Nearly 500 attend first concert in 2 years at Marine Park

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 June 2021 at 8:23 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

CARLTON – The Dave Viterna Group performs Tuesday evening at the Orleans County Marine Park to kick off the summer concert series. This was the first concert in nearly two years at the Marine Park after last year’s slate of performances was cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns.

Dave Viterna is the lead singer and guitar player for the band, which includes “Scooter” Scott Felice on drums and Marty Hobbs on guitar.

The band plays blues and rock music. In this photo they are playing a song by Stevie Ray Vaughan.

The crowd was spread out on the rolling hills in front of the pavilion.

This is the 11thseason of concerts organized by the Oak Orchard Neighborhood Association in partnership with the Orleans County Tourism Department. There is a $2 admission charge per person or $5 per family.

The Clarendon Lions Club served hot dogs and hamburgers from the grill. Kevin Johnson, right, tended to the grill and Brian Collins was the “runner” taking the hot dogs and hamburgers to people in line. Johnson said it was a busy opening night for the Lions Club, which had many of its fundraisers sidelined in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dave Viterna and Marty Hobbs had the crowd rocking on Tuesday evening at the Marine Park.

The lineup for the rest of the series at the Marine Park includes: Highway 31 (July 6), The Who Dats (July 13), the Brick Band (July 20), Trellis Cooper Band (July 27) and Jonesie & the Cruisers (Aug 3). Rain dates are scheduled for August 10 and 17.

Yacht Club kicks off summer boating season

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 10 June 2021 at 4:52 pm

Club with 100 members aims to make organization more community friendly

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Oak Orchard Yacht Club members Paul Gray and Bob Frost, both past commodores, wait to raise the American and Canadian flags during ceremonies Saturday to celebrate opening of the summer boating season.

WATERPORT – Like all social organizations, the Oak Orchard Yacht Club has gone through changes.

If the new commodore, Bob Hodgins of Batavia, has his way, he’d like to see a lot more changes taking place this year – most of all, making it a more community-friendly club.

“One of the things we recognize is there is a perception of the Yacht Club as being stand-offish,” Hodgins said. “We want to change that. We have a board of 11 and they are a great group. They are like-minded and work together.”

Hodgins pointed out the sign in the front yard of the Yacht Club which reads “Members and guests only.” He has changed that by adding signs saying, “Memberships available. Docks available,” hoping to send a more welcoming message.

“We’ve got a wonderful facility here, and we’re trying to make better use of it,” Hodgins said. “Chap’s Diner in Elba runs the restaurant and bar, which is open on Friday and Saturdays from May through September.”

The Yacht Club recently invited the Oak Orchard Neighborhood Association to have their annual meeting there.

“This was a good experience,” Hodgins said. “They are our neighbors, and many had never been here before.”

He said they also recently had a pseudo-senior prom for kids who missed out on their senior prom last year due to Covid. He said it was a wonderful event, with kids coming from all over, including New Jersey and Delaware.

They have invited Leadership Orleans 2021 to have a meeting at the Yacht Club on July 8.

“This is a great opportunity to bring young community leaders into our club,” Hodgins said.

Hodgins is also working on having an open house at the Yacht Club for different segments of the population, possibly with a chicken barbecue and music, which would be open to the public.

Officers of the Oak Orchard Yacht Club stand for the Pledge of Allegiance during open ceremonies signifying opening of the boating season. Commodore Bob Hodgins is second from left.

“This is a club developed and kept up by its members,” said Hodgins wife, Mary Lu.

OOYC welcomes both social and full members. Social members have the privilege of visiting the club and enjoying the amenities of the dining room and bar. Full membership is for boaters and includes a dock. Anyone wishing more information on becoming a member on either level may contact Hodgins at (585) 409-9869.

OOYC, which currently has 100 members, was founded in 1938 and began operation at the current site of the public boat launch on the east side of Oak Orchard River, near the harbor mouth at Point Breeze. Club activities centered on cruising, both sail and power, and an active one-design racing program.

In the early 1970s, New York state cast a covetous eye on the old site and began the push to the club’s current location on the west side of the river, about a mile upstream. During this time, members faced the herculean task of arranging funding, getting permits and the construction of the current yacht club. It was then that the tradition of being a “working” club was really cemented. Capital was secured not only by mortgage, but also by members contracting for their docks for 10 years in the future. With funds in hand, the membership spent the winter of 1972 on the ice constructing the docks. The clubhouse was also built entirely by volunteer labor. Only the main structural parts were contracted out.

