Glenn L. Pearsall’s Echoes in these Mountains, is subtitled “Historic Sites and Stories Disappearing in Johnsburg, an Adirondack Community,” but thanks to Pearsall, a tireless advocate for local history, those historic sites and stories are being remembered.
The geography of Johnsburg, the largest township in New York State, is central to Echoes in these Mountains. The book is arranged in chapters highlighting various historic sites, all with handy maps to help locate them on the landscape. That approach – locating historical stories around town on the landscape – is part of what drives Pearsall’s personal exploration of his town’s history, and what led to the answer to an interesting historical question. » Continue Reading.
Jeremy Davis is founder of the New England Lost Ski Areas Project (NELSAP) and author of two books on that subject. Last week I had the opportunity to talk with Davis about NELSAP, his books and lost ski areas of the Adirondacks.
Jeff: So, just what is a “lost” ski area?
Jeremy: It’s a ski area that once offered lift-served, organized skiing, but is now abandoned and closed for good. For NELSAP’s purposes it had to have a lift – it could be a simple rope tow or multiple chairlifts, but it had to have a lift. The size of the area or number of lifts isn’t important.
Jeff: And what is NELSAP?
Jeremy: NELSAP is the New England Lost Ski Areas Project, which I founded in 1998 in order to document and preserve the history of ski areas in New York, New England and elsewhere that are no longer in operation. Jeff: What was the inspiration behind your founding of NELSAP?
Jeremy: As a kid, not long after I had first learned to ski, we took a family trip to North Conway, New Hampshire. On the way up I saw this mountain called Mount Whittier that had closed down about five or six years earlier, and it made me wonder what had happened. At the time it was still pretty visible, but now it’s almost completely grown in. A short while later, on another family trip to Jackson, New Hampshire, we saw another lost area from the top of Black Mountain, called Tyrol. Seeing those two abandoned areas sparked my curiosity and made me want to learn more about them, but there weren’t any resources back then. After that, whenever we took family ski trips, if we saw an old area on a road map that we knew wasn’t open, I’d drag my parents there to check it out. They were really supportive about that and found it fun. Gradually I collected more and more information – postcards, brochures and trail maps, old ski books. Then, while I was in college, I decided to put what I had on the web. That was October of 1998. Gradually, more and more people began to see it and they would send me more information. The thing that really catapulted the website was a Boston Globe article in December of 2000 on the front page of the New England section of the Sunday paper. By 7am I had more hits than I had gotten in a year. The traffic shut down the site and overloaded my email. The AP picked up the Globe story and it ran in what seemed like every New England newspaper over the next few weeks. The project just mushroomed from there. What we have up on the site now is just a fraction of all the information that we’ve collected over the years. It’s a lifetime of work.
Jeff: You’ve got nearly 700 lost ski areas listed on the website now, 19 of them are lost Adirondack ski areas.
Jeremy: Right, in fact those 19 areas are just the start. I think the real number is probably between 50 and 60 areas within the Adirondacks. We’re always looking for more information. If we can get to the owners, or the people who ran the ski school or managed the areas, that kind of primary source information is invaluable.
Jeff: Are there any lost Adirondack areas that you’re particularly interested in, areas that you’re looking for more information on?
Jeremy: Paleface, near Jay, is one. Paleface was run like a dude ranch, an all-inclusive resort with lodging, a bar and restaurant, indoor pool, and skiing. There was a double chair, a T-bar, and a dozen trails with 750 feet of vertical. It operated from 1961 until the early 1980s, and had been re-named Bassett Mountain near the end. Mount Whitney, also near Whiteface, is another one we’d like to gather more information about. And there are lots of other Adirondack areas that we have to research.
Jeff: What factors led to these ski area closures? Were there any factors that were particular to the Adirondacks?
Jeremy: Well, you have the same factors that caused ski areas all over the Northeast to close down: insurance and snowmaking costs, the gasoline shortages in the ‘70s, bad snow years, competition and changing skier preferences. But there are some interesting cases in the Adirondacks: Harvey Mountain is a good example.
Jeff: What happened there?
Jeremy: Harvey Mountain was a classic, family-owned ski area on Barton Mines Road in North River, just a few miles up the road from state-run Gore. It had a T-bar, 400 feet of vertical, and operated from 1962 to 1977. It was a great alternative to Gore. But they weren’t allowed to have a sign advertising the mountain on Route 28 at the bottom of Barton Mines Road. They got around that by paying somebody to park a truck with a sign for Harvey Mountain each day at the turnoff for Gore, but eventually regulation and competition from Gore caused the ski area to shut down.
