The day-long meeting will focus on the potential of this emerging industry in the Adirondacks and North Country, with an emphasis on business creation. Topics include biomass market supply and demand, policies affecting biomass energy markets, project finance perspectives, and technology. Experts will discuss these issues from a developer’s perspective. Several Adirondack institutions, including the Wild Center, Paul Smith’s College and a few schools have announced intentions to switch from oil to wood-based heat and/or power. The weak economy and lack of start-up capital has stalled some initiatives, however. Paul Smith’s College trustees this year tabled a proposal to build a wood-chip co-generation plant as cost projections came in millions of dollars higher than initial estimates.
Biofuels are derived from plants, sometimes corn and switchgrass; in the Adirondacks biomass almost always means wood. Although this region still identifies forest products as a mainstay of its economy, in reality very few people work in logging anymore. Select hardwood and spruce logs are exported, often to Canada. Paper mills that ring the Adirondack Park have either shut down or no longer get pulp from local logs, with a couple of exceptions.
Foresters say biofuels have the potential to revive Adirondack logging if a critical mass of demand can be established. Low-quality trees that once went to pulpmills could be ground into chips or pellets instead. (Forest ecologists are also weighing the benefits of the carbon neutrality of wood fuels vs. the ability of uncut forests to store greenhouse gases.)
The conference program, registration, and accommodation information can be found on the Adirondack Research Consortium’s Web site, adkresearch.org.
Registration for the 2009 Youth Climate is closed but schools, universities, parents and children can follow the two-day event via a live stream. Conceived by then 17-year-old Zachary Berger of Lake Placid after attending the Adirondack Climate Conference last year, this year’s summit illustrates to all young people that their opinions and ideas can make a difference. After much anticipation the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit will be held November 9th and 10th at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. The 24 attending high schools and colleges will each send a team of students, educators, administrators and facilities staff to develop a feasible carbon reduction plan that decreases energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions to bring back to their schools and communities.
Zachary Berger, inspired by the Adirondack Climate Conference held at The Wild Center in 2008, contacted conference planners to organize a similar gathering exploring climate change and its effect on the Adirondacks for the youth of the region. In early 2009, a steering committee, comprised of students, educators and The Wild Center staff, formed to bring Zach’s vision to fruition.
Berger says, “At the [Adirondack Climate] Conference there were over 175 community leaders, business owners, and others, all with a concern for the environment, but there were only about 10 students, representing only one university, and one high school. From my point of view this under representation led to things being overlooked such as the lack of environmental education in public schools.”
The Youth Climate Summit’s goal is multilevel, according to ADKCAP (Adirondack Climate and Energy Action Plan). The Summit will hold educational plenary sessions where research-based information will be presented about the economic and ecological effects of climate change. Participants will learn strategies to address climate change in the Adirondacks and how, when applied, communities will benefit monetarily.
Workshops are scheduled throughout the two-day event pairing students with experienced personnel to develop training skills to inspire participants to engage others to “green their schools and communities.” Through hands-on activities members will learn team-building skills in the hopes to engage classmates and coworkers in a grassroots effort to make their schools energy-efficient. During this process teams will develop a carbon and cost reduction plan to bring back to each school.
The following high schools and colleges are attending this inaugural year: Chateaugay Central School, Clifton-Fine Central School, Colton-Pierrepont Central School, Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School, Green Tech Charter High School, Heuvelton Central School, Keene Central School, Lake Placid High School, Madrid-Waddington Central School, Minerva Central School, Moriah Central School, Morristown Central School, Newcomb Central School, Northville Central School, Ogdensburg Free Academy, Plattsburgh High School, Potsdam High School, Saranac Lake Central School, St. Regis Falls, Tupper Lake Central School, Clarkson University, Colgate University, North Country Community College, Paul Smiths College, St. Lawrence University and SUNY Potsdam.
These institutions will serve as models in energy efficiency, sustainable energy usage, building maintenance, landscaping & grounds management, school & community garden planning, and how to affect the current science curriculum in schools. (The Summit is aligned with NYS Commencement Level MST Standards.)
The Adirondack Youth Climate Summits are scheduled through 2011 to monitor the success of each climate action plan. There will also be the opportunity for those Adirondack schools that watch the live web stream to participate in future summits. The complete schedule information is available here.
Appollos Austin “Paul” Smith was born on this date in Milton, Vermont, in 1825. A new book from Arcadia Publishing‘s “Images of America” series provides a pictorial history of Paul Smiths, the place, which is also largely the history of Paul Smith, the man.
