Posts Tagged 'appalachian mountain club'

The Power of Place

The Power of Place is Jerry Monkman’s new documentary film about The Northern Pass, a billion plus dollar electricity transmission line project that will cut through New Hampshire. The line would be 187 miles long with 1500 steel towers that are as tall as 135 feet.

Last night, I watched the world premier at the Red River Theatres in Concord, New Hampshire. I was joined by my friend, John Judge, from the Appalachian Mountain Club. AMC is a big supporter of the film and has done a lot of work to oppose The Northern Pass.

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Debbie and I are longtime members of AMC’s Board of Advisors and Horst Engineering is a longtime supporter of AMC’s mission. Our family businesses, Horst Engineering, Thread Rolling Inc., and Sterling Machine, need safe, reliable, and cost-effective electrical power to operate successfully in Connecticut and Massachusetts. We have significant monthly utility bills and the power we pay for is a critical part of our manufacturing processes. Electricity is always on my mind.

I’ve been following The Northern Pass project for many years. I’ve read a lot about it and much of what I’ve read has been from AMC’s perspective. This particular energy project has created more controversy than any New England project in decades, but it is still off the radar of the vast majority of our region’s population. The acute effects of an expanded electrical transmission corridor, larger towers, and higher voltage lines will be felt throughout New Hampshire, but particularly in the northern forest areas that include the White Mountain National Forest. For these reasons, and many others, AMC has helped lead vociferous opposition.

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The private for profit energy project involves Hydro-Quebec and Empower (formerly Northeast Utilities). Empower and National Grid are the two main utilities that our businesses rely on, and they happen to be rivals. There is a ton of information about the project and there are multiple opposition groups, so it would be pointless for me to attempt to describe the situation in any detail. Among those opposition groups are entire municipalities that have lined up against the project. Those interested should read on and explore the links, but also, watch the film.

I support many capitalistic ventures, but I have a very strong environmental ethic and have always been willing to pay a premium for electricity so that the impact to the environment is minimized. 10 years ago, Debbie and I built an energy-efficient home, we conserve energy, and we educate our children so that they do the same. At Horst Engineering, we have implemented many conservation projects including the shift to more efficient lighting and motors. We have solar PV electric power systems on two of our buildings, totaling 76kW and have offset a good chunk of our power demand by investing in these renewable sources.

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Clearly, we are willing to “pay a premium” for cleaner power, though there is so much more that we and others can do. With all of that said, I’m an avid outdoorsman and have spent lots of time in the mountains of New Hampshire. I don’t want to see this project go through. Like many of the others, I challenge everyone involved to find better alternatives, even if that means scrapping the current project.

The argument has pitted northern New England states against southern New England states. Many of the protesters have argued that New Hampshire will not directly benefit from the project. The power will just be “passing through” on its way to markets in Southern New England states, including Connecticut. The utilities have touted the infrastructure/construction project as a job creator. Even the regions utilities aren’t on the same page. After all, they compete in a tough market, and one that is dominated by only a handful of players. Despite deregulation, consumers still don’t have much choice. The company that owns the transmission lines that deliver electricity to your house or business has a lock on the distribution of your power. You can’t go anywhere else.

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Too often, we take it for granted and don’t pay attention to where our power comes from. Society suffers from the same type of problem with our food. Debbie and I believe that you have to know where these things come from. Whether it is the food we eat or the electricity we cook it with, knowing that these products were sourced in a responsible manner, and transported with minimal impact on the environment, is just the beginning.

That bring’s me back to Jerry’s film. Watch it. It’s a great story with some amazing time-lapse photography, videography, music, and interviews. On the surface, you can view it as art, and it is splendid. However, there is so much more to the story. It is told from the perspective of the opposition, so it doesn’t present a balanced argument. The people behind The Northern Pass declined to participate in the film, so you only hear a little bit from their perspective. Regardless, it is a powerful film about a power project.

Click here to read about the Appalachian Mountain Club’s position.

Click here for a cool flyover video using Google Maps and GIS technology.

AMC has a lot of company in this fight.The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests have also been vocal in their opposition. So has the Conservation Law Foundation and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Existing power lines already cross the Appalachian Trail, but The Northern Pass would bring more development to the White Mountain National Forest and would impact the AT even more than today.

Click here for the Forest Society’s information.

Click here for the CLF’s information.

