July 17, 2007

Cleanup of invasive plant species under way on Skaneateles Lake


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer    
Gerald Mingolelli, of Sempronius, holds up a clump of water milfoil growing near his waterfront home on Skaneateles Lake this morning.

Staff Reporter

Gerald Mingolelli has had a home on Skaneateles Lake in Sempronius for more than 50 years but only started noticing dense mats of vegetation in the water two summers ago.
“I’ll be swimming laps in front of the cottage, and I’ll go from one cottage to the next and you’ll notice the weeds get in the way,” said Mingolelli, who declined to give his age. “I don’t want to sound like a sissy, but they kind of grab at you, and it’s annoying.”
Since 2001, an invasive species of aquatic plant has flourished in the lake, tripling its coverage to 2.3 miles of the lakefront.
Eurasian water milfoil is a long slender plant that grows in water depths of 8 to 15 feet. It often impairs water ecology by choking out other plants, muddying water by trapping sediments and impeding recreation activities.
With milfoil expected to spread even more in the coming years, a new group is taking on the plant and raising money to eliminate it.
Skaneateles Lake Milfoil Eradication Corp. formed this year and began cleaning up the plant in June. The nonprofit is seeking to raise $850,000 for cleanup efforts.
An information meeting about the cleanup, which will include two summers of intense dredging followed by yearly maintenance of the weeds, will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday at Lourdes Camp at Ten Mile Point in Skaneateles.
Larry Rothenberg, who lives in Skaneateles and is president of Skaneateles Lake Milfoil Eradiation Corp., said the nonprofit was formed this year after a committee, which was formed by the town of Skaneateles and included himself, studied the lake’s milfoil problem.
The town and committee realized milfoil, which likely was introduced in the south end of the lake by a boat launch in the late 1970s, had to be stopped or it would get as bad as milfoil in other nearby lakes, such as Cazenovia, Otisco, Owasco, Oneida and Cayuga.
“I live on the lake as a yearlong resident, and we plan on living here our whole lives, and it’s just a scary thought if you go to an area of the lake where the weed has taken hold, it’s just not the same, it changes the whole nature, ecology of the lake,” he said.
Committee members have talked to people on other lakes, such as Upper Saranac Lake, who had solved the milfoil problem.
Last summer, working with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the committee conducted a pilot project, experimenting for about 10 days with different removal techniques to see which one worked best. The $25,000 cost was funded through private donations, Rothenberg said.
Rothenberg said the committee ended up concluding that the best technique for Skaneateles Lake would involve divers pulling out the plants, roots and all, and feeding them into a suction hose, which transports the milfoil to the platform of a pontoon platform, where it is bagged.
A description of the cleanup efforts will also be given during a talk entitled “Skaneateles Underwater” by lake resident John Wickwire tonight at 7:30 at the Glen Haven School and Public Library, at 7325 Fair Haven Road in Glen Haven.
Rothenberg said divers began working at a low level in June, mostly training, while they began removing the weeds all day long every day the last week of June. Two crews of five divers are on the water now, he said, and a third crew will be added next week.
He said crews are first focusing on the north end of the lake, where the milfoil is not as widespread but where it has potential to be more dangerous due to the relative shallowness of that part of the lake.
“One of the reasons we’re lucky in the south of the lake is it gets deep very quickly and it can only live in water up to 20 to 25 feet,” he said.
Rothenberg said in August the divers will move down to the south end of the lake.
Crews will work through October, he said, though at a reduced level in the fall, and work just as hard the next summer. The following summers will just involve maintenance work, he said.
He said so far the nonprofit has raised $300,000, mostly from individuals and charitable foundations.
The group is seeking the remaining $550,000 needed from donations as well, as it is not a sure bet the state has money for this type of project.
“The number of lakes with the problem is growing so rapidly that it’s unlikely the government can even deal with it,” he said.

For more information about the problem, cleanup project or Saturday’s informational meeting, call Larry Rothenberg at (315) 685-4720, e-mail him at rothenberg or visit
Tax-deductible donations can be made to “Tri-County Skaneateles Lake Association” and mailed to Skaneateles Milfoil, Box 862, Skaneateles, NY 13152.