Smith came to the Adirondacks in his early 20s to pursue a love of hunting and fishing and to work as a guide. He convinced his family to move to Loon Lake and start a guest house. A wealthy visitor was so impressed with his managerial and guiding talents he financed Smith’s purchase of land on Lower St. Regis Lake to establish a new resort for the enjoyment of families, not just hunters. As author Neil Surprenant details, Paul Smith’s Hotel was a huge success, and the charismatic owner became famous for his hospitality, entrepreneurism and bonhomie. Surprenant, who is also library director at Paul Smith’s College (on the site of the former hotel), has assembled a well-chosen, well-captioned collection of more than 200 photographs showing the opening of the hotel in 1859 through its heyday and expansion in the late 19th and early 20th century, to fire and hard times during the 1930s, to its conversion into a college specializing in resort management and forestry in 1946, to the present-day four-year institution offering a variety of related degrees.
Surprenant also shows less-historical moments of life in Paul Smiths, including how big lawns were mowed before motors (see page 61 for the answer) and how students pass time in their dorm rooms.
The 127-page book costs $21.99 and is available at local stores, online bookstores and through Arcadia Publishing at www.arcadiapublishing.com or (888) 313-2665.
Adkforum has an interesting thread going about a bride’s search for an authentic Adirondack cocktail to serve at a Keene Valley wedding. So far the consensus seems to be Genny, though the western New York beer is being edged out by Lake Placid’s Ubu Ale.
Joe Conto teaches a class at Paul Smith’s College called “Beverages: Six Glasses that Changed the World.” Last summer his students invented Toni Basil Lemonade (“oh, basil, you’re so fine, etc.” ), a vodka and lemon cooler garnished with basil, for Lisa G’s restaurant in Lake Placid. As for a drink with Adirondack ingredients, Professor Conto offers, “I make this one cocktail with: 1.5 oz Makers Mark 1/2 oz maple syrup (good stuff) 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice Shake with ice and strain into martini glass, Garnish with lemon twist (not wedge). The bourbon and the maple taste gooood together.”
He adds, “One time in New York City I had a drink with dark rum, maple syrup and lime juice (I assume the same proportions, maybe a little more syrup) served on the rocks with a lime wedge garnish. Also good. Actually, I might add a splash of club soda to this one.”
Potatoes are the region’s cash crop, so vodka would seem a possibility, but locally distilled P3 Placid Vodka is actually made with grain. Its Adirondack cred comes from Lake Placid water and filtration through Gore Mountain-area garnet. Whatever—this drink recipe from P3’s Web site sounds pretty good: “The Miracle on Ice” The Red – cranberry juice The White – ice and a splash of Sprite The Blue – muddled (mashed) blueberries The Miracle – P3 Placid Vodka
There is a cocktail called an Algonquin, but it originated at the New York City hotel, not on the mountain or the lake. It calls for 1.5 oz Old Thompson Blended Whiskey, 1 oz dry vermouth, and 1 oz pineapple juice. Shake with ice and strain into cocktail glass. Enjoy.
Kunstler’s 2005 book, subtitled “Surviving the converging catastrophes of the 21st Century,” has received international attention, but the Saratoga Springs resident has long had an Adirondack following. In 1987 he wrote one of the funniest things ever to appear in Adirondack Life: “The Man Who Would Be King,” a profile of Roger Jakubowski, in which he let the megalomaniacal then-owner of Great Camp Topridge bury himself under pronouncements about his plan to amass an Adirondack empire. (That empire has been whittled to a dormant water-bottling plant in Port Kent.) The author’s humor is intact even though his subject now is sobering: the implosion of oil-based economies and a transformation of day-to-day life. Kunstler tells the Almanack that the Adirondacks will probably lose population under the new world order.
MT: Have you given any thought, in light of the system failures you foresee, to how well people in the Adirondacks will fare?
JHK: Well it seems to me the Adirondacks have always basically been a resource economy, with a recent overlay of mass tourism; before the Second World War it was mostly elite tourism. And that’s what your economy has been. It’s a pretty poor resource area for what it is. And my guess is that the Adirondack region will contract in population a lot.
MT: What do you think will cause that? The collapse of the tourism economy, the lack of a resource economy?
JHK: Not just tourism but motor-based tourism in particular. It’s conceivable that the Adirondacks would remain a retreat for wealthy people, if we continue to have wealthy people. If you don’t get trains running back into the region you’re gonna be in a lot of trouble.
