Posts Tagged ‘Shoreline Development’

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cattails: A Wetland Favorite’s Useful History

The other evening I was walking along the shoreline of a local wetland, enjoying the songs of the thrushes, the ripples made on the water by insects and small fish, and the rustle of the tall, emergent vegetation in the light breeze. The edges were muddy – sometimes completely barren and squishy, while in other places thick with plants. Life was everywhere.

When we think of wetlands, the plant that most likely comes to mind is the cattail, with its green, sword-like leaves and brown corndog-like flowerheads. It is a plant that is known around much of the world. In some places, like parts of Africa, it is considered a menace, choking waterways and aiding and abetting the spread of malaria. Historically, though, especially in North America, this plant has helped pull humanity through harsh winters where cold and starvation could’ve had the final say.

Cattails are in the grass family, as are many of the plants we now depend upon for food (corn, wheat, rye, millet). Like its modern-day counterparts, the cattail is a highly edible plant. Practically the entire plant is edible at various times of the year. In late spring when the base of the leaves are young and tender, they can be eaten raw or cooked. As summer approaches, the stem, before the flowerheads develop, can be peeled and eaten like asparagus. Soon the male flower is growing, and before it ripens, it can be cooked and eaten like corn on the cob. Once it’s ripe and producing pollen, the pollen can be harvested and added to baked goods as an extender for flour and a thickener for sauces. From late fall until spring, the rhizomes, those horizontal stems that grow underground, can be dug up and eaten like potatoes.

Historical utility didn’t end with food. Throughout the Northeast, native peoples collected cattail leaves to sew into siding for their homes. Wigwams were the housing of choice in the Northeast. These structures were constructed first from poles stuck into the ground and bent into a dome-like shape. More saplings were tied horizontally to the sides, creating a sturdy framework. The outside of this framework was then covered with some sort of mat, or shingles made from bark, depending on what was available. Where wetlands dominated, cattail leaves were sewn into mats that were tied to the wigwam. Early Europeans commented on how weather-proof these homes were – warmer and drier than the structures made by the more “civilized” settlers.

A variety of medicines were made from cattails. The roots were used to treat kidney stones, wounds, whooping cough and sprains. The downy seed fluff was applied to bleeding wounds and burns.

But wait – there’s more! Leaves were bundled together and sculpted into the shape of ducks to be used as decoys. Not only were these decoys used to attract real waterfowl, but also to lure in other animals that considered waterfowl food, like wild canines. Cattail leaves were also made into dolls and other toys, woven into bags, baskets, mats and hats. The dried flowerheads could be dipped in grease or wax and lit to provide a slow-burning light that smoked extensively, effectively keeping insects at bay. The seed fluff was used as tinder, stuffed into bedding and pillows, and during WWII was stuffed into life vests and seats cushions for tanks and airplanes.

The usefulness of this plant is not limited to historic records and a few modern foragers, though. Several scientists are studying the economic viability of converting cattails into ethanol. Currently, about 95% of our country’s ethanol is made from corn, which is an energy intensive crop (it needs a lot of water, and a lot of petroleum is also consumed in its production). Corn yields about 200 gallons of ethanol per acre. Sugar cane is also converted into ethanol, at about 640 gallons per acre.

Cattails, on the other hand, need very little encouragement to grow. In fact, many of the ethanol studies are growing them in sewage lagoons that are the by-products of hog farms. Not only do the cattails clean and purify the water in which they are grown, but when they are converted into ethanol, they can produce up to 1000 gallons per acre. There seems to be a fair amount of promise in this.

Two species of cattails are found in New York (and the Adirondacks): common cattail (Typha latifolia) and narrow-leaved cattail (T. angustifolia). The Revised Checklist of New York State Plants also lists “Cattail”, a hybrid of these two species.

Common, or broad-leaved, cattail is, well, pretty common. Odds are if you see a cattail, this is it. Its brown flowerhead is about an inch thick, and the leaves are also about an inch wide. Narrow-leaved cattail is also fairly common, but more so along coastal areas. Its flowerheads are narrower – about as thick as a finger (about half an inch wide), as are the leaves. From a distance you can usually tell if you are looking at a narrow-leaved cattail if the upper male flower spike is separated from the lower female flower spike by a space (see photo). On common cattails, the male flower spike sits right on top of the female spike.

This highly useful plant is one that everyone should get to know. Once you learn some of the nifty history of this plant, you will want to then study the critters that find it useful. Birds, mammals and insects all have a stake in this plant. It is worthy of our attention. Once the weather cools off a bit, find yourself a patch of wetland and spend some time with the cattails. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.