Last night’s premier was held in a sold out theater. After the film, Jerry and his assistant producer, Kari Post, fielded questions about the making of the film. 20 hours of interviews were recorded, though they were edited down to 35 minutes in the film. It was a tedious process. The videography and photography also took lots of time. Jerry and his team, including his spouse and business partner, Marcy, worked on the film for more than two years. Jerry and Marcy have written multiple guidebooks about New England’s wild places, including Acadia National Park. Jerry is one of the premier outdoor photographers based in New England and many of his iconic images grace the pages of publications including Yankee Magazine and Outdoors. The Monkman’s children joined them at the premier. I love family enterprises, so it was nice to meet them and know that they were part of the making of the film.

The film was partially funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign. Following the Q&A about the film, Jerry moderated a panel discussion regarding The Northern Pass. Susan Arnold (Appalachian Mountain Club), Jack Savage (Forest Society), and Rob Werner (City of Concord) all spoke about their opposition to the project. They took question after question from the packed crowd. When the program wrapped and we were filing out of the theater, I met many of the people featured in the film. It was really neat to chat with some of them after seeing and hearing them in the film.

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On the drive back to Boston, John and I discussed our thoughts and ideas at length. My final thoughts are that the impact of the development is too great. There has to be a limit and The Northern Pass has met its match in the number of people who are against it. Susan Arnold said, “We have to think fairly about energy, but not export the impacts of the power that we use.”

Bay Circuit Trail & North Shore NEMBA

This past Thursday, I was at our Sterling Machine operation in Lynn, MA. After work, I drove over to Harold Parker State Forest in Andover to meet up with the North Shore NEMBA crew for the Thursday Night Ride. Including me, the group was 12. It was a beautiful late May evening that was hot and muggy. We rode until dusk. I captured the route on my GPS.2013_iPhone Photos_May 36

The weekly ride is billed “intermediate.” I wasn’t looking for anything more than some guidance and new trails, so that was fine. There was a fair amount of standing around, but I was cool with that, with the only exception being the mosquitoes. We waited for everyone. Bob Ganley was our host and we saw parts of Harold Parker, the Ward Reservation, and several other land trust/conservation properties. Sections were part of the Bay Circuit Trail which is getting a lot of marketing thanks to a partnership between the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Trustees of Reservations. We even got to go up the historic Boston Hill, where there used to be a ski area. The view east to Boston and beyond was fantastic and we had a good look at the skyline despite the haze.

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The descent off of Boston Hill was a highlight. There was fresh-cut trails with beautiful flowing switchbacks and some great bridges. It was just rough enough to keep you honest. I learned that Harold Parker has more than 30 miles of trails that are mountain bike friendly, but we only saw a small amount. They say it takes four Thursday rides (about two hours long) to cover all of the trails when you focus on them. However, this week, Bob took us to several other trail systems in town. I plan to return, though I was encouraged to bring my full suspension bike next time.

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Well, I don’t have one. This ride featured 11 other riders, and everyone was riding a full suspension. Some even sported body armor (knee, shin, and elbow guards).  I was un-phased because my goal is to always stay on my bike. I only fell once, and it happened to be off of a bog bridge. Thankfully, it was on a dry section. 50 feet up the trail, it would have been a two foot fall into some serious muck. There were several cool sections of bridges over this bog.

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This was a throwback ride for me. I rarely get on group rides, whether they are on road or off-road. This was old school with many long time riders, which was great to see. Full transparency: I was heckled multiple times…and I loved it. Don’t shy away from this ride. It was all good-natured ribbing with the quality of trails and true trail ethic in mind. Several of these dudes were hard-core trail maintainers and builders. Erosion and trail health was at the top of their minds.

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The worst attacks came after I ended up in front on one section of trail late in the ride. I didn’t know what was coming around a bend (I think everyone assumed I should have) and instead of going over a tree (obstacle) in the trail, I went around it. That caused much consternation and several rebukes, including these gems: “No shortcuts” and “Don’t take the pu%#y line.” I bit my lip, but was thinking, right on! Way to welcome the new guy!

I took it all in stride and managed to clear all of the other trail obstacles despite riding my Seven Sola SL 29er rigid singlespeed. I’ll return to the ride, and it will be on the same bike. The rocks and roots don’t bother me. I made sure that I didn’t mention my upcoming half Ironman. That would have likely resulted in even harsher criticism! I was already drawing looks for my color coordinated Lycra kit. Like I said, don’t let any of this dissuade you from joining this crew on an upcoming Thursday night. It was a great ride on some great trails!

