Some music for the season.
Some music for the season.
It was given to me by Don Hart. Don’s wife, Pamela, is the granddaughter of Ruth Foote. Ruth was the sister of Earle Foote of Huletts Landing. Taken if front of what was then the Whitehall Armory, the name; H. Sullivan is written below the man sitting in the middle.
A larger version of the picture can be seen if you click on the above image. If anyone can identify any of the other soldiers or provide more details about the photograph, I’d appreciate hearing from you.
Left to right: Chris Mazdzer (Silver), Felix Loch (Gold), Dominik Fischnaller (Bronze) after the December 6th World Cup men’s singles luge at Whistler, B.C. Mazdzer finished in second place. (Picture courtesy of International Luge Federation.)
Chris Mazdzer, a luge sled racer from Saranac Lake, secured his place on the US team for the Winter Olympics in Sochi Russia that open in February while competing in Winterberg, Germany at the end of November. I was able to ask Mr. Mazdzer some questions after he finished in second place on December 6th at the World Cup men’s singles luge at Whistler, B.C.
Mazdzer, who hails from Saranac Lake, should be back in the North Country for the holidays. The USA Olympic luge team nominees were recently announced but Mazdzer’s top finishes in World Cup races guarantee him a spot on the team. He will use two World Cup races in North America in December and four in Europe in January as a warm-up for his second Olympic games. Mazdzer is a veteran of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, where he finished 13th.
Below is my interview with him.
How do you feel knowing that you’ve secured a place on the 2014 Olympic Team?
Knowing that I have already guaranteed a spot on the 2014 Olympic Team was an incredible sense of relief. The sport of luge is timed to the thousandth of a second and most race fields are within a second of the leader. There are variables that can happen and situations that can arise when sliding down a mile long ice track that can easily drop an athlete back towards the back of the field. Securing a spot on the team has allowed me to focus more on the process as opposed to the result. I can now think “how can this track help me prepare for Sochi” as opposed to concentrating specifically on that track.
As you wrap up the World Cup events before the Olympics, what are your goals?
My specific goal for the World Cups leading up to the Olympics is to be ranked in the top 12 athletes. During the Olympics the top ranked 12 athletes will go first in the order and this is a significant advantage. If there is any kind of precipitation or warm weather the first athletes will have the fastest ice and an overall advantage.
What goes through your head while competing?
I would have to say that there are three components to this question. First, about 10 to 15 minutes before the actual run I am constantly doing pre-run visualizations and going over exactly what I am going to do. I find that during this step I am nervous, excited and sometimes feel uncertain as to what exactly is going to happen. Second, about 2 minutes before I go down I clear my head and try not to concentrate on the run because when going down the track everything happens so fast that if you are thinking you may be reacting too slow. Finally, when going down the track I am focused 100% on every little detail that is happening, I am just trying to let my instincts take over and focus on keeping good position and reacting to how the sled feels underneath me. In total, I find that I try to build myself up so I can feel the adrenaline kicking through my body, focus on exactly what I have to do and then try let everything go and be in the moment.
What will be unique for you about the Sochi Olympics?
The Sochi Olympics will be unique for me in the sense that this time I will be the highest ranked US Luge athlete competing. In Vancouver I had two experienced teammates that helped guide me through the process and take the pressure off. The role has been reversed this time around and I will be the experienced athlete at the Olympics for luge.
Any words for you Adirondack fans?
I first want to thank everyone who has supported me over the years and also want to tell everyone to go out and enjoy the Winter. The Adirondack’s are one of the only places in the country the breathes Winter Olympic Sports and I want to encourage every child and adult to go out into the winter and have fun !!!
Chris, I can safely say that we’ll be rooting for you in the 2014 Olympics!
The Lake George Association and the Town of Lake George have been working together to address stormwater runoff issues at Usher Park. The majority of the park is very steeply sloped down to the Lake, making stormwater a perennial issue at this location. While the Town has existing stormwater controls on the site, they are undersized for the amount of runoff the property receives after a heavy rain, much of which comes from off the property, further uphill in the watershed and funnels down into the Park.
LGA’s Project Manager Randy Rath with Jim Martino from the Town of Lake George.