Thursday, December 31, 2009

Birding Along The St. Lawrence River

To the north and west of the Adirondacks lies a beautiful natural resource that often gets overlooked. It’s a massive river that carries all the water from every one of the five Great Lakes. It’s home to nesting bald eagles, migrating waterfowl and shorebirds, and hawks and falcons patrol its shoreline. Although the St. Lawrence River does not fall within the Adirondack Park “Blueline Boundary,” it is a birdwatching mecca that should not be missed by our Adirondack birders.

The following is a press release I received that announces the publishing of a new birding guide to the St. Lawrence Seaway Trail (The route parallels 518 miles of shoreline along the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, Niagara River and Lake Erie in New York and Pennsylvania):

Great Lakes Seaway Trail Publishes Guide to America’s Next Birding Travel Hot Spot

Sackets Harbor, NY – Birders interested in finding the best birding spots year-round for all manner of migratory & resident raptors, songbirds, and waterfowl along the big waters of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail in New York and Pennsylvania now have new resources to enjoy.

The Seaway Trail Foundation has developed a new birding theme guidebook, audio tour CD, notecards and outdoor storytellers to help birders find their favorite flyers along the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, the Niagara River and Lake Erie.

The Birding the Great Lakes Seaway Trail by ornithologist Gerald A. Smith is a soft cover, full color traveler’s field guide to birding hot spots along the 518-mile shoreline byway that is one of America’s Byways and a National Recreation Trail.

Funding for the book was provided by the Great Lakes Seaway Trail in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration’s National Scenic Byways Program, the New York State Department of Transportation’s Scenic Byways Program in the Office of Environment’s Landscape Architecture Bureau, and the John Ben Snow Foundation, Pulaski, NY.

New York State Department of Transportation Acting Commissioner Stanley Gee said, “The Great Lakes Seaway Trail National Scenic Byway provides a magnificent trip through the landscapes of the St. Lawrence Seaway, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and New York State’s northern and western borders. I know Governor Paterson is proud that we support this trail and other scenic byways across the state so that travelers can enjoy the history, natural beauty, and recreational opportunities that alternative routes provide. Congratulations to the Seaway Trail Foundation for publishing their new birding guidebook, which is sure to delight generations of bird watchers and other visitors.”

Noted regional birders Willie D’Anna, an Eaton Birding Society Award winner in Western NY; Jerry McWilliams of the Presque Isle (PA) Audubon Society; and Bird Coalition of Rochester Executive Director David Semple wrote chapters for the book. Wildlife artist Robert McNamara of Art of the Wilderness, Cleveland, NY, designed and illustrated the guide edited by Julie Covey. The book retails for $19.95.

A companion audio CD, Birding the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Audio Tour,” features the voices of wildlife biologist Kimberly Corwin and Adirondack Kids® co-author and television show host Gary Allen VanRiper. The 80-minute CD retails for $9.95.

The nonprofit Seaway Trail Foundation, based in Sackets Harbor, NY, has also developed birding notecards and a series of bird-themed Great Lakes Seaway Trail outdoor storyteller interpretive panels – all designed by McNamara – to enhance birders’ travel along the coastal byway.

Great Lakes Seaway Trail birding maps are online at www.seawaytrail.com. This new guidebook book is the latest in the “Best of the Byways” (American Recreation Coalition) series published by the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, Sackets Harbor, NY, 315-646-1000.

It is also worth mentioning that our local chapter of the National Audubon Society: Northern New York Audubon features field trips each year that may include some of the St Lawrence Seaway Trail within St Lawrence County.

Photo of Bonaparte’s gulls and Ring-billed gulls-Brian McAllister


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cool Map: Lakes and Ponds in Forest Preserve

An Almanack reader who likes maps called our attention to one posted last week in the Adirondack Park Agency’s online map room. It shows lakes and ponds encompassed entirely by Forest Preserve. (Click here to see larger map.)

