The Adirondack Almanack has recently been enlivened by a series substantive of conversations around land use in the Adirondacks. I invite anyone interested in continuing those conversations to participate in the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s Interdisciplinary Scholarship in Land Use and Ethics 2ndAnnual Symposium May 17–19, 2013 at the Newcomb campus. On its best day, philosophy succeeds in sending “the conversation off in new directions.”
The Chili Ski and Snowshoe Fest will take place on January 28 no matter the weather conditions, according to Paul Smith’s College VIC Interpretive Naturalist Educator Sarah Keyes.
The event will be jammed with family-friendly activities such as a modified “poker run” where kids will search on skis for animal cards and an obstacle course. There are also kids’ freestyle ski races, a bird walk and a snowshoe stampede. “Paul Smith’s College Culinary and Bakery students will create three different types of chili as well as bread and some baked goods, “says Keyes. “All the outside snow-related activities will be covered with the purchase of a VIC day pass but there are some events happening at the VIC which are free.”
According to Keyes Mark Manske of Adirondack Raptor Center will give live birding demonstrations where people can get up close and personal to owls and hawks. Children can also always access the inside touch table. Visitors can stop by to view the ongoing art show “Winter Wonders” and the traveling exhibit “Ways of the Woods.”
“We encourage people to stop by and see all the different activities we have happening,” says Keyes. “There will be music that afternoon as well the Adult 5K ski races.”
Keyes says, “We are always open to suggestions from people regarding our programming. We are looking into do an environment book club and after the great success of our “no school” program, parents can look forward to the next session over President’s weekend vacation.”
Keyes mentions that during the Christmas holiday she prepared weekday activities for school-aged children to get kids outside and entertained. The President’s weekend format will be similar and open to locals as well as visitors during holiday weekends. Keyes recommends people calling her at 327-6241 for more information.
The Paul Smith’s College VIC Chili Ski and Snowshoe Fest will start at 10:00 a.m. with a bird walk with Adirondack Birding Center Director Brian McAllister and conclude with a backcountry ski lecture with Brian McDonnell of McDonnell’s Adirondack Challenges though the live music with the Bog Stompers and access to the VIC trails will continue until 4:00 p.m.
photo used with permission of Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Time
The Paul Smith’s College VIC has issued their schedule for the remaining winter season. The VIC is located at 8023 State Route 30 in Paul Smiths. For more information about the events listed here or the VIC in general contact Brian McDonnell at (518) 327-6241
Sunday, Jan. 8 through Sunday, Feb. 19 – Winter Wonders Art Show and Sale
Local featured artists will display their nature themed art from 1-3 p.m. at the VIC. The first show of the new year, we will feature 8 artists showcasing their art in a variety of mediums including photography, watercolor, oil, and pastels. This will be the first show of the year. Each month, on the new moon, we will offer a new exhibit featuring 2 local artists. » Continue Reading.
Cross-country skiers and snowshoers will have even more terrain to explore at the Paul Smith’s College VIC this winter. “We’ve made some significant upgrades,” said Brian McDonnell, the VIC’s director. “We’ve almost doubled the size of the trail system, and we now have trails to suit both classic and skate skiers.” A groomer purchased by Paul Smith’s College last winter will be used to maintain the expanded trail network. Since the college acquired the VIC from the state in January, it has made improvements to the building and grounds. To help defray the cost of the trail improvements and the purchase of grooming equipment, VIC patrons will be required to purchase a day or season pass to the trails. Access to the VIC trails will remain free during the non-winter months.
“We’re trying to improve the trail system for the community, but we need to cover our expenses,” McDonnell said. “We’re on a five-year plan to make the VIC self-sustaining.”
Three categories of trails, for snowshoeing, classic and skate skiing, will be maintained and marked for daily use from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Classic-ski trails will typically be groomed 4 feet wide with a track for both snowshoeing and classic skiing, while skating ski trails will be cut 7 to 10 feet wide and groomed to accommodate both skate and classic skiers. Snowshoe trails will be packed primarily for snowshoeing but may also be skied on when conditions permit.