The years since have seen gradual improvement to the facilities and expansion of services to members. In the early 1980s, additional land was purchased on the west side of the road to provide a buffer between the club and increasing residential surroundings.

According to their website, the club is now in the fortunate position of enjoying a debt-free facility in a beautiful location. Their vision for the future is to continue to maintain and improve on the physical structure and to stay true to the yachting traditions of all who gave so much personal effort to create what they enjoy today.

Jeff Plummer of Waterport steps away from the miniature cannon, which he fired three times to signify opening of the boating season at Oak Orchard Yacht Club on Saturday night.

Yacht Club youth program will teach new generation to love to sail

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 7 June 2021 at 11:00 am

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Bob and Mary Lu Hodgins, who started the first sailing classes 32 years ago, stand in front of the Oak Orchard Yacht Club, where he is commodore.

WATERPORT – The couple who started the first sailing classes at the Oak Orchard Yacht Club say they have literally raised their kids here. It would be safe to say boating is in Bob and Mary Lu Hodgins blood.

The Batavia couple first joined the Yacht Club 35 years ago, and 32 years ago they started the youth sailing classes.

This year, Bob is commodore, and he and Mary Lu are thrilled to see the classes still an important part of the yacht club’s sailing program. The two oldest of their three children were in the first class and then went on to become instructors. This year, Bob and Mary Lu’s grandchildren will be in the class, which starts July 2.

Oak Orchard Yacht Club commodore Bob Hodgins and his wife Mary Lu sit in the fly bridge he constructed in the playground for children to enjoy.

“These are the first second-generation students in the program,” Bob said. “We are thrilled.”

The Hodgins’ son Ken and his wife have two boys and live in St. Thomas, United States Virgin Islands, where he is a boat captain.

“I was introduced to sailing as a child, first in a rented Sunfish on a family vacation, and then my dad bought an old wooden Lightning sailboat which provided years of fun for my parents and all six of us kids,” Bob said. “I bought my first sailboard, a homemade plywood boat, when I was single and 20 years old. I had visions of sailing to faraway places, and over the past 45 years, I have been fortunate to be able to do that.”

The Hodgins started the sailing program so many years ago because they recognized the need to involve children and families in the yacht club, Bob said.

“Children need their own activities and the ability to form their own group of friends, in an environment that is safe and positive,” he said. “For the yacht club to have a playground and activities for children is essential to the future of the organization.”

Bob said the sailing program starting from nothing and took a few years to build.

“We had to raise funds, buy fleets of boats, hire and train instructors and get the club members to agree to support the program,” Bob said. “After 32 years of the program, we have had hundreds of kids learn to sail, but more importantly, they have formed their own lifelong friendships and been introduced to a sport that is an active, healthy lifestyle.”

Young people from age 9 through high school are eligible to enroll in the sailing classes. The program this year is run by John Zimmerman of Medina. Information can be found on the Oak Orchard Yacht Club website, where enrollment can also be completed.

Students in the class learn how to rig a sailboat, how to solo in a small sailboat with both a mainsail and a jib, rules of the “road” while boating, basic race skills and safety rules for sailboats.

For the Hodgins family, sailing has been a way of life. They had a boat at OOYC for 26 years before leaving in 2008 to sail the Caribbean. They sold that boat and bought another ocean boat to sail across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. They once spent an entire year sailing, home schooling their children on the boat, Mary Lu said.

Last year, they sold their ocean-going sailboat in New Zealand. They had bought another sailboat for Oak Orchard River three years ago, and in January this year bought a power boat in January, which they took to South Florida for the winter.

Little library in style of lighthouse added to Point Breeze

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 June 2021 at 8:24 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

POINT BREEEZE – The Oak Orchard Neighborhood Association last month installed a Little Free Library at Point Breeze. These are spots where people are welcome to give and take books.

The group considered putting the little library at the Orleans County Marine Park, but decided to have it at Point Breeze which has more visitors.

The little library was painted by OONA President Chris Manaseri in a similar style as the Oak Orchard Lighthouse. JoAnne Camann pushed to have a Little Free Library at Point Breeze. OONA used an existing post for a sign that had weathered and been removed.

Manaseri, a retired English teacher and school superintendent, also volunteers as a docent at the Oak Orchard Lighthouse Museum. On Sunday, when he wasn’t chatting with people checking out the lighthouse, he worked on an oil painting of the site, including a birdhouse to the left of the lighthouse.