The tally of those lakes and ponds is 1,838, and a series of clickable sidebar charts sorts them by variables. The largest? Lake Lila, at 1,461 acres. (Little Tupper Lake at 2,305 acres would’ve been the largest but there are a couple of small private inholdings. Follensby Pond, at 1,000 acres, would become third largest when New York State acquires it.) But most Forest Preserve waters are little: 1,728 of them are between 1 and 250 acres in surface area. A pie chart shows that there are almost exactly the same number of lakes fully within Wild Forest (862) as Wilderness (860) state land classifications. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

APA Schedules Hearings on Boathouse Regulations

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) has scheduled four public hearings to encourage comments on the agency’s proposed revisions to its Boathouse regulations. Designed to protect ecologically sensitive shorelines, boathouse regulations, were first adopted in 1979 and revised in 2002. This newest proposed revision limits the overall footprint of boathouses to 900 square feet and the height to fifteen feet. This criteria revises the previous “single story” limitation, which was being violated with large “attics” and rooftop decks, according to the APA, and clarifies that boathouses are for boat storage only.

The proposed revisions would continue prohibitions on using boat houses for anything but boats, building’s constructed for other uses will be required to meet with APA shoreline setbeck regulations. According to the APA public hearing announcement, “other structures such as decks, guest cottages, and recreation rooms are prohibited on the shoreline if greater than 100 square feet in size. Under prior regulations, landowners attached these components as part of what would otherwise be a boat berthing structure, and argued these components were part of the “boathouse” because the previous definitions did not specifically exclude them.”

Here are the further details from the APA:

The 2002 definition limited boathouses to a “single story.” However, the definition fails to prohibit large “attics,” and extensive rooftop decks, resulting in some very large non-jurisdictional shoreline structures. The lack of clarity requires architect’s plans and time-consuming staff evaluation.

The 2009 proposal retains the 2002 provisions that define “boathouse” to mean “a covered structure with direct access to a navigable body of water which (1) is used only for the storage of boats and associated equipment; (2) does not contain bathroom facilities, sanitary plumbing, or sanitary drains of any kind; (3) does not contain kitchen facilities of any kind; (4) does not contain a heating system of any kind; (5) does not contain beds or sleeping quarters of any kind”.

The proposal adds: “(6) has a footprint of 900 square feet or less measured at exterior walls, a height of fifteen feet or less, and a minimum roof pitch of four on twelve for all rigid roof surfaces. Height shall be measured from the surface of the floor serving the boat berths to the highest point of the structure.”

The change is prospective only; lawful existing boathouse structures may be repaired or replaced pursuant to Section 811 of the APA Act within the existing building envelope. For those who wish to exceed the size parameters or expand a larger existing boathouse, a variance will be required. Standard shoreline cutting and wetland jurisdictional predicates still apply in all cases.

Shorelines are important to the Adirondack Park’s communities and environment. The dynamic ecosystems that edge Adirondack Park lakes, wetlands, rivers, and streams are critical to both terrestrial and aquatic species. Well-vegetated shorelines serve as buffer strips, protecting banks from erosion, safeguarding water quality, cooling streams, and providing some of the Park’s most productive wildlife habitat.

Large structures and intensive use at the shoreline causes unnecessary erosion and adverse impacts to critical habitat and aesthetics and raises questions of fair treatment of neighboring shoreline properties.

The Statutes and Regulations that the Agency is charged to administer strive to protect water quality and the scenic appeal of Adirondack shorelines by establishing structure setbacks, lot widths and cutting restrictions. However boathouses, docks and other structures less than 100 square feet are exempt from the shoreline setback requirements.

The four hearings are scheduled for the following dates and locations:

January 5, 2010, 6:00 p.m.
Adirondack Park Agency
Ray Brook, New York
This hearing will be webcast at the APA website.

January 6, 2010, 6:00 p.m.
Town of Webb Park Ave. Building
183 Park Ave.
Old Forge, New York

January 7, 2010, 11:00 a.m.
Department of Environmental Conservation
625 Broadway, Room 129B
Albany, New York

January 7, 2010, 6:00 p.m.
Lake George Town Hall
Lake George, New York

Written comments will be accepted until January, 17, 2009 and should be submitted to:

John S. Banta, Counsel
NYS Adirondack Park Agency
P.O. Box 99
Ray Brook, New York 12977
Fax (518) 891-3938


Friday, November 20, 2009

Lake George Steamboats Resuming Service to Bolton Landing

The Lake George Steamboat Company suspended service to Bolton Landing in 2006, citing the poor condition of the town pier as its reason for discontinuing a tradition that began in the nineteenth century. Next summer, though, after a three year hiatus, the steamboats will return.

At its monthly meeting in November, the Bolton Town Board voted unanimously to accept a bid of $929,292 from The Dock Doctors of Ferrisburg, Vermont to restore the pier and to appropriate funds for the work, which is expected to be completed in July.

