Posts Tagged ‘Lake George’

Friday, December 24, 2010

Boating Before Gasoline: Kenneth Durant and the Naphtha Launch

In the 1880s Frank Ofeldt invented a small engine powered by a petroleum by-product called naphtha, which proved to be a very useful means of water transport when attached to 16 or 18-foot launches. For a while, these naphtha launches flourished on the Adirondack lakes, transporting passengers and freight between camps, hotels and settlements.

By the turn of the century, naphtha launches were common on Lake George. Some were excursion boats, such as those owned and operated by the father os onetime Lake George Supervisor Alden Shaw. The majority, however, belonged to summer residents. Dr. Abraham Jacobi of Bolton Landing owned one. Harry Watrous, the perpetrator of the Hague Monster Hoax, owned two, as did Colonel Mann, the New York magazine editor who was the butt of the hoax. (Mann’s own magazine, by the way, poked fun at the rich for taking the accoutrements of soft living into the Adirondack wilderness, naphtha launches included.)

The Eva B, the launch portrayed here, was owned by Charles Barker, a gentleman who spent one summer on Lake George in 1892. Barker sailed the craft from New York City to Troy and then came up the Champlain Canal through the locks. The launch was brought overland from Glens Falls to Lake George, where it was paraded in the Water Carnival. When Barked departed Lake George at the end of the season, he announced that he would sill down Lake Champlain to the St. Lawrence River, then on to Alexandria Bay and the Thousand Islands.

The naphtha launch, unlike the steamboat which it replaced, was light and easy to handle. No special license was required to operate it. Thus, the naphtha launch became popular very quickly. Just as quickly, however, it disappeared, supplanted by the gasoline-powered motorboat, which was much faster than the naphtha launch and, or so it was said, much safer.

“It is eighty years or more since the naphtha launch came into the woods. They are gone and the steamboats with them. Handled with good manners, the launch was no threat to anyone and a pleasing service to many,” Kenneth Durant wrote in his monograph on the naphtha launch, published by the Adirondack Museum in 1976. Durant’s monograph remains the single best source of information on the naphtha launch.

Durant himself is best known for his pioneering studies of the Adirondack guide-boat. He had originally intended to incorporate the material which he had gathered on the naphtha launch into his book on the guide-boat, but then decided that it would be too much of a digression. After his death in 1972, his widow, Helen Durant, edited the manuscript and produced the pamphlet that is still available through the museum.

Durant’s knowledge of the naphtha launch, like his knowledge of the guide-boat, was rooted in his own experience. His father, Frederick C. Durant, was the developer of the Prospect House on Blue Mountain Lake, the first luxury hotel in the Adirondacks. To accommodate his own family, Durant built a camp on Forked Lake, a tributary of Racquette Lake, in the style made popular by his relative, William West Durant, which they called “Camp Cedars.” Warren Cole, the Long Lake guide-boat builder, was the family’s guide, and Durant spent much of his youth in the guide-boat that Cole built for him.

The family also maintained a naphtha launch, called the Mugwump. For sport and pleasure, there was always the guide-boat, Durant said. The naphtha launch was essentially a service boat. “It transported busts who might have been timid or clumsy in a guidebook. It towed the scow with loads of lumber from the mill or stone cut from the quarry at the head of the lake. It towed the freight boat with a load of fresh balsam for the open camp, or a string of guide-boats for a fishing party to the far end of the lake. Now and then one might make a leisurely cruise along the evening shore, with engine muted.”

Durant’s interest in the evolution of the guide-boat brought him to Lake George in 1960 to study the bateaux that had just been discovered at the bottom of the lake, and he and Helen visited my family often in Warrensburg, usually when traveling from their home in Vermont to Hamilton County, which Durant always called “the woods” and which he believed was the true Adirondacks.

(He once wrote to his friend, canoe authority Paul Jamieson: “When I was half as old as I am now we could say unctuously, ‘There are no venomous snakes in the Adirondacks,’ reciting a bit of nature lore: ‘Rattlesnakes do not advance beyond the oaks.’ Then, when I was not looking, someone moved the Blue Line around Lake George and took in oaks and rattlesnakes–and worse.”)

While he may have been harsh on Lake George, I remember Kenneth as the gentlest of men. And he managed to impart to many, through his books, his conversation and his example, something of his passionate interest in wooden boats and their history on the lakes of the Adirondacks. Those of us who have learned from him had had richer lives as a consequence.

Photos: The Eva B; Kenneth Durant.

