Posts Tagged ‘Lake George’

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Unsung Adirondack Heroes: Lydia Serrell

In thinking about Adirondack unsung heroes, singer-songwriter Peggy Lynn’s powerfully moving song Lydia about Lydia Smith (wife of Paul Smith) comes to mind. I write about another Lydia who related very strongly to that song, and who did so much for the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks (AFPA). Her name was Lydia Serrell. I worked with Lydia for 18 years, and can attest that she was an extraordinary Adirondacker in her own right, and instrumental to the success of the organization.

Lydia Serrell fell in love with the Adirondacks at an early age. The daughter of Hungarian immigrants and carriage makers working in Schenectady, she was “shipped out” after her mother’s death c. 1918 to live with her mother’s sister, her Aunt Anna and Uncle Chris Kohler, at their farm in Gravesville, Town of Ohio in the southwestern Adirondacks. Lydia’s great friend Linda Champagne writes: “Lydia attended a small north country school. Her uncle, a guide in the nearby Adirondack League Club (Uncle Chris), and his wife (Aunt Anna), who had been a cook at the club, created a comfortable life for the city girl. The modest home had only a spring for water. Entertainment meant skating on ponds and reading Zane Grey novels by kerosene lantern in the evenings. When her father remarried, and she returned to Schenectady, she continued a lifelong love of hiking, touring and reading the history of the Adirondacks.” » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Floyd Bennett: A Local Aviation Legend

Among the rock-star personas of the Roaring Twenties were a number of aviators who captured the public’s imagination. Some were as popular and beloved as movie stars and famous athletes, and America followed their every move. It was a time of “firsts” in the world of aviation, led by names like Lindbergh, Byrd, and Post. Among their number was an unusually humble man, Floyd Bennett. He may have been the best of the lot.

A North Country native and legendary pilot, Bennett has been claimed at times by three different villages as their own. He was born in October 1890 at the southern tip of Lake George in Caldwell (which today is Lake George village). Most of his youth was spent living on the farm of his aunt and uncle in Warrensburg. He also worked for three years in Ticonderoga, where he made many friends. Throughout his life, Floyd maintained ties to all three villages.

In the early 1900s, cars and gasoline-powered engines represented the latest technology. Floyd’s strong interest led him to automobile school, after which he toiled as a mechanic in Ticonderoga for three years. When the United States entered World War I, Bennett, 27, enlisted in the Navy.

While becoming an aviation mechanic, Floyd discovered his aptitude for the pilot’s seat. He attended flight school in Pensacola, Florida, where one of his classmates was Richard E. Byrd, future legendary explorer. For several years, Bennett refined his flying skills, and in 1925, he was selected for duty in Greenland under Lieutenant Byrd.

Fraught with danger and the unknown, the mission sought to learn more about the vast unexplored area of the Arctic Circle. Bennett’s knowledge and hard work were critical to the success of the mission, and, as Byrd would later confirm, the pair almost certainly would have died but for Bennett’s bravery in a moment of crisis.

While flying over extremely rough territory, the plane’s oil gauge suddenly climbed. Had the pressure risen unchecked, an explosion was almost certain. Byrd looked at Bennett, seeking a course of action, and both then turned their attention to the terrain below.

Within seconds, reality set in—there was no possibility of landing. With that, Bennett climbed out onto the plane’s wing in frigid conditions and loosened the oil cap, relieving the pressure. He suffered frostbite in the process, but left no doubt in Byrd’s mind that, in selecting Bennett, he had made the right choice.

The two men became fast friends, and when the intrepid Byrd planned a historic flight to the North Pole, Bennett was asked to serve as both pilot and mechanic on the Josephine Ford. (Edsel Ford provided financial backing for the effort, and the plane was named after his daughter.) In 1926, Byrd and Bennett attained legendary status by completing the mission despite bad luck and perilous conditions. The flight rocketed them to superstardom.

Lauded as national heroes, they were suddenly in great demand, beginning with a tickertape parade in New York City. Byrd enjoyed the limelight, but also heaped praise on the unassuming Bennett, assuring all that the attempt would never have been made without his trusted partner. When Bennett visited Lake George, more than two thousand supporters gathered in the tiny village to welcome him. As part of the ceremony, letters of praise from Governor Smith and President Coolidge were read to the crowd.

Both men were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award for any member of the armed services, and rarely bestowed for non-military accomplishments. They were also honored with gold medals from the National Geographic Society. Despite all the attention and lavish praise, Bennett remained unchanged, to the surprise of no one.

The next challenge for the team of Bennett and Byrd was the first transatlantic flight from New York to Paris, a trip they prepared for eagerly. But in a training crash, both men were hurt. Bennett’s injuries were serious, and before the pair could recover and continue the pursuit of their goal, Charles Lindbergh accomplished the historic feat. Once healed, the duo completed the flight to Europe six weeks later.