Jeff: It seems like there’s a good number of lost Adirondack ski areas that have been re-born: Hickory outside of Warrensburg, Oak Mountain near Speculator, Big Tupper. Is that unusual?
Jeremy: It is pretty unusual for a lost area to re-open, and there’s a unique, interesting story behind each one of those. Besides those three that you mentioned, several towns have their own rope tows that are still open: Indian Lake, Long Lake, Chestertown, Newcomb, Schroon Lake. A lot of people don’t realize those areas exist and are completely free. There’s also Mount Pisgah in Saranac Lake, which is municipally operated and very affordable. You’ve also got places like Willard, West Mountain, Titus Mountain (near Malone) and McCauley Mountain (Old Forge) that still have that local, more intimate feel. So we’re really lucky in the Adirondacks to have these smaller areas that can introduce people to the sport and be an affordable alternative to the big areas. Hopefully the number of ski areas has stabilized, and short of some economic catastrophe, we won’t lose any more.
Jeff: Will there be a Lost Ski Areas of the Adirondacks book, similar to the books you’ve authored for the White Mountains and Southern Vermont regions?
Jeremy: Eventually there will be. I don’t know what region we’ll do next, but the series will probably continue with a new book every two years or so until we’ve covered all of New York and New England. That will be eight books in total, so that’s a lot of work.
Readers who may have information to share with NELSAP are encouraged to visit NELSAP’s website or contact Jeremy Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reader input has been a critical part of NELSAP’s success over the years.
Photos: Top: Spring skiing at Harvey Mountain (courtesy Ann Butler and NELSAP). Middle: Paleface Mountain (courtesy NELSAP). Bottom: Davis at Gilbert’s Hill outside Woodstock, VT, site of the first lift-served skiing in the United States (courtesy Jeremy Davis).
Jeff Farbaniec is an avid telemark skier and a 46er who writes The Saratoga Skier & Hiker, a blog of his primarily Adirondack outdoor adventures.
Adirondack conservationist Paul Schaefer was a pied piper for young people in search of a cause, just as John Apperson had been for him when Schaefer was in his early 20s. By the 1970s and 80s, Paul was approaching 80 years of age, and scouts, teens, and earth activists of all ages found their way to Paul’s doorstep. I want to share a few of the lessons he conveyed.
One spring day in 1990 I met with Paul to discuss Governor Mario Cuomo’s Commission on the Adirondacks (Berle Commission) report which was about to be made public. Paul mentioned that on Earth Day, a group of “idealistic” young people had come down to pay him a visit. He had planned to show his award-winning film, The Adirondack: The Land Nobody Knows, but his Bell and Howell 16-mm projector could not be found (I had borrowed it). Instead, Paul invited the students into his living room. “I’ve never had a better time in my life,” Schaefer told me. “These kids were idealists, and we need them.” » Continue Reading.
I saw it on Route 28 just west of McKeever. It was definitely feline. You could tell by the way it crouched next to the guardrail, looking like it wanted to spring across the road. And it was big.
“A cougar!” I shouted.
By the time my passenger looked, the cat had retreated to the other side of the guardrail and was ambling away from the road.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) says wild cougars (also known as mountain lions, panthers, and pumas) have not lived in the Adirondacks since the nineteenth century. The agency concedes that cougars are spotted on occasion, but it insists that they are released pets. Last week, DEC denounced as a hoax a rumor that a cougar had been struck and killed by a vehicle in Black Brook. » Continue Reading.
The 114,000-acre Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area has always been one of the premiere places to cross-country ski in the Adirondacks. But this winter, the region offers something even more compelling: a new trail.
This is the first winter that skiers can travel the eight-mile Botheration Pond Loop, a route that circles around the Balm of Gilead Mountain and several lesser hills. The route begins and ends at Old Farm Clearing, located near the Garnet Hill cross-country ski resort. The loop combines existing trails with more than a mile of new trails and two bridges, 35- and 55-feet long, that were built last summer by nearly a dozen volunteers and DEC staff under the supervision of Ranger Steve Ovitt. » Continue Reading.
