LAKE PLACID - Carpenter Paul LaRose relies on snowmobiles to haul materials across frozen Lake Placid to a water-access-only job site. This winter season, that has been a problem.
Not only has the ice been thin because of warm weather, but LaRose says a couple of bubblers - which circulate water to prevent ice buildup - near the state boat launch off Mirror Lake Drive are keeping the water near the shoreline open. That means access to Lake Placid from the state boat launch has been cut off.
"The problem is the bubblers are keeping the lake from freezing, and it's keeping us from hauling material across the lake to work," LaRose said. "Everywhere else the lake is pretty safe to be on besides this harbor."
Carpenter Paul LaRose stands at the state boat launch on Lake Placid Monday afternoon. LaRose said nearby bubblers have melted ice around the public launch preventing public access there.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)
Bubblers are used to prevent ice from forming and causing damage to docks and boathouses. The bubblers LaRose referred to are in front a boathouse whose listed owner is Ora Smith, a seasonal resident whose property is located in the town of North Elba. The Enterprise was unable to reach Smith via phone for this report.
In recent years those who want to access the lake with snowmobiles from the state boat launch have been entering on private property to the right of the launch, which is what LaRose and a few other people are doing this season. LaRose said the workers cut through the village water department's property to the lake. RedWing Construction owner Dan Nardiello said he thinks the access point contractors have been using in recent years is privately owned.
"It's behind the village water works, but it's not their property, but that is where everyone for the last two years went," Nardiello said. "They sort of scooted through the woods there and parked out on the ice."
LaRose said this problem with bubblers near the state boat launch has been an issue for a few years, especially last year when there were more workers on the lake. He said not only were the Smiths' bubblers a problem last year; so were ones around the village of Lake Placid's fire department's boathouse, directly to the right of the launch.
The village immediately turned off its bubblers last year after the issue was brought to the attention of village officials, Nardiello said. This year, the village bubblers are in use, but they are surrounded by a floating curtain that contains the moving water.
Lake Placid Snowmobile Club President Jim McCulley said the lack of access from the state boat launch is also a problem for recreational snowmobilers and is a safety hazard that should be addressed.
"A lot of us like to go down and have picnics on Moose Island," he said. "It's a beautiful spot to ride, especially when you're getting no riding at all anywhere else. It's just ridiculous. It's a state boat launch. We're supposed to have the right to use it, whether it be for boats or snowmobiles or whatever reason.
"What they are doing is creating a hazard on that lake. I'll tell you something: If someone comes from the other side of the lake and doesn't know the bubbler's there and drowns, they have liability that is unbelievable."
Nardiello said he isn't working on the lake this winter. However, he worked on the lake the past two winters, and bubblers were a problem for the 50 workers who had projects there. He said contractors complained to the state Department of Environmental Conservation both winters.
"It used to be that you could drive right onto the lake in a vehicle, but with bubblers to the right and the left (you can't anymore)," Nardiello said.
DEC spokesman Dave Winchell said the department has received several complaints in recent days and reached out to the private landowners Tuesday to try to resolve the situation. But Winchell said the DEC doesn't have regulations that address bubblers.
"We don't have any enforcement mechanism to make them do anything," Winchell said.
Neither does the town of North Elba, according to town and village Code Enforcement Officer Jim Morganson.
Morganson said there are regulations preventing shoreowners from having bubblers on Mirror Lake, but there aren't such regulations for Lake Placid. He also said he was unaware of any problems with bubblers on Lake Placid.
"As far as Lake Placid, there aren't any written, strict laws," Morganson said. "We've never had a clear situation where it had to be dealt with on the big lake."
Town Supervisor Roby Politi also said he hadn't heard of any complaints regarding bubblers until contacted by the Enterprise.
Lake Placid Shore Owners Association President Mark Wilson also said this is the first time he has heard about the issues in regard to the state boat launch.
"No one has contacted the Shore Owners Association," Wilson said. "This is the first I've heard it was an issue. So we'll definitely look into it and see if there's anything we can do."
Nardiello said neither the town nor the SOA was contacted because contractors have instead approached the village, DEC and private landowners about the problem in recent years. He said everyone but the private landowners next to launch have been responsive to the workers' requests.
"They didn't want to move the bubblers, or not turn the bubblers on, or put the curtains up," Nardiello said.