The Museum has docents at the lighthouse on Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays.

The lighthouse was constructed in 2010, after $200,000 was raised from the community. The state also provided assistance with the project.

The 35-foot lighthouse is a replica to one that toppled in 1916 after a storm. The Oak Orchard Lighthouse has become an iconic symbol for Orleans County and the Point. It is often featured on the cover of the county’s tourism guide.

Manaseri painted in the plein air style, where artists paint outdoors.

Manaseri said he enjoys getting to know people at the Point. But when there is a lull, he likes to grab his paintbrush and work on a painting.

“I don’t like to sit still,” he said.

NBC Sports highlights Oak Orchard, pilot fishing program with canal water

This screenshot from “On the Water” shows program publisher and host Chris Megan and Bill Sweitzer, marketing director for the Canal Corp., fishing in the Oak Orchard River. Megan caught a mammoth brown trout that day. The Oak Orchard benefited from a pilot program with canal water released into the tributary in November and December. That improved the water flows in the Oak Orchard and extended the fishing season.

Posted 8 May 2021 at 8:26 am

Press Release, NYS Canal Corp.

CARLTON – The New York State Canal Corporation on Friday announced the Reimagine the Canals initiative was recently featured on the NBC Sports program “On the Water: Angling Adventures.”

The television show highlighted the successful launch of a pilot program that strategically used water from the Erie Canal to enhance already renowned fishing opportunities in Western New York during the fall of 2020. The full episode can be seen by clicking here.

“The Reimagine the Canals initiative is making an outstanding positive impact on Western New York’s fishing communities and canalside businesses and we are thrilled that NBC Sports chose to showcase our recent pilot program that enhanced the angling experience along tributaries supplied by water from the Erie Canal,” said New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton.

Chris Megan holds a big brown trout he caught in the Oak Orchard River. He praised the fishing opportunities in the Oak.

“The Reimagine the Canals initiative, first announced by Governor Cuomo in his 2020 State of the State address, is committed to supporting many recreational opportunities along the Canal system to ensure it remains a driver of economic development and tourism across Upstate New York,” Stratton said.

Filmed last fall, the episode features the fishing experience on Oak Orchard Creek and Sandy Creek in Orleans and Monroe counties. Through the Reimagine the Canals program, the Canal Corporation increased regulated water releases into the two streams from September to early December last year.

As seen during the episode, the higher flows successfully enticed more brown trout, steelhead, and Atlantic and Pacific salmon populations to run up these streams, improving conditions for the fish and expanding opportunities for local and visiting anglers.

“The New York Canal system presents anglers with world class angling opportunities steeped in American history,” said Chris Megan, publisher and host of “On the Water.” “An engineering marvel, the Erie Canal has been in operation since 1825, opening the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean via the Hudson River. Hand dug by immigrants and farmers and enlarged twice, its effect on commerce was dramatic. As an avid angler and history buff, I jumped at the opportunity to spend two days fishing Upstate New York.”

The episode also includes a look at the history of the waterway with canal historian Art Cohn, a boat trip through the Cayuga-Seneca Canal onto Seneca Lake to troll late season lake trout, and a visit to one of New York’s hidden fishing gems where anglers come from all over the world to target the common carp that swim in the Erie Canal’s lakes and locks.

County accepts $439K construction bid to rebuild Point Breeze boat launch

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 May 2021 at 8:57 am

Bid also accepted to replace bridge in Murray on Transit Road

Photo by Tom Rivers: The Point Breeze boat launch will be rebuilt after Labor Day and will function better during times of high waters on Lake Ontario.

POINT BREEZE – The boat launch at Point Breeze will be rebuilt this fall with a new ramp, two boat launches and floating docks.

The Orleans County Legislature last week accepted the construction bid of $439,850 from CP Ward Inc. of Scottsville, the low bidder on the project. Mark Cerrone Inc. of Niagara Falls also bid on the project at a price of $553,125.

The project is part of $300 million funded through the state through the Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI). Those projects are 95 percent funded through REDI with the local municipality paying 5 percent.

They are designed to be more resilient in times of high Lake Ontario water levels and other extreme weather. Currently, when the lake levels are high, the boat launch is useless for boaters because their vehicles flood out trying to launch a boat.

The boat launch will remain open until the day after Labor Day to lessen the impact on boaters during the busier summer season, said John Papponetti, the county’s Department of Public Works superintendent. The construction should be done in November.

