Posts Tagged ‘Travel-Tourism’

Saturday, July 31, 2010

August Is Forest Pest Awareness Month

Governor David Paterson has proclaimed August as Forest Pest Awareness Month in New York State. Working with their northeast neighboring states, officials in New York are hoping to take the opportunity to educate citizens throughout the State about the risks associated with forest pests and pathogens, and the actions they can take to help safeguard New York’s valuable and abundant forests.

Throughout the month of August, Agriculture and Markets officials will be providing training for children and citizen groups to share information detection and identification, as well as reporting procedures for forest pests. Information will be focused on the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) and the Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB), the State’s two highest profile and most serious forest pest threats that have a confirmed presence in New York State. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Local Economics: Confessions of a Granola-Eater

Yes, I eat granola.

Ergo, I am a granola-eater, and in the view of some people, that makes me a cheapskate hiker.

Over the years I’ve heard a few local politicians complain about “granola-eaters” who gas up their cars outside the Park, drive to the Adirondacks for a hike or canoe trip, and return home without spending a dime.

I’ve always been puzzled by this attitude.

First, it’s wrong. OK, many hikers and paddlers are not lavish spenders, but some of them are and most of them do spend money during their Adirondack sojourns. And there are a lot of them. Their dollars add up. How do you think EMS in Lake Placid, Mountainman in Old Forge, the Mountaineer in Keene Valley, and Hornbeck Boats in Olmstedville stay in business?

Second, it’s wrongheaded. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that hikers, paddlers, and other backcountry enthusiasts don’t spend money in the Adirondacks. Whose fault is that? Isn’t it up to entrepreneurs in the Park to figure out how to pry cash from their tight fists? If these people aren’t spending money, I assume it’s because businesses are not offering goods and services they desire.

In fact, as already noted, there are many businesses and outfitters in the Park that cater to backcountry enthusiasts. I can’t help noticing that many of them are run by transplants. John Nemjo, for example, grew up in New Jersey and started Mountainman after moving to the Adirondacks in 1993. It’s now one of the largest canoe-and-kayak dealers in the Northeast.

Money can be made off hikers and paddlers, but first you have to see them as potential customers, not as tightwads.

If nothing else, you can sell them granola.

Photo of a granola-eater by Susan Bibeau.

Phil Brown is editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Guest Commentary: APA and Economic Development

Steve Erman, the Adirondack Park Agency’s Special Assistant for Economic Affairs, has offered the following perspective on the APA and its role in regional economic development. It’s presented here for your information in its entirety:

Economic Development in the Adirondack Park – – The Appropriate Role for the Adirondack Park Agency by Stephen M. Erman

Over the past few weeks, there has been speculation and opinion offered by citizens and elected officials about an expanded economic development role for the Adirondack Park Agency. Before moving too far down this path, we should consider the strengths and limitations of the Park Agency and other State and local government organizations and regional not-for-profits with roles to play in economic improvement. The Park and its communities require and deserve effective economic development and other programs to support the creation and expansion of businesses that can thrive in this very special place. There must be a stronger focus on encouraging entrepreneurs, planning, and the ongoing protection of regional character and environmental quality.

Since 1982, I have served on the Adirondack Park Agency’s senior staff as Special Assistant for Economic Affairs. I administered a well defined economic program in an agency with core functions of land use planning and the regulation of development. Before coming to the Adirondacks, I was a consultant in Washington, D.C. and learned the
importance of building organizational capacity to create and implement workable economic development strategies. My experiences have given me a unique perspective on what is necessary for a stronger economic development agenda in the Adirondack Park.

The Agency’s economic development policy states in part, that “The Agency will support the creation and retention of jobs within the region in ways that are consistent with its statutory responsibilities with the understanding that economic improvement and stability are vital parts of a collective effort to protect and enhance quality-of-life within the Park.” Within this context, the Agency supports the efforts of State and local economic developers in a manner which does not conflict with APA permitting and other statutory requirements. We correctly recognize that the Agency cannot identify and recruit specific business ventures because of inherent statutory conflicts of interest when projects need to obtain Agency permits.