Some trails will also be designated for skijoring, or dog-drawn skiing. Leashed dogs are allowed on the snowshoe trails at anytime, as well.
Trail users will be asked to register at the visitor’s building. Trails will be monitored by a trained volunteer first-aid ski patrol, and a courtesy patrol to assist people with directions.
McDonnell said the trail network is likely to be expanded next year. The VIC staff has scouted a network of potential trails that could be added to the nature center, which covers nearly 3,000 acres.
“This is a transitional year, and future expansion will depend on how much interest we have from the community for the varied ski-trail network,” McDonnell said.
Under 6 years old: Free Child (6-17): $5 Adult (18-64): $10 Senior (65+): $5 Current Paul Smith’s faculty, staff and alumni: $5 Current Paul Smith’s students: Free Other college students: $5 Groups of 10 or more: $8 each
Under 6 years old: Free Child (6-17): $50 Adult (18-64): $75 Senior (65+): $ 50 Current Paul Smith’s faculty, staff and alumni: $50 Current Paul Smith’s students: Free Other college students: $50 Family: $150 (Buy 2 adult season passes and children under 18 in the household ski free.) Guest pass: Add an additional $25 to any season pass and bring a guest.
Individual day pass: $5 Individual season pass: $50
Additionally, the VIC will rent cross-country skis for $25 a day and snowshoes for $15. Trail fees will be included in the cost of the rental.
Trail pass holders will be eligible for discounts on weekend events and program at the VIC, including bird watching walks; natural-history themed walks and events; and backcountry snowshoeing led by VIC staff up the Adirondack Low Peaks. Several other weekend programs are in the works.
For more information, call the Paul Smith’s College VIC at (518) 327-6241. Photo: The pack sprints from the starting line during a snowshoe race at the Paul Smith’s College VIC (photo provided).
The Paul Smiths VIC will continue the tradition of hosting the Adirondack Wildlife Festival on August 6 from 10 AM to 8 PM. There will be presentations on all creatures great and small, from Bears to Salamanders, live music with Roy Hurd, storytelling with David Fadden of the 6 Nations Indian Museum, Mark Manske’s bird on hand demonstrations, fun and games, visits to the butterfly house and a special presentation on Loon Conservation in America by Dr. Jim Paruk. Current schedule of activities includes: » Continue Reading.
The Paul Smith’s College VIC has issued their schedule for the remaining summer season. The VIC is located at 8023 State Route 30 in Paul Smiths. For more information about the events listed here or the VIC in general contact Brian McDonnell at (518) 327-6241
July 29 – August 28: “Life on the Lakes” Juried Art Show
The Paul Smith’s College VIC has asked Caroline Thompson, Executive Director of The Arts Council of The Northern Adirondacks, to be the juror of our first juried art show. Artists from around the region have been invited to submit their works for consideration. The Opening Reception will take place from 5 to 7:00 PM on July 29th in the Great Room of the VIC. In addition to the juror selected awards, a “People’s Choice” selection determined through visitors voting for their favorite artist’s work. The balloting will be a fundraiser to support the development of art programming at The VIC. July 30 – NOLS Comes East
The National Outdoor Leadership School, based in Lander, Wyoming, has utilized the Paul Smith’s College VIC as its eastern outpost for the month of July. NOLS is the recognized leader of “hard skills” in outdoor education and recreation. Come listen to Jack Drury, a former NOLS instructor and well known outdoor educator, give a historical perspective of NOLS followed by a presentation by Adirondack based NOLS logistics coordinator Lindsay Yost on plans for NOLS coming East with their wilderness programs.
