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A little about me
March 18, 2011 - Jessica Collier
In light of the fact that it’s Sunshine Week, when the press tends to put pressure on governments to increase their openness, I’m going to take a page from that book and make sure I’m being totally open about the circumstances of my life that come into play with the Adirondack Club and Resort discussion.
I was born and raised in Tupper Lake. I went to college in Albany and graduate school in Boston, but for most of the rest of my post-high-school life, I’ve live in or around Tupper Lake (in Long Lake for several years or in Saranac Lake, where I moved in January).
I grew up on Lake Simond Road, one of the areas that would be most impacted by the development. My father still owns and lives on the property where I spent most of my grade-school years. I often went for walks on that road with my mother, and when I first got my driver license (and for too many years after that) I would often speed down it much faster than the posted 30 mph speed limit, because there was barely ever anyone on the road to watch out for.
The development would build homes along the side of the road that has for years had nothing on it but logging paths and a water treatment plant. I will have to check the project plans again, but I believe some of the ski slope traffic will be directed down through Lake Simond Road as well. Both those things would increase traffic on the road I grew up on significantly and change the dynamic of the neighborhood.
One of the huge benefits of growing up on Lake Simond, though I often lamented being soooo faaaar from the village as a teen, was being so close to the Big Tupper Ski Area. I grew up on that mountain, like so many people have said so many times throughout this process. I learned to ski at a very young age, and I switched to snowboarding in my early teens. I spent almost all of my weekends and school breaks at the mountain, plus many nights when night skiing was still an option, and I got season tickets to Big Tupper as a Christmas present for as long as I can remember.
I was a senior in high school the first winter that Big Tupper was closed — 1999-2000. I remember being confused about having so much time on my hands, and how much harder it was to get through the boredom of that winter than any that came before. I also remember noticing that, all of a sudden, I was out of shape. I had never noticed before that skiing and snowboarding was exercise, because it was so much fun, but good exercise it most certainly was.
I can’t imagine having grown up in Tupper Lake without an operational ski slope, and my heart goes out to the generation that did. Reopening Big Tupper for good, rather than on the volunteer basis it’s using now which won’t sustain itself for much longer, would be an amazing thing for the people of Tupper Lake. And many people say that can’t be done without the financial backing of luxury real estate properties, as proposed for the ACR.
Many middle-aged and older people, in various ACR hearings and comments, have talked about the vibrant community that Tupper Lake once was when they were young. How they could go into town and buy a shirt and pants at one of a number of stores, how there was a meat-packing plant, grand hotels and numerous bars and restaurants. That’s not the Tupper Lake I remember from my youth. By the time I started being aware of my surroundings, economic depression had already set in. Closed storefronts on Park Street were the norm, and the town was already pretty dependent on Sunmount jobs, though the OWD was still open and employing people, but not nearly as many people as in its heyday. It’s worse now, but not by much. The emptiness of the OWD and the former Ames/Hacketts/WiseBuys store hangs over a chunk of the town, and the lack of grocery stores makes it tough to find what you need. There are more houses for sale and fewer that are selling, more housing that looks run down, and people seem just a tad more desperate.
Besides my connections to the places in Tupper Lake, I also have many connections to the people involved in the ACR project.
Being that I grew up on Lake Simond Road, I was close with many of the residents there who are party to the hearing because they have questions about the resort. I learned to swim, waterski and kneeboard on Lake Simond with their families, babysat their children, and attended their birthday, Superbowl and Christmas parties.
My father, as an adjoining property owner, was invited to apply to be a party to the hearing, but he declined. He also sits on the joint town and village planning board as a town appointee and has for many years. The planning board has already given preliminary approval to the ACR’s planned development district and will have to give final approval once all the other necessary permits are in place.
Besides the Lake Simond Road residents, I have many connections to other people in town. Many of the teachers who have been speaking out in favor of the project were the people who taught me at L.P. Quinn and TLMHS. I’ve known many of the public officials and business owners speaking out in favor of it for years. And the children of many of those people were my best friends and peers in school. And of course, many of the volunteers at Big Tupper are the people from whom I learned to ski and snowboard.
I’m not going to use this post to give my personal feelings on the project. As a member of the press, I’m paid to be an objective observer. I get accusations from both sides of the argument saying that I’m biased in favor of the other side, which tends to mean I’m actually somewhere in the middle and doing something right. I do have many personal connections involved with the project, coming from both sides of the issue, but I try to keep them out of my reporting as much as possible.
Sorry for the long post. I just wanted to make sure to get all of that out in the open.
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