The internet is doing for snowmobiling what Warren Miller films have done for skiing for 50 years. On YouTube you can now watch your Adirondack neighbors performing outlandish, sick and sometimes illegal stunts on sleds. Here are just a few:
Most sledders don’t do such badass stuff, of course. And the people in these videos don’t seem to be endangering anyone but themselves.
But this one is scary: “Coming from the Tap Room in Raquette Lake, NY.” The helmet-cam video would actually be boring if it weren’t for the tension created by those words, “coming from the Tap Room,” and the fact that the driver passes a car and other sleds on a public road while going 67 miles per hour.
As my father often says, these guys are dearly wanted in heaven. Thirteen so far in the state this winter. No more, let’s hope.
Last month, the New York Post outed retired CEO Sandy Weill for vacationing aboard a $45 million Citigroup jet as the foundering company he built received a $45 billion taxpayer bailout.
Ever since Congress scolded auto-industry executives for winging in on corporate jets to ask for government money, the flight habits of the highly paid have come under scrutiny.
But so far, the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear has seen no decrease in private plane traffic, according to manager Ross Dubarry. That’s good for the airport, because fuel sales, deicing and other services to Gulfstreams, Learjets, Falcons and other private craft cover approximately 75 percent of the airport’s $1 million annual operating budget. Lake Clear is the only place in the Adirondack Park with a runway long enough to accommodate big jets. Wealthy camp owners, including Weill, who has a retreat on Upper Saranac Lake, flock in on Fridays and out on Sundays. It can take as little as 40 minutes for them to soar in from Teterboro, just outside of New York City.
The other news at Adirondack Airport is that commercial-passenger numbers are way up, Dubarry reports, from about 2,000 emplanements in 2004 to more than 8,000 since Cape Air took over commuter service in February 2008. Cape Air flies nine-seaters and offers bargain rates (about $80 one-way) to Boston.
By far most visitors still reach the Adirondacks by car, but don’t expect to see Weill at a Northway rest stop. He voluntarily gave up his Citigroup Bombardier Global Express XRS the day after the Post story ran. But the 75-year-old, whose net worth Forbes placed at $1.3 billion in 2008, still pays the Adirondack Airport a $20,000 annual fee for services and space for his private hangar (the tallest building in Lake Clear). “He is coming in and out on a different aircraft,” Dubarry says. Image courtesy of Mark Kurtz Photography
The Adirondack Council this week issued a report on drinking-water contamination and environmental damage caused by road salt throughout New York State. The advocacy group offered six steps that could curtail the pollution, such as better coordination between state and local plowing crews, preemptive deicing, and development of salt alternatives.
At the bottom of a bulleted list of recommendations was the simplest: Slow Down. “New York should adopt an aggressive approach to encourage safer winter driving, which can include lower winter speed limits, well-placed variable message boards, and greater enforcement of safe speed limits during winter storms,” the Council said.
The signing this week of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act–the federal economic stimulus package–has spurred a stampede of applicants for financial assistance from every state and every sector of the economy. The State of New York has posted a website spelling out how much of the overall $789 billion will come our way and roughly what types of projects will receive what share over the next two years. To wit: the $789 billion total is divided into $326 billion worth of tax cuts and $463 billion in direct spending. Of that $463 billion, $24.6 billion will come to New York State, and (for example) $1.1 billion of that will be distributed across the state for highway and bridge projects.
This cannot be good news for supporters of the Northern Tier Expressway (aka the Rooftop Highway), the proposed 175-mile four lane divided highway that would link I-81 in Watertown and I-87 in Champlain. Endorsements from a diverse spectrum of politicians ranging from Richard Nixon to Hillary Clinton have kept this project limping along for nearly fifty years, an eternity for most public works concepts. Persisting doubts about the potential return on the estimated one billion dollar cost of the road have kept the roadway on the drawing board. Any hopes that the federal stimulus might rescue it from its bureaucratic limbo are now pretty well dashed.
While the final draft shows the roadway approaching the Adirondack Park no closer than two miles at its nearest point (near Ellenburg), the potential economic and environmental impacts would spread far inside the Blue Line. In 1999, The New York Times reported Neil Woodworth of the Adirondack Mountain Club supporting the road as a way to open up the western regions of the park to hikers, relieving the congestion in the high peaks. More recently, concerns raised over the impact of highways on wildlife migration patterns have conditioned the enthusiasm. In its conservation report issued last month, the Laurentian Chapter’s incoming vice-chair Peter O’Shea suggests it might be time to take the project off life-support before any federal stimulus money attaches to it.
