“We Are Seneca Lake!”

This week’s new episode (#94) of Walk in the Park on Ithaca, NY’s public access cable television (channels 13 & 97.3) looks at a protest to protect Seneca Lake and the region near Watkins Glen from a huge project being built by Crestwood Corp. from Texas to store liquified propane gas and methane (probably from hydrofracking) in salt mine caverns under and around the lake. Area residents have been opposing this project for years, but it moves ahead anyway.

In this show, protestors calling themselves, “We Are Seneca Lake,” gathered at the Crestwood plant entrance last October 24 and spoke out about the dangers to Seneca Lake and its value as a drinking water supply, damage to the tourism and wine industries, and grave threats to public health and safety posed by this project. Since the fall, We Are Seneca Lake participants have engaged in a non-violent civil disobedience campaign to block trucks from entering or leaving the plant and to make it very clear that they are determined to stop this project. For much more information about this issue, see Gas Free Seneca.

This episode will be shown on Ithaca cable TV at 9:00 tonight (Thursday, January 8, 2015), on Saturday and Sunday at 10 AM each day, and finally next Tuesday, January 13, at 8 PM.

Or you can watch it right here anytime!

Watch another episode of Walk in the Park about a rally and march addressing this issue in Watkins Glen in 2012.

See the full schedule of public access (“PEGASYS”) shows on Ithaca’s cable channels 13 and 97.3.

Waterfront Parks in Ithaca: Cass Park, Treman Marina, and East Shore Park

Saturday and Sunday at 10:30 a.m. on Ithaca’s public access cable channel 13 (or 97.3), next Tuesday, September 17 at 8:00, and right now, below, online!

South end of Cayuga Lake, Ithaca NY, Finger Lakes, aerial

The south end of Cayuga Lake. Photo by Bill Hecht

This week on Walk in the Park TV (episode 55), we visit Cass Park and Allan H. Treman State Marine Park, in the city of Ithaca and along Cayuga Inlet and Cayuga Lake. We also look at the new interpretive sign at East Shore Park in the Town of Ithaca, the only public access to Cayuga Lake in the Town.

At Cass Park, we look at severe damage to trees from the Labor Day storm. At Treman Marina, we visit with Allison of the Finger Lakes Institute as she explains how she inspects boats at the marina and educates boaters about “aquatic hitchhikers,” invasive aquatic plants, including hydrilla, that can become attached to boats with the danger that they will be transported to other waters.

We also pop over to Seneca Lake and Schuyler County to look at footage of Hector Falls swollen by the Labor Day rainstorm. And we also enjoy the abstract patterns of rippling water at Buttermilk Falls State Park in Ithaca.

We begin this episode, recorded on Sept. 11, 2013, with a tribute to the people who lost their lives in New York City in the World Trade Center attacks twelve years ago, and visit the National 9-11 Memorial.

Watch it here!

Walk in the Park episode 55 starts tonight!

Taughannock Falls State Park, at the end of the Gorge Trail, Trumansburg, NY, near Ithaca, in the Finger Lakes.

Taughannock Falls

Walk in the Park TV episode 55, recorded on September 11, 2013, will premiere tonight on Ithaca, NY’s public access cable channel 13 (or 97.3) at  9:00 p.m. It will repeat according to this schedule through next Tuesday. And it will be posted on this vidblog soon! Check back at walkinpark.com soon to watch the show online.


Park Minute: Watkins Glen State Park, Entrance Amphitheatre

In this second episode of “Park Minute,” we visit the high cliffs and hidden waterfall of the Main Entrance (or “Entrance Amphiteatre,” as it was called in the 19th century) of Watkins Glen State Park in New York’s Finger Lakes region.

Entrance Cascade tumbles under Sentry Bridge at the far end of the Main Entrance or "Entrance Amphitheatre" at Watkins Glen State Park in New York's Finger Lakes region.

Entrance Cascade tumbles under Sentry Bridge at the far end of the Main Entrance or "Entrance Amphitheatre" at Watkins Glen State Park in New York's Finger Lakes region.