The Board agreed to borrow up to $650,000 from the town’s share of the proceeds from last summer’s sale of the Sagamore grant to help fund the project. “People have wanted the service back ever since it stopped,” said Bolton Supervisor Kathy Simmes. “It’s one of our town’s amenities”

Awaiting the arrival of the Lake George Steamboat Company’s Mohican had become a favorite rite of summers in Bolton Landing. As the boat’s captain blew her whistle, she was greeted to with shouts and waves from the nearby beach as well as by passengers hurrying to the pier to board.

“I was sorry to have to end service,” said Bill Dow, the president of the Lake George Steamboat Company. “As late as the 1970s and 80s, we’d have as many as 100 people waiting at the dock. In recent years, those numbers have dwindled, but we hope they can be revived.”

The new pier will not only accommodate the Mohican; the 190 ft Lac du St Sacrement will also be able to pick up passengers in Bolton Landing.

“That’s a huge advantage for the Sagamore,” said Kevin Rosa, the resort’s director of marketing and sales. “We have groups that charter the Lac du St Sacrement but those groups have had to meet the boat in Lake George Village. A shorter trip to the Bolton Pier will help immensely. “

Shoreline Cruises’ Horicon and Adirondac have also been invited to make use of the pier, as has the Sagamore’s Morgan, Simmes said.

The Town contracted with an engineering firm, Schoder River Associates, to design the reconstructed pier. According to councilman Jason Saris, the design calls for the removal of the pier’s timbers above the waterline. “Rather than replacing the wood, the pier will feature pre-cast concrete with a stone-like face that will match the sea wall,” said Saris. “It will be aesthetically pleasing and much more durable.”

Timber pilings that were attached to the face of the pier will be replaced by concrete-filled steel pilings implanted in bedrock, Saris said. “When the face of the pier deteriorated, there was nothing left to secure the pilings,” Saris said.
The LA group, a planning and design firm, has proposed a renovation of the pier’s surface, said Saris.

The plan includes removing the existing gazebo and replacing it with other seating areas, said Saris. Plans also call for doubling the capacity of the town’s public docks, allowing space for as many as sixteen boats to tie up at any one time.
“This is very significant,” said Saris. “We really wanted to increase dock space in town so people will be able to come by water to our restaurants and shops.”
Plans call for reserving at least two slips for boaters picking up or dropping off passengers, said Saris.

For more news from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror, or visit http://lakegeorgemirror.com.


Friday, November 13, 2009

APA Reverses Lows Lake Wilderness Vote

All three of Governor David Paterson’s representatives on the Adirondack Park Agency board have reversed votes made in September and opposed designation of the waters of Lows Lake as Wilderness, Primitive, or Canoe. By a 6-4 vote the APA had added most of the waters and bed of Lows Lake to the Five Ponds Wilderness in September. The rest of the lake was classified as Primitive, which would have prohibited motorized use. It was later learned that the tenure of one of the APA commissioners had expired and the vote needed to be retaken – that vote occurred today and ended in a 7-4 reversal of the previous decision. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Adirondack Family Activities:Paul Smiths Visitor’s Interpretive Center

This morning a mob of deer casually gather in our yard. My husband makes the comment that the word has gotten out that we are non-hunting household. It seems like one has told another and soon the neighborhood has not gone to the dogs but to the deer. So while the deer spread their news we humans have our own version of meeting places during hunting season.

Since 1989, the Adirondack Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) at Paul Smiths has offered a safe option during hunting season. The 2,885-acre preserve is owned by Paul Smith’s College and leased by New York State to operate as a public facility. The many trails are available for the enjoyment of children and adults of all ages. The paths are clearly marked, mulched and cleared of debris.

We choose a combination of the Heron Marsh and the Shingle Mill Falls trails. Each trail is about a 0.8-mile loop. Together it forms a 1.5-mile figure eight with easy access and plenty of seating along the way.

My son runs ahead, the guide in our mission to successfully circumnavigate Heron Marsh. My daughter would rather spend a bit more time inside studying the interactive displays, dioramas and touch table.

We continue on another hundred yards to a boardwalk that extends out into the marsh. Signs of beaver surround us and we search for their lodge. I sit to observe the last passing moments of autumn while the rest of the family walks to the observation deck. We come to a crossroads where we can either loop back to the Interpretive Building or continue across the marsh.