Lawrence P. Gooley has published another outstanding chronicle of Adirondack history, Terror in the Adirondacks: The True Story of Serial Killer Robert F. Garrow. The book chronicles the story of Garrow, an abused Dannemora child, turned thief, serial rapist and killer who admitted to seven rapes and four murders, although police believed there were many more. Among his victims were campers near Speculator where Garrow escaped a police dragnet and traveled up Route 30 through Indian Lake and Long Lake and eventually made his way to Witherbee where he was tracked down and shot in the foot. Claiming he was partially paralyzed, Garrow sued the State of New York for $10 million for negligence in his medical care. In exchange for dropping the suit, Garrow was moved to a medium security prison. He was shot and killed during a prison escape in September 1978 – he had faked his paralysis. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will meet on Thursday and Friday (November 12th and 13th) at APA Headquarters in Ray Brook to consider the temporary re-opening of the Big Tupper Ski Area, reconstruction and widening of Route 28 in Oneida County, and more. Amendments to the park’s land use maps will also be considered, including whether to set a public hearing for the re-classification of about 31,570 acres. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 7:30pm in the Inlet Town Hall to discuss the Town’s proposed amendments to the Official Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan Map and provide opportunity for the public to comment on these proposals. The town’s proposals could result in a net increase of more than 1,000 buildings according to the APA. The hearing will be preceded at 6:30pm with an informal information session.
The four proposals would reclassify lands into a less restrictive classification which could potentially result in increased development in the areas under consideration. Here is the description from the APA: On June 22, 2009 the Adirondack Park Agency received a completed application from the Town of Inlet, Hamilton County to reclassify approximately 1,913 acres of land on the Official Park Map in four separate areas within the Town of Inlet. The Official Map is the document identified in Section 805 (2) (a) of the Adirondack Park Agency Act (Executive Law, Article 27), and is the primary component of the Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan, which guides land use planning and development of private land in the Park.
Area A involves 203.4+/- acres of land along Uncas Road, between the Pigeon Lake Wilderness on the north and the Fulton Chain Wild Forest on the south. The Town proposes to reclassify the area from Low Intensity to Moderate Intensity.
Area B involves 23.6 +/- acres of land along State Highway 28 which serves as the southwest boundary for this area. This area is adjacent to the hamlet of Inlet and positioned between County Highway 1 and Limekiln Road. The Town proposes to reclassify the area from Low Intensity to Moderate Intensity Use.
Area C involves 1,043.7 +/- acres located along Limekiln Road which intersects with NYS Route 28, to the north, and runs south to Limekiln Lake. The Town proposes to reclassify the area from Rural Use to Moderate Intensity Use.
Area D involves 642.6 +/- acres of land south of State Highway 28, which serves as the northern boundary. The area is bordered on the east by the Moose River Plains Wild Forest. The Town proposes to reclassify the area from Low Intensity Use to Moderate Intensity Use.
Detailed information and maps related to this proposal may be viewed at the Agency’s website at: www.apa.state.ny.us/_assets/mapamendments/MA200804_DSEIS.pdf
When considering proposed map amendments the Agency must prepare a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS), hold a combined public hearing on both the proposed map amendment and the DSEIS, and incorporate all comments into a Final Supplemental Impact Environmental Statement (FSEIS). The FSEIS includes the hearing summary, public comments, and Agency staff written analysis, as finalized after the public hearing and comments are reviewed. The Agency then decides (a) whether to accept the FSEIS and (b) whether to approve the map amendment request, deny the request or approve an alternative. The Agency’s decision on a map amendment request is a legislative decision based upon the application, public comment, the DSEIS and FSEIS, and staff analysis. The public hearing is for informational purposes and is not conducted in an adversarial or quasi-judicial format.
In addition to the public hearing on August 12 at the Inlet Town Hall the Agency is accepting written comment on these proposals until September 4, 2009.
Written comments may be sent to: Matthew S. Kendall Adirondack Park Agency P.O. Box 99 Ray Brook, NY 12977
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold a legislative hearing on Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at the Forestport Town Hall on a proposed widening and improvement of a ten mile stretch of Route 28 from Route 12 (in Forestport, Oneida County) to the Moose River in the Town of Webb (Herkimer County). The project sponsors, NYSDOT and National Grid, will also be there to answer questions or address concerns about the design of the project. APA staff will be available to discuss the permitting process. The legislative hearing will start at 6:15pm. Here is a description of the project and other details on the meeting which were supplied by the APA:
The project begins approximately 6 miles north of the intersection of Routes 12 and 28 in Alder Creek and terminates at the Moose River in McKeever for a total project length of approximately 10.3 miles. The project consists of resurfacing a section from the southerly limit of the project for a length of approximately 2 miles; a reconstruction section for approximately 2.5 miles through Woodgate and a portion of White Lake; resurfacing a section with minor widening for a length of approximately 1.5 miles through a portion of White Lake; and resurfacing a section for the remainder of the project for a length of approximately 4.5 miles through Otter Lake to the Moose River in the Town of Webb. There will be utility relocations throughout the reconstruction section to provide a minimum offset from the edge of travel lane of 16 feet. There will be additional isolated utility pole relocations within the resurfacing sections to provide the same 16 foot offset.
