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How the Northway Came to the Adirondacks

By Anthony F. Hall

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

When my parents came to the Adirondacks in 1956, they believed they were moving to a place far removed – culturally and politically as well as geographically – from the cities in which they had worked as left-wing journalists.

Beyond the Adirondacks lay “the big world,” as our neighbor Peggy Hamilton called it. (It was a world she was familiar with, having been the companion of Vida Mulholland and, like Vida and her more famous sister Inez, an early advocate of women’s rights.)

The 175 mile-long Northway between Albany and Montreal, which Governor Nelson Rockefeller officially declared completed ten years later, brought that world much closer.

For practical as well as political reasons, the last stretch to be completed was the piece that crossed the Forest Preserve between Ausable Chasm and Lake George, an accomplishment possible only after the passage of a constitutional referendum allowing the condemnation of 254 acres.

As a newspaper editor, my father supported the constitutional amendment, arguing “We need trunk line highways connecting our communities with the great population areas to the north and south.”
Roger Tubby, the publisher of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, led a committee organized to secure passage of the proposition.

“I was accused of being on both sides of the fence, because on one hand, I wanted to keep suburban sprawl from entering the Adirondacks, and, on the other, I felt that the Northway would fulfill our industries’ need for better roads and open the area to year-round tourism,” Tubby told me in an interview conducted before his death in 1991.

The amendment passed by 400,000 votes state-wide and by far larger margins in Essex and Warren Counties.

Tubby, who had been President Harry Truman’s press secretary, my parents and many of their mutual friends were part of a generation whose attitudes had been shaped by the urban experience but who chose to make lives in the country.

Their stories were captured and at least to some extent, perhaps, inspired by many books published in the 1940s and 50s, including Granville Hicks’ “Small Town,” Henry Beetle Hough’s “Country Editor,” Henry Beston’s “Northern Farm” and Helen and Scott Nearing’s “Living the Good Life.” Eric Hodgins’ “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” was the comic equivalent of those books.

I’ve often wondered if people like my father, Roger Tubby and Dick Lawrence, a former New Yorker who was the Adirondack Park Agency’s first chairman, were troubled by the tension between their pursuit of a rural life on the one hand and their support for the Northway on the other.

The Northway can be blamed for eviscerating the Main Street economies of towns like Warrensburg and Elizabethtown, encouraging travellers to hurry past them and the residents to do their shopping at the plazas being constructed on the margins of Glens Falls and Plattsburgh.

(Prior to the construction of the Northway, a visit to one of those cities merited a mention in the columns of the weekly newspaper.)

But the Northway can also be credited for increasing the size of a constituency supporting the protection of the Adirondacks, one that included those who now had access to the largest wilderness in the northeast.

Even before the Northway was completed, conservationists warned that the new highway, when added to increasing demands for second homes and recreational opportunities, would place an unprecedented stress upon the Adirondacks.

So it’s not surprising that within two years of opening the highway, Governor Rockefeller appointed his Temporary Study Commission on the Future of the Adirondacks to recommend measures to protect the Park.

I find it interesting that the Commission included Lawrence, my father and Roger Tubby’s partner at the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, Jim Loeb; and that the founders of the Adirondack Nature Conservancy included people like Wayne Byrne, a Yale Forestry School graduate who had taken over his wife’s family’s hardware business in Plattsburgh. Perhaps because they chose to re-locate themselves to the country, they were more sensitive to its value than others may have been.

It can be argued that the Northway destroyed whatever space remained between the cities that people like my parents had fled and the refuge they sought in the Adirondacks. To do so, however, is to overlook the fact that the country, as an intellectual construct at least, had been undermined long before the Northway was completed, not only by the influence of mass culture but also by equally ubiquitous corrosives such as pesticides, acid rain and even radiation from nuclear tests.

Fifty years after the completion of the Northway, we still live with its consequences, both good and ill: a wealthier economy but one less self-sufficient and one increasingly dependent upon tourists and second home owners; a protected Adirondack Park, but sometimes a crowded one, so much so that every so often New York State considers introducing limits to the numbers who can hike the High Peaks on any given day. Three cheers for the Northway? How about two?

An earlier version of this essay appeared in Adirondack Explorer.