MT: I’ve read a lot of your writing, and I know that you feel that people in the big cities won’t be able to turn to the land, just won’t have the resources that people in the country will have . . .
JHK: Well, I’m often misunderstood about that. I don’t see it quite that simply because there are many forces swirling around in that picture, some of them counterintuitive. For instance, people assume that when I say the big cities will be troubled places, that everyone would move to the country in one form or another, and let’s remember there are several very different kinds of rural landscapes. At the same time people assume when I say the suburbs will fail that I mean everybody will simply leave and move elsewhere. This is not what I mean at all. There will surely be big demographic shifts, but they will occur in ways we may not expect.
For instance, I see the probability that our small towns and smaller cities will be re-inhabited and reactivated because they are more appropriately scaled to the energy realities of the future. In the meantime our rural landscapes are likely to be inhabited quite differently than they are today. For one thing, in the places that can produce food, farming will almost certainly require more human attention. These are the broad outlines that I see. But we don’t know exactly how this might play out.
MT: I live in Saranac Lake, and I see this as a great small town but one with maybe a 90-day growing season and a seven-month heating season. How does that fit into your picture?
JHK: I think places like Saranac Lake will contract while they re-densify at their centers. One thing you’ve got going in all these places like Saranac or Lake Placid, despite the Adirondack Park Agency, is a suburban overlay that just isn’t going to work after a certain point. Despite the APA rules, the basic template of highway development and strip development that became normal all over the rest of the United States was not so different in the Adirondacks, [in terms of] where most of the new business after 1960 located. At the same time, the postwar car culture allowed people to spread their houses out in the landscape in a way that wouldn’t have been possible before the car and won’t be possible after the car.
To clarify, what you’re seeing really is almost nothing could defeat these habits and practices of suburbanization even in a place as rigorously controlled as the Adirondacks. All that stuff on the highway between Placid and Saranac, all the people living 14 miles out of town making a living running front-end loaders or whatever they do, they’re gonna run into trouble with these living arrangements. That’s apart from the issue of how the economy functions.
The guy running the front-end loader living in Rainbow Lake, he’s basically living a suburban life although he thinks he’s living in the country. The issue of how does he make a living now now that he isn’t doing site preparation for other people building houses in Rainbow Lake and places like it — an awful lot of the economy in the Adirondacks, just like the economy in the rest of the U.S. for the last 30 years, has been based on building more suburban sprawl. Up in the Adirondacks you guys have sort of put a sort of lifestyle dressing over it. But it’s still suburban, and it functions very differently from the pre–World-War II towns.
Now even if the population goes down in the Adirondacks it certainly doesn’t mean your towns will die; in fact they may be more lively as they re-densify. All the spread-out stuff is going to lose value and incrementally be abandoned, in my opinion.
MT: I’m actually encouraged because I was wondering whether you think the towns themselves were just too isolated?
JHK: Well they are isolated and that’s a big problem, and that’s why I say if you don’t get railroad service back there you’re going to have enormous problem. You’re basically going to be stuck in the same situation that you were in in 1840, where nothing really got past Lake George or Warrensburg and it was nothing but horse and wagons from there on.
It’s desperately important for the nation as a whole to rebuild the railroad system, but it’s particularly critical in a place like the Adirondacks. I think we fail to appreciate how swiftly the car system could collapse.
MT: Have you ever put a timeline on it?
JHK: It is really pretty hard to predict. But I would say within ten years we’re going to have serious problems, and probably within five.
JHK: Like most of America, you could plunk down in any county in the USA except maybe the desert and you wouldn’t have to turn 60 degrees to see something really horrible.
MT: In the 1990s I went to a talk you gave at the Adirondack Park Agency — in your Geography of Nowhere days — and what you said about the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid really stuck with me.
JHK: It’s really f*****g horrible.
MT: You didn’t say that, you said something more like, “It says, ‘We don’t care about you.’ It’s a big wall facing the road.”
JHK: Actually that’s more succinct. Every time I go by I just marvel at it, that we’re a society that can’t even imagine putting up a building that has any generosity.
Probably 90 percent of the buildings anywhere in the USA now, including Saranac Lake, were either built with no thought or have been cobbed up so badly that they’ve destroyed their original value. We’re seeing in part the diminishing returns of technology. The more cheap crappy building materials you make available the more people will use them. The more easily they can be assembled the more universal they’ll become.
The good news is that we’ll have far fewer cheap synthetic modular building materials in the future. What we’ll see all across the nation is we’ll have to return to using regional materials. . . .
