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Summer days are dwindling away

August 8, 2009
By Joe Hackett

Wet weather has plagued the summer season with a steady series of passing thunderstorms that delivered torrential downpours and dangerous lightning for most of July.

However, despite the regularity of rain, the region has finally achieved three consecutive days of fair weather in just the past week.

Campers have enjoyed the cooler evening temperatures and the clear, star-lit skies, while anglers have found an abundance of active and receptive fish that have been regularly replenished by the abundant oxygen and cool waters the rains have delivered.

The month of August always signals the last gasps of the summer season, as the prospects of returning to school loom on the horizon and both children and adults scurry to pack in one last trip up the lake or another mountain to climb. The sighting of the first maple tree to begin sporting red leaves always prompts me to seek out the last of summer's delights.

Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, captured this spirit well when he wrote, "Oh, The places you'll go! There is fun to be done! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So... get on your way."


Lows Lake public hearing set for Monday

The Adirondack Park Agency has scheduled an additional public hearing for Monday, August 10 at 6 p.m. The hearing, to be held at the APA's Ray Brook Headquarters, is regarding a proposal to classify and reclassify the lands and waters surrounding the Lows Lake, Hitchens Pond, Round Lake and Five Ponds Tracts.

The additional public hearing was scheduled after complaints that previous hearings hosted in Long Lake, Wanakena and Albany were too far away for many locals to attend. The hearing in Long Lake drew fewer than a dozen people.

A major issue in the proposal is a precedent-setting reclassification process that will move portions of State land, including both the lake bed and the waters of Lows Lake, into a Wilderness classification.

Although the proposal is specific to this particular land unit of state land, there are concerns that once established, the process may affect other state lands and particularly the waters.

When the state purchased the Lows Lake/Hitchens Pond tract, the deed conveyed both the rights to both the land and the waters to the state of New York.

Currently, whenever the state buys a parcel in it's entirety, any waters that are completely surrounded by state land are to be administered according to same classification as the lands. In the Lows Lake case, they would be be encompassed by wilderness principles.

However, on Lows Lake, there are a number of inholdings that remain in private hands. Despite a wilderness reclassification, the owners of these properties will retain rights to use motor vehicles on both land and water.

If the proposal is accepted and the area becomes a Wilderness tract, the established roads to Parker's Island and the Boy Scout Camp,as well as the two existing dams, will remain Primitive Corridors.

A portion of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad that runs through the Hitchens Pond tract is similarly classified.

Although the tract appears quite wild in sections, the region does not have the feel of true wilderness due to camps, inholdings, established roads and it's well maintained dams.

Evidence of the Gus Low's former empire are also quite evident in the numerous carriage roads, cobblestone landings and the numerous pines still sporting rows of insulators that once carried electric and telephone lines from Horseshoe Station to the Upper Dam.

There are concerns within the sporting community that the proposed precedent setting reclassification will allow the state to further limit the use of motorized vehicles, specifically boats, on sections of the Raquette River, Cranberry Lake and other areas championed as "motorless" by the Quiet Waters Campaign.

Some have expressed fear that once the state begins including both river and lake bottoms and the water above them in the land classification process, the door will be open to further restrictions of state waters, including remote stretches of the Raquette River and sections of Cranberry Lake, Indian Lake and others.

Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club explained that such concerns are unfounded.

"The properties in that region, including Little Tupper, Bog Lake, Round Pond and Lows Lake are unique," he said. "The state purchased these tracts from a single grantor, so their was no question about previous ownership of the lake bottoms. The entire lake and the water is considered Forest Preserve. The situation isn't comparable to Cranberry Lake or Indian Lake, where many separate owners held various parcels."

Although the APA encourages attendance at public hearings, written comments are also included in the hearing record and may be sent directly to the APA. They will be accepted through Aug. 28. Address letters to Richard Weber, assistant planning director, PO Box 99, Ray Brook, NY 12977.


A natural education in the garden

An interesting concept in early childhood education has slowly moved across the Atlantic from Europe. While still in it's infancy, these programs are certain to affect the infancy of others.

The concept of Wood Schools draws on the original intent of "kindergartens," which translates as "children's gardens," a place where children can learn and thrive amidst the wonders of the natural world.

The movement has been embraced by many in the United States primarily due the exposure resulting from Richard Louv's best-selling book, "Last Child in the Woods." I expect that as our society becomes more aware of the positive affects of nature on childhood development, there will be a corresponding increase in the demand for such schools.

In the Wood School model, children aged 36 spend the school day in the outdoors, in all seasons except during periods of extreme weather.

Such schools may prove to be a hard sell in the Adirondacks, due to our extreme fluctuations in weather, bugs and other such natural inconveniences.

However, proponents of the model believe that regular exposure to the natural environment helps to strengthen immune systems and improve the development of manual dexterity, physical coordination, tactile sensitivity and depth perception.

In Midland, Michigan, the Chippewa Nature Center offers area children a version of the Wood Kindergarten that models the European version without an entire day-long outdoor exposure. The Chippewa program still allows students full and frequent access to the outdoors along with nature-based play, but continues to provide indoor instruction for several subjects.

As the Child and Nature Network continues to gather more research and further studies are conducted on the affects of the natural world on childhood development, parents and educators will further refine the concept of kindergarten.

Research has already confirmed that exposure to nature raises test scores. It increases creativity, cooperation, and self-confidence; reduces stress; and enhances cognitive abilities.

It allows children to develop skills and knowledge in a more natural, experiential manner than the more typical, rote memory methods that have long been employed.

In natural settings, children are free to explore, discover and utilize their imagination to the fullest. One of the most valuable assets children possess is their imagination, the ability to think creatively or "outside the box" as some would say. The world needs a new generation of inventors to tackle some of our old problems.

Maybe the best method towards achieving this goal is to remove our children from within the box and get them outside the constraints of the four walls of a classroom to a place where fresh air and the constant stimuli of the natural world can continue to foster the process of natural development.



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