August 6: Adirondack Wildlife Festival
The Paul Smith’s College VIC will continue the tradition of hosting the Adirondack Wildlife Festival on August 6 from 10 AM to 8 PM. There will be presentations on all creatures great and small, from Bears to Salamanders. We’ll have live music with Roy Hurd, Native American storytelling with David Fadden of the 6 Nations Indian Museum, Mark Manske’s bird on hand demonstrations, fun and games, visits to the butterfly house and a very special presentation on Loon Conservation in America by Dr. Jim Paruk, The Director of Biodiversity Research Institute’s International Center for Loon Conservation and Research. August 12: Mindfulness Meditation Yoga Walk
Mary Bartel, ERYT, of Inner Quest Yoga and Wellness Center, will lead a silent walk from 10 AM to Noon to awaken your senses and participate in gentle flowing yoga movements on the trails at The VIC. Preregistration is required. The fee is $25. August 13: Joe and Jessie Bruchac
Father and son Abenaki singers and storytellers, Joe and Jessie will perform their Native American themed stories and music in the Whispering Pines Amphitheatre at The Paul Smith’s College VIC at 2 PM. Sponsored by the Adirondack Center for Writing.
August 19: Adirondack Plein Air Festival Paints the VIC
Come out to the VIC on Friday August 19th to view artists in various locations around the VIC. The public is welcome to visit artists as they create art on the trails and in the woods. Three of the Plein Air artists have donated paintings to the VIC to raise awareness of the festival and to generate funds for the center. We thank them for their generous commitment to growing The Arts presence at The VIC. We will sell tickets at the front desk. The drawing will take place at the Plein Air Festival. August 28: Monarchs in The Meadow
The benefit concert will start at 2 PM, and outdoor fun all afternoon for friends and families of the Paul Smith’s College VIC. Join us in the meadow next to the butterfly house to celebrate the migration of the Monarch butterfly and wind down the summer in style.
Regular programs and Activities:
Check out the goods under the pavilion from local farmers on Fridays from 2 to 5 PM.
The Paul Smith’s College VIC Butterfly House
The popular butterfly house is open and staffed 7 days a week from 10:00 to 4:00 PM throughout the summer. Visitors can view native butterflies up close and learn about the life stages and migratory patterns of these colorful insects. The Butterfly House is made possible with significant support from the Adirondack Park Institute (API.) For more information contact The VIC at 327 – 6241.
The Paul Smith’s College VIC Fun Runs – Every Wednesday
Every Wednesday of the summer The Paul Smith’s College VIC offers Free Fun Trail Runs from 6:00 to 7:30. Join area runners on the great trails at The VIC. Sarah Keyes will talk training, nutrition and techniques for adding distance to your running.
First Sunday Series of Trail Races
The “First Sunday” Series will continue with a “Predator and Prey 10K” on August 7. Every month the distance for the First Sunday Series will progressively increase. September 4th we will offer a 15k Trail Race and on October 2nd we’ll offer a 13.1 mile half marathon. There will be also be a 5k option every month. “First Sunday Series” Trail Races begin at 9:00 AM. Register: www.active.com Sponsors include Lake Placid Pub & Brewery, Mac’s Canoe Livery and Paul Smith’s College. For more information contact The VIC at 327 – 6241.
Naturalist led Back Country Paddles – Every Tuesday of the summer.
The Paul Smith’s College VIC offers a guided back country canoe trip every Tuesday of the summer. Trips are suitable for families. MAC’S Canoe Livery, in Lake Clear, will furnish the boats and equipment. Trips meet at The VIC at 10 AM and return by 4 PM. Trip fee is $75 for adults. Reservations are required. For a complete schedule, more information or to make a reservation for these popular trips 327 – 6241. Explore the Adirondack ALPS – Every Thursday of the summer.