The narration in this short video is from our award-winning book, A Walk through Watkins Glen: Water’s Sculpture in Stone, available at the gift shop in the Main Entrance. Find out more at our Owl Gorge Productions website.

“The Main Entrance to the park is in the last section of gorge for Glen Creek, as it emerges after its trip through waterfalls, pools, and twisting chutes in the gorge. The creek’s rush and song will accompany you throughout your walk. Here the stream heads quietly out of the glen, as you will when you return from your walk.

This section of gorge was called the Entrance Amphitheatre by the Victorian operators of the glen because high cliffs appear to enclose you on three sides. At the far end of the Entrance Amphitheatre the towering rock walls suddenly seem to merge, appearing to allow no further passage. However, a hidden portal reveals Glen Creek where it emerges from its rugged route. Entrance Cascade, the first waterfall, plunges sideways beneath the stone masonry of Sentry Bridge.”

Fall Colors in the Finger Lakes

Episode 25 of Walk in the Park TV, “Fall Colors in the Finger Lakes,” is now showing on television and online. It begins Thursday evening at 9:00 p.m. on Ithaca’s public access cable TV channel 13 and continues for the next week according to the schedule below. Meanwhile, you can see “Fall Colors in the Finger Lakes” online.

Cornell University Fall Creek Gorge Cascadilla Ithaca NY Fall Colors aerial photograph

Most of the Cornell campus is bounded on the north and south by gorges: Fall Creek Gorge on the north (left) and Cascadilla Glen on the south (right). Photograph by Bill Hecht

Join me, Tony Ingraham, in this visual trip around the Finger Lakes region, from the ground and in the air, marveling at the fall foliage extravaganza nature has put on for us in October. Visit Taughannock Falls and Buttermilk Falls State Parks, Cascadilla Gorge, Ithaca Falls and Fall Creek Gorge, Cornell University campus, Cayuga Lake, Myers Park and Salmon Creek, Seneca County, Seneca Lake, Keuka Lake, Canandaigua Lake, Watkins Glen State Park, Sixmile Creek in Ithaca, and more. Photographer Bill Hecht’s views of Taughannock Gorge from the air are incomparable, as are his views of the Cornell campus situated between Fall Creek Gorge and Cascadilla Glen and other aerial vistas around the region. We also visit Cesar Chavez National Monument in California, Fishlake National Forest and Zion National Park in Utah, and Glacier National Park in Montana.

See the show right here!

Or, you can catch the show on Time Warner Cable public access television channel 13 in the Ithaca area:

Thursday,  9:00 p.m.

Saturday, 10:00 a.m.

Sunday,    10:00 a.m.

Tuesday,    8:00 p.m.

It also is shown at other times as the station manager chooses.

200 March in Watkins Glen

LPG gas Inergy Reading, NY, Watkins Glen, Seneca Lake

Inergy Corp.'s huge LPG (liquified petroleum gas) storage and distribution depot is being built in abandoned salt mines under Seneca Lake two miles north of the Village of Watkins Glen. Photo by Bill Hecht

WALK IN THE PARK episode 17 (recorded August 22), is now viewable online here and on Ithaca public access cable TV channel 13 (Thursday 9:00 p.m., Sat. & Sun. 10:30 a.m., and Tuesday at 8:00 p.m., each week).

[The first 15 seconds of the video below are silent. The show lasts 29 minutes.]

On August 17, 2012, more than 200 people marched from park to park through the streets of the Village of Watkins Glen, NY at the south end of Seneca Lake, largest of the Finger Lakes. They were protesting the construction of a huge northeast U.S. LPG (liquid petroleum gas) storage and distribution depot just two miles up the west shore of the lake in abandoned salt mines. Participants expressed their fears of pollution of the air by diesel and other fumes, pollution of the lake by spills of brine and other chemicals, the risk of accidents and even explosions that such facilities sometimes experience, and irreparable damage to the wine and tourism industry the region depends on. Speakers at rallies before and after the march included Dr. Sandra Steingraber, an acclaimed biologist, Lou Damiani, owner of Damiani Wine Cellars, and Nate Shinagawa, Democratic nominee for the 23rd Congressional District of New York. The march proceeded from Seneca Harbor Park to Lafayette Park in the village, then Watkins Glen State Park, and then returned to the waterfront at Seneca Lake Park.