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


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Adirondack Stats: Christmas

Year Pope Julius I and other religious leaders specified December 25th as the official date of the birth of Jesus Christ: 320 AD

Year in which the Christmas Tree is introduced at Strasbourg Cathedral: 1539

Year Alabama became the first state in the US to make Christmas a legal holiday: 1836

Estimated number of copies of Bing Crosby’s version of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” – the best selling single of all time – has sold: in excess of 50 million copies worldwide

Probability of one inch or more of snow on the ground on December 25th in Old Forge: 97%

Year in which F. M. Chapman proposed the first a Christmas bird census: 1900

Number of Christmas Bird count participants in 2000: 50,000

Year in which Santa’s Workshop theme park in Wilmington, NY opened: 1949

Approximate number of daily newspapers who reported on the opening of Santa’s Workshop: over 700 dailies in the U.S. and Canada

Approximate number of movie theater-goers introduced to Santa’s Workshop via a Pathe Newsreel: 30 million

Number of visitors on opening day, July 1, 1949: 212

Number of visitors on September 2, 1951: over 14,000 perhaps as many as 20,000

Year Robert Reiss closes Santa’s Workshop, Wilmington, following a failed business deal: 2001 (it was reopened the following year by Northpole Associates who purchased the facilities in 2005

Year in which Arthur Gillette opened Christmas City, USA theme park on Rt. 9 near Lake George: 1963

Year in which Christmas City, USA changed its name to Magic Forest: 1965

Photo: ABC Sportscaster Jim McKay with Santa at Santa’s Workshop in 1980.


Sources: Adirondack Chronology (pdf), Santas.Net, Guinness Book of World Records, Northeast Regional Climate Center, Santa’s Workshop.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Bolton High School Speedboat Racer Makes History

Johnny Saris, a Bolton Central School Senior, became the youngest speed boat driver in history to win a sanctioned World Championship race when he and Jason Saris competed in the Offshore Powerboat Association’s Orange Beach, Alabama meet in October.

“Johnny raced against the best drivers in the country and he held his own, as the results show,” said Jason Saris, the team’s throttle man and Johnny’s father.

Johnny Saris has been driving powerful offshore boats for years, but usually for recreation or in local poker runs. “There’s nothing like racing; once the green flag is waved, your mind is entirely focused,” said Johnny Saris. “And you never slow down for a wave.”

Racing a new boat custom-built by Performance Marine, the team placed first in their class in the first race, held on Friday, October 15.

To be named the 2010 Offshore Powerboat Association’s World Champions, the Sarises needed only to place third in Sunday’s races, but mechanical problems prevented the team from entering the boat in the second race, said Johnny Saris.

The races, held on an oval course about 150 yards off shore from beachfront hotels, attracted thousands of spectators. 40 boats, including a 50’ boat capable of 200 mile per hour speeds and a Lamborghini-powered 43’ catamaran owned by Sheikh Hassan Bin Jabor Al‐Thani, took part in the event.

Known as “Thunder on the Gulf,” the event was not expected to take place; the Offshore Powerboat Association removed the race from its schedule after last summer’s oil spill.

But according to Jason Saris, Alabama officials, anxious to revitalize tourism along the Gulf coast, persuaded the OPA to re-instate the event. “We didn’t see any ill-effects of the oil spill, and they put on quite a show for us,” said Jason. “Bon Jovi and Brad Paisley played concerts on the beach, there were good crowds and the weather was perfect.” “We had as much fun spending time with the other racers as we did racing,” said Johnny.

As one of the youngest racers on the OPA circuit, Johnny Saris attracted some of the limelight, said Jason . “When an event is covered as widely as this was, some extra attention is expected,” said Jason. “There’s another racer close in age to Johnny, and people like to play up a rivalry.”

The Sarises began racing as a team in May, 2009, when they converted a recreational powerboat and competed in the first in a series of off shore races throughout the country. “Until 2008, no one under 18 was eligible to compete,” said Jason, himself a national offshore champion racer not so many years ago. “But fortunately for us, the OPA Racing Organization, changed the rules so that someone as young as 14 can compete as long as he’s accompanied by a parent or guardian. ”

Johnny Saris’s skills as a driver have increased exponentially during his first two seasons as a professional racer, said Jason. “He has a confidence that he’s earned through experience; that makes him a smoother, better racer; he’s not apprehensive, he knows what to expect,” said Jason. And he’s won the respect of the other racers.

“They take racing very seriously, and initially they were apprehensive about racing 80 miles per hour with someone who, for all they knew, was an inexperienced amateur,” said Jason. “Now, they treat him like a colleague.”

“The racing circuit is like family; once you’re in, you’re in,” said Johnny.

For Jason Saris, the pleasure in returning to the racing circuit lies largely in the fact that’s now able to race with his son. “We’re both enthusiasts and we’ve always wanted to do this together. A father and son who enjoy the same thing, getting to do it together: it doesn’t get any better than that. By the time most kids are sixteen, they’re out of their families’ lives. Even the time spent in the truck trailering the boat to races is quality time, as far as I’m concerned,” said Jason.

