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Shuffleboard on ice 

Perhaps you've seen it on TV: a giant rock sliding across the ice as two folks with squeegees maniacally sweep and scrub the ice in its path. Some 500 years ago, the Scottish, lamenting the Highlands' golf-less winters, played this game with rocks and standard-issue kitchen brooms on frozen rivers. They called it "curling," deriving the name from the Scottish verb "curr" ("grumble") to describe the sound of stone on ice.

            Rochesterians, of course, have been curling for more than 40 years at the Rochester Curling Club.

            "It was founded in 1961 by a group of Kodak executives who curled out of the old RIT arena," says club president Mark Mooney. The club has curled at 71 Deep Rock Road since 1964, and today lists 160 members.

            Curling is essentially shuffleboard on ice. A 42-pound granite stone is slid down a 146-foot rink. The object: to get your stone closer to the bull's-eye, or "button," than your opponent. Teams of two men and two women "throw" eight stones over a period of eight "ends" --- curling's equivalent to an inning.

            Phyllis Ely caught the curling bug from her husband, who got into it attending Clarkson University. Now, even the couple's 10-year-old daughter curls.

            "I'm attracted to it because it's an absolutely inclusive sport, regardless of gender or athleticism," Ely says.

            Another plus: There are no referees.

            "It's a whole sport based on honor," Mooney says.

            But curling is still competitive, even with the sportsmanship and family vibe.

            "There's a lot of strategy and science," Ely says. "But it's a place where you stand back and applaud a great shot even when it knocked you out of the game. It's a little spot in the world where people are good to each other. It's great for kids."

            "And," she adds, "your beer never gets warm."

            The Rochester Curling Club hosts "The Best from New York State" January 8 through 11 and "The Best from the East" January 22 through 25. New members welcome. 235-8246 or www.rochestercurling.org.

--- Frank De Blase

Snow machine age

Lots of Americans are talking about George W. Bush's efforts to keep snowmobiles streaking and smoking through Yellowstone. Now New Yorkers will debate the extent to which snowmobiles will be allowed to overrun the Adirondack Park.

            On December 22, the state Department of Environmental Conservation released a "draft plan" and environmental impact statement regarding snowmobile use on state-owned lands in the park. "The vision of the draft plan," said an official announcement, "is to develop and maintain an integrated snowmobile trail system on public and private lands... consistent with Article XIV, Section 1 of the State Constitution." That's a reference to the "forever wild" concept that has steered management of the state forest preserve for a century.

            The plan is a response to the effects that snowmobiles --- now a mainstay for many Adirondack towns --- have had on public lands and wilderness values. In trying to establish a workable trail system, the plan seeks compromises. For example, it would create a new classification system covering things like trail-width and tree-cutting. It would also address concerns about inter-community "connector" trails that sometimes impinge on designated Wild Forest areas.

            Some environmentalists are weighing in already. The Adirondack Council, for example, released a statement calling the document "unacceptable." The group said it does want "a plan that makes it easier for communities to improve their winter tourism economies." But the draft plan, said the group, could allow poorly supervised "earth-moving" on and widening of certain trails. Nor does the plan adequately address air and noise pollution from snowmobiles or impose speed limits, the group said.

            A public comment period on the plan will run until March 31. The DEC will host a public hearing Wednesday, February 11, 5-8 p.m., at the Rochester Museum and Science Center Planetarium, 657 East Avenue. View the plan at www.dec.state.ny.us; click on "highlights."

Team Brooks to study development

Maggie Brooks has formed an economic development strategy group.

            The Monroe County executive-elect says the team will serve as her principal advisory group and will make several recommendations for improving the county's approach to economic development.

            The county's assorted economic development agencies currently operate in a vacuum, Brooks says, and need to be more cooperative.

            The team is led by Tom Mooney, CEO of the Rochester Business Alliance, and Theresa Mazzullo, a principal in EPIC Advisors and vice president of the Small Business Council.

            Other members include Francis Antonelli of LeCesse Construction; Greece Supervisor John Auberger; Sarah Lentini of the Arts & Cultural Council of Greater Rochester; Sandra Parker, Rochester Business Alliance; Grace Tillinghast, Eastman Kodak Co.; and Michael Townsend of the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency.

            Rochester Mayor Bill Johnson will also contribute an as-yet unnamed member.

            Brooks promises a comprehensive review of the county's economic development efforts and says some structural changes may be forthcoming, including consolidation of agencies.

Brooks seeks DHHS chief

In addition to the team the county executive-elect formed to study economic development, Brooks has formed a second committee to find a new director for the county's Department of Human and Health Services.

            The nationwide search is being led by Fran Weisberg, president and CEO of Lifespan of Greater Rochester. She is also former chair of the county Democratic Committee.

            In a press release, Brooks says "We must continue to re-engineer our delivery of social services to ensure that clients are provided with the help they truly need in an expeditious and cost-effective manner."

            The committee will recommend prospective candidates to Brooks within the next few months.

            Rounding out the search committee are: Joseph G. Calabrese, United Way; Jean Carroll, YWCA, Council of Agency Executives; G. Jean Howard, Wilson Commencement Park; Robert W. Hurlbut, ROHM Services Corporation; Carolyn Portanova, Catholic Family Center; Dennis Richardson, Hillside Family of Agencies; and Thomas Vasey, Monroe County Department of Human and Health Services.

Ferry Christmas

An interesting exchange to report between RPO conductor Jeff Tyzik and Santa Claus.

            Papa Noel (Santa's Brazilian counterpart) dropped in at an RPO Gala Holiday Pops concert, somewhere between "Fantasia on Greensleeves" and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing."

            Tyzik asked the old man how he managed to pull off the whole Christmas bit every year: loading the sleigh, traveling the world, etc. Santa said it wasn't easy and that on the Rochester leg of his journey next year, he might take the fast ferry instead.

            "Well, that's one person," Tyzik responded, to self-conscious laughter from the Eastman Theatre audience.

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