MT: Do you have a theme for your talk at Paul Smith’s College?
JHK: Generally addressing the themes of my 2005 book The Long Emergency, which is now under way. And I try to focus on intelligent responses to this predicament. I tend to be suspicious of the word “solutions.” I don’t use it myself because I notice when other people use it that they mean to suggest that there’s some way we can keep running American life the way we do, and I don’t subscribe to that. I think that we have to live a lot differently, and we’re pretty poorly prepared to think about that.
It’s not that surprising to me because the psychological investment in our current arrangement is so huge it’s just difficult for people to think about doing things differently — the investments we’ve made in everything, the automobile structure. Think of the Adirondacks: the fact that over the last 50 years the Adirondacks has based its economy on building houses and servicing the arrival of ever more people — that’s not going to be happening anymore. You’re going in the other direction now. And you’re not going to be building more houses in Rainbow Lake and other distant places.
Low snowpack and scarce April showers have led to burn bans around the Adirondack Park. The drought also has river paddlers wandering, searching for streams pushy enough to float their colorful little boats.
“Whitewater kayakers are being forced into summer habits of traveling downstream, unfortunately by car, to seek water levels suitable enough to sink their paddles in,” writes Jason Smith, on Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters blog. “The Hudson River along with the Moose River, in the central Adirondacks, offer reliable spring flow and are popular spring runs. But even these mighty rivers are running lower than usual. . . . [D]on’t be alarmed if you see a vehicle loaded with short, plastic kayaks driving aimlessly around your neighborhood.” Other Adirondack critters known to crave a good spring rain are amphibians. In Paul Smiths, in the high-elevation north-central Adirondacks where ice was still on ponds as of Thursday, wood frogs and spotted salamanders began to move on a warm rainy night about two weeks ago, observes Curt Stager, professor of biology at Paul Smith’s College. The cold-blooded creatures live buried in the forest floor most of the year, braving exposure to predators and car tires on rainy April nights to travel to the ephemeral ponds where they breed. Peepers, American toads and other frogs and salamanders also congregate at waterholes this time of year.
Showers Saturday gave creeks and rivers a noticeable boost. The last two weeks had brought snow and then unrelenting sun. “They [herps] have been dribbling around. It was an early start and then it got cut off by the dry weather,” says Stager, who studies local phenology. “Every year is a little different in the Adirondacks. You’ve got to watch it for decades to notice a real pattern.”
Elsewhere in the Northeast, wildflowers are tentatively testing the air, while in the Adirondacks it’s still ski season. It won’t be long, though, till coltsfoot raises its fuzzy yellow head along roadsides.
Two of this region’s most-observant botanists made a study of when each native flower reappears in spring. The late Greenleaf Chase retired from the Department of Environmental Conservation but never tired of guiding friends to see rare blooms in rare places. Professor Mike Kudish, formerly of Paul Smith’s College, created a bloom-date chart for his book Adirondack Upland Flora.
And in case you think botany effete, consider that original Hall-of-Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson kept a list of flowers he found around Saranac Lake in the summer of 1922, when he was there to recover from tuberculosis. (An excerpt: “June 24, 1922: Musk Mallow, Pink Petals also White Petals!!!!”)
Starting with the vernal equinox tomorrow, daylight increases at its fastest rate, Kudish writes. The ground begins to thaw. Around April 5 the mean daily temperature begins to rise above freezing.
Here are Adirondack Upland Flora’s first median flowering dates (at elevations of 1,500 to 2,000 feet; if you live at lower elevations expect to see blooms sooner):
May 2: Trout lily, red maple
May 3: Spring beauty
May 4: Trailing arbutus
May 5: Dutchman’s breeches and squirrel corn
May 6: Round-leaved violet
May 7: Sweet gale
May 8: Sweet white violet
May 9: Painted trillium
May 10: Strawberry
May 11: Bartram’s serviceberry
May 12: Purple trillium
May 14: Leatherleaf
May 15: Blue violet, early saxifrage, Canada honeysuckle, kidneyleaf buttercup; most hardwoods begin to leaf out rapidly
May 17: Marsh marigold and sugar maple
May 19: Bellwort
May 20: Goldthread and toothwort
May 21: Canada violet and serviceberry
May 22: Witchhobble, downy yellow violet, red cherry (Christy Matthewson reported witchhobble blooms in April)
May 23: Dwarf ginseng
May 25: Red elderberry
May 30: Foamflower
May 31: Pussytoes
Shortly before he died in the early 1990s Greenie Chase made flower-finding notes for Kathy Regan, when she was staff biologist at the Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack Chapter. In late May, he suggested, visit Valcour Island to see ram’s head ladyslipper and look on alpine summits for lapland rosebay.