We opt to cross the bridge leading over Heron Marsh. The leaves are slick from previous rain so be careful around the shoreline and bridge edge. We cross a bridge, setting leaf boats on the open water to shoot the rapids of the Heron Marsh dam. This was the original site of a gristmill then a shingle mill. It was last used in the 1920s by Paul Smiths Hotel as a source for water.

We loop back and follow the signs to the Interpretive Building because we have yet to identify correctly each birdcall to each bird. Lastly I sit for a bit of the sun while the kids expel any energy they have left on the playground.

Trails are open from dawn to dusk every day. There is no camping or fires allowed. Dogs are only welcome on the trails during the summer months. Located 12 miles north of Saranac Lake on 8023 State Route 30, the VIC building is open Tuesday – Saturday from 9:00 a.m. -5:00 p.m.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Lake Groups: Dead Zone Should be Lake George Wake-Up Call

A dead zone that re-appeared in Lake George’s south basin for the 23rd consecutive year this past summer is proof, if proof were required, of the need for greener land use practices, lake protection organizations argue.

The zone is an area depleted of oxygen and devoid of life that extends from Lake George Village to Tea Island, said Peter Bauer, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George.

“It forms in the south basin rather than in the northern basins, not because land use practices are better in Bolton or Hague, but because more tributaries flow into that basin,” said Bauer. “It’s truly the canary in the mine-shaft, a warning of future water quality trends if we don’t improve our land-use practices.”
» Continue Reading.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Scope of Lake George Mercury Study Expanded

The discovery of elevated levels of mercury in the spiders and songbirds of Dome Island has led the Nature Conservancy of Eastern New York and the Dome Island Committee, the organizations responsible for the island’s preservation, to test for mercury contamination on Crown Island and protected shorelines.

That will help the groups determine how pervasive mercury and its toxic form, methylmercury, is in Lake George, said Henry Caldwell, the chairman of the Dome Island Committee.

Researchers from the BioDiversity Institute of Gorham, Maine, which conducted the original studies of Dome Island’s birds and spiders, returned to Bolton Landing earlier this week to begin the broadened study.

“No one expected to find mercury pollution at these levels on Lake George,” said Caldwell. “Working with the Nature Conservancy of Eastern New York, which is the island’s owner, we decided to take the next step and look beyond Dome Island.”’

In July, the Dome Island Committee received a draft of a study by the BioDiversity Institute of Gorham, Maine, that found that “mercury concentrations in spiders from Dome Island represent some of the highest recorded in the Northeast.”

That study followed one conducted in 2006, which concluded that “mercury levels in songbirds sampled on Dome Island rank among the highest in New York and across the region.”

The island’s spiders, which the birds feed upon, may be the source of the elevated mercury levels found in birds, the scientists surmised.

From Crown Island and a site on the mainland, researchers will collect spiders of the type sampled on Dome Island and subject them to mercury tests, said David Buck, an aquatic biologist with the BioDiversity Institute.

The researchers will also test crayfish, Buck said.

“Crayfish reflect mercury in their immediate surroundings and provide a useful yardstick for comparing mercury levels throughout a specific watershed,” said Buck.

Results of the studies should be available by next spring, Buck said.

“I’d be surprised if we found that mercury contamination was limited to Dome Island,” said Buck.

Additional studies will permit scientists to assess the environmental impacts of mercury pollution on Lake George, said Buck.

The Dome Island and Lake George studies will become part of more comprehensive studies of air pollution and its impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity in the northeast, said Mark King of the Eastern New York Nature Conservancy.

“Our focus should be making people aware of how widespread mercury contamination is,” said King. “We have an opportunity here to show how mercury moves through the ecosystem; Dome Island and Lake George are pieces in the big picture.”

For more news from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror


Sunday, October 11, 2009

APA to Move Forward on Boathouse Regulations

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold public hearings on the APA’s proposed revisions to its boathouse regulations. Following APA meetings in August and September, 2008, the Agency voted of 8 to 3 to submit the proposed revisions for State Administrative Procedure Act (SAPA) authorization (in February of this year). Following authorization to proceed (which the agency received on October 8) the APA will be scheduling several public hearings (both in-park and outside the Blue Line) later this fall. Here is the complete notice from the APA:

The APA Boathouse definition was implemented in Regulations adopted in 1979, and revised in 2002. The new 2009 definition proposes specific roof, height and footprint criteria to replace the 2002 “single story” limitation. The revision clarifies design components and continues to prohibit the use of boathouses for anything other than boat storage.