Mohican Outdoor Center & Delaware Water Gap

Breakfast in New Jersey. Lunch in Pennsylvania. Dinner back home in Connecticut. It was another busy couple of days for the Livingston Family. We visited the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Mohican Outdoor Center in Blairstown, New Jersey. This was our first time visiting Mohican, but it won’t be our last. Debbie and I are members of AMC’s board of advisors, and our biannual meeting was at Mohican, a beautiful camp in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

I’ve passed through the Water Gap in recent years, but really hadn’t been back there for outdoor recreation since I was a Boy Scout. Nearly 25 years ago, I got earned my BSA 50 Miler Afloat award on a canoe trip down the Delaware River when I was a kid. I remember that we were guided by folks from the Pack Shack, a local outfitter. This recent trip brought back fond memories of that escapade. Just thinking of the fun we had on that adventure is enough to make me smile.

So, we were back in the Water Gap with our whole family, and it was a blast. Nothing is better than going for a trail run on the Appalachian Trail before breakfast. Nothing beats a quiet canoe paddle on flat water after breakfast. Mohican is situated on beautiful Catfish Pond and borders the AT. It’s a magical place only 90 minutes from New York City and 120 minutes from Philadelphia.

This morning, Debbie and I got out for that short run, and with the exception of missing our cutoff on to the Rattlesnake Swamp Trail, we enjoyed the rocky track. Later in the day, Debbie and her mom, Barbara, took our kids on their first canoe trip. They spotted for me while I swam all over the pond. I wore my wetsuit because the water was quite cold. Our kids had a great time on their maiden voyage.

Mohican is chock full of critters. We saw a beaver, many squirrels, two deer, several centipedes, worms, geese, ducks, fish, and best of all, a bald eagle. Sticking with the Boy Scouts theme, Mohican is an old  Boy Scout camp. It was known as Camp Mohican back in the 1930’s. The AMC took over the property in 1993, and has upgraded it nicely. We stayed in one of the updated lodges, a rustic bunkhouse with a full kitchen and rooms that sleep two to four. Mohican was laid out like the classic camps I attended when I was a Scout, so that was pretty cool. It brought back good memories of my time at Lake of Isles and Camp Yawgoog.

Last night, we heard from the great leaders running AMC’s Youth Opportunities Program in New York City and Newark. YOP has been a wonderful success, training dozens of counselors and thousands of urban and at-risk youth. It was inspiring to hear about the fantastic work that these AMCers and community volunteers are doing. Our family zips off to the mountains anytime we wish, and we are careful not to take that privilege for granted. Our children are being raised with a love of the outdoors and an appreciation for nature, but YOP highlights that there are kids who have never seen the woods. What a shame. I’m so proud of AMC’s education mission.

On our way home, we briefly headed south to the Kittatinny Point Visitor Center and to see the heart of the Water Gap where the AT drops off of Mount Minsi. We were back in the van in no time and headed home for yet another trail adventure tomorrow.

2011 AMC Photo Contest

I had great success in the 2009 Appalachian Mountain Club Photo Contest, but had to sit out the 16th annual contest in 2010 because of my two winning images. I still shot a lot of AMC worthy photos in 2010, but I was ineligible. So, I made a “comeback” in 2011 and submitted the maximum 12 photos to the 17th annual contest. I’m excited to say that once again, I had a winning image, and it was one of my favorite shots of 2011.

My photo, “First Pitch,” took first place in the Kids, Adults, and Families Outdoors category. I entered three photos in each of the four AMC categories, but this category is my favorite because I love capturing images of our family adventures. The photo of Debbie and our daughter was from our fantastic trip to Vermont last August. We camped at Branbury State Park and went on an early morning hike. Our son was scrambling up the rocky trail and our daughter, who Debbie was carrying on her back, wanted to show that she could climb the rocks too.

I took the photo with my Leica M9 Digital body and Summilux-M 35 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens at ISO 500 and 1/125 shutter speed. I was stopped down pretty low, but don’t know the actual aperture setting. Unfortunately, Apple’s Aperture software doesn’t do a perfect job of collecting EXIF metadata from the M9. It was a warm, muggy, and overcast morning. We had a lovely hike and this image will always remind me of it.

The winning photos were published in this month’s AMC Outdoors magazine and are featured on the website and AMC Facebook page. All of the submissions can be viewed on the AMC Flickr page. Congratulations to all of the winners, and thank you to the three talented judges who liked my photo. The winning photographs are all inspiring and beautiful.

Andy Falender & the AMC

Farewell, Andy! Last night, the Appalachian Mountain Club paid a fantastic tribute to our outgoing President and CEO. Andy Falender has led the AMC for 23 years and he leaves the organization in a very strong state. Much work remains to be done on the recreation, education, and conservation fronts, but so much progress has been made.