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Lithgow Osborne

Lithgow Osborne

Lithgow Osborne and the Future of the Adirondacks

By Anthony F. Hall

Monday, November 21, 2016

Three years after he became Commissioner of Conservation in 1932, Lithgow Osborne noted that “anything that was not wanted elsewhere was placed in the Conservation Department.” Even he, however, was surprised when Governor Herbert Lehman decided to create a bureau of publicity and charge the Conservation Department with managing it. Soon enough, “the people of New York’s Western Frontier and the North Country” were among those banging upon his door in Albany, insisting that he give pride of place to their particular “recreational delights.” Osborne had already complained publicly about the many interest groups who felt they had exclusive claim upon the resources of his department. Anticipating the headaches of today’s Commissioners of Environmental Conservation, who must reconcile the conflicting demands of sportsmen and wilderness preservationists, legislators and advocacy groups, budget cutters and department heads, Osborne said, “They always want us to take their point of view. It is the same with forestry as with fish and game. These groups have extreme viewpoints.” Osborne, born into a prominent upstate family, was a Harvard graduate who had a distinguished career as a diplomat before returning to New York State. He appears to have used the diplomatic skills he honed in Berlin after the first World War and at disarmament conferences in the early 1920s to accommodate the opposing views of those foresters and fishermen. His goal at all times, he said, was “finding the middle ground.” Those same diplomatic skills must have been useful when negotiating New York’s purchase of George O. Knapp’s Lake George estate, since the state acquired those 7,000 acres and nine miles of shoreline for a price far below market value. Once the land was part of the Forest Preserve, Osborne negotiated another compromise: opening part of the land to public recreation while leaving most of it as wilderness. Here, as elsewhere, Osborne had found “the middle ground.” Osborne was still advocating “a middle ground” twenty years later when commenting upon the Adirondack Forest Preserve’s 75th anniversary in The New York Times. “The more wild land we can acquire and preserve in a natural state, the better. The more accessible lake frontage that can be acquired for camping, picnicking and other simple forms of recreation, the better. We can have both ample recreation and ample wilderness in the Adirondacks, providing we move carefully, considering each step we take.” As the Adirondack Park Agency weighs the potential uses for the recently-acquired Boreas Ponds tract, it could do worse than deliberate in the spirit of Lithgow Osborne: proceeding slowly and finding a middle ground between advocates of recreation, on the one hand, and of wilderness on the other. A middle ground, allowing some relatively easy access but placing most of the 20,578 acre tract in an expanded High Peaks Wilderness Area, is being promoted by groups such as the Adirondack Council. If that compromise is successful, another goal of Lithgrow Osborne’s will become feasible, one that he adopted when Governor Lehman appointed him New York’s publicist-in-chief: “making New York, with its unsurpassed natural beauties, better known, to its own people and to others.” With a new wilderness area larger than the Rocky Mountain National Park, that shouldn’t be difficult.

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Winslow Homer, “The Adirondacks,” 1892. Courtesy of Harvard University Art Museums

Winslow Homer, “The Adirondacks,” 1892. Courtesy of Harvard University Art Museums

Monetizing the Forest

By Anthony F. Hall

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Here on Lake George, we have little direct or immediate interest in forestry as an industry. It’s been generations since the mountainsides were clear cut and the logs floated to saw mills. (And centuries have passed since the straightest white pines were striped and identified as the property of the His Majesty’s navy)

We do, however, have an interest in slowing climate change. So I was glad that I could attend a conference sponsored by the Adirondack Research Consortium on the role that forests can play in that process. Titled “Forest Health and Carbon Storage,” it was held at the Queensbury Hotel on October 12.

Forests inhale heat-trapping carbon dioxide. When forests sequester carbon rather than emitting it into the atmosphere, the flow of gases that cause global warming is reduced. If our only interest is in slowing climate change, the highest and best use of our forests is to leave them intact, said Dr. Charles D Canham, a Forest Ecologist with the Cary Institute of Ecosystem studies.

Incentives exist to prevent forests from being logged or cleared for development, Troy Weldy of the Nature Conservancy explained. He discussed the exchanges that are being created that will enable more private forest owners to acquire and bank carbon credits, selling them later to governments or companies that have uses for them.