“This past spring in April when the snow was still flying, LGA and Town staff met on site at the park to discuss how to best capture the stormwater. A combination of plantings and stormwater structures were planned for the site. The LGA then applied for funding from the Helen V. Froehlich Foundation for the project and we are happy to announce that we received $18,000 for the project this past summer,” said LGA’s Project Manager Randy Rath.
Work began right away this fall with native plantings along the shoreline with some funding for plant material available from the Town of Lake George. New York native perennials including Spotted Phlox, Nodding Onion, and Blue Lobelia and were planted along with shrubs such as Steeplebush and Summersweet. The Town also provided the labor and materials, creating a new planting bed on the left side of the beach in an area where the runoff coming down the hill would just wash right down onto the beach and out into the Lake. Staff from the LGA designed and planted the garden with native plants grown locally at Fiddlehead Creek Native Plant Nursery. The new planting will now help slow the runoff and keep it out of the Lake.
LGA staff worked with the Town of Lake George to plant a new native plant buffer along the shoreline of Usher Park this fall. Pictured above from left to right are LGA staffers Nancy Cobb-Zoll, Mona Seeger, and Alicia Nichols.
After planting along the shoreline, LGA and Town staff moved uphill and worked to stabilize a slope on the park property next. Two different native groundcovers were utilized here – Foamflower and Barren Strawberry. Not only will the native plants help stabilize the slope, reducing erosion from runoff, but they also are aesthetically pleasing for the park setting and make maintenance of the property easier for Town staff, who had a hard time mowing such a steep area in the past. 100 feet of straw wattle was installed along the bottom edge of the slope to ensure stabilization of the site while the groundcovers take hold. “Next year, park users can enjoy beautiful yellow flowers on the Barren strawberry followed by the airy carpet of white flowers of the Foamflower and they might not even realize that the planting is a stormwater project!” said DeBolt.
Native groundcovers are a great way to stabilize steep slopes. This was not the first time the LGA has worked to stabilize a steep slope in a public park with native plants. In 2010 the LGA partnered with the Town and Village of Lake George to stabilize the slope at the north end of Shepard’s Park with native plants.
Staff from the LGA and the Town of Lake George worked to plant this steep slope with native groundcovers. The groundcover will fill in, stabilizing the slope and preventing any future erosion.
“We are pleased to be building on our past successes, making our partnerships stronger all the time,” said LGA’s Executive Director Walt Lender. “Last year we worked with the Town of Lake George to help address some stormwater issues and installed a native plant demonstration garden in front of the Town Hall. We continued our partnership again this year with work at Usher Park. There are so many projects that need to be done around the lake, and partnerships such as ours with the Town are the most efficient way to get many of these projects done. We are glad to be continuing our work with them, as well as other Towns around the Lake, next year.”
Since there is a large amount of runoff at the site, more storage capacity is needed than the small areas available for planting could provide. “The native gardens installed this fall were a great start, but there is still more work that needs to be done,” said LGA’s Project Manager Randy Rath. “A series of dry wells and other stormwater management structures will be installed in the spring to catch larger amounts of runoff further up the hill before it makes it to the bottom. That is where the majority of the funding secured from the Helen V. Froehlich Foundation this year will be needed. We already have a concept and will finalize the design this winter with Warren County Soil and Water, so we are all set to start in the spring. Jim Martino at the Town of Lake George has been instrumental in all this. He called us up and said they were having some stormwater problems at the Park and asked if we could take a look. We are excited that the Towns look to us as a partner in protecting the Lake. We have strived to build good relationships with all of the municipalities over the years and we can see that all the hard work is paying off. ”
At Monday’s December meeting of the Dresden town board, the 2014 town budget was finalized. The amount to be raised by taxes is only $4,470 more than 2013. This translates into an increase of 0.764% in taxes from 2013 to 2014. (Less than 1%.) The town board should be congratulated for keeping the town budget in excellent shape during these trying fiscal times.
In another bit of good news, the total debt of Sewer District #1 is now $ 47,700, down from $94,560 a year ago. 2014 will see the debt in Sewer District # 1 paid off.
The fire protection budget stays the same as it was last year.
You can see a summary of the 2014 town budget here. (Note: This is the preliminary budget report, which was adopted by the town board and is now final.)