My work at the Agency has involved substantial outreach to economic developers to explain how land use is regulated in the Park. Assistance has also been given to entrepreneurs seeking to adapt their project proposals to the physical limitations of their sites before applying for development permits. This pre-application guidance has been helpful in speeding up the permit process. My work as an ombudsman has helped reassure entrepreneurs that businesses are welcome in the Park and that, with proper attention to planning details, permits are predictably issued. I have also provided objective analyses of the economic and fiscal impacts of projects to the Agency staff and Board.

Implementation of an economic program at the Agency which does not conflict with its regulatory responsibilities is challenging but the effort has been important. Over time, there has been improved recognition of the relationship of our region’s special environment to the economic viability of Adirondack Park communities and the economic security of Park residents. There is also increased awareness that the Park is a place where businesses can be established and expanded, often with the help of Agency staff.

The Agency has a workable approach for permitting “shovel ready” business parks so our region can provide the same incentive typically available beyond the Blue Line. Eight business parks have been permitted to date and two of these (Chesterfield and Moriah) are “shovel ready” so businesses require no further Agency permits.

The Agency has also expedited development permits when this was critical for jobs and business retention, as was the case with a new plant for Old Adirondack, Inc. in the Town of Willsboro. And, of great importance, the Agency has helped strengthen the capacity of a range of not-for-profit organizations which are now able to work together on regional economic development planning.

I am convinced that there can be steady improvement in the economic vitality of the Adirondack Park but it will require better definitions of responsibility and increased coordination between State agencies, local governments and involved not-for-profits. We need to reduce competition and conflict. We must recognize and respect the distinct
roles that are necessary in building a more diverse and robust economy without denigrating the environmental resource which has clearly given us a competitive advantage over many other regions of the United States.

Initially, three things are critically needed: First, the funding and empowerment of local governments and not-for-profit economic development organizations to conduct well focused and realistic economic planning; Second, increased focus by the NYS Department of Economic Development, the State’s lead development agency, on adapting its programs to better serve the needs of New York’s very rural places, including the Adirondack Park; and, Third, the extensive use of the “Adirondack brand” to both market products made in the region and to advance destination tourism.

The Adirondack Park Agency has planning resources, including a sophisticated geographic information system, which can be very helpful in supporting regional economic development initiatives. And, with additional staff, the Agency can more effectively assist communities throughout the Park in comprehensive planning necessary to encourage
economic development.

The objectives of protecting the natural character of the Adirondack Park and significantly improving its economy are not mutually exclusive and the Adirondack Park Agency shares an interest in both. In my view, however, the Agency should not be the single organization –the “one stop shop” –selected to plan and promote the economic future of the Park because of inherent conflicts with its regulatory mandate. The Agency can best affect the economic future of the Park and its diverse communities as a ready and able technical resource and by being knowledgeable about the full implications of Agency decisions.

Additional planning capacity and closer coordination with State and local government will allow the Agency to serve a significant role in supporting other organizations which can lead regional economic development efforts in the future.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

New Study: Visitors Are Younger, More Affluent

Visitors to Lake Placid and Essex County in 2009 were younger and more affluent than in 2008 according to the latest travel and tourism study. For the seventh year in a row, the Technical Assistance Center (TAC), based at SUNY Plattsburgh, was contracted by the Lake Placid CVB/Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (LPCVB) to conduct an independent, third party Leisure Travel Information Study.

According to the report, the average household income of 2009 respondents was $93,211, which is slightly higher than in 2008 and the 5-year average of $91,610. The average age was 49.9 years, slightly lower than in 2008, with a 5-year average of 48.9 years.

Respondents live primarily in the Northeast. Hotels remain the most common type of lodging respondents used during their stay. When asked to select the activities which attracted them to the region, the top three were consistent with the 5 year average: outdoor activities, relax/dine/shop and sightseeing.

The results affirm many of the findings from previous years according to the study’s authors. Although there are seven years of data, the 2009 report compares to a five year rolling average to smooth out anomalies.

The LPCVB promotes the Schroon Lake, Lake Champlain, Whiteface, Saranac Lake and Lake Placid regions. The study is based on a survey of the LPCVB’s 2009 trackable leads database. New leads are added on a constant basis; walk-in visitors, phone and mail inquiries, bingo cards from magazine advertising, and web signups provide a snapshot of the respondents to the 2009 overall marketing efforts.

