover her links to the lake. “I have personal ties to the lake through my family, and I even sailed on Sound Interclubs in the 1970s,” he said. “After the Lake George Club switched to racing Stars and Rainbows, two Sound Interclubs were sold to Canoe Island Lodge, where I worked as a college student in the 1970s.”

John Kelly says he hopes to take his first sail in his Sound Interclub sometime this fall. “I became interested in the boats when I was researching the history of my Gar Wood, which was owned by a Lake George summer resident, Dan Winchester. A member of his family showed me an album that included some photos of a sailboat I’d never seen before. I showed them to Reuben, who immediately identified them as Sound Interclubs,” he said.

Designed by Charles Mower in 1926, the boats were famous in the 1930s as the fastest boats in the Westchester and Connecticut waters of Long Island Sound. “The whole idea behind one-design racing is that it’s a test of skills; it has nothing to do with who has the most money or the best technology,” said Reuben Smith.

By 1935, however, the boats began to feel dated to the Long Island skippers, many of whom were America’s Cup yachtsmen, and they replaced the boats with International One Designs, said Michael Kelly. Once the boats were no longer used for racing in Long Island Sound, they were brought to Lake George.

Reuben Smith says he knows of at least three other Sound Interclubs: one on Lake George, another in Texas and one on City Island in New York. He hopes they’ll be brought to Hall’s or to another Lake George boat shop and restored.

As does John Kelly. At the very least, he’ll get some competition. What’s the fun of owning a fast sail boat if there’s no one to compete with?

Photos: Above, Sound Interclubs racing on Lake George from the files of Lake George Mirror. Below, Sound Interclubs racing off Long Island. Photo by Morris Rosenfeld, courtesy of Mystic Seaport.

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