Forests can also be a source of alternative energy, but the environmental benefits of using wood products for that purpose are far less obvious.

To be sure, some at the conference argued that burning wood to make electricity is relatively benign, since the carbon that is released when energy is made from a forest is recaptured when a new forest rises in its place.

Robert Malmsheimer, a professor at the State College of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry, argued that while the benefits of biomass energy may be delayed, the benefits are nevertheless substantial over the course of time.

“The debate is about the timing of benefits, not whether these benefits exist,” he said.

I happened to be scrolling through the Lake George Mirror’s Twitter feed during the lunch break when I came upon a tweet from Bill McKibben, noting that powering an automobile with corn ethanol generates more carbon pollution than using gasoline.

Is wood an equally inefficient source of energy? I tweeted idly. Almost immediately, McKibben responded, “’fraid so,” and referred us to an article that he had written in September for the on-line journal Grist titled “Burning trees for electricity is a bad idea.”

While acknowledging that planting a new tree will recapture at least some of the carbon released when the tree is burned, McKibben wrote, “a slowly growing new tree won’t suck it all back up until after we’ve broken the back of the climate.”

Whether burning trees for electricity is a bad or a good idea is a question that Congress is now debating

A version of the Energy Policy Modernization Act expected to reach the President’s desk before the end of the year asserts that wood and other organic matter from a forest is “a renewable energy source.”

Although some experts say that burning forest biomass will add at least 620 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, this new version of the bill defines wood-generated electricity as a “zero-carbon fuel” or as “carbon neutral.”

That means that any emissions produced by wood will be permitted under a plan that is, of course, meant to slow climate change by limiting the amount of carbon entering the atmosphere.

No doubt there are many representatives of the forest products industry, economic development organizations and state and local governments who hope the federal government agrees to treat wood-generated power as carbon neutral. As more biomass generators are built, new markets for wood products are created. Which, of course, means retaining jobs in places like the North Country. But if critics like Bill McKibben are to be believed, any economic development benefits will be inconsequential when compared with the long-term harm to the planet.

“If the wood products industry can force the EPA to ignore the carbon pollution from wood-burning power plants, the business will really boom. (But) one result will be the deforestation of many of the nation’s wooded regions. Another will be the elevation of our planet’s temperature,” writes McKibben.

Banking and selling carbon credits, it seems, would be a much better way to monetize our forests.

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A vintage poster reminds us of the celebrity of W.H.H. Murray

A vintage poster reminds us of the celebrity of W.H.H. Murray

Adirondack Murray Inspires Creation of Native Whiskey, Rye and Vodka

By Anthony F. Hall

Friday, July 8, 2016

Randall Beach, an Albany attorney who grew up in Plattsburgh, has always been fascinated by W.H. H. Murray and the role that he played in opening the Adirondacks to tourism.

And with good reason. The New England cleric was a great-great grandfather on his father’s side.

With access to family papers, many of them never seen before, Beach is writing Murray’s biography. The last biography, published in 1905, was written by Harry Radford, better known for his efforts to re-introduce the moose and the beaver to the Adirondacks and for his death at the hands of his guides in Alaska.

Beach is also exploring the feasibility of bringing Murray’s Adirondack writings back into print.

But his more immediate goal is to re-introduce W.H.H. Murray to the Adirondacks through a new business venture, which he has just launched with his wife Sarah: Murray’s Fools Distilling Company, the first legal distillery in Clinton County since prohibition.

Randall Beach, the great-great-grandson of W.H.H. Murray with his wife and business partner, Sarah Callan Beach.

Murray’s Fools, of course, were the hapless dudes drawn to the Adirondacks in the 1860s by Murray’s most famous book, “Adventures in the Wilderness.”

But, says Beach, they didn’t remain fools for long. Many, like Murray himself, established camps on Adirondack lakes and became expert sportsmen, tireless hikers and the region’s first conservationists.

“Murray’s Fools Distilling Company seeks to create and provide fine spirits fashioned for those who, just as the original Murray’s Fools, have independent streaks, courage, adventurous souls and live for nature’s quiet moments,” says the Beaches marketing material.

Beach, a partner in the firm of Whiteman Osterman and Hannah, has not given up the law.