Although lakeplacid.com alone receives millions of unique visitors, the survey takes only these trackable leads into consideration. In order to calculate the economic impact of the LPCVB’s marketing efforts exclusively, the results do not include any standard economic multipliers, such as the impact from group visitation, staff expenditures, sales tax or events.

In addition to valuable demographic data and trends, the study’s intent is to determine the effectiveness of the LPCVB’s marketing programs, to measure the return on investment (ROI) ratio for public marketing expenditures and the conversion rate factor, or the number of those leads who actually visited the region.

The report found that the percent of visitors who stated that the information or advertisements viewed influenced their decision to visit the region was 79%, which is near the five-year average of 82%. And, for every occupancy tax dollar the LPCVB spent on marketing, visitors to Essex County spent $89, which is slightly higher than in 2008, and lower than the five-year average of 99:1.

The 2009 report, additional CVB research and more is available for download at a new online resource developed specifically for local tourism-related businesses at www.lakeplacidcvb.com.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Adirondack Region Golf Deals for 2010

The following Adirondack golf packages, in connection with local courses and nearby resorts, offer an all inclusive way to enjoy golfing in the Adirondack region. For more information on Adirondack golf and a list of courses, log onto VisitAdirondacks.com.

The Bluff Point Golf Resort in Plattsburgh is offering a Midweek Package that includes one night and two rounds of golf with a cart for just $74 US. A minimum of four people per cottage and minimum two people per suite is required and the offer is good Mondays-Thursdays. Weekend Golf Packages are just $84 US and include one night’s accommodations and one round of golf with a cart. There is a minimum of four people per cottage and minimum two people per suite; offer is good Fridays-Sundays.

In Malone, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake, Canadian golfers can take advantage of the Golf Packages at Par which include two nights’ accommodations, two days of unlimited golf and more at Malone Golf Club East and West, Saranac Inn Golf & Country Club and Tupper Lake Golf and Country Club. Prices vary.

The Cedars Golf Course in Lowville offers weekly specials: 9 holes with cart for $18, or 18 holes with cart for $25. If golfers tee-off before 1 pm, they’ll even throw in a free sandwich.

The Sagamore Golf Course in Bolton Landing offers views of the Adirondack High Peaks and beautiful Lake George. The Sagamore Resort is offering an Unlimited Golf Package to guests, which includes two nights’ accommodation in either The Lodge or the Historic Hotel at the Sagamore, breakfast, unlimited golf and a special gift from the Golf Course Pro Shop. Prices vary.

The Ledge Rock in Wilmington is offering Whiteface Golf Packages through Oct. 12, which include one night’s lodging and one round of golf at the Whiteface Club & Resort for $124 pp/double occupancy. Just down the road, The Inn at Whiteface is offering a $99/night package for two people with reduced golf fees.

In Lake Placid, several area hotels and resorts are offering Adirondack Golf Getaway Packages all season long. The Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa and the Courtyard by Marriott both kick off their golf seasons June 19th with stay and play packages. Through Oct. 1, the Courtyard by Marriott will offer a $129/pp midweek golf package that includes deluxe accommodations, golf cart and breakfast. Through Oct. 7th, the Mirror Lake Inn will offer a special rate for couples who want to play a round of golf at The Whiteface Club & Resort, the Lake Placid Mountain Course or Craig Wood Golf Course. Additional options are available.

The Best Western University Inn in Canton golf package is $95 weekday, or $100 weekend and includes unlimited golf with cart for one day; complimentary bucket of range balls; hotel stay for one night; complimentary drink coupons and 10% soft goods discount at the pro shop. Rates are per person per day based on double occupancy, and are valid through October 15.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Lake George Fears Loss of Millions if Americade Leaves

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

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

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


Monday, June 14, 2010

Exotic Wildlife: Gators in the Adirondacks

In 1999, Fox 2000 Pictures released the film Lake Placid. Despite the title, the story takes place on fictional Black Lake in Maine. The folks at Fox apparently figured the name of an internationally renowned Olympic site in New York might attract more attention than Black Lake, which was, after all, placid, just like the title said. Except for those times when a giant killer crocodile was thrashing on the surface, gulping down humans for lunch.