Many thanks to Dave Richards who emailed me these pictures of a bald eagle taken from the Lake Champlain South Bay Bridge, on Sunday morning, December 8th, about 9:00 am.
Dave luckily had his digital camera on hand. Looks like the eagle was feasting on a fish.
While our local bald eagle population is improving, it’s hard to catch them on camera.
Thanks again go out to Dave for sharing these great shots!
During the midst of the 2013 summer Foster Brook flood, the thought running through my mind was; “Where is all this water coming from?” There had been no rain for days and there weren’t any flood warnings in effect. The day was mildly cloudy. The flash flood came down the mountain suddenly, severely eroding the area of Foster Brook while also jumping the bank and causing damage to nearby roads and homes.
Well, thanks to Randy Rath, of the Lake George Association, here is a Google Earth map showing exactly where the water supposedly originated.
It is believed that the flood was started by a beaver dam failure constructed on the upstream pond pictured in the center of the Google map. The water held back by the dam was estimated at about 9 +acres and was all but entirely drained after the dam washed away. The resulting sediment washed down into Lake George was thus ultimately believed to have been caused by wild beavers.
What can be done to prevent this from happening again? Well according to Bob Banks, Town Supervisor of Dresden, the town does have funds available in its yearly budget for beaver dam removal. The problem was that no one knew about this area. To keep it from happening again, the area would need to be monitored to see if the area is being “dammed” again, resulting in a water buildup.
At least the question; “Where did the water come from?” may now be answered.
“It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
This past fall the Lake George Association (LGA) partnered with the Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District (WCSWCD), the Towns of Bolton and Queensbury Highway Departments and the Warren County DPW on several very important stormwater retrofit projects that will provide great protection for Lake George for many years to come. Fourteen new dry wells were installed, twelve in the Town of Bolton and two in the Town of Queensbury, with plans for more to be installed in Queensbury next spring.
“Even though there has been a lot of talk about invasive species and Lake George lately, we have not forgotten that stormwater runoff is still the number one source of pollutants to the Lake,” said LGA’s Outreach Coordinator Emily DeBolt. “So in addition to our invasive species work this past summer, with our award winning Lake Steward Program and other activities, staff at the LGA was also hard at work protecting the lake from stormwater runoff.”
After a storm, water that falls on soil can infiltrate down into the ground and eventually into the groundwater. Water that falls on impervious surfaces, such as roads and parking lots, cannot soak into the ground, and instead moves across these surfaces, picking up speed and pollutants- becoming stormwater runoff. Oils, salt, and sediment carrying phosphorous or other chemicals are also picked up by the water as it travels and are all eventually deposited into the Lake.
“Roadside drainage improvements such as catch basins, dry wells, and roadside ditch improvements, are all projects that the LGA undertakes with partners that protect the lake from nonpoint source pollution carried by stormwater runoff,” said LGA’s Executive Director Walt Lender. “We were very pleased to be able to get these projects in the ground before this winter. That way they are in place to protect the Lake from large amounts of runoff created by snowmelt in the spring.”
In the Town of Queensbury, Sunset Lane on Assembly Point was scheduled to be repaved this fall by the Town. Prior to paving, a stormwater issue was brought to the attention of both the Town and the WCSWCD by local residents. Staff from WCSWCD came up with a retrofit design and approached the LGA to see if it was interested in helping out with the project. With funding available from the Helen V. Froehlich Foundation for this type of work, the LGA jumped at the opportunity to be able to help address this stormwater issue. “This project was a great example of good timing and communication”, said Randy Rath, the LGA’s project manager. “Because the drainage issue came to light before the road was re-paved, we were able to address it. Had the Town gone ahead and just done the paving work, it might not have worked out. ”
The project involved installing two 8 foot diameter dry wells that will capture runoff from a small 3,200 square foot watershed on the southeast side of the lake and allow it to infiltrate into the ground rather than run directly to the lake. The Town of Queensbury Highway department completed all of the installation work with WCSWCD overseeing the entire project this past September. The LGA provided $2,395.00 in funding for the two dry wells. The Town of Queensbury supplied the stone. Additionally, while onsite viewing the installation of the last dry well, another stormwater retrofit project was identified and discussed with the Town and Soil and Water that could be implemented as early as next spring utilizing the same strategy.