Seeking new horizons to conquer, aviation’s most famous team planned an expedition to the South Pole. Tremendous preparation was required, including testing of innovative equipment. On March 13, 1928, a curious crowd gathered on the shores of Lake Champlain near Ticonderoga. Airplanes were still a novelty then, and two craft were seen circling overhead. Finally, one of them put down on the slushy, ice-covered lake surface, skiing to a halt.

Out came local hero Floyd Bennett, quickly engulfed by a crowd of friends and well-wishers. While in Staten Island preparing for the South Pole flight, he needed to test new skis for landing capabilities in the snow. What better place to do it than among friends? After performing several test landings on Lake Champlain, Bennett stayed overnight in Ticonderoga. Whether at the Elks Club, a restaurant, or a local hotel, he and his companions were invariably treated like royalty. Bennett repeatedly expressed his thanks and appreciation for such a warm welcome.

A month later, while making further preparations for the next adventure, Floyd became ill with what was believed to be a cold. When word arrived that help was urgently needed on a rescue mission, the response was predictable. Ignoring his own health, Bennett immediately went to the assistance of a German and Irish team that had crossed the Atlantic but crashed their craft, the Bremen, on Greenly Island north of Newfoundland, Canada.

During the mission, Floyd developed a high fever but still tried to continue the rescue effort. His condition worsened, requiring hospitalization in Quebec City, where doctors found he was gravely ill with pneumonia. Richard Byrd and Floyd’s wife, Cora, who was also ill, flew north to be with him. Despite the best efforts of physicians, Bennett, just 38 years old, succumbed on April 25, 1928, barely a month after his uplifting visit to Ticonderoga.

Though Bennett died, the rescue mission he had begun proved successful. Across Canada, Germany, Ireland, and the United States, headlines mourned the loss of a hero who had given his life while trying to save others. Explorers, adventurers, and aviators praised Bennett as a man of grace, intelligence, bravery, and unfailing integrity.

Floyd Bennett was already considered a hero long before the rescue attempt. The selflessness he displayed further enhanced his image, and as the nation mourned, his greatness was honored with a heavily attended military funeral in Washington, followed by burial in Arlington National Cemetery. Among the pile of wreaths on his grave was one from President and Mrs. Coolidge.

After the loss of his partner and best friend, Richard Byrd’s craft for the ultimately successful flight to the South Pole was a tri-motor Ford renamed the Floyd Bennett. Both the man and the plane of the same name are an important part of American aviation history.

It was eventually calculated that the earlier flight to the North Pole may not have reached its destination, but the news did nothing to diminish Byrd and Bennett’s achievements. They received many honors for their spectacular adventures. On June 26, 1930, a dedication ceremony was held in Brooklyn for New York City’s first-ever municipal airport, Floyd Bennett Field. It was regarded at the time as America’s finest airfield.

Many historic flights originated or ended at Floyd Bennett Field, including trips by such notables as Howard Hughes, Jimmy Doolittle, Wiley Post, Douglas “Wrongway” Corrigan, and Amelia Earhart. It was also the busiest airfield in the United States during World War II, vital to the Allied victory. Floyd Bennett Field is now protected by the National Park Service as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.

The beloved Bennett was also honored in several other venues. In the 1940s, a Navy Destroyer, the USS Bennett, was named in honor of his legacy as a flight pioneer. In the village of Warrensburg, New York, a memorial bandstand was erected in Bennett’s honor. Sixteen miles southeast of Warrensburg, and a few miles from Glens Falls, is Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport.

In a speech made after the North Pole flight, Richard Byrd said, “I would rather have had Floyd Bennett with me than any man I know of.” High praise indeed between heroes and friends. And not bad for a regular guy from Lake George, Warrensburg, and Ticonderoga.

Top Photo: The Josephine Ford.

Middle Photo: Floyd Bennett, right, receives medal from President Coolidge. Richard Byrd is to the left of Coolidge.

Bottom Photo: Floyd Bennett Field, New York City’s first municipal airport.

Lawrence Gooley has authored eight books and several articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Lake George Conservancy Seeks to Protect Pinnacle

The Pinnacle, the prominent Bolton Landing ridgeline where a developer has proposed situating houses, may be preserved after all.

The Lake George Land Conservancy’s Board of Directors has voted to apply for a grant from New York State’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for funds to help acquire the ridgeline, said Nancy Williams, the Conservancy’s executive director.

Bolton’s Town Board approved a resolution endorsing the application at its July 6 meeting, said Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover.

“My personal feeeling is that protecting the Pinnacle is an admirable goal,” said Conover. “If there’s a willing seller, and it can be kept in a natural state, with hiking trails for the community, that would be a terrific thing.”

Last week, The Fund for Lake George and the Lake George Waterkeeper announced that law suits have been filed against the Town of Bolton for its approvals of a mile-long road to the Pinnacle’s summit.