It was hard to tell which was less believable: that Bridget Fonda, Bill Pullman, and the legendary Betty White would sign on for such a project; that a movie based on such a far-fetched concept could make money; or that a member of the order Crocodilia could be found on any lake within 700 miles north of the Carolinas. If you’re a betting person, which is/are true?

The answers: Yes—Fonda, Pullman, and White (plus Oliver Platt and Brendan Gleeson) played the major roles in the movie. Yes, it earned money—nearly $32 million, enough to spawn Lake Placid 2 in 2007, and Lake Placid 3, scheduled for release on June 26, 2010. And yes, members of the order Crocodilia have lived recently in the north woods. All bets are winners!

The gator of Mirror Lake existed, appropriately enough, in the village of Lake Placid, and it scared the heck out of some very surprised tourists. I was once an avid fisherman, and before you take a fisherman’s word on something as ridiculous as this, it’s probably best to seek a higher authority, say, the New York Times. In 1903, they ran a story titled “Alligator in Lake Placid.”

That was two decades before “Lake Placid South” (Lake Placid, Florida) came into existence, so rest assured, the story applied to Lake Placid in the Adirondacks. The tale in the Times began in early 1903 when the Stevens brothers, proprietors of the famed Stevens House, learned the answer to that age-old question, “What do you give someone who has everything?” The obvious answer: a reptile from the tropics, given to them as a gift by a friend who was returning from Florida.

A young alligator became the newest addition to the hotel’s amenities (deterrents?), housed temporarily in a bathtub. Around May, when ponds were open and the snow was melting, they made a decidedly non-tropical decision, releasing the gator into Mirror Lake. Frigid nights brought ice to the lake’s shallows, leaving only the slightest hope for the gator’s survival.

A few weeks later, on a warm, sunny day, appeared the oddest of sights at Mirror Lake—an alligator catching some rays on the beach. Because of its size, the gator posed little threat to humans, and the Stevens had a new attraction for patrons and curious northerners who, in the summer of ′03, hoped to glimpse the elusive newcomer.

Imagine the surprise of visitors a year later, innocently walking the shoreline of Mirror Lake in early summer, and stumbling upon an alligator! They reported their amazing find to management, who explained it was merely the Stevens’ family pet. (We can assume the Stevens housed it for the winter, but in warmer climes, gators can survive the cold in underground dens. Lake Placid’s temps would have provided a stern test of that system.)

Though the whole story seems like a once-in-a-lifetime tale, especially for those of us familiar with Adirondack wildlife, the Mirror Lake gator was not as unusual as you’d think. Similar incidents have occurred from Malone to Keeseville, and Ausable Forks to Ticonderoga. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, it became fashionable to have exotic pets, and many small alligators were among those carried home from Florida to the Adirondacks. Most of them were less than two feet long. Some escaped from their owners, while others were released into the wild.

It’s unclear what became of the survivors, like the Mirror Lake alligator or the many pets kept by private individuals. Or the one at the Lake Placid Club in 1933. That’s another story that defies belief. George Martin, the swimming instructor at the club, captured (with help) a seven-foot alligator from southern Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp. They wrapped the reptile’s huge jaws in wire and prepared to take him north.

How do you transport a 7-foot alligator 1,000 miles? By George’s reckoning, you crate it, lay the crate on the car’s running board (most cars had them back then), lash the gator’s tail to the car’s rear fender, and hit the road. Though the wires around his jaws were snipped, the animal refused to eat, but they did make frequent stops at gas stations to water him down. He was christened “Mike,” and the club made plans for a facility where the animal could spend the winter. In the meantime, he was kept among Jacques Suzanne’s menagerie about a mile south of the village.

On a few occasions in the North Country, folks have unexpectedly stumbled upon alligators, and it’s hard to imagine the shock of the moment. Unfortunately, the reaction was uniform: kill it. A young boy from Malone, startled with his find (an 18-inch gator), dispatched it with a rock.

Another alligator’s death begs the question “Why?” The story was reported in the Wells area in late October 1957. Two bow hunters were hoping to bag a buck, but they spied a 32-inch alligator treading water near a beaver dam. One of the men put an arrow into the gator just behind the head, killing it. It was assumed to have been a released pet surviving on its own. No one knew how long it had been there, or if it had denned and somehow weathered the previous winter. (Not likely.)