Racing may be a father and son activity for the Sarises, but it’s also good for Performance Marine, the business Jason established twenty years ago with his partner, Rick Gage. Tucked between the lake and Bolton Landing’s Main Street, Performance Marine is the place where racers from all over the country come to have custom built engines and drive systems made.

“If nothing else, the race circuit is a venue where we can demonstrate our competence, ” Jason says. “Customers are confident that we know our business.” Performance Marine also builds power systems for recreational boats and maintains boats for local customers. It’s a business that Johnny Saris hopes to run himself one day. “I’ll be going to college next year, and that may cut into racing. But a good education will allow me to continue what my father started. That would be even better than racing,” he said.

Photos courtesy of Saris Racing.

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


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Grant to Help Protect Lake George’s English Brook

The Lake George Association has been awarded a $25,000 grant from the Lake Champlain Basin Program to help protect the English Brook Watershed on Lake George.

One of the eight major streams entering Lake George, English Brook has been of high concern to the Association for over a decade. Land development in the English Brook watershed has increased the volume and velocity of stormwater runoff, leading to increased pollution entering the brook. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) lists the brook as sediment impaired, and its delta is one of the largest on the Lake. According to National Urban Runoff Program reports conducted during the 1980s, English Brook has high levels of total phosphorus, chlorides, total suspended sediments, lead and nitrate-nitrogen.

The grant will partially fund the installation of a $48,400 Aqua-Swirl hydrodynamic separator on the east side of Rt. 9N at the Lochlea Estate in the town of Lake George. The system will collect previously untreated stormwater runoff from both the east and west sides of Rt. 9N, as well as the bridge between the two exits at Exit 22 on Interstate 87. The majority of the runoff in the 48-acre watershed will be captured and treated.

Other stormwater solutions requiring a larger footprint were explored but were not possible due to the shallow soil depth and high bedrock found throughout the site. The Aqua-Swirl unit has a small footprint and a suitable location was found near existing stormwater infrastructure.

The project is also taking the opportunity to capture untreated stormwater runoff from the west side of the road. By installing some additional infrastructure, stormwater from both sides of the road will be directed to the new unit.

The cost of the entire project is estimated at $117,000. In addition to the Lake Champlain Basin Program grant, funding for this project has been secured from the Lake George Watershed Coalition and the Helen V. Froehlich Foundation. The village of Lake George will maintain the structure and clean out the system using the LGA’s Catch Vac.

How does an Aqua-Swirl Hydrodynamic Separator work?

Stormwater enters an Aqua-Swirl unit through an inlet pipe, producing a circular flow that makes contaminates settle. A swirl concentrator removes the gross pollutants; a filtration chamber then removes fine sediment and waterborne pollutants. A combination of gravity and hydrodynamic forces encourages solids to drop out of the flow and migrate to the center of the chamber, where velocities will be lower. The Aqua-Swirl also retains water between storms, allowing for settling of inorganic solids when the water is not flowing.

Additional work protecting the English Brook Watershed

Significant work in the English Brook watershed has already been completed by the LGA in conjunction with Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District (WCSWCD). In 2009, design work for a 150-foot-long sediment basin at the mouth of the brook was completed. Permits for this project have been submitted to the appropriate agencies. The basin will be about 6 feet deep with a capacity to trap over 700 cubic yards of material. Further upstream, at the Hubble Reservoir, the LGA hired Galusha Construction to remove a non-functioning sluice gate and valve that were making it difficult to maintain the site. The site was dewatered and almost 600 cubic yards of sediment were removed. The LGA acquired funding for both projects through grants from the Helen V. Froehlich Foundation and the New York State Department of State and the Environmental Protection Fund.

Once this important upland work is completed, the culminating step is to remove the sediment that has built up in the delta over the course of generations. The nutrient-rich sediment in deltas supports invasive plant growth, hampers fish spawning, and harbors nuisance waterfowl. By removing the delta, safe navigation is restored, the health of the Lake’s fisheries improves, the Lake returns to its original bottom, and property values are retained.

Photo: The English Brook delta in Lake George taken by the LGA in November 2010.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Ankle Deep: Lake George’s First Gold Cup Race Boat

After the Gold Cup races of 1914, the Ankle Deep was loaded onto a horse-drawn farm wagon and taken up the road to a corner of Count Casimir Mankowski’s estate on Northwest Bay – a humiliating end for a splendid boat, but then again, she had just suffered a humiliating defeat.