Debbie and I have had the pleasure to observe Andy at close range. We joined the AMC Board of Advisors in 2003 and are fortunate to have spent countless hours with Andy  at board meetings and club events. Beyond those engagements, we have hiked many miles with Andy on the trail. He often gives us a hard time about our fast pace. However, in recent years, since our kids came along, we have insisted that our pace has slowed, though our quest for adventure has not. It was Andy who issued a challenge when Debbie was pregnant with our son. He told us of a couple who took their first child to a White Mountain hut at 12 weeks. Debbie and I agreed that we could top that and made a trip with our little guy to Mizpah Spring Hut when he was nine weeks old. It was the start of many adventures for him.

Andy was extremely proud of his own family. He and his wife, Jackie, spent a lot of time on trails with their son and daughter, who are now young adults. Couples like the Falender’s inspire us to do get our kids outdoors, which is a core aspect of AMC’s mission.

I have been so impressed with Andy Falender’s leadership and management of AMC. I wish I still lived in Boston and had more chances to connect with him. Our engagements have always been meaningful and I consider him a true mentor. He was the right person for the AMC top-job at the right time. Andy is a Harvard Business School graduate and HBS even did a 1997 case study about his hiring, governance, and early transformation at AMC. I hope that HBS revisits the case now that his tenure is over after two decades of accomplishments.

The list of objectives that our club has achieved under his leadership is impressive. He would be the first to give credit to his management team, the entire AMC staff, the directors, the advisors, all of AMC’s great volunteers, and our club’s passionate members; and he would be right…but, it was all on his watch. He should get a lot of the credit too:

  • More than 2 million acres protected
  • 23 years of balanced budgets
  • $100 million raised in capital campaigns
  • 1,585 miles of trails managed
  • 45,000 kids outdoors annually
  • White Mountain Huts repermitting
  • Construction of the Highland Center
  • More than 16,000 volunteers
  • More than 100,000 members
  • The Maine Woods Initiative

And the list goes on…

With this list of accomplishments, and so much more, he could easily get another job. However, after a long career in the non-profit sector (he previously led the New England Conservatory of Music), he is retiring and will now just be a “member” of our club. Last night’s party was packed with AMCers from all over the country. We saw so many great friends.

Last night’s farewell party was at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, Massachusetts. Before dinner, Debbie and I toured the museum and we were riveted to the displays. I had not been there since a Boy Scout Troop 11 trip in the 1980’s. Last night, I learned another fact about Andy. He is an Eagle Scout like me. Now, I feel an even stronger connection with him. Seeing this museum again, a beacon of leadership on a night that leadership was celebrated, was fantastic. It doesn’t matter what your political orientation is, when you walk through the corridors of the JFK library, you feel the power of the presidency.

By the time I got to the small 22 November 1963 display, I was having a hard time holding my emotions in check. I had to move quickly through the exhibit as the televised announcement of Kennedy’s passing by CBS News anchor, Walter Cronkite, was played over the monitors. My 1990 high school senior year book quote was from Cronkite’s signature sign off: “And that’s the way it is.”

In 2010, we took our kids to AMC’s Lonesome Lake Hut for two nights. On the first night, it was just the Hut Croo and our family. We had the whole place to ourselves. On the second night, the hut filled up with guests, including Andy and his wife, Jackie. They were on an annual trip with friends from their hometown of Lincoln, Massachusetts. Before dinner, I snapped a photo of their small group, with Andy holding court. He may have been the President of the AMC, but that night, at the hut, he was just a guest. I’m sure the Croo knew that the “boss” was in the house, but his unassuming style and humility didn’t add any stress their job. It’s hard to describe his leadership capabilities adequately. You just have to experience it.

One of Andy’s tributes was a video that summarized his years at AMC while describing a bit about how he got to where he is today. Catherine Buni also wrote a nice story in AMC Outdoors and the Boston Globe did a short profile. AMC was founded in 1876, so it is an organization with rich history. Volunteers are the foundation of the club, but a dedicated staff is responsible for many club operations. The team that came together to organize this farewell, did a great job with last night’s event. It was fitting that Andy’s right hand man, Walter Graff, was the master of ceremonies. He wore a tuxedo, but instead of shiny black shoes, he wore his trusted Limmer Boots. I didn’t talk to Walter before the event, but it was no coincidence that on a night celebrating the success of the AMC, I was wearing a jacket and tie, but that I was also wearing my Limmer’s too.

As many people said to Andy last night, “see you on the trail.”


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