“This is a clear case where rules and standards exist for a reason. Roads should not involve acres of clear cuts and traverse steep slopes. The extent of disturbance and excessive clearing involved in this proposal will scar the Pinnacle for generations,” said Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky.

According to Conover, the Town Board was also set to approve a resolution to retain Mike Muller, the town’s legal counsel, to defend Bolton’s Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning Board and Zoning Administrator from the suit.

But if the Pinnacle is protected and no road is built, the lawsuit would in all likelihood be dropped, said Peter Bauer, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George.

“If conditions on the ground change, obviously, that would have a huge effect on the suit,” said Bauer. “But we’d have to see the final result.”

Bauer said he could not comment on the proposal to protect the Pinnacle because he was unfamiliar with the Conservancy’s plans.

According to Nancy Williams, protecting the Pinnacle “is very much a local project; we’d like to see hiking trails connecting it to Cat and Thomas Mountains and into Bolton Landing itself, creating a significant trail system.”

But, Williams said, “it will take the community to protect the Pinnacle; we want to see how much support there is within the community.”

Williams said the Conservancy had made Pinnacle owner Ernie Oberrer aware of it’s interest, but had yet to hear from him.

Oberrer could not be reached for comment; reportedly, he has expressed an interest in building below the ridgeline if he could sell the Pinnacle’s summit for an unspecified sum. 


Not having discussed its plans with Oberrer, Williams said she had no idea how much money would have to be raised by the Conservancy and other local organizations to protect the Pinnacle.

Photo: The Pinnacle from Cat Mountain, courtesy Lake George Waterkeeper.

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


Friday, July 2, 2010

Lake George: Upland Development Battle Continues

The front lines in the battle over upland development continues to be Lake George. In the latest skirmish, a recent approval of a controversial, three lot subdivision atop a prominent ridge in Bolton Landing has prompted The FUND for Lake George and Lake George Waterkeeper to bring a lawsuit against the Town of Bolton.

The organizations filed the suit against the Town of Bolton’s Planning Board, Zoning Board and Zoning Administrator late last week. According to the suit, the application should have received a variance from the Zoning Board in order for it to be approved by the Planning Board.

“The approval granted by the Planning Board violates the Town Code for driveway width as well as violating the Town of Bolton Zoning Law, because the applicant never obtained a variance to exceed allowable clearing limits for road/driveway construction,” argued Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky.

According to Navitsky, the mile long road to the top of the Pinnacle was described as a shared driveway. “Under the Bolton Zoning and Planning codes, a driveway should only be 16 feet in width. The Planning Board issued a waiver, exempting the applicant’s access road from the Town’s Planning code restrictions of a 16-foot width. The Planning Board’s approval authorized a “shared driveway” of 20 feet in width with two 2-foot shoulders, totaling 24 feet,” said Navitsky.

“What the Planning Board is calling a shared driveway is a road in every way. We’re challenging the Planning Board’s authorization because what it authorized is not what’s been designed. The applicant is planning a road that is eight times as wide as the 24 foot width approved by the Planning Board,” said Navitsky. “This is a clear case where rules and standards exist for a reason. Roads should not involve acres of clear cuts and traverse steep slopes. The extent of disturbance and excessive clearing involved in this proposal will scar the Pinnacle for generations.”

The suit also alleges that the Town Zoning Board of Appeals should have issued a variance to permit excessive clearing. “Town Zoning Law states that clearing for driveways shall not exceed 16 feet. The Zoning Administrator should have recognized the need for a variance once she reviewed the plans and referred the matter to the Zoning Board,” said Navitsky.

“We asked the Town Boards and Town officials numerous times for an explanation of how a shared driveway that’s supposed to be 24 feet wide was approved given that it involves eight acres of clearcutting, widths of over 150 feet, and will be built on grades of over 25%? We never received a response” said Navitsky. “We feel like we attempted every means practical to work with the Town, but they refused to answer these basic questions. Now we’ll let the courts settle the matter.”

“This is an important legal issue because it seeks to clarify the Bolton code and establish an important precedent for placement and design of these shared driveways and roads to upland developments. As more development continues in the uplands of Bolton, many accessed by long driveways or roads over steep terrain, the issues of clearing widths and construction on steep slopes are very important” said Peter Bauer, Executive Director of the FUND for Lake George. “In this instance it appears to us that the Town is violating its own local laws.”

Photo: The Pinnacle from Cat Mountain, courtesy Lake George Waterkeeper.

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


Monday, June 28, 2010

Local Power and Energy History: Windmill Déjà Vu

Scores of gigantic wind turbines in the Adirondacks’ northeastern and southwestern foothills are a startling site amidst historically bucolic scenery. The landscape appears “citified,” with structures nearly 40 stories high where the largest buildings rarely top 3 stories. It is a dramatic change, and a far cry from simpler days when family farms were prevalent.