Rendering courtesy of Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative: The rebuilt boat launch will have floating walkways that tie into the concrete ramp.

CP Ward will likely need to set up a coffer dam and pump out water during construction to work on the project. The launch will be regraded and concrete poured for the new ramps and docks.

The project includes floatable walkways which will tie into a concrete ramp. The current concrete ramp will be removed and a new one put in that will be pulled farther back on land. The project also includes milling and paving the driveway and parking lot.

The Legislature last week also accepted a bid for $839,739 to replace the bridge on Transit Road in Murray over the west branch of Sandy Creek.

Union Concrete and Construction Corp. of West Seneca is the low bidder on the project, which is 95 percent funded by the state through the Bridge NY program. The county cost will be $41,986.

The county also expects to soon seek bids on another REDI project – installing about 1,500 feet of rocks along Lakeshore Road in Carlton to protect the road from further erosion. The Lakeshore Road project will cost an estimated $2 million. The county will hire a contractor to re-establish the shoreline, which was eroded from the high water levels in 2017 and 2019.

Big rocks will be brought in for about 1,500 feet of the shoreline by the road, east of Route 98. The project also includes drainage improvements along the road.

Sun came out for first day of spring

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 March 2021 at 9:24 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

POINT BREEZE – This woman fishes off the end of the western pier at Point Breeze on Saturday evening. Although it warmed up to the 50s on Saturday, there were still icicles hanging on some of the rocks.

The Point was popular on Saturday evening, with people enjoying the sunset and the fresh air and several trying to catch a big fish.

It’s going to be a nice stretch of weather to start spring. The high temperatures for the next few days include sunny and 60 today, mostly sunny and 63 on Monday, mostly sunny and 64 on Tuesday, partly sunny with a high near 67 on Wednesday, and mostly cloudy with a high near 64 on Thursday.

This angler carries his fishing gear and looks for a spot to fish on the western pier at Point Breeze.

County bed tax held steady in 2020 despite Covid

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 March 2021 at 11:01 am

Tax revenue from Airbnb locations doubled in third and fourth quarters

Photos by Tom Rivers: The Woolston family has operated Cedar Valley Lodging on Park Avenue in Waterport since 1986. Pictured from left include Irene Woolston, Dana and Lynda. They are joined by their dog, Sunny.

Orleans County lodging operators saw business take a dramatic drop a year ago in March when Gov. Andrew Cuomo put New York on “Pause.” That order closed many businesses temporarily, and urged people to stay home for nonessential travel.

The local lodging operators saw many cancellations and few bookings from March through June. But then business really started to pick up, especially for smaller operators with only a few rooms. That appealed to families looking to get away but not wanting to be around too many people during a pandemic.

File photo by Tom Rivers: Andrew Meier is shown at the check-in desk for the Hart Hotel in Medina. Corporate clients were down last year, but the site attracted new customers from Western New York who went on “stay-cations.”

The numbers show that overall the county didn’t see a drop in the bed tax, the 4 percent tax charged for people who stay in hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, lodges and 68 rentals in the county through Airbnb.

The total bed tax collected for 2020 was $58,438.45. That is about 100 dollars more than the $58,424.31 in 2019, according to data from Kim DeFrank, the county treasurer.

“Initially we had many cancellations and refunds and that was painful,” said Andrew Meier, owner of the Hart House Hotel in downtown Medina, which has eight rooms available.

“But then business picked up and we saw a shift in guests. There was less corporate and faraway visitors to more stay-cationers.”

Meier said the Hart House saw more customers the second half of the year who were from Western New York. People looking for a change of scenario and short getaway after being confined to their residences, especially with schools shifting to on-line learning and more parents working from home.

Laura and John Olinger opened a cottage and guest house at the Bridges last year, next to Narby’s on the Oak Orchard River. The Olingers worked about a year getting the places ready, and thought the timing was bad when they opened the cottage in May. They book customers through Airbnb.

“After Covid hit we didn’t think we would get much business but we were booked solid,” Mrs. Olinger said.

Nearly all of the guests we within driving distance. Many spent the weekend in the area and went to Niagara Falls or they visited wineries. Many just wanted a break from their daily routine.

File photo by Tom Rivers: Joan Page opened the Bell Tower Lodge in 2015 at the former Kenyonville United Methodist Church. The site on Oak Orchard River Road has five rooms for rent.