After the successful installations in Queensbury, work moved up the Lake to the Town of Bolton where nine 4 foot by 8 foot dry wells were installed in three different areas. The first location was at the old Town of Bolton highway garage and transfer station, where there is over 11,000 square feet of impervious surface that had been generating untreated runoff into Finkle Brook during storm events. The WCSWCD worked with the town’s highway department and Kingsley Excavating to install a single dry well at the back of the property and a side by side installation of two additional dry wells in the corner of the transfer station. The three dry wells and a re-established rock lined swale now handle all of the runoff from the site and treat it before it reaches Finkle Brook.
On Mohican Avenue two 4 foot by 8 foot dry wells were added along the south side of the steep town owned road that has a track record of eroding during storm events. Each dry well is in a separate location and both have a paved swale leading to them. Overflow from the dry wells runs into the woods behind the structures where the stormwater can slowly infiltrate into the soil. Kingsley Excavating completed the work with technical design and project oversight coming from WCSWCD.
Horicon Avenue, also a steep road, is owned by Warren County and the work at this site was completed with in-kind services from the County DPW department. With the planning assistance of the WCSWCD, three dry well systems were initially installed. A single dry well was added on the East side of Horicon near Highland Drive. On the West side of Horicon, two side by side dry wells were installed to capture runoff from a 1700 foot length of road. Additionally along the West side of the road a fourth 4 foot by 8 foot dry well structure was added before the project was complete. This structure was located 500 feet below the previous structure. In all of the locations, the gutter of the road was reconstructed to direct the stormwater into the structures to reduce any erosion potential.
“The LGA contributed $2,969 for materials and $4,000 for labor to the Bolton projects that wrapped up in early October. As the Warren County DPW completed their work with WCSWCD on Horicon Avenue, they realized that they liked how the other structures were working and thought they could add three additional dry wells on Horicon, but had not budgeted for the materials,” said LGA’s Project Manager Randy Rath. “The County DPW asked the LGA if we could help out and purchase the three dry well systems. Utilizing funding designated for Stormwater Retrofits in Bolton from the Helen V. Froehlich Foundation, the LGA purchased the structures for $2,480. The dry wells have a smaller footprint (4 foot diameter rather than the larger 8 foot diameter used in the other locations), but are still able to capture and treat runoff. These were placed along Horicon Avenue in early October as well. “
“We are very pleased with the outcome of these installations this past fall,” said Rath. ”We have already had some rain events and have been able to see how well they are working. Next spring we will pick up where we left off and continue our partnership with Warren County Soil and Water and the local municipalities around the Lake to stop stormwater before it has a chance to enter the Lake. We’ll start in the Town of Queensbury and place two more dry wells at the base of Sunset Lane that will capture some additional stormwater just before it enters the Lake.”
The Dome Island Memorial Sanctuary is designated by a plaque in memory of John S. Apperson.
Recently, I had the chance to interview Ellen Apperson Brown, the great niece of John S. Apperson, the famous preservationist who single-handedly preserved some of Lake George’s most pristine shoreline, including Dome Island. She has been working on his biography and has copies of most of his correspondence.
Below is my interview with her.
To begin, Ms. Brown, you have a website dedicated to your great uncle’s memory and work. Can you tell our readers the address and what they might learn on your site?
I created this website about one year ago, as a way to publish excerpts of letters and other documents that have never been made available to the public. I decided to call it Apperson Associates, since that name suggests that there have been many, many people who believed in the value of Apperson’s work and who became his ardent supporters. So, if you look up www.appersonassociates.com, you will find an assortment of articles written about him (by journalists and historians) and a sampling of his correspondence. Also, there is another website I have created (www.vahistoryexchange.com) with a section devoted to the Apperson family, along with several academic papers I wrote during various graduate programs, describing his childhood and family and giving an overview of his work at Lake George and in the Adirondacks. One other suggestion, for anyone who’d enjoy seeing examples of his early photography, is a Facebook page set up by volunteers a few years ago, at the Adirondack Research Library, in Niskayuna. (see Adirondack Research Library – Facebook).
How is your biography of your uncle coming along? When do you expect it might be published?