Few realize that in those “simpler days” of dairy farms, windmills were actually quite common across the region. Of course, the windmills once dotting the North Country’s landscape were nothing like today’s behemoths, which stand nearly 400 feet high from the ground to the tip of a skyward-pointing blade. And, the windmills of old weren’t always efficient machines.

Wind technology took a tremendous leap forward in the 1850s thanks to Daniel Halladay, a Connecticut machinist. Halladay’s windmill not only pumped water, but automatically turned to face into the wind as it changed directions. Almost as important, he devised a way to control the speed of the blades (windmills are prone to destruction from within when operating at high rpm levels). Halladay established the US Wind Engine & Pump Company, setting up shop in Illinois. From the start, the business flourished.

Though his sales were focused on the country’s expansion westward, New York State was also experiencing dramatic growth, particularly in the remote northern Adirondack foothills, where pioneers faced a harsh climate and difficult living conditions. Halladay’s invention eventually helped turn some of those weather negatives into positives by taking advantage of wind patterns across upper New York State.

In 1874, the railroad was expanding north from Whitehall towards Plattsburgh. Since steam engines require water, the line generally followed the shore of Lake Champlain. Tanks were constructed along the route where the rails neared the lakeshore. Steam pumps or windmills were used to fill the feeder tanks, which had a capacity of 33,000 gallons each.

As settlers moved north on both sides of the Adirondacks, windmill technology crept northward with them. Farming was necessary for survival, and the enormous workload was eased by mechanical devices like windmills. The description of one man’s operation about 18 miles south of Lowville was typical of the times: “ … a beautiful farm of 280 acres, milks 35 cows, and is a model farm. House, barns, windmill pump, all systematically arranged.”

In situations like that, windmills often filled tanks placed on the upper floor of a barn. The water was then gravity-fed to the livestock below, and piped to other locations as needed. The machine was also used to grind various grains. Early models were mounted on wooden frames, but many fell victim to the very power they were trying to harness, toppling before raging windstorms. Eventually, steel frames supported most windmills.

Wind power wasn’t just for individual homes and farms. In July 1879, H. H. Babcock & Sons of Watertown was hired to install a windmill at 1000 Islands State Park. Water was drawn from the St. Lawrence River to large tanks near the dining hall, and from there was conducted to the various cottages by galvanized iron pipe.

And at Hermon, a contract for $6,595.00 was signed with Daniel Halladay’s company to install a new waterworks system. Included were a wooden tank of 50,000-gallon capacity, a windmill with a wheel diameter of 20 feet, and more than a mile of piping. The frost-proof tank was 24 feet in diameter, 16 feet high, and 3 inches thick. It sat on a trestle 20 feet high, while the windmill stood on a trestle 80 feet high.

Many hotels, including the Whitney House in Norwood and the Turin House in Turin, used windmills to power their water systems. At Chazy, windmills pumped water from the quarries; at Port Henry, they filled water tanks for the trains; and at Saranac Lake, they fed the water supply of the Adirondack Sanitarium.

In 1889, George Baltz of Watertown handled the Halladay display at the Jefferson County Fair, demonstrating that windmills furnished cheaper power than steam engines and could run a feed mill, a circular saw for cutting wood, or pump water.

Though Halladay’s products were widely known, he did have competitors. Some added their own modifications, and some were “copycats.” And they weren’t all products from afar. In 1882, an advertisement touted a windmill “warranted to take care of itself in high winds, equal to the best western mills, and is sold for half the money. It is manufactured at Potsdam.” It featured a self-regulator, and appeared to be based on Halladay’s own successful model.

In the late 1890s, most of the windmills in the Ticonderoga and Lake George area were products of the Perkins Windmill Company, which had already installed more than 50 units across the lake in Vermont. Though windmills in the Midwest were primarily for irrigation, most of those in the North Country supplied water to homes, businesses, and farm animals.

Wind power did face competition from other sources. Gasoline engines became more and more common, offering a reliable alternative. However, they were expensive, noisy, and costly to run. An operator had to be present to start and stop a gas engine, while windmills employed a system of floats to start and stop filling the tanks automatically. A once-a-week oiling was the only required maintenance. The biggest problem at the time was that gas engines ran when you wanted them to, but windmills depended on the weather.

The giant turbines we see in northern New York today are not a new idea. In a peek at the future, Charles Brush of Cleveland, Ohio demonstrated in 1888 the first use of a large windmill to generate electricity. As early as 1895, observers noted that windmills were “destined to be much used for storing electricity. We predict an immense future for the windmill industry.”

In 1910, a farm in America’s Midwest employed windmills to charge a bank of batteries. Wind power provided electricity to light the farm and operate the equipment, and when the wind didn’t blow, the farm ran on battery power for a few days.