The Paul Smith’s College VIC offers a series of day hikes up the “Adirondack Low Peaks” in close proximity to The VIC. Trips meet at The VIC at 10 AM and return by 4 PM. Trip fee is $50 for adults. For a complete schedule, more information or to make a reservation for these popular trips, contact The VIC at 327 – 6241. Naturalist led hikes and paddles at The VIC – Every day of the summer
Come explore nature at The Paul Smith’s College VIC! The trails are open and free to the public all the time! To enhance your experience, join one of The VIC naturalists for an investigative two hour hike in the woods or paddle on the waters of The VIC. Groups meet at 10 AM and 2 PM daily. Trip fee is $20 for adults. For a complete schedule, more information or to make a reservation for these popular trips, contact The VIC at 327 – 6241. “Fun with Fungi” Mushroom walks
The Paul Smith’s College VIC will host naturalist led mushroom explorations on the trails and in the woods of the 3000 acre VIC campus. Come investigate “anything fungal” with mushroom specialist Susan Hopkins on Thursday, July 21, and August 4. We will meet at the VIC Visitor’s Building at 10:00AM for an introduction on what you might expect to see at this time of year; followed by a two hour walk of identification and collection. After the walk we will return to the center and those interested can sort out and discuss the various fungi collected on the tour. Susan will explain the various field guides and simple keys she uses to identify the various local mushrooms. The Fun with Fungi Interpretive Workshop is $20 per person. Preregistration is required. Yoga on the deck at The VIC
Jackie Foster, RYT, will lead sessions on the deck at the VIC to awaken your senses to the natural world. Wednesdays through 8/31 from 9:30 to 10:45 AM. $15 per session
Paul Smith’s College and the Adirondack Center for Writing are proud to present Sapphire, poet and best-selling author of the novel Push — the inspiration for the Academy-Award winning film, “Precious” at the Paul Smith’s VIC on April 19, 2011 at 7pm. The reading is free for students and faculty, $5 for all others. Sapphire’s books will be available for sale, which the author will sign.
Famed in the worlds of literature, poetry, and literacy—and an extraordinary public speaker—Sapphire is first and foremost a poet and performer. She is the author of American Dreams, cited by Publisher’s Weekly as, “One of the strongest debut collections of the nineties;” and Black Wings & Blind Angels, of which Poets & Writers declared, “With her soul on the line in each verse, her latest collection retains Sapphire’s incendiary power to win hearts and singe minds.” Sapphire’s bestselling novel, Push, about an illiterate, brutalized Harlem teenager, won the Book-of-the-Month Club Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction, the Black Caucus of the American Library Association’s First Novelist Award, and in Great Britain, the Mind Book of the Year Award. Push was named by The Village Voice as one of the top twenty-five books of 1996 and by TIMEOUT New York as one of the top ten books of 1996. Push was also nominated for an NAACP Image Award in the category of Outstanding Literary Work of Fiction. It was made into a major motion film, “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire”, produced by Oprah Winfrey.
Past authors featured in the Visiting Author Series sponsored by Paul Smith’s College and Adirondack Center for Writing have included Rick Moody, Andrea Barret, Terry Tempest Williams, William Kennedy, and Alistair McLeod. The Adirondack Center for Writing is an independent non-profit, 501(c)3 organization dedicated to promoting literature and providing educational opportunities and support to both aspiring and established writers in the Adirondack region. We provide workshops, conferences, and readings throughout the year in locations all around the Adirondack Park. Paul Smith’s College also generously donates office space and in-kind office services to the Adirondack Center for Writing.
We plan just a jaunt to stretch our legs on the Lake Clear section of the Jackrabbit Trail. We are only going a small part of the nine-mile trail that starts near the Lake Clear junction and ends at the Paul Smith College Visitor’s Interpretive Center (VIC).
We struggle over the steep snow banks that line Route 30, throwing our snowshoes and skis ahead of us. With the recent dumping of snow we have to knock our feet into the snow to make steps up the embankment. We sit on the edge of the snow bank and quickly strap on our skis. When we reach the Jackrabbit trailhead sign my son notes that we are standing about four feet above the ground. Cars rush past but the tree cover soon muffles the sound. Even on skis we sink into the fresh snow. There are more popular sections to the 33-mile trail but this one fits our needs.
The conditions are perfect. We follow the corridor of telephone poles. Snowmobile and ski tracks are on either side of us. We skirt around the poles trying to avoid the heavy ice that hangs from the lines above.