On the final day of the races, her propeller shaft had snapped. Mankowski let go of the wheel, and was sent overboard, right in front of the Sagamore. Her rival, the Baby Speed Demon II owned by Paula Brackton of New York City, went on to establish a world’s record. The Count, apparently, was too depressed to even remove the boat from the wagon. “Just leave the wagon where it is,” he told the drover. “Send me a bill for it.”

And that, more or less, was the end of both the Ankle Deep and Count Mankowski himself. The Ankle Deep caught fire and burned in a race held later that summer in Buffalo. The Count left Bolton Landing and never returned.

Nevertheless, the Gold Cup races of 1914 were a critical moment in the history of boating on Lake George. Gasoline powered boats had come to Lake George only a few years earlier. Competitive motorboating began in 1906, when the Lake George Regatta sponsored a race between boats owned by LeGrand C.Cramer, W.K.Bixby and Herman Broesel. Flat bottomed, sloping gradually toward the stern, the boats traveled at speeds of 20 miles per hour or more.

The 1914 race was the largest power boating event ever to be held in the United States; the field of starters was the largest, the boats were faster than any that had competed in previous races. The crowds too were the largest that had ever assembled in one place to watch speedboat races. Some of the spectators came by a special train from Albany. The Horicon met them at the station and took them to Bolton Landing. There, the Horicon anchored inside the race course, a 6 nautical mile ellipse that stretched from Montcalm Point to a point south of Dome Island. Throughout the races, cars lined the road from Glens Falls to the Sagamore.

The Ankle Deep was the first long distance speed boat ever built. Thirty-two feet long, she had two 150 horsepower engines, and was capable of a speed of 50 miles or more per hour. After winning the Gold Cup races on the St. Lawrence River in 1913, Mankowski brought the cup – which was made by Louis Comfort Tiffany and displayed at the Sagamore – and the races to Lake George.

The first race was scheduled for July 29th, but a northwest gale forced it to be postponed until the following day. On Thursday ,at 5:00 PM, the races began. The Ankle Deep was late getting to the starting line, and finished behind the Baby Speed Demon and two other boats.

The Count made certain that he would not repeat that mistake. Here’s how the Lake George Mirror reported the Ankle Deep’s start on the second day of the races: “But a few feet back of the line and going at almost full speed she jumped like a thing of life as the Count yanked the throttle wide open, and crossed the line a shimmering streak of mahogany, soon distancing all her rivals.” By the end of the second day of racing, however, it must have been obvious that the Ankle Deep was no longer the fastest boat in the field. The Baby Speed Demon II passed her on the second lap, retaining the lead that she had established the previous day.

The Ankle Deep now had no chance of victory unless the leaders were removed from the competition by some accident or by mechanical failures. Frank Schneider, the retired industrial arts teacher who restored boats at the Pilot Knob boat shop, wrote an account of the third day of the races for the Lake George Mirror in 1964.

“I saw this race from a small motor launch. Beecher Howe of Glens Falls and I, from Pilot Knob, proceeded to go diagonally across the lake to where we could see. As we got past Dome Island, going at a speed of approximately five miles per hour, our engine stopped and we found ourselves plumb on the regatta course, stalled, while two of the contestants, Baby Speed Demon II, and the Buffalo Enquirer were bearing down on us. One of those speedsters passed us on one side and the other on the other side, and after they had long gone by us, a patrol boat approached us and hollered, ‘Get off the course!’ We finally got the engine started again, and headed for the Sagamore dock, to watch the rest of the race. We did not see the Ankle Deep in action as it had broken down at the beginning of the third heat.”

When the scores of each boat were calculated after three days of racing, the Ankle Deep was in third place, behind Baby Speed Demon II and Buffalo Enquirer.

Gold Cup boats did not disappear from Lake George, of course. Albert Judson of Bolton Landing, a president of the American Power Boat Association, which sponsored the Gold Cup Races, owned the Whipporwhill Jr. That boat raced in Minneapolis, the Thousand Islands, Detroit, Lake Ontario, and in 1920, in England, where it competed for the Harmsworth Trophy. The driver in that race was George Reis. Reis himself brought the Gold Cup races to Lake George in 1934 ,35 and 36. Melvin Crook had the Betty IV built as a Gold Cup boat, but did not race her, although she achieved a speed of 111 miles per hour in a qualifying trial for the Hundred Mile Per Hour Club.

The Ankle Deep, however, retains pride of place as our first Gold Cup boat. As the editor of the Lake George Mirror noted after it was learned that she had been destroyed by fire on the Niagra River, “To Count Mankowski and the Ankle Deep belongs the honor of creating a new epoch in motor boatdom, and no matter how fast the boats may go in the years to come,Lake George will always remember with pride the name of the beautiful queen that carried her flag to victory on the St. Lawrence.”