By 1925, wind turbines had been used to run refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, and power tools. And in 1926, the NYS Fair urged farmers to purchase windmills, using a 12-foot-high model to show the benefits they might enjoy. It was an enticing glimpse at the potential of electricity. Ironically, the popularity of windmills soon became their undoing.

Though they were a wonderful source of cheap power, the main problem was intermittent operation. When the wind didn’t blow, the tools didn’t go. Battery storage systems were only good for brief periods, and people wanted power WHEN they wanted it. Soon, another overriding factor arose—the growing need for huge amounts of electricity.

By the late 1930s and 1940s, constantly flowing electricity was the goal, relegating wind power to the background of the energy battle. It was still used, and advancements were pursued, but success was limited. One notable effort was the huge Smith-Putnam windmill installed atop Grandpa’s Knob near Castleton and Rutland, Vermont, in 1941.

Though less than half the size of today’s models, it was still large, featuring a 16-ton, 175-foot steel rotor that turned at 28 RPM. Occasional use ended abruptly in 1945 when metal fatigue caused the blade to snap, hurling a huge section 1000 feet down the mountain.

In the North Country, windmills have returned after a long hiatus. They stand ten times taller than their predecessors, and now pump electricity instead of water. Where potato, hop, and dairy farms once dominated, the wind farms of today stand above all others.

Photo Top: Windmills 400 feet tall at Churubusco (and another under construction in the foreground).

Photo Middle Right: Typical use of windmill to fill railroad water tanks.

Photo Middle Left: Halladay windmills were offered by George Baltz of Watertown.

Photo Bottom: Advertisement for Halladay’s company.

Lawrence Gooley has authored eight books and several articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Warren County Sheriff Compiling Office’s History

In 1958, at the urging of Sheriff Carl McCoy, Warren County’s Board of Supervisors established a marine division within the Sheriff’s department, one of the first local marine patrols in New York State. The supervisors appropriated $5,661 to pay pay the salaries of deputies and to purchase one boat, a 23 foot Lyman utility, for patrolling Lake George.

A photo of that boat being driven by McCoy, reproduced here, will hang on the wall of Warren County’s new Public Safety building, along with other photos documenting the history of the Warren County Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff Bud York has launched a drive to assemble and display material associated with the Sheriff’s department, which will celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2013.

“I’ve always belonged to law enforcement agencies that valued their history, and the history of the Warren County Sheriff’s Department deserves to be preserved,” said York.

In 1911, York said, Undersheriff Mac R. Smith compiled photographs of the Sheriffs who had had served during the department’s first century.

“Those photos were hung on the walls of the Sheriffs Office in the court house in Lake George, where they remained until Warren County moved to the new municipal center in Queensbury,” York said.

After that, York said, the photos were stored in boxes. County historian John Austin located them and made them available to the Sheriff’s office, which reproduced them. They now hang in the new Public Safety building.

“Among them are Bert Lamb, a relative of Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover’s wife Kathy, Fred Smith, who founded F.R. Smith and Sons and Carl McCoy, the uncle of Lake George Supervisor Frank McCoy,” York said at a press conference to announce the project earlier this week.

Frank McCoy attended the press conference, as did Bill Carboy, the son of Sheriff Bill Carboy, and former Sheriff Fred Lamy.

Because of the number of relatives of former Sheriffs still living in the area, York hopes that the public can help find photos of Sheriffs who are not represented on the wall.

Those former Sheriffs are: Henry Spencer, Jospeh Teft, Artemus Aldrich, James Thurman, Dudley Farin, James Cameron, Luther Brown, King Allen, Stephen Starbuck, Gideon Towsley, William Clothier, Edgar Baker, Truman Thomas and Robert Lilly.

Anyone with any information about any of these Sheriffs should contact Sheriff York at 743-2518.

Photo: Warren County Sheriff’s Department

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


Friday, June 18, 2010

Lake George Fears Loss of Millions if Americade Leaves

If you didn’t know Lake George businessmen, you might have been moved, if not embarrassed, by the love they expressed for Americade and its founder Bill Dutcher at a tribute thrown for the motorcycle convention earlier this week. But as someone attending the event remarked to me, “they’re not doing it for Bill, they’re doing it for themselves.”

Here’s how we covered the event in the Lake George Mirror.

“This is a love fest, and I’m loving it,” said Americade founder Bill Dutcher at a luncheon billed as an Americade Appreciation Event, hosted by the Inn at Erlowest on Tuesday, June 16. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Safe Paddling Alternatives on Lake George

Two recent paddling fatalities on Lake George show that the Adirondacks’ most crowded lake may not be the safest place to take a canoe or kayak.

On May 31, Stephen Canaday drowned only a few yards from shore when hie canoe was capsized by the wake of a passing boat. On June 9, Peter Snyder of Troy was run over by another power boat while in his kayak on the lake. His neck was broken, but the cause of death was ruled drowning. Neither men wore life preservers.