This historic event, probably the largest protest ever to take place in this village, was well covered by newspapers in Elmira, Corning, and Hornell, but it was completely ignored by the Ithaca Journal and YNN TV news.



Walk in the Park TV show, July 18, 2012, episode 12

Drought in Buttermilk Glen, waterfall swimming at Robert H. Treman State Park, forest fire in Shenandoah National Park, music at Taughannock Falls State Park, and an eloquent video essay about the looming prospect of dangerous LPG gas storage in old salt mines by Seneca Lake near Watkins Glen. These are topics, images, and video that host Tony Ingraham presents on this episode of his public access cable TV series on cable channel 13 in Ithaca, NY. You can watch it here online, or you can catch its remaining scheduled TV showings on Sunday, July 22 at 10:30 p.m. and Tuesday, July 24 at 8:00 p.m.

The next episode of Walk in the Park will be recorded on January 25 for showings on Thursday at 9:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday both at 10:30 a.m., and the following Tuesday at 8:00 p.m.


Angry Faces, Placid Water: Fracking, LPG Gas Storage, and Seneca Lake

LPG gas storage facility, hydrofracking, Seneca Lake, Watkins Glen, Finger Lakes

Inergy Corporation, though it has yet to receive a permit from the DEC, is going ahead with construction of its northeast regional LPG gas storage depot on the west shore of Seneca Lake. Photo by Bill Hecht

The oil and gas industry plans to build an enormous liquid petroleum gas storage and distribution depot in abandoned salt mines under Seneca Lake near Watkins Glen, one of New York’s most popular scenic tourist attractions. Part of the Marcellus Shale hydrofracking nightmare, this huge facility threatens the pure water of Seneca Lake with petroleum gas and salt pollution, would burn off excess gas with a towering flare stack, produce air pollution, and be a visual and noisy blight along this gorgeous lake. Worst of all would be the constant risk of gas explosions. Local resident, writer, and activist Elaine Mansfield eloquently presents this issue in her blog entry last week. She also reads it aloud in this short, illustrated video I shot in Smith Park along the shore of Seneca Lake. Learn more about this issue from the citizens group Gas Free Seneca.

Gas and the Gorge

Inergy Corporation plans to build a huge “liquid petroleum gas” (LPG) storage facility in salt mine caverns along the west shore of Seneca Lake just two miles north of the Village of Watkins Glen. It is planned as a storage area for gas supplies for the entire northeastern U.S. This appears to be a facility where Marcellus Shale hydrofracked “natural” gas will be stored.

Former salt mine near Watkins Glen

Inergy Corp. plans to develop the former deep salt mine two miles north of the Village of Watkins Glen on the west shore of Seneca Lake into a huge liquid petroleum gas storage and distribution depot.

As required, Inergy has prepared a “draft supplemental environmental impact statement” (dSEIS) for the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the public has been commenting on it. Citizens have raised many alarming concerns. The deadline for public comments is tomorrow, November 14. For information about this enormous project, its potential impacts on the area, and how to respond, see Gas Free Seneca’s website.

Rainbow Falls, celebrated by Mark Twain in 1871, is one of the scenic gems of Watkins Glen State Park.

I have sent some comments about potential train noise and truck traffic affecting Watkins Glen State Park. Here are excerpts from my comments:

“I am concerned that the LPG facility considered in the dSEIS will have a negative, degrading impact on the aesthetic values of the state park. Watkins Glen State Park is an aesthetic resource of statewide significance, according to DEC guidelines. There are somewhere between half a million and million visitors per year. From May through October, Watkins Glen State Park is the most heavily visited state park in the Finger Lakes region. It has the largest campground of any state park in the region, with more than 300 campsites. Yet the dSEIS does not consider potential aesthetic impacts on the park due to transportation of LPG through and near the park; it just considers aesthetic impacts from the storage facility itself. This is a serious omission.

Railroad trestle crosses the gorge in Watkins Glen State Park.