Photo: Count Casimir Mankowski, center, on Lake George in 1914.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Lake George Invasives Fight Costs in The Millions

Eurasian milfoil was discovered in Lake George in 1985; since then, approximately $3.6 million dollars have been spent to control the spread of the invasive aquatic plant.

Add to that the value of the time spent administering programs and writing grants, as well the cost of educating the public about the dangers of spreading invasives, and $3.6 million becomes a figure that easily exceeds $7 million.

“We’ve been conducting a milfoil management program since 1995, when the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation turned the program over to us,” said Mike White, the executive director of the Lake George Park Commission. “We’ve employed methods like hand harvesting, suction harvesting and laying benthic barriers over the plants, but we’ve only had enough resources to contain milfoil, and not enough eradicate it.” » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Open Space Institute Preserves Historic Wilderness Camp

The Open Space Institute (OSI) has announced the acquisition of Camp Little Notch, a 2,346- acre former Girl Scout camp in the southeastern corner of the Adirondack Park in the Town of Fort Ann. The Open Space Conservancy, OSI’s land acquisition affiliate, purchased the property from the Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York (GSNENY) “to ensure its long-term protection, and continued use for wilderness recreation and education” according to the OSI’s Communications Coordinator Jeff Simms.

OSI is partnering with the Friends of Camp Little Notch, a new nonprofit created by former Little Notch campers, counselors and supporters from around the U.S. and abroad that intends to operate the camp as an outdoor education facility, according to Simms. » Continue Reading.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Tom Tom Shop: A Lake George Village Institution

Of all the businesses in Lake George Village, only a few have been owned and operated by the same family for fifty years or more.

That short list includes Fort William Henry, the Lake George Steamboat Company, the Stafford Funeral Home and Mario’s.

Those businesses were joined this year by the Tom Tom Shop, the Canada Street gift and souvenir shop founded in 1960 by Sam and Dorothy Frost and owned today by their son, Doug Frost.

“To have survived fifty years, that’s something to be proud of,” said Doug Frost. “Of course, I’m proud that I’ve been able to carry on a business started by my family. And I’m even more proud of what got us here. You don’t survive for fifty years without earning the trust of your customers, your vendors and the community.”

Those relationships begin with the customers, many of whom visited the shop in its early years and still return, first bringing their children and now returning with their grandchildren.

“The same families come in to shop summer after summer, generation after generation,” says Doug’s sister, Dorothy Muratori, who works in the store in the summers.

A gift shop in a resort village is unlike anything found in a suburban mall or on a city street, says Frost.

“People want something that will remind them of the experience of being on Lake George,” he said

Shopping at the Tom Tom Shop, he said, becomes a memorable experience in itself, one that draws people back.

“We’re here to make people happy,” he said.

Although the Tom Tom Shop sells a variety of gifts and souvenirs, it’s best known for its Native American jewelry, art, crafts and clothing.

“That’s part of our identity, but it’s also what appeals to people. Maybe people connect with Native American arts and crafts because it compensates them for the lack of connection with environment,” said Frost.

The Frosts’ interest in Native American arts and crafts began with Sam Frost’s mother, Loretta Frost.

She made annual trips out west to collect pottery and jewelry. In 1952, she helped Sam and Dorothy Frost start Indian Village, a Lake George attraction on Bloody Pond Road.

“Every summer, we brought entire families of Hopi, Chippewa or Sioux Indians to Lake George, where they would live until Labor Day,” said Sam Frost.

Rather than a theme park, Indian Village was an encampment that people could visit, watch ritual dances and ceremonies and listen to Native Americans discuss their history and lives, Sam Frost explains.

Indian Village burned in 1958. In 1955, the Frosts opened a souvenir shop called the Indian Trading Post on Route Nine.

Before the Northway was built, Route Nine was, of course the gateway to Lake George and the Adirondacks, and the Trading Post’s Teepee was a famous roadside attraction.

But according to Sam Frost, owners of attractions on Route 66 told him that the approaching interstate would divert most of his traffic, and he began looking for a shop in Lake George Village.

The Mayard Hotel burned in 1959, and in 1960 Lake George’s first mall opened on the site.

The Frosts leased the mall’s largest and most prominent store, the one fronting Canada Street. (Doug Frost now owns the mall and the adjacent parking lot.)

“Customers’ tastes haven’t changed that much since the store first opened,” said Sam Frost. “We used to sell a lot of Reservation jewelry, but that’s become too expensive.”

“I don’t buy what I want, but what I know my customers will want,” said Doug Frost.

“The most difficult thing in the retail business is the ability to make changes, to be able to look at something and know if it will appeal to your customers. If I know what I’m doing, it’s because I learned it from my parents,” Doug Frost said.

Frost has worked at the store from the moment he could be of use, he said.