The Jackrabbit Trail was modeled after the European tradition of cross-country ski journeying. In certain European countries towns are linked with trails allowing skiers to travel smoothly between villages, eating and sleeping along the way.
I’m sure there are people that have completed the whole Jack Rabbit trail in day. We will not be one of them. For families the Jack Rabbit Trail is a perfect opportunity to get out on skis and enjoy the Adirondack backcountry.
Named in memory of Herman (Jackrabbit) Johannsen, the Jackrabbit Trail is constructed and maintained by the Adirondack Ski Touring Council. The 33-mile, multi-sectioned cross-country ski trail connects the towns of Paul Smiths, Saranac Lake, Lake Placid and Keene. The Lake Clear section is accessed about a half mile north on Route 30 from the Route 30/186 junction. There is a small sign across from the old Lake Clear Elementary School.
For more information on the Jackrabbit Trail please contact the Adirondack Ski Touring Council at 518-523-1365.
The interpretive center in Newcomb is now officially the Adirondack Interpretive Center (AIC), owned and managed by the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF).
ESF did not take lightly renaming the former APA Visitor Interpretive Center. We respect what the APA and its staff created and want to honor the history of the center. » Continue Reading.
It is easy during a transition to focus on the work ahead to the exclusion of the past. As the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry assumes control of the Adirondack Park Agency’s Newcomb Visitor Interpretive Center the college does not want that to happen.
The Newcomb center and her sibling center at Paul Smiths are both fabulous year-round facilities with beautiful trails through diverse and wonderful habitats. But they are beloved by visitors and park residents alike not just because of what they are, but because of “who” they are. » Continue Reading.
Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and Paul Smith’s College officials announced today that the transfer of the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) facility is complete. Paul Smith’s College will now own and operate the over 24,500-square-foot main building and accessory structures. A long-standing lease of the College’s land by the APA was also ended.
The APA operated the Visitor Interpretive Centers at Paul Smiths and Newcomb since 1989 and 1990 respectively with a mission to “enhance public awareness of Park resources and the Agency’s role in their protection.” Paul Smiths VIC staff provided interpretive services to nearly 75,000 students participating in on-site school field trips since 1989 according to APA officials. The APA closed the Newcomb and Paul Smiths VICs late last year as New York State’s fiscal crisis worsened. “This transfer is good news for both the community and the VIC,” according to Dr. John W. Mills, President of Paul Smith’s College. “We’re excited that this great resource has been preserved.” he told the press in a prepared statement, “We will continue to look for ways to integrate the center into our academic programs, and explore additional possibilities for community involvement at the VIC.”
The Adirondack Park Institute, a volunteer, not-for-profit group that supports educational programming at the VIC, has taken the lead role in those efforts and has already raised more than $40,000, a press release said, noting also that “the college intends to maintain public access to the VIC’s extensive trail network.” “The trails, which are on college-owned land, attract thousands of hikers, cross-country skiers, snowshoers and other outdoor enthusiasts to the area every year,” the release said.
Paul Smith’s is expected to announce plans for the VIC, including programming, staffing, hours of operations, public visitation, special programs for the community, groups and schools, off site programs and outreach, in the near future.
The transfer of the Paul Smiths VIC to Paul Smith’s College ends the APA involvement with the Visitor Interpretive Centers. In July 2010 the APA transferred the state-owned buildings and equipment at the Newcomb VIC to SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF). SUNY ESF plans to integrate the facility with the Adirondack Ecological Center and the Northern Forest Institute and maintain public access. You can read more about those plans here.
The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) will reopen the former Adirondack Park Agency (APA) Visitor Interpretive Center in Newcomb tomorrow after taking over programming at the facility January 1st. The APA closed the Newcomb and Paul Smiths VICs late last year as New York State’s fiscal crisis worsened.