Trains hauling liquid petroleum gas would cross this bridge over the gorge in Watkins Glen State Park that is more than 75 years old. Park visitors read an interpretive sign about the bridge and its history along the Gorge Trail.

The dSEIS for the LPG project acknowledges that there will be increased rail car traffic over the railroad trestle crossing the gorge at Watkins Glen State Park, over a bridge re-built following its collapse during a flood in 1935. On page 125, the dSEIS says, “A northbound train (Geneva Turnaround) from Corning will typically have 24 cars in addition to the 32 Finger Lakes cars it will be transporting. The maximum number of cars that will be on the same train would be 72 cars.”  This means that the load of passing trains on the bridge could be more than doubled by the shipment of LPG. Though this old bridge has handled past traffic, I am concerned that the bridge, with its great age, will deteriorate much more quickly with the increased rail traffic. The fact that there have been no accidents on the bridge since Norfolk Southern took it over does not re-assure me as to the possibility of potential future failure with the increased traffic. In addition, LPG tanks may be much heavier than the mix of cargo carried by other rail cars currently hauled on this route. And Inergy indicates to its investors its desire to expand its operation to serve the entire northeastern part of the country at this facility. The dSEIS needs to require full disclosure of Inergy’s expansion plans and the resultant increase in rail traffic on this bridge and other bridges and structures on the rail line.

1935 flood damage to railroad bridge in Watkins Glen State Park

After the great flood of 1935, the railroad bridge over the gorge in Watlkins Glen State Park was hanging over the gorge. Shortly thereafter, it fell into the gorge.

The railroad line to be used by Inergy passes through the state park and right by the campground. Noise is already an issue in the park, with the existing rail traffic and with noise from the Watkins Glen race track. Most visitors walk the Gorge Trail. The railroad trestle passes right over the gorge and the end of the Gorge Trail in a section of the park known originally as Glen Facility for its tranquility. The train also passes right by the picnic area in the Upper Park. Increasing train traffic will degrade the aesthetic experience of park visitors on a daily basis. The dSEIS does not address this impact nor does it discuss how to mitigate it. Because of the statewide significance of this outstanding state park, it is imperative that the dSEIS adequately address this issue, which at present it does not.


Campground at Watkins Glen State Park

The campground at Watkins Glen State Park is one of the loveliest in the region. Increased rail traffic on the nearby bridge will create more noise pollution for campers every day.

At the other end of the state park is the Main Entrance on Route 14 in the Village of Watkins Glen. This road is already busy with truck traffic that interferes with the thousands of tourists that try to navigate the streets on a typical summer day. Adding more trucks carrying LPG will only add to the truck congestion in the village and at the entrance to the state park. Large trucks are very noisy, having considerable impact on the Main Entrance of the park, where the walk through the Glen begins. The dSEIS does not address this impact in either its transportation impacts section or its noise impacts section. This is a very important issue that has been raised by others, but apparently either dismissed or ignored by DEC and Inergy.

Watkins Glen State Park entrance

Truck traffic on Route 14 already creates unacceptable levels of noise in the Main Entrance to Watkins Glen State Park in the Village of Watkins Glen. Notice the large truck in the right center of the picture. The LPG complex would increase this traffic noise (and congestion)..

With the opening of Watkins Glen as a scenic destination in the 1860s, the principal economy of Watkins Glen changed from agriculture and shipping to tourism, and it has remained that way since. This huge gas storage facility will significantly industrialize the experience of potential visitors to the lake, the town, and the state park. It risks seriously compromising the attractions that Watkins Glen has relied on since the Civil War. This massive, noisy, traffic-increasing, dangerous project is simply incompatible with the scenic, rural character of Seneca Lake and the Catharine Valley, including Watkins Glen State Park, an aesthetic resource of statewide significance. It threatens to seriously damage what has brought people here from all over the world since the tourist trains and steamboats brought them here in the 19th century.”

Morvalden Ells guidebook drawing of Watkins Glen

Watkins Glen has been an attraction and economic asset to the community since 1863. Indeed, the village was renamed after the famous ravine.

There are many other serious concerns about this large and potentially dangerous industrial development that others have addressed. For more information, see Gas Free Seneca.