“It’s been people from Rochester and Buffalo, and some from New York City,” Olinger said. “We had people close by from Middleport and Holley. They just wanted to get away for the night because of Covid.”

The Olingers are adding a house boat that can be rented and they are putting in new floating docks.

The bed tax had its biggest gains in Airbnb rentals, with the second half of 2020 doubling the bed tax revenue from the same time in 2019, said DeFrank, the county treasurer.

Joan Page owns the five-unit Bell Tower Lodge, the former Kenyonville United Methodist Church. She opened it in 2015 following three years of renovations.

She does most of her bookings through Airbnb. Her bookings “tanked” in the spring due to Covid, with the restrictions and health concerns. She said she lost $8,400 in cancelations. She was worried but tin the summer and fall she was busy.

“I had a lot of families who were basically losing their minds and needed a getaway,” Page said.

The site appealed to customers too because there are only five rooms and only a few other customers. That eased their concerns about being around lots of other people during a pandemic.

“We were appealing because we’re not 40 rooms,” she said. “Having fewer rooms proved advantageous.”

Page and other operators all said they intensified their cleaning in between customers.

Page said her revenue which recovered later in the year was still down from 2019. She said she already has several bookings this spring and summer. She is pleased to see more people in the region looking for a vacation in the rural areas, and not necessarily going to resorts or the glamour of a city for a getaway.

“I always thought that our little area is an undiscovered heaven,” Page said.

Dana Woolston said Cedar Valley, which overlooks Oak Orchard River, is a popular getaway for fishermen and people who want a break from the hustle and bustle.

Dana Woolston operates Cedar Valley Lodging on Park Avenue in Waterport. The five lodges overlook the Oak Orchard River and has repeat customers going back 30 years. Many are fishermen.

Cedar Valley took a hit last spring and summer. New York’s travel restrictions, requiring many out-of-state visitors to quarantine for 2 weeks once in New York, kept many of the Woolston’s long-time customers away.

Dana Woolston put in new hardwood floors, fans, lights and made other improvements during some downtime at the lodging business last year.

“We had some cancellations because people were afraid once they got here they would get fined,” Woolston said.

With weddings capped at 50 people by the state for much of 2020, Woolston said there were a couple cancelations at Cedar Valley for wedding parties.

He said the overall revenue was down about a third in 2020, but did pick up in the second half of the year.

Cedar Valley saw some new faces last year, with families looking for an escape. Woolston also sees a growing clientele in drivers for local Amish. Some of those drivers are helping Amish relocate from Pennsylvania or Ohio to Orleans County where real estate is less costly.

Woolston’s parents, Glenn and Irene, started Cedar Valley in 1986. Dana has remodeled the five sites, putting in new hardwoods floors that he said are easier to clean. There are new fans, lights and other upgrades.

“Most of our customers come from word of mouth,” he said. They come for the secluded lodging along the Oak Orchard River. When you come down here you are in a different world.”

The motel tax has been on the rise in Orleans County in recent years. Prior to the $58,438 in 2020 and $58,424 in 2019, the motel tax generated $51,002 in 2018. In 2017, the bed tax generated $45,374. The county uses the funds for tourism promotion.

Oak Orchard Harbor, Johnson Creek on the state list for dredging

Photo by Tom Rivers: The Oak Orchard Harbor needs to have sediment removed to make the channel more navigable for boaters. The harbor is pictured on Aug. 29, 2019. Local officials want to ensure the harbor is regularly dredged of sediment.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 January 2021 at 8:26 am

The Oak Orchard Harbor and Johnson Creek in Carlton, near Lakeside Beach State Park, are both on a state list to be dredged.

The state has a $15 million regional dredging initiative the Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI).

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday said dredging harbors along Lake Ontario remains a priority. Dredging started at Little Sodus Bay, a navigation channel in Cayuga County used by boaters to access Lake Ontario from Little Sodus Bay.

File photo: The dredging barge is near the breakwall at the end of the Oak Orchard channel when the harbor was dredged in August 2014 for the first time in 10 years.

The dredging project will remove built-up sediment from the bottom of the waterway to allow for continued safe passage of watercrafts to support the tourism economy and preserve wildlife in the region.

The Oak Orchard Harbor dredging is scheduled to start in June 2021 and the Johnson Creek Harbor will get attention in July 2021, the state has previously said.

“We’re building the resilience of communities along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River to prevent flooding and ease maintenance of vital navigation channels for years to come,” Cuomo said. “This dredging project is essential to protecting not only New Yorkers who live and work in shoreline communities but also the wildlife in the coastal habitats of the region, while also boosting tourism by ensuring safe recreational access for boaters.”

