In Adirondack news bureau, another day at the office

Brian Mann (middle in green) with DEC commissioner Joe Martens (L), Adirondack Daily Enterprise reporter Mike Lynch and Adirondack Architectural Heritage director Steven Engelhart (PHOTO: DEC)

I report this morning on efforts to save the Santanoni Great Camp on the southern flank of the Adirondack High Peaks.

This is real news, an important story that adds to the sense of how management and preservation of the Park is changing.

But I’d be lying if I didn’t also admit that it’s the sort of guilty-pleasure story that keeps me working (happily) in the North Country.

How many journalists get to chase stories on cross-country skis on a bright midwinter day?

Or poke around in the woods looking for feral hogs?  Or cover cool cultural events like the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival?

There are plenty of tough issues that warrant coverage in our region. Casting an eye back over the last year of stories, I found a lot of heavy stuff.  Irene, the spring floods, a tough economy, threatened schools and the aftermath of 9/11 on local soldiers.

But it’s also important to tell these other stories, the ones that get at the beauty, the community, and the pure fun of the North Country.

Sometimes, in my work, I think about the opening of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, where Ishmael talks about finding himself “growing grim about the mouth” and suffering “a damp, drizzly November in my soul.”

I think journalists are particularly susceptible to this ailment.

We fall into moods where we bring up the rear of every funeral (ambulance chasing, in modern parlance) and have to resist the temptation to go around “methodically knocking people’s hats off.”

Ishmael’s cure was to set off on a sea voyage…and we know how that ended.

So I’ll stick to the more temperate cure of heading out into the woods on my skis (or hiking boots) looking for stories that remind me of the deeper values and meaning that lie behind the turbulent scrum of North Country life.

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18 Comments on “In Adirondack news bureau, another day at the office”

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  1. tourpro says:

    I love Santanoni, one of our most special places.

    Sometimes I wonder what would be best for preservation – more or less publicity?

  2. Jim Bullard says:

    It’s no sin to enjoy your job Brian. It would be a better world if more people could/did.

  3. Phil Brown says:

    I did this trip on Tuesday … on one of my days off.

  4. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    How’s the snow conditions in this area? Dying to ski but we haven’t had very good conditions even here in typically snowy Lewis County. I’ve never been to Santanoni and really hope to one of these days. From everything I’ve read, heard and seen (In Adirondack Life and various other print media), it appears to be a magical place.

  5. Keith Silliman says:

    I have been going to Santanoni for over 30 years, and at one time maintained the 2 lean-tos on Newcomb Lake. It is truly a special place and a very nice ski.

    Remember– life is the sum of your experiences. If your work lets you enjoy yourself– so much the better!

  6. Paul says:

    Yes, this is real news but isn’t this just some sort of showcase visit for Martens? No big announcement or anything? This is “real” but it also “old” news. His job looks pretty fun also. You gotta be a world cup skier a newsman or the DEC chair to get paid to ski.

  7. Paul says:

    Maybe a ski touring guide also.

  8. Bob Falesch says:

    (…turbulent scrum. Having been a city slicker most of my life, that’s one thing I thought I missed from North Country life)

    Is this a kind of high watermark for personal reflection in a “news” blog post, or is this typical and I just haven’t been reading closely enough? 265 of Brian’s 308 words(*), that’s 86% of the blog posting, are of a personal nature and I’m loving the literary allusion that makes up a big part of that.

    I just knew it! All along I had a feeling that the “news media” consists of real human beings (I do still wonder about Rush, however).


    * Nah, I didn’t obsessively count words, I just threw the article at MS Word so its word-count tool could masticate for me. Well, maybe it is a little obsessive to obsess over the ratio of muse-to-news in a blog post :–)

  9. Paul says:

    From the ADE article:

    “Personally, I’ve always been a huge proponent of the cultural resources in the Park,” Martens said.

    Too bad many of them are now “museums”.

  10. Walker says:

    Paul, which cultural resources in the Park are now “museums”?

  11. Paul says:

    Walker, This one. I am saying that it is too bad that this property is a museum of sorts rather than a real place where people live.

  12. Walker says:

    Well, I agree to a point. It was a 13,000 acre property originally, so it was unlikely to survive intact in any case. And while it was undoubtedly lovely for the family while it lasted, it’s a fairly sure thing that you and I would never have seen it if it had never been acquired by the state.

    There is Camp Topridge, as a counter example, which many saw during the few years between private owners. The present owner, Harlan Crow, has made many changes in the place, many of them rather well done, but all done at huge expense. Neither the present owner nor the public see it very often now.

    It is anything but clear to me what would be the best disposition of such a place today. At any rate, as to Santanoni, if preservationists hadn’t stepped in when they did, Santanoni would be gone by now. So it’s more a choice between museum status and non-existence in most cases.

  13. Walker says:

    What we really need is a law explicitly permitting and encouraging preservation of historic properties within the park. Ideally we’d be acquiring these places intact, instead of desperately scraping together a rescue plan at the last minute after all of the original furnishings are gone. Of course, at this point, it’s all but too late.

  14. Paul says:

    “So it’s more a choice between museum status and non-existence in most cases.”

    Perhaps, but I think if the state would step aside in these transactions a private buyer would always be found. We all know that the “1%” is out there just stockpiling their cash. I am sure that you can find one that will buy it at the right price. I understand that for many of these sales there are multiple buyers that want in. So I don’t think there are as threatened as some might think.

    Walker, is it more of an “access” issue than a preservation issue for you. For many folks looking to preserve areas of the Adirondacks that is often the case.

  15. Paul says:

    “What we really need is a law explicitly permitting and encouraging preservation of historic properties within the park.”

    We have one it is called “supply and demand”. Your example of Topridge is a good one. There is no reason that WE should even be a potential buyer.

  16. Walker says:

    Paul, as to Topridge, Marjorie Merriweather Post left the property to the State of New York.

    And the Pruyns sold Santanoni to the Melvins. In 1971, one of the Melvins’ grandchildren disappeared in the forest at Santanoni and was never seen again. The family, not caring to return to the scene of this tragedy, contracted with the Adirondack Conservancy to purchase the entire Santanoni Preserve.

    In each case, it was the last private owner’s wish that it become state land. Topridge only came back into private ownership because taxpayers objected to the upkeep of what the state had chosen to use as a retreat for the Governor.

    As to whether it is more of an access issue than a preservation issue for me, I plead guilty to the basic progressive tenet– the greatest good for the greatest number.

  17. Paul says:

    Walker, thanks I know the history of both. If the owners want to give the land to the state that is fine. If some of this kind of property goes on the market, in my opinion, the state should not get involved. They have many other more important things to deal with.

  18. Walker says:

    Well if the state had taken that position from the git go, we would have no Adirondack Park, the High Peaks would have scattered houses and hotels with helipads, and the trails would all be privately owned, as they were a hundred years ago. There would be jet skis on Avalanche Lake and a million dollar “cottage” on Lake Tear. And virtually every body of water in what is now the park would look like the private parts of Lake George.

    To each their own.

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