But he is clearly enjoying this sideline, as he refers to it, with his wife, at least in part because it enables them to spend more time in the North Country.

Their first product, a vodka, is named for an oyster bar Murray operated in Montreal: the Snowshoe Café. The Snowshoe is Clinton County’s first locally made vodka.

“My wife and I became interested in establishing a distillery in part because we appreciate really good whiskeys, so our long-range goal is make small batch ryes and handcrafted bourbons. In the short term, our focus will be on the craft vodka brand,” said Beach.

Their distillery is located in the Town of Altona, outside Plattsburgh. A grand opening is planned for a date later in the summer.

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View from Huckleberry Mountain Forest

View from Huckleberry Mountain Forest

Woods Where ‘Miss Lonelyhearts” Author Roamed to be Protected

By Anthony F. Hall

Monday, March 7, 2016

John Sanford, the writer who placed a series of novels and stories in Warrensburg, once recalled, “In the spring of 1931, when Nathanael West was writing his second novel, “Miss Lonelyhearts,” I was working on my first. Neither of us was progressing… and when West proposed that we get away from the city, I turned up the right place to go. I’d met an upstate game warden, and through him, we obtained, for $25 a month, a seven-room cabin in the Adirondacks, together with a forest preserve of 1,200 acres and a 50-acre pond – Viele Pond, it was called. There in that private realm, we wrote, fished, swam and shot away the summer.”

That Adirondack Forest Preserve that accommodated West and Sanford so hospitably in the 1930s is about to be enlarged by another 836 acres.

The Open Space Institute has announced that it has purchased a tract just on the other side of Harrington Hill from Viele Pond known as “Huckleberry Mountain Forest,”

 

Viele Pond

Both tracts lie off Alden Avenue in the town of Warrensburg and border the Hudson River.

Until recently, the Huckleberry Mountain property was on the market for $450,000, offered to prospective buyers as a timber-rich investment or for private recreational purposes.

According to the Open Space Institute, the land has been considered “a high priority acquisition in the region for decades” by New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation and “was secured by OSI at the request of the DEC.”

The land will ultimately be purchased by New York State and added to the Adirondack Forest Preserve, OSI stated.

“OSI is delighted to continue our commitment to the Adirondack Park, an international treasure right here in New York State,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s President and CEO. “The Huckleberry Mountain Forest property will ensure the preservation of beautiful scenery and buffer the Hudson River, while keeping the land in the hands of the public.”

Nathanael West completed “Miss Lonelyhearts” one year after the two writers spent the summer at Viele Pond.

Nathanael West and John Sanford at Viele Pond

Both moved to California to work in the film industry, and less than ten years later, West died in an automobile accident.

Sanford would live until the age of 98, dying in 2003. He never returned to the area. But in 1997, a Lake George area resident sent him some photos of the pond, which elicited this response: “I actually cried out, ‘My God!’ to an empty room.  West’s biographer has told me that the cabin is gone. (And) the pond has changed, but the woods are as they were, and they evoked memories of a summer now sixty-five years gone.”

Once it is part of the Forest Preserve, the Huckleberry Mountain Forest will be accessible to the public, the DEC stated.

“The Huckleberry Mountain Forest will offer outstanding recreational opportunities for hiking, camping, sightseeing and fishing, and I applaud OSI for their work in preserving such a valuable natural resource, said DEC Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos.

The land will be classified by the Adirondack Park Agency and the DEC as ‘Wild Forest,’ a less restrictive category of state-owned land than Wilderness.

Like the surrounding lands, it will be considered part of the Lake George Wild Forest, which currently consists of more than 71,000 acres in Warren and Washington Counties.

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Louis Marshall, the Adirondacks’ Indispensable Man

By Anthony F. Hall

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

It is the fervent wish of fathers to be outshone by their sons. What better way to perpetuate the family name, not to mention the genes?

On occasion, though, the sons’ renown can be so great that we lose sight of the achievements of the father.

Here in the Adirondacks, James, George and Bob Marshall’s contributions to our appreciation of wilderness have tended to obscure their father’s part in protecting that wilderness.