Even on low traffic days Lake George is not necessarily a friendly place for paddlers — strong winds often blow through the channel between the mountains, causing tough headwinds and choppy waters.

Still, one can see the appeal. Lake George is truly a highlight of the park, with its clear waters surrounded by high peaks, and its dozens of islands just begging to be camped on. So if you must paddle here, do it wisely.

The first plan to avoid traffic is to avoid the summer. Spring and fall are terrific times to come, especially in October when the foliage is at its peak. I’ve on the lake several times after September, and we always had it to ourselves. Islands in the Narrows that are chockablock with campers in the summer are nearly deserted in the fall.

Another plan is to avoid high traffic areas — and that means any spot south of Bolton Landing. Both deaths this year occurred in this busy zone.

The Narrows, located between Tongue Mountain to the west and Shelving Rock and Black Mountain to the east, is another high-traffic area. But with all the islands there it’s possible to choose a narrow path between land masses that will avoid the main channels.

Other ideas would be to launch in places other than Bolton Landing or further south. Northwest Bay, which is accessible via a parking lot near Tongue Mountain on Route 9N (a few miles north of Bolton Landing), offers a terrific paddle. First you glide through a narrow channel filled with wildlife. Eventually, you exit onto the bay, but because this is a nautical cul-de-sac, it gets very little boat traffic compared to the rest of the lake. You can paddle all the way out to the point of the Tongue peninsula and see very few boats.

The remote, quiet Huletts Landing on the lake’s east shore also provides a nice way to visit some of the lesser-known islands north of the Narrows. It’s also right near Black Mountain, one of the best peaks to hike on the lake (accessible from the road or the water).

Finally, the far north has some nice spots that are a little quieter. If you put a boat in at Roger’s Rock State Park, you can enjoy a view of the lake’s biggest cliff (and maybe even see some rock climbers on its slabby face). Or launch from the Baldwin Road dock in Ticonderoga to explore the rarely-visited northern tip of the lake.

Whatever you do, remember to be aware of your surroundings at all times. Power boaters don’t see canoes and kayaks as easily as paddlers see them. And remember to wear those life preservers.

* * *

Photos by Lori Van Buren of Albany.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Tourism Officials Optimistic Heading Into Summer

The Adirondack region relies heavily on tourism to support local economies – and if early returns are any indication, there’s good reason to be optimistic as the summer season begins picking up.

Two reports released in recent weeks show more people are packing their bags and heading out for mini-vacations – a good sign for hoteliers and restaurant owners in popular destinations like Lake Placid and Lake George.

The first report came from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Numbers for Memorial Day weekend this year showed a 17 percent increase in attendance over last year – and that’s with 41 parks opening at the last minute due to the state’s ongoing budget crisis.

The second report – a survey conducted by the New York State Hospitality & Tourism Association – backs up the state’s numbers. NYSHTA is a not-for-profit trade organization representing some 1,300 businesses in the lodging and attractions industry. The survey found that 70 percent of hotel managers and lodging owners reported better business this year for Memorial Day weekend than in 2009.

Kim Rielly of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (ROOST) says more people are taking unplanned vacations this year.

“These reports are consistent with our findings,” she said. “We’re looking forward to a good year, because there’s pent-up demand. People haven’t been traveling as much due to the economic downturn.”

Rielly also notes that recent negative press for the airline industry (see: volcanic ash and strikes) has more people looking for drive-to destinations.

“That’s the Adirondacks,” she said.

“Our proximity to millions of people in the New York metro area and the Montreal area works to our advantage,” Rielly added.

Rielly says that in Essex County, occupancy rates are already up over last year.

“And, from what we’re hearing from the area lodging industry, people are making a lot of last-minute travel plans,” she said. “Consumer confidence seems to be up, so we’re optimistic.”

Now for the part that may – no pun intended – dampen some of that optimism:

The weather.

The warm temperatures throughout the Adirondack and North Country regions in April and May flirted with the record books on several occasions. And, of course, most travelers to the area are here for outdoor activities.

“I was on my bicycle in February,” Rielly quipped. “But in all seriousness, we’ve been blessed with some fantastic weather. That’s absolutely going to play into that last-minute decision making and hopefully it will continue into the summer.”


Friday, June 11, 2010

Lobbyists Gut Phosphorus Fertilizer Legislation

A bill that would have limited the sale of phosphorus-based fertilizers linked to algae blooms has been gutted by lobbyists’ pressures on legislators.

Among other things, the new version of the bill would prohibit municipalities from enacting stronger regulations without the authorization of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

“This was a compromise; the industry did not want local governments passing more restrictive laws once a statewide law was enacted,” said a source within the DEC. “The agriculture community is freaking out about the bill as it stands now,” the source added.