Other uses, if independently built, would be subject to the shoreline setback requirements of the APA Act. For example, other structures such as decks, guest cottages, and recreation rooms are prohibited on the shoreline if greater than 100 square feet in size. In the past, landowners attached these components as part of what would otherwise be a boat berthing structure, and argued these components were part of the “boathouse” because the previous definitions did not specifically exclude them.

The 2002 definition limits boathouses to a “single story.” However, the definition fails to prohibit large “attics,” and extensive rooftop decks, resulting in some very large non-jurisdictional shoreline structures. The lack of clarity requires architect’s plans and time-consuming staff evaluation.

This is a particular problem in towns that do not have their own zoning ordinances. Currently within the Park, local boathouse regulation runs the gamut from no regulation to some towns having limits on size, including square footage and height restrictions. Some town regulations are more restrictive than the present 2009 proposal.

The 2009 proposal retains the 2002 provisions that define “boathouse” to mean “a covered structure with direct access to a navigable body of water which (1) is used only for the storage of boats and associated equipment; (2) does not contain bathroom facilities, sanitary plumbing, or sanitary drains of any kind; (3) does not contain kitchen facilities of any kind; (4) does not contain a heating system of any kind; (5) does not contain beds or sleeping quarters of any kind”.

The proposal adds: “(6) has a footprint of 900 square feet or less measured at exterior walls, a height of fifteen feet or less, and a minimum roof pitch of four on twelve for all rigid roof surfaces. Height shall be measured from the surface of the floor serving the boat berths to the highest point of the structure.”

The change is prospective only; lawful existing boathouse structures may be repaired or replaced pursuant to Section 811 of the APA Act within the existing building envelop.

For those who wish to exceed the size parameters or expand a larger existing boathouse, a variance will be required. Standard shoreline cutting and wetland jurisdictional predicates still apply in all cases.

Shorelines are important. The dynamic ecosystems that edge Adirondack Park lakes, wetlands, rivers, and streams are critical to both terrestrial and aquatic species. Well-vegetated shorelines serve as buffer strips, protecting banks from erosion, safeguarding water quality, cooling streams, and providing some of the Park’s most productive wildlife habitat. Large structures and intensive use at the shoreline causes unnecessary erosion and adverse impacts to critical habitat and aesthetics and raises questions of fair treatment of neighboring shoreline properties.

The Statutes and Regulations that the Agency is charged to administer, strive to protect water quality and the scenic appeal of Adirondack shorelines by establishing structure setbacks, lot widths and cutting restrictions. However boathouses, docks and other structures less than 100 square feet are exempt from the shoreline setback requirements. The original Adirondack Park Agency Act also allows a higher density of residential development on shoreline lots. Continuing development and redevelopment on the water’s edge, including large dock and boathouse structures, continues to threaten water quality and increase the types of use detrimental to long term protection of the Park’s greatest asset.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Curious Tales of Lake Champlain Towns

One of the most creative contributors to Adirondack Life is Tom Henry. You never know where one of his travelogues is going to go, and I don’t think he knows, either, until the trip is done and the story finished.

Henry teaches music in Charlotte, Vermont, and is a writer and historian by avocation. A Port Henry Henry, he has made a specialty of exploring the recreation and past of the eastern Adirondacks, often at the same time. He wrote a chapter for Lake Champlain: An Illustrated History (2009, Adirondack Life) and will deliver a slide presentation Saturday, October 3 at Northwoods Inn, in Lake Placid, entitled “Exploring Old Port Towns Along Lake Champlain: Curious Stories Behind Their Relics.”

The following details are from a press release describing the event:

From Shelburne’s elegant passenger steamships to Bridport’s world-famous 19th-century racehorses to Moriah’s strange subterranean world of railroads and iron mines, this slideshow of now and then images from old port towns around Lake Champlain will help us visualize many of the 400-square-mile lake’s unusual early enterprises.

2009 marks the 400th anniversary of European discovery of the lake with the arrival of Samuel de Champlain. Lake Champlain: An Illustrated History celebrates America’s most historic lake and offers stunning photos, vintage postcards, paintings, maps and military history. Tom Henry’s portion of the book, “Towns Along the Lake,” provides some of the book’s most interesting writing. He highlights each of Lake Champlain’s principle shoreline communities and describes their link to the lake’s history.

The evening begins at 6:30 with a half hour cash bar cocktail reception. Mr. Henry will deliver his presentation at approximately 7 p.m. Following, we invite any of our guests to join us in our Northern Exposure restaurant for dinner with Mr. Henry. More information is available at www.northwoodsinn.com.
 