“I grew up in the business; my father said I should learn the business from the bottom up, and I did, working in the stock room, marking merchandise, stocking the shelves. I learned every aspect of the business. Once you put every aspect together, you can run a business successfully,” he said.

Frost also learned from his father that running a business is a full-time commitment.

“Dad always said, you have to be there, in the shop, or you’ll discover you have partners you didn’t know existed,” he said.

But however committed Frost is to his business, he recognizes the value of the slower-paced off-season.

“We’re blessed,” he said. “We stay open year round, but I still have time for my family and the community. And we’re on Lake George, the most beautiful place on earth.”


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities:Diane Chase: Lake George’s Prospect Mountain

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities™
Driving to and past Lake George on Route I-87 I’ve often wondered where the footbridge crossing over the Northway leads. There are always signs or flags hanging over or people waving as we pass underneath. After being able to spend a day in Lake George, we discover the footbridge is one start to Prospect Mountain.

We’ve been told the 1.5-mile trail is steep and can be difficult. We are only wearing sneakers but decide it is worth the attempt if to only cross the footbridge. I am terrified. My children skip across as if huge trucks were not speeding beneath their feet. They gesture to the drivers to beep their horns. They finally look back, realize I am not following and come back to retrieve me.
The path is relatively steep and follows the old Incline Railway that had been used for guests to reach the once thriving Prospect Mountain Inn. The Inn was destroyed by fire, twice. Now all that remains are pictures, a partial fireplace and the cable gears.

The hiking trail follows the railway lines. No remnants remain as any usable metals were removed and repurposed during World War I. The trench that remains is rocky and wet. The slightest rain can cause a washout so we end up skirting the gully for higher ground. We cross the toll road twice before reaching the summit.

Hiking in the fall can be tricky. Fallen leaves can hide ice making for a slippery path. Be cautious. Everyone should be familiar with his/her own comfort level. I had read reports that this trail is not suitable for children of all ages. My seven and ten-year-old had no difficulties. Their only complaint was a desperate need to grill hot dogs at the summit.

For those not wishing to walk, from May – October the Prospect Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway is open for an $8 per car fee. There are three designated stops along the 5.5-mile drive to pull over and enjoy the view. Once on top picnic tables, grills and bathrooms (in season) are available.

For us, we climb to the summit arriving on a platform that used to house part of the Prospect Mountain Inn. My family does not wait for me to start exploring the various levels and sights.

A beautiful view of Lake George is to the east with Vermont visible in the distance. The Adirondack High Peaks are off toward the northwest. Some visitors say you can see New Hampshire on a clear day.

To get to Prospect Mountain from Route 9, turn west onto Montcalm Street and continue to the end. One entrance to the trail starts here. This short path has information regarding the funicular railway and other fun facts. Walk this brief path to Smith Street, turn south and walk on the street for about 200’ to a metal staircase that marks the highway overpass. There is some parking on Smith Street near the staircase. The trailhead register is on the west side of I-87.
Happy Thanksgiving!

photo and content © Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities ™. Diane is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recent released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates) This is the first book of a four-book series of Adirondack Family Activities. The next three editions will cover Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga, Long Lake to Old Forge and Newcomb to Lake George. 


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Adirondack Events and Holiday Festivals

The Adirondack Winter Season is a traditional time of celebration and fun-in-the-snow. While others are shivering and groaning about shoveling driveways, Adirondackers and their visitors are enjoying hundreds of miles of cross-country ski trails, full moon ski parties and a variety of winter festivals.

The 2010-2011 winter season is just weeks away, and towns and villages throughout the Adirondacks will soon be hanging lights, grooming ski trails and looking forward to fireworks, parades and the annual winter festivals. VisitAdirondacks.com offers a guide to Adirondack winter events.

February 2011 marks the 50th anniversary of the Lake George Winter Carnival and this year’s month-long celebration features racer Glenn Brittian’s attempt to break the record for the fastest speed on ice in a rocket sled. The record is 253mph, and Glenn will attempt to reach a speed of 300 mph to break the record on February 20th. Every weekend in February holds a carnival highlight, including the Polar Bear Plunge where more than 800 swimmers jump into the chilly waters of Lake George, outhouse races, a historical encampment of the 1700s, cook-off competitions, a Mardi Gras parade and fireworks. Check out LakeGeorgeWinterCarnival.com for a complete schedule of events.

Saranac Lake will host it’s Winter Carnival on February 4-13, 2011. Hundreds of revelers are expected to celebrate the 114th anniversary of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival. As the longest running event of its kind in the eastern U.S., visitors and residents both look forward to the annual Gala Parade on Saturday, February 12th, the Ladies’ Fry Pan Toss, ski races at Mount Pisgah and the lighting of the Ice Palace.