One final, picky thought on the matter: Anyone who understands metaphor and knows the first thing about house construction can tell you that the nickname, Rooftop Highway is all wrong. Rooftops are exterior surfaces, existing above the space in question. Seen in this light, a Rooftop Highway already exists: Highway 401 just across our rigorously-guarded frontier in Canada. As for the proposed road above the Blue Line and below the border, perhaps renaming it the “Attic Crawl Space Highway” might help lower our expectations.
The Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA), Essex County, and New York State Department of Transportation (NYS DOT), in conjunction with the towns of Jay, North Elba and Wilmington, have announced the Mountain Valley Shuttle system will begin service tomorrow (December 18th) with extended public transportation between Lake Placid and Ausable Forks. This free expanded shuttle system will tie into the year around Village of Lake Placid Xpress service. The operator of the Mountain Valley Shuttle is Ground Force 1, a Plattsburgh and Lake Placid-based transportation company. The Mountain Valley Shuttle will include four shuttles daily from the town of Ausable Forks and the village of Jay to Whiteface. The shuttle stops are at the Ausable Forks Grand Union and the Village of Jay Park. The Town of Wilmington will have four shuttle stops a day Monday through Friday bringing passengers from the Wilmington Visitors Bureau to Whiteface, with weekend and holiday service increasing to 12 stops a day, plus additional stops at the Whiteface Chalet.
The Adirondack Scenic Railroad is looking for volunteers to be a part of the Thendara railroad experience, especially as car host volunteers who can work shifts between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on any days between Wednesday and Sunday.
Volunteer car hosts typically act as assistants to the conductor during train rides out of the Thendara station, talking with passengers, answering questions and managing passenger experiences. The Adirodnack Express has all the details.
There was an interesting story in Sunday’s Press Republican about Gordon Oil in AuSable Forks. The company was founded by Clifford Gordon in 1921 and is now in it’s third generation. Part of the story was a tiny detail at the end that says a lot about our current economic environment:
“Starting out as Standard Oil of New York — or SOCONY, as the sign on top of the display [at Gordon’s main office] states — in the 1920s it became Mobiloil and then, in 1931, Socony-Vacuum.
Following 1955, every decade or so the parent company underwent business transformations, which included Socony Mobil Oil Co., Mobil Oil Corp., Mobil Corp. and, in 1999, ExxonMobil…
Lewis [Gordon, who operated the business with his brother Waxy for 50 years) recalled the big tanks they used to have, which were cut down for steel during World War II.
“There used to be storage in Plattsburgh,” he said. “Big barges would come through Whitehall and unload up there, and we would go get it.
“Now it all has to be trucked in. All the big companies had their tanks there in Plattsburgh. It’s kind of too bad.”
When the company switched to electrically operated pumps years ago it gave it’s older pumps to a local farmer who used them for many years. That’s the kind of localism we’ve lost and it’s to our detriment.
Localism – involvement in local politics, local economies, an understanding of local culture and the environment, underlies much of the Green movement. It’s not just politics and the environment, it’s about supportive communities of neighbors working together to protect each other from the sometimes ravenous capitalist economy (seen most recently in energy and food costs). It’s what was happening when Gordon Oil gave over those pumps to that farmer. It’s what was destroyed when those tanks were taken down and not replaced.
Localism is also the future we face. I was recently talking with a local hardware store owner, part of the True Value chain. He sells lumber, paint, the usual goods (plus his simply built furniture). He was telling me that he needed a special piece of lumber that he didn’t stock. He took his truck to pick it up at the Home Depot in Queensbury; they were out of stock, so he went to the Lowe’s and found what he was looking for. The piece of lumber cost him an additional $30 in gas for the truck, plus about two hours of time away from his shop. That piece of lumber could have been boughten for a fraction of the price not a quarter-mile away – albeit at a competing lumber store.
The story of the fuel oil storage facilities and the local hardware store owner are revealing for local businesses. They once stocked nearly everything a household needed. As corporations took over our world, local supplies (seen on store shelfs and those Plattsburgh tanks) have had to pared down their stocks as consumers have opted to drive long miles to shop at big box stores (or shippers have turned to trucking and on-demand wharehousing).