Dan Macentee, a spokesman for Betty Little, Lake George’s representative in the State Senate, confirmed that additional amendments were being drafted to address the concerns of the New York State Farm Bureau. Those amendments are likely to weaken the bill even further, a Senate source said. “The bill’s sponsor, Senator Antoine Thompson, is amenable to amending even his own bills,” said the Senate source. A spokesman for the New York Farm Bureau did not return calls seeking comment before press time.

The current version of the bill restricts the use of fertilizers containing phosphorus within twenty feet of a water body, rather than prohibiting the sale of fertilizers with phosphorus throughout the state, as last year’s version of the bill did.

Prohibiting the use of fertilizers with phosphorus is a crucial step in protecting Lake George’s water quality, said Peter Bauer, executive director of the Fund for Lake George. “Legislation to control phosphorus pollution from household cleaning products and lawn fertilizers is critical to help manage and reduce water pollution. Lake George is enormously important to the local economy. Lake George’s high property values, robust tourism season, sport fishing and boating industries, all require clean water,” said Bauer. If the current version of the bill is enacted, New York State’s regulation of phosphorus would be far weaker than a town-wide ban proposed by Lake George Supervisor Frank McCoy, said Bauer.

The Town of Lake George will consider the proposal as early as June 14, when it is scheduled to conduct a public hearing on the proposed ban. If the ordinance is adopted, Lake George will not only be the first town within the watershed to limit phosphorus, but the first community within the Adirondack Park to take that step.

Lake George Town officials officials have posted a survey on the Town’s website to solicit comments about the proposal. The survey will be found on the left side of the site under the heading “Give us your opinion,” along with a conceptual description of the proposal. Opinions submitted through the website will be presented at the public hearing, said McCoy.

Illustration courtesy Lawn to Lake, a program of the Lake Champlain Basin Program.

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


Monday, June 7, 2010

APA: Moose River Plains, General Permits, Zoning Changes, Boathouse Definition

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Thursday, June 10, 2010 at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook, NY. The June meeting will be one day only and will consider the creation of a Moose River Plains Intensive Use Camping Area, renewing four previously approved general permits on wetlands, communications towers, hunting and fishing cabins, and development rights, amendments to the Town of Hague, Bolton, and Westport local zoning programs, and revisions to the definition of “boathouse,” and easing the permitting process for businesses, among other topics. Meeting materials are available for download from the Agency’s website.

The Full Agency will convene on Thursday morning at 9:00 for Executive Director Terry Martino’s report which will include a resolution recognizing the contributions of long serving past Agency Board Member, James T. Townsend.

At 9:30 a.m., The State Lands Committee will hear a second reading for the Jay Mountain Wilderness and the Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area Unit Management Plans. These plans are actionable items; however, the Board will not act on the fire tower proposal included in the Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area at this time.

APA staff will request authorization from the Board to proceed to public hearing on reclassification proposals for state land in Herkimer and Hamilton Counties including a proposal to create a 2,925 acre Moose River Plains Intensive Use Camping Area. The committee will also hear an informational presentation from DEC staff on the working draft for the Moose River Plains Unit Management Plan. Public review of the draft Unit Management Plan will be conducted jointly between DEC and APA as part of a coordinated SEQR review process on both the Unit Plan and the reclassification proposals.

At 11:15, the Regulatory Programs Committee will consider renewing four previously approved general permits which are set to expire on August 12, 2010. The general permits include:

2005G-2 Minor Projects Not In or Impacting Wetlands

2005G-3 Replacement of or Installation of Certain New Telecommunications Antennas on Existing Towers or Other Tall Structures

2005G-4 Hunting and Fishing Cabins Greater Than 500 Square Feet in a Resource Management Area

2005G-5 Subdivision to Convey Two or More Lots Without Principal Building Rights

The Committee will then hear a first reading for a new draft general permit which, if authorized, would expedite APA approval for a change in use in existing commercial, public/semi-public and industrial structures. This proposed general permit is the latest in ongoing efforts by the APA to improve administrative efficiency.

At 1:00, the Local Government Services Committee will consider approving proposed amendments to the Town of Hague and the Town of Bolton’s approved local land use programs. Agency staff will then provide the committee with an overview on local land use controls inside the Adirondack Park.

At 1:45, the Park Policy and Planning Committee will hear a first reading on the Draft Memorandum of Understanding for APA’s review process of DEC projects on State Easement Lands inside the Adirondack Park. The MOU defines working relationships, provides guidelines for outlining new land use and development subject to Agency review and establishes review protocols for future DEC projects proposed on lands with State-owned conservation easements.

Following this discussion, the Committee will determine approvability for a proposed map amendment in the Town of Westport, Essex County.

At 3:00, the Legal Affairs Committee will meet to discuss and act on regulatory revisions for the definition of “boathouses”. The proposed definition is available as a pdf.

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

The next Agency meeting is July 8-9 2010 at the Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters.