Back in 1924, a young gator in Keeseville survived as a pet for three years until a couple of barn cats settled a longstanding feud, dragging it from its tank, killing it after an intense battle, and partially devouring the carcass before the owners drove them off.

But not all the alligators in the Adirondacks met tragic ends. Some were part of a traveling show associated with the Seminole Indians of Florida. Virtually every Florida carnival and sideshow featured alligator wrestlers, and among the best was George Storm. In the 1950s, a complete Seminole village was set up at Michael Covert’s hotel in Wilmington, and part of the daily show that summer was Storm performing his specialty.

Considering the unknown fate of Lake Placid’s alligators, their known proclivity for longevity, and the movies by the same name, it might be a good idea during the Ironman Triathlon to count swimmers going into Mirror Lake as well as those coming out. Just in case.

Photo Above: Poster from the first Lake Placid movie.

Photo Below: The Stevens House as it looked when it hosted the alligator.

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


Monday, June 14, 2010

Tourism Officials Optimistic Heading Into Summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s the Adirondacks,” she said.

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

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

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

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

The weather.

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

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


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A NYC School Group Gets a Taste of the Wild

The group of students was heading to Lake George for a barbecue, and then rafting on the Hudson River. But before that, I had volunteered to take them caving near Albany.

It was the second year I would guide a group from this school. But these kids had never been in a cave before. Nor had they been to the Adirondacks.

They were a group of nine Orthodox high-school students from Brooklyn, led by a rabbi who was a friend of a friend. The boys were a combination street-tough wise guys and Yeshiva-trained scholars. Which meant they asked a lot of questions and they wanted the answer now.

When I met them at a local rock-climbing gym and introduced myself as their guide, the first one I met said: “About time. This place sucks.”

Not a patient crowd. But at least open-minded. When we arrived at the parking lot for the cave, they milled about, asking me questions: How wet would they get? How dark was it? Could they wear Crocs? Should they bring their cell phones? Should they wear a jacket?

And what about after the caving trip? Had I ever rafted the Hudson River before? Was it dangerous? Could they fall out of the boat? How deep was the water? I tried to keep up.

One kid pulled me aside: “Do we have to go through a deep section? How deep is it? I don’t want to go. Can I go a different way?”

Their comments continued as we began our descent, crawling through the entrance hole and tramping through ankle-deep running water. They turned to screams as they felt the cold water enter their shoes. “My feet are wet!” “Watch your head!” “My flashlight is broken!” “Hurry up!” “Wait up!”

Eventually, we reached the end of the passage, at a small underground pond. There Rabbi Fischer asked everyone to turn off their flashlights and be quiet. It took a while, for teen-age boys don’t like darkness and don’t like silence, and tend to fill it with light or noise.

Eventually, though, they settled down, and the rabbi spoke. “I want you to think about where we are,” he said, to the sound of dripping water. “I want you to think about the fact that we could only be here, in this amazing place, because we did this together, as a group. In September, we didn’t know each other, and today — I mean this sincerely — each one of you has a place in my heart.”

There was silence for a moment, and then one boy spoke up: “You guys are like family to me.”

They talked some more, and then it was time to go back to the van. Each boy shook my hand and thanked me for helping to give them such a great experience.

The rabbi took me aside. “The group you took last year? They talked about that caving trip for months. They still talk about it. This is something they’ll keep with them the rest of their lives.”

I thought about that, and the power of wilderness. The kids reacted to this new situation with the only tool that teen-age boys have — big talk, questions, audacity, brashness. They used loud talk to cover up their fear, but they did what was asked of them and came out smiling, if a little wet and muddy.

And tomorrow, when asked for the first time in their lives to step into a rubber raft and paddle down the Hudson River, they would probably be the same way. Perhaps their guide would be annoyed, or perhaps merely amused.

Either way, they would take a little taste of the wilderness back with them to the city, and keep it for the rest of their lives.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

‘Have A Seat in Glens Falls’ Outdoor Art Project Begins

After well over a year of planning, thirty-eight unique Adirondack chairs will be placed throughout downtown Memorial Day through September 6, 2010. Each chair was created by a regional artist offering a Glens Falls theme, built to be weather resistant and functional. This project is hoped to focus on Glens Falls as a tourism destination with many shopping, dining, cultural, and entertainment choices.