It was a tough year for the world’s billionaires, Forbes reported today. Hundreds of the world’s wealthiest are merely millionaires now, including Sandy Weill, former CEO of Citigroup and seasonal resident of Upper Saranac Lake. “His Citigroup shares have lost nearly all their value,” Forbes says, estimating that Citi shares have fallen 95 percent in the last 12 months. The financial services conglomerate that Weill built is now the recipient of a $45 billion federal bailout. Weill is prominent in New York City philanthropic circles, but he maintains a low profile in the Adirondacks. Up here his wife, Joan, is much better known, especially for her generosity to Paul Smith’s College, where she serves as chairman of its board of trustees and spearheaded construction of a library (photo above) and student center that bear her name.
A Lake George summer resident, however, is still in good standing on the billionaire list. Forrest Mars Jr., co-owner of the privately held Mars candy company (which also includes Wrigley, Pedigree pet food and other brands), is the 43rd wealthiest person in the world with a net worth of $9 billion and growing, Forbes says. Mars and his wife Deborah Clarke Mars have a camp on the lake’s northeast shore, not far from Deborah’s hometown of Ticonderoga.
Meanwhile, Bernard L. Madoff pleaded guilty this morning to defrauding investors of about $65 billion dollars in a Ponzi scheme. The story seems unrelated, but it also has Adirondack connections, particularly for charitable giving. One of the victims on the Madoff list is the New York City–based Prospect Hill Foundation, a longtime supporter of many Adirondack environmental nonprofits. It’s still unclear what the repercussions will be for the foundation and its grant recipients. Also on the Madoff list is Anne Childs who — with her husband the Freedom Tower architect David Childs — owns a hilltop house in Keene.
If you know of other Adirondack connections on the Forbes or Madoff lists, please let us know.
The slowdown in the economy is affecting the Adirondack Park’s two colleges in different ways.
At least twenty students have left Paul Smith’s College this year for financial reasons, president John Mills told The New York Times this week. “Their parents are losing their jobs, or they’re afraid of taking on any debt, even student loans,” Mills said to the Times. “It’s a fear of the unknown.”
Enrollment at the private two- and four-year college is 834 right now, low for a spring semester, college spokesman Kenneth Aaron explained Wednesday. Faculty and staff have taken a voluntary pay cut (from 1 to 2.5 percent) to help make ends meet, he added. The story is different at North Country Community College (NCCC), which has campuses in Saranac Lake, Ticonderoga and Malone. While hard times are hurting four-year colleges across the United States, they are boosting enrollment at career-oriented community colleges.
NCCC numbers are up 8 percent (103 students) over last spring, reported Ed Trathen, vice president for enrollment and student services. Some 2,200 students attend NCCC, more than double the number 10 years ago.
“For us, it definitely has to do with people departing voluntarily or involuntarily from the workforce and looking to retrain themselves,” Trathen said. The college focuses on programs that can lead to local jobs; for example, nursing, radiologic technology, massage therapy, sports events management, and business for sole proprietors. NCCC also established a 2-year pre-teaching program that’s transferrable to SUNY Potsdam and Plattsburgh.
Affordability is another factor. Tuition at NCCC, which has no student housing, is $3,490 a year. At Paul Smith’s it’s $18,460, plus $8,350 for room and board.
Nurses are in demand, and NCCC received 350 applications this year for the 70 slots in its Registered Nursing program, Trathen said. In 2007 Paul Smith’s College explored launching a nursing curriculum, but no action has been taken.
Kenneth Aaron said Paul Smith’s endowment is down, just like all investment portfolios. “The silver lining is we’re not as reliant on our endowment as other institutions,” he added.
Paul Smith’s is under a hiring freeze, and NCCC is bracing for a reduction in state aid (some funding also comes from Essex and Franklin Counties). Both institutions are trying to cut costs without having to lay off faculty or trim education programs, Aaron and Trathen said.
Photograph of Paul Smiths College in the 1950s courtesy of campawful.com
The Adirondack Almanack's contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The Almanack is the online news journal of Adirondack Explorer. Both are nonprofits supported by contributors, readers, and advertisers, and devoted to exploring, protecting, and unifying the Adirondack Park.
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