August Agency Meeting: August 12-13 at the Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

LGA Lake Steward Monitoring Begins on Lake George

Lake George Association (LGA) lake stewards are once again on duty at boat launches around Lake George for the summer, inspecting boats and educating boaters on how to prevent the spread of invasive species. They began their work on Memorial Day weekend.

Coordinated by the LGA, the program seeks to contain the spread of three species already present in Lake George: Eurasian watermilfoil, zebra mussels, and curly-leaf pondweed, as well as a possible fourth – brittle naiad – which was found and removed from Dunham’s Bay last summer. The program also helps prevent new invasive species from being introduced, such as spiny waterflea and water chestnut, which are present in nearby water bodies. » Continue Reading.


Friday, June 4, 2010

Warren County Landmark Sold; Demolition Possible

“After Years of Neglect, Bolton Landing Landmark to be Sold.” That’s the headline of a lead story in this week’s issue of the Lake George Mirror, which was written after the 1820s house was sold at an auction held on the steps of the Warren County courthouse last week. We also published an editorial, “Save the John Tanner House.” Since the issue appeared on local news stands earlier this week, it’s become common knowledge that whoever buys the house will probably demolish it. But a committee to save the building headed by Bolton Town Historian Ted Caldwell has already been formed. Below is the story that appeared in the Mirror.

The 19th century Federal home on Bolton Landing’s Main Street that has slowly deteriorated and appears to be all but abandoned will finally be sold.

Following a court-ordered auction, held on May 26 at the Warren County Municipal Center, ownership of the property passed from Northwest Bay Partners to Glenn C. Waehner of Fresno, California.

“It was never Mr. Waehner’s intention to hold the property; his goal is to sell it to someone who will either restore or re-develop the property,” said Justin Heller, an Albany attorney representing Waehner.

McDonald Real Estate Professionals has been retained by Waehner to list the property for $975,000, said Frank McDonald.

“We hope it will become a small, upscale year-round inn,” said McDonald. “That will fill a void at that end of town and in the community itself, which has many types of accommodations but nothing like that.”

The property’s previous owner, Northwest Bay Partners, owes Waehner $1.4 million, said Heller.

Waehner won the property with a bid of $625,000; that amount will be deducted from the $1.4 million owed to him by Northwest Bay Partners’ principal, Michael C. O’Brien Jr. said Heller.

“Mr. Waehner believes the property is worth substantially more than $625,000,” said Heller. No one else placed a bid, although at least three prospective buyers attended the auction.

Northwest Bay Partners purchased the house in 1995 for $650,000, according to Bolton developer Rolf Ronning, who owned the house at the time.

Ronning himself purchased the house in 1982 for $125,000, he said.

Until 1959, the house was part of a farm known as Ryefield that extended eastward to Potter Hill Road and included the whole of Dula Pond.

In 1959, the Myers family sold the property to Canoe Island Lodge owner Bill Busch and Lamb Brothers Marina partner Norm Lamb, who turned the house into a restaurant which they called Evergreen Acres.

The property was later logged, sold and subdivided; carved from the former farm were developments like Mohican Heights and Heritage Village.

The house was built in the 1820s by John Tanner, a native of Hopkinton, Rhode Island who acquired more than 2,200 acres in Bolton, including Green Island.

Converted to Mormonism in 1832, he was baptized in Lake George across the street from his house and moved to Kirtland, Ohio with ten other Bolton families.

According to Pat Babé, the director of the Bolton Historical Society, people visit the museum every summer seeking information about John Tanner and his house.

“They all get so excited when I take them out to the front steps and point across the street to what we call Evergreen Acres and say that that is the original Tanner House,” said Babe.

Babe said the visitors are invariably Mormons researching their genealogy. More than 15,000 people trace their lineage to Tanner.


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


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Forest Fire Haze: A Reminder of Past Dangers

Yesterday, as I awoke to smoke drifting south from over 70 forest fires in Quebec, I was reminded of Tarzan.

Not the Johnny Weissmüller films, but one of the last scenes from the original book by Edgar Rice Burroughs in which Tarzan rescues Jane one last time by swinging through the trees – “with the speed of a squirrel” – the trees of Wisconsin. Yup. Wisconsin. In a forest fire. » Continue Reading.


Friday, May 28, 2010

Lake George Considers Phosphorus Fertilizer Ban

Lake George’s Supervisor wants his town to become the first within the Lake George watershed to ban the use of lawn fertilizers containing phosphorus.

If the ordinance that Supervisor Frank McCoy has proposed is adopted in June, Lake George will not only be the first town within the watershed to limit phosphorus, but the first community within the Adirondack Park to take that step, said John Sheehan, a spokesman for the Adirondack Council.

“The Lake George Park Commission should follow the town’s lead and ban phosphorus in fertilizers everywhere on the lake,” said Sheehan. » Continue Reading.



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