To promote “Have a Seat in Glens Falls,” ninety-thousand rack cards have been distributed along eastern New York from Suffern to Plattsburg and twenty-thousand brochures with chair maps have been delivered to local retail stores, restaurants, and attractions. A website provides access to all pertinent information, including an interactive map of the chairs’ locations. The project also has an active presence on Facebook. Ads, both radio and print, and banners will run throughout the summer months.

After the event is over, the chairs will be sold to the highest bidders at the “Chair-itable Auction”, scheduled for Wednesday, September 15, at The Queensbury Hotel. Each artist will receive 25% of their chair’s sale price. Net proceeds from the project benefit the City Park Restoration Project, Crandall Public Library, and Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Two New Adirondack Bicycling Initiatives

Two unrelated efforts this spring show that bicycling may be getting a little more attention here in the Adirondacks.

For starters, you can take part in a local survey, looking for input for a future Web site dedicated to promoting bicycling in the Adirondacks. The survey is reachable here.

The survey is part of a program called Bike the Byways, which is sponsored by the Adirondack North Country Association, a community development group in Saranac Lake. The idea, says organizer Tim Holmes, is to figure out what bike resources already exist in the park.

The group is most interested in road rides, he said, especially to promote the 14 federally-designated “Scenic Byways” located in the park.

Because of the lack of roads in the park and the sheer splendor of most of them, apparently most roads in the park are in fact scenic byways. So cyclists could just unfold a map and take their pick. Nevertheless, visitors might appreciate a site offering more specific descriptions.

For more information, check out the new blog, http://bikethebyways.wordpress.com/

Meanwhile, work continues on the Upper Hudson Rail Trail, a proposed 29-mile route that would go from North Creek to Tahawus on a right-of-way currently owned by NL Industries. A year after the idea was first made public, organizer Curt Austin, a photographer from Chestertown, has planned his first official organizing meeting.

Friends of the Upper Hudson Rail Trail Inc. will meet at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 12 at the North Creek Ski Bowl lodge.

“There are a lot of details to work out,” he said. But the meeting may include some more fun activities, such as a drive out to some of the route’s more scenic spots and possibly a bike ride in the afternoon.

The group is seeking to buy the railroad from NL, remove the track and lay down a bike trail through some of the Central Adirondack’s most remote woods.

“We don’t have that many formal members yet, but we’re going to try to make it entertaining and worthwhile for new people,” he said.

Check out the Upper Hudson’s Facebook page here.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Lake George Scenery is a Draw, Even in Winter

Nobody comes to Lake George in winter. That’s the conventional wisdom, apparently confirmed by the experience of resorts like The Sagamore, which now closes its doors in November.

But according to a study released by the Warren County Tourism Department in April, people are interested in visiting Lake George and Bolton Landing in the off-season; they even recommend it as a destination to others.

Of the 577 people who completed a Warren County Tourism Department on-line survey, more than a third visited the Lake George region between December and March, said Kate Johnson, Warren County’s director of tourism.

“Almost 90% of the people who visited us at that time of the year rated their experience as either ‘Very Good’ or ‘Excellent,’” said Johnson. “I’m still gratified by how many people are pleased with their visits to Lake George and will recommend it to others.”

Johnson said 100% of the people surveyed would recommend Lake George to their friends and family.

“It doesn’t matter what the season, people like Lake George,” said Johnson

And they like the same things about Lake George in season and out, Johnson said.

46% of the winter visitors said Lake George’s scenic beauty was a major draw and 22% engaged in outdoor activities.

Summer visitors expressed similar preferences, although an even higher percentage said they came to Lake George for its range of outdoor activities, from golfing and horseback riding to boating and swimming, said Johnson,

According to the survey, the majority of winter visitors stayed two to three nights in Warren County. More than 86% visited Lake George during their stay and roughly 40% visited Bolton Landing. Only 25% visited North Creek, the site of Gore Mountain and assumed by many to be Warren County’s single winter destination.

“This report gives us the kind of feedback we need,” said Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover, who serves on Warren County’s Tourism Committee. “By promoting our natural resources year-round, we’re doing the right thing.”