“Mr Louis Marshall” by Alfred Bendiner

In 1894, Louis Marshall was a delegate to New York State’s constitutional convention. A young but promising attorney from Syracuse, he arrived foucused on the judiciary, intent on making the court system more rational. But he worked even harder to make the 1885 legislation protecting the Adirondack Forest Preserve a permanent part of the state constitution.

“If I were asked to state what the most important action of the Convention of 1894 was, I should say without the slightest hesitation that it was the adoption of the article which preserved in their wild state the Catskills and the Adirondacks,” Marshall said at another constitutional convention, one held twenty years later in 1915.

And, he went on to say, “the most important question which is to be acted upon by the 1915 Convention” was a proposal to amend the forever-wild clause to allow timber to be harvested in a large part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve.

“What would you have left after you adopted a provision of this character? Nothing but a howling wilderness. Not a wilderness of trees – of wild forest trees – but of stumps, enough to make one’s heart sick to behold them,” Marshall told the delegates.

Thanks in part to conservationists such as Lake George’s John Apperson, who organized a coalition of sportsmen, legislators and civic leaders to support Marshall, the attempt to dilute the forever-wild clause was defeated.

According to historian Phil Terrie, the vote at the 1915 convention was as significant as the decision in 1894 to constitutionally protect the Forest Preserve. Marshall and his fellow-delegates ratified that decision, demonstrating that it was not a hasty or ill-considered one, thus ensuring that the forever-wild clause would remain a part of the constitution.

“The affirmation of the forever-wild clause at the 1915 constitutional convention served to re-emphasize…. that most of the people of New York wanted the Adirondacks to continue to be predominantly a place of nature,” Terrie wrote in ‘Contested Terrain.’

After the convention adjourned, Marshall continued to defend the integrity of the forever-wild clause and support the cause of conservation wherever he could, including, even, drafting legislation to protect roadside wildflowers.

Conservation, however, was only one of his many concerns and his writings on the topic occupy a relatively small portion of his papers, a two volume edition of which was published in 1957.

But however much he achieved in the world as a constitutional lawyer, a civil rights advocate and a supporter of Jewish causes, no place was more important to him than the Adirondacks.

“He delighted in the rustic joys of Knollwood, a hilly woodland overlooking Lower Saranac Lake,” wrote one of his biographers. “There he a attained a degree of intimacy with his family difficult to maintain in the city. There he composed the satires, the dialect sketches and the cozy poetry that were among the tokens of affection that bound him to his wife and children.”

And from there he issued this plea on behalf of the Adirondacks:

“Let us preserve some of the simple things. Let us know that there is somewhere in our state a region not yet commercialized and citified, and to which people may repair who yearn for a restoration amid the vast silences of the eternal mountains and the primeval forests. Let us beware while there is still time. Let us not jeopardize this fine heritage. Let us not make a beginning which in time would be certain to make a barren waste of the most perfect mountain region in the world….”

Those words inspired his sons and continue to inspire advocacy groups such as the Adirondack Council, which presented its Conservationist of the Year award in 2014 to the descendants of Louis Marshall.

Louis Marshall died in Zurich, Switzerland in 1929.

An earlier version of this essay appeared in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise on December 31

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Kenneth Durant

Kenneth Durant

Adirondack Museum Reissues Guide—Boat Classic

By Anthony F. Hall

Thursday, February 4, 2016

There’s nothing wooden about a tree, a friend who happens to be a poet once remarked. The same could be said about a true Adirondack guide-boat. There’s nothing wooden about it. The offspring of this region’s woods and waters, it is the most elegant rowing boat ever built. Handled properly, an anonymous sportsman once wrote, “it obeys the prompting of every impulse, and is so easily propelled in smooth water you need never tire.”

Easier said than done, of course. But even clumsy rowers, or those who have only rowed a metal clunker, find themselves besotted by the guide-boat’s lines, workmanship and history. Ask any one of the millions of people who have visited the Adirondack Museum, whose guide-boat collection is among its most popular attractions.

That collection was formed largely through the efforts of Kenneth Durant, whose scholarly research was the basis of the first and best book about the region’s native craft, “The Adirondack Guide-Boat.”

Completed by Durant’s wife Helen and published by the Museum in 1980, six years after his death, the book is a mixture of social history, small boat taxonomy and technical instructions. Unfortunately, it has long been out of print. The good news is that it has been reprinted by the Adirondack Museum, just in time for the holidays.