To date, the State has completed four REDI dredging projects, and removed approximately 15,000 cubic yards of sediment, to provide recreational boaters with safe access to Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

The completed dredging projects include Port Bay, Blind Sodus Bay and East Bay in Wayne County, and Sandy Pond Inlet in Oswego County. Through Phase I and II, the dredging initiative is tackling the necessary dredging of 20 harbor navigation channels. Upon completion of the project, over 100,000 cubic yards of sediment is anticipated to be dredged, Cuomo’s Office said.

Future regional dredging initiative sites include:

  • Oswego County: Salmon River/Port Ontario
  • Niagara County: Olcott Harbor, Golden Hill State Park
  • Orleans County: Oak Orchard Harbor, Johnson Creek
  • Monroe County: Sandy Creek, Braddock Bay, Long Pond Outlet, Irondequoit Bay
  • Wayne County: Bear Creek Harbor, Pultneyville
  • Jefferson County: Clayton French Creek Marina, Henderson “The Cut”
  • St. Lawrence County: Ogdensburg “City Front Channel,” Morristown Navigation Channel

During Phase III, the State will provide counties with the information they need to update, expand, and implement an existing Regional Dredging Management Plan to keep the channels operational over time.

In response to the extended pattern of flooding along the shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, Cuomo created REDI to increase the resilience of shoreline communities and bolster economic development in the region.

Five REDI Regional Planning Committees, comprised of representatives from eight counties (Niagara and Orleans, Monroe, Wayne, Cayuga and Oswego, and Jefferson and St. Lawrence) were established to identify local priorities, at-risk infrastructure and other assets, and public safety concerns.

The REDI Commission allocated $20 million for homeowner assistance, $30 million to improve the resiliency of businesses, and $15 million toward a regional dredging effort that will benefit each of the eight counties in the REDI regions. The remaining $235 million has been allocated towards local and regional projects that advance and exemplify the REDI mission, Cuomo’s Office stated.

“Addressing the damage and erosion from high water events and wave impacts are essential elements of Governor Cuomo’s REDI initiative that is creating stronger communities along Lake Ontario’s shoreline,” said Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos.

Business owner spends $5,000 to help 3 local restaurants

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 December 2020 at 10:21 pm

Captain’s Cove owner funds gift card promotion at Black North Inn, Tillman’s and Roadies

File photo by Tom Rivers: George Lacey, owner of the Captain’s Cove Motel and Marina, joins office manager Alexis Montes at the business on Roosevelt Highway in Carlton, near the bridge over the Oak Orchard River. This photo was taken in October. Lacey said the business kept going through his dedicated employees, including Montes, Taylor Paniccia, Luanne James, Mark Darrow and Kevin Richardson.

CARLTON – George Lacey, owner of a marina and motel in Carlton, said his customers’ happiness is often tied to whether they catch a big fish – and get a good meal at a local restaurant.

Lacey can’t guarantee they will reel in a big Chinook salmon or brown trout, but he feels confident in telling them they will be satisfied if they eat at the Black North Inn, Roadies Pizzeria and Sports Bar or Tillman’s Village Inn.

Lacey, the owner of Captain’s Cove, said his customers give him very positive feedback about those local eateries, and those places are a big part of them having a good experience when they stay at Captain’s Cove.

Lacey knows the local restaurants have had a very difficult year. They were limited to take-outs only early in the Covid-19 pandemic. Then they could offer outdoor dining and then at a reduced capacity indoors.

Lacey’s business, which includes 14  motel rooms, was booked solid since the summer and through Nov. 30. Many of the customers are fishermen, but Lacey said there was a big increase in people staying from New York City. They wanted a break from the city during the pandemic and sought out a spot near water, Lacey said.

Captain’s Cove has had some difficult years recently. In 2017, flooding devastated docks and a building near the river. That building was demolished and Lacey rebuilt on higher ground. He put in new docks. Flooding hit again in 2019.

He worries about the restaurant operators. They are his friends and he knows the winter months tend to be lean times for those businesses.

Lacey decided to put $5,000 towards a promotion to give those businesses a boost. He reached out to the Orleans Hub and Lake Country Pennysaver for ideas. The sales representatives worked with Lacey and the three businesses to have a matching gift card promotion, where people get a free $25 gift card if they buy one at $25. Lacey will pay up to $1,600 for the free ones at each of the three businesses. He also is spending $200 in advertising to promote the gift cards.