That is something that we’re going to see come to an end, although it make take a while for our neighbors to break their old habits. Even if the price of oil goes down before the election (as we argued it would), the damage has been done, and Adirondackers have started turning local out of necessity. That necessity is something local greens have been vociferously saying was bound to happen since the late 1980s, even as they argued for serious political efforts toward locally sustained communities.
The trend toward localism has already begun in a number of segments of Adirondack society – especially among small farmers and local wood products producers – but now we are going to see a much more general trend. Already Chestertown, North Creek, Schroon Lake, and surrounding areas have taxis – that’s right, cabs, right here in the North Country above Warrensburg. Not just a single car either, several companies that range widely through the mountains. You don’t need a taxi unless you are going someplace local.
James Kunstler (recently interviewed locally here) has been the most public area voice for localism. His books are a must-read for people interested in what future local economies could look like:
The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-Made Landscape (1994)
One thing Kunstler makes clear, is that it’s not just about energy – food is as important, and there are several ways to get informed about going local.
NCPR recently celebrated 10 years of the Warrensburg Riverfront Farmers’ Market, and new markets have been established around the region in recent years. Local Harvest does a good job online showing where you can find local farmers and farmers markets in our region, but eating local means more than local farmer’s markets. It means connecting with a local CSA (Community Supporter Agriculture) farm, it means growing your own food (alone and in cooperation with your neighbors), and it means shopping locally for locally produced goods.
Speaking of growing your own, Cornell Cooperative Extension has a program for beginning framers that has recently expanded on the web. According to NCPR who recently reported the news, the new site:
…guides new farmers, and farmers changing crops or marketing strategy, step by step through starting a farm business: from setting goals and writing a business plan, to evaluating land, to taxes and permits. There’s a frequently asked questions section, worksheets to download, and an ongoing forum. The website is the latest offering from the New York Beginning Farmers Resource Center. The center is based at Cornell, but its roots are in the North Country.
We need to get to know our local farmers. The Wild Center is holding two more “Farmer Market Days 2008” on September 11th, and October 2nd “in celebration and promotion of the wonderful local food producers in the Adirondack Region.” Naturally we can’t live on the mostly fancy foods the Wild Center’s program seems to focus on, but their effort is a good start to introducing local farm operations to the Adirodnack community at large.
Adirondack Harvest is a buy local food group that was started 7 years ago. They recently received a $50,000 grant to expand their program, which they describe on their site:
Since its inception in 2001, Adirondack Harvest has grown to encompass Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, and Warren counties in northeastern New York. These counties contain major sections of the Adirondack Park and the Champlain Valley. Our focus has been on expanding markets for local farm products so that consumers have more choice of fresh farm products and on assisting farmers to increase sustainable production to meet the expanding markets.
A more direct path to lessening food costs and supporting local farms comes from Adirondack Pork, aka Yellow House Farm and a member of Adirondack Harvest, where you can buy a whole or half locally raised pig (or go in on one with another family). A whole pig serves a family of four for about 6-9 months, depending on your eating habits. They raise a pig for you until it weighs about 200-225 pounds. Your pork is prepared for you by a local butcher – you tell them any special cuts, wrapping, etc., you want. Your meat comes to you wrapped, labeled and frozen. It takes a lot less freezer space then you would imagine, and its cheaper.
The bottom line is the economy is changing and the sooner we accept that it true and end our reliance on the big box stores filled with products from half a world away and their corporate partners. They have a stranglehold on our local economy and it’s time we fought back.
From the Adirondacks Speculator Region Chamber of Commerce comes a new website that offers snowmobile trail conditions laid out in tables that identify each route (with trail numbers, segments between intersections, and municipal locations), the date the trail was last groomed, the date conditions were assessed and the conditions (great, good, fair, poor, closed).
The page includes trails in Lake Pleasant, Speculator, Arietta, Piseco, Wells, and Morehouse. The page also links to Trail Etiquette, a Trail Map cover 650 miles of area trails, GPS points, a Webcam and Photo Gallery, and a discussion board covering the area plus Indian Lake, the Moose River Plains, and other areas of the park.
Here at the Almanack, we have always believed that appropriately placed snowmobile trails (kept out of wilderness and wild forest areas) are an important component to the Adirondack economy. Riders should accept and defend the seven wilderness “leave no trace” principles.
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