According to a press release issued today, the facility’s name has been changed to Adirondack Interpretive Center (AIC) “to reflect both its location and its mission to serve regional residents as well as visitors from beyond the park’s boundaries.” The AIC, located at ESF’s Huntington Wildlife Forest, will remain open all winter, with 3.6 miles of trails, open dawn to dusk daily, to snowshoe or cross-country ski. The interpretive center’s main building is scheduled to be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. “However, during this transitional period, the building might be closed occasionally during those hours,” ESF Director of Communications Claire Dunn told the press. “Visitors wishing to ensure the building is open when they arrive are advised to check in advance by calling 518-582-2000.”
“We want to carry forward the legacy of the Adirondack Park Agency’s interpretive program,” Paul Hai, an educator with ESF’s Adirondack Ecological Center, who is planning programs for the interpretive center, told the press. “We want the facility to be more than a nature center. We want to offer educational and recreational programs that are based on a foundation of natural history and science.”
Hai said he is finalizing plans for three programs that will be among those held next spring and summer and provided the following descriptions:
Fly-fishing: A series of workshops will explore the natural history of fish and the culture of fly fishing and teach fly-fishing techniques. Participants will have an opportunity to fish waters in the Huntington Wildlife Forest that are otherwise inaccessible to the public. Participants can choose to attend one session or all in the series, which will be held periodically through the spring and summer.
“Working Forests Working for You”: This series will bring experts to the center for programs and presentations on various aspects of forestry and the forest products industry, from silviculture to forest management and pulp and paper mill operation.
“Northern Lights”: This series on luminaries in the Adirondacks will include presentations on famous people whose work had a relationship with the Adirondacks. Subjects will include John Burroughs, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Winslow Homer.
Hai said that he’s also hoping to host professional development workshops, a series exploring the role the Adirondacks in modern philosophy, a book club, and canoe skills training.
It’s certainly getting frosty out there, and that’s particularly true for the state’s environmental centers, educators and interpreters.
I first wrote about the closing of the two Adirondack Park Visitor Interpretive Centers and the loss of their naturalist staff last June, and the good news that the State College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY) would run programs at the Newcomb facility in 2011.
Comments back to me said, to summarize, “it’s nice, but get real. In this recession, we have no time to worry about frills and luxuries like environmental education.” I thought I could make a better effort at stating my case.
Most of these “retired” state naturalists are skilled environmental interpreters – meaning that they, to quote a classic definition of interpretation, are skilled at “revealing meanings and relationships through the use of original objects, first hand experiences and illustrative media, rather than simply conveying factual information” (Interpreting our Heritage, by Freeman Tilden).
In essence, these professionals relate parts of the natural world (or the historic or cultural worlds) to something deep within the personality or experience of the visitor, resident or student. What they reveal provokes people to respond, not to yawn. This provocation, in turn, causes visitors to the VICs, Wild Center, Adirondack Museum, or Five Rivers Center to appreciate what they are seeing or experiencing more intensely.
That intensity of appreciation can lead to a desire to understand the details, or a whole ecosystems. These people may develop into aware, informed, understanding, active environmental managers, conservationists, or historians. These activities can and do change the world in ways large and small, and it often begins through good interpretation at a State Park, Visitor Center, or Museum.
Like all layoffs, these at Christmastide are bad enough for the individuals and families involved, like the forced departure of naturalist Ellen Rathbone from the Newcomb VIC, from her park community and from Adirondack Almanack as she seeks new opportunities beyond New York State. We hope New York’s loss will be Ohio’s gain. But the loss of veteran naturalists and educators in NYS is felt statewide.
For instance, a veteran educator at NYS Parks was just laid off after 26 years of successful efforts to link environmental education to improved stewardship of all 150 State Parks. The response of officials in Albany is predictable. “It’s too bad, but we have to cut these naturalist jobs just to keep most Parks open next year.” Keeping the lights on, the golf courses open, the bathrooms plumbed, the roads cleared are a priority. So is keeping the lights on in our eyes, hearts and minds. What these educators do can have real-world, stewardship implications.