Additional Adirondack winter events:

Adirondack Holiday Stroll in Speculator, November 26. Holiday shopping specials and promotions.

Holiday Village Stroll in Lake Placid, December 10-12. Children’s activities, free skating, holiday movies, craft workshops, holiday performances, special promotions in stores and restaurants.

Great Adirondack Snow Dance in Speculator, December 4. Dance at dusk, dinner, fireworks, live entertainment and children’s activities.

Annual Winter Carnival in Long Lake, January 15, 2011. Sports contests with cash prizes, free ice-skating and sledding.

Frozen Fire & Lights in Inlet, February 19, 2011. Bonfire and fireworks, free sledding, ice-skating and cross-country skiing, treats and cocoa.

Winter Carnival in Raquette Lake, February 19, 2011. Ladies’ fry pan toss, men’s golf drive, tug of war, bonfire and fireworks.

Photo: “Oxygen” just before reaching 247.93 mph (to break the record at that time) at the Lake George Winter Carnival on Lake George on February 15, 1981. The event was lined with thousands of people spread along on both sides of the 2300′ long course. Photo Courtesy Venture Enterprises.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Lake George Village Board Rejects Dissolution

Established in 1903, Lake George Village will survive intact beyond December, 2013, the date it would have ceased to exist had a vote to dissolve been placed on the ballot and approved in March, 2011.

In a vote that surprised even Mayor Bob Blais, Lake George Village’s Board of Trustees decided on November 15 not to put the question to a vote in March.

“As far as the Village Board is concerned, dissolution is a dead issue,” said Blais.

Although the Village Board could revisit the proposal some time in the future, the trustees acknowledged that this was unlikely.

Too many questions about the costs to taxpayers and the future of municipal services if the Village dissolved and merged with the surrounding township remained unanswered, and answers are unlikely to be forthcoming, they said.

Village officials had hoped to develop a plan in consultation with Town officials that would explain in detail how assets and liabilities would be distributed among the residents of a new, single community, but Town officials refused to co-operate, said Blais.

In the absence of a plan explaining how assets would be treated, what special taxing districts would be formed and how debt service would be handled, one agreed to by the Town, a vote to dissolve could have been a mistake, said Blais.

“People would have had no idea what they were voting for,” he said.

Town Supervisor Frank McCoy would commit to nothing more than stating that “if dissolution occurs, the Town will work to ensure a smooth transition,” said Blais, quoting a message from McCoy.

A study of the feasibility of dissolution, drafted by a consulting firm and overseen by a local committee, indicated that if the two municipalities merged, Village residents would see their taxes decrease by 19% to 30% while town taxes would rise by as much as 40%.

“It’s clear to me that the Town doesn’t want us,” said Trustee John Earl.

Trustee John Root, who chaired the committee appointed in 2008 to study the costs and benefits of dissolution, said he had favored putting the measure to a vote until Monday’s meeting, when every Lake George resident present opposed dissolution.

“Their concerns were understandable,” said Root. “I’m glad we’ve held public hearings; the residents have spoken loudly and clearly that they do not favor dissolution.”

Some residents, like Micky Onofrietto, Barbara Neubauer, and Doug Frost, for example, said that an uninformed vote would be detrimental to the interests of the residents themselves.

“I feel uncomfortable putting it to a vote, without people looking into it as I did, when I found that we had no way of knowing the true costs,” said Micky Onofrietto.

“I might save on taxes but lose on services,” said Barbara Neubauer.

Former Village Trustee and Tom Tom Shop owner Doug Frost said that as a businessman, he feared losing the benefit of the Village’s expertise in promoting special events and weekly attractions like fireworks shows that draw tourists to Lake George.

Town residents Joe Stanek, Karen Azer and Mike Sejuljic emphasized the differences in priorities and styles of governance between the Town and the Village.

“A 28% tax increase, borrowing to meet payroll, paying its bills late; the town should get its own affairs in order before incorporating another government,” said Azer.

After listening to public comments, Mayor Blais said that while dissolution was appropriate for some villages, Lake George Village remained a viable entity.

“In most cases, villages’ assets are not as large as ours, they’re barely surviving financially, they have small populations and they can’t find people to serve in elected or appointed offices,” said Blais.

Trustee Ray Perry introduced the motion to take no action on dissolution. It passed unanimously.

Photo: Aerial view of Lake George from the Lake George Mirror photo files.

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


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities:Lake George is taking the Special Olympic Plunge

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities

Swimming in the heat of the summer can be a chilly affair in the Adirondacks. For the next few months, people across New York State will be cooling off by taking an icy plunge in support of Special Olympic athletes.