Conover added, “The report also reminds us that it’s our lake’s scenic beauty that draws visitors. We have to maintain our tourism infrastructure, such as our beaches and parks.”

Photo: Lake George Mirror

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


Friday, April 30, 2010

Lake George: Layers of History From Fort’s Well

In the two centuries that followed the French destruction of Fort William Henry in 1757, the only visible reminder of the fort was the old well on the grounds of the hotel.

“The French,” wrote Seneca Ray Stoddard in his 1873 guide to Lake George, “burned whatever they could not carry off. They could not steal or burn the ‘Old Fort Well’ however, and it still remains, partially filled with stones and rubbish.”

It was rumored that the British hid their gold and silver in the well during the seige of 1757. After the surrender of the fort to the Marquis de Montcalm, the officers’ wives who had been told that they would be granted safe passage to Fort Edward threw their jewelry into the well “having a premonition of disaster,” according to one account.

According to Stoddard’s tale, “On the night of August 9, 1757, as the Indians went about the fort, killing and scalping the sick and wounded, two women were thrown headlong down the well after having been scalped.”

Despite that rich history, the well has been excavated only twice; in the 1950s and again in 1997, under the supervision of archeologist David Starbuck.

The well was dug in late 1755, after Sir William Johnson defeated the French at the Battle of Lake George and began building Fort William Henry. Rogers’ Rangers, it is believed, actually dug and built the 40 ft deep stone well.

At least one source has it that the completion of the well was commemorated with a dance and a ration of rum for all.

Approximately one hundred years after the destruction of the fort, the first hotel was built on the site.

“Honeymoon couples would walk by the well and throw silver coins into it, believing that this offering to the legends of the ghosts which have been said to inhabit the walls of the old report, would bring them good luck, and future happiness,” the Lake George Mirror reported in 1955.

When reconstruction of the current replica fort began in 1953, the bottom was only 19 and 1/2 feet from the curb, indicating that that in the intervening years about 20 feet of of dirt and debris had accumulated.

According to David Starbuck, archaeologists were unable to dig deeper than 23 feet before hitting water when excavating the well in 1960. In 1997, Starbuck began a new archaeological dig at the fort, part of which was an excavation of the well. With the aid of sections of steel culvert with which to line the well and prevent it from collapsing, Starbuck himself was able to reach a depth of 30 feet.

“Since 1960 the well had been the center of attention for every school child who visited the fort,” Starbuck wrote in his “Massacre at Fort William Henry.” “They left us with a forty year legacy of tourist memorabilia.”

Starbuck and his assistants found toys, sunglasses and a lot of bubblegum.

At 27 feet from the surface, Starbuck made a discovery that completes our knowledge of the well’s construction. “The well had been lined at its bottom with vertical wood planks, creating a water tight barrel that prevented silt from washing in,” Starbuck reported. “(Each of the planks) was three inches thick, and twelve inches wide. Massive and tightly joined, the boards were waterlogged and swollen, and groundwater could seep into the well only by running over the tops of the planks through knotholes.”

Fort William Henry’s Archaeology Hall includes a full scale recreation of the well, enabling viewers to experience for themselves Starbuck’s sensations as he stood at the bottom of the well, sending up buckets of earth, debris, and the thousands of coins visitors have tossed into the well over the years. (The treasure, we assume, went elsewhere.)

Gerry Bradfield, the fort’s curator at the time, installed a video camera within the well’s shaft and taped the entire process.

The Archaeology Hall and other rooms throughout the Fort contain thousands of artifacts discovered on the grounds of Fort William Henry since the 1950’s, when the reconstruction of the fort began. Recent discoveries, such as pre-historic pottery shards as well as buttons from the uniforms of American soldiers in the War of Independence, suggest that the site was used before and after the fort was burned in 1757.

The exhibits are part of a larger “Living History Program” designed to enable visitors to better understand the history of the colonial era. The program includes tours led by guides in authentic costumes, the firing of 18th century muskets and cannons, recreated scenes of life at the fort and scenes from the events that took place there, as well as visits to dungeons, a powder magazine and a crypt of the victims of Montcalm’s 1757 massacre. Visitors can also view the 1936 film version of Cooper’s “Last of the Mohicans,” believed by many to be the best and most graphic portrayal of Montcalm’s siege and the ensuing massacre.