“I’ve been in business my whole life and I know how hard it is to run a business in New York State,” Lacey said. “Orleans County needs business. We have people coming from all over the country and we need to support one another. This is about small business supporting small business.”

The gift card promotions started today. They are good while supplies last. They were in hot demand at Roadies today, which reported they were sold out. The Black North Inn went through the first $500.

Alana Piccirilli and Kristin Rowell have owned the Black North the past 3 ½ years. This year many of the concerts, fishing tournaments and other events that draw people to Point Breeze were cancelled.

“This pandemic has been very difficult for all of our businesses,” Piccirilli said.

She thanked Lacey for funding the gift cards. By making them a matching offer, the three businesses will see nearly $10,000 in sales from the promotion.

“He’s a great guy,” Rowell said. “It’s a wonderful thing he’s doing.”

Piccirilli said the businesses near the Point look out for each other.

“We send people there and he sends people to us,” she said. “We all stick together. We are a community down here.”

The Black North is currently serving customers through take-outs only. People can call and the Black North will bring the gift cards out to customers if they buy a matching gift card. Rowell and Piccirilli said the customers have been supportive during a difficult year.

“We’re grateful for George and we’re grateful for all the community support,” Piccirilli said. “Hopefully we can get more people to shop local and think about the restaurants.”

At Tillman’s, Lacey has been a long-time customer and friend, said Samantha Tillman, the front house manager.

She said the Village Inn has endured a slow year, with a spike during the summer. The gift cards should help bring in customers after the holidays when traffic usually is at the low point for the year.

“It been extremely tough for all of us,” Tillman said. “It’s because of the community that we are still there. It’s hard to survive but we’re in it for the long haul.”

Carlton Fire Company presents top awards for dedicated members

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 December 2020 at 1:40 pm

Provided photos: Justin Niederhofer (right), the outgoing Carlton fire chief, presents the President’s Award to his mother Valerie Niederhofer on Monday evening. Ed Cooper, president of the Carlton Volunteer Fire Company, is at left.

CARLTON – The fire company presented awards on Monday from 2019. Those recognitions would have been presented at an early spring banquet but that was cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Fire company leaders were hopeful the awards would eventually be presented in a gathering with firefighters recognized in front of their peers. But the recent spike in cases and hospitalizations in the county makes an indoor banquet unlikely in the near future.

Jacob Marks, left, is presented with the Chief’s Award from Justin Niederhofer, the Carlton fire chief.

Fire Chief Justin Niederhofer and President Ed Cooper decided to give out two special awards from 2019 on Monday evening.

Cooper gave the president’s award to Val Niederhofer. She is the mother of current fire chief Justin Niederhofer. Justin’s brother Andrew also has been fire chief, and their father, James “Dutch” Niederhofer, served in the role in the early 1990s.

Val Niederhofer has been a key supporter of the fire company for decades.

“She is the most selfless person you could ever meet and is so dedicated to this community and to the firefighters/EMT’s of our town,” Justin Niederhofer said. “There are so many that don’t or won’t find time to take classes, yet she will take classes for stuff she most likely will never use just to fill a seat so that she can make sure the other responders in our department are afforded the opportunity to get much needed training.”

Niederhofer presented the Chief’s Award to Jacob Marks, who committed himself to many training classes to be an asset to the community as a firefighter and EMT.

“Thank you Jake Marks for all that you did to make my first year as chief easier, being there when I needed you, the line needed you, our community and the neighboring communities needed you,” Niederhofer posted on Facebook today. “Most don’t complete their fire or EMT classes in the first year and Jake did both! So proud of the progress you have made and the challenges you have overcome and I am so looking forward to all the great things you will do in the future. Our town is truly a safer place because of you!”

Niederhofer earlier this year accepted a job with the county as deputy emergency management coordinator. He didn’t seek another term as fire chief after two years.

“This year has brought about many challenges that we thought we would never see in our lifetime, but we faced them head on as the professionals we are and served our town proudly,” Niederhofer said in a message to the firefighters.

The officers for the Carlton Volunteer Fire Company in 2021 include:

  • Fire Chief Dale Niehaus
  • 1st Assistant Chief Andrew Niederhofer
  • 2nd Assistant Chief Seth Dumrese
  • Captain James Fisher
  • 1st Lieutenant Matt Hughson
  • 2nd Lieutenant Noah O’Kissick
  • President Ed Cooper
  • Vice President Richard Brakenbury
  • Secretary Val Niederhofer
  • Treasurer Tom Yockel
  • Board of Directors: James Heiler was chosen to serve a second three-year term.