Durant’s curiosity about the guide-boat was rooted in his own experience. His father, Frederick C. Durant, was the developer of the Prospect House on Blue Mountain Lake, the first luxury hotel in the Adirondacks. To accommodate his own family, Durant built a camp on Forked Lake, a tributary of Racquette Lake, in the style made popular by his relative, William West Durant, which they called “Camp Cedars.” Warren Cole, the Long Lake guide-boat builder, was the family’s guide, and Durant spent much of his youth in the guide-boat that Cole built specially for him.

S.R. Stoddard: View from the Stern

Not long after graduating from Harvard, Durant spotted Cole rowing a sleeker version of his own boat, which he purchased from the builder. He would own it until 1957, the year he donated it to the Adirondack Museum.

“I spent a large part of my youth in a guide-boat without ever looking at the boat unless it sprang a leak, and not until it was in the museum and I no longer in the boat did I begin to look at it with attention and curiosity,” Durant once wrote to John Gardner, the noted historian of American boats.

For the next decade, Durant devoted himself to researching the origins and construction of the guide-boat.

Between the 1720s, when a northern traveller observed “very light battoes, which may easily be carried on Men’s shoulders…..” and the 1890s, by which time guide-boat had been perfected, lay “an interval of obscure experimentation,” Durant wrote.

The task he set for himself was to trace the evolution of the guide-boat through that “interval of obscure experimentation. ”

Before Durant began his researches, it was commonly assumed that Mitchell Sabattis, the Native American guide, hunter and all-around “prodigious fellow” invented the guide-boat as a lighter, swifter alternative to canoes.

Durant, however, came to understand that “No individual held a patent… No one hesitated to copy or improve the work of others, to follow the best methods or the best patterns available. Father and son worked together. Thus an art was passed from hand to hand and from generation to generation.”

He also found that the Adirondack guide-boat owed more to a Cornish gig than a Native American canoe, an insight that enabled him to place the boat within its proper context, that of American rowing boats.

Whitehalls, St. Lawrence skiffs, Banks dories, Monomoy surfboats and other boats of that ilk evolved to meet the particular needs of those who would use them. And, as the naval architect Francis Herreshoff once remarked, “out of perfect adaptation to use came beauty.”

A boat light enough to be carried by one man

An Adirondack boat had to be light enough to be carried by one man across portages, yet spacious enough to carry game, gear and luggage.

By the 1890s, when tourists began flocking to the region, they found a craft already suited to their needs.

Those needs could not have been met so perfectly had the appropriate materials not been at hand. Fortunately, the region abounded in old growth pine for planks and spruce roots for knees and light but sturdy ribs.

The wood available to a boat builder may limit his design, but it may also inspire him, Durant believed.

“In an age of plywood, plastic and light metals, the carpenter’s dependence upon the qualities of wood is often forgotten. Spruce gave to the Adirondack builder what he needed, and he built accordingly,” Durant wrote.

The guide-boats full development was contingent upon yet another accident of history: the invention of a machine able to make the thousands of development of brass screws and copper tacks needed to hold the boat’s planks together

Now that the Adirondack Museum has reprinted ‘The Adirondack Guide-Boat,” it should be encouraged to reprint its “Guide Boat Days and Ways,” Durant’s 1963 anthology of historical source materials, ranging from the earliest accounts of boating in the region to the reminiscences of builders such as Dwight Grant and Willard Hanmer.

Someone should also write Durant’s biography. A member of Harvard’s class of 1910, which also included John Reed and T.S. Eliot, he attended the Versailles peace conference as an aide to Woodrow Wilson’s envoy, Colonel House. And before retiring to Jamaica, Vermont, and devoting himself to researching the evolution of the guide-boat, he was the US bureau chief for TASS, the Soviet news agency.

Helen Durant, whom he married after the death of his second wife, a poet and biographer of Emily Dickinson named Genevieve Taggard, was celebrated in her own right as a film editor, having worked with on Joris Ivens’ 1936 Spanish Civil War film, The Spanish Earth, and Robert Flaherty’s “Louisiana Story,” among other seminal documentaries.