The Northwoods Inn is a 92-room hotel located at 2520 Main Street, the heart of downtown Lake Placid. The hotel includes a sidewalk café, two restaurants and “The Cabin,” a cozy fireplace bar overlooking Main Street. A rooftop deck offers views of town plus the High Peaks and Whiteface Mountain.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

DEC, APA Remind Shoreline Owners About Regulations

Shoreline property owners and contractors who plan to construct, replace or expand structures located within shoreline setback areas or repair or install seawalls, riprap, docks, cribs and/or boathouses on waters within the Adirondack Park, are advised to contact the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) before undertaking any work according to the following press release from the state agencies, published here for your information:

Among the most valuable resources in the Park is the land along its thousands of streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. The shoreline is an important ecological feature that defines the transition zone between land and water. All levels of the food chain – from forage fish to large mouth bass, shorebirds to waterfowl, and amphibians to mammals – benefit from a “healthy” shoreline.

DEC and APA staff can determine if permits or variances are required and provide information on ways to minimize environmental damage associated with construction in and around protected waterways. The laws the APA and DEC administers protect wildlife habitat, water quality and the scenic appeal of Adirondack shorelines by establishing setbacks, lot widths and cutting restrictions.

“Shorelines are a valuable natural feature of the Adirondacks. The application of appropriate standards for shoreline structures protects the aesthetic character of our landscape as well as associated habitats for a variety of wildlife.” said Betsy Lowe, Regional Director for DEC Region 5

“Every year, our law enforcement officers encounter project sites along the water where work is underway without proper permits,” said Judy Drabicki, Regional Director for DEC Region 6

“Due to the 2008 APA rule changes pertaining to shoreline structures within the Adirondack Park, the public is strongly encouraged to also contact APA staff for regulatory advice before constructing, replacing or expanding shoreline structures,” said Curt Stiles, Chairman of the APA.

DEC has recently identified “Preferred Methods” for shoreline stabilization. These include preserving as much natural shoreline as possible; use of vegetation plantings, where feasible, to stabilize the shoreline, create habitat and reduce pollution from stormwater; and bioengineering which utilizes a combination of natural materials (sticks, logs, root wads, etc.) and applied engineering to correct shoreline problems.

More information on shoreline stabilization, including preferred and traditional methods, is available on the DEC website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/42519.html.

Contacts for shoreline projects in the Adirondack Park:

• All locations within the Adirondack Park – Adirondack Park Agency, in Ray Brook at (518) 891-4050

• Clinton, Essex, Franklin and Hamilton Counties – DEC Region 5 Environmental Permits Office in Ray Brook at (518)897-1234

• Fulton, Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties – DEC Region 5 Environmental Permits Office in Warrensburg at (518)623-1281

• Lewis, Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties – DEC Region 6 Environmental Permits Office in Watertown at (315)785-2245

• Herkimer and Oneida counties – DEC Region 6 Environmental Permits Office in Utica at (315)793-2555


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Milfoil Discovered in Lake Placid

The Board of Trustees of the Lake Placid Shore Owners’ Association (LPSOA) today reported that a strain or strains of milfoil have been discovered at three sites on Lake Placid. Over the past week, two separate samples were removed from Paradox Bay and one from East Lake. Biologists working with the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP) have tentatively identified two of the samples as Variable Leaf Milfoil (VLM).

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension describes Variable Leaf Milfoil as “an aggressive aquatic plant that can form dense mats that congest waterways and crowd out native aquatic plants. Thick growth of this plant can impair recreational uses of waterways including boating, swimming and fishing. Dense growth of variable-leaf milfoil degrades the native habitat of fish and other wildlife, and may also provide breeding areas for mosquitoes. The main method of dispersal of this plant appears to be fragmentation. Plant fragments are moved around by people, animals and water currents.” » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What is an Adirondack Wetland?

We have a new school program here at the Visitor Interpretive Centers: What is a Wetland? Since I am in the process of putting the finishing touches on this program, I thought it would make a good topic for the Almanack.

Put very simply, wetlands are lands that are, well, wet. That is to say, they are wet for part or all of the year. Some wetlands are obvious, like swamps, bogs and marshes that have sodden ground or standing water that you can see (or feel) every time you are there. Other wetlands, however, are seasonal, appearing when water levels are high, and disappearing in the heat of summer.