The Fort William Henry Museum is open from May through October.

Photo of Old Fort Well, circa 1959, Lake George Mirror files

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


Friday, February 5, 2010

When Tourists Stay Home, Local Governments Suffer

Last year, for the first time in decades, sales tax revenues in the Lake George region declined in every one of the year’s four quarters. Revenues dropped by as much as 15% over the summer. That’s not only an indication that resorts, restaurants and shops saw less trade in their busiest season than in years past; the drop in revenues left local governments scrambling to fill gaps in their budgets.

According to Warren County Treasurer Frank O’Keefe, 1.5% of the 7% sales tax collected by New York State in the county is distributed to local towns.

And, as O’Keefe explains, “The sales tax is apportioned on the basis of a town’s share of the collective value of the property in the county.”

Lake George, Bolton and Hague represent approximately a third of the value of all property in Warren County, and the lion’s share of sales tax revenues are returned to those towns and to Queensbury, where more than 32% of the assessed value of the county is located.

At the start of 2009, Warren County expected to receive approximately $45 million in sales tax revenues; instead, it received only $42 million, a drop of more than 8%, O’Keefe said.

Newly-elected Town Supervisors in Lake George and Bolton now find themselves with less revenues, and less flexibility, than their predecessors had.

The Town of Bolton received $3.2 million, approximately $333,000 less than it had received the previous year.

“That could have been devastating,” said Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover, who said he had carefully observed the previous administration’s budget making process before he himself took office in January.

“Whenever there’s a drop in sales tax revenues, there’s additional pressure on property taxes,” he said.

While the town’s tax rate did rise by 2.5%, that increase was much less than one that hit residents of Lake George, where municipal taxes rose by 26%.

“The members of the Bolton Town Board were very careful, knowing that sales tax revenues would be impacted by the recession. They knew this was no time for wishful thinking,” said Conover. “The Board went over every expenditure. The result was a good budget that allows the town to operate without reducing existing levels of service.”

Warren County estimates that Bolton’s share of sales tax revenues will rise in 2010, but Conover says the town will continue to follow a prudent course.

“Sales tax revenues may rebound, although not to the historically high levels of the past; but if the economy picks up, it will take some pressure off the property-owners’ taxes,” he said.

Although Bolton will watch its expenses, it will continue to maintain and improve its infrastructure of parks, beaches and public docks, said Conover.

“These are assets that we need for economic development and tourism,” Conover said.

In Lake George, according to Supervisor Frank McCoy, sales tax revenues dropped by 12%, leaving the town with $300,000 less than it had anticipated, said McCoy,

The market for recycled paper and plastic also crashed, costing the town another $100,000 in revenues, said McCoy.

But those losses in revenue were not wholly responsible for the 26% increase in property taxes, McCoy said.

For the past several years, the town had drawn from its reserves rather than raising taxes; by mid-2009, those reserves were all but exhausted.

“From 2004 to 2009, we chipped away at the reserves,” McCoy acknowledged. “Instead of using the reserves, we should have increased taxes incrementally, by 3% a year.”

The increase in property taxes will enable the town to rebuild its reserves, McCoy said.

“We’re on the road to recovery,” said McCoy. “We’ll watch the pennies, we’ll review finances monthly and meet with department heads every quarter to make certain we’re on track, just as any business would.”

No reductions in the town work force are planned, said McCoy.

Any new positions would be part-time posts, he said.

“Last August, when the sales tax revenues dropped, we went into an austerity mode,” said McCoy. “We’re still in an austerity mode.”

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

Photo: Newly-elected Bolton Supervisor takes the oath of office with his family at his side.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Ten Influential People in Adirondack History

One thing for sure, this list is not complete. There are perhaps thirty important people who didn’t make this short list. Suggestions from readers on the original post seeking nominations offers a much more complete list of those influential in the Adirondacks, but I said ten, and so here is ten. I’ve listed them roughly chronologically.

Something I found interesting: five of these men (yeah, they’re all men) were born in the eighteen years between 1840 and 1858—an Adirondack Greatest Generation? » Continue Reading.


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