Their guide-boat researches occasionally brought them to Lake George to study the bateaux that had just been discovered at the bottom of the lake, and they visited my family often in Warrensburg, usually when traveling from their home in Vermont to Hamilton County, which Durant always called “the woods” and which he believed was the true Adirondacks.

(He once wrote to his friend, canoe authority Paul Jamieson: “When I was half as old as I am now we could say unctuously, ‘There are no venomous snakes in the Adirondacks,’ reciting a bit of nature lore: ‘Rattlesnakes do not advance beyond the oaks.’ Then, when I was not looking, someone moved the Blue Line around Lake George and took in oaks and rattlesnakes–and worse.”)

While he may have been harsh on Lake George, I remember Kenneth as the gentlest of men. And he managed to impart to many, through his books, his conversation and his example, something of his passionate interest in wooden boats and their history on the lakes of the Adirondacks. Those of us who have learned from him had had richer lives as a consequence.

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Bob Kafin

Bob Kafin

Adirondack Council Welcomes Bolton Landing Man as New Chairman

By Mirror Staff

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Adirondack Council’s leaders are full of praise for Bob Kafin, the Bolton Landing resident who was elected to a two-year term as Chairman of the Board of Directors at the organization’s annual meeting, held on July 18 in Lake Placid.
“We are thrilled to have Bob Kafin as our new chairman,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director Willie Janeway.  “Bob is a highly respected environmental attorney who began his career in the Adirondacks, but made a name for himself nationwide with his legal skills and expertise.  He is one of the nation’s top environmental lawyers and he also cares deeply about the future of the park’s communities and its residents.”

Kafin takes the reins of the organization from Ann Carmel, who chaired the Council’s board from 2011 to 2015.

“Bob will do a splendid job as chairman,” said Carmel.  “He knows the park very well, understands government and politics and works well with people.  The board could not have made a better choice.”

A native of suburban Philadelphia, Kafin moved to Glens Falls as a young adult, after graduating from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA and earning his law degree from Harvard University. Kafin was admitted to practice law in New York in 1967.

“Decades ago, Bob helped farmers in Schoharie County protect their valley croplands from being flooded by a new dam.  Here, he oversaw environmental studies on sports venues for the Olympic Winter Games in 1980 and helped defeat a plan to build nearly 5,000 homes adjacent to the St. Regis Canoe Area,” Janeway said.  “He has helped to build public ski trails in Glens Falls and to enhance the local arts scene.  Not many people around here know he is also in charge of one of the largest urban farmers’ markets in America as chairman of GrowNYC.”

Since 1971, Kafin has developed expertise in the major federal and state environmental laws, was one of the primary authors of the initial set of regulations implementing the NYS Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR), and among the first lawyers to conduct hearings under the Adirondack Park Agency Act.

He currently serves as chair of the Times Square Alliance, the business improvement district for the Times Square neighborhood in Manhattan. In addition, by appointment of the Mayor, he is chair of GrowNYC, the operator of 54 Greenmarkets that bring local produce to the big city, and other environmental conservation programs in New York City.

From 1991 to 2009, Kafin was a member of the senior management team for Proskauer Rose, a law firm in New York City, serving as its Chief Operating Partner for 15 years and also as its general counsel.  He is the founder and a member of the firm’s Environmental Group.

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Adirondack Rustic Interiors’ Screen Doors are One Dimensional Sculptures

By Anthony F. Hall

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What would summer be without screen doors slapping against their wood frames as children race in and out?

It certainly wouldn’t sound like summer, at least not in the Adirondacks. Nor would a camp or cottage smell or feel quite like summer if interiors were entirely insulated from the elements.

So it makes perfect sense that Adirondack Rustic Interiors, the Warrensburg based home furnishings shop that celebrates the styles made famous by the Great Camps,  should  find itself a source for screen doors for people from across the country.

They’re not, however, your ordinary wood screen door. They’re custom built and each has carved decorations chosen by the homeowner or designed by himself.

In effect, they’re one dimensional, functional pieces of sculpture.

“We receive orders from all over the country; from California and Alaska as well as the Adirondacks,” said Jenny Massaro, who owns the shop with her husband Bill and their daughter Jenelle. “Every business has to have its own niche, so we’re pleased to be known as the store selling handmade, custom designed screen doors. But we never thought these screen doors would become one of our biggest sellers.”