One of the Adirondack Park Agency’s responsibilities is protecting the integrity of wetlands within the Blue Line. They have staff who go into the field to conduct “wetland deliniations,” which are essentially determinations of the borders of wetlands. In order to do this, their staff look at three determining criteria: plant species, soil type(s) and hydrology.

The plant part is easy. There are species of plants that are either totally dependent on water (like pickerel weed and sphagnum moss), some that are in water two-thirds of the time you find them (like Joe-Pye-weed and black spruce), and others that are nowhere near water (like sugar maple and eastern white pine). If the area in question has a majority of plants in the first two categories, it is a wetland.

Soil types are kind of fun to determine. A core sample is taken within the test area. The soil from the sample is then compared to a soil chart, looking for evidence of oxidation. Oxidation indicates the presence of air in the soil. If there is no sign of oxidation, the soil is considered gleyed and is classified as a wetland soil. If oxidation has occurred, the soil will look rusty. If the amount of oxidation is minimal, the area is likely a seasonal wetland. On the other hand, if the soil is totally oxidized, then air gets through the layers year round and it is not a wetland.

Finally, we come to hydrology: is there water present? If there is visual evidence of innundation or saturation, you have a wetland. Do you see water? Does it squish underfoot? Is there a line of debris along the shoreline, below which the shore is scoured of vegetation? Are there areas of dead trees, where the trees essentially drowned from flooding? These are all indicators of wetland habitats.

Why is the APA so concerned about wetlands? Wetlands are extremely important habitats. Far too many people are unaware of just how important they are. Over the course of my career in environmental education, I’ve come to conclusion that many people think that those of us who promote the protection of wetlands are merely looking at them as animal homes, but the truth is that while indeed they are imporant for all kinds of wildlife, they are also so very important for people.

For one thing, wetlands clean and filter all sorts of pollutants from our water. These pollutants range from toxic chemicals to seemingly harmless fertilizers, like nitrogen and phosphorous. We know that nitrogen and phosphorous are essential for healthy soil and plants, but when large amounts enter lakes, ponds or streams, the result is potentially harmful algal blooms and excessive growth of water weeds, which can choke waterways and reduce oxygen levels in the water, resulting in the death of fish and aquatic invertebrates.

Wetlands also act as giant sponges. Every time it rains, wetlands soak up the water and release it slowly. This helps protect areas downstream from severe flooding. Look at places around the globe that suffer from massive floods today. Chances are that over the last century or two the associated wetlands have been changed or entirely removed. Without the mediating effects of these “sponges,” the water now rushes downstream, gathering speed and volume, with nothing to slow its progress as it rushes to the sea. This leads to the next benefit we get from wetlands.

Wetlands reduce soil erosion by slowing down the flow. With slower moving water, shorelines are not eaten away, and silt can fall out of the water, leaving cleaner, clearer water to continue downstream.

And, of course, wetlands are vital habitats for fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects and mammals.

Did you know that one of the deciding factors for the establishment of the Adirondack Park over one hundred years ago was protection of our waters? The Adirondack region is the source of much of the drinking water for downstate New York. With all the unregulated logging that was done in the 1800s, vast areas of land were left denuded of trees, and as a result, streams and rivers were severely impacted. Some had reduced flow, others were no longer clean as a result of runoff. You can listen to a reenactment of the 1894 New York State Constitutional Convention at the Newcomb VIC that lays out these very concerns.

So, yes, wetlands are important and we need to protect them. After all, there is only a limited amount of freshwater on this planet, and all environmental reports these days suggest that freshwater will soon become more valuable than gold. We need to protect our freshwater so that it will always be there when we need it, and this means protecting our wetlands.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Adirondack Park Agency Releases 2009 Land Use Plan Map

The Adirondack Park Agency has announced the release of its 2009 Adirondack Park Official Map. The Map shows the state and private land use plans for the Adirondack Park. This update, the first since 2003, includes recent State land acquisitions and the overall framework for protection of the Adirondack Park’s public and private land resources.

The 2009 edition of the Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan Map is available online in a new flash viewer at the APA website at http://www.apa.state.ny.us/gis/index.html. For more information about the Land Use Plan Map contact the APA at 518-891-4050.

Under the State Land Master Plan all state land is classified as one of the following categories: Wilderness, Primitive, Canoe, Wild Forest, Intensive Use, Historic and State Administrative. This plan was developed in cooperation with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and approved by the Governor. The actual management of the Forest Preserve is carried out by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. » Continue Reading.