For example, this particular naturalist developed a Bird Checklist system for all State Parks back in the late 1980’s. That was considered a “nice” thing to do. A decade later, the awareness those checklists created helped activists to fight off a proposal to construct a large trucking haul road through breeding bird habitats and wetlands of Saratoga Spa State Park. Fifteen years later, these intact wetlands still feed Great Blue Herons, and Kayaderroseras Creek, which in turn has developed into a premier canoeing and kayaking destination.
Thinking ahead, the opportunities for future environmental education employment – and the services those people provide – are shrinking. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation is closing two of their three Environmental Education Centers – Stony Kill Farm in Dutchess County, and Rogers EE Center in Sherburne, Chenango County.
The closing of these facilities is big deal for many families for whom these centers and their professional staffs represented learning opportunities, career advancement, family fun and happy memories – to say nothing of community meeting space – at no expense just miles from their front doors. As far as I can tell, the electric lights are still on at Five Rivers EE Center in the Capital District, but I’m not sure about the learning lights, meaning the staffing.
Who will provide those “provocational,” interpretive services to our young people and families in 2011, or 2021? More and more, we hear of the crisis of “wired” kids staying indoors, who are not exposed to the confidence-building, skills-building that outdoor experiences and unstructured playtime provide. We need more adults to share our outdoor heritage, not fewer.
The system of centers supporting this activity around the State is frayed. But there is hope. My hope is founded on the efforts of people who have picked up the fallen baton, such as SUNY’s Paul Hai, who is committed to keeping the Newcomb Interpretive Center open for continuing cultural and environmental interpretation under the auspices of the College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
It will take time for that facility and others in Newcomb and elsewhere to gain their footing after the loss of so many experienced staff. But there are people like Paul and institutions like ESF out in their communities who are determined not to lose a chance to change someone’s life, or to turn them on to the Adirondacks, or anywhere else with the potential to reveal both our landscapes and parts of ourselves. Let’s work with SUNY’s Paul Hai, or Paul Smith’s College and many others to keep the “lights on” for the fragile network of Adirondack learning centers, museums and interpretive facilities.
Photo: Paul Hai, right, of SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry with Tom Cobb, left, retired Preserve Manager with NYS Parks, former staff with the Commission on the Adirondacks in the 21st Century, and a director of Adirondack Wild: Friend of the Forest Preserve.
Few people combine so much heart, artistry and teachable strategy as Gary Randorf. This influential, heroic Adirondack photographer and conservation advocate is about 73 now, but he will always be a young man at heart, and he’s still keeping in touch with his many Adirondack friends. I feel fortunate to have interacted with him over the years.
Gary has influenced so many people to look not once, not twice but again and again at the Adirondacks, or any landscape that has such arresting wilderness beauty, subtlety, inhabited by people feeling a deep sense of place. Actually, Gary was teaching when you didn’t realize it. Early in my time with the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, Gary led a lobbying trip to Albany for the Adirondack Council. He never explicitly taught me how to lobby. He simply took me from office to office, talking as we went. As I recall, Gary was pushing the Legislature to increase funds for land acquisition in the State, and for Park planning at the Adirondack Park Agency.
The Senate Finance committee, chaired By Senator Ron Stafford, was a tough nut to crack. Gary always took the time to sit down with even the most hostile, or seemingly hostile, staff member. On this occasion, a very senior staff member of the Senate Finance Committee started to lecture Gary. Our cause that day was not very important, he said. We were a very small fish swimming in a very large ocean called the NYS budget. Furthermore, people in the Adirondacks were not interested in more land acquisition.
I thought he was brusk and rude to someone of Gary’s stature and experience. Yet, Gary calmly persisted, giving him pertinent information, asking the committee for its consideration, showing him photographs of the areas he was talking about, and hoping the staffer will join Gary in the Adirondacks at his next opportunity to see what was at risk. The staffer ended up smiling at the thought of a field trip. I have never forgotten that effective style.