The decorative elements include forest vegetation like pine trees and wildlife like deer, bear and moose. (Rachael Ray chose a moose for hers.)

When designing their own doors, homeowners can be as inventive as they wish. They can send the Massaros pictures of their house or their pets or suggest a design. A shore owner, for instance, recently requested seashells for a beach house.

Adirondack Rustic Interiors is located on Warrensburg’s Main Street, opposite the Church of the Holy Cross.

“We offer furniture, lighting, and décor made by area craftsmen from natural materials found in the region, then handcrafted into beautiful creations. We specialize in custom design for that piece you just can’t find anywhere else,” said Jenny Massaro.

That furniture, too, can be customized to suit the individual homeowners’ décor.

The store, however, is not limited to big-ticket items, and stocks gifts and accessories as well.

Adirondack Rustic Interiors is located at 3755 Main Street. Call (518) 623-9855 for more information.

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Organic Farming on a Super Small Scale

By Anthony F. Hall

Monday, November 9, 2015

The only certified organic farm in Warren County may be the smallest commercial farm in the county as well.

Operated by Rand Fosdick and Nancy Welch in Chestertown, the 10,000 square foot Landon Hill Estate Farm generates enough produce to stock the farm stand, provide weekly harvest baskets to subscribers and feed the couple and their friends.

Now in its second year of production, the farm is expected to register a profit next year, said Rand Fosdick.

“The farm supplements our incomes from other sources, but not everything can be reduced to economics,” said Fosdick. “There are social rewards, too. People appreciate the food we grow, they trust it, and they also appreciate the environment we’ve created here.”

To be certified as organic, farmers must demonstrate they have never planted genetically modified seeds or used synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers.

The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, which certifies Landon Hill Estate Farm as organic, is a bit more verbose than Fosdick when enumerating the benefits of organic farms. “A sustainable food and farm system is socially just, humane, community-minded, ecologically sound and healthy for people,” the organization states.

It also reminds consumers that “the act of transporting food and farm products over long distances requires lots of packaging and contributes to global warming.  If we make a commitment to buying organic food and farm products produced locally, we are safeguarding our planet.”

Local organizations also appear to appreciate the benefits of organic farms.

Last week, Fosdick and Welch were informed by the Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work & Play program at the Glens Falls Hospital that they have been awarded a $5,000 grant that will help more people, including those on physician-recommended diets and those who could not otherwise afford fresh produce, take advantage of their products.

“The program has supported community gardens in the past and we’re anxious to increase yields on organic farms like this one. Our goal is to get people on healthier diets and living healthier lives, and the Landon Hill Estate Farm furthers that goal,” said Bert Weber, a horticulturalist who’s a consultant for Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work & Play program.

Apart from securing economic and social benefits, the farm is rewarding in other ways as well, the couple said.

“I never have to mow the lawn again,” said Fosdick.

Indeed, instead of a lawn or backyard that would be mown every week or so, the couple’s 19th century farmhouse is surrounded by their vegetables, herbs and wildflowers.

That’s not only a better habitat for pollinators, the gardens’ curb appeal constitutes the couple’s sole marketing effort.

“People driving by were struck by the changes; we intentionally planted corn next to the road to attract attention, which it did and the word got out,” said Fosdick.

But perhaps the couple’s greatest incentive, said Fosdick, “was just to see if we could do it.”

“There’s a misconception that organic farming is more difficult than other types of farming because you can’t use pesticides or fertilizers.  But if you create the right environment, it can be done,” he said.

Wildflowers, for instance, attract bugs that feed on pests, making pesticides unnecessary.

Treating the soil properly, including planting the gardens with cover crops in the fall, which stifle weeds and blight and enrich the soil with nutrients, removes the need for synthetic fertilizers.

“Organic gardening is something everyone can do if they have the dedication and can find the time. We’re in the garden three hours a day in July and August. That’s manageable,” he says.

The farm, which is located at 95 Landon Hill Road, opposite the intersection of Routes 9 and 8, sells 31 types of vegetables and seven kinds of herbs. The farm stand is open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 3pm in July and August.

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