PURPOSE OF MEETING: This is an informal legislative hearing conducted by the Adirondack Park Agency pursuant to APA Act section 804(6) to receive public comment on the proposed project. The hearing will include introductory presentations on the project design by the NYS Department of Transportation and National Grid. Agency staff will take notes on the public comment. Comments may be submitted by verbal statements during the hearing or by submitting a written statement. Agency Board Members and Designees may be present to hear the public comments. The Agency Board will make its decision on the project at one of its monthly meetings at some time in the near future.
GOAL OF THE MEETING: To allow the public to express concerns regarding this proposed project and how it may positively or negatively impact individual properties or the community.
MEETING FORMAT: NYSDOT, National Grid and APA personnel will be available from 5:30 to 6:15, prior to the formal presentation, to address any questions or concerns that individuals may have about the design of the project or the APA permitting process. At 6:15 APA Deputy Director Mark Sengenberger will commence the formal portion of the hearing. He will introduce NYSDOT and National Grid personnel who will make brief presentations concerning the project objectives, scope, schedule and cost. During the presentations, the public can ask questions for clarification purposes only. Following the presentations, members of the public will have the opportunity to make brief verbal statements about the project. There will be a sign up sheet for any persons wishing to make public comment. In order to allow everyone to speak who wants to, comments will be limited to no more than 3 minutes in length and speakers will go in the order that they signed up. Members of the public can provide additional written comments to the Agency at or after the meeting. Town of Forestport and Town of Webb officials will be present and introduced at the meeting.
The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks is calling upon the heads of the Public Service Commission (PSC), Departments of Transportation (DOT) and Environmental Conservation (DEC), New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), and Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to adopt “the highest standards for protecting the wild forest character of the Adirondack Park when reconstructing electric power lines and highways.” Through a freedom of information request, the group received documents about an incomplete application now being reviewed at the APA for highway and power line reconstruction and realignment which would in their words “effectively clear-cut forests along 7.4 miles of scenic State Route 28 in the southwestern Adirondacks.” The route extends from Forestport to the South Branch of the Moose River in the Adirondack Park. Sections of this route involve the “forever wild” public Forest Preserve.
The application calls for a new “tree management area” that would mean the removal of all trees for 37.5 feet on either side of new utility poles, throughout the length of the highway project. The poles, which are now along the road, would be moved 16 feet from the highway edge, this area declared a “clear zone,” and the poles themselves increased in height from 40 feet to 57 feet.
David Gibson, Association Executive Director said that he was “astonished to find that the Route 28 project as currently proposed calls for clear cutting a swath of 53 feet from the highway shoulder for placement of super-sized power poles and electric lines,” adding that “clear-cutting trees in such a manner would drastically impact the Park’s scenic character, and violate numerous laws, policies and plans. The public will not stand for this kind of bad stewardship by our State agencies.”
“We contend that the Park’s history, State law, our State Constitution and, frankly, common sense, require all State agencies to take every precaution in design standards for Route 28 and for other combined highway-power line realignments throughout the Park. Our highways are the public’s window on the Adirondack Park and vital to positive public perceptions of the Park. The wild forest and rural character of the Park’s highways must be conserved,” Gibson said, calling the move an effort to “water-down” environmental guidelines by eliminating NYSERDA funding to establish a standard for the Adirondack Park for projects like the one proposed along Route 28.
Since the 1924 passage of the Adirondack Sign Law, the state has attempted to secure the scenic character of views along roadways inside the Blue Line. Scenic and historic highways programs have been developed over the years by state and local governments to exploit roadside opportunities, sometimes through significant investment.
According to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, state agencies are required to plan for these Travel Corridors to “achieve and maintain a park-like atmosphere… that complements the total Adirondack environment. Attention to the Park’s unique atmosphere is essential.” The DOT’s Guidelines for the Adirondack Park, which were approved in 2008 after disastrous roadside cutting along Routes 3 and 56, states: “The Adirondack Park is a special state treasure and our work with in its boundaries must be conducted with great care.”
The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks is calling for meetings to review standards for power line and road reconstruction that preserve the scenic character of the Park’s highways as potential “greenway” corridors.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Thursday, February 12 and Friday February 13, 2009 at the Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters in Ray Brook, NY. The meeting will be webcast live. The webcast can be found here: http://www.apa.state.ny.us The Full Agency will convene on Thursday morning at 9:00 for the Acting Executive Director’s monthly report. » Continue Reading.
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