Snowy Owl sighted this morning at Lakeside park in Carlton

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 December 2020 at 10:01 am

CARLTON – Don Bemont sent in this photo he took of a Snowy Owl this morning, soon after it got light. Bemont took the photo along the service road at Lakeside Beach State Park.

The owls typically nest in the Arctic tundra and winter in Canada. But in recent winters they have migrated into the U.S. in search of food.

This owl appears to be a female. The males tend to be nearly all white while the females have darker markings except on their faces, which are always white.

Section of Parkway in Carlton will close for winter starting next week

Staff Reports Posted 13 November 2020 at 3:26 pm

New York State Department of Transportation is advising motorists of its annual closure of the stretch of Lake Ontario State Parkway, west of Route 98 in the town of Carlton.

This year’s closure of the 2-mile section is anticipated to go into effect on Monday and last until next spring. A detour will be in place for motorists to exit at Route 98 and take Route 18 to continue west.

The DOT has closed that section of the roads in recent winters to save on de-icing materials, equipment and repairs to damaged pavement. Closing the 2-mile stretch saved an estimated $70,000 worth of maintenance and operating expenses including materials, equipment, and labor, the DOT has said.

About 800 cars travel this section every day, the DOT has said.

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Photos: Bald eagle on the lookout this morning in Carlton

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 October 2020 at 11:56 am

CARLTON – Jim Tabor, a Carlton resident, sent in these photos he took of a bald eagle at 9:30 this morning on Park Avenue in Carlton.

Tabor said there is a bald eagle nest on Beardsley Creek in the hedge row just west of 98.

The wet field and overcast weather really made the bald eagle stand out this morning.

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Oak Orchard Lighthouse Museum seeks donations after fundraiser cancelled

Photos by Tom Rivers: The Oak Orchard Lighthouse is shown in September 2018 at the shore of Lake Ontario in Point Breeze.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 October 2020 at 9:55 am

Group also selling memberships, memorial bricks

POINT BREEZE — The Oak Orchard Lighthouse Museum is asking for the community’s help to make up for lost revenue after its biggest fundraiser was cancelled this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The museum, which owns and oversees the lighthouse at Point Breeze, runs on a  shoe string budget, said Dick Anderson, the group’s president.

Visitors to the lighthouse are welcome to the climb the stairs to the top.

But it does have insurance costs and this summer paid $1,200 to have the 35-foot-high structure cleaned and given a new fresh coat of linseed oil.

Anderson is urging people to purchase a lifetime membership or buy a memorial brick. The museum is offering a deal on a lifetime membership at $250, instead of the usual $500. People can also buy a family membership at $35.

The museum has been selling memorial bricks for $75 near the lighthouse with lines on the brick. There are souvenirs also available for purchase at the museum.

The site opened with volunteered this summer in mid-July, later than usual due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Anderson said the museum insists that visitors wear masks and social distance.

They are welcome to go inside the lighthouse and climb the stairs to the top.

This year about 1,000 people have stopped by the lighthouse. Normally volunteers greet 2,000 to 3,000 people during the season.

“We talk about the location and the area,” Anderson said about the role of the volunteers.

The lighthouse offers a vantage point of the Oak Orchard Harbor. The lighthouse includes a modern LED light that is lit at night from April 1 to Nov. 1.

They are usually on site Fridays from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., a busy time with Black North Inn customers getting their fish fries. The museum also is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

Anderson expects this weekend will be the last one for volunteers at the site this year as the weather begins to turn colder.

Anderson, a retired science teacher at Spencerport, said he has met many interesting people volunteering at the museum. He is proud of the community for supporting the site, including the initial fundraising efforts to build the lighthouse.

The lighthouse was constructed in 2010, after $200,000 was raised from the community. The state also provided assistance with the project.

The 35-foot lighthouse is a replica to one that toppled in 1916 after a storm. The Oak Orchard Lighthouse has become an iconic symbol for Orleans County and the Point. It is often featured on the cover of the county’s tourism guide.

For more information about the museum, click here for the group’s website. Anderson said people are welcome to call him with questions at (585) 682-4383 or by email at

A check can be mailed to the museum at Oak Orchard Lighthouse Museum, P.O. Box 23, Kent NY 14477.

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