“Last weekend our first Polar Plunge in Plattsburgh was met with great success.” says New York Special Olympics Associate Director Kaila Horton. “ Between 200-220 people plunged raising over $22,600 dollars in support of the athletes. The Polar Plunge is one of our big fundraisers of the year for Special Olympics.”

Horton says that the cost of training and participating in the Special Olympics each year runs about $400 per athlete. All the coaches are volunteers and work through local Special Olympic Training Clubs, which allows other athletes and students to get involved on a local level. Horton wants to make sure that everyone knows that if there isn’t a local training club, the headquarters will help start one and recruit volunteers and local athletes.

The format for taking a plunge for Special Olympics is easy. Each individual is asked to set a fundraising goal. The suggestion is the $400 cost to send one athlete to the Special Olympics. Sometimes teams are formed but it’s individuals that raise money to enable the athlete for the upcoming games.

The Polar Plunge on the schedule is this weekend in Lake George. For the fourth year Lake George is “Freezin’ for a Reason” November 20th at Shepard’s Cove. Registration starts at 9:00 a.m. with a noon start time to an icy dip into Lake George.

“This is the first time that I’ll be taking the plunge. We have a large team of about 25 people,” says Max’s Buddies Team Leader Lisa Jackoski. “We have a whole mish-mash of people ranging from the Lake George School Superintendent to my mother. There are even people I’ve never met that are on our team, friends of friends that said they would do it. I am astounded by how many people are willing to participate in this.”

Jackoski is not only team leader, but also mother to fifteen-year-old, Special Olympian Max Jackoski. She has a personal understanding of the importance participation has on these athletes. Max took part in the Track and Field event in Queensbury last year and now plans on branching out into either skiing or swimming.

Last year students and teachers from his school made Max a huge banner that read ‘LG [Lake George] Loves Max.’ When he arrived for his event the sign was hung on the fence for all to see.

“I think most people are unaware of how much the Special Olympics costs,” says Jackoski. “Surprisingly there are still people that don’t know the Special Olympics exist and that it is free for the athletes. I saw Max’s friendships blossom through being part of this program. I saw his self-confidence grow due to the Special Olympics.”

Max finished his event last year and asked if he won. “I was able to tell him yes,” says Jackoski. “The Special Olympics really embraces that philosophy that everyone is a winner. Before each event they say their motto, Let me win but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

She is already looking for ways to grow her group for next year. The Max’s Buddies Team has surpassed this year’s fundraising goals with $2,000 so far raised.

For those not willing to risk the chilly Adirondack waters of Lake George, spectators are encouraged for the Lake George Polar Plunge.

The Special Olympics Polar Plunge logo was used with permission


content © Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities ™. Diane is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recent released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates) This is the first book of a four-book series of Adirondack Family Activities. The next three editions will cover Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga, Long Lake to Old Forge and Newcomb to Lake George. 


Friday, November 12, 2010

Bolton Adjusts to New Dog Licensing Duties

For more than ninety years, the state’s Department of Agriculture has been the agency responsible for licensing dogs and collecting fees, which it shared with counties and municipalities.

But as of January first, those duties will devolve to localities, and towns like Bolton are hustling to adjust to their new responsibilities.

According to Agriculture commissioner Patrick Hooker, the department has provided municipalities with a “Municipal Dog Licensing Toolkit,” which includes a model local law, sample licensing forms, lists of vendors for databases and dog tags, a copy of the new law, and documents outlining how the new law will affect dog owners, animal shelters and the Animal Population Control Fund.

In exchange for assuming responsibility for licensing dogs, municipalities will keep all fees collected, which “will nearly double their revenue from dog license fees,” said Commissioner Hooker.

“Administering the new system, including certifying that dogs have received rabies shots, will be time consuming, and it was helpful when the state was responsible, but we’ll adjust,” said Bolton Town Clerk Pat Steele.

While Bolton has had a dog ordinance on the books since 1978, its town board is now considering adopting a new law, one drafted by its attorney, Mike Muller, but based on the model supplied by New York State.

At a public hearing in November, resident Robert Weisenfeld commented that the clause requiring owners to exercise “full control” over their animals was too vague; he urged the board to revise the text to specify that dogs be leashed or muzzled.

Under the proposed law, the fee for licensing a dog will range from $5 to $13, depending upon whether the dog has been spayed or neutered.

Bolton residents will receive new dog tags from the town when current licenses expire, said Steele.

Fines for allowing dogs to become nuisances range could range from $50 to $300.

According to Commissioner Hooker, delegating dog licensing responsibilities to localities will save the state more than $325,000 a year.

“At a time when government is actively searching for cost savings and limiting services to those that protect public health and safety, it is a no-brainer for the State to get out of the dog licensing business,” Hooker said.


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.



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