Nearly three years after opening —

J.M. McDonald Sports Complex turns a profit

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — Not even three years after its opening, the J.M. McDonald Complex is taking in enough money to support itself.
The fees taken in via the complex’s ice rink and hosting of hockey games account for nearly 30 percent of its revenue, according to a recent press release.
Executive Director Tammy Sciera said the complex simply fulfills a need in the community.
“There wasn’t only a need for a venue for sports and recreation events, there is also the need for a venue for special events,” Sciera said Monday afternoon.
She also attributes the success to the strong support of the community.
“When you initially start up and create a business plan, it is just that — a plan — and when you finally accomplish it, I think that’s reason to celebrate,” she said.
The 80,000-square-foot facility, completed in September 2004, cost $3.5 million to build.
It houses a regulation-size ice rink with a seating capacity of 1,000, as well as turf fields — one is 50 by 110 feet, the other is 110 by 210 feet.
The complex is used for soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, hockey and figure skating, and there is also an indoor walking track. Not including any visiting teams, more than 35 groups use the ice rink and more than  120 groups use the turf field.
It is on the grounds of the Cortland County Junior Fairgrounds off Homer Avenue.
Sciera said next year’s operating budget is about $700,000, including wages, expenses, insurance, equipment, maintenance, and marketing. It also includes $181,000 in debt financing, based on a $1.8 million, 20-year loan.
The project is funded through donations, state grants and a $1 million donation from its namesake, the J.M. McDonald Foundation.
The complex will be expanding further, and Sciera said the CAPCO Head Start program is going to establish a classroom in the building in the fall, and she hopes to reach out to the students’ parents.
In conjunction with SUNY Cortland, Sciera said the complex is going to host the Cortland Homer After School Mentoring Program (CHAMP) on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, in order to provide children a safe environment for exercise, doing homework and having a healthy snack after school.
“We’re looking forward to some continued success and just trying to keep doing the things we’ve been doing, and to improve upon them,” Sciera said.


Dryden GOP will have full ballot in November

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — The Republicans have posted a full slate of candidates for town elections in November, including, for supervisor, Tompkins County Public Works Administrator Cheryl Nelson.
Nelson will be running against Democrat Mary Ann Sumner, who is a Town Board member. Sumner was elected in November 2005.
Nelson is responsible for coordinating and administering the Ithaca-Tompkins Regional Airport, Facilities Division, Highway Division and Solid Waste Management Division, according to a resume posted on the Dryden Republican Web site.
She chairs many committees, including the Tompkins County Emergency Management Planning Committee and the Sustainability Team.
She has worked for the county Public Works Department since 1975, two years after graduating from Groton High School.
Nelson said the town would be facing several issues that she also deals with on a county level such as infrastructure — in particular maintaining roads in light of increasing costs for petroleum products — and sustainability.
“We only have so many natural resources,” she said, noting the need to look for alternatives.
She said emergency management was another issue, and while the town would likely not have to deal with terrorist activity, residents should be ready to sustain themselves for a few days in case of a massive blackout, for example.
“I just think people need to be better prepared,” she said, noting Dryden is the biggest town in the county.
She said recreational trails would be another issue, and on a personal level she is interested and involved in off-road recreational vehicle use.
“It takes a whole board to make decisions,” she said, noting she is a trained facilitator. “I hope to use all those skills” as town supervisor.
Nelson has lived in Dryden since 1978, according to her resume. She lives with her husband, Gregory Nelson, at 47 Groton Road. They have two grown sons, Brent and Barry.
The slate of Republican candidates will be rounded out with Stanley T. Marcus, of 1088 Yellow Barn Road, and Walter M. Keeney, of 40 Sodom Road.
Both are running for seats on the Town Board.
Incumbents Town Clerk Bambi Hollenbeck, who was elected in 1997, and Town Justice Christopher Clauson are also running again.
Marcus retired in 2002 from the Department of Chemistry at Cornell University, according to his resume. He has lived in Dryden for seven years and in Tompkins County since 1973. He holds a doctorate degree in chemistry education from Ohio State University.
Marcus serves on the Dryden Conservation Board and the Tompkins County Environmental Management Council. He is married to Virginia Marcus and has a stepson, Tom Bell, at home.
Keeney has lived at his Dryden home since 1986 and has worked at BorgWarner Morse TEC since 1977, currently as a metallurgical technician, according to his resume. He has an associate degree in animal husbandry from SUNY Cobleskill.
A widower since September 2004, he has six children, five of whom are grown. One 14-year-old daughter lives at home.