A few months later, in August 1987, Gary was working for the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) for a second stint (he and Clarence Petty worked for the APA in the ‘70s, documenting and field checking the Park’s Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers). On this occasion, Gary was photo documenting the development of the Visitor Interpretive Centers (VICs).
I met Gary at the recently cut-over lands destined to be the footprint of the VIC at Paul Smith’s. Gary was giving suggestions to a crew of Camp Gabriels prisoners on how to build boardwalks through the wetlands below the VIC site. He was also taking lots of photographs. Gary has such an eye for scenery, lighting and mood. Two years later, the VIC opened, with Gary’s photographic talents on display, including his photographic exhibit of the marsh as it changed its appearance over the course of a full year.
I enjoyed other rare, precious days with Gary and friends over the years. He left notes on his door – “make yourself at home” – and he always made you feel exactly that way, as he took us to places he had been many times before, but was seeing with fresh eyes. Along the way, the book he had worked on for so long, The Adirondacks: Wild Island of Hope, was finally published. His inscription of my copy meant a lot to me: “Long-time fighter in the trenches for the Forest Preserve.”
In the book’s foreword, Gary writes: “I will share with you how I enjoy the park and introduce you to its natural history because I believe that you must know and understand a place before you can be talked into saving it.” That is so characteristic of Gary’s teaching method. He continues, “The world is watching. We are and will continue to set an example of how to do it – that is, saving a wilderness that includes people. If we fail, we fail not only our state, our country, and ourselves, but also the world.” Wild Island of Hope is no mere picture book. It seeks to teach how we only understand what we appreciate, and only seek to protect what we understand.
I last saw Gary in 2009 thanks to his friends Dan Plumley and John Davis, who brought Gary to a training seminar designed for college students to apply their academic curriculum to real-world challenges of wilderness preservation in the Park. Dan opened the training and invited Gary to follow.
With disarming frankness, Gary talked about his Parkinson’s disease, and how he believed he was afflicted because of the years of exposure to pesticides as a young man earning a living in western New York. He then reminded the students how close the Park had come to widespread, unregulated aerial spraying to kill black flies in the 1980s, and recounted the difficult but rewarding work to stop this aerial assault.
Several students were amazed that spraying for black flies had been practiced, or even been considered in the protected Adirondack Park, which led to an excellent discussion about gaps in legal protection at the state and federal levels, and how current generations must build on the work of their predecessors. The job is never done. Photos: Gary Randorf speaking to students at a 2009 Adirondack Park Stewardship Training seminar, and in a group photo after the session.
Did you miss something yesterday? I know I did. Ellen Rathbone, our dedicated naturalist for more than a year and a half has left the Adirondacks, and so too the Adirondack Almanack.
Those who have been following Ellen’s writings know that she contributed (twice a week!) out of the love of nature education and as part of her job as an interpretive educator and naturalist at the Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) in Newcomb. Despite her ten years at the VIC, when the Adirondack Park Agency faced cutbacks this past year, education and Adirondack visitor services were the first to go. Ellen had hoped to find a position here in the region but alas, ended up Education Director at the Dahlem Conservancy just outside Jackson, Michigan. The Dahlem Conservancy is an environmental education / nature center which also has a farm, at which they’ve just put in an acre of community gardens. She’ll be doing all sorts of public and school based nature, gardening, and environmental ethics programming. You can check them out at http://www.dahlemcenter.org/.
Ellen has been working as a naturalist or environmental educator almost steadily since she graduated from SUNY ESF in 1988 with a BS in forestry and biology. Her work has taken her from NY to NJ to VT but she had a special affection for what she called her “beloved Adirondacks.” Ellen incredible insight to our natural world and defense of the smaller (some would say creepier) creatures of our woods and waters will surely be missed here at the Almanack. (We’re currently in search of someone to fill her boots, no one could replace her.)
I thought in honor of Ellen’s departure I’d link to some of her work here at the Almanack. Of course you can always still follow her adventures in Michigan at her own blog.