I have written several articles over the past year or two that have appeared in such prominent publications as Adirondack Explorer, Adirondack Wild, Adirondack Almanak, the Lake George Mirror, and the New York History Blog. These articles have focused on specific (and colorful) topics: about his “kidnapping” of Governor Al Smith ( in 1923), his leadership in persuading the D & H RR to allow campers to take camping gear on the railroad (1913), and his friendships with some of the “great and gracious,” including George Foster Peabody and William K. Bixby. I plan to keep writing short articles as a way to reach a wide audience. In August I ventured into self-publishing and produced a booklet entitled Back in the Day: How John Apperson formed an early neighborhood association in Huddle Bay at Lake George. Copies are available for purchase ($12.95) at Trees, a gift shop in Bolton Landing, or by contacting me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org).
It is very hard to set aside sufficient time to write a big biography, especially without the support of a fellowship or other grant funding. I hope that Union College (Kelly Adirondack Center) will soon find sufficient funding and will consider inviting me to spend a semester or so to work in the Apperson archives, and to teach students and researchers there about the contents of this very important collection of papers!
The story of Dome Island being preserved is a long one. Can you explain why it was important to your great-uncle and why it is still important today?
Often described as the centerpiece of Lake George, Dome Island was the “jewel in the crown” of all of Apperson’s projects and achievements. Ever since his first excursions to the lake, in the early 1900s, he began wondering how this island could be protected and preserved. He thought of it as the gateway to the islands of the Narrows, and soon began promoting the idea of a Lake George Park. His dream was to bring all of the western (Tongue Mountain) and the eastern (Paradise Bay and Black Mountain Point) shores under state control, but he was frustrated by many factors, including corrupt governmental officials and the desire of several landowners to maintain their holdings for their own exclusive use.
He corresponded with Pliny Sexton, owner of the island, and explained to him why he had gone to the trouble of repairing the shoreline (hauling tons of rocks, and building a wall to protect the soil and trees) at his own expense. Sexton did not seem very interested in the problem, or very appreciative of all the hard work. Apperson sought advice from key wealthy people, hoping they might be able to help him solve the problem. In October of 1917, William K. Bixby offered to be “one of a group of five or six to buy Dome Island if Mr. Sexton does not lease it for the public.” Then Bixby continued, “I should favor giving the island to a board of trustees for the benefit of the Town of Bolton. Establish restrictions. Let the board of trustees be five men of standing and who love Lake George, with power to select their successors.” This wonderful idea did not ever come to pass.
By 1939, Appy noticed with alarm that a contractor was removing trees and appeared to be preparing to build a house or perhaps a hotel, so he sprang into action. He persuaded his close friend and associate, Dr. Irving Langmuir, to loan him some of the money, and they managed to purchase the island for $4,500. This was during the depression, and represented a truly remarkable expenditure, especially by a man whose sole means of support was his salary as an engineer at General Electric.
It took him another 15-16 years to find a suitable, lasting solution, when he gave the island to the care of the Nature Conservancy. Today, at Lake George, we all hear about easements and various legal strategies, allowing landowners to leave their properties (e.g. – to the Lake George Land Conservancy) with restrictions against future development, but in 1956, this was a ground-breaking experiment! Appy was a pioneer!
A view from Dome Island.
Dome Island is closed to the public but there are researchers who are allowed to enter. Can you tell us a little about them?
There is a special Dome Island Committee charged with the responsibility for watching over the island, for conducting various research projects, and for organizing annual events. To understand how this committee was formed, we must go back to the 1950s, when Apperson was struggling to find a permanent solution for Dome Island, having concluded that giving the island to the State of New York might not be a viable option. He eventually made friends with Alvin Whitney, Head of the New York State Museum, and one of the founders of the Nature Conservancy (Eastern New York Chapter), and by 1956 they hatched a plan whereby Apperson would give the island to the fledgling organization, along with an endowment of about $20,000, with the understanding that the island would be protected, in perpetuity. Irving Langmuir and scores of friends made generous contributions to the endowment, and by the time of Appy’s death, in 1963, the Island was being protected by a special group, the Dome Island Committee.
Are there any days when Dome Island can be entered upon?
For anyone who is disappointed to learn that Dome Island is restricted from camping and hiking, they should be reminded that scores of other islands are available for such uses, and that Dome is protected, for good reason, by the covenants of an agreement, signed more than fifty years ago. Several local residents serve on the committee, and have offered me hospitality over the years. About 15 years ago, I went along for the annual visit to the island, riding in a boat owned by Bill White, one of Appy’s most faithful friends, as well as Doug Langdon and Henry Caldwell. For more up-to-date information about what is happening at Dome Island, perhaps Henry Caldwell would be a good source of information…at his store in Bolton, called Black Bass Antiques. Otherwise, I suggest folks might want to contact the Lake George Land Conservancy, where Nancy Williams or someone else on her staff could put you in touch with current members.
So is Dome Island private or public property?
Dome Island is a private nature preserve, protected by a deed of gift established in 1956, and owned by a non-profit land conservancy. There is still a special fund that is dedicated to the island (for repairs and research). The jury is still out as to whether this experiment in environmental preservation will last another fifty to one hundred years, but I believe that my great uncle would be delighted to see how well it has survived, and to know that people are still interested in his efforts to save it!
Can you tell us something that most people do not know about John Apperson?
This question reminds me of the story of the blind men and the elephant. Each of them examined one section of an elephant’s anatomy and concluded that the elephant was…a snake (the trunk), a tree (a leg), a rope (the tail) and so on, but none of them could grasp the overall size or appearance of the beast. Similarly, many scholars have helped collect and pass along stories about John Apperson – about his amazing enthusiasm for hiking, camping, skate-sailing, skiing; about his passion to save the islands at Lake George through a sustained effort to recruit volunteers to rip-rap the shores; of his successful grassroots campaigns to defend the forever wild clause of the NY constitution; and of his gift of Dome Island to the Nature Conservancy…but virtually no scholars have had an opportunity to study the documents that reveal all the details of his methodology and strategic plans.
They don’t know that he was a documentary photographer and film maker, or that he had such a masterful command of the politics of his day. They don’t realize that he had formed important relationships with FDR and Eleanor, with Al Smith, and with George Foster Peabody. And they don’t realize what he sacrificed and endured along the way, making enemies of a long list of conservation commissioners and of the greatest power broker of all time – Robert Moses. In summary, I suppose most people don’t know how ambitious he was, and how successful…in accomplishing his main goal – of creating a Lake George Park.
What are some of the other important aspects of your great uncle’s legacy that you want people on Lake George to know?
He has left us a big challenge, asking us to figure out how to be stewards of the land and water. He fought against greed and self-interest, confronting wealthy land-owners to think about how the beautiful scenery might be enjoyed by future generations, and not developed into great mansions, city lawns, and tacky, Coney Island – style dance halls, motels and amusement parks. He tried to teach everyone to think critically, to get organized, and to make things happen. I hope future generations will become familiar with his life’s work, and carry on his good example!
Ms. Brown – thank you again for your thoughts. Please stop by and visit your “friends” in Huletts Landing some time.
Photos provided by Ms. Brown.
Mike Foster with Kathy Huntington.
I am very sorry to report that Mike Foster died on Saturday, November 30th at his home. Mike was the cousin of former Dresden Town Supervisor, Sue Foster Ives and the partner of Kathy Huntington, the Dresden historian.
On a personal note, Mike provided me with critical information and the only known photograph of his great grandfather, Willis C. Foster, who discovered the Hulett Hotel fire in 1915 and which can be found in my book, The Hulett Hotel Fire on Lake George.
Mike was a “bear” of a man, with a heart to match, who loved talking about the history of Dresden and Huletts Landing. He will be sadly missed.
Our condolences and prayers go out to the Foster and Huntington families for their loss.
“May God support us all the day long, till the shades lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in His mercy may He give us a safe lodging, and a holy rest and peace at the last.”
I will post additional info once I hear more. (Photo provided by the Foster family.)
I have my brother, Al, to thank for this picture of Mt. Defiance from 1871. My brother’s infinite Borgesian library of local history items was started before I even became interested in history, which should say it all. Since we were children, Al was collecting everything local that he could get his hands on. He pulls things out now and then to let me know he’s been doing this longer than I have!
Fort Ticonderoga was still in ruins when this picture was taken.
Click on item to see full-scale.
As we gather with friends and family to celebrate Thanksgiving